The Language(s) of Erna
As C. S. Friedman herself stated (here, on www.merentha.org, if anyone was interested), the colonists of Erna (especially those left on the main continent) were descendants of colonists all from advanced English-speaking cultures, of Judeo-Christian background with moderate to minimal religious commitment, and many other choices that affected the total blend. Fragment of immigrant languages remained, though the overall language was English. Thus it would seem obvious that the Western Ernan language, which is indeed called English (e.g. by Hesseth) would develop from the English language. No doubt it is much different from any version of English we now use (1200 years of the development of the language!); to track at least some of the changes, however, we must discard most of the narrative and rather look into the names and special expressions.
Having said thath, it is obvious from the first sight that C. S. Friedman is not overly interested in language and its development as such, she does not attempt to create a specific variant of Ernan English; she just adds the bits and pieces of the information here and there, to spice up the narrative and to make the world she creates more veritable. Some of these pieces, one may add, are truly interesting.
As far as the proper names are concerned, we may observe an interesting development: some of these are well-known English names (with both Gerald and Damien as primary examples, although it is a source of constant fun for me to remember that Damien Vryce shares his name with the Satanic offspring from The Omen); similarly, such surnames as Reese or Helder are easy to find even now. Part of the names are older or rare versions of the traditional ones; such is a case of Andrys, a variant of more popular Andrew. Some names however, like Ciani or Narilka, seem to be fully Ernan, never used on Earth. While the first colonists obviously had just normal human names (Ian, Leonid, Sally, Wayne, Carrie, Lise, Tom, Erik, Liz, and – less obviously – Faren), it is not so with later generations. Gerald and Almea’s generation is relatively close to the first colonists, close enough for both their names to be of Terran origins and for their children to be given Terran names (Tory, Erik and Alix, the latter being probably a variant of Alexandra). In later generations, it is different and the development of names varies greatly. Thus, names such as Senzei can be understood as originating from titles or ordinary words (sensei = “master”) while other are simply a result of the development of the language, with some old ones (Damien) still in use. To make things easier (and in more than one case and just for curiosity’s sake, because the meaning of the vast majoirty of these names is as such irrelevant for the narrative), here is the list of personal human first names from the Trilogy, with some comments; important characters are marked with bold, the most obvious ones are not commented upon:
|name||date||origins of the name||meaning||comment|
|Gerald||c. 200 years after Landing||Germanic; from ger, “spear”, and wald/ald, “to rule”||The one ruling with the spear|
|Damien||c. 1200 years after Landing||Greek; a variant of Damian / Damon, originating from the word damadzo, “to tame, defeat”||The taming one, the one who defeats|
|Almea||c. 200 years after Landing||either Latin or Hebrew, a variant of Alma; in Latin alma means “nurturing”, “good-willed”, “all-good”; in Hebrew almah means “young woman”||either young woman or the nurturer, the all-good|
|Tory||c. 200 years after Landing||usage: English/American, origins Celtic||The man from the hills||Gerald’s younger son|
|Alix||c. 200 years after Landing||usage: English/American, origins Greek, variant of Alexandra; from the verb alexein, “to defend”, and andros, “of the man”||The defender of mankind||Gerald’s daughter|
|Eric||c. 200 years after Landing||Originally Scandinavian, may be English/American||Noble leader||Gerald’s elder son|
|Andrys||c 1200 years after Landing.||Greek, but filtered through some Germanic source; a variant of Andrew; from Greek adjective andraios, “brave”||The brave one|
|Reginald||c 1200 years after Landing||English||The mighty one||Andrys’ father|
|Samiel||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, probably a variant of Samuel||—–||Andrys’s eldest brother|
|Imelia||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, although there is a name Imelia rarely used in the USA||—–||Andrys’ sister|
|Betrise||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, maybe avariant of Beatrix||—–||Andrys’ sister|
|Ian||Landing||usage: English/American, of Gaelic origins, variant of John||God is gratious|
|Leonid||Landing||origins Russian, usage: Russian and Latin American, of Greek origins||Lion||The captain of the colonists’ ship|
|Sally||Landing||usage: English/American, variant of Sara/Sarah, origins Hebrew||Princess||one of the first victims of the demons|
|Wayne||Landing||usage: English/American, origins Old English||Craftsman||one of the first victims of the demons|
|Carrie||Landing||usage: English/American, a varint of Carol||probably the princess, as the name is a female variant of Carolus, originating from Charlemagne||one of the first victims of the demons|
|Lise||Landing||German, variant of Elisabeth (origins Hebrew)||The oath of God||the doctor of the Colony ship|
|Tom||Landing||usage: English/American, origins Aramaic||Twin||one of the first victims of the demons|
|Erik||Landing||Originally Scandinavian, may be English/American, the spelling seems close to original Germanic||Noble leader||the guard, stunned by Ian Casca|
|Liz||Landing||usage: English/American, variant of Elisabeth, origins Hebrew||The oath of God||the guard, stunned by Ian Casca|
|Faren||Landing||usage: English/American, origins English; originally a female name||Traveller||one of the first victims of the demons|
|Ciani||c 1200 years after Landing||name originating from an Italian surname||——|
|Narilka||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, origins unclear||——-|
|Gannon||c 200 years after Landing||Celtic||fair-faced||the king in Tarrant’s times|
|Jaxom||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, may be a variant of Jackson; interestingly, there’s a character named Jaxom in A. McCaffrey Dragonriders||——|
|Kami||c 1200 years after Landing||may be either any variant of Camilla or of Japanese origins (kami – lady, goddess); female||Lady, goddess||a girl-servant or novice in the cathedral|
|Gresham||c 1200 years after Landing||English||One from the grazeland||Narilka’s employer|
|Chelli||c 1200 years after Landing||usage: English/American, a variant of Celestina, of Latin origins, from the adjective caelestis; female||The heavenly one||A woman ordering a charm from Ciani|
|Yiles||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan; male||——||the merchant from Jaggonath|
|Allesha||c 1200 years after Landing||usage: English/American (rare); perhaps a variant of Alicia? The latter is of Old French origins, a variant of Adelaide, from the words adal “noble” and heid “kind, sort, type”||The noble one||Zen’s girlfriend|
|Jafe||c 1200 years after Landing||probably Ernan, although there is a similar Arabic name (albeit female); in this case, male||——-||the pilot of the ship Neoqueen Matilla|
|Bassy||c 1200 years after Landing||may be a variant of Bastian/Sebastian; in such case its origins would be Greek; male||The revered one||The office rof the ship Neoqueen Matilla|
|Senzei||c 1200 years after Landing||of Japanese origins, from the word sensei||Master|
|Pravida||41 years after Landing||Ernan, although the phonetics suggest Indian origins; female||——||a scholar who discovered that the rakh were intelligent|
|Fray||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||——||Ciani’s assumed name|
|Tobi||c 1200 years after Landing||usage English/American, an abbreviation of Tobias, origins Hebrew (more obvious spelling would be Toby)||God is good||a boat owner, killed by Hesseth|
|Rasya||c 1200 years after Landing||usage English/American, a rare variant of Rose; origins Latin, from the noun rosa||Rose||the navigator of Golden Glory|
|Sara||c 1200 years after Landing||usage English/American (and other), origins Hebrew||Princess||a girl used as bait for demons in the eastern continent|
|Andir||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||——||Toshida’s first name|
|Leo||c 1200 years after Landing||A variant of Leonard/Leon, origins Greek||Lion||The captain of Golden Glory|
|Halen||c 1200 years after Landing||a variant of Hal, origins Scandinavian||Hall||One of the crewmen/passengers of Golden Glory|
|Tyria||c 1200 years after Landing||Occasionally used in the US, but may be treated as Ernan; female||—-||One of the crewmen/passengers of Golden Glory|
|Mels||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan; male||—-||One of the crewmen/passengers of Golden Glory|
|Miranda||c 1200 years after Landing||usage Hispanic/English/American, origins Latin, from the participle miranda||Miraculous, admirable||Jenseny’s mother|
|Jenseny||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||—–|
|Jones||c 1200 years after Landing||A variant of John and/or a version of popular surname; male||descendant of John||One of the crewmen/passengers of Golden Glory|
|Anshala||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, although the phonetics suggest Indian origins; female||——||One of the crewmen/passengers of Golden Glory|
|Istram||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||—–||one of the Protectors|
|Leman||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, possibly derived from an English surname||—–||Jenseny’s father|
|Sisa||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||—–|
|Iso||? – until c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, but phonetics suggests Japanese origins||—–||the true name of the Undying Prince|
|Amoril||? – until c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||—–|
|Nans||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, but probably a variant of Nancy/Anne; female||Grace||an adulterous woman mentioned by the Patriarch|
|Nile||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan, but might a variant of Niall / Neil; if so, then of Gaelic origins; male||Champion||a man killed by the forces of the Forest|
|Rick||c 1200 years after Landing||a version of Richard, origins German||Strong ruler||Allesha’s new boyfriend|
|Tabra||c 1200 years after Landing||Ernan||—–||Tabra Zefila, a commander of the Church forces|
As for the surnames, while some of them seems to be of distinctly Ernan origins, most bear the stamp of Terran languages: English, in most cases, or Eastern languages, among them Japanese and Indian.
Most of the titles used in the Church mirror the titles used in Catholicism, the most obvious example being the title of the Holy Father. Similarly, the titles of Matriarch and Patriarch are also used in Christianity, this time in the Orthodox Church. As the Church is known for its reverence for the Terran past, it seems obvious that they had preserved the titles in their original form.
Interesting are the nouns starting with either neo- , nu- or –un. There are at least several examples of both types, including titles (Neocount, Neoqueen – the latter in the ship’s name), species of animals (nucats, unhorses) or objects (numarble). They were probably meant to underline two aspects of each of the phenomena: on one hand, their aim was to point at their similitude with their Terran counterparts (most importantly, one may guess, in case of animals), on the other, to mark a difference and a new beginning (like in case of the titles).
Names of the places seem another interesting category. The (more or less) complete listing of the Ernan rivers and the names of the cities near the Forest can be found here and their analysis proves beyond doubt that they all come from the names of various demons and evil / underworld gods from various mythologies. These names, however, have been changed, in some cases endings were dropped, the names were abbreviated (Achron instead of Acheront) or subjected to vowel (Kale instead of Kali) or consonantal (Mordreth in the place of Mordred) changes.
The Eastern city names show an ifluence of Spanish. Their names, such as Mercia, Penitencia, Felicida, Paza Nova, Tranquila, Shalona seem also to have a common trait: they mostry originate from the abstract names of religious ideas: mercy, penitence, felicity, tranquility. Paza Nova seems to come from Spanish word paz, “peace”, meaning “New Peace”; Shalona comes probably from Hebrew shalom meaning “peace”.
An interesting phenomenon are the names that are based on old Terran names. The most obvious example are Naigra Falls, but there also seems to be a Cameroon Delta on Erna. AGain ,these are remnants from the beginning of the human civilization on Erna.
Probably the most apparent innovation in Ernan English is the curse vulk, quite often abused by a certain priest and appearing in variety of forms and functions, among which the participle vulking seems most common. Superficially it seems related to the most obvious English curse (yeah, that one that starts with f…). The functions of the two seem similar, yet the origins of vulk are different than a simple phonetical change of “f….k”. As usual, it is Tarrant who explains it to his companions, pointing at the relation of this word with volcanoes. The first meaning of vulk is thus “to erupt” and it is used primarily in relation to volcanoes. Quite interestingly, the most common curse in Ernan English is etymologically connected with one of the greatest threats existing on the planet. (Such a phenomemon, one may add, is not uncommon in various languages; in my native Polish the most popular mild curse is “cholera”, literally “pestilence”, originating from the name of the dreadful disease).
The influence of Spanish
For the eastern continent, a source of inspiration as important as Enslish seem Spanish. Let us, however, allow the author herself speak abut that particular issue: As the East was settled by a relatively small group of people, the culture as a whole reflects that group: darker in coloring on the average than in the West, and with fragments of language brought with them from Earth. Note that not only is the word Verda of Hispanic origin, but its use in sentences parallels that of “si?”. In line with the observed development of language over time, ending consonants and bits of words have been lost or altered. (source: merentha.org). One may add that there are several variants of the formula verda as well as several other Spanish-originated expressions to be found in the language of Toshida’s people.
Interestingly enough, despite the relatively low technical level and difficulties in travelling, there seems to be very little difference between the English of Jaggonath and that of Ganji – Damien apparently has no trouble communicating with Ciani and Zen even on his first day after arrival. Similarly, the crew and passengers of Golden Glory are quite at ease discussing with Toshida, despite several hundred years of separation. The script, as one may only guess, was based on Latin alphabet and has not been altered on either of the continents (Damien and Tarrant have no problem reading maps in the East).