The Languages of Erna

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).

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