Syldavian

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Syldavian
Зйлдав, Zyldav
Pronunciation /zɪldav/
Created by Hergé
Date 1939
Setting and usage The Adventures of Tintin
Ethnicity Syldavian people
Users 642,000 (1939) (fictional)
Purpose
Cyrillic
Latin
Sources Dutch language
Official status
Official language in
Syldavia
Regulated by unknown
Language codes
ISO 639-3 None (mis)
Glottolog None

Syldavian is a fictional West Germanic language created by Hergé as the national language of Syldavia, a small fictional Balkan kingdom that serves as a major setting in many of The Adventures of Tintin stories. Hergé modeled the language on Marols, a dialect of Dutch spoken in and around Brussels. The entire corpus of the language has been analyzed by Mark Rosenfelder.

Characteristics[edit]

As presented in the Tintin books, Syldavian has a superficial resemblance to the Slavic languages due to its orthography. Like Serbian, it uses both Cyrillic and Latin script, although apparently in somewhat different contexts; it is most commonly written in the Cyrillic alphabet, albeit with the Latin alphabet by the royal court. It shares numerous orthographic features found in various Eastern European languages, most notably the "sz" and "cz" of Polish. However, the language is clearly a Germanic language. Its vocabulary and grammar resembles that of Dutch and German and has little in common with any Slavic languages. The language also appears to have been influenced by Bordurian, Slavic languages and Turkish. The Syldavians often bear names of Slavic origin, such as Wladimir; the dish szlaszeck that Tintin encountered also appears to be a borrowing (szaszłyk is the Polish word for "shish kebab", borrowed in turn from Turkish). Many words are based on common French slangs. For examples, "klebcz" is constructed on the French Parisian slang "clebs" meaning "dog".

This language, which is Germanic but bears a great resemblance to Polish, may be likened to the artificial Romance language Wenedyk, or to the endangered Wymysorys language.

Phonology[edit]

Syldavian boasts a rich range of sounds.

Vowels[edit]

In addition to the diacritical marks shown in the chart below, there are acute and grave accents that may indicate stress.

Roman letters are on the left, Cyrillic letters on the right.

Front Back
unrounded rounded
Close i i,и y ü,ы u u,у
Near-close ɪ y,й ʊ û,ў
Close-mid e e,е ø ö,ё o o,о
Open-mid æ~ɛ ä,я ɔ ô,о
Near-open
Open a a,а

In addition to these letters, Syldavian also contains several digraphs and letters for which the pronunciation is uncertain:

  • â - uncertain, possibly /æ/
  • ï - uncertain. Likely a diaeresis indicating to pronounce as syllabic /i/ rather than /j/, or for the benefit of French-speakers so they don't mispronounce ai as /ɛː/ instead of the correct /aj/.
  • oe - /ø/
  • ou - /ou/
  • eu - uncertain: perhaps the vowel /œ/ or /ø/, perhaps a diphthong /eu/ or /ɛu/. It is only seen in one word: teuïh ("door").
  • ei - /ei/

Consonants[edit]

Roman letters are on the left, Cyrillic letters on the right.

Bilabial Labiodental Alveolar Postalveolar Palatal Velar Glottal
Nasal m m,м n n,н
Plosive p p,п
b b,б
t t,т
d d,д
k k,к
ɡ g,г
Fricative
β v,ю
f f,ф
v w,в
s s,с
z z,з
ʃ sz,сз
ʒ zs,зс
x kh,х
ɣ gh,гз
h h,щ
Affricate t͡s tz,тз
d͡z dz,дз
t͡ʃ cz,ч
d͡ʒ dj,дч
Trill r r,р
rz,рз
Approximant l l,л j j,й

Note: As in Czech, the letter r can be syllabic, as seen in names such as Staszrvitch and Dbrnouk.

There are some additional digraphs and trigraphs, including tch (used in names and pronounced with /t͡ʃ/, the apparent Syldavian version of the common Serbo-Croatian/Balkan surname ending -ić), chz (uncertain, but may be an alternative form of cz /t͡ʃ/), and th /t/. These demonstrate that the Latin-based orthography has a number of irregularities, or else these are old inconsistent spellings that have been preserved in family names but are no longer used in the standard orthography (as in Hungarian, where for example one may find the family name Széchenyi retaining a traditional spelling rather than the orthographically correct *Szécsenyi).

Grammar[edit]

Plurals[edit]

  • Native words are pluralized with -en: klebczen - "dogs"; fläszen - "bottles"
  • Loanwords are pluralized with -es: zigarettes - "cigarettes"

Definite articles[edit]

Unlike Marols, but like German (shown in italics in the table), Syldavian definite articles are extensively inflected.

Masc./Fem. Neut. Plural
Nom. dze
der/die
dascz
das
dzoe
die
Acc. dzem
den/die
dascz
das
dzoe
die
Dat. dze
dem/der
dza
dem
dzem
den
Gen. doscz
des/der
doscz
des
doscz
der

Indefinite articles[edit]

  • Singular: on - "a"
  • Plural: onegh - "some"

Adjectives [1][edit]

Adjectives precede nouns:

forwotzen zona 'prohibited area'; Zekrett Politzs 'Secret Police'.

There is no sufficient evidence to tell whether adjectives change form. The rules of Dutch, a control language of Syldavian, are very complex.

Note: the derivation Klow > Klowaswa is merely one of many adjectivizations, however, compare Zyldav 'Syldavian'

Adjectives can be used to modify verbs like adverbs:

Nadja Wladimir zekrett löwt. 'Nadja secretly loves Vladimir'
Dzapeih wzryzkar eszt on vaghabontz. 'The guy is surely a tramp.'

Pronouns[edit]

Personal pronouns[edit]

Sub. Obj. Poss.
1 sing. ek ma mejn
2 sing. dûs da dejn
3 sing. m. eih itd yhzer
3 sing. n. itd ein zsejn
3 sing. f. zsoe irz yhzer
1 plur. vei ohmz ohmz
2 plur. jei jou öhz
3 plur. zsoe khon khon

3rd person singular neuter objective and possessive and 2nd person plural pronouns are reconstructed based on Dutch and German.

Demonstrative pronouns[edit]

czei - this
tot - that

Verbs [2][edit]

Verbs are either weak or strong. This decides how they are conjugated.

Conjugation[edit]

Strong Verb: blavn 'to stay'

Pres. Ind. Past Ind. Subj. Imp. Pres. Part. Past Part.
1 sing. blav blev blavetz - blavendz bleven
2 sing. blav blev blavetz blaveh blavendz bleven
3 sing. blavet blev blavetz - blavendz bleven
1 plur. blaven bleven blavendz - blavendz bleven
2 plur. blaven bleven blavendz blavet blavendz bleven
3 plur. blaven bleven blavendz blavendz bleven

Weak Verb: löwn 'to love'

Pres. Ind. Past Ind. Subj. Imp. Pres. Part. Past Part.
1 sing. löw löwda löwetz - löwendz löwen
2 sing. löw löwda löwetz blaveh löwendz löwen
3 sing. löwt löwda löwetz - löwendz löwen
1 plur. löwen löwenda löwendz - löwendz löwen
2 plur. löwen löwenda löwendz blavet löwendz löwen
3 plur. löwen löwenda löwendz löwendz löwen
  • no knowledge of 2 plur. & sing. conjugations. Conjugations shown borrowed from 1 plur. & sing..

Negatives[edit]

To negate a sentence, the particle nietz is placed after the subject, in auxiliary position.

Müsstler nietz dzem könikstz löwt. 'Müsstler does not love the king.'

In copulative sentences, nietz is placed after the verb (or czesztot) :

Müsstler eszt nietz güdd. 'Müsstler is not good.'
Czesztot wzryzkar nietz on waghabontz! 'That's surely not a vagabond!'

Adverbs[edit]

Most adverbs tend to be identical to adjectives in form. Adverbs can be used to modify verbs:

Nadja Wladimir zekrett löwt. 'Nadja secretly loves Vladimir'
Dzapeih wzryzkar eszt on vaghabontz. 'The guy is surely a tramp.'

Interjections[edit]

szplug - a curse word, perhaps equivalent to "damn". (Not found in original French edition, only English translation.)

szplitz on szplug- a more extreme form of szplug

hamaïh!- praising or surprise, could be something like "hail!" or "wow!"

hält!- a command, probably meaning "stop!" or "halt!"

szcht!- another command, sounds almost like "shh!" and perhaps means "silence!"

zsálu- a greeting, probably "salute" or "hello".

Syntax [3][edit]

Verbs[edit]

The verb normally follows the object:

Ihn dzekhoujchz blaveh! 'In the car stay!'
Ek mejn mädjek löw. 'I love my girlfriend.'
On sprädj werlagh. 'I want some red wine.'

Where there's an auxiliary and a main verb, the main verb remains at the end, and the auxiliary verb moves just after the subject:

Zsoe ghounh dzoeteuïh ebb touhn. 'They're going to open the doors.'
Ek werlagh ihn Klow blavn. 'I want to stay in Klow.'

Pronouns[edit]

In earlier Syldavian the pronoun may follow the verb, and this form may still be used for emphasis:

Eih bennec, eih blavec 'Here I am, here I stay.' [medieval spelling]
Wzryzkar kzomme ek! 'I'm coming, for sure!'

You can say either Eihn ben ek, Eihn bennek or Ek ben eihn, but never *Eihn ek ben (unlike English, where you can say 'Here I am'). In general "X is Y" can be inverted to "Y is X". When X is a pronoun, the inversion adds some emphasis:

Güdd eszt itd, 'Good it is.'

In the kzommet sentences in the corpus, prepositional phrases follow the verb. The comma, however, is a signal that the prepositional phrase has been moved for emphasis, or because it is an afterthought:

Kzommet micz omhz, noh dascz gendarmaskaïa! Come with us to the police station!

Forms of 'be' directly follow the subject :

Könikstz eszt güdd. 'The king is good.'
Sbrodj on forwotzen eszt zona . 'Sbrodj is a forbidden zone.'
Dan dzetronn eszt ervöh. 'Then the throne is for him.'

The merged form czesztot 'it is, that is' begins a sentence: Czesztot Tintin. "That's Tintin."

Historical changes[edit]

Samples of Syldavian from only two periods - the 14th century and the 20th century - are available to us. But even with such a small sample, some changes can be seen in the language over a 600-year period:

  • pho became vüh ("for")
  • cegan became czaïgan ("say")
  • eih became eihn ("here")
  • coe became kzou ("cow")
  • ön became o ("at, about")
  • wazs became vazs ("what")
  • w and v transposed
  • c (/k/) became k

Sample text[edit]

From a 14th-century manuscript, Noble Deeds of Ottokar IV:

Medieval Spelling

"Pir Ottocar, dûs pollsz ez cönicstz, dan tronn eszt pho mâ." Czeillâ czäídâ ön eltcâr alpû, "Kzommetz lapzâda pacceho." Cönicstz itd ön alpû clöppz Staszrvitchz erom szûbel ön. Dâzsbíc fällta öpp ön cârrö.

Modern Spelling

"Pir Ottokar, dûs pollsz ez könikstz, dan tronn eszt vöh mâ." Czeillâ czäídâ o eltkâr alpû, "Kzommetz lapzâda pakkeho." Könikstz itd o alpû klöppz Staszrvitchz erom szûbel o. Dâzsbíck fällta öpp o kârrö.

English translation:

"Father Ottokar, thou falsely art king; the throne is for me." This one said thus to the other, "Come seize the sceptre." The king thus hit him, Staszrvitch, on his head. The villain fell onto the floor."

More Examples

Czesztot on klebcz. - "That's a dog."
Hamaïh! - "Hail!"
Kzommet micz omhz, noh dascz gendarmaskaïa. - "Come with us to the Police Station." ("politzski" in the English translation.) Note that because gendarmaskaïa is a borrowing from French gendarme, it is likely pronounced closer to [ʒandarmaskaja] than *[gendarmaskaja]. The suffix -skaïa is also apparently borrowed from the Russian feminine adjective ending -ская.
On fläsz Klowaswa vüh dzapeih... Eih döszt! - "A bottle of Klow water for this guy... He's thirsty!" (cf. Dutch 'dorst' & cf. Swedish 'törst' , "thirst". (Lit. 'He thirsts!')
Czesztot wzryzkar nietz on waghabontz! Czesztot bätczer yhzer kzömmetz noh dascz gendarmaskaïa? - "That's surely not a tramp! Isn't it better for him to come to the police station?" (Lit. probably "Is it better [that] he comes to the police station?")
Rapp! Noh dzem buthsz!-"Quick! Into the boat!" (cognate literally to German Nach dem Boot!,)

References[edit]

See also[edit]