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Language of the Pfifltriggi

Spoken in: the great valleys of Malacandra
Sources: Out of the Silent Planet (osp) and Perelandra (p)

Contents

History

While he was on Malacandra, Ransom was informed by the pfifltrigg Kanakaberaka that the three species inhabiting the planet, the hrossa, séroni and pfifltriggi had originally each possessed their own language, but that, eventually, the language of the hrossa became predominant.

Much later, however, Ransom discovered that this was not entirely correct: Hressa-Hlab, the language of the hrossa, was more properly called Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi, the language of the Fields of Arbol, a language which had, possibly, existed since the beginning of time. Surnibur and the language of the pfifltriggi, he decided, were actually much more recent developments, having developed (presumably from Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi itself) around the time which is on Earth known as the Cambrian Period.

It would seem, then, that the development of the languages was so ancient, even in Malacandrian terms, that it had been completely forgotten that Hlab-Eribol-ef-Cordi was the original tongue of all three of the races living on the planet and that it was anything but the “language of the hrossa”.

The Corpus

Words

pfifltrigg1
\pfê · ’fltr · êg\2,3 n., pl. pfifltriggi (\··· ê\) : one of the race of pfifltriggi; actual meaning unknown
[origin unknown]

Proper Nouns

Kalakaperi
\ka · ’la · ka · pe · rê\ per. n. : name of a pfifltrigg of unknown gender; actual meaning unknown
[origin unknown]
Kanakaberaka
\ka · ’na · ka · be · ra · ka\ per. n. : name of a pfifltrigg of unknown gender; actual meaning unknown
[origin unknown]
Parakataru
\pa · ’ra · ka · ta · ru\ per. n. : name of a pfifltrigg of unknown gender; actual meaning unknown
[origin unknown]
Tafalakaruf
\ta · ’fa · la · ka · ruf\ per. n. : name of a pfifltrigg of unknown gender; actual meaning unknown
[orgin unknown]

Phonology

Consonants
  ploshive fricative affricate approximate nasal
labial p b f - pf - - - - -
alveolar t - - - - - - r - n
alveolar-velar - - - - - - - l - -
velar k g(g) - - - - - - - -
? fltr - - - - - - - - -
Vowels
  front central back
high i - -
lax high - - u
open e - -
low - - a

Sounds

The number of attested sounds in the language of the pfifltriggi is quite small; given the very small size of the corpus, however, there are probably many more of which we know nothing.

For its consonants, the language of the pfifltriggi is known to have five ploshives, p, b, t, k and g (attested only as gg), one fricative, f, one affricate, pf, two approximates, r and l, and one nasal, n. All of these are probably pronounced as they are in English.

There is also a highly unusual consonant cluster, fltr; for reasons discussed below, it would be highly convenient if this were a single consonant. Fortunately, there is some evidence for this: Ransom reported that Old Solar “contain[s] consonants unrepro­ducible by a human mouth.”4 Curiously, the corpus of Old Solar contains no such consonants, but, since they evidently exist, and since the language of the pfifltriggi is likely descended from Old Solar, it is possible that fltr is merely an inaccurate attempt at transliterating such a sound into the Latin alphabet.

As for vowels, the language of the pfifltriggi has but four attested: a is likely pronounced like the a in father, e like the e in men, i like the ê in me and u like the u in sun.

Stress

There are absolutely no clues offered as to the stress of syllables in the language of the pfifltriggi; all we can say is that the stress seems to “naturally” fall on the second syllable of the word. Although there are absolutely no assurances that that is correct, it is the method which has been adopted on this site.

Word Structure

All of the attested proper nouns follow the simple structure of [consonant]+[vowel]+…+[consonant](+[vowel]). It is tempting to suggest that all words follow this format, but, at first site, the only attested common noun, pfifltrigg, seems to break it thrice.

But does it? Many languages consider affricates, like pf, to be a single letter; it is also possible that gg also represents a single sound, possibly an ‘enlongated’ g. This leaves us with fltr. As mentioned above, however, there exists a possibility that this unusual cluster is, indeed, a single letter.

So, as we can see, given the, admittedly rather small, corpus, there exists the possibility that word s in the language of the pfifiltriggi follow a simple [consonant]+[vowel] form.

Grammar

Nouns

All (read: one) of the words we know in the language of the pfifltriggi are nouns; even so, though, we can’t really say anything about them other than how they are pluralized.

Pluralization

Language of the pfifltriggi
pluralization rules
rule example
1. Start with singular noun
pfifltrigg
2. Add -i pfifltriggi
Thus pfifltrigg becomes pfifltriggi

The plural of pfifltrigg is given as pfifltriggi. Therefore, it would seem that, like Old Solar feminine nouns, nouns in the language of the pfifltriggi add -i in the plural.

This still leaves several unanswered questions, however. First, attested proper nouns, like Kanakaberaka, indicate that words can end in vowels. How, then, are these pluralized? Does the -i replace the final vowel? Or is there a different ending altogether? Second, and drawing on the previous speculation, is it possible that the language of the pfifltriggi has a number of plural formations, perhaps even approaching the multitude found in Old Solar?

1 – it is possible that this is actually an Old Solar word and that the pfifltriggi had a different name for themselves in their own language; we will operate under the assumption, however, that pfifltrigg is indeed a word in the language of the pfifltriggi.
2 – please see the Guide to Pronunciation; also, note that the placement of the primary stress is very uncertain.
3 – another possibility is \pfê · ’fltr · êg · g\, with the plural being \···· ê\; also note that fltr may be an imperfect representation of an “alien” consonant.
4osp, ch. 9, para. 20

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