It’s been a while since I promised to do a post about Bereghin language, so here we go.
Well, to be honest, this is gonna end up a series of posts, because it’s difficult to describe a language in a single post. I’m also setting up a WorldAnvil profile for it, where all the information will be gathered all in one place. The work-in-progress and the behind-the-scenes stuff is going to be here, though.
And I think I’m going to start translating the episodes set in Bereg into Bereghin as well, like I did for the Halcian episodes at one point (I’d like to go back to that eventually, too).
Table of Contents
- Why Do I Even Bother Making Languages
- Conlanging Bereghin
- What’s Next
Why Do I Even Bother Making Languages
Well, other than “for the fun of it”, that is.
The languages of Halqueme have been a sore point with me for a while.
I grew up more or less bilingual, and I’m acutely aware how much language affects expression. The word choice, the idioms, the puns. There’s a sort of… mentality that goes with a language, too. Not to mention names. And titles. And toponyms. And culture(s).
And it bothered me — especially with Bereg — that I didn’t know what language the characters were actually speaking. I thought of Bereghin as a Slavic language, but since I didn’t actually have the Slavic language, I ended up just pulling random words from real-world Slavic languages I was most familiar with — mostly Russian, with heavy Polish influence (and I was definitely imagining some Old Church Slavonic influences in there, too, because I hadn’t realized how much of a conlang the OCS itself was).
It all has resulted in a major translation convention mess. There are the clearly translated bits like “prince” (from common Slavic kъnędzь) and “steadholder” (from Polish namiestnik). There are the transcriptions of words and names from existing languages, like “gosudar” (Russian государь) and “Ivolga” (Russian “иволга”/ Ukrainian “іволга”). There are actual historical terms, like boyar and hussar. There are words kinda derived from Proto-Slavic, like “bann” and “bana” (from banъ). And there are completely made-up words (to my knowledge, neither “Meled” nor “Orumil” are real names).
As far as I could tell, the only way to clean up this mess was to come up with a language the characters are actually using. And translate from that rather than from a confusing mix of existing languages.
It was additionally helpful because the Bereghin culture doesn’t actually reflect any existing Slavic culture. No existing Slavic culture has inbuilt gender equality, for instance, and no existing Slavic language (that I know of) has an easy time expressing it. So some words I was trying to “translate” didn’t even exist to begin with. (Like, Prince Meled’s title of the Great Rider — the Polish “wielki koniuszy” and its counterparts other Slavic languages — doesn’t have an obvious feminine form.That’s unrealistic for Bereg, which is bound to have had a number of female Great Riders throughout its history.)
Like Halcian, Bereghin is an a-posteriori conlang (meaning, it’s a fictional language constructed on the basis of a pre-existing real-world language). I more or less figured out how languages actually work by the time I got to Bereghin (and discovered the Zoompist website, for applying sound shifts). So Bereghin, for once, has a fairly consistent sound evolution history.
The biggest challenge there was to work out a sound shift system that didn’t completely ruin the existing glossary. I managed to keep Ivolga, Yarosvet, Boleslav, Polada, and Molchan (Molchan is a bit of stretch — turns out he should’ve been Milchan. I’m writing it off as a dialectal difference, though.)
The Gosudar Problem
What I didn’t manage to keep is the title of the “gosudar”. Proto-Slavic gospodařь does appear to have had a somewhat dialectal form “gosǫdařь”, but when put through the correct sound changes it yields “gosondarí”. The Proto-Slavic nasal “ǫ” became “on” in Bereghin, not “u”, and that’s a hill I’m camping on.
So I’m afraid I’m gonna have to go back and fix all instances of “gosudar” to “gosondar”.
Sorry about that!
The sounds of Bereghin language are listed below.
IPA is how the sounds are pronounced (in the International Phonetic Alphabet notation), e.g. /mol’ʨan/.
Romanization is how Bereghin is written when using the Latin alphabet, e.g. <Molčan>.
Anglicization is how I’m planning to transliterate Bereghin into English when needed, e.g. <Molchan>. I do generally try to spell Bereghin words in English in a way that would make it easy for an English speaker to pronounce the word in an approximately correct way.
Consonant inventory: b bʲ d dʲ g gʲ j k kʲ l lʲ m mʲ n nʲ p pʲ r rʲ s sʲ t tʲ v vʲ x z zʲ ʂ ʐ ʦ ʨ
|/g/||<g>||<g> or <gh>|
|/gʲ/||<gí>||<g> or <gh>|
|/x/||<h>||<h> or <kh>|
Vowel inventory: a e i ĭ o u ŭ ɨ
|/ɨ/||/y/||/y/ or /i/|
Next up is going to be… grammar, most likely. Noun declensions, verb conjugations, all that fun stuff.
Though if someone wants to just explore the vocabulary first, do let me know 🙂