Conlangs of a Remembrancer

The Speech of Other Worlds

Archive for the month “April, 2012”

Shshi Vocabulary and Word Formation

This will be a catch-all post where I can periodically add information on vocabulary and provide lists of words.


 I’ve never written enough text in the language to need much slang.  The one curse word that the Termites use all the time is tha’sask|>||, which means “damn!” with > functioning as an emphasis marker, i.e. an exclamation point.  

Another word that could be considered colloquial is da’roit’um|, “infatuated, smitten with hero-worship,” literally, “twist-headed.”  Thus, in the first volume of “The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head,” when the little Worker Twa’sei begs to go with the Champion on its quest, another character says, “Twa’sei is da’roit’um|,” meaning infatuated with the big Warrior.

Gender words

ta’ma’zei|: he-she-person, i.e. a person displaying sexual pheromones (the Alates).
wei’ta’ma’zei|: “non-he-she-person,” i.e. a neuter individual (all Warriors and Workers).
 da’ma|: male (adj.)
da’ta|: female (adj.)
ma’zei| : male person (noun)
ta’zei|: female person (noun)

 Words Related to Offspring

eino|: to lay (an egg); to produce offspring (used for the Queen only, not the King)
ino|: to father or engender an offspring (applied only to the King)
ein’zei|: offspring (when referring to the Queen’s role; used for neuter offspring and for offspring in general)
: offspring (of a male parent) (used for neuter offspring and for offspring in general)
Thus a Warrior would say “I am A’kha’ma’na’ta’s ein’zei| and Sei’o’na’sha’ma’s in’zei|.
ma’ein’zei|: son, male offspring (of a Queen)
ma’in’zei|: son, male offspring (of a King)
ta’ein’zei|: daughter, female offspring (of a Queen)
ta’in’zei|: daughter, female offspring (of a King)

Color Words

The word for “color” is han|. A degree of color is usually indicated in the manner of the word “pink,” by prefixing kom (pale or light in color) or mat (black, dark)  “Gray” is an exception; it has a word of its own.

black: mat|
blue: kha|
brown: pil|
gold, golden: han’gri| [lit., color of the sun; the Shshi place no value on the metal called gold]
gray: zav’mat| [somewhat black]
green: min|
pink: kom’flu| [lit., light or pale red]
orange: flun|
red: flu|
white: ko|
yellow: glon|
purple: gol|

Seasons of the Year

Wet time: gwai’nol| (the rainiest season)
Time of flowers: shra’nol|
Time of drying: su’eish’nol|
Dead time: weio’nol| (the driest season, when nothing grows)
Cold time: chi’nol| (winter)
Time of waiting: la’nol| (when everyone is waiting for the rains to come)


Selection of Words from Dictionary of the Shshi Language

akh|: world or ground
akh’dogo|: to drag, lit., to ground-pull
akh’jav’zi|: earthiness, tasting of the earth or soil, lit., ground-flavor
akh’ka’zi|: paving, lit., ground-stone
akh’oi’mi|: coast, shore, lit., ground-edge
akht’huo|: to bury, lit., to dig and cover
akhto|: to dig

a’nei|: before (prep., temporal sense)
a’nei’bag’on’zi|: road, lit., a path made before [before (a’nei|) made (bag, from bago|, to build, make, manufacture, construct) path (on’zi|)] This word is interesting in that it doesn’t exist at the time of the Earthers’ first visit to the termite planet.  We see its origins in v.2 of “The Labors of Ki’shto’ba Huge-Head.”
a’nei’galto|: to foretell or prophesy
a’nei’nof|: yesterday (lit., before-day)
a’nei’vaino|: to inherit (lit., to before-take)
a’nei’vain’zei|: heir (lit., before-taker)
a’nei’zei|: ancestor (lit., before-person) (pl. sha’nei’zei|: ancestors,also lineage, heritage)

ao’gwai’mi|: pond, pool, lake (lit., still water)
ao’paio|: to besiege, to set a siege (lit., to still-battle)
ao’pai’zi|: siege, lit., a still [or static] fight

ar [da’ar|]: heavy (adj.)
ar’zei|: heavy one, also reptile (applied generically to any large reptile)

arg [da’arg|]: narrow, tight, constricted, close, cramped (adj.)
arg’akh’mi|: peninsula [lit., narrow-land place]
argo|: to narrow, close in, close up, tighten; also to squeeze or constrict
arg’vist’tro|: to caulk or mortar (lit., to crack-fill]
arg’vist’zi|: crack or chink [lit., narrow space]

a’shof|: artificial, false, fake
a’shof’wum|: armor [lit., artificial chitin; a word constructed by Di’fa’kro’mi]

a’tas’zi|: magic [lit, a thing with a lack of rules, from tas’zi| (noun), rule, law, natural process, also used to mean government.]

av|: yes
da’av|: positive (adj.)
av’av|: of course, certainly [an emphatic yes]
av’il|: positively (adv.)

baf’akhto|: to tunnel, lit., to tunnel-dig
bak’gwai’zi|: mortar-gland water (the secretion of the bak’zi|)
bak’zi|: mortar gland (secretory organ on Builder Subcastes’ heads)

baro|: to own, possess
da’bar|: owned, possessed (idiomatic usage: It belongs to me [lit., it is owned of me]:  fa’she| ↳ da’bar| ki’sho| ||

ba’zi|: gland (usually used in compounds, as hai’ba’zi :scent gland)

biro|: to decay, rot, spoil
bir’zha|: the vision fungus (lit., sour gut, from its smell)

bu’re|: reeds, sedge (lit., river grass; used for weaving and making baskets)


ra’sof’zei|: flower-sitter, an insect similar to a butterfly

vruno|: to believe; na| means “holy”; wei’na| is “unholy,” thus “blasphemous, impious, or sacrilegious.” Then we have wei’na’vrun|, “faithless or unbelieving,” and wei’na’vrun’zei|, or “infidel, a person who does not believe.”

weio’so| is “dead body or corpse”; weio’so’mi| is the Charnel Hall, or “corpse-place,” and weio’so’zei| is “corpse-person,” i.e., the name of the Subcaste of Workers who take care of the disposition of the dead.




The Shshi Naming System

All nymphs look nearly identical when they hatch; their ultimate Caste cannot be determined.  Therefore, the Namer Alates give them one-syllable names, like Kri (leg), Shra (flowers), or Tei (eye).  At third molt, when their adult Caste is revealed, a suitable imago (adult) name is conferred, incorporating their nymph name.

A Worker gets a two-syllable name, like Ti’shra (Sweet Flowers) or No’kri (Big Leg).

A Warrior gets a three-syllable name, like Hi’ta’fu (Defends Her [i.e. the Queen’s] Honor; in this case the nymph name was Fum [Honor], which becomes shortened in the adult name).  A’gwa’ji (Belly Slash) is the name of a Warrior whose nymph-name was Gwaf (Belly); the presence of the “a” is an example of the place-holding syllable mentioned in the page on “Shshi Nouns, Adjectives, and Adverbs.”

The Alates (winged Caste) get four-syllable names, like Kwi’ga’ga’tei (One of Many Speakers Who Sees; her nymph name was Tei (Eye or Seeing); her imago name is a traditional Seer’s name).  Other examples are Mo’gri’ta’tu (Shining Sun Her Wing; “her” is used even though the Chamberlain is male, because this is also a traditional name.  His nymph name was Gri [Sun]).  And one more example: Di’fa’kro’mi the Remembrancer (Happy He Comes [to the] Place)

The only people with five-syllable names are the breeding pair, the Mother and the King.  When a new Mother is installed, the fortress’s Seer has the privilege of naming her.  Thus, the Mother of the fortress of Lo’ro’ra bore the Alate name of Mei’a’kha’bu (Rain on Blue River) and the Alate who was Seer at the time the fortress was founded named her Ahk’a’ma’na’ta (Blue Mother).  The King of Lo’ro’ra is Sei’o’na’sha’ma, which means basically Tree King.

All female progenitors’ names end in ma’na’ta| which is the word for Mother or, in our usage, Queen.  It means literally “he-holy-she,” with a derivation that is lost in time but probably refers to the fact that the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name ate her King and thus he became part of herself.  na’sha’ma| means “King.”  Again, the origin is somewhat obscure; the literal meaning of the three syllables is “holy-you are-male” although the possibility exists that the waveform designated “sha” could have been corrupted from some lost root.

Fortress names are generally pretty straightforward.  Thus, Ki’shto’ba’s home fortress is named To’wak, which means Destructive Mandible.  Kwai’kwai’za means Many Hills (kwai|: mountain; za|: little – plus reduplication to indicate Many).  And our fortress of Lo’ro’ra (lo’ro’ra’mi|) has a rather more obscure meaning; the four syllables mean literally Strong-Holding-Flower-Place, which usually is construed as Strong Land of Flowers, or Strong Flower Fortress.

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