Shshi Language – Introduction
The Shshi are an intelligent lifeform – a species of extraterrestrial that evolved from termites. They closely resemble the termites of Earth, although that are approximately a meter in length and they have evolved language. Since they are deaf and have no vocal mechanisms, they have evolved a system in which individuals emit and receive radio waves through their antennae, to be decoded into language in the brain. Any recording of such a language would result only in a series of waveforms on a spectrograph; therefore I’m calling it a “spectrographic” language, or sometimes a “bioelectric” language. Kaitrin Oliva, the linguistic anthropologist in my novel “The Termite Queen,” transcribes these wave patterns into pronounceable words so that they can be spoken by human beings. An automatic translation device converts these words into the EM patterns that the Shshi can receive and understand. In return, the device picks up the transmissions of the Shshi and converts them into vocalized words.
The Shshi have no written language at the time of my novel, but my personal blog, Ruminations of a Remembrancer, includes a page entitled “Shshi Writing” which is an excerpt from a novel laid at a later time, where the Remembrancer Di’fa’kro’mi (think “Bard”) talks about how he invented writing.
The spectrographic waveforms mentioned above can be analyzed into individual patterns which can be assigned spoken syllables, forming lexemes.A lexeme can be composed of one or more morphemes, just as in English. Small breaks of different lengths in the patterns indicate the ends of morphemes, lexemes, and groups of words that can be considered sentences. In order to give form to the language, Kaitrin Oliva marked the ends of lexemes with a vertical bar and separated the morphemes with apostrophes. A sentence ends with a double bar.
The structure of this language is probably a lot more like English than it should be, but it’s hard to escape the template in your brain. However, there are some significant differences. I gave these big bugs an unbelievably orderly instinct for syntax so first we should discuss word order.
The order is Subject + Verb + Direct object/predicate nominative/predicate adjective. These elements may not be separated by adverbs, adjectives, or other words (except negatives, honorifics like na| [holy] or lo’lo’tar’zei|(Commander), numbers, and certain auxiliaries).
The same goes for infinitives; they are not separated from their objects.
Possessive pronouns like ki’sho| (my) and ki’bei| (your) would precede a subject noun but follow an object.
My rock is cold: ki’sho| ka’zi| ⇄fa’she|↳ da’chi| ||
BUT: The Worker stole my rock: om’zei|⇄ fa’dutot|↻ka’zi| ki’sho| ||
Links (those strange arrow symbols)
Links and punctuation are waveforms that are barely distinguishable on the spectrograph but are very consistently, almost unconsciously, employed. Therefore, Kaitrin assigned them symbols in her written transcriptions but voiced them with certain syllables for her translation device. Word and syllable separators are not vocalized at all, since they are simple hiatuses.
Here is a list of the link symbols and their meanings:
Predicate link: ⇆ Use between a subject and its verb (except when the verb has a pronoun as a subject, when the subject combines with the verb.)
The citizens of Lo’ro’ra spoke with the Seer: lo’ro’ra’zei| ⇆ shfa’ganot| o| tei\zei| ||
[The subject is a noun. This also illustrates the fact that a pronoun always remains prefixed to the verb; thus shfa is “they” and the sentence would read literally: The citizens of Lo’ro’ra they spoke with the Seer.]
They spoke with the Seer: shfa’ganot| o| tei’zei| || [When the pronoun is the subject, it is combined with the verb and the link sign is not used.]
Object Link: ↻ Use between verb and its direct object OR predicate nominative. The Shshi don’t distinguish objects and predicate nominatives. However, they DO recognize predicate adjectives and employ a special link for those.
Examples of Object Link
The Warriors [they] eat fungus: shpai’zei ⇆ shfa’tailo|↻ wi| ||
The Warrior is my good friend: pai’zei|⇆ fash|↻ gru’zei| da’thel| ki’sho| ||
(Literally, Warrior is [“to be” is irregular] friend good my.)
Predicate adjective link: ↳
The stone is strong: ka’zi|⇆ she| ↳ da’lo| ||
Infinitive link: ⇅ Infinitives without exception end in o and are preceded by the ⇅ sign. An infinitive takes the object link where required.
I want to know your name: sho’laio ⇅preivo|↻ loi’zi| ki’bei| ||
Conjunctions, relative pronouns, and prepositions partake of the character of links and so take no link sign following them, but subordinate clauses are treated just like other objects, etc.
I know that the Warrior is here: sho’preivo|↻ tu| pai’zei|⇆ fash| i’jo| ||
After I had already employed Wingdings for the above system in four different books and then discovered that they won’t work with ebooks, I worked out an alternative system using superscript syllables and added information to “The Termite Queen” indicating that Kaitrin used these syllables to vocalize the links. These syllables will be substituted for the link signs in ebook versions. Here are the equivalents:
⇆ (predicate link) = yu
↻ (object/predicate nominative link) = hei
↳(predicate adjective) = yei
⇅ (infinitive link) = yi
Plurals are constructed by prefixing sh-.
There are no articles.
Adjectives are normally placed before the word that is modified, but if this causes separation of subject, verb, and object, then the adjective can come afterward.
Verbs always have a pronoun prefixed, even when they are used with a subject (see more on page entitled “Shshi Verbs”).
Opening lines from the Shshi Creation Myth
zo| da’kwi| nof| vi| ta’tai| wei| ↻ loi’zi| da’pri’saia| ma’na’ta| ⇆ ta’trot| ↻ prai’zi| ut| u| ta’rufot| an| wei’loi| na’sha’ma| u| ta’lo’tailot| ↻ ma’a| tu’ai| ta’shet| ↳ da’ein’fiv| || ei’dal| ta’nagot| ⇅ arko| ↻ shein| u| shfai’eintot| ↻ shprai’mo’zi| vi| ki| bei’a| saia’zei| ⇆ bei’u’teio| weil| ||
On the first day of time the Highest-Mother-Who-Has-No-Name filled all the sky and she hungered for the Nameless King and devoured him so that she was impregnated with his egg-maker. Then she began to press forth eggs and they hatched into stars, which most of you will never see.
A word-by-word breakdown of the first sentence
nof| day of time
↻ loi’zi| name
⇆ ta’trot| [she] filled
↻ prai’zi| sky
We’ve made a beginning! More is still to come!