Language in the Werks from the Iron Road

In Do Clockworks Dream Of Gear-Toothed Sheep, the first chapter ends with the changeling singing a song in a language most people probably don’t know. This page seeks to explain the grammar, pronunciation, and other characteristics of that language as it is presented in the series. Thus far, it appears at three points in the story.

The first instance is in Chapter One, as has already been said. Let us look at a side-by-side matching of the song – in the original on the left with an English version on the right.

Original English
Yintouho-yo-ke’a-sude!

Ma’a airushi ha-ha!

Ma’a-yu-nepa-ye-ishyio-sude-ote-mou…

Reko-yu-rushi!

Reko-yu-rushi!

Yintouho-yo-ke’a-sude!

Ma’a airushi ha-ha!

Ma’a airushi!

Ma’a airushi!

Ma’a airushi ha-ha!

Really, there is only this!

The mother has no idea … ha-ha!

The mother’s flesh will taste sweet, I think – no …

I know it!

I know it!

Really, there is only this!

The mother has no idea … ha-ha!

The mother has no idea!

The mother has no idea!

The mother has no idea … ha-ha!

If there were any questions in the mind of readers, the changeling child meant harm to the woman that had taken it under her roof.  That’s all fine, well and good to have it explained.  How does the language above actually work?

For any who wonder, the name of the changeling child’s language is Ciun-ko.  Let us look at its parts, shall we?

Vocabulary List #1 (In English Alphabetical Order)

Ciun-ko Pronunciation English
Ai (at the front of any word)

Ciun

Ha-ha

Ishyio

Ke’a

Ko

Ma’a

Mou

Nepa

Ote

Reko

Rushi

Sude

Ye

Yintouho

Yo

Yu

EYE

Chee-uhn

Hah-hah

EE-sheh-yee-oh

Keh-HAH

Koh

Mah-HAH

Moh-eww

Neh-pah

Oh-teh

Reh-koh

Rew-shee

Sue-deh

Yeh

Yin-tohh-hoh

Yoh

Yew

Un-; Dis-; to not do something

Home; native

(Sound of laughter in Ciun-ko)

Sweet (taste); good flavor

Only; just

Language

Mother

No

Flesh; meat

Marks exactly what it is the speaker thinks

This; it

Thought; Think; (to have an) idea;

Is; are; be-verb

Emphasizes a wistful desire for something

Really; in reality

Emphasizes that an unclarified point exists.

Marks the object of a verb or phrase; OR

Emphasizes possession (like an “ ‘s “)

Ciun-ko Basic Grammar Lesson #1Un-Yu-Be or Sentence Order

Sentences in Ciun-ko almost always follow the following order

SUBJECT — OBJECT —  VERB

The only real exception to this is when the subject is understood by both the speaker and the listener – in which case the subject is understood – so it is not said.

The other exception – an extinct variant of Ciun-ko – placed the verb first, followed by the object.  The subject was almost never clearly stated.  This variant, and the people that used it, vanished long before the start of Nika’s journey – though this variant and its vocabulary will surface in old books and papers throughout the series.

Ciun-ko Basic Grammar Lesson #2Un-Yu-Rupa or Sentence Markers

So far, in the first instance of Ciun-ko in Book One, we notice the use of what can best be described as sentence markers.  Ciun-ko is a language based around syllables.  Because of a number of reasons (not least of which being to assist comprehension), special syllables can be attached to the front or back of words.

The easiest comparison to un-yu-rupa in English from a grammatical standpoint might be the idea of prefixes and suffixes.  Prefixes (irupa) change the meaning of words.  Suffixes (orupa) help mark the word’s relationship to the words around it.

Below, let’s looks at the un-yu-rupa we have encountered by the end of Chapter One –

Irupa (Prefixes) Meaning in English
Ai

I

O

Dis; Un; Not

Pre; frontal; first; before

After, last; rear

Orupa (Suffixes) Meaning in English
Ote

Ye

Yu

Indicates the preceding word or phrase is something the speaker thinks

Indicates that the preceding word or phrase is desired by the speaker

Marks the preceding word or phrase as the direct object of the sentence

OR

Marks that the preceding word or phrase is possessive of what follows

Ciun-ko Language Notes: Pronunciation

Three notes about the pronunciation of Ciun-ko at this point

  1. Being based around syllables, most syllables in words are spoken at the same pace – like the beat of a musical piece. Rarely, a syllable may be stretched into two beats, and this usually occurs with syllables ending with an ‘o’ sound. Syllables meant to be stretched are usually followed by ‘u’ when the words are written in the English alphabet (ex: mou, yintouho).
  2. Words start on an upbeat (high pitch). The second syllable sinks one step (as if the word were laid out on a musical scale). If there is a third syllable in a word, the word sinks another step. If there is a fourth syllable, or if a new word is started, the speaker returns to his or her original upbeat (high pitch). The speaker’s upbeat starting pitch is always a step above his or her normal speaking voice – in whatever actual pitch their voice naturally defaults to.
  3. This meter can be interrupted, however. The English apostrophe marks a vocal feature of Ciun-ko called doke. For reasons that will be explained as the series progresses, a doke means that the syllable after it is to be spoken with a noticeable exhaling of air by the speaker, with a “heh” sound (ex: “ ‘a ” becomes “HA”, “ ‘o “ becomes “HO””).  The syllable following a doke is always spoken at the speaker’s lowest speaking pitch, and then the pitch returns to the speaker’s upbeat, or starting, pitch.

This concludes Lesson One.

Nika Thought-werk, the UCPS, and all characters, culture, and events in the Tales of the Robot Nika book series © 2015 E. P. Isaacs. All rights reserved.