Last week, we looked at some background on the languages of the Aestari and humans, particularly concerning the names of peoples and places and how they interrelate. Now, let’s take a look at the actual language and alphabet of the Aestari. I use the word Aestari because this language is shared by both the Syraestari and the Tirnaestari, though there have naturally been some evolutions to each since their Schism.
I also have to say that I am no J.R.R. Tolkien. I am not a linguist by profession or by skill so this comes nowhere near the level of detail he achieved for Middle Earth. Alas, I also grew up in an era that didn’t believe in teaching grammar or sentence diagramming in school so I am largely self-taught. My hope is to achieve a basic sense of structure and a concept that is credible.
The Aestarin alphabet is comprised of 11 core consonants, 12 modified consonants, and 12 core vowels. Each of the core consonants are associated with His Highest Above or one of the ten Etyni. These eleven consonants can also be modified by “H” (associated with Oltos, the Lord of Balance”) which changes the letter to a related sound. This is inspired by the Japanese Katakana “dakuten” though, unlike the dakuten, the “H” has its own sound when used alone.
Here is a list of the 11 core consonants and 12 modified consonants along with their patron and, in a few cases, notes on pronunciation.
- V V+H = W His Highest Above
- R R+H = L Fenr
- T T+H = TH Itesa (The modified TH sound is hard like in “then”)
- J J+H = G Henji (The modified JH=G sound is hard like in “go”)
- P P+H = F Lelpfios
- K K+H = CH Eicai
- D D+H = B Naedda
- Z Z+H = ZH Zaris (The modified ZH is soft like in “treasure” or the Cyrillic Ж (zhe)
- N N+H = M Niella
- S S+H = SH Isi
- H H+H = TH Oltos (The modified HH=TH sound is soft like in “thin”)
- — Y+H = Y — (Alone, the “Y” is a vowel (see below), but modified by “H” it becomes the consonant “Y” like in “yes”)
The astute observer may note that every single Etyni has their patron letter somewhere in their name… except for Oltos. Why not? In the original Aestarin of the early Lost Age, Oltos was commonly spelled Ohltos. Over time, the “H” has dropped from typical usage. Some scholars, particularly among the Syraestari, blame it on a corruption of Aestarin by the languages of other races. You will similarly note that Eicai is spelled with a ‘c’ rather than a ‘k.’ In Aestarin, there is no such thing as a ‘c’. The hard ‘c’ sound is a ‘k’ and the soft is an ‘s’. The use of Eicai rather than Eikai, is in deference to many other languages, including the one that would be developed by burgeoning human civilizations to the north in the early years of the Kayrstaran Empire.
The 12 core vowel sounds are listed below. Less common vowel sounds typically result from a pairing of the root vowel with a modifying ‘h’ or ‘y’.
- A Short A like in “sAlute”
- AE Long A like in “dAy”
- E Short E like in “yEs”
- I Long E like in “nEEd”
- Y Short I like in “wIn”
- AI Long I like in “pIE”
- O Short O like in “pOt”
- OE Long O like in “gO”
- U Short U like in “cUt”
- EU Long U like in “yOU”
- AU Variant Short O like in “dOg”
- IE Variant Long E like in “dEEr”
In “Tears from Iron” the vowel sounds for the Aestarin are written following the above rules (with one significant exception that will be noted below). However, I chose not to follow the above consonant rules in the book because the result would’ve been madness. Here are several examples of what might have been:
- Finaestari → Phinaestari.
- Kayrstana → Kayhrstana.
- Medreuneth → Nhedreuneth.
- And… Reigliff → Reijhrhiphph!!!
Human names, whether they be t’Okaedrin, Pi’aernoth, Kalilaer, Scion, or Wildman, don’t follow these rules.
The Ninanna Exception
The one Syraestari name that doesn’t follow the above vowel rules is Ninanna. In Aestarin, her name is Nynona. The reason for this irregularity is that, as with Eicai vs. Eikai above, Ninanna has a significant association with the other races, particularly humanity. In deference to that, her name is spelled as the humans of the northern civilizations came to write it.
The use of the apostrophe in Aestarin is already discussed in brief at the beginning of “Tears from Iron.” It’s most common usage is to separate two vowel sounds such as in “Pi’aernoth” (PEE-ayr-noth). Over time, it has evolved to have a second usage similar to English contractions. When there are two vowels of the same or similar pronunciation next to each other, usually in the form of an article and a noun, one of the vowels is frequently dropped in favor of the apostrophe. For example “te Okaedrin” has been simplified to “t’Okaedrin” (TOE-kay-drin).
Writing the Alphabet
To this point, we’ve been discussing the mechanics of the Aestarin alphabet, but what about its written form? Written Aestarin began in a style dominated by the straight lines that are easily achieved using a hammer and chisel somewhat akin to Germanic runes. This evolved into a more popular calligraphy. Over time, calligraphy progressed to include a faster, if less elegant, flowing script. All three forms are still in use at the time of the Kayrstaran Empire with the runic and calligraphy versions being generally applied for artistic purposes while the script is common in daily use.
In actual Aestarin writing, Reigliff (Reijhrhiphph) is spelled with one symbol per consonant or vowel. Thus it doesn’t have the same ghastly appearance is it does when spelled ‘properly’ in English. The Aestarin version actually only has seven symbols as the ‘ei’ is a single vowel.
More on Pronunciation
If you are interested in pronunciation of Aestarin and non-Aestarin words, I did include a glossary at the back of “Tears from Iron.” The same glossary can be found on this website here.