Lo ergo dy or: “The language of gold”

Philology is not a major area of interest for me, so unlike Tolkien I will never have fully-developed languages for most of the peoples of the world of the Shine Cycle. However, I have partly developed one language, which does turn up occasionally in my drafts: lo ergo dy or, “the language of gold.”

I did most of the development of lo ergo dy or when I was in high school. The vocabulary is highly derivative from lots of different sources (I was taking Spanish then, with a little exposure to Hebrew and Latin, and had just read The Curse of Chalion, and so on), but the grammar has a few interesting features I’ll share with you below.

Lo ergo dy or” means “the language of gold” in lo ergo dy or, and is what the language calls itself. lo is the feminine singular definite article, ergo is (as in Latin and English) an adverb meaning “therefore” but also a feminine noun meaning “language”, dy is (as in Bujold’s Ibran) the preposition “of”, and (as in Latin) or means “gold.”

The order of the parts of speech in a sentence in lo ergo dy or is somewhat reversed from English: the direct object comes first, followed by the verb, the subject, and finally any indirect object with its preposition. Because parts of speech aren’t indicated by inflection, but rather by their position in a sentence (though verbs are “conjugated” by attaching adverbs to show tense and mood), this pattern is rather fixed, with one class of exceptions: The language has no words for concepts such as evil, slavery, or punishment, and when its speakers discuss such subjects they borrow the words from other languages and reverse both the normal grammar (to what we think of as normal) and the patterns of syllabic stress to show their distaste for such subjects.

One interesting feature that I’ve never seen in a language before is that when discussing groups of people including both men and women, or of objects of both genders, with words that can only represent a single grammatical gender, the gender describing the majority is used, but this defaults to feminine. (Given that, as one might expect, the default gender of a word that doesn’t already have one, such as a verb, is feminine.)

Counting in lo ergo dy or is done in base seven: ca, ce, ci, co, cu, cy, car, caretca, caretce, caretci, caretco, caretcu, caretcy, cecar, cecaretca, and so on.

There are eight second-person pronouns, each with its associated possessive form created by adding a final ‘t’ consonant: masculine and feminine versions in the singular and plural for both familiar and formal forms:

Formality Gender Number Lo ergo dy or
Formal Feminine Singular mo
Plural me
Masculine Singular ma
Plural mi
Familiar Feminine Singular liri
Plural liro
Masculine Singular lire
Plural lira

A few more miscellaneous items:

  • Like some Romance languages, lo ergo dy or uses the angular quotation marks, « and ».
  • Indefinite articles are rarely used.
  • Doubled consonants are rare in lo ergo dy or; when they would occur they are nearly always reduced to only a single consonant. And when a word ends in ‘w’, that’s usually changed to ‘v’ before adding a suffix.
  • An adjective is made substantive by adding the suffix -es, or simply -s if it ends in an ‘e’ vowel.
  • The idiomatic equivalent of “to call oneself,” decit fur, is literally “to say with.”
  • The letter ‘K’ isn’t used, except perhaps (if they actually use the Roman alphabet …) for loan-words, and in the consonant cluster ‘kh’. ‘Q’ is pronounced as a hard ‘K’, and ‘C’ is generally soft.

Any comments or questions?

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