Syldavian

Syldavian is a fictional language created by Hergé as the national language of Syldavia, a small fictional Balkan kingdom that serves as a major setting in some "Tintin" stories. Hergé modeled the language on Marols, a dialect of Dutch spoken in and around Brussels. The entire corpus of the language has been analyzed by Mark Rosenfelder, and his work forms the basis of this article. (See References below.)

Characteristics

As presented in the Tintin books, Syldavian resembles a Slavic language due to its orthography. It is most commonly written in the Cyrillic alphabet, albeit with the Latin alphabet by the royal court. It shares numerous orthographic features found in various Eastern European languages, most notably the "sz" and "cz" of Polish. However, the language is clearly a Germanic language. Its vocabulary and grammar resembles that of Dutch and German and has little in common with any Slavic languages. The language also appears to have been influenced by Bordurian, Slavic languages and Turkish.

This language, which is Germanic but bears a great resemblance to Polish, may be likened to the artificial Romance language Wenedyk, or to Wymysorys.

Sounds

Syldavian boasts a rich range of sounds.

Vowels

In addition to the diacritical marks shown in the chart below, there are acute and grave accents that may indicate stress.

ingle letters

* a - [a]
* ä - probably [æ] or [ɛ]
* â - uncertain
* e - [e]
* i - [i]
* ï - uncertain
* o - [o]
* ô - [ɔ]
* ö - [ø]
* u - [u]
* û - [ʊ]
* ü - [y]
* y - [ɪ]

Digraphs

* oe - [ø]
* ou - [ou]
* eu - uncertain: perhaps the vowel [œ] or [ø] , perhaps a diphthong [eu] or [ɛu] . It is only seen in one word: "teuïh" ("door").
* ei - [ei]

Consonants

* Stops: b [b] , p [p] , t [t] , d [d] , k [k] , g [g]
* Fricatives: f [f] , w [v] , s [s] , z [z] , sz [ʃ] , zs [ʒ] , kh [x] , gh [ɣ] , h [h]
* Affricates: tz [ʦ] , dz [ʣ] , cz [ʧ] , dj [ʤ]
* Nasals: m [m] , n [n]
* Laterals: l [l]
* Approximants: ph [ɸ] , v [β] , r [r] , rz [rʒ]
* Semivowels: j [j]

Note: the letter r can be syllabic, as seen in names such as "Staszrvitch" and "Dbrnouk".

There are some additional digraphs and trigraphs, including tch (used in names and pronounced [ʧ] ), chz (uncertain, but may be an alternative form of cz [ʧ] ), and th [t] . These demonstrate that the Latin-based orthography has a number of irregularities.

Grammar

Plurals

* Native words are pluralized with -en: "klebcz"en - "dogs"; "fläsz"en - "bottles"

* Loanwords are pluralized with -es: "zigarett"es - "cigarettes"

Definite articles

Indefinite articles

* Singular: "on" - "a"

* Plural: "onegh" - "some"

Adjectives

Pronouns

Personal pronouns

Demonstrative pronouns

czei - this
tot - that

Verbs

Adverbs

Interjections

"szplug" - a curse word, perhaps equivalent to "damn". (Not found in original French edition, only English translation.)

Syntax

Historical changes

Samples of Syldavian from only two periods - the 14th century and the 20th century - are available to us. But even with such a small sample, some changes can be seen in the language over a 600 year period:

* "pho" became "vüh" ("for")

Sample text

From a 14th century manuscript, "Noble Deeds of Ottokar IV":

:"Pir Ottokar, dûs pollsz ez könikstz, dan tronn eszt pho mâ. Czeillâ czäídâ ön eltcâr alpû, kzommetz pakkeho lapzâda. Könikstz itd o alpû klöppz Staszrvitchz erom szûbel ö. Dâzsbíck fällta öpp o cârrö."

English translation::"Father Ottokar, thou falsely art king; the throne is for me." This one said thus to the other, "Come seize the sceptre." The king thus hit him, Staszrvitch, on his head. The villain fell onto the floor."

More examples

"Czesztot on klebcz." - "That's a dog."

"Kzommet micz omhz, noh dascz gendarmaskaïa." - "Come with us to the Police Station." ("politzski" in the English translation.)

"On fläsz Klowaswa vüh dzapeih... Eih döszt!" - "A bottle of Klow water for this guy... He's thirsty!"

"Czesztot wzryzkar nietz on waghabontz! Czesztot bätczer yhzer kzömmetz noh dascz gendarmaskaïa?" - "That's surely not a tramp! Isn't it better for him to come to the police station?" (Lit. probably "Is it better [that] he comes to the police station?")

References

* [http://www.zompist.com/syldavian.html "On the Syldavian language"] by Mark Rosenfelder

See also

*Bordurian


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