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Barsoomian Familial Relationships

Posted on Friday, December 9, 2011 in Books, Conlanging

Last time we looked at Barsoomian numbers. This time, we’re going to examine how relationships (mostly father to child) are stated in the language of Barsoom.

To begin with, anyone who has read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ stories knows that a good number of characters have names of the form X son of Y. There are some interesting variations, however, and these can be used as clues for some new vocabulary. It will be easiest to simply provide examples first and then explain their significance. To highlight the relationships a little clearer, let’s turn the names around:

  • Kantos Kan, father of Djor Kantos (a son) (of Helium)
  • Vas Kor, father of Hal Vas (a son) (of Dusor)
  • Than Kosis, father of Sab Than (a son) (of Zodanga)
  • Had Urtur, father of Tan Hadron (a son) (of Hastor)
  • Tardos Mors, father of Mors Kajak (a son) (of Helium)
  • John Carter, father of Carthoris (a son) (of Helium and Earth)
  • Tor Hatan, father of Sanoma Tora (a daughter) (of Helium)
  • Thuvan Dihn, father of Thuvia (a daughter) (of Ptarth)
  • Kal Tavan, father of Tavia (a daughter) (of Tjanath)

Notice that the majority of male children take their father’s first name (in some form) as their last name. Daughters, on the other hand, take their father’s first name (for most part) and change it. (Could Kal be a title in Kal Tavan?) Leaving aside Carthoris (although the syllables in his name follow the royal Heliumite pattern set by Tardos Mors and his son Mors Kajak), four of the five father-son pairs show no variation when the sons’ names are formed. However, Tan Hadron shows the pattern Had + ron: ron then would seem to be a suffix like “-son”. So, Tan Hadron is Tan “Had-son”. My contention is we add ron “son” to our Barsoomian vocabulary.

I find it interesting that most of these names follow the pattern X Y, father of Z X except for those of the Heliumite royal family. It’s even more interesting that John Carter follows this pattern with his son.

Daughters names are a little trickier (evidently). Here we see the suffix -a (e.g., Tora from Tor + a) as well as -ia (e.g., Thuvia from Thuv + ia derived from the father’s Thuvan minus the -an suffix. Same goes for Tavia). My contention is that ia does not represent two distinct vowels but rather a glide and a vowel and is pronounced something like “ya” [ja]: Thuvia [“TUv.ja].

It could be rationalized that -ia and -a are simply variations of the same suffix. We have other female names that end in these: Thuria (Phobos the moon, *daughter of Thuran?), Uthia, Llana, Valla Dia (daughter of Kor San). I’m not ready to say ia means “daughter”, but it must have some lexical significance. It’s interesting that John Carter could be seen as following this as well: His last name could be broken down as Car and Ter (Tar?) and his daughter’s name if Tara (Tar + a).

Next time, we’ll look at one more possible familial relationship using the Barsoomian word Hekkador, title of Matai Shang. Stay tuned…

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