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Dejah Thoris Phai-Dara! More Barsoomian Vocabulary

Posted on Saturday, December 17, 2011 in Books, Conlanging

And so we come to the next installment of our expedition into the language of Barsoom. This time I’m going to examine some of the titles from the stories to see if some new vocabulary can be puzzled out. It will be instructive to simply list out the offices we will be looking at:

  • than “soldier”
  • panthan “mercenary”
  • gorthan “assassin”
  • kadar “guard”
  • padwar “lieutenant” (reports to a dwar
  • dwar “captain” (reports to an odwar)
  • odwar “general” (reports to a jedwar)
  • jedwar “warlord” (general of generals)
  • jed “lord” (subordinate to a jeddak)
  • jeddak “king, emperor”
  • jeddara “empress, queen of kings”

Okay, let’s start at the beginning: than means “soldier”. That’s straight from ERB. So, obviously pan- and gor add some sort of meaning to than to make them mean “mercenary” and “assassin”. There don’t seem to be any negative connotations to a panthan. My suggestion is that pan means something like “free, unattached, unaligned, etc.” as in someone who is not allied or paying service to a specific lord. Whoever is paying for his services, that’s who he fights for. “Assassins” don’t seem to have as positive a connotation as “mercenaries”; therefore, gor might have a more negative meaning. Maybe something like “freelance” in the sense of “out for one’s own gain” as opposed to a panthan that is, although paid, in the service of a particular city. The gorthan, on the other hand, is only loyal to himself. In light of that, we could extend the meaning of gor to “selfish, greedy, self-centered.”

Kadar was mentioned last time along with kador “those inhabiting heaven; those having something to do with heaven.” Ka- then appears to mean “those having something to do with (the word to which it is amended)”. I’m going to say that, like the attested monosyllabic verb sak “jump”, dar means “guard, watch, keep an eye on, etc.”. The synonyms would be specified telepathically.

Then we come to the military officers and royal titles:

  • padwar “lieutenant” (reports to a dwar
  • dwar “captain” (reports to an odwar)
  • odwar “general” (reports to a jedwar)
  • jedwar “warlord” (general of generals)
  • jed “lord” (subordinate to a jeddak)
  • jeddak “king, emperor”
  • jeddara “empress, queen of kings”

First of all, note that we have both jedwar and jed. It appears that the d can disappear because jedwar is obviously jed + dwar. If that is the case, we can break these terms down into their constituent morphemes:

  • pad+dwar
  • dwar
  • od+dwar
  • jed+dwar
  • jed
  • jed+dak
  • jed+dara

This being the case:

  • pad “inferior, subordinate (to a)” “captain”
  • dwar “captain”
  • od “superior (to a)” “captain”
  • jed+dwar “lord-captain”
  • jed “lord”
  • jed+dak “lord+emperor (dak can also be a masculine superlative marker)”
  • jed+dara “lord+empress (dara can also be a feminine superlative marker)”

Taking these, we can (well, I’m going to say we can) construct phrases like these:

  • Banth odarseen (i.e., od+darseen) “A banth is superior to a darseen.”
  • Mors Kajak sha gor “Mors Kajak is not selfish.”
  • Dor sha-pan “Heaven is not aligned” (i.e., “Heaven is not on any one person’s side.”)
  • Dejah Thoris phai-dara “Dejah Thoris is the greatest daughter.”

Once again, the telepathic aspect of Barsoomian would come into play. Where there is ambiguity in the spoken words, telepathy would fill in the details and take care of synonymous meanings. Dor sha-pan is only three syllables but could mean “Heaven is not on any one person’s side.” (Ten syllables) With this being the case, the writing systems of Barsoom would have to explicitly express these telepathic components which is maybe why each city or region came up with different scripts on the planet. You can express similar concepts with the mind, but how they get expressed on a writing surface can be very different. I’m not ready to tackle the writing systems of Barsoom quite yet, but we’re not done looking for more vocabulary. Stay tuned…

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