Conlang Type: A Posteriori
Language Family: Indo-European
Script: Native script unknown, readily romanized (‘How convenient this should chance to be so’ says the conlanger!)
Mission: To create a fictional romanesque mediterranean language for use in an alternate history fantasy novel.
Tenu Tendana Samples
acnocerei alo wicerei alo esth
eio sei hiven nivenetar. acthe vwei ha iawra althiva…ava nekala via kivenwei thurthem: ictho a recthem
These represent the two best-known quotes of the ancient Ten of Tendana, Hiven Nivenetar. The former is an adage inscribed on coins and standards, and immortalized in the granite tympanum of the Library of the Tens. The maxim translates as:
To know all is to conquer all.
Such is the battle cry of the dominant “Rationality School” of the Krian elites of Tendana.
The second quotation begins Ha Iawra Althiva, a literary romance in Hiven’s voice derived from the Chronicle of the Tens, a dense history ascribed to Ten Hiven Nivenetar. This quote is certainly pseudepigraphal, invented by the author of Ha Iawra Althiva. It reads, in English:
I am Hiven of ghosts. Yesterday was the Last Season…My sick love/affection killed all: from fish to king.
An Indo-European Conlang
The mission of Tenu Tendana as a conlang is to evoke the Classical Greek and Roman world while clearly representing that it belongs to neither. In order to feel romanesque, and for a reader to be able to parse it, I have allowed myself the laziness of allowing Tenu Tendana to dress itself easily in the Roman alphabet.
Like Greek and Latin, Tenu Tendana (“the Tongue of Tendana”) derives by regular sound changes from Indo-European, and specifically from roots attested in Mediterranean IE, avoiding later, northern-only roots. For example, Latin gnosco and Greek gignosko, “know”, both come from Proto-Indo European
For Tenu Tendana, this Lovecraftian, nearly-unpronounceable PIE string has become acnocerei. Early Krians tended to deform difficult consonant clusters to make them easier to pronounce, similar to Greek and Arabic; in Tenu Tendana, this is accomplished by adding an initial vowel a-. A primal g usually (with regular exceptions) becomes a modern /k/, which, like in Medieval Latin and modern English, has softened before e and i to /s/. Similar to most Indo-European languages, Tenu Tendana has also lost interest in aspiration, which, though it may be happening in places, is not recognized or written. Therefore the ancestral h is lost.
In the second quotation, acthe can be compared easily to Greek khthes, “yesterday.” It is also related, more distantly, to the yes- in yesterday. The protoform is reconstructed as
Again, the difficulty of the initial consonant cluster is mitigated by prepending a vowel. Additionally, the consonants have been swapped, which we see also in the Greek. This prepended vowel alters emphasis. In Tenu Tendana, stress usually occurs on the penultimate syllable as it does in Spanish. In the protoform, there was only one syllable in this root, which got the emphasis by default; now the leading a- gets the emphasis. Again, h is lost. Also, complex vowels with a leading or trailing glide, /j/ or /w/, e.g. the y in *dʰǵʰyes-, tend to be simplified by omission of the glide. (However, in ancestral ei or ew, the e gets the flavor of the glide, becoming i or u, respectively.)
I believe many conlangers have a language project that follows them around for years, evolving terribly as they mature, tending to become the most complex and developed language in that conlanger’s portfolio; I would guess frequently this is also that designer’s first conlang. This is true of my relationship to Tenu Tendana.
The precursor of Tenu Tendana began thirteen years ago, when I was in high school, as a crude and immature attempt at a language that, in retrospect, was clearly only a clumsy re-lex of Spanish with mostly Latin roots. And its purpose then was decidedly different. It was not designed for fictional characters in a fictional country, but as an ideal language that in my teenage fantasies I would have liked real people to speak. (What, isn’t that what teenage fantasies are?) As I have since gained greater understanding of historical linguistics, and reality in general, the language has grown, and, also, eventually merged entirely with a fantasy world I began creating around the same time. And I should say, though I’ve learned much, I am still no linguist, I only play one on the Internet.