The language of the ancient Lepidosians
was called 'Tae na Lepidesn,' meaning 'words of the land-people,' or sometimes merely as Tae.
Tae features an unusually spare phonetic inventory, containing only twelve consonant sounds, three vowel sounds (none rounded), and a lateral click used to indicate where clauses begin and end. The language also features an unusual system whereby subjects are given prefixes and objects are given suffixes which indicate both gender and time-based relationships, using this to indicate what did what and at what time instead of modifying the verb. The Tae numbering system is dozenal and uses positional notation.
The Lepidosians were a human
-adjacent, sentient species
native to the Eastern F cube
layer. They apparently arrived with the other sentient species in the Manifold Sky
at the end of the The Curved Time
, and, for around 1,200 years, lived in small settlements until some unknown event caused a rapid decline in their population numbers. Theories abound regarding the reason of this decline - from polar radiation causing birth defects to famine to disease - but the most plausible one states that the Ventral A Volcanic Event Remnant
caused Manifold-wide reductions
and changes in the circumvective
cycle. This would have caused a series of poor growing seasons, creating famines which would have been difficult for a small bronze-age civilization - like that found in Lepidos - to survive.
As one of the Lost Tribes
, the Lepidosians had little contact with non-Lepidosian outsiders until their extinction under mysterious circumstances around the year 1200 AE. This means that Tae is believed to have had limited or no influence on the subsequent Freelander
dialects known of by the year 10,000 AR. This dearth of contemporary records or modern descendants means that the language of the Lepidosians remains relatively obscure.
Like Valescript, the Piplekre na Tae - the '(past) writing/script of Tae' was often finger-painted on surfaces with colorful powdered pigments, though Piplekre was also often inscribed into clay tablets with styluses. The script is read from left to right then top to bottom in many cases, but can also be read from top to bottom then left to right.
Tae na Lepidesn Script by BCGR_Wurth
Piplekre symbols are curvy and appear to have evolved from heiroglyphs of various plants. This implies that the Eastern Tesseract may have once been not as arid as it is now, lending further credence to the idea that famine might have been a major factor in the decline of the Lepidosian civilization. The numerals appear to be stylized hands, suggesting that the ancient Lepidosians may have counted phalanges in lieu of counting fingers as cultures with base ten notation might.
Tae features a Subject-Verb-Object word order, though the presence of the gender/tense prefixes and suffixes (see below) can enable free word order for aesthetic purposes. Sentences missing one or more elements of this word order also may make sense in context as simple declaratives or imperatives, such as "(to go!)" (meaning "Go/get moving!"), or "(male/present)(dog) (red)" (meaning "This dog is red"). Tae does have a verb meaning "to be," but it can similarly be implied through context alone.
Subjects carry a prefix and objects carry a suffix based both on the given noun's actual gender and location in time relative to the action of the verb. For example the construction (male/past)(1st person) (to go) (store)(future/neutral) might be translated as "I went to the store (but I haven't arrived yet)" or, more concisely, as "I'm going to the store." Neutral gender is not applied to people - but may be for animals - as personal names may have other meanings in other contexts. For example, (female/present)(cloud) means that the subject is a woman named Cloud, but '(neutral/present)(cloud)' means the subject is a meteorological phenomenon. Like Iuxat
, however, otherwise nonsensical chronological arrangements (i.e. '(future/male)(1st person) (to go) (store)(past/neutral)') would nonetheless be gramatically correct scentence constructions, allowing for metaphors relating to nostalgia - for example, saying something like "I'm going to a place (that no longer exists)".
Adjectives and adverbs come after the nouns they modify. Neologisms can be created by agglutinating adjectives or adverbs with the words they modify. For example, the term "lepidesn" or "(people)(land)" involves using the land as an adjective to imply that the people are somehow "of the land," but it also serves as the name of the Lepidosians themselves.
Repitition of an adjective or adverb without pause implies a superlative (i.e. "(red)(red)" means "redder" or "very red"), while repitition of a verb implies a strong dedication to the action (i.e "(like)(like)" means "to love"). A negatory suffix can be applied after any word to imply that the word is not something (i.e. "(like)(not)" means "to not like"), while a inversion suffix can be applied to imply the opposite of the word (i.e. "(like)(like)(invert)" means "to hate"). Thus, many shades of meaning can be given to a single piece of vocabulary with the clever application of repitition and suffixes.
Possession is handled by placing the word "na" between the owning and owned items, with words appearing earlier in the string belonging to the words coming later. For example "Tae na Lepidesn na Manipald" directly translates to "(words/language) of the (people)(land) of the Manifold."
Logic statements (i.e. and, or, not, nor, or xor) and if/then/else statements can be constructed by using clicks to delineate the clauses to be affected by the given logic operation. For example, "(if) // (present/neutral)(time) (six) // (then) // (future/male)(1st person) (to eat) (dinner)(future/neutral) //" would translate to "if the time is six, then I will eat dinner in the future." Curiously, Lepidosians appear to have had a concept of exclusive or (xor) statments millenia before Rostran
While Tae has words for questions like "who," "what," "when," "where," "why," "how many (including dimensional measurements)", "how long (duration)" and "how (something happened)" - each of which can be used in place of adjectives or adverbs to ask questions of the nouns, pronouns, or adverbs which they follow - an interrogatory statement can also be constructed by placing the word "ne" after the part of a sentence which is in question. For example, "(present/female)(2nd person) (to go) ne?," instead of having the usual meaning (sans "ne") of "You went (somewhere)," means "did you go (somewhere)?" The word "ne" is powerful because it essentially asks if the preceeding piece of information is true. "Ne" can even be injected as a particle to question the veracity of tense/gender particles (i.e. "(present)(female)ne(dog)?" meaning "Is this dog female?") or after the terminal click to verify the truth of whole clauses (i.e. "//(past)(male)(2nd person) (to go) (store)(past)(neuter)// ne?" meaning "You went to the store, is that right?"). In short, "ne" can be interpreted as a clause unto itself, essentially asking "is this true?"
As an isolated (and now extinct) language with a somewhat small vocabulary, many foreign concepts can only be spoken of in Tae through neologisms. Neologisms are often constructed by agglutinating already existing terms to fuse their meanings together. It is not strictly necessary that fused words be of the same part of speech, but they often are. For example, the phrase "(present)(neutra)(flower) (yellow)" simply means "this is a yellow flower," the "to be" verb being implied. However, if the words for flower and yellow were combined in the phrase "(present)(neutral)(flower)(yellow)," then a neologism is formed, making the phrase read "this is a sunflower." Similarly, in modern times, the phrase "(people)(sky)" would likely be used to describe visitors from other tesseracts
- in contrast to the Lepidesn ("(people)(land)", or "people (of the) land").
Unfortunately, while neologism and subsequent verbal drift would allow Tae na Lepidesn to quickly adopt new concepts had it survived, it also means that certain idioms are difficult to understand without context, thus making the jobs of modern translators all the more difficult. For example, the phrase "shatshenk," an agglutinative neologism derived from the nouns (soul) - itself deriving from an ancient root for the concept of shadow - and (shadow) - both the literal and moral conception of darkness created when the sunlight is blocked - could actually refer to the concepts of loss, grief, or a secret desire for revenge depending on the context.
The Lepidosians had a dozenal numbering system which featured the concept of zero. Indeed, this ethnic group might have been the first of such groups to actually understand zero in this manner. The numbering system was positional, with higher radixes coming before lower ones, but the actual pronunciation of these numbers remains unknown: unlike the rest of the Piplekre script (see Alphabet for details), Tae numbers are represented in all surviving texts with ideograms rather than being spelled out phonetically.
The vowel sounds in Tae are:
- a, e, i
- In the 'medial' dialect of Tae, a sometimes becomes æ and e sometimes becomes Ï or ʌ.
The consonant sounds in Tae (and their orthographies) are:
- p, t, k, b, d, g, m, n, r, l, s, ʃ (sh)
- In the 'medial' dialect of Tae, p sometimes becomes pf, b sometimes becomes v or ʋ(v), s sometimes becomes z, and ʃ sometimes becomes ʒ(zh).
- A lateral click ǁ (orthography //) is used to begin and terminate clauses, but otherwise is non-coding and is not employed as a consonant.