And the whole earth was of one language, and of one speech.
According to the story in the Bible, humanity once shared a common language. In the years after the Great Flood, they attempted to build a tower that would reach heaven. God foiled their plan by confounding their language and scattering them across the world, and that is why today there are so many different tongues. The language spoken before God's intervention is known as Babelian. Babelian is believed to be not only the original language of humanity, but also the language of god, leading to its alternative name of lingua dei. What is known for sure is that Babelian can be used to write detailed instructions on pathstones to create magical effects. While simple commands can be written in any language, such "light" or "shoot", writing in Babelian can be much more detailed - e.g., "Emit 60% power light for 30 minutes and then dim." Complicating matters is that the full language is not known. Bits and pieces of it have been known since antiquity from single words engraved on artifacts, but even that was difficult to decipher due to the scant supply of ciphers for the script. For most of history, only a few characters and sounds were known.
Da Vinci's Last Gift
In 1519, Lombardian painter Francesco Melzi received a thick, leather-bound journal written entirely in Babelian. This was a gift from his master, Leonardo da Vinci, who had recently died. Da Vinci's ghost explained only that he had taken a detour when he reached the gateway to the afterlife and snuck into what he described as Fate's study. This description, rooted in Sortism, was discarded by church authorities and the story widely known instead describes some form of antechamber to heaven. Wherever it came from, da Vinci claimed the book was the story of his life, and that it could be used to at last decipher Babelian. Da Vinci left the world, and Babelian became the great project of Melzi and his wife, Angiola di Landriani. Di Landriani proved to be the leader of the task, spending long hours day after day translating the book. From her own knowledge of da Vinci's life, she was able to guess at words and slowly, painstakingly, translate it into Italian.
Flight to Venice
In 1522, the Catholic Church became aware of the project. They commanded the couple to turn the book and all their notes over to the church, so that it could be burned. Deciphering God's language was considered blasphemy. The pope at the time pointed to the story of the original Tower of Babel as evidence; the last time humans tried to get too close to God, they were punished. To protect their work, Melzi and di Landriani fled Milan. Unfortunately, they were stopped by a military checkpoint at the border of the Papal States and Venice, and their wagon searched. The book was confiscated, and they were forced to leave with only the pages of notes di Landriani had hidden under her skirts. However, they were welcomed in Venice, which was currently at war with the Papal States. The Doge of Venice was intrigued by their project and became its chief patron. With the loss of the book, they were severely limited in how much they could reconstruct. The notes they'd managed to save included copies of passages not yet deciphered, but not enough to come close to a full understanding of the language. In 1531, they announced the project as complete as it could be, as they had deciphered every piece of the language they had. They had enough to publish a basic dictionary of common words and a description of the basic grammar. This book revolutionized alzamastry and forever changed the production of pathstones.
Babelian Beyond Europe
The rest of the world had a similar relationship to Babelian, though they had different stories about the nature of the language. By chance, the New World had many more artifacts with the language, which gave them an advantage in deciphering it without the need for da Vinci's book. The first major translation effort was undertaken by the Maya in the 6th century. Throughout the New World, it is most frequently referred to as the Spirit Language, and is thought to be the language spoken by the gods. Nahua scholars of the language collaborate with European linguistic alzamatrists to share their findings throughout the 18th century.
Babelian continues to be a subject of intense study. The primary work undertaken by linguistic crystalogists is to attempt to reverse-energy the language from the bits and pieces they have and figure out how to create grammatically-sound instructions to power pathstones. It involves a lot of guess work, and a lot of intense scrutiny into patterns.
Babelian grammar is very loose. It has 4 noun cases: nominative, accusative, dative, and gentive. These cases are marked by affixes. For example:
Word order is loose and largely dependant on importance, with meaning contained in the declension of the nouns. There are no articles, and plurals are marked only by context. The phonology has no exact parallel to any Earth language. Scholars from across the world have tried to draw comparisons to their own mothertongues to prove that their own language is the closest to the "true" language of the world, but no one can agree which language it is closest to.
Babelian is written with abugida consisting of many curved, looping symbols with vowels and glides attached to the consonants. Pathstones work best when written in Babelian script. It is also written in many other human scripts. Instructions written in other alphabets still work, but are often not quite as powerful and sometimes encounter glitches. The orthography when writing in the Latin alphabet is similar to that of Italian, as that was the native language of the original translators. Further work at the France-based Royal Alzamastry Society led to French influence on the orthography.
Commonly Used Words
TraitsThere are a few ways in which Babelian is an unusual language.
- Babelian has no first person plural (e.g., "we", "our").
- Babelian has very few gender markers. There are no words for "mother" or "father", only "female parent" and "male parent". These words are only used when the issue of who is the parent who gives birth and who isn't is relevant to the sentence.
- Likewise, there are no distinctions between he/she/it.
- There are no formality levels in Babelian. Second-person is nearly always only given in imperatives.
- Written Babelian is filled with abbreviations and acronyms.
- Samples of the language from centuries ago are indistinguishable from samples found a month ago. The language has not changed or evolved at all.
- The language, in general, shows all the signs that it was constructed by a single individual for personal use, and has never been used as a conversational language.