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Written by Daskalarch

He stared out into the fierce unknown. He’d perused and measured every square inch of the hall, to be certain, but he didn’t expect nearly as many to respond to his call. He figured he would make a name for himself from the news in the local papers, not skyrocket to fame to this degree! The large room was mostly for show; he didn’t expect it to be packed wall to wall. Everyone had gathered to see his revelation. Just in the front row, he spotted a Wlitowan by his garb. Beside him was a Tuhran, and behind him was an Yukurite. Sworn rivals, here for a brief truce to gaze upon his creation. His vision had blossomed into a reality, well before he planned for it. Still, no use letting a dream come true go to waste. He had hardly prepared a speech, hoping to go more into the technicalities of the mechanism upon further questions, but there was too much need for grandeur at this event. He would have to improvise. Never one of his strong suits, but not amongst his weaker ones, either. He cleared his throat and rose to the podium. There was an unnerving amount of applause for him. He was startled for a moment and regained his composure. There were Kauaru in the back. Through some sort of osmosis, they had apparently moved further to the back so that the little humans could see. This… this was altogether a new experience for him.

He took a deep breath. It would probably be a good time to check up on here. Doubtless she was feeling the same levels of anxiety as his own. He poked his head behind the curtain, as a thousand murmurs sprouted in excitement. “Ka weruyi, Iya?”

Iya nodded sheepishly. The only parts visible to the light were her three eyes, which now squinted to get a better image of her partner. A brief wave of her hand told him to close the curtains again. She could handle the light, just not yet.

He closed the curtains and drew himself closer to the podium. “Good morning!”

“Good morning,” was the loud response.

“I understand that there are a lot of you,” pause for laughter, “So I will speak as loud as I can. If there are any people who can speak in the language of motion, please come to the front to help interpret. In the meantime, I bid you all welcome! I am the Doctor Brunol Zjampelau, Professor of Clockworks at the Yekelian Imperial College, and head of the local chapter of the Anti-Division Society. Even for linguists such as yourselves, that might be a mouthful, so please address me in the reception as Brun.” Another pause for laughter. Unwarranted, but there was enough to prevent it from getting awkward. “My purpose today is to posit, and solve, a problem. It’s haunted mankind for a long while. Why can’t we get along? Many say cultural barriers, but the great hand of mercantilism is rapidly making those irrelevant. The dingy streets of Welkwu pay little regard to culture, and peoples from all over Wouraiya gather there to do business. Yet even then, they gather in ghettos, self-sorted by country of origin. Why is this so?

“The problem is not culture. It is language. Language distinguishes the barbarian at your doorstep from a neighbor asking for spare salt. It unifies the world in ways unimaginable. To this, too, our friends the merchants provided an answer. Their invention of Traveler’s Tongue is why I am able to speak to now, and why you can understand me. My colleagues at the Anti-Division Society marveled at this wonder, and it has been our mission for decades to make Traveler’s Tongue the common language in every household in Wouraiya.

“But one problem remained. In the island-continent of Unterritory, the noble Werai lay linguistically isolated from us. Evolution has provided them with fixed jaws and stripped them of their hard palate. In doing so, the natural powers that be have linguistically crippled these poor people. My colleagues looked upon this situation and abandoned it as a lost cause. The Werai will never be able to speak like this; it is impossible to think otherwise. But I never lost hope. For the past year, I and my student team have been working hard to solve this tragedy. And, my friends, I announce to you, proudly, that my peers were fools to turn their faces away! I present to you: hope, for an entire nation!”

Applause and cheers filled the hall. Assuming her cue, Iya opened up the curtain. The first to leave the cool comfort behind the stage was her hand, to shield her eyes from the bright light. She walked out, and the whole audience beheld her. Attached upon her jaw was a metal and leather mechanism, its clear outline of lips easily visible to the rest of the audience. She bowed, and the noise grew even louder. The doctor exclaimed, just barely over the cavalcade, “Now, nothing we do will be impossible for us!” A few towards the back began chanting. The single word was indiscernible at first, but soon the whole crowd was chanting the same: “Speak! Speak! Speak!” Above the crowd, the more rambunctious began more than a mere word: “We want to hear her voice!” “Let’s hear her talk!”

The doctor got a little nervous as Iya looked at him. His voice device was only tested in private, a few sounds at a time, maybe a diphthong on a particularly productive day. Iya didn’t know Traveler’s Tongue herself. Nevertheless, Iya nodded. Brun shrugged before more emphatically throwing his hands up to chest height. “Uh.. Well, what do you want her to say, then?”

“Say ‘Blimp!’” came a shout from the side.

Iya recounted the sounds to herself as the crowd began to quiet down. The mechanism did a bit of slow, quiet whirring as it reacted to her muscle movements. “Buh, luh, bluh. Em, puh, Emp.” At the moment of minimum silence, she took a deep breath, and spout out the word. “Blimp!”

There was altogether too much congratulations thrown about for such a seemingly small feat. The crowd was overjoyed at their triviality, and they began throwing out new words for Iya to catch and return. “Say ‘suspend’!” “What about ‘mantle’?” “Pizazz! Pizazz!” Iya did her best, but she could only work her language machine so quickly. “Puh… Pujazz…” She was too busy speaking for others to speak for herself, so the doctor had to intercede. “All right, everyone, settle down! Give her something more cohesive, for crying out loud!”

“Ah, well, how is she feeling right now?”

“Uh… well…” Brun turned over to Iya. “T’koi tyoiya t’koh tai weroo.”

Iya shuffled as the crowd returned to safe levels. “Owt’kai ter kai’ai.”

“Yes, I know you don’t…” he sighed. “Tou ter tai kai’ai t’koiyo tai.”

“…Kou. Tar wo kau ko?”

“Very good.”

The audience waited in equal parts anticipation, confusion, and impatience. Assuming Brun’s comment to be encouragement rather than instruction, they began nodding and smiling. Iya tried to be quick to accommodate them, and Brun hastened to accompany her. “Ter ya?” “I.” “Tar’ ya?” “Is. Wait, no, t’kroh, tar’ am.” “T’koh ya?” “Feel.” “Kroi ya?” “Touch.” “Tai’ai ya?” “You.”

Iya raised her head to the light, rehearsing the line in her head. Once she felt confident, she breathed again and tapped her voice box. “Touch I you, am feel I very good, touch you feel good.”

That was… not quite great for… oh, shoot! “I’m sorry, ladies and gentlemen, I forgot that ‘kroi’ refers to sight. ‘Krou’ refers to touch. Terribly sorry about that.”

The audience was silent, and for none of the good reasons. Brun got goosebumps. “I, uh, I run mechanics here. I was supposed to give a demonstration of the technology, not teach her the confounded language.”

“Well, it’s never too late to start,” stated a patron in the middle. “I’m a professor in linguistics, University of Pakonio. Maybe I can help her with her first cohesive sentence.”

A Kauaru raised her hand. “Yes, and I come from the frontier in Unterritory. I can help with the Werai.”

Brun had lost his dignity, but at least he hadn’t lost his reputation. “Please, please, come forward. Iya and I would love your assistance. Iya, Kroi tar’ ‘see.’”

“Ah,” Iya noted. The linguist was talking with the translator as the two of them brought themselves to the stage. “All, right, you’re going to need to tell her to switch the subject and the verb.”

The translator stroked his chin. “I don’t know Werai for ‘subject’ or ‘verb.’”

“What about ‘action word?’”

“Yeah, sure, ‘kai toyi.’ I can use that, and, uh, ‘krauwerai’ for subject.” The translator knelt to Iya, making sure that the wood of the stage could support her. “Ouwerai tai wo krauwerai tar’ ter kai toyi tar’ kroi ya.”

Iya nodded. “Tura taiyo… I see you, am I feel very good?”

“Good, good! Why, that’s half the progress there already!” admired the linguist. “Now, let’s brush up on the other items of importance. ‘I see you’ and ‘I feel very good’ need to be linked better. Brun, is there a word for ‘because’?”

Brun shrugged and pointed to the translator. She scratched the back of her head. “The best that I could say is ‘T’krai,’ but the word is more like a ‘therefore’ than a ‘because.’ Werai flips the cause and effect when they’re speaking.”

The linguist nodded. “A fascinating language. I will mourn its passing. Much more than Tuhran, anyways. Garbage language, with no sentence structure, and too many diphthongs…”

“Better than Ugoyt, professor!” announced a ruffled Tuhran in the crowds. A number of nationals joined in the jeers.

The doctor did his best to settle the crowd down. “It is precisely these kinds of divisions that we are trying to stop! Professor, please continue.”

“Very well, very well.” The professor made a motion of sound coming from his mouth, speaking the word “so.”

Iya repeated. The professor extended his hand, gesturing Iya to repeat. “I see you-“ the professor pointed at her, and she said, “…so… I feel very good?”

This was Iya’s first fully functional sentence in Traveler’s Tongue. The crowd was pleased, as if the hope of her success reflected into hope for all present. Brun clapped. “That was amazing! Thanks to the both of you. And now we can finally settle on the success of-“

“Sure, sure, but we have her here. The people in this audience have spent days if not weeks trying to get here. They’ll never see her again, I can assure you. While we have everyone here, let’s turn this into an interview, eh? Lest everyone be scattered over the face of the whole earth.”

The conversation was much slower and much tougher than most people had wished, but much smoother than most people had expected. Audience members approached the stage in an uncharacteristically orderly fashion to ask Iya questions, and she would respond to the best of her abilities.

“How did you find out about this project?”

“Brun say… talk to me, and I like him… his idea. He was very good… happy with his idea, too?”

“Now that you have these abilities, do you plan to return home?”

“I say goodbye to friends for long time, so… because I not… do not know if I can go back. It is long and dangerous to go back. I would love to go back, and I can stay here too.”

“Do you prefer Traveler’s Tongue to Werai, or the other way around?”

“Traveler’s Tongue is good, and Werai is good, too. Traveler’s Tongue is new, so I like it more now. In long time, I m-“

Iya paused in her speech. Everyone waited in anticipation for Iya’s next word, unable to read Iya’s facial expressions, or the narrowing of her three eyes. When she began to stagger back and forth, however, people understood the message. Brun rushed over just as Iya was about to topple. “Oh, heavens, no… Someone! Get me a wrench, tweezers, and a crowbar! Now, curse you!”

The crowd murmured amongst themselves as to where they could obtain these, as the more resourceful rushed out to acquire them. Iya was growing weaker, and her hand reached over to touch Brun’s thigh. “uwera… chyaweraiyi… chrau cher chai…”

She wasn’t supposed to make those sounds. After ten minutes or so, Brun was supplied his necessary tools. He took no delay, but even still he took an additional ten minutes to remove his device. Iya did not last those twenty minutes, as the grip on Brun’s leg loosened minute by minute to a slump. Brun was careful to remove his device, stopping only a few bits away from her mouth. Her tongue had caught itself in one of the gears, consequentially causing major internal damage to her in her last moments.

Brun lowered her head, disregarding completely those off the stage. “Nasals. The confounded nasals…”

The professor nodded. “What did she say for her final words?”

“That’s for me, and myself alone.”

The professor took a deep breath. “Very well, doctor. When do you plan to start again?”

This story is based on the language called Wokaiya It is a language that does not require lips or a hard palate. Language will be updated with a larger dictionary soon.


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5 Feb, 2020 21:18

This was one definitely among the best entries I've read so far (possibly the best)! But I almost didn't read it because of the lack of
s, so please add some! xD I love the linguists' horrible attitude towards language death and other languages. And I totally didn't expect the end, it was great! I also like how you describe Iya's language naturally in the middle of the story as they figure out the words. The idioms you had in the language articles were super creative and fascinating too!

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5 Feb, 2020 21:19

And now I of course ended up making a new paragraph instead of having the br-symbol in the comment, lol

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Benjamin B
7 Feb, 2020 18:22

Thank you. I'll make those changes as soon as I can. It's odd; I included those paragraphs before...

Benjamin B
7 Feb, 2020 20:45

The paragraphs are now fixed! For some reason, I had to go into the code to make the paragraphs. All is well now.