The Elanthian Libraries

The Language of the S'Kra Mur
A Primer

Rashali dan'Nhhral


The language of our people is not easily inducted into the mind of one who first learns Common speech, or so I am told. My name is Rashali dan'Nhhral, and the Academy has requested my input on the language of my people. As a scholar, I have a more than passing knowledge of many languages, foremost among them, of course, being my own. I here inscribe that knowledge so that those who come across it may benefit from a meager induction into the colorful and rich world that is the language of the Proud Folk.

In studying the language of the S'Kra Mur it is essential to realize that it cannot be simply strong-armed into understanding as can scaleless races' languages. It must be imbibed, and much of this understanding comes directly from comprehending S'Kra culture and society -- that is, in a way, by becoming a part of its people.

As an example, in order to understand that the word for "child" in S'Kra -- naarti -- is the same as the word for "jewel," one must understand the value of children to the chosen of Hav'roth. Likewise, one will find that the language is not so much a thing of easily-defined words, limited by their own narrow meanings, but rather a thing of concepts and thoughts. S'Kra realize that the capacity of their minds cannot be fully contained by something so simple as sound, and their language reflects this.

In as fierce a people as the S'Kra have ever been, some might find it peculiar to come across these poetic traits, but again, not if one truly understands their culture.


Pronunciation in the S'Kra language is a delicate thing. Generally speaking, however, there are but a few basic rules for its use:

In compound words, emphasis is placed upon the second syllable (called a 'pran') in the word. Thus q'alri is pronounced "kuh'AL-ree". The exception to this falls when a pishra (denoted by a ' ) is found near the end of a compound word, seperating a single syllable word from a multisyllabic one. Thus lanahh'zhra would be rendered "lah-na'urr'ZRAH."

The pishra, or "little stop," in S'Kra speech I have found best described as a short intake of breath or skip in verbiage. One can also think of it as a means to begin a word anew without first stopping the speech pattern. Most often its function is to seperate sequences, as can be seen in the formal naming tradition. However, entire books could and have been written on the use of this mark alone, and so I will move on.

The last note I will make in this section is to explain the existence of the Sharaanpon'u, or formal tongue. This method of pronunciation is used primarily in ceremonies, particularly in those dedicated to Hav'roth, may he smile upon us always. At its roots it is a verbal rendition of eth'ral'khh, but is quite a bit more complex than the common- spoken S'Kra. It is this original spoken language that was gradually simplified into the form we speak today.

Sharaanpon'u is known foremost for its cadence. Rather than placing emphasis on the second syllable only, emphasis is instead placed upon every other syllable in even-syllabled words, and on every third syllable in those with an odd number of syllables. The language is also caged such that the arrangement of words weaves itself together into a strident, chanting tone.

The craft of Sharaanpon'u is a long-standing S'Kra tradition, mostly among Clerics and sometimes Bards. It is believed that the spoken language was originally formed this way to ease the rigors of memorizing long passages. Books twice the length of this one were carried about in the minds of ancient Clerics, and some still retain this practice. It is also said to aid in meditation.

Simple Grammar

Likely the most important aspect of S'Kra grammar is the appropriate usage of verb forms; not merely when referring to individuals of different statures, but also when giving reference to time, place, and emotion. In the section below outlining common phrases, one will note that there are four basic forms: q'alrin, smolgan, and ru'atin, as might be expected, and the last form, pohan, which is used in a term of deference.

For the purposes of grammar, the words q'alrin, smolgan, ru'atin, and pohan become verbs themselves. In a single word, a S'Kra may cast another from their ru'atin, simply by using the q'alrin form of address. In the original transcription of "Ashalhh: Night Huntress," an old fable from the Book of Lovers, Ashalhh's brother asks plaintively:

"Sorsha'la ae'q'alrin? Pon'zh'laar ru'at?" (or: Why do you q'alrin me? Am I not your ru'at?)

This is a very painful question indeed, and shows an example of how q'alri becomes a verb not easily translated into Common tongue. Interesting connotations impossible in Common also arise from the fact that the brother uses the smolgan form -- laar -- when referring to his sister. In this situation it might seem that the ru'at form or even, as he is alienated, the q'alrin form; the fact that he uses the smolgan form indicates simultaneously that he is profoundly hurt by her rejection, but not accepting q'alrin status. These are the intricasies that can be expressed simply by the use of a single verb form.

Common Phrases

q'alrin: nido'a
smolgan: otoh em
ru'atin: aehhrki paar ("My soul is complete.")
pohan: rath'agrkhhan aensmo'ku'par ("The gods bring us together.")

q'alrin: saagri
smolgan: ibu'rath'a
ru'atin: y'nerpar aensmo'ku'par ("We are always together.")
pohan: Hav'roth sa'mahil'in. ("Hav'roth smile on you.")

exclamation of disgust: all forms: khozh! (literally: no honor)
be well:
q'alrin: esuna tel'rath'a ("Go in happiness.")
smolgan: esula em ("Go in peace.")
ru'atin: esulaku aeama'hhrsk ("Go with my love.")
pohan: esusaku Peri'el ("Go with Peri'el.")

where is the...?: zasul...?
my name is...: aeyvyn...

what is your name?:
q'alrin: shana yvyn?
smolgan: --- * The next two forms have no versions, for
ru'atin: --- there was/is never a need to ask these things.
pohan: shasa'hhn kho?

I am...(status):
q'alrin: aena
smolgan: aela
ru'atin: aesa
pohan: aesa'hhn

fine: tel
so-so: enhaar
tired/unhappy: lanahh'lakh ("lacking life")
happy: rath'amahilin
hungry: pahami'lakh

How are you?:
q'alrin: kulna ese?
smolgan: kula ese?
ru'atin: kulsa ese?
pohan: rath'amahilin'hhn? ("Do the gods smile?")

I love you:
exact meaning depends on usage:
q'alrin: kulna arna'hhs (lit: "You are like the boulder."; fig: "I rely on you.")
smolgan: shh'oisa smolgi ("[You have my] deepest friendship.")
ru'atin: aehhrkhi sa'hhs ("My heart is yours.")
pohan: khosa'hhn aepivo'hrr'shuzh ("My regard of you will never die.")

Advanced Sentence Structure

And, finally, we will dissect a more advanced sentence. "And then, with the swift rush of terrible revelation, I noticed at last the delicate silver ring perched on the smallest finger of his left hand."

Taken from the tale "Hhshna's Uncle", it is translated into Common as detailed above. The original S'Kra, as we will break into parts shortly, is, in its full length, thus:

"Y'nertal, kuhhshran'hhs s'hhra orthaan'inh shakhra, ae'uraan'nido y'nerhhan lanahh'zhranaarti papi yi'pa'trelpi'hhs por'ograth."

And so I will begin at the beginning. "Y'ner," the note for 'time,' is suffixed by the connotal 'tal' which indicates the near future. The prefix 'ku' is simply 'with', and then there begins a mildly complex reversal from the syntax of Common, similar to the one provided in a previous chapter:

Hhshran one might expect to mean 'swift,' and this would lead to some confusion as it is appended with 'hhs, the modifier for 'of.' In direct adjective- noun pairs, the adjective is relegated to following the noun.

Following this we have the noun-verb combination 'ae'uraan'nido,' literally 'I' (ae'-) 'sensed with eyes' (uraan'nido)-- thus 'I saw,' or 'I noticed.' Then the time reference y'nerhhan, y'ner, once again, for time, with the suffix hhan to indicate a delayed occurrence.

The next word is a single noun referring to the ring borne by elite assassins of a certain society -- the lanahh'zhra, their token called the lanahh'zhranaarti, or the 'lifetaker's stone.' This translation is rough, some of its meaning lost entirely in the Common tongue, but I assure you -- speak the token's name aloud and you will soon find yourself alienated from safe society.

'Papi' is, simplest put, 'tiny placed'-- delicately sat, or perched. The next conjugated phrase, yi'pa'trelpi'hhs, is best taken from the root outward. Trel, or 'finger,' is appended with 'pi', meaning the smallest finger. Pa is 'upon' or 'on,' and yi is included first to note that the speaker is indicating the apparent assassin -- 'he,' or 'his,' depending upon usage. The final 'hhs, as we have seen, is 'of,' leading into por'ograth -- the left hand.

I have heard the language of the S'Kra Mur described as a knot which the scholar must unravel. Truly, this is even more accurate for eth'ral'khh, but I can also see how one might draw this conclusion for proper spoken S'Kra. Indeed, I note with some amusement that our language likely contributes to the likening of S'Kra to snakes by the scaleless races.