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Speaking Beladanese, Chapter I

by Lexi Summer Hale (@velartrill)

Beladanese (te nistal Belad, «») is the language spoken by the people of Belad. Internationally, it's the language of science and engineering, and knowing Beladanese is a sign of education and refinement in many countries.

We're going to start out with some simple words and phrases. You'll learn right away to say some simple and useful things in Beladanese, and how to pronounce it correctly. Beladanese pronunciation may seem difficult or complicated at first, but after a while it'll start to feel much more fluid than English.

The first word we're going to learn is te cambe "tree". It's pronounced [te ˈkambe] - in fact, if you pronounce it like it's a Spanish word, you won't be too far off. Of note to native English speakers is that we're tempted to pronounce it like [tʰe ˈkʰambe] - that is, with a little puff of air after the [t] and [k]. You want a [t] sound like the t in "stop", not like in "tea".

Got all that? Great, now to a Beladanese speaker, you can point at a tree and go "te cambe!" and they'll know exactly what you mean. Let's take it a bit further and learn a verb so we can say something about the tree. Let's go with puenche "be on fire." This word is pronounced [ˈpwent͡ʃe] - in other words, the "ch" is pronounced just like the ch in Spanish or in some English words like "cheese".

So, how do we say "the tree is on fire" in Beladanese? We're tempted to say "Te cambe puenche," but this is wrong! In Beladanese, we always put the verb at the start of a clause, not the middle like in English or Spanish. So to say "The tree is on fire," we say "Puenche te cambe."

Great! Now we know how to form a simple sentence. Let's introduce some new vocabulary, and you can practice making sentences.

  1. te tira [te ˈtiɾa] "uncle"
  2. te tinga [te ˈtiŋga] "mouth"
  3. te ar [te ˈʔaɾ] "mother"

Uh oh, we've got some new symbols in the transcription here! The first is [ɾ], which we pronounce like the ‹r› in Spanish "pero" or the ‹tt›/‹dd› in American English "batter"/"badder". Most of the time when you see an ‹r› in Beladanese, this is the sound it makes - but there are some important exceptions we'll get to later! Next is [ŋ] which is easy - it's just like the ‹ng›'s in English "saying" or "singing". Last, we have [ʔ] which is a bit trickier - it's the sound between the "uh" and the "oh" in the English word "Uh oh." You can also hear it if you say "What's the matter?" in a thick Cockney accent - the ‹tt› in "matter" gets reduced down to a glottal stop. But why are we inserting this here? There's no letter for it!

[ʔ] is actually not what we would call "phonemic" in Beladanese - that is, it's not part of the word on its own. You only insert it in special cases, like this one: whenever we have two vowels next to each other in Beladanese that aren't part of the same word, we always include a "glottal stop" so that listeners can tell where one word stops and another starts. This means that if we had a consonant in front of the ‹a›, we wouldn't be inserting this at all!

All right, now let's translate some sentences to Beladanese. Go ahead and say your guess out loud, and then run the mouse over the empty box to see if you were right.

  1. "Mother is on fire."
    Puenche te ar.
  2. "Uncle is on fire."
    Puenche te tira.
  3. "A tree is on fire."
    Puenche te cambe.
  4. "The mouth is on fire."
    Puenche te tinga.

Hopefully you got those all right! Now as you've probably noticed, there's in little word "te" in front of all the nouns we've introduced so far. This word doesn't really have an English equivalent, but it's very important to making sense of Beladanese. "Te" is what we call a "determiner," and you need one in every noun phrase. For instance, you can't say *"Puenche ar," or *"Puenche tira" - anyone who speaks Beladanese would think you're a bit simple for saying it that way and would probably give you a condescending pat on the head.

Why is "te" so important? Well, let's look at another verb. So far we've only used an intransitive verb, "puenche" - that is, it only applies to one argument. Now we're going to learn our first transitive verb, which is where the importance of "te" becomes very visible. This verb is ramma "to be inside" [ɾamma].

Of course, this verb has some funny new things going on with the pronunciation. We already know all these sounds, but ‹m› is doubled? What does this mean? Well, it means exactly what it looks like - that we linger on the [m] sound a little bit longer than usual. In linguistics, we call this "gemination." It's like if you were saying "ram ma" in English: there are two syllables, [ɾam] + [ma] and we don't skip over the second [m] ever the way we usually do in English. This is very important when you're pronouncing Beladanese, because you might accidentally say a different word than you intended. Always be mindful of your gemination!

Now, we can say things like "There's a tree inside my mouth:" Ramma te cambe te tinga is. "Te tinga is" is how you say "My mouth" in Beladanese - "is" (pronounced [is] like in "piece") is the word you use when you're talking about yourself, like "I" or "me" or "mine" in English. And now we can start to see why the "te" is so important - it lets us tell where one argument stops and the next one begins. If we just said "Ramma cambe tinga is," it might mean "There's a tree in my mouth" or "The tree's mouth is inside me," and we'd have no way to tell besides context. And since these are both very unlikely sentences in any language, we probably wouldn't have a whole lot of context to go on.

Now let's go out on a limb a bit and see if you can guess how to say a few phrases. If this doesn't make sense to you yet, don't worry, we'll explain this next!

  1. "my mother"
    te ar is
  2. "my uncle"
    te tira is
  3. "my tree"
    te cambe is
  4. "uncle's tree"
    te cambe tira
  5. "mother's tree"
    te cambe ar
  6. "mother's uncle"
    te tira ar
  7. "my mother's uncle"
    te tira ar is

If you got these right, congrats! You're already ahead of the game. What this is called is the "genitive phrase," and it lets us say who a thing belongs to or is part of. It's very simple: all you do is take a noun and add another noun to it. If "te cambe" belongs to "te tira," you just say "te cambe tira." Keep in mind that the possessor always comes second, unlike in English - we say "my mother's uncle" but the Beladans say "the uncle mother me".

There's one last detail you should learn about "ramma," however: if you use it to talk about two people, it means something very different.

  1. Ramma te ar te tira.
    Mother is fucking uncle.
  2. Is ramma te tira is.
    I'm fucking my uncle.

So be careful when you're talking if you don't want people to think you're using the slang sense! There's a less-slangy word for "to fuck" that lets you say things like "Mother is fucking the doorknob" or "Uncle is fucking the bank," but we'll get to that next chapter, because there's more tricky pronunciation involved.

But now wait a minute - we said earlier that the verb comes first, but here we have the word "is" going before the verb! What's going on here? Well, there's a special exception to that rule: whenever the subject (the first argument) of a verb in Beladanese is a pronoun (a word like I, you, she, it, or they), it always precedes the verb.

All right, one last exercise for this chapter: let's put together everything we've learned so far into more complex sentences.

  1. "Mother's tree is on fire."
    Puenche te cambe ar is.
  2. "Uncle is in my tree."
    Ramma te tira te cambe is.
  3. "My mother's uncle's tree is on fire."
    Puenche te cambe tira ar is.

And try to translate these Beladanese sentences back to English:

  1. Ramma te cambe te tinga is.
    There's a tree in my mouth.
  2. Is ramma te cambe.
    I'm in a tree.
  3. Ramma te tira is te cambe is.
    My uncle is in my tree.

And that's it for this chapter! Tune in next time to learn about retroflex consonants and talking about two things very important to the Beladan people: fashion and dead goats.