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Ranuir: A Reference Grammar

by Lexi Summer Hale

Chapter 2

Chapter Vocabulary

par (v) talk, speak, say
num (n) subject, topic
mir (n) love and commitment
tah (n) cruelty, barbarism
tahin (n) barbarian
dal (n) existence
dale (v) exist
avrise (v) to inflict corporal punishment on
sigris (n) punishment by electrical torture
nar (n) reason, cause
nare (n) to cause, be a reason
pel (n) happiness
pele (v) be happy

Pronouns

Right now, we have a basic understanding of noun case, but you can't really say much useful in a language when you can't talk about yourself or the person you're talking to! Let's take a look at some of Ranuir's pronouns.

The pronoun you're probably going to be using the most is an. It's a first-person pronoun. That means it's used to talk about you, the speaker, or groups including you. An works just like any other noun. You make it accusative by suffixing it with -a, genitive with -i, and locative with -it. Let's practice a little below.

  1. 1 An case.
    I hope.
  2. 2 Rani numit an pare.
    I talk about the People.
  3. 3 Ani numit ran pare.
    The People talk about me.
  4. 4 An tahina eviure.
    I kill the barbarian.
  5. 5 Ana tahin eviure.
    I am killed by a barbarian.
  6. 6 Anit teg dale.
    There is a mountain here.

Let's take a look at some of the constructs we used in these examples, because they're very alien to an English speaker — though a Japanese speaker might recognize what's going on here! The first is the way we expressed “about” in (2) and (3) above. In English, “about” is a preposition, a special class of word that Ranuir doesn't have. In fact, Ranuir has a very minimal grammar, expressing as much as possible using a relatively small set of mechanisms.

One of those mechanisms is known as the sashi cidvos or locative modifier. To use this, we take a word like num above, give it an argument using the genitive case we learned in the previous chapter, and place num itself in the locative case. What we translate as “about me” is more literally translated as “at the subject of me.” If you know Japanese, you've seen something very similar in phrases like 「のために」, although unlike both Japanese and English, Ranuir has neither postpositions nor prepositions. You'll see the sashi cidvos everywhere in Ranuir, so it's a very important construct to master.

Another expression that might seem strange is (7), translated as “There is a mountain here.” This has to do with a very fundamental difference between Ranuir and English: Ranuir does not have the grammatical class of pro-forms, little words like “those” or “here” or “somehow.” Instead, various lexical genitives, sashi cidvosar, and locatives are used to code what in English is accomplished through pro-forms. So instead of “here” we say anit, literally “at me.” Thus, to say “There is a mountain here,” we literally say “Mountain exists at me.” This construct might also be translated as “I've got a mountain here.”

Of course, we also need to be able to talk about groups we're in. In other words, we need the pronoun “we” — the first person plural. In Ranuir, the plural is very simple to understand and form; almost all words have completely regular singular and plural forms, including pronouns. We make a word plural by appending the suffix -ar at the end of the noun, but before any case markers. Let's practice below. After you translate the sentence, rewrite it by putting the underlined words in the plural.

  1. 7 Teg dale.
    There is a mountain.
  2. PL
    Tegar dale. There are mountains.
  3. 8 An uastasha avrise.
    I torture the foreigner.
  4. PL
    An uastashara avrise. I torture the foreigners.
  5. 9 Rise ana narit uasi.
    I am punished for profligacy.
  6. PL
    Rise anara narit uasi. We are punished for profligacy.
  7. 10 An pele.
    I am happy.
  8. PL
    Anar pele. We are happy.
  9. 11 Anit cas dale.
    I have hope; there is hope here.
  10. PL
    Anarit cas dale. We have hope; there is hope here (lit. “There is hope at us.”).
  11. 12 Sigris uastashi nare pel ani.
    The electrical torture of the foreigner is why I'm happy.
  12. PL
    Sigris uastashari nare pel anari. The electrical torture of the foreigners is why we are happy.

It's tempting to just move on to the second-person pronoun, confident we've mastered the intricacies of self-reference in Ranuir. But it's actually a bit more complicated — in fact, an is only one of three ways to refer to yourself in Ranuir, and using it when you should be using one of the other two can be a real problem.

Before we can understand the remaining two pronouns and what they're used for though, we need to back up and talk about Society culture. About status, hierarchy, and something called the dominance context — that is, varshol.

Clear hierarchy is at the heart of Society social organization. There is no such thing as “equality,” not even among friends or lovers: whenever two people interact, one of them is always on the top, and the other is always on the bottom. When it's not clear which is which, you're in a situation called lah, roughly “disharmony.”

It's important, however, to understand what hierarchy means in the Society. In the West, hierarchy is about power, about status, about social standing. Who can compel the obedience of whom. Ultimately, it's about who has the most money. The People would see this as a perversion of hierarchy, as uas in the extreme, because to them, hierarchy is about trust.

Submission is not freely given among the People. It's always earned. A leader must rise above their comrades and prove themselves to be kind, trustworthy, reliable, and capable. Even military units choose their own leaders; anyone who wants to be a commander has to earn the loyalty and devotion of her cohort first.

Being “on top” in the Society doesn’t mean other people serve your whim, toiling as chattel in pursuit of your own personal ends. In fact, it means that you serve them — by looking out for them, giving them structure and purpose, supporting them emotionally, and knowing what's best for them better than they do themselves. By being someone they can relax and let down their guard around. Hierarchy is about leadership to the People. It is about strength and vulnerability.

The term sel is how the People talk about vulnerability. Being vulnerable a core virtue of the Society, the ability to let down one's guard, to let another in and give up control — to trust.

Ultimately, to submit.

And everyone submits. It is not simple domination of the masses by a ruling class. People take on different roles in their day-to-day lives, inhabit different contexts. In some of these contexts, they are the selin, vulnerable, open, and obedient. In others, they are the varin, strong, confident, and commanding — someone to be relied on, someone worthy of trust. This is the dominance context — the relationships of submission, trust, and control between any group of people that is interacting, and understanding the dominance context of a given situation is crucial to understanding its social nuances and navigating it successfully.

The most critical pronoun to understand is thus elen, the first-person singular submissive pronoun. When you refer to yourself with elen, you position yourself as subordinate to the listener. It is the verbal equivalent of kneeling. “I respect you,” it tells them. “I trust you and I place myself at your mercy.” Elen communicates that you are the selin in the current context: that you are in need of guidance, care, stability, direction, reassurance, maybe even emotional support or physical comfort. It can be used either to accept your place when another positions themself over you, or to petition another to be the varin in a particular context, to transmit your vulnerability and your needs.

The opposite is val. Where elen is pleading, val is warm, comforting, and reassuring. “You are in my power now,” it says, “and on my honor as a citizen I will use that power in your interest, to protect you, guide you, and comfort you.” When you express dominance over another with val, you are telling them, “don't worry, you are safe now.” Of course, it can also be commanding, controlling — val brooks no disobedience or debate. But even from a commander barking orders, or a militia officer restraining a prisoner for corporal punishment, the warmth and tenderness is still there. Malice and dominance in the Society, like submission and exploitation, are as concepts utterly opposed.