ʞ / fiction / Spirals / Society /

Ranuir: A Reference Grammar

by Lexi Summer Hale
This document contains information whose transmission and propagation are subject to restraint. Ensure you understand and can abide by all parameters outlined below before you continue. If you have accessed this document in error or without appropriate clearance, please close it now and report a security breach to the applicable Controlling Authority.


Control Class GREEN Not for transmission to nonresidents. Internally unrestricted.
AuthorityWCOShevret Enforcement Directorate

Chapter 1: Introduction

Ranuir is the official language of the Society of Worlds, and the only one in wide use. It is a constructed and carefully standardized language spoken by nearly a billion souls from the frontier colonies to the hidden capital planet of Tel Casran.


Ranuir was designed to be easily pronounceable for the Mid-Arm Tribes, from whom the Society was originally formed. It therefore has a simple phonology with relatively few phonemes. The two major points on the dialect continuum are Core Ranuir, spoken on Tel Casran and the Old Worlds, and Colonial Ranuir, spoken on worlds settled after the Great War, the New Worlds.

Stopspt dk g
Fricativesf vs (z)(x ɣ)ʃh
Liquidswɹ lj

In romanized text, all phonemes are represented by the same character as in the IPA representation above, with the exception of /k/ ‹c›, /w/ ‹u›, /j/ ‹i›, /ɹ/ ‹r›, /ʃ/ ‹sh›, and /ɑ/ ‹a›.

Ranuir syllables take the structure (C)V(C), that is, a vowel optionally surrounded by consonants. All vowels must be separated by at least one consonant; there are no diphthongs and V syllables cannot occur next to each other. The sole exception is in Core Ranuir for adjacent vowels across word boundaries, which in rapid speech are pronounced with a glide or as long vowel (e.g. “…sa is…" /sɑ ‿ is/ → [sɑjis]; /sɑ ‿ us/ → [sɑwus]). In Colonial, an epenthetic glottal stop is simply inserted between the vowels.

Allophony is more complex, and follows the rules outlined below.

  1. /n/, and in Colonial dialects, /m/ → [ŋ] before a velar consonant.
  2. /s/ → [z] intervocalically, unless geminate (e.g. case [kɑ.ze] but cassil [kɑs.sil]).
  3. Core dialects:
    1. /p b t d/ have fricative release in pausa and before other stops, unless geminate.
    2. /k g/ → [(k)x (g)ɣ] at the end of words in pausa and before stops. Some speakers may generalize this to the coda position, though this is seen as a personal quirk. It is associated with gentleness and femininity, though it is evinced by both men and women. Men are more likely to preserve the stop and pronounce the sound as an affricate (e.g. [kx]), while women more frequently pronounce only the fricative (e.g. [x]).
    3. /ɹ/ is pronounced [ɹ͡ɣ]; that is, coarticulated with a voiced velar fricative. This is in free variation with [ɹˠ].
    4. In informal speech, noun stress falls on the penultimate syllable. In formal speech, it falls on the "head" syllable (the morpheme that is being modified by another), though this feature is widely disliked and increasingly disused even in the Central Worlds. (It is a testament to the stubborn conservatism of Tel Casran that this feature is still all but universally preserved in its own geolect, and one can probably guess what they think of speakers who fail to “properly” position their stress.)
    5. Verb stress falls on the syllable directly after the noun stem (so ceté, selé, asselé, astelíte)
  4. Colonial dialects:
    1. All stops are aspirated in pausa.
    2. Vowels shift in closed syllables.
    3. In female speech, vowels in the final syllable of polysyllabic words tend to be lengthened.
    4. /ɹ/ is pronounced [ʐ].
    5. Stress falls on the first syllable.
Rantashar silte rana.
Central[ɹ͡ɣɑn.ˈtɑ.ʃɑɹ͡ɣ sil.ˈte ˈɹ͡ɣɑ.nɑ]
Colonial[ˈʐæn.tɑ.ʃæʐ ˈsɪl.te ˈʐɑ.nɑ]

So, which accent should you use? It depends on how you want to come across. Colonial is seen as coarser; it's associated with the dangers and excitement of a frontier life, and the more devil-may-care attitude common to its locals. Central Ranuir is more sedate and sophisticated, associated with firm respect for authority and master of the People’s intricate social rituals, though it can come across as out-of-touch or pretentious to some on the New Worlds. Cassil Tegvari, for instance, embraces her Colonial accent, while Lisuan Tegvari affects a Central accent with varying degrees of success — she’d get weird looks on Tel Casran, but at least she tried.


Chapter Vocabulary

le (v) to be in a state
me (v) to perform, exhibit, display (a trait, a quality)
sashe (v) to be located
assashe (v) to put, to move
ran (n) the Society as a nation, the People
uas (n) profligacy, lack of discipline, alienness
cas (n) hope
case (v) to hope
evcase (v) to demoralize, to drive to despair
sash (n) place
rantash (n) citizen of the Society
uastash (n) foreigner
sil (n) light
var (n) protection, subjugation*
vare (v) to protect, subjugate*
teg (n) mountain
iundure (v) to kill

*The metaphorical senses of var and related lexemes do not have a straightforward translation to English. Literally "shadow," var connotes much more than just "protection;" it's a form of relationship that could be characterized as "loving submission to loving authority." It implies that one party has earned the obedience of another, and that they use their authority in the best interest of the other. See vartash in the Glossary for an example.

Ranuir has free word order in matrix clauses. Subject-object-verb order is the most common, but any order is possible. Noun role is marked with cases.

The nominative case is unmarked, and codes the subject of the sentence. In English, the subject is typically the noun phrase that appears before the verb.

The accusative case is marked with the ending -a, and codes the object of the sentence. In English, this is typically final noun phrase in a clause before any prepositions.

Armed with this knowledge, let's try to translate some sentences. Note that Ranuir does not use articles — "a," "an," and "the" must be inferred for the translation.

  1. Ran case.

    The people hope.

  2. Evcase rantash uastasha.

    The citizen is driving the foreigner to despair.

  3. Rana sil vare.

    Light protects the people.

Note here that the nouns and verbs appeared in a different order in each sentence, but we can still decode the meaning from the case suffixes. This freedom of word order makes it easy to add nuance to the sentence. For instance, (3) could be more precisely translated as "It's the People who light protects." Essentially, the words appear in order of relevance.

Another important case is the genitive. This works a lot like the word "of" in English. It's marked with the suffix -i.

  1. sil rani

    the light of the People

  2. rani cas

    the People’s hope

  3. sil casi rani

    the light of the People’s hope

  4. rani casi sil

    the light of the People’s hope

  5. cas sili rani

    the hope of the People’s light

  6. tegi uastashi uas

    the profligacy of the foreigner of the mountain

  7. uas tegi uastashi

    the profligacy of the foreigner's mountain

  8. uastashi tegi uas

    the foreigner's mountain's profligacy

As we can see, the genitive is a lot more complex than the accusative or the nominative. That's because it can appear more than once in a single constituent. This raises the question — how do we know what belongs to what?

The genitive follows a number of special rules to disambiguate these situations. The first rule is that the order in a single constituent must be consistent. So (4) above can mean only "the foreigner's mountain's profligacy," not "the mountain's foreigner's profligacy." That could only be expressed as tegi uastashi uas or uas uastashi tegi.

That's all very well and good, but constituents don't necessarily have a verb separating them! What's to stop us from saying *sil rani tegi uastasha evcase? Couldn't that mean anything from "the light of the People demoralizes the foreigner of the mountain" to "the light demoralizes the foreigner of the People's mountain"?

In fact, that phrase is ungrammatical. Ranuir requires that genitive phrases appearing next to each other take the same order. So it could only be expressed unambiguously as sil rani uastasha tegi evcase or rani sil tegi uastasha evcase, "the light of the people demoralizes the foreigner of the mountain."

This rule doesn't apply if there's a verb separating the two phrases, and sil rani evcase tegi uastasha is completely grammatical, as constituent boundaries are unambiguous. This construction and its inverse are seen as especially flowery speech patterns; they are very common in the Charter itself.

Now that that mess is out of the way, we can look at some easier and equally useful cases. The first is the locative, which is formed with the suffix -it. For verbs that involve a location (such as "go" or "depart" or "be located"), the locative is used to specify that location. It is also used to indicate where an action is taking place.

The second new case is the adverbial, using the -ai suffix, which lets us use a noun to add extra detail to a clause. You can think of it as a more abstract, generalized version of the locative — if we didn't have the locative as its own case, we could still express its meaning using the adverbial and the word sash “place, location”. For instance, instead of tegit we could say tegi sashai to mean the same thing. In fact, the People sometimes do exactly this to make a rhyme work or for various complex prosodic purposes, but you don’t need to worry about that until you start writing poetry or advanced rhetoric.

Let’s take a look at some examples of these cases in use.

  1. Rantash tegit sashe.

    The citizen is at the mountain.

  2. Silit rana vare.

    In light the People are protected.

  3. Silai rana vare.

    Luminously/by light/in light the People are protected.

  4. Ranit uastash uasa me.

    Among the People, the foreigner exhibits profligacy.

  5. Casit tega vare.

    Hopefully the mountain is protected.

The locative, like other arguments, may be placed anywhere in a matrix clause. Its placement changes the nuance of the sentence.

But what if we have a word like assashe, which takes not only a subject and an object but potentially two locations? We can't use the locative for both because there's no way to tell which role each location places. In this case, we need the final case: the adlocative.

The adlocative, coded by the -avra suffix, is used when it is necessary to disambiguate the direction of motion. In these cases, the locative specifies the point of origin, and the adlocative specifies the destination. However, in locational verbs that do not have a slot for a point of origin or place of occurence, the locative instead specifies the destination.

The adlocative has a somewhat less common additional use, in that it can specify the purpose for which an action takes place. In this sense, it can be used even with non-locational verbs. This is a somewhat poetic device, common in the Central Worlds and flowery rhetoric, where it takes the place of the more usual -i (uas)firai construction. We'll go into more detail on this later; for now, here are some basic translation exercises.

  1. Rantash uastasha ranit tegavra assashe.

    The citizen is taking the foreigner out of the Society and putting them on the mountain.

  2. Rani varavra uastasha iundure.

    The foreigner is being killed for the protection of the People.

You may have noticed something odd here: in a number of cases, one of the arguments is missing. For instance, in (2) above, there is no term in the nominative case. This is because Ranuir permits you to drop arguments where they can be inferred or are not relevant. This construct seen in (2) is Ranuir's equivalent of the passive voice.

That wraps it up for the introduction. In Chapter 2, we'll discuss plural nouns, pronouns, relativization, and complementization.