Chirpie revised and expanded

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Chirpie revised and expanded

Post by Whitewings »


Chirpie, as the people of the neighbouring lands call it, is the native language of the Stillwater Archipelago. Unique among all the languages of the world, Chirpie is a musical language, sung rather than spoken, and its actual name is, using our terminology, either “2-1-3” or “re-do-mi.” The phoneme analogues are notes, the 21 notes (including sharps) of a typical singing range. Most common are what we would call quarter notes, known in Chirpie as simple a note; they also use double notes and triple notes, equivalent to half notes and whole notes in our terminology, for a total of 63 phonemes. Words are most often composed of anywhere from two to five notes, though some words can be up to seven or even eight notes. Singing more than eight whole notes on a single breath at a normal volume is impractical. Sentence breaks are indicated by note rests, and paragraph breaks with double rests.

As people have different vocal ranges, teens and adults sing four ranges: soprano, alto, tenor and bass. Children sing in a range above soprano, which I refer to as treble. The position of a tone within its range determines its “phonemic” value. The writing system superficially resembles modern staff notation, with six lines and eight symbols.

The symbols are note, double note, triple note, “even” note, and single and double rest. As with modern staff notation, the lowest note is written below the lowest line, then successively higher notes are written upward, alternately on and between the lines. The “even” indicates a note one above the default for that position. With 6 lines, and “even” indicators incorporated into the note shapes, up to 24 tones can be indicated with six lines, 72 notes including durations.

As what we would call a multiple do system, the tone a given symbol represents varies with the singer. Thus, the greeting, read aloud in a bass range, would indicate F2-E2-F#2, using our terminology; in the tenor range, this would indicate C3-B2-C#3.

The language uses SOV word order, with adjectives and adverbs generally following the modified term, and nominative-accusative alignment. Negatives are expressed with the note referred to below as soh. Double soh is much, much stronger: Ultimate negation, a “no” from which there can be no appeal.

Conventionally, the tones are sung during teaching as, from lowest to highest, ah, eh, ee, oh, oo, lah, leh, lee, loh, loo, mah, meh, mee, moh, moo, sah, seh, see, soh, soo, ahla. In everyday speech, the vocables used, if any, are entirely non-lexical, as mentioned below.

The language is highly isolating and analytic; except for certain extremely formal purposes, time signatures in our meaning are not used. Generally, faster singing indicates more positive feelings, slower singing more negative. Perhaps the most confusing aspect of the language for new learners is that the vocables are entirely non-lexical. For example, the greeting is “two, one, three,” or if you prefer, “re-do-mi,” and the natives of one island will sing those notes as “sa-wa-la.” On another island, they might sing them as “doo-wee-oo,” but they both understand each other perfectly because the sounds don’t matter. They’re just ornamentation. Though the greeting, also the name of the language, has no exact translation into English, it translates precisely to the Hawaiian word “aloha.” In addition to being polite, the greeting, being sung at the bottom of the singer’s range, immediately informs the listener of that range.

The pronouns are as follows:

ah: 1st person
eh: 1st person exclusive
ee: 2nd person
oh: 3rd person intelligent gendered
oo: 3rd person non-intelligent
lah: 3rd person intelligent non-gendered (angels, devils, elementals, etc) or of uncertain gender.

These are the intimate singulars; plurals are indicated by use of double notes. Formal versions are indicated by reduplication.

Vocabulary is, broadly speaking, categorized by first note. For example, mah is the first note of words relating to family: mah-meh is mother, mah-loo is father, mah-mah is immediate family. Mah-meh2 is grandmother, mah-loo2 grandfather, mah-meh3 is great-grandmother, mah-loo3 great-grandfather; an additional mah or loo, with lengthening, can add up to three more greats. Aunt is mah-meh-meh or mah-loo-meh, uncle mah-meh-loo or mah-loo-loo, the last note being lengthened for great- and great-great-aunts and uncles. Strangely, the language uses the gender-neutral mah-mah-mah as the most common word for sibling, rather than mah-mah-meh (sister) and mah-mah-loo (brother). Children are referred to by mah-mee (daughter) and mah-loh (son), with the second note lengthened for grand- and great-grandchildren. Finally, cousins are indicated by an entire array of words, from mah-meh-meh-meh (or -loo) to indicate a first cousin to mah-meh-meh (or -loo) -meh (or -loo) to mah-meh-meh3 (or -loo3) -meh3 (or -loo3) for a sixth cousin. Removes are indicated with addition terminal mah, from mah (for one) to mah3-mah2 (for five removes). Kinship relations beyond shared great-great-great-great-grandparents are not often tracked.

Words relating to community start with mah2.

Words relating to peaceful visitors start with mah3.

Generally, verbs and adverbs begin with notes in the upper range, nouns and adjectives in the lower.

Possession is indicated with the use of the possessive article moo, with possessor preceding possessed, in much the same way as the English ’s or the Japanese no.

Numbers are composed of seh followed by one or more notes, from ah (zero) to mee (twelve). There are words for 144 (hundred-equivalent), 1728 (thousand-equivalent), 2,985,984 (million-equivalent) and 5,159,780,352 (billion-equivalent), consisting of seh-mee2, seh-mee3, seh-seh-mee, and seh-seh-mee2. This pattern can be extended. Seh is also the note that marks mathematical operations: seh-seh means “is equal to,” seh-sah, “minus,” seh-see “plus”, seh-sah-sah “divided by” and seh-see-see “multiplied by.” They express mathematical operation using postfix; a simple example would be 2 2 +. A slightly more complex would be 2 2 + 7 3 - =. Using infix notation, these are 2+2 and 2+2 = 7-3.

One extremely unusual feature of Chirpie is the existence of chord-words, impossible for a single person to pronounce; these words are used in formal or ritual contexts, or in some cases to indicate closeness. A family might say “grace” with a five-note chord, or a congregation make a prayer with twenty voices. These words often indicate extreme emphasis, as they require rehearsal; if a craft master’s apprentice says “I have a problem” or even “we have a problem,” that’s one thing. But if all his apprentices gather and say “chord-we chord-have chord-grievance,” it’s a good sign there’s a real problem, and a very serious one.

Not all words have chord equivalents; many words simply cannot apply to multiple people in the relevant way. For example, there's no chord equivalent to boat, or to cart. The chord concept can be applied to them, but only by singing the possessive as a major chord sequence. Chorded nouns are almost always abstractions, or non-specific, such as love, hate, sadness, grievance, joy, loyalty, and the like, and there are chords that simply do not translate into English. The chord-word for "family," as an example, means something both less and more limited: the chord-word derived from family has nothing to do with bonds of blood, at least not automatically, but it also excludes the idea of someone being barely tolerated as part of the group in question; it is similar to the Japanese concept of “nakama.” Typically, a chord-word derives from the original by using the original as a base for the construction of a sequence of major chords, most often triads or dominant sevenths, though this can be modified to accommodate multiple ranges; a bass might sing the root, a tenor the major third, and a soprano the perfect fifth two octaves above. Of course, chord-words can be sung by much larger groups so long as they all hit the appropriate notes.

There are exceptions: the chord-word for sorrow, for example, would likely use minor triads to amplifying the unsettling effects of the dissonant progression of its base, and the chord for "church congregation" doesn't map to the note-series word. It means a kind of sacred bond formed between the faithful by the act of worship and prayer, a bond which is strongest during services but endures between, and could be expressed as “we are a nation with no geographic boundaries, bonded together through our beliefs; we are like-minded individuals, sharing of sacred purpose.” For obvious reasons, the people of Stillwater don't really have church choirs in our sense.

An example chord, using the greeting as its base, would be with two basses F2-G2/E2-F2/G2-A3. With three basses, the chord would consist of major triads, and with four or more, augmented majors. Multi-range chord tones are more elaborate matters; a bass and a tenor would sing F2-G3/E2-F3/G2-A4. A four-range chord greeting would be F2-A3-C#4-E4/E2-F#2-B#4-D#4/G2-B3-D#4-F#4, and reserved for the most spiritually significant visitations.

Re-do-mi words in general follow the pattern that things viewed in a generally positive manner have assonant progressions and things viewed in a negative manner dissonant.
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eldin raigmore
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Joined: 14 Aug 2010 19:38
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Re: Chirpie revised and expanded

Post by eldin raigmore »

Did this turn out to be something you kept up?
Is there more progress?
Is the language ready for any of us to say anything in it?
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