Rykani Basics #003: The Letters and Language of the Ryka

The Letters and Language of the Ryka
by Nóra Izak

Good day! My Name is Nóra Izak, and I’m the head researcher of the ICRA’s Linguistic Divisions. For today’s topic, we’ll cover the basics of rykani linguistics, their use of sounds, their lettering system and their language.

While this may sound like a lot of ground to cover in a single guide, us linguists seem to have gotten somewhat lucky when it comes to the rykas’ love for convoluted classification systems. If I had to guess, I would say that this may indicate that humans aren’t the only species out there that think of linguistics as somewhat of a drab topic to deal with. Aside from the many ryka testimonies we have that outright state as much, this claim may also be further substantiated by their species only sharing one language between the trillions of them.

Aren’t we lucky? For both your delight and mine, the ryka have long ago consolidated their different languages and turned them into one. I really wouldn’t want to turn this into a lesson on the history of rykani linguistics (my students HATE those), but the ryka having achieved such a feat back during their equivalent of the renaissance age, while we humans still struggle with our linguistic diversity to this day, is a fact in desperate need of appreciation.

Now, the question may arise as to whether the ryka sharing one language means that every one of them speaks identically to one another. Interestingly enough, that isn’t the case. The ryka do all share a single set of letters, vocalizations, and grammatical rules, but the spatial separations of their societies on different planets have proven just enough room for unique “Dialects” to arise. These rykani varieties are an intriguing topic in their own right, but for us to even begin to understand them, we first have to delve into the world of rykani sounds and letters.

I apologize for having to spend quite a few paragraphs on this topic in advance. While I am aware that anyone capable of reading this Entry already possesses a fairly substantial grasp of human letters and spoken language, the rykani counterparts to those concepts are different enough to still require the following elucidations.

For a start, rykani sounds, like the ryka themselves, don’t come sole. Outside of a few exceptions, all linguistic vocalizations of the ryka are made up of a “Geleko” or “Sound Pair”. Intuitively enough, these Sound Pairs consist of two paired sounds, such as a “kh”-sound coupled with an “iih”-sound. If spoken directly one after the other, those two noises combine to form the vocalized version of the rykani letter “Ki”.

Pretty much all rykani letters follow this rule and are made up of one Geleko respectively. The few aforementioned exceptions are either Sound Pairs whose member noises are too similar for our human ears to differentiate, or part of a group of more complex single vocalizations that the ryka call their “Special Sounds” (Mostly whistles and hisses).

The exact reason as to why the ryka built their language out of Sound Pairs in the first place, instead of using single sounds like we do, is still uncertain and won’t be speculated upon in this entry out of respect for the reader’s lifetime. A notable consequence of this decision, however, was that the rykani alphabet had to grow massively in size for it to accommodate all possible Geleko.

The simplistic nature of the Geleko system has led many students down the wrong path of calculating how many possible two letter combinations, from “AA” to “ZZ”, there are in order to estimate the size of the entire rykani alphabet. The basic idea behind this approach is sound, however, the ryka possess a larger repertoire of base sounds than those of the Standardized-E-Alphabet. We simply lack the letters for many popular rykani noises such as “kch”, “shh”, “aeh” or their large array of slithers, whistles, and tweets; but even the letters we do share are often times not pronounced the same.

To demonstrate, let’s take the rykani word “Geleko” as an example: Depending on your upbringing, you might be inclined to pronounce it as “Geh-Leh-Koh” or even “Jeh-Leh-Koh”. Either way, the ryka would fundamentally disagree with both articulations and probably laugh or be upset at you for butchering their language. To avoid such events from occurring during your talks with a ryka, let’s look at the Geleko of “Geleko” in detail:

The rykani letter “Ge” consists of the sounds “G” (sharp and short, almost like “Kh”) and “Eh” (like a high pitched “E” from “Enter”). Next, “Le” is made up of a “Lh” (pronounced similarly but faster than the “L” from “Love”) and the same “eh” sound. Finally, “Ko” sounds similar to the “Co” found in words like “cost” or “conscience”, but with a harder “Kh” sound and a lot of stress on the “o”. Putting those Geleko together, you get a pronunciation that would probably still get you laughed at by your rykani partner…

Sorry for having put you through that last paragraph, but I was told to teach some rykani letter pronunciations by the higher ups. Obviously, the large differences in the throat and mouth structures between our two kinds makes human replication of rykani sounds almost as futile as its opposite. But while your limited number of tongues may keep you from speaking proper rykani anytime soon, you can, at the very least, still listen to it during talks with your partner. Simply tell him or her to turn off the translator from time to time! I really do recommend doing so, since Rykani truly is an odd- but also slick- (and, in my opinion, cute-) sounding language that’s very different from what you would otherwise hear around you.

Anyway, now that we know how the Geleko work, let’s quickly talk about their usage. Like human letters, Geleko can be combined with other Geleko to make a word. Unlike most of our letters, however, every Geleko is also already a word with a meaning on its own. As a general rule of thumb, the strung together Geleko tend to have a meaning that combines those of the first and second Geleko in some relation or another, but this isn’t necessarily always the case. More than anything, the rykani language is very dependent on its surrounding context.

In fact, a stand-out feature of the rykani language is that the same set of Geleko or words can mean one thing when spoken to one ryka in one context and a completely different thing when spoken to another ryka in another context. As an example of such duplicity of meaning, take the human phrase “Good night.”: You could both utter this phrase soothingly when putting your newborn child to bed, or full of spite as you toss your eternal rival into the pits of hell. While most rykani sentences aren’t that extreme in their context dependencies, there are very few of them that have an absolute meaning. For us humans, the phrase “My name is Bob.” only really has one definitive interpretation, but for the ryka this tell of name might be an implicit show of force, a political statement or an ask for money, food, and head pats.

Now, as we’ve learned, putting any number of Geleko together will produce a word of sorts, and since all Geleko consist out of two sounds, this means that all rykani words are made up of at least two noises. Another pitfall my students often throw themselves into is assuming that, therefore, all rykani words are simply 2 × n human letters long. This is incorrect because, as stated previously, some rykani Geleko consists of two sounds that we humans can’t distinguish from another. In those cases, the respective Geleko have historically always been translated as a single letter. Additionally, since the ryka are capable of producing sounds outside of our own alphabet, we have to imitate those noises in a process called onomatopoeia that usually requires two or more letters for doing so.  End result being that many translated rykani words have an odd number of E-Alphabet letters, even if they’re exclusively made up of Sound Pairs.

But even beyond the inconsistencies of translation, there’s also an important exception to the Two-Sound-Geleko rule that we have to deal with: The rykani naming conventions. Unlike rykani words, rykani names are somewhat detached from the grammar of their language and therefore don’t always fully comply to the Geleko rule. Apparently, the ryka simply wanted more freedom in choosing their own names, and so exceptions had to be made in the form of the V’io and Vi’o signs.

In simple terms, these two signs, both translated as a simple “ ‘ “, allow a ryka to turn the first or second sound of a Geleko silent. The understanding of this rule is made rather simple by the name of the two signs themselves. Both share the same two Geleko, “Vi” and “Io”, with V’io hiding the last sound of “Vi” (turning Vi into V’) while Vi’o hides the first sound of “Io” (turning Io into ’o). The use of these signs is what makes rykani names like “Ky’neo” or “Ulumu’” work despite the Geleko rule.

And since we’re on the topic, here’s another quick hint on rykani pronunciation: The ryka only ever pause after speaking a Vi’o or V’io. Otherwise, they don’t separate their words using pauses in their speech like we do and, instead, make different quiet clicking sounds with one of their tongues after every word, structural unit or sentence.

With that, we’re almost done with the boring topic of letters and sounds, but there’s one more thing we quickly have to cover before we can move on: “Fake Letters”. You see, rykani names aren’t the only thing the ryka deem worthy of receiving an exception to their own linguistic rules. For reasons that I’ll quickly go into, the names of their commercial products are also given a special status in rykani society.

The background behind this odd development is rather humorous, so I’d ask you to let me indulge for a second (I promise this’ll be interesting!). You see, similarly to us, the ryka also like to give names to commercial products like clothes, books, tech stuff and movies. A development that both we and the ryka share is that, over time, the number of unused unique names for your new product starts to get rather thin. Some solutions for this problem are to either use more and more uncommon words in your name, to use a longer chain of words, or to make up new words. As you might be aware, we humans solved this issue a while ago by handing each commercially available product a Standard Commodity ID (SC-ID) that you can look up on the Ubiquinet. This solution is simple, elegant, and allows your new product to share its name with thousands of things that came before it without leading to brand confusion.

On the surface, it seems as though the ryka share a fairly similar solution to this issue, since their products are pretty much covered in different digital identifiers that make mix-ups impossible. This approach, however, was a more recent development, and the ryka were apparently running out of names long before their invention of digital technology. Accordingly, a more primitive solution had to be found, and that was the creation of “unique letters”.

See, very few rykani commodities actually use standard letters for their naming, with the majority instead utilizing complex, artistically intriguing symbols and patterns that they call “Fake Letters”. While these Fakes symbolize the name of a given product, they don’t actually have any relation to the rykani alphabet whatsoever. The obvious issue with this approach is that, at least in analog times, someone had to tell you what a Fake actually stands for, since you couldn’t discern the meaning on your own. The upside is that the approach works entirely offline, and that the intricate patterns of these Fakes can often be used quite effectively in the marketing of their product.

Ok, I apologize for having gone a bit off trail there, but since we now know all about rykani letters and vocalizations, we can now deal with the topic of rykani dialects! In principle, the rykani dialects work very similarly to dialects within our own Standardized-E. The language is the same, grammar remains only slightly affected, and most differences relate to pronunciations and word usage. To show how rykani dialects work in practice, we’ll take a look at the three most important varieties found across their part of the galaxy.

First, we have what the rykani call “Tomowe”, a word best translated as “Plain”. As the name suggests, this variety serves as the standard of the rykani language, following all the rules codified during their “Great Directorial Language Convention” down to the Geleko. Over its existence, Plain has become somewhat seldomly spoken in its purest form for a number of reasons that are best summarized as “Because it’s boring.”. Nowadays, the modern ryka is way more likely to speak in a linguistic variety based on one of the two following dialects.

The first dialect we’ll look at is called “Pashe Tomowe”, translating to something along the lines of “Lower-Plain”. Lower-Plain incorporates many of the different colloquialisms, abbreviations, shortcuts, and omissions that gained popularity in the course of Plain’s existence. As such, Lower-Plain is very efficient in its word usage, allowing a ryka to more quickly communicate intent at the cost of Plain’s structured form and nice sound. Standardized-E, to my knowledge, doesn’t really have a human equivalent to Lower-Plain, but you should think of this dialect as being able to express a sentence like “I need to go to the bathroom.” as “I eed go b-rom”. It doesn’t sound pretty, but if the other also speaks this variety, it should just about get the point across a little faster.

The other dialect of note is the complete opposite of Lower-Plain. Called “Gome Tomowe” or “Higher-Plain”, this variety came about as a counter to the growing popularity of Lower-Plain. While Lower-Plain is all about reducing Plain to its barest essentials, Higher-Plain instead focuses on making sentences nicer sounding and more fun to speak. This is achieved in part through the addition of words that serve no purpose other than to rhyme and “sound pleasant” in a sentence, but also through the restructuring of sentences to make them “flow” better. A Standard-E equivalent to Higher-Plain can be found in some types of lyrical music or literature. Within both of these arts, authors commonly restructure sentences to make them sound nicer or to achieve some stylistic goal of theirs, all the while sacrificing structure and perspicuity.

Phew! I know this was probably a lot of not very interesting information for you to take in. However, now that we’ve covered rykani linguistics, their vocalizations, letters and dialects, I’d like to give you a quick primer for a more captivating field of study as a final topic for today: Rykani Speech Patterns.

And by “quick” I do mean “quick”. We’ll cover the nuances of rykani speech in more detail within a dedicated Entry later on, but it wouldn’t feel right for me to drag you through all of this linguistic theory without giving you at least something that’ll help you in your first conversation with a ryka. So, as an apology, I’d like to teach you how to properly introduce yourself to your ryka partner!

The standard rykani greeting that you’re most likely to be met by simply goes “Tame!” (hard “T”, high-pitched “A”, hard “M”, high-pitched “Eh” just like with “Ge”). The word “tame” itself translates to nothing more than “tailwind”, and its usage as a greeting is traced back to a poem from the rykas’ tribal age. Starting with the word “Tame”, this particular poem expressed a tribe’s wishes that the travels of their warrior envoy, journeying through the desolate wastelands of Tvi’ Rykaa’s icy steppes in search for another tribe, be met by “tailwind, calm snows, days of light and nights of stars” and lots of other enjoyable things. Simply put, your partner is wishing you all the best for the journey ahead.

Depending on the relationship (Ugh!) between two ryka, this greeting may be accompanied by smiling, nodding, lowering of the head, kneeling, or even bowing down on the floor. The ryka use these accompanying gestures to publicly express respect or submission in a power imbalanced relationship. Since we’re not allowed to have any of those relationships, your greeting will probably only be accompanied by a stiff ryka that doesn’t know how to move on from there. That’s where you need to make your move!

First of all, even though it’s a nice thought, bowing, kneeling or lowering your head is out of the question. Doing any of those things will make your partner think that you’re trying to enter a proper relationship with him or her, and that’s a no-go. Instead, the best results have so far been achieved by simply answering the greeting with a “Hello!” and a cordial gesture that’s exclusive to us humans: Waving.

Unlike us humans, the ryka don’t wave their hand as a greeting, but instead use the gesture to demand attention from others around. Greeting your partner with a wave is a safe way of throwing him or her off-base, and the ensuing confusion usually loosens the atmosphere in the room enough for a proper conversation to begin. Once the greeting is dealt with and your partner feels assured that you’re not out for a rykani relationship, there’s practically nothing that can go wrong as long as you follow my other speech guidelines.

But I’m afraid that you’ll have to wait a few Entries before we can really delve into my practical rykani conversation training. There’s sadly too much about the ryka that you still have to know about first before we can plan out a proper conversation. At least I can guarantee you that the next few topics will be infinitely more interesting than what we had to cover today, and if you’ve managed to get through my Entry, there’s nothing stopping you from completing the rest of them.

And the next topic is looking to be really awesome! Our top professor, Shzen Linh, will give you the basic rundown of rykani biology. Keep your ears down, and I’ll see you later, alligator.






One response to “Rykani Basics #003: The Letters and Language of the Ryka”

  1. AP-AAiS Avatar

    Well, I’m back with the promised update.
    This time around, it seems that the ICRA ran out of time and money (mostly time, the Ascendancy keeps them well-founded) and therefore couldn’t do any sketches for the Entry.
    Perhaps there’ll be sketches added later, or perhaps the guy responsible for drawing them will forget all about that by tomorrow morning. Perhaps.

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