Southern Tales

Amundsen and three crewmen in the South Pole - December 1911

I’ve been fascinated by the high latitudes since I was a child. Those endless ice mantles over the Arctic Ocean surrounded by breathtaking fjords and, on the other side of the word, that uncanny mysterious white continent in the far South. Yesterday marked the anniversary of five brave men’s feat. Having departed from Norway, they crossed the unmapped Antarctic desert an arrived to the South Pole, becoming the first expedition to do so (Scott’s much less fortunate expedition came close). This was also an excellent opportunity to employ one of the conlangs I have scarcely spoken about.

Un 14 ta Tizajmper sajn ehnaz aðar,
Roald Amundsen, noryk ehspolartor,
i hótrr marinaz vyron firmer
omperaz ha sjekaron al Surpohl.

Looking at that sentence, one may recognize some Spanish-like words (such as un (one), marinaz (sailors, ~marines), al (to the) or maybe even Sur (South) in Surpohl). However, the overall look of the language is (at least in my opinion) clearly Germanic or even Norse (or Icelandic, which is pretty the same for the matter). Actually, that was my goal 🙂

Just as Lün is a Spanish-based language with a German-based phonology (so that it feels like German), Nystrr /ˈnystr̩/ (the language I used in that sentence) is also Spanish-based but was modeled after Old Norse. It’s grammar is largely the same as that of Spanish but there are some exceptions (Nystrr lacks gender marking in nouns, adjectives are usually placed before the corresponding noun and the language doesn’t use a definite article such as English the).

Given that this conlang is based on a language spoken in the gelid far North, this Spanish descendant is also supposed to be spoken (in its underdeveloped in-history) on frozen lands. However, there are no Spanish-speaking territories around the Arctic, so I had to head to the Southern hemisphere instead. I’ve always imagined that Nystrr would be spoken near South Argentina and Chile glaciers, Tierra del Fuego (which would then get the Viking-like name Vygþajr) and nearby zones. In fact, an in-history older variant (which is significantly closer to Spanish) was known Talsur (meaning Southern). However, I must admit that Nystrr doesn’t bear any special relationship to the Spanish varieties spoken there, being based on my native Rioplatense Spanish instead.

Once again, I’m posting a complete analysis on that sentence including IPA pronunciation. Some letters are pronounced in ways which most English speakers wouldn’t expect, such as Z (/ʀ/, a ‘German R’) and J (/j/, much like the y in English yes).

Un 14 (haþor) ta Tizajmper sajn ehnaz aðar,
/ʊn haˈθoɹ tə tʰiˈʀaɪ̯mpr̩ saɪ̯n ˈeːnaʀ ˈaðəɹ/
A 14 (fourteen) of December one-hundred years ago,
On December 14th, one hundred years ago,

Pre-Nystrr Spanish underwent many of the consonantal changes which affected Germanic languages. Thats why the word for December starts with T instead of D (English December retains its D because it was borrowed centuries after those sound changes had finished). This also accounts for the language’s ‘Germanic-like feel’.

Roald Amundsen, noryk ehspolartor,
/rɤːld ˈamundzn̩ | ˈnorycʰ ˈeːspʰoˌlaɾtʰɔɹ/
Roald Amundsen, norwegian explorer
Roald Amundsen, a norwegian explorer,

“Roald Amundsen” is a Norwegian name. It’s proper pronunciation is /ˈɾuːɑl ˈɑmʉnsən/. However,  there’s no reason for a Nystrr speaker to know how names are pronounced nine thousand miles away, so I included the pronunciation a native would be more likely to use.

Word final K‘s are often palatized so that they are heard as  [cʰ]. R‘s are also pronounced in a whole variety of ways: [r] when on a syllable onset,, [ɹ] word-finally or [ɾ] if it’s followed by another consonant.It can also be syllabic (ie act as the nucleus of a vowel-less syllable). This occurs most often at the end of a word, where it is marked as rr. N‘s can be syllabic as well. This is typical of words which end with -en (such as Amundsen).

i hótrr marinaz vyron firmer
/ i xɤtr̩ ˈmarɨnaʀ ˈvyron ˈfiɾmeɹ/
and four sailors were first
and four sailors were/became the first…

According to standard Nystrr derivation rules, Spanish cuatro (four) should have turned into hóþor /ˈhɤθɔɹ/, but I decided to leave it as hótrr as an exception. H can be pronounced either as /h/ or as /x/ (they are allophones). Similarly, /ð/ and /d/, and /v/ and /b/ can also be said to be allophones, but they are distinguished on written Nystrr (Ð, D, V and B respectively).

omperaz ha sjekaron al Surpohl.
/ˈompʰeraʀ xə ʝeˈkʰarn̩ əl suɾˈpʰoːl/
men that arrived to-the South-Pole
men to arrive to the South Pole.

Plural is formed by adding -az to a noun (or -z if its last letter happens to be a vowel). Compound words are far more common than in Spanish: South Pole is not Polo Sur but Surpohl (something like Southpole). Vocalic length is marked by a mute h: o /o/ (as in sjekaron), oh /oː/ (as in Surpohl). Ó /ɤ/ is one exception to this, as it’s often pronounced as a long vowel even when it isn’t followed by an h.

Spanish consonantal Y (as in yeso) and Ll, which are pronounced as “something similar to /ʝ/” in most American Spanish varieties, became either sj or js on early stages of the language (Nystrr). This sj happened to be palatized so as to be pronounced was again as /ʝ/ in sjekaron.

I hope you found this interesting 🙂 Tjó! (= goodbye!)


Posted on 2011/12/15, in English, Nystrr (en). Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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