Tuesday, June 19, 2007

The ancient language

Inspired by Tolkien, many fantasy series have some form of ancient language. Or at least, names and places with exotic-sounding spellings and pronunciations. As most fans of fantasy already know, Tolkien was a renowned linguist. And not only that: He spent years and years developing his world and his made-up (based on a ton of knowledge) languages that are so beautifully portrayed in Lord of the Rings.

My fantasy series, which is heavily steeped in Eastern philosophy, also has an ancient language. But I am no linguist. So ... what to do?

I chose to use Pali, a Middle Indo-Aryan dialect closely related to Sanskrit but now extinct as a spoken language. Today, Pali is studied mainly to gain access to Theravada Buddhist scriptures and is frequently chanted in religious rituals. It is a beautiful, poetic-sounding language. There are few laypeople in the world with the ability to translate English to Pali, but I was lucky enough to find one, and she is credited in my acknowledgements.

Here's an example from Book One, entitled The Pit:

Abhiruupaa sattaa, puccheyyam ... ciraayissasi ciram? (Lovely one, I must ask ... how long will thou stayest?)”

Torg paused. “Ye vasanti dure me nissayanti. Eso aham you niyaameti. Nissiiyaami uddham. (Those far away depend on me. I am one who commands. I am needed above).”

Tears fell from the old woman's eyes. “Aham vijaanaami ... mayam vijaanaama. (I ... we ... understand.) Patiyadessami, pana bhavissaama dummanaa. (We will prepare, but we will be highly sorrowful.)”

Me sahaaya piyaa, puna ca me. (Oh, my wonderful friend, so will I.)”

-- Jim

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About Me

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Clemson, SC, United States
I was born in Poughkeepsie, N.Y., but grew up in St. Petersburg, Fla. I graduated from the University of South Florida (Tampa) in 1979 with a B.A. in Journalism. I now live in South Carolina near the Blue Ridge Mountains, a pleasant setting for writing, to say the least. I was an award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times for twenty-five years and I currently work at the Charlotte Observer. I am married with five daughters.

The author

The author
Jim Melvin, a veteran journalist, debuts as novelist.