NEW 📗Story: Killers

Language in Vekllei

feature image
📑Table of Contents
This article is about Vekllei
The language of Vekllei is an important part of the project. Utopianism cascades through every part of society, and rethinking communication is a foundational part of that instinct. In this article, we look at what makes Vekllei as a language special, and give insight into how these Atlantic people communicate with each other.

Overview #

Vekllei language, abbreviated to just Vekllei, has six core sublanguages that are used commonly today. Although they often intersect, these different systems of communication are distinct languages in their own right, used for different purposes in different arenas of communication.

Systems of Vekllei Language
  1. Spoken Vekllei, which is everyday spoken language. It draws from two glossaries with different meanings and feelings, called Oa and Loh.
  2. Topet, which are logographic characters (occasionally characterised as hieroglyphs). Like other pictographic languages, Topet characters can be broken down into repeating components, called Topotte.
  3. Rapotenne, is the traditional logographic language of names. It is much older than Topet, and has more in common with spiritual runes than modern logography.
  4. Potenne, lit. “Hand-Talk”, is a sign language that incorporates gestures and signing to add meaning to emotion to spoken language, and occasionally in place of it.
  5. Upotenne, lit. “Spirit-Hand-Talk”, as the recreation of runes in human form, used limitedly in spiritual ritual.
  6. Vekllei Semaphore is the codification of colour and shape. Traditionally limited to colour, shape and pattern are now also included in Vekllei Semaphore, in which full sentences can be formed.

Introduction #

What is the worth of the worthless? I think it is the existence of a marvellous intuitive physicality. That is, if we use words to carve out things as having certain functions and certain uses to human beings, we overlook something very important.

— Yoshio Nakamura

Let’s take a look in more detail about how each aspect of the Vekllei language operates in daily life. With six recognised language, Vekllei is unique in its complexity and multidimensionality, appropriating a variety of scripts, glossaries, alphabets and physical components. Literacy in the country is very high, and Spoken Vekllei and Topet are understood universally.

Infographic showing how to speak Vekllei
An infographic showcasing the Vekllei language, including Potenne use. | How to Speak Vekllei

Other languages, often called sub-languages, are informed regionally and have varying literacy across the Home Island. For example, Upotenne is employed frequently in rural and agrarian communities, where religious ritual requires its frequent practice. This passage introduces the broad characteristics of each sub-language, which together form contemporary Vekllei, one of the world’s most complex and hermetic language systems.

History #

Vekllei’s language genealogy can be traced back thousands of years, and is approximated in this timeline for reference throughout this article.

  • 6000 BC - 3500 BC, Kalaallisut / Kala, Proto-Quutetast extinct Algic language.
  • 3500 BC - 800 AD, Quutetast, Algic-Aleutian extinct language.
  • 1200 BC - 900 AD, Islandi, Indo-European Scandinavian language.
  • 900 AD - 1600 AD, Topyas (Old Vekllei), fusion dialect of Islandi and Quutetast.
  • 1600 AD - present, Modern Vekllei, evolution of Topyas. Spoken today.

Spoken Vekllei #

Spoken Vekllei, simply referred to as Vekllei domestically, is the common spoken language of Vekllei and official language of the country, spoken by some 25 million people worldwide, with 98% of speakers living natively in the Vekllei Home Islands. It is the first spoken language of the vast majority of the population, and has minor variance across the disparate Vekllei Home Islands and other Vekllei possessions. It is rarely spoken outside of Vekllei territories, extant abroad only through emigrant populations and small diasporic communities dispersed after the Atomic War.

Contemporary spoken Vekllei is largely descended from Proto-Islandi speech that arrived with the first Danish settlers in the country, but includes Kalaallisut and Proto-Algic reconstructions of an early extinct language called Kala. Modern spoken Vekllei has heritage in the combined, largely extinct language hybrid of Algic-Aleutian Quutetast and the Indo-European Islandi, which by the 9th century had fused into common speech usually called Topyas, or ‘Old Speech’/‘Old Vekllei’. Modern Vekllei has evolved distinctively since the Atomic War as part of broader sociological trends towards informalised speech and cultivated Loh vocabularies.

Twin Glossaries #

Spoken Vekllei draws from two glossaries, called Oa and Loh. These glossaries date back to twin reconstructed Algic-Aleutian languages called Quutetast and Islandi that had been present in earlier forms since at least 1200BC. The glossaries were formalised in pagan ritual that would become present-day Upen, and later recognised as the official language of the country in the reformation initiated by Queen Souisviasn in the 3rd century.

  • Oa (lit. Sun) #
    Oa is considered to have ‘permanent’ traits. It is often characterised abroad as a positive glossary, though this is not true – it is in fact dedicated to inanimate and unliving organs. Although Vekllei does not gender nouns, this glossary is often gendered conceptually as masculine, and is most commonly associated with Summer and Spring. Despite its long history, Vekllei as an island is itself understood to be female – mostly because its volcanic landscape, which straddles two drifting continental plates, is constantly changing.
  • Loh (lit. Moon) #
    Loh is considered to have ‘cyclical’ traits. Loh words are largely derived from Old Vekllei (including Icelandic/Islandi), and so its glossary is considerably less defined and dependent on older linguistic artefacts. Loh words incorporate sounds and grammatical artefacts from extinct languages within Vekllei’s ancient history, and so it is often associated with traditional or formal speech. It is commonly gendered as feminine, and is associated with winter and autumn.

In modernity, this binary produces bizarre psycholinguistic quirks. For example, a sailing vessel (Siv) is derived from the Oa, historically because the Oa glossary was favoured for machines between the 10th and 16th Centuries. This genders all modern oceangoing vessels as male figures to this day, and due to Siv’s linguistic derivatives, ties ships permanently to the lumber and woodlands critical to wooden shipbuilding. From the 20th century onwards, however, most vehicles are regarded impermanent through Loh, and so all cars in Vekllei are conceptually female.

Phonology #

Spoken Vekllei is phonologically homogenous, and has little variation in accent or pronunciation across the Home Island or its various possessions, although there is some evidence for differences in dialect between cultivated speech on the coast and rural phonology in the interior of the Home Islands.

Monophthongs #

Pure vowels in Vekllei are characterised by their lax, non-rhotic sound, and their uses vary across cultivated and common Vekllei dialects.

Pure Vowels
Front Central Back
Short Long Long (round) Short Long Short Long
Close ɪ y ʉː ʊ
Close-Mid ø
Mid e ə ɜː ɔ
Open-Mid œ
Open æ (æː) ɐ ɐː

Diphthongs #

From foundational monophthongs, gliding or diphthong vowels are often determined by glossary. Oa typically favours modernised post-Quutetast glides for its so-called Ocean Vowels, which are generally long and unrounded. Loh words are typically older and depicted pictographically, and are pronounced as Floral Vowels. The tables below list their pronunciation.

Ocean Vowels #
Closing æɪ, ɑɪ, oɪ, æɔ, əʉ
Centering ɪə
Floral Vowel #
Vowel Onset glide Onset glide Onset glide
Vowel /j/ /ɥ/ /w/
/a/ /ja/ /ɥa/ /wa/
/ɑ/ /jɑ/ /ɥɑ/ /wɑ/
/ɑ̃/ /jɑ̃/ /ɥɑ̃/ /wɑ̃/
/e/ /je/ /ɥe/ /we/
/ɛ/ /jɛ/ /ɥɛ/ /wɛ/
/ɛ̃/ /jɛ̃/ /ɥɛ̃/ /wɛ̃/
/i/ /ji/ /ɥi/ /wi/
/o/ /jo/ /ɥo/ /wo/
/ɔ/ /jɔ/ /ɥɔ/ /wɔ/
/ɔ̃/ /jɔ̃/ /ɥɔ̃/ /wɔ̃/
/ø/ /jø/ /ɥø/ /wø/
/œ/ /jœ/ /ɥœ/ /wœ/
/u/ /ju/
/y/ /jy/

Consonants #

In Vekllei, consonants are arranged in five places of primary articulation.

Labial Alveolar Palatal Velar Uvular
Voiceless stop p /p/ t /t/ k /k/ q /q/
Voiceless fricative s /s/ł /ɬ/(h /h/)
Voiced v /v/ l /l/ j /j/(j, r̂ /ɟ/) g /ɡ/ r /ʁ/
Nasal m /m/ n /n/ ng /ŋ/

Topet #

Topet, sometimes called Vekllei Script or Vekllei hieroglyphs is the formal writing system in Vekllei. Topet incorporates logographic and neosyllabic/abugida-type components, and has some 3,450 unique characters in modern usage. Although proto-glyphs and a primitive runic system had been used in Islandi-era Vekllei since at least the 8th Century BC, by the time Quutetast influences had arrived with Inuit settlement in the 4th Century AD the parent scripts had at least partially fused into proto-Topet, called Hieyeric. In Vekllei, Topet is the national language alongside its sister-form, Rapotenne and Spoken Vekllei. Topet has no clear lineage from Scandinavian or Inuit languages, and so is rarely understood outside of the territories where it is an official or significant minority language, which represents some 25 million people.

Individual Topet characters are both phonograms and semagrams, and so they support multiple readings. Many are basically figurative, and represent conceptually what they depict. Each character conforms to an abugida-type system, in which consonant-vowel pairings are written in joined notation. In Topet, the consonant anchors the pairing, which is called Lohtopet, and vowel notation is usually raised in superscript, called Oatopet. These names are not related to the binary glossary, but do represent the upper/lower system those glossaries imply. “Oa” means affirmative in Vekllei, and Loh is a negating form, so their use is widespread beyond the binary glossary system.

Phonetic Reading #

Anchoring consonant-vowel characters (demioette, as opposed to double-vowels or vowel-consonants, called hieyerette1) written in Topet may feature redundant adjacent characters called phonetic complements, which, in a non-determinative reading, are pronounced the same way to guide the reader. This lends to a system that encourages adjacent duplicate consonant-vowel pairings in some aspects, since Vekllei words are already formed out of neosyllabic pairings and it is immediately obvious which characters are to be read. The word for friend, comoyia, can thus sometimes be transliterated into c-c-com-moyia, which can affect the conceptual meanings of a word through the figurative placement of its characters as well as help guide the reader through the use of multiple phonetically identical, though visually distinct, characters.

In the above case, comoyia can be affected by the composition of its phonetic complements, if any are used at all. There is a default reading, which combines both semantic and phonetic readings for meaning and is generally recognised as the dictionary ‘spelling’ of the word, but this can be manipulated through the addition of semantically different, but identically phonetic characters to shade and change meaning. The word for an untrustworthy friend is also comoyia, but combines the characters for snake with the dictionary spelling, which produces a transliteration similar to c-comoyia. In spoken Vekllei, this distinction is only communicable through the aid of Potenne, and represents one of its primary uses.

Semantic Reading #

Many Topet characters are figurative; they represent their meanings pictographically, like Egyptian Hieroglyphs or Chinese Hanzi. In Vekllei, this is considered an evolved rune-form, and ties into a broader conceptualisation of language as a transcendental, rather than literal system. Although Topet’s early form, Hieyeric, was explicitly pictographic, modern Topet is often abstracted and decoupled from its figurative meaning via the phonetic system.

Despite common use of the phonetic system in modernity, the semantic readings of characters are taught and essential for literacy beyond literal imitation of speech. For the vast majority of Topet characters, their logographic meaning determines their pronunciation, and consonant characters especially depend on this meaning to form words. The word for breakfast is petimourgeneur, but it cannot be written with random literal phonetic characters; parts of the word depend on the figurative meaning of certain components, and so without its semantic traits the word would be illegible to most people. This represents a wider co-dependency on simultaneous phonetic and semantic readings of words, with the importance of each fluctuating depending on the word in question. Older words tend to be heavily figurative, whereas modern and loan words are often more phonetic. This inconsistency is part of the difficulty in learning Topet, and leaves many immigrants fluent in speech but inadequately literate in reading and writing.

Structure #

Individual Topet characters are both semantic and phonetic, and can be written in a phonetic abugida (with semantic weight carried by the initial character-group) or as a single character group. The abugida-form is phonetic and aids vocalisation through its hieyerette characters. The single character group-form is pictographic, and generally replaces the abugida in contexts where the pronunciation is commonly known or obvious. In these character groups, only one demioette character is vocalised, called the principle, and the hieyerette characters are simply not written.

Infographic showing Vekllei scripts
An infographic summarising the appearance of Vekllei scripts, including Topet. | How to Read Vekllei

These character groups are called Minor Demons, or pettidemion, and change appearance depending on the number of characters in its group. One character occupies a quarter-height space in the centre of a line. Two characters are written in an adjacent quarter-height space, with the principle arranged to the left. Three characters are arranged in a triangle, with the principle arranged at the top. Four characters, the maximum in modern Topet, are arranged in a quadrant with the principle arranged in the top left.

Minor Demons are the foundations of Topet script, since they can be written phonetically or as pictographs. This also contributes to Topet’s unusual linguistic structure, in which single words are modified heavily and often come to resemble sentences with self-contained adjectives.

Rapotenne #

Rapotenne (lit. “Name-Talk”) is the Vekllei system of names, often considered in modernity to function as a distinct, though limited, language. Today, it is most often employed as an extant language of magical staves, but is closely aligned phonologically and ethnographically with Upotenne, the physical language of rune-forms and sigils.

Contemporary Rapotenne is informed by pictographic proto-Topet runes as well as elements of the extinct Kala language, and subsequently Quutetast Algic artefacts. Because Kala is extinct and Quutetast is a dead language, largely displaced by modern spoken Vekllei, Rapotenne is unique among Vekllei’s sublanguages for its direct lineage from proto-linguistic forms of early Vekllei history, some nearly 4,000 years old. Today it is used largely ceremonially, through ritual related to birth and Blood Names.2

Rapotenne has its origins in superstitious Islandi magical staves, sigils which evolved into battle names and honourifics, called Blood Names. The use of Blood Names varies across Vekllei history, but is still common across ancestral families today. In modern immigration, especially after the Atomic War and British occupation, Blood Names have been commonly adopted by new families as symbolic displacement of older bloodlines, largely for their fashionable association with royalty and heritage. Rapotenne today mostly employs older Floral Vowels, which themselves are likely evolutions of proto-Quutetast pronunciation associated with Kala. Rapotenne characters, also called Rapotenne, are closely associated with old runic Islandi sigils, and are purely figurative. Their use in modernity is largely instructional, and is used to determine and act out Upotenne signs, which is functionally adjacent to Rapotenne.

Practice #

Rapotenne consists of 452 characters in common practice, although priests and regional dialects may employ upwards of 1,000. Despite integration with the formal Vekllei language constellation, minor differences in pronunciation survive. For example, the Alveolar /s͇/ is dropped before consonants in ordinary spoken Vekllei, making it rare in modern usage, but is voiced in Rapotenne. The shape and stroke order of characters determines the physicality of Upotenne, as their function within ritual is more or less the same. Although simplistic and literally figurative, Rapotenne is used extensively in religious script and poetry, and remains an important cultural force within Vekllei.

Potenne #

Try Potenne yourself! Hold out your thumb and forefinger on one hand, and tuck the other fingers against your palm. You’ve just said “good to see you again.”
Potenne (lit. “Hand-Talk”) is an indigenous auxiliary sign language in Vekllei used commonly today as an aid or substitute for vocalised speech. It was originally a form of avoidance speech that arose in response to social taboos in Upen, but acquired broader use by the 16th century and is employed commonly today part of many conventions and customs within the Home Islands. Potenne is also used by hearing-disabled persons in Vekllei to communicate.

Historic social taboos in Vekllei’s dominant religion, Upen, prevented speech between people for a variety of reasons, including for marital, interfamilial, penal and ascetic considerations. Potenne first arose to avoid these taboos. During the first substantial immigration of Inuit-Kalaallisut peoples in the 4th century BC, proto-Potenne avoidance languages developed pragmatic pidgin forms to allow for trade and communication between settlers and the original Islandi population. This rapid expansion in use saw Potenne develop solidified cultural tenants, including phonologically distinct suprasegmental components like biouspotenne (lit. “Face-Talk”), which distinguishes facial expression from gestures in poetic, transcendental forms, and kiouyapotenne (lit. “Child-Talk”), which uses facial expressions to teach children individual signs.

By the 11th Century, Potenne was documented alongside other critical languages like Topet, and had demonstrated its saturation of Vekllei society in several sociological and cultural forms, including Upotenne, today considered an independent language system within Vekllei’s varied linguistic cultures.

Potenne is used today as a casual substitute for simple speech and to communicate figurative meanings of words in Topet otherwise uncommunicable in conventional speech.

Phonology #

It is important to remember that Potenne is not simply a reproduction of ordinary speech in physical form; it is a language that assists the spoken word. Many Vekllei words can be simplified by incorporating Potenne, which better mimics nonverbal components of Topet and helps provide emotion and context to otherwise ambiguous phrases. In other cases, it replaces speech entirely, often in quiet areas or out of respect in public transit. In this sense, Potenne retains a handful of the characteristics inherited from its origins as an avoidance language, but remains distinct from both spoken Vekllei and Topet in its capacity to link and colour both.

Location #

Most Potenne is acted out just below the chest, in a casual resting position. Positional and place-based signs are performed at the right shoulder, and emotion is often acted out at or just below the chin. Regional traits and dialects are common, and Potenne is perhaps Vekllei’s most provincial and least documented language.

Movement #

Upen signs are generally simple, and practiced quickly and casually. The direction of the fore and ring fingers generally indicate subject, and the position of the thumb indicates tone — an outstretched thumb is casual whereas a thumb tucked inwards appears formal. Common words use simple, single-handed signs, but complete sentences and more complex words almost always require the use of both hands.

Orientation #

Communication in the your own voice is performed with the hand held horizontally with few exceptions. Quoting speech and reading is most often spoken with the hand held vertically, although this varies between dialects. Various orientations incorporate meaning, including casual affirmation and some emotions.

Handshape #

Most signs are communicated with an open palm, although fists, hooked fingers, clenched fingers and relaxation of fingers are also used in various ways. Most common Potenne words are characterised by their informal, almost lazy composition, and so handshape is particularly gestural, often dependent on vocalised context to be legible. It can be difficult to determine within Potenne a clear distinction between non-linguistic gestural communication and its formalised language system, and so the emotiveness and context of its signs are critical to literacy in Vekllei.

Upotenne #

Upotenne (lit. “Spirit-Hand-Talk”) is the nonverbal sign language of religious ritual in Vekllei. Although adjacent to Potenne, Upotenne is more closely historically aligned with Rapotenne than modern Vekllei.

Much as Potenne combines semantic and verbal forms to enhance communication, Upen appropriates the older pictographic Rapotenne script to aid spiritual ritual and demiosnjarnkah (lit. “Old Arts”3). Although few Vekllei people are completely literate in it, Upotenne remains a cultural force throughout society and is used commonly in ritual around the Home Islands.

Upotenne is characterised as a sign language in keeping with the traditions in Potenne, but also incorporates complex cultural artefacts unique to Upen within its symbolism as a language. It codifies the human form and reproduces it in a spiritual manner, assigning importance and symbolism to parts of the human body ignored by the secular Potenne. Where much of the communication in Potenne is dependent on hand-based signs and gestures, Upotenne is mostly positional, using joints and angles to imitate rune-forms. These type and imitation of rune-forms vary greatly between different parts of Vekllei society, since literacy is dependent on landscape; rural persons will most likely recognise and communicate runes that benefit harvest and weather, where urban persons are more likely to participate in ceremonies to benefit employment or love.

This multidimensionality means that Upotenne is uniquely dependent on place and circumstance, as Vekllei people learn and dispense with signs that benefit their circumstance. Despite Upotenne’s capacity as a language, it is largely displaced by its use as a spiritual adjacent to Potenne in modern society, leaving only Upen priests and disciples fluent in one of Vekllei’s oldest cultural traditions.

Vekllei Semaphore #

Vekllei lo da Myaiouisvah (lit. “Vekllei-Flag-System”) is the sixth and most unusual of the Vekllei sublanguages. It relies heavily on colour and form, and is largely abstracted from its subject matter. In this sense, Vekllei Semaphore can be considered to be asemic, since it has no material semantic meaning and is entirely illegible without instruction.

It is most commonly used to enhance Topet and communicate in public spaces, through stationary, flags, banners, painted lines, stylised infrastructure and clothing as shorthand for established Topet phrases. Its association with media like television and illustration has caused some ethnographers to suggest Vekllei Semaphore as sign of evolving postliteracy4 in Vekllei, as modern systems of media and communication make it easier for people to go without reading or writing day-to-day.

Vekllei lo da Myaiouisvah originated in the early 17th century in the navy, where it was largely informed by Upotenne. It had an obvious practical purpose in communication between oceangoing vessels, but later saw general use among ordinary people as Vekllei developed, evolving into a sort of natural industrial sister language of Rapotenne.

By the 19th Century, Vekllei Semaphore had lost a lot of its original connotations with military pragmatism and had started to evolve and establish itself in different roles in society, fuelled by an emerging aesthetic interest in bloodlines and colonial enterprise. Colour and formless symbolism quickly took on new meaning as a way of distinguishing class and education across the country in highly fashionable shifts in culture. As the colonial machine of Vekllei’s late monarchy and early junta developed a sprawling bureaucracy and civil service, these meanings were codified and later formalised as the language of the empire. It was rapidly revitalised during Vekllei’s independence from British occupation after the First Atomic War, and is the youngest and fastest-developing of Vekllei’s languages. It remains a unique cultural phenomenon among developed countries today.

Vekllei Semaphore is most useful in public, shared space as a form of mass-communication. Its relative universality within the country means that many public-facing organisations and concerns employ it as a sort of ‘shared symbolism;’ an unspoken democratic language used in shared spaces and common forums.

Symbolism #

There are several components within Vekllei Semaphore which employs types of symbolism depending on their purpose and context.

Colourcoda #

Colourcoda is the means by which Vekllei Semaphore reassembles colour values in social forms through patterns, colour placement and contrast. Visitors will likely have encountered Colourcoda without even realising it; the transliteration of green and gold on the uniforms of Puffin Scouts is “peacefulness besides the land;” the red and white of the Vekllei school uniform means “youth of Vekllei,” and the blue and white of a Venopor police car means “royal defence”. Patterns quickly complexify this meaning, allowing for more sophisticated sentence construction, though few Vekllei people are fluent.

Formsigns #

Formsigns are the means by which Vekllei Semaphore encodes meaning in shape. Vekllei (as a landscape) is depicted by a circle within the Loh glossary, and an arched point in the Oa glossary. These forms are adjacent to pictographics, but formsigns can also be totally abstracted. The borders on stationary and envelopes, for example, contain specific meaning when joined with specific colours. This concept saturates Vekllei society – title cards in television, armbands, pinstripes, aircraft livery and basic shapes can all produce phonetic recognition in Vekllei people depending on their context and use.

Semaphore #

Flags are used heavily in Vekllei semaphore, but are distinct from traditional semaphore systems through their use and appearance. Semaphore within da Myaiouisvah share more in common with Upotenne than they do alphabetic semaphore, and are largely figurative of extant runes. Flags are also very common objects that incorporate formsigns and colourcoda, and used frequently within Vekllei as means of communication. Festivals, companies and bureaus all use their own flags as means of identifying and communicating in public space.

  1. Demioette and hieyerette meaning lit. “early lower” and “early higher” respectively. ↩︎

  2. Blood Names are traditional ancestral names carried along a mother’s genetic heritage. Traditionally kept secret until burial, this custom has mostly fallen out of practice in modern Vekllei. ↩︎

  3. Demiosnjarnkah, or “old arts,” refers to the religious tradition of poetry and art-making, which to this day depends on the older extant glossaries of Vekllei’s early runic system. ↩︎

  4. Postliteracy is a hypothetical concept popularised in the early 21st Century during massive upheavals in education and mass media by telescreens and the videophone. It suggests that, as reading and writing are replaced by convenient forms of visual communication, traditional literacy becomes unnecessary. Sometimes called aliteracy↩︎