13 November 2017

The Language of Kralorela (Part One)

(warning: rants about my pet Gloranthan peeve)

Even though Kralorela is supposed to be the ‘Chinese’ counterpart to the Western lands of Genertela, the Kralorelan language has never sounded Chinese in Greg’s writings.
If you look at the Kralorelan chapter of Revealed Mythologies, for instance, you can read the following:

 - Place Names
  • Abzered
  • Hemkarba
  • Hesezmedi
  • Kerandaruth
 - Emperors, false emperors and heroes
  • Daruda
  • Godunya
  • Heen Maroun
  • Heseroon Marn
  • Mao Tzen
  • Metsyla
  • Mikaday
  • Sekever
  • Shang Hsa
  • Shavaya
  • Tarn Gat Ha
  • Thalurzni
  • Vashanti
  • Vayobi
  • Yanoor

Honestly, among all the above names, there aren’t many that sound even remotely Chinese; maybe Mao Tzen and Shang Hsa do. On the contrary, most are multi-syllabic names, quite unlike what one would spontaneously think of as ‘Chinese’. This is the reason I was so disappointed when I read actual Chinese words in the Guide to Glorantha, e.g., Lungren Men (p271) or Lingnao Qiao (p274). So why do I hate the latter?

1- As written above, Greg’s original Kralorelan place and people names sound nothing like ‘Chinese’.

2- Kralorela is supposed to be vaguely inspired by China, not to be its exact equivalent in Glorantha, so please no actual translations. Just when we got rid of the faux Viking names in Dragon Pass!

3- OK, let’s assume (for argument’s sake) that it is OK to equate Kralorelan with Chinese. Well, even if this assumption is true, Kralorela is still supposed to be Bronze Age China, not Qing China. Yet the Chinese words used above (e.g., 橋 qiáo for bridge) are the contemporary Mandarin words, i.e., the ones heavily influenced by Manchu pronunciation after the Manchu conquest of North China at the end of the 17th century. If Kralorela is equated with Bronze Age China, let us at least use the pre-Qing pronunciation of Chinese. For the word 橋 (bridge) this would be something along the lines of “giew”. But since, again, we are rather looking at a Bronze Age version of China, the reconstructed Old Chinese pronunciation of the word 橋 would be even better, i.e., “graw” or “grew” depending on which particular reconstruction you favour.
Lingnao Qiao (Dragon's Head Bridge) would thus become Roongnoo Graw, which still retains an imperceptible Chinese flavour but at least is slightly more similar to Greg's naming scheme.

(to be continued)

1 comment:

  1. To be fair, a few of those names are not Kralori but other Eastern languages.

    I do see the problem that I had with the Warhammer Fantasy setting where my native language was butchered in ways worse than the original D&D literal translation of equipment lists without alphabetic reordering, translating torch as flashlight. Warhammer tried to emulate a Holy Roman Empire on the eve of the Thirty Years War flair, and brought in miserable translations like "Spielhüter" for gamekeeper, where game was meant to be the beasts delivering venison (Wild in German) rather than the pasttime of our shared hobby.

    So, yes, the "mountain mountains" (shan shan) and various other such use of very partial knowledge of chinese languages to create place names and people will likely be full of similarly annoying mistakes.
    I do admit that my own abuse of existing languages to provide names for fantasy locations isn't much better informed, e.g. throughout my period of Celtic influences when I used a tourists' guide to Welsh and a Scots/Gaelic guide to place names for inspiration for my locations and people. This is just so bloody convenient, and you won't be caught as long as your half-knowledge is better than other people's half-knowledge.
    Unfortunately, that doesn't work in the Glorantha tribe, where experts on the most esoteric things will pop out of the woodwork at odd moments.

    Cohesive Gloranthan linguistics are a rather recent phenomenon - probably starting with comments that there was a system recognizable in Pelorian names and script which had not been evident in the Theyalan cultural circles.
    Gloranthan names have always had a certain special ring, among others owing to this rather unique "nth" consonant group.
    But then, Gloranthan names have as long a tradition of being odd, or taking real people's names with slight variations. There are few locations on the Nomad Gods map that are not named after real people from the early time of Chaosium - mainly the Paps, Sacred Ground, Pavis and the Sun Dome, or Corflu.

    So why single out Kralorela? A third of the place names are lifted from Genertela Box, and they have given the framework for the other place names.

    We find bad puns (cheating, shaming) and the slightly modified nuclear testing site Lop Nur.