Speak Eldraeic Like a Semi-Literate Barbarian (3): Descriptive Metaphors

Originally published at: Speak Eldraeic Like a Semi-Literate Barbarian (3): Descriptive Metaphors | The Associated Worlds

In today’s episode of Speak Eldraeic Like A Semi-Literate Barbarian, we cover descriptive metaphors. These are the least accurate and thus, inevitably, the most common type of modified word, a phrase that can take the place of an análar in any part of a sentence where one may be used, including both the anesprel and the rélar.

The descriptive metaphor (or the atratanálar, “typed-concept-word”, to give it its native name), is the least accurate type of modified word because it avoids the complexity of precisely defining the nature of the relationship with sub-clauses and cases by relying on metaphorical interpretation by the listener. For example, the name for a certain common weapon, tragalrás athánar, “Meat Machine”, or by its extended gloss, meat TYPE-OF machine, actually says very little about the relationship between meat and mechanism.

Is it a machine made out of meat? A meat-covered machine? A machine implant for meat? A machine for growing meat? A machine that serves the function of meat? Or a machine, as it in fact is, for reducing folks to meat?

There’s no way to tell. It depends on interpretation of the metaphor¹, so it is a form best avoided in scientific or technical discussions, unexplored areas of intercultural or interracial exchange, and other precisionist-grade speech. To use them is to assume the risk of being misunderstood in exchange for briefer expression.

That said, atratanálar are the closest equivalent to the adjective-noun² or adverb-verb combinations found in Anglic³, which also blend two concepts in a type-of relationship. It should be noted, however, that while it and other languages have rules concerning which words are allowed to modify and be modified, in Eldraeic, any análar may modify any other; you have complete freedom of metaphor generation, limited only by the comprehension of your listener.

Simple Atratanálar

So, some examples (using a few words that aren’t in articles we’ve reached yet, but not in the vital parts):

pí tramúlet lórravár
This-here is-a apple-type-of-tree.
This is an apple tree.

ádar Méris tradúëlin nissívár
The-person-named Méris is a young type-of female.
Méris is a young woman. or Méris is a girl.

val tralaras hainár
I words-type-of fight.
I argue. (Probably. Heh.)

This is the basic form of the atratanálar. The descriptive análar is placed before the described, and prefixed with tra- to indicate its descriptive function. Within the atratanálar, the first component is referred to as the carylan, the modifier-concept, and the latter as the cadarylan, the modified-concept. The cadarylan carries the primary meaning and the carylan modifies it with secondary overtones to be applied in a manner appropriate to the cadarylan. (For example, in the second example, tradúëlin should be interpreted as “young in the manner in which nissí, i.e., females, are young⁴”.

Complex Atratanálar

Sometimes we need more complex descriptions, either attaching more than one descriptive metaphor to the same cadarylan, or using a descriptive metaphor to describe the carylan of a second descriptive metaphor. To combine this with an example of ambiguity resolution, consider the following Anglic phrase⁵:

That’s a little girl’s school.

If treated as an example of the former, it would be interpreted as

That’s a little school for girls.

And if treated as an example of the latter.

That’s a school for little girls.

Many languages use intonation, stress, or rhythm to show the grouping. Eldraeic does not, by design. Rather, it structures such sayings in the form of a stack of stacks, thus:

pá tracalma tradúënissí alathyravár
That-there is-a small TYPE-OF [and] girls TYPE-OF school.
That’s a little school for girls.

pá tratracalma tradúënissí alathyravár
That-there is-a (small TYPE-OF girls) TYPE-OF school.
That’s a school for little girls.

In constructing these complex atratanálar, the prefix tra- binds the carylan to the next cadarylan to its right on the same level of the stack. In the first example, therefore, both calma and dúënissí modify alathyra. In the second example, the doubled prefix tratra- does so at the next level of the stack; i.e., it binds the carylan “calma” to the cadarylandúënissí”, and does so before, interpretatively speaking, the single tra- present there binds the now-complete carylantracalma dúënissí” to the cadarylan “alathyra“.

Which is to say, it is simply two nested atratanálar. Various combinations of nested atratanálar form the basis of all the more complex descriptions we will cover below.

It should be clear that this system can recurse through arbitrary depths of modifiers, with increasingly repetitive prefixes of tra-, tratra-, and tratratra- – although as is a common feature of Eldraeic grammar, the language permits syllabic numerals (discussed in a later article) to be used rather than repetition⁶ – and that any construct thus assembled is necessarily unambiguous.


It’s worth saying, of course, that the equivalents of “pretty little girl’s school” in Eldraeic don’t have quite as many variations as those in Anglic. For example, aelva strictly means “beautiful” and does not have the auxiliary “very” sense that “pretty” does. Likewise, calma means only “small in size” and cannot mean “young” (which would be dúëlin). And, of course, alathyra technically doesn’t mean school, inasmuch as the Empire doesn’t use such institutions – it means institute/academy/university.

So we’re still going to use this convenient phrase in our example, but do bear in mind that we’re discussing a Beautiful Academy of Short Young Women.

Complex Examples

There are five ways in which the análar of “pretty little girl’s school” can be grouped using tra- without reordering them:

traäelva tracalma tradúënissí alathyra
pretty TYPE-OF [and] small TYPE-OF [and] girls TYPE-OF school
a school which is beautiful, small, and for girls

traäelva tratracalma tradúënissí alathyra
pretty TYPE-OF [and] (small TYPE-OF girls) TYPE-OF school
a beautiful school for small girls

tratraäelva tracalma tradúënissí alathyra
(pretty TYPE-OF small) TYPE-OF [and] girls TYPE-OF school
a beautifully small school for girls

tratraäelva tratracalma tradúënissí alathyra
(pretty TYPE-OF [and] small TYPE-OF girls) TYPE-OF school
a school for girls who are beautiful and small

tratratraäelva tratracalma tradúënissí alathyra
((pretty TYPE-OF small) TYPE-OF girls) TYPE-OF school
a school for girls who are beautifully small

And that’s all she described!

See also later: inverted descriptive metaphors; logical connection in descriptive metaphors.

  1. While no general theory of interpretation exists, it is considered appropriate to maintain regularities of usage. Inasmuch as, for example, calma (“small”) and zahúën (“large”) are parallels, so too should be tracalma azik (“small stone”) and trazahúën azik (“large stone”), and in approximately the same way.
  2. Eldraeic only has análar, which serve all these functions.
  3. The closest convenient transliteration of “English” into Eldraeic phonology.
  4. Quite dissimilar, obviously, to the way in which yoghurt, buildings, or stars, are young.
  5. Yes, we’re going to use “pretty little girl’s school” as our example phrase, just like everyone else who gets here.
  6. Common examples being totra-, the little-used equivalent of tratra-, tetra– for tratratra-, and fotra- for tratratratra-. Not incorrect but never heard is netra-, identical to simply tra-, and using nitra- to mean something that does not describe the cadarylan at all is considered entirely too precious.

And yes, there’s a contemporaneous update of the vocabulary page, too.

1 Like

Just as an FYI, given that I seem to remember that Lojban (L) is one of the inspirations here, HN has a discussion on L on right now.

Thanks for the pointer.