§ 2021-04-30 23:34:38
[23:37] The kavkema decided to pause and rest a few hours later, after dawn had already broken. Of her small collection of feathered friends, Akuned proved to be the least interested in sleep, although she did yawn a few times, proving that she was not entirely blasé – but she plainly didn't share the disdain of the other two kavkema, crawled into dark spaces as they had.
Akuned proved to be quite intelligent, although it was hard to say how quickly her companions would have caught on in her stead, given they were out like a light, and given how Samanta's own judgement was somewhat impaired by tiredness. But no time like the present, and come dusk they would likely be on their feet again and travelling.
The number system of the language proved to be quite strange. It took a few false starts between them before Samanta realised that the numbers had a somewhat flexible base system, that 'hatel' and 'matel' were ways of expressing the same number, zero, but declared a different base system – six and ten, respectively.
Even beyond the bases, there were other ways to speak of numbers, but their syllables blurred together, all "ar"s and "ah"s, with only the occasional consonant sound peppered in, holding informational value. The rest apparently meant "this is a number" – vital given the system's flexibility, but poison to a tired mind.
Still, once they had negotiated base ten, Samanta learnt – and it would be a pain to remember this and keep it straight – that the consonants 'z', 'sh', 's', 'r', 'l', 'h', 'b', 'p', 'n' and 'm' represented the numbers one through to ten, 'ara-' was the "this is a number" prefix, and something like 'maraz' was a short hand for 'aram times araz', meaning ten, and 'marash' was short hand for 'aram times arash', meaning twenty.
They had, however, yet to get to expressing more than one non-zero digit at a time, and it looked like it might get ugly from there. If only Saira were here to manage this for Samanta.
[00:26] The task was daunting, but in its way welcome. At least it provided Samanta something to concentrate on that wasn't worry or fear or regret, and would provide her something to think about during the next endless stretch of walk. She had never had much instinct for language, but, then again, she'd never had much instinct for running for her life from god-killing monsters or getting involved in extraterrestrial interspecies wars, so whatever.
The kavkema language wasn't an unpleasant one: it had a melodious, fluid sound, well suited for a species that spoke in whispers and a culture that certainly had had to soothe many scared children. The fact that Samanta could pronounce it at all was a small blessing, judging from what she had got from Saira's anecdotes about her domain ("Did you know that Ubykh had 84 consonants and only 2 vowels? Did you know that Nuxalk words can have 12 consonants in a row?") Actually, it was quite strange: shouldn't sapient dinosaurs sound more like birds than primates? Of course crows and parrots weren't half bad at emulating human speech, but why would they converge only on human-pronounceable sounds?
Samanta filed that thought into a cabinet of her mind to ponder later. Most probably the answer lay in alien-god tampering.
Well. It was time to progress to grown-up numbers. Samanta drew ten lines in the ground again, and then, very conspicuously, added an eleventh one. "Eleven", she said, feeling self-conscious and vaguely ashamed that that word didn't obviously scan as "ten plus one".
[00:48] Akuned peered down at the unary number representation and immediately said: "Arazmaraz." As vexing as the sequence of syllables was, that made some sense if one parsed it as 'one and ten'.
[00:54] Good! Let's see if the pattern holds. Samanta added a twelfth line, said "Twelve", and added, slowly: "arashmaraz?"
[01:02] Akuned swerved her muzzle as though to nuzzle at the air, rumbling something that sounded like 'ruh-ah' – she'd said it before, also in a context that had given Samanta the impression of being an affirmation. "Arash'maraz," she repeated. "Na vaduma nes." Whatever that meant. If the tone was any indication, it was some form of approval.
[01:11] Samanta looked down at her notes. Z, SH, S, R, L, H, B, P, N, M. In a quick succession she added three lines to the sequence, and said, "Thirteen, arasmaraz; fourteen, ararmaraz; fifteen, aralmaraz". This was elating; the first thing somewhat like success she tasted since a long time before.
[01:28] Akuned made a few more affirmative noises and gestures, echoing Samanta's words back at her – though she showed little enthusiasm for learning English, as though perhaps she considered it a waste of time to speak an alien tongue. What did that say about how long she expected to be around Samanta? Was Akuned expecting them to part voluntarily, or something to happen to cleave their alliance in two?
At any rate, Samanta could either try learning how to chain more digits, or try to move from her knowledge of numbers to something else. Everything else was bound to be considerably more difficult, but unless someone dropped a dictionary on her head, it wasn't going to get easier by putting it off, either.
[02:09] After a couple more trials with numbers, Samanta considered how to move back to the material world. Starting with a leaf or a stick, prehaps, or a handful of dirt; but there was no guarantee that the kavkema language split the world into the same blocks as English, and for all she knew her word "dirt" could be misunderstood as "a handful of anything", or "non-solid matter", or "land", or whatever. If she picked up a leaf, maybe she'd get the kavkema word for the color green, or for the leaf of a particular species of tree, or for any living matter.
Now, the proper scientific way of dealing with unknown variables was to pick a sample wide and diverse enough that all variables were supposed to cancel each other out. So Samanta slowly rose, looked around, and spent a few minutes picking out a dozen leaves, some green and some yellow, of different sizes and shapes, at different stages of decomposition. Akuned watched her with some bemusement; was Samanta starting to abuse of her patience?
Finally she sat down and laid her little bouquet in front of Akuned, all leaves in a row, gesturing broadly at all of them. Now, if she says anything besides arashmaraz, that most probably means "leaves" — unless they have different words to count different types of things? Or maybe...
[02:16] "Sinun icheli," Akuned muttered, more to herself, then glanced back up at Samanta and offered, with pauses scattered between her words: "Itada? Itastara? Davar?"
[02:34] Multiple responses was definitely not what Samanta expected. It seemed Akuned had similar uncertainties of her own, and Samanta certainly couldn't help her there. Possibly she was just asking 'What do you want me to do?'
Having no better options, Samanta repeated: "Itada?", hoping that Akuned would indicate some more examples on her own.
[02:36] Akuned gestured to the leaves for a moment of frustrating ambiguity, then rose from sitting on the ground to stalk to the nearest bush. With a slight huff, she plucked two more leaves from the foliage, then wandered to Samanta and repeated: "Itada."
[02:55] Oh, good. "Itada, then, yes." And what about the rest? "Itastara?" she asked, "Davar?" She enjoying this whole game, a game that was actually proving unnaturally easy, and only an easily crushed voice in the back of her mind said that Akuned might not be enjoying herself as much.
[03:01] Akuned peered up at Samanta as though to try and read a body language and facial expression as foreign to her as vice versa, then shook her head as though to clear it and wandered back to the bushes. Rather than pluck anything from them, she gestured with her arms to encompass them, then at the trees, then at the mossy ground, and said: "Itastara."
Then she went back to their collection of leaves, plucking one from the ground, muttering "resemaie," instructively, as though it meant anything to Samanta, and opened her muzzle, popped the leaf in, awkwardly spoke "davar" past it, then spat it back out.
[03:20] Hm. "Itada" is individual leaves, "itastara" is foliage as a whole? So "ita" must have something to do with leaves in general, and the final "ara" of "itastara" might be related to that in number words? And "davar" apparently refers to leaves as food. Aren't kavkema carnivores, though? Why would they have a specific word for "leaves as food"?
"Alright, alright," she said. Time to move to something else: she had a whole language to conquer, and who knows how little time before something stormed their little camp and killed them all. It would have been a pity if that happened before she could thank them for their hospitality at least once. So she went and picked a dozen little stones, and repeated the communicative ritual.
§ 2021-05-15 17:35:40
[17:35] Akuned was picking at her teeth to dislodge imaginary residue of leaves when Samanta began laying out the stones and gesturing them. It reliably drew her curiosity, though that didn't immediately stop her from scratching at her teeth with her claws.
"Araf naalina," she said. For a moment, it was unclear if the digits in her mouth were contributing to the 'f' sound and distorting it, but then she removed them and repeated: "Araf naalina."
Araf had the mark of some kind of number – but hadn't they already gone through all of them? ...did the count go past 'ten'? On reflection, perhaps assuming it ended on ten had been somewhat naive, given that kavkem hands each had three fingers. Perhaps it was a multiple of three, then, that the number system ended at? Was 'araf' another way of saying 'twelve', equivalent to the "arash'maraz" of before?
[18:05] Perhaps they simply had two different words to refer to the same number, like "twelve" and "dozen"? But it would have been a strange choice for Akuned to use it, twice, even. Plus, "araf" seemed more regular as a form... A slangy or dialectal term thrown over more formal language? Maybe Akuned was tired enough of this exercise to relax her word choice? Could that even happen for the name of simple numbers? Saira would probably have known, dang it.
Samanta picked up one of the stones and hid it behind her back, then gestured at the eleven remaining stones. "Araz... maraz?" she asked.
[18:27] Akuned blinked up at her with some confusion. "Ruh-ah," she said. "Icheli sinun?" Some generic question, likely without a generic answer. "Jun'akyt yri aru aris naalina," she muttered, not so much expecting Samanta to understand her mumblings, but clearly using it to think, unlike her brethen, who preferred to think in silence.
Then, whether by luck or reason, she offered: "Arav naalina? Araz-maraz naalina. Arash-naraz naalina. Aras-paraz naalina..." She stopped there, glancing up at Samanta to see whether that was what she had been hoping to learn.
[18:45] Sweat stung Samanta's face. This had started out so well. "Araz-maraz" was eleven, that was established; but where did this "arav" thing come from, now? If "maraz" was short for "aram times araz", then "naraz" most likely meant "aran times araz", so... nine times one? What was the point of it? "Arash-naraz"... two and nine? Oh. Still eleven. And "Aras-paraz"... (she awkwardly brought the notes to her face, not for any need to see them better but to make clear that her endless pauses were meant for thinking) ... three and eight. Good, so "arav" must have been another way to say "eleven" after all.
The whole system seemed to run on base ten, and yet it had special names for numbers above ten. Obviously, English did the same obnoxious thing, so Samanta felt she had little right to complain. That still made things harder, though; she had been hoping to move on from numbers.
At least she had learned a name for a concrete thing, too — "stone". Or "stones", rather? She picked up only one and held it forward. "'Araz naalina', right?"
[18:52] Kavkem body language was difficult to interpret, but Akuned's next posture seemed to unambiguously express discontent. Wrong? "Araz naalin," she said. "Tu yri 'naalin'." A pause. "'Naalin'," she repeated, as though trying to make sure that 'tu yri' was not interpreted as a trait of the stone or the amount of stones being spoken about.
Was the difference between 'araz naalina' and 'araz naalin' then the difference between 'one stones' and 'one stone'? But what of the rest? Was she suggesting it was awkward to say 'one stone' when there was only one stone, that the number was redundant? Or just that one could, if one wished, also simply say 'stone'?
[19:24] Now she was back to making progress. "Naalin", one stone, "naalina", multiple stones. Obvious deduction: the final "a" marks a plural. Unless Kendaneivash had more than two numbers, or drew a different line. For all she new, "naalin" could mean "fewer than ten stones" and "naalina" "ten or more stones". Worth checking. (She considered also probing what "tu yri" could mean, exactly, but that was probably better left for later.) Samanta picked up once again two leaves and said "Itada..." Then she dropped one of them. "... Itad?"
[19:32] It was hard to say if Akuned's posture told her that she was very pleased by Samanta's suggestion or simply annoyed, but she made the "ruh-ah," sound either way – 'yes', in some fashion. "Arash itada, araz itad," she differentiated, gesturing with her forepaws first to both the dropped leaf and the one Samanta was holding and then with both forepaws to the one she was holding.
So far, Samanta's theory was holding. The 'ah'-sound suffix was a plural.
[19:46] ... Which might or might not apply to people as well. "Araz kavkem — arash kavkema?"
[19:50] Akuned seemed visibly taken aback. Wrong? But no – she was looking across to the others and scratching lightly through her mane as though trying to determine something. When her attention returned to Samanta, she said, carefully: "Araz kavkem," pointing her hands at herself, then "Aras kavkema," pointing one hand at herself and sweeping the other to gesture to Athechelt and Serademar. Okay, no actual surprises there. Both hands gestured to Samanta. "Araz kull." ...oh joy, that was a new word.
[21:10] Akuned's reaction was puzzling. It seemed to confirm Samanta's guess, but Akuned had behaved as if she'd found it bizarre or confusing. Did kavkema not usually apply numbers to themselves? And this "kull"... was it their word for "human"? Surely they wouldn't have a native word for a species that had just shown up from another planet, would they?
Unless "kull" was a word for a more general category of animals — primates? Or a word for some human-like mythic creature?
Samanta drew a couple rather crude stick figures — human stick figures, that is — in the dirt, pointed at herself and then at one of the two figures just to make clearer what they were. "Arash kulla?"
[21:17] And then there was the 'ruh-ah' sound again, and the customary muzzle-swerve kavkema evidently did to denote affirmation. So 'kulla' referred to something that included humans, at the very least; but she'd been fairly certain of that before. The big question was what else it might describe.
[21:35] Of course for a proper scientific investigation of anything it wasn't enough to guess right; one also has to find out which guesses are wrong. So, right next to the two stick-people, Samanta also drew a shorter, bent-over figure with a tail that some extraordinarily generous observer might describe as a monkey. Next to that, she drew a four-footed figure with pointy ears that originally was meant to be a dog, but turned out to be a perfectly generic mammal. Then, with sinuous bodies and forked tongues, a sort of lizard and a snake. "Kull?" she asked, pointing to each of them in succession. "Kull? Kull? Kull?"
[21:44] And to those questions, in sequence, Akuned gave the least useful answer ever: She shrugged. It was hard to say if that was an adopted human gesture – it was very evocative on the humans' part, after all, and so easy to pick up on – or if it was natural to kavkema, although it seemed unlikely, what with their shoulders being fundamentally differently constructed. It was probably not a pleasant motion.
In any case, apparently it was unclear if any of the things that Samanta had drawn was 'kull'. Either her drawing skills couldn't bridge the communicative gap enough to be identified as anything, or there was some other aspect to 'kull' that crude images couldn't capture.
But rather than let Samanta stew in the confusion of it, Akuned licked her teeth, then stooped down to draw a spider into the ground. "Kull," she said. A crude sketch of a kavkem followed. "Ava kull," she said, gesturing with her forepaws to emphasise 'no' – 'ava' was perhaps their word for 'not'. Then a sketch of a Nayabaru – in all of its simplicity, a lot like a stick figure, except for a curve for a head rather than a circle, and a short tail. "Ava kull," she said again, emphasising her point with her forepaws once more.
So there was something that spiders and humans had in common, but reptiles, mammals and humans did not? ...unless the spider represented Terenyira in particular. What could humans possibly have in common with the Karesejat?
[22:59] The simplest answer would be that "kull" means "anything animate that isn't a sapient dinosaur". Any category that included both humans and regular spiders most probably would cover all animals, and only kavkema and Nayabaru had been specifically called out as an exception. Or maybe, if the spider did represent the Karesejat, it could have meant "any thinking being that isn't a sapient dinosaur"; quite possibly Akuned didn't know if Samanta's other sketches were supposed to be sapient or not. Or maybe it was a mythic term —aliens, spirits, demons?
Better to be explicit; thankfully, they already happened to share some words. "Karesejat — Karesejat kull?" she asked. Then she was struck by a sudden thought. There was another type of being in play that was completely separate from both humans and the dinosaurs of Silvanus. "Evenatra kull? Valcen kull?"
[23:12] "Juna Karesejat akyt araz kull, rua," Akuned remarked, using far too many words to make Samanta's life easy. "Lukias'va Evenatra tu Valcen; Sinunai akysis?" Far, far too many words. But the curiosity was apparent in her posture.
Again she made an effort to help the human along, however, by gesturing again to Samanta and saying, "Aky kull," pointing to the scribble of the Karesejat and saying, "Aku akyt kull," and then pointing up to the sky with both hands, glancing up and saying, "Helum arua aris kulla."