The Barrayaran Sprachbund 1

(this post appeared seven days earlier on my patreon)

(Barrayar is the setting of several of the books in Louis McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan Saga, for which she has won a deservedly enormous number of Hugos, Nebulas, and other awards. Go read those books.)

And now, the in-world voice. Ahem.
Barrayar is a life-bearing exoplanet, colonized through naturally-occurring wormholes in the 23rd century. Soon after initial colonization began, however, the wormhole linking Barrayar to Earth closed, leaving the exoplanet isolated until a new route was discovered. By that time, civilization on Barrayar had stabilized as a continent-spanning pre-industrial empire, speaking four languages:

map credit: Madi Ballista 
ethnographic information here and here 

Barrayaran French (green)
Plains Russian (red)
English (dark blue)
Greek (outlined in light blue)
Hill Russian (dark red)

All four languages are written in the Barrayaran Cyrillic Alphabet.

а /a/ as in “father”
б /b/ as in “bat”
в /v/ as in “very”
г /g/ as in “good”
д /d/ as in “dog”
е /je/ approx. as in “yen”
ё /jo/ as in “yoh”
ж /ʒ/ as in “measure”
з /z/ as in “zoo”
і /i/ as in “three”
и /ɪ/ as in “thin”
й /j/ after vowels as in “buy”
ј /dʒ/ as in jungle
к /k/ as in kitten
л /ɫ/ as in able
λ /l/ as in bill
м /m/ as in man
н /n/ as in none
о /o/ as in only
п /p/ as in pan
р /ʁ/ as in French rouge (“warm”)
r /r/ as in Russian ruble (“cold” or “rolled”)
с /s/ as in star
т /t/ as in tell
у /y/ approx. as in few
ф /f/ as in fair
х /x/ as in Scottish loch
ц /t͡s/ as in bits
ч /tʃ/ as in cheese
ш /ʃ/ as in sherry
ψ /ps/ as in tops
s /dz/ as in pads
δ /ð/ as in these
θ /θ/ as in thin
qu /kw/ as in quiet
w /w/ as in win
ξ /ks/ as in ox
ы /ɨ/ approx as in “uh-ih”
ь /j/ after consonants as in bright yellow
œ /jœ/ as in french sœur with added y
э /ɛ/ as in eggs
α /ɑ/ as in sock
ю /ju/ as in you
я /ja/ as in “yah”
æ /jæ/ as in “yeah”
ω /ɔ/ as in thought

Here are some examples:

Barrayar = Баrаяр /’ba.rə.jar/ (standard) /’bæ.rа.jar/ (Dendarii)
Gregor Vorbarra = Грэгр Ворбаrа /’gʁɛ.gəʁ voʁ’ba.rə/
Vorbarr Sultana = Ворбаr Султана /voʁ’bar syl’ta.nə/
The origin of the “barr” element has been lost in time (the proposal that is derives from English “bar” has been hotly rejected). The double r in the Latin transliteration indicates a rolled or trilled r, as opposed to the more usual “warm” or “guttural” r. R in Barrayaran languages is “warm” by default, but becomes trilled when following a stressed vowel.
As a proper name, Баrа is spelled and pronounced conservatively, preserving the final ə.

Miles Naismith Vorkosigan = Майλз Нэйсмиθ Воркосигн /majlz ‘nɛjs.mɪθ voʁ’ko.sɪ.gən/
Vorkosigan Surleau = Воркосигн Сурло /voʁ’ko.sɪ.gən syʁ’ɫo/ (Dendarii)
Vorkosigan Vashnoi = Воркосигн Вашной /voʁ’ko.sɪ.gən ‘væsh.noj/ (Dendarii)
Dendarii Mountains = Дэндаrий Маунтнз /dɛn’da.rij ‘maʊn.tənz/ (Dendarii)
The origin of “Vor” is also debated, though it should be noted that Russian вор means “thief.” By normal sound change rules, the honorific prefix should be reduced to вр, but because the Vor- name system is a fairly recent development, the prefix retains its vowel.
Vorkosigan Surleau and Vorkosigan Vashnoi are both locations in the Dendarii Mountains in the continent’s south. The dialects of English and Russian there are conservative, and have not participated in the palatal-reanalysis and vowel reduction of the standard dialects. Vashnoi in Dendarii Hill Russian means “yours.”

Ivan Xav Vorpatril = İвн Ξав Ворпатриλ /’i.vən ksav voʁ’pat.ʁɪl/ (standard)
Ekaterin Nile Vorvayne Vorsoisson Vorkosigan = Екатирин Найλ Ворвэйн Ворсwасн /ɪ’kat.ɪʁ.ɪn najl voʁ’vɛjn voʁ’swas.ən/
Personal names from the French-speaking northwest sometimes preserve conservative spellings. Phonetically, Екатирин would be *Икатирин, to show that the second syllable is stressed, rather than the first. Only an uneducated prole would make such a mistake, however.

Tune in next week for some Barrayaran grammar and vocabulary.

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