A short intro to the history of the Gramatian language

By courtesy of Teameir Yfatrayan

Gramatian is the de facto official language of the Commonwealth of the Gramatian Union (CGU) and is the native language of about eighty-five percent of the population. The other major languages spoken in the realm are (in order of number of native speakers) the Tineke language, Tarkazian, Benyan and Luyfian.

What is usually referred to as Gramatian is actually a collection of many dialects, which is not surprising since the CGU covers an area of about twenty-five million squared kilometers. However, these dialects can be grouped into three major dialect groups:

  • Azeyan
  • Tobeyan
  • Robeyan

Azeyan is spoken the Dolke basin, which includes the major cities of Pimpèlplys, Poldradek and Axèr. Tobeyan is spoken in the Tobe basin, while Robeyan is mostly heard in the lands beyond the Loussert. Due to the political dominance of Azeya – and in particular of the capital – within the realm, all dialects have been heavily influenced by its dialect.

The Gramatian dialects belong to the East-Urandan language family and therein to the Luyfian-Gramatian languages. The proto-Luyfian-Gramatian language had around 1500 BC separated into two clearly distinct languages: Ancient Luyfian and Ancient Gramatian (AG). From both languages we have several thousands of fragments of birch bark manuscripts. From these texts linguists estimate that the number of grammatical cases in AG is somewhere between eighteen en twenty-one.

Between 800 and 700 BC AG evolved into Classical Gramatian or CG. The major event of this period in regard of the language was the fact that the national epic The Battle of the Angels was written down. This text, besides its religious significance, served as the formal base of CG grammar. And with the political unification of all of Azeya in 577 BC, CG quickly became the dominant language in East-Urando.

Standardized CG as the language of the Imperial administration is the language in which laws are promulgated and in which the parliament of the CGU holds its debates. Because of the rather conservative nature of Gramatian society and the perseverance of CG in official use, Modern Gramatian (MG) remains highly unstandardized.

This leads, however, the academic question what MG actually is. Among linguists the general consensus is that MG consists of the vernacular varieties of Gramatian as have been spoken since about 1000 AD. Nevertheless the large degree of variance in MG, means that if two person from different parts of the realm want to communicate they will usually to switch to CG sooner or later.

Given the problem of mutual understanding and the complex grammar of CG, there have been numerous attempts to develop a standardized MG or MSG. None of these have been successful. The reasons for this are many but can be summarized as follows:

First of all is general conservatism, i.e. the lack of interest among political, religious and scientific elites as well the general public to abandon CG. Secondly, almost all proponents of MSG disagree with each other on the very features this language should have, such as the “official” lexicon and the number of cases.

Opponents of MSG have been arguing since at least the 1500s that CG is MSG, as CG still evolves in this day and age – albeit slowly. Hence any attempt to “forcefully” create a MSG would be unnatural as it would lack any support among the people. In fact, anti-MSG linguists would argue that MSG would solve none of the supposed problems of CG, as it would as alien to the common people as CG is.

However, it seems unlikely that this debate will end, unless some version of MSG will eventually adopted en masse by the people of the CGU. And since that is very unlikely, this debate will probably continue for the next thousand years.

Note: this text is based on T. Yfatrayan’s “Introduction to the Gramatian Language for Terrestrials”, Imperial Library, Pimpèlplys 1993.

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