Play language/history

From FrathWiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Play was a fusional and polysynthetic language that reached its peak around the year 4200 in Memnumu and points nearby, when it was the language of more than one fourth of the human population. It was known for its simple phonology and extremely difficult grammar. Players often used long compound words that seemed to hardly resemble their parts. For example, from tatabūpu "coconut palm" and peep "to shake", one could say

Why are you shaking the coconut tree?

Such words corresponded to whole sentences in other languages, and were commonplace in everyday Play speech. This, among other features, made the Play language so impenetrable to outsiders that, during wars, Players were able to simply carry on their daily routines without fear of foreign spies.



The Play language at its peak was the language of more than a fourth of the world's human population. It was notorious for having a very difficult grammar and a writing system that was more difficult yet; however, Players used a variety of writing systems and the most widely used script measured by geographic spread was a syllabary of a few hundred glyphs.

It often came about during war that Play speakers were able to communicate their battle plans openly, without worry of their enemies overhearing them. Enemies speaking their own languages could not do the same, since the Players were adept at learning foreign languages. However, as Play was the language of such a large part of the world population, it was also common to find Play speakers on both sides of a war.

Pubumaus Era

This section covers the period from about 2668 AD to 3958 AD.

The agricultural Pubumaus society became thus stably bilingual, with the two languages being Play and Andanese. Children were assigned to one language or the other; citizens could not claim both languages as part of their identity. This assignment was done when the child entered school, partly on the basis of their speech patterns. Those whose parents were both Play speakers were automatically enrolled as Play speakers themselves; mixed marriages and marriages where both parents were Andanese speakers were assessed on how distinctly the child was able to pronounce the consonants of the Andanese language. This occasionally meant that Andanese parents would be made to raise a Play-speaking child. But Play-speaking children did still learn some Andanese in school.

The Pubumaus society had strict laws regarding the use of both languages. These laws were not always enforced, because Pubumaus was not a top-down state, and some were treated as strong social customs.

Shared consonant glyphs

/b/ and /l/

Play speakers had been forbidden from pronouncing the l sound in speech, even when reading Andanese words, and were made to pronounce b instead. This was part of a wider cultural shaming of immodest behavior; in the right context, merely sticking out one's tongue was considered rude, and even obscene; the Play speakers had come to consider speech to be one such context. The cultural prohibition against pronouncing the wrong phoneme was so strict that Play speakers had been arrested just for having their tongue visible between their teeth while speaking (note that Play's /t n s/ phonemes were alveolar, not dental), even if not pronouncing an l. Likewise, Play speakers had been arrested for pronouncing b as prescribed, but without their lips fully touching.

The Andanese speakers were likewise made to read an l for every b in Play. The Andanese prohibition against the bilabial stop b arose largely as a marker of pride, and not shame. Because Andanese shared the bilabial sounds p m with Play, there was no cultural prohibition against touching one's lips together while speaking Andanese; the prohibition was merely on the use of the sound b, which was subject to mishearing. Likewise, a tiny number of Andanese speakers acquired speech disorders preventing them from pronouncing l, but these speakers would almost never substitute a b sound; moreover, those who had this type of speech disorder in childhood were in almost every case declared to be Play speakers, preventing the problem.

The reason the prohibition focused on b and not the other bilabials p m is because the prohibition dates back to the era when Play had had two similar [w]-like sounds, which the Andanese confused with each other. One of these sounds later became /b/, and the Andanese speakers focused on this sound as it was both more common and more different from [l]. This is also the reason for the odd sound change of /w/ > /l/ in Middle Andanese.

Andanese also had a voiceless guttural fricative h, which the Players read as š or f depending on context; though pronouncing [h] was incorrect, the Players had never considered making it illegal to pronounce the sound itself, as this was simply the sound of labored breathing.

Reforms in Dreamland

New Play schools

The Play party platform demanded that new schools be built immediately in their newly conquered nation of Tata.

They ordered their Dreamer slaves to build schools for the Player children, with a traditional design involving a single large building for each neighborhood (unlike Paba).

Preexisting schools for the Dreamers were allowed to remain open, but some of their teachers were moved to the Player schools so they could teach young Player children while enslaved. Meanwhile, diplomats who had learned the Play language were removed from their jobs so they could teach more advanced subjects. Some classrooms had both types of teachers in the same room. And to ensure that the enslaved Dreamer teachers did not stray from the Players' lesson plan, every Player classroom had an overseer who would instruct the teachers and could inflict painful punishments whenever the teachers did not perform as expected. Thus there were sometimes three adults in the same room: a low-level teacher who spoke only Dreamlandic, an advanced teacher who spoke Dreamlandic and Play, and a disciplinarian who kept a close watch on the teachers.

First Rainbow Revolt

The Players obtained written tests from the Dreamer schools and ordered the Dreamers to ensure that the Play students always outscored the Dreamers of the same age on each test.

But when the teachers attempted to assign classwork, the Play children revolted, and teachers walking to and from school found themselves dodging rocks and bricks thrown by angry students whom the new Play police force refused to arrest. In the First Rainbow Revolt, an alliance of students calling themselves the Rainbow (Žavabe) murdered 14 advanced teachers and ordered the school administration to replace them with new ones who would obey the students without protest.

Play government response

The Play occupiers had not intended to intimidate the Dreamer teachers in this manner, as they valued education such that teaching their children was more important than national pride. But the Play government refused to punish their children, and so they decided that they would move along as though killing teachers were simply a part of life in their new nation and that the Dreamers would need to do their best to get along with the students even if the students had impossible demands.

Language problems

The Players took the new teachers from ordinary Dreamer schools, meaning that they spoke only Dreamlandic and could not do the jobs of the teachers who had been murdered.

The Players could not understand how a society as educated as Dreamland could have so many people who spoke only one language, while the Players' much poorer nation had been home to many bilingual people even when it had had no schools. The Dreamers explained that this was because Dreamland had been linguistically united since its early beginnings, whereas Play territory was so linguistically complex that people had to learn two languages just to communicate with people living in the next village.

Some Players began to question the need for schools at all, but their rigid government refused to walk down its promise to make Play children the smartest children in the world.

Three-month deadline

And so the new teachers were forced into Play schools and instructed to teach the children in a language they did not understand, and study Play every night so they could achieve fluency. The Players allowed the Dreamer teachers three months to achieve fluency in the Play language, saying that the Player diplomats had learned to speak Dreamlandic in about six months and had done so with much less of resources at their hand. Therefore, they said, any teachers who did not master Play in three months were not fit to be teachers. Since these teachers were already enslaved, they warned that the punishment for failing their language fluency tests would be death.

Meanwhile, the Players gave their men jobs as classroom monitors to ensure that their children had even greater power over their teachers. They warned that if there were ever a Second Rainbow Revolt, the perpetrators would be adults and the death toll would be far higher than before.

Dreamer response

The Dreamers hoped that they could survive by assigning unfairly low grades to Dreamer students, and convincing the Players that the Play children had legitimately outscored the Dreamers and were thus genuinely smarter. They did not want to sabotage Dreamer education even as the Players forced more and more teachers to move to the Play schools. Some Dreamers attempted to stir up a revolt, saying that the Players had finally pushed too hard, and that even losing another war would be preferable to obeying the Players.

However, they knew that this could not solve the looming problem of learning the Play language, which the teachers found surprisingly difficult. The Players could not believe that the Dreamers were legitimately having difficulty learning Play, since the Players with their much lower education levels had never had trouble mastering other languages, whether difficult ones such as Leaper, or easy ones such as Dreamlandic.

Second Rainbow Revolt

Having waited three months, the Play school administrators now interviewed the Dreamer teachers for their Play language proficiency test. 571 teachers showed up for the test. The Players quickly realized that the teachers had come nowhere close to proficiency in the three months they had been studying, and decided that the Dreamers were trying to sabotage the new Play-language schools. They thus executed all 571 teachers and announced new reforms.

The Players declared that all Dreamer-language schools would be closed indefinitely and that their former students would be added to the Players' slave pools, as their parents were already enslaved. All of their teachers were forced into a new intensive course to learn to speak Play, and in the meantime all Play language education would be taught by the adult male bodyguards who had no teaching experience but were all native Play speakers.

There were about 6,000 Dreamers in the new occupied territory who had their occupation registered as teacher. The Players put these women into a building together and gave them another three months to master the Play language, warning that if they did not do so, their fate would be the same as those before them. The Players again repeated that three months was surely enough time to learn Play, since the Players had learned to speak Dreamlandic without any education at all in about six months, and since anyone smart enough to be a teacher would have spent the previous three months learning to speak Play even before it was required of them.

Resistance to alphabetic scripts

The Players insisted that their language be written with a syllabary just as Late Andanese was, even though their language had a great many more syllables than Late Andanese. Play teachers claimed it would be an insult to their language and their scholars to devise an alphabet for a language that had such a clearly syllabic structure, with no use for initial vowels and only three consonants allowed to appear in the coda: /p m s/. They acknowledged that their syllabic script, which mixed Late Andanese glyphs with those re-adopted from the MRCA, was difficult to learn, but also said that a script that was difficult to learn could also be easy to read, and again highlighted the fact that the Play system divided words into distinct syllabic blocks, whereas with an alphabet the reader had to figure out which symbols were the vowels and which were the consonants. They therefore claimed that time in school learning the Play syllabary was time well spent.

Criticism by Leaper scholars

Foreign scholars from various nations disapproved of the Play language, each for their own reasons. The Leapers, beginning around 4150, developed a friendly rivalry with the Play scholars, insisting that the Leaper language was superior to Play, and claiming that language shaped culture. They based their claims on many different things, and continued to use the same arguments even when Players disagreed. (Previously, the relationship between the Leapers and the various Play-speaking nations had been so unequal that the Leapers felt the comparisons would be misinterpreted as justifications for Leaper domination of the Play homelands.)

Amidst the many wars, the Leapers had few opportunities for international scholar-to-scholar meetings at which politics would not come up and dominate the conversations. They tried their best to keep their conversations focused on their nations' languages and not their politics, but because the Leapers claimed that language influenced society, they needed to acknowledge that language also influenced politics.

Fertility and attitudes towards children

Some Leaper politicians believed that the childish sound of the Play language was responsible for the Play nation's extremely high birthrate, which had been the highest in the world for much of the preceding 1,500 years. They stated that a childish language leads its speakers to think of childhood as the primary stage of life, such that adults exist only to create more children, and therefore to place a high value on continued reproduction and to think little of childless couples and those who chose not to marry.

The first of these scholastic conferences came a few years after the Players' birthrate had reached an all-time low; nonetheless, other Play-speaking nations now existed, and showed high birthrates just as the Players always had. Moreover the Play birthrate was beginning to rise again, meaning that children were modestly abundant but babies were very common. The Leaper politicians believed that this was evidence that the Play language itself determined the high birthrates of its speakers.

Support for indirect influence

Leaper scholars privately doubted this simple explanation, pointing out that Dreamland had never been known for high birthrates or a child-focused culture despite its primary languages sounding much like Play. They explained that the high Play birthrate was clearly a direct result of the Play government tying food rations to family size, such that childless couples had a difficult time obtaining food, and therefore married young and reproduced quickly. This policy had been in effect to some extent even before the Play party was born, and the Leaper scholars felt it might be a longstanding cultural norm.

However the Players had become notorious in recent years for a phenomenon seen nowhere else: children and teenagers rebelling against their parents to create sovereign nations of their own, in each case with disastrous results, but no effective reaction from the adults. The Leaper scholars proposed that the Play language was so childish in sound that Play children and especially teenagers did not take their parents' authority seriously, and were thus much more likely than other nations' children to rebel and follow their own leaders, even if they also had trouble obeying each other. The Leapers then proposed that the hyper-authoritarian Play government currently ruling in the Play capital city of Pūpepas was a reaction against this inherent and ever-present tendency towards rebellion; thus, the Players could either be extremely authoritarian or they could be subject to rule by young children. A recently created nation called Anzan had been founded by a rebel Play-speaking splinter party, the Tinks. Their party platform specifically denied political representation to young children, suggesting that it was a problem that they needed to suppress.

These scholars believed that the language influenced the birthrate, but indirectly. The childish sound of the Play language created weak adults, who needed an extremely authoritarian government to keep their children under control; the authoritarian government tied food distribution to family size (in part because children had always done much of the work on farms), and therefore adults without children were at the bottom of society and perpetually in danger of starvation.

Support for direct influence

The minority of Leaper scholars who supported the politicians' explanation that the Play language directly influenced the Players' birth rate said that it was Dreamland that was the outlier, and that the Dreamers had a low birth rate because their government offered very little financial support to parents of young children, and their schools charged money to enroll students. These people speculated that perhaps Dreamland had suffered from overpopulation in the past and had come to discourage childbirth, even if unconsciously at the time, in order to prevent famines. Dreamland's ruling Dolphin Rider party had come to power as a youth movement, and still used youth-oriented imagery in its political writings, though the Leapers noted that the Dreamers tended to think of teenagers as youth whereas the Players tended to think of small children first.

Most of these scholars did not speak fluent Play, but collectively they had learned enough to create long lists of Play words for concepts relating to childhood and childbirth that other languages had no fitting translations for, even as they acknowledged that Play also had expansive vocabulary in other fields of life, such as fishing, sea travel, and terms used by people living close to nature.

Evidence of poor hygiene

The Leapers argued that a culture's habits were reflected in its language. For example, they stated that a language tends to have short words for concepts that its speakers are closely familiar with, and longer words for foreign concepts or things that the speakers care little for.

The Leapers pointed out that the Play word for soap, bimamiba, was four syllables long, suggesting it was an object the speakers had little use for, but that Play had words like pais, šei, and pamu, all meaning human feces, suggesting the Players used such words frequently and had evolved distinctions of meaning not needed by other cultures.

The Players explained that their word for soap contained a suffix indicating a handheld object, and that it was needed to help create verbs, such as

Pašapakap, bimamiaaasamna?
I want to take a bath, so may I borrow your soap?

The Players then explained that the words without that suffix were for objects that Players did not typically hold in their hands.

The Leaper word for anus was ê.

Andanese semaphore codes

The Andanese were not typically a seagoing people, but by this time they lived only among the Play speakers (the Pubumaus people), and therefore sailors learned to speak rudimentary Andanese even when their daily language, the language they spoke on land, was Play.

Stick semaphore

Late in their history, the Andanese nonetheless reintroduced a type of signalling similar to semaphore. They did not imitate the shapes of the letters, however. Instead, the Andanese had associated the letters of their syllabary with a specific body part, typically one whose first or last syllable was the syllable in question. Then, the signallers indicated each syllable by pointing with a stick to the proper body part, either with the end or the middle of the stick (that is, the stick could either point to or cross over the body part being indicated). At the time of its invention, the Andanese language had still retained 36 syllables, but the Players adopted the later 30-syllable version of the code.

The signallers carried a long, rigid rod, and not one rod in each hand. This is why so many of the signs crossed over the body part in the middle and not at the end. Notably, left and right sides of the body were considered different signs; even though the language did not have inherently different words for e.g. left arms and right arms, the signs were different because they mostly had originated from a distinction between front and back or between outside and inside.

Visual impressions

Five of the thirty body parts used in the sign language could be considered obscene: hip, buttock, vagina, urine, anus. These were differentiated by holding the signaling rod in five different positions as it crossed over the signaller's genitals; this is why the hip sign was grouped with the others. Since Andanese words were quite long, this meant that nearly every sentence included one of these signs, and many sentences included quite a few, sometimes more than one per word.

The Players admired the Andanese body part sign language, even as they ruled that the Dreamers' unrelated semaphore code based on body motions was gratuitously obscene. The Players claimed the Andanese semaphore system as part of their culture, and sought to cast it in the brightest light possible. They said that it would be highly inconvenient for a script based on body parts to ignore a region of the body that was so large, important, and conveniently located near the hands' resting position. By contrast, the Players said that the Dreamers had added obscene gestures as an afterthought to a semaphore code that had clearly been fully sufficient without such signs, as it had been initially based primarily on arm movements with minor involvement of the legs.

Player control of Late Andanese

Thus the Players maintained an officially bilingual nation even with no native Andanese speakers. This was named būipubupe, the Play word meaning "the languages we speak".

Prescribed uses for Late Andanese

Under the būipubupe system, Play was the language of the people. Late Andanese was confined to specific uses.


The first ten letters of the Andanese syllabary, a la i ha ka u ma ŋa na li, were used as numerals for 0 to 9 both in written and in spoken Play; the pronunciation of the l phoneme is detailed above and below. When reading large numbers, the digits were read one by one, meaning the listener would not know the magnitude of the number until the reading was finished; nonetheless, the Players rarely worked in circumstances where large numbers were used and yet precision down to the ones digit was also required, so this practice presented little difficulty.

This also encompassed mixtures of words and numbers, as for example giving coordinates on a map. Because the Andanese syllabary had thirty syllables, it was common to give coordinates and measurements in base 30 instead of base 10, but the writer needed to be clear which system was being used whenever numbers of more than one digit appeared. Base 10 glyphs could be stacked, resulting in a base 100 system, but there were no assigned monosyllabic pronunciations for these compound glyphs.

Talking to animals

Some Players learned that animals and plants all think in Andanese.

This became cultureally relevant later on when the paubā movement arose; these people nevertheless said that while animals might think in Andanese, it was only humans that also had the ability to instinctively think in Play.

Sea travel

Andanese was used for signalling between boats at sea. This was due to the persistence of the Andanese semaphore system, and Players' disinterest in creating their own.

Art forms

Andanese was used in abstract art requiring great precision, either by itself or mixed with Play.

Names and abbreviations

Late Andanese was used to render certain proper names which had been considered Andanese by tradition, whatever their ultimate origin. Many of these were truly inherited from Andanese, but others were from lost aboriginal languages that had loaned their names to Andanese but not to Play. These were generally from the Star aboriginal tribes of the tropics, and not from the mountain tribes or those to the north and east. The names were rendered phonetically.

The Players also used Andanese to semantically render foreign words and certain other proper names. This was distinct from the practice of phonetic rendering as detailed above. Here, the foreign name was translated into Andanese instead of using a phonetic rendering of the original foreign word. This was used for naming all foreign corporations, where the Players needed to ensure the public recognized them as foreign, but did not want to burden the speakers with difficult foreign sounds such as those of Leaper. The newly coined name was often then run through a cipher (see below), where the thirty Andanese syllable glyphs were given new pronunciations assigned to evoke the sound of the native language of the corporation being represented, including sounds not found in the phonologies of Play and Andanese. The Players still avoided using any sounds that would be difficult for the Players to pronounce or to represent in the various Play scripts.

Andanese was also used for abbreviations of both semantic and phonetic borrowings. Many corporation's names were quite long, for example, so they were given shorter names to be used in common speech.

Reforms of language laws

For many years, the Players' authoritarian government had been strictly enforcing the language laws that had previously often been treated like social customs. During the Būipubupe era, the Play party took ownership rights of the Late Andanese language, making all Players legal speakers of both languages.

Pronunciation of shared consonants

Play speakers had been forbidden from pronouncing the l sound in speech, even when reading Andanese words, and were made to pronounce b instead. The Players had long considered the consonant l to be immodest both for its sound and for its appearance, allowing the tongue to protrude between the speaker's teeth. Instead, Players were made to use the bilabial stop b, which the Players considered more polite as it resembled their existing bilabials p m.

The Andanese speakers were likewise made to read an l for every b in Play; this custom was a holdover from the pre-Play era, but the Players enforced this as well because they considered it important that both groups feel that the situation was fair.

But when they took formal ownership of the Andanese language, the Players declared that both sets of phonemes were now legal, because all Players were legal speakers of both Play and Andanese. Customs remained, and Players continued to resist the use of the [l] sound even when reading Andanese, but Play teachers assumed that within a few generations this would all change.

Reappearance of free morphemes

The reduction of Andanese to contextual use allowed for the independent use of many short morphemes that had long been confined to compounds. This was especially common in ciphers (see below), but also found use in abbreviations. Often, the first two syllables of a word would stand for the whole, though sometimes even the abbreviations would still be padded by classifier prefixes.

Because of Andanese's small phoneme inventory, relatively few of the inherited CVCV roots were still in use as independent words, apart from very basic vocabulary items, which still needed prefixes as did all other words. But yet, these roots had survived because their meanings, even though bound to compounds, were still generally clear.

The most common formulas were CV + CVCV and CV + CV + CVCV. It was rare to see a CVCV + CVCV compound; when this did occur, it nearly always had a classifier prefix and was therefore five syllables in total, as CV + CVCV + CVCV.

Play education policy

Despite all of this, the Players insisted that their students learn to speak the entire Andanese language and not just the few words and numbers they would need to communicate in the special contexts where the language continued to see use.

The Players claimed that much important local knowledge was written in Late Andanese, including medical treatments for common diseases, knowledge of agriculture, and books on mathematics and economics. The Players were reluctant to translate these books into Play because the Play language had by this time spread far beyond the Play homeland, and therefore the written knowledge could also spread into foreign nations and take away some advantages that the Players had long held over their rivals and enemies. Very few people outside Play territory spoke Late Andanese.

Using the same rationale, the Players promised to also preserve the language of Galà, an Andanic nation that had become very weak over time as they were trapped in a mountain habitat while the Players' rapid population growth filled first the lowlands and later the mountains too.

Ciphers for peace and commerce

Players also created many ciphers based on the 30-letter Andanese syllabary. They used Andanese instead of Play because they needed a small, fixed syllable inventory that could not produce impossible words when translated in either direction. The Players understood that in theory a very complex cipher could be designed that would operate using Play's much larger syllable inventory, but figured that devising this would slow down their soldiers every time it was used, increase the rate of errors on both sides, and then also help the enemies since some enemies of the Players also spoke Play, and thus were more likely to understand a message that decoded to Play than to Late Andanese.

"Peacetime" ciphers were used to render the names of corporations and other proper nouns (see above and below). They were opaque to a naive listener but nonetheless fairly easy to render and decode.

Ciphers of this type were intended to simultaneously represent the Andanese word and a particular company, entity, or part of the world which the Players would come to associate with the most common sounds in the cipher. Thus, the great length of the words was largely because they were indicating two things at once.

Ciphers were often referred to by their representation of the first two syllables of a common Andanese word, such as that for corporation. The representation in the cipher was often more than two syllables, since nearly all ciphers produced words longer than their inputs.

Choice of phonologies

They sometimes used sounds outside Play's phonology, even though they were intended for use by Players; the Players considered their people to be familiar enough with foreign languages (even besides Andanese) to handle this without difficulty. A five-vowel inventory of /a e i o u/ was common, even though Play's inventory was /a i u ə/ (with long vowels /ā ī ū/) and Late Andanese used /a i u/. The Players associated the five-vowel inventory /a e i o u/ with the Leaper language, and therefore with international trade and diplomacy. Natively, Players sometimes read this as /a ə i ā u/ or /a ai i au u/.

The Players considered their ciphers to be a form of art in and of themselves, and hoped that in the future, once they had won their wars, other societies would adopt the Players' ciphers and use them both for commerce (to identify the origin of foreign products and corporations) and as art.

Use of names for letters

These ciphers were very slow, since they mapped the 30-syllable Late Andanese inventory to a list of thirty sequences that could span more than one syllable. They were not designed for efficiency, but rather for their easily recognizable sound. Indeed, it could be said that each cipher was a list of thirty words, each of which was that cipher's name for the corresponding letter in the Late Andanese syllabary.

Most ciphers took their names from their representation of the Late Andanese syllable sequence puta, the first two syllables of the most common word for corporation (/putaananuluku/). Since -pu- here is a classifier prefix, the standard technique for abbreviations would suggest using taa instead, but the Players avoided this because the syllable /a/ was mapped to pa in a great number of ciphers, whereas syllables towards the middle and end of the alphabet were much less commonly mapped to identical values in different ciphers.

Pasampima cipher family

For example, the most commonly used Late Andanese word for corporation, putaananuluku, appeared in one cipher as pasampimawamapumapimampimi, with nearly twice as many syllables as in the original. The Andanese puta comes through here as pasampima, and therefore that is the name of the cipher (not just */pasam/).

While /p/ was already the most common consonant sound in Play, this cipher represented 29 of the 30 Andanese syllables by a sequence beginning with /p/, giving the words a rhythmic and easily recognizable sound. The only non-/p/ syllable was Andanese a, the first syllable in the alphabet. This here was a rotator morpheme that changed the consonant of the next syllable from /p/ to something else. For example, the Andanese word aahaaka "pearl" shrinks to tiwam in this cipher, because /p/ is the unmarked consonant, /w/ is the first marked consonant, and /t/ is the second marked consonant.

Pasampima was one of the earliest creations, and was the slowest of all the ciphers in common use. But because of its reliable rhythm, it was easy to recognize, and words in Pasampima were rarely mistaken either for native Play words or for proper foreign languages. As with most ciphers, the stress was word-initial, even though the source language had word-final stress, but because of its five-vowel inventory, it did not sound much like Play.

Stargazer's cipher

A young girl named Stargazer created a variant of this type of cipher in which the words representing each Andanese syllable were spelled backwards, resulting in many vowel-initial words, and where the consonant s appeared particularly often, taking on a role much like /p/ in the more common ciphers. Every final /-s/ was dropped, but the cipher allowed an underlying final /-ss/, which would thus appear as an ordinary /-s/. Thus, the boy she named Usasas actually had a name spelled Us-as-as-s. Sequences of more than two /s/ appeared as rotated consonants.

The name of the cipher was Lanasali, corresponding to the name Pasampima with its individual words spelled backwards and with changed consonants. The permutation was /pasam pima/ > /masap amip/ > /lanas alis/ > /lanasali/.

Pufi cipher

This cipher was similar to the Pasampima family above, but simpler; all input syllables were encoded to single-syllable outputs; there was no rotator morpheme. (Though, against Play tradition, vowel sequences like /aa/ were considered to be single syllables here; essentially a consonant onset determined the syllable boundaries.) Certain abbreviations were allowed, which meant that occasionally the output could be shorter than the input, though this did not happen often. Because the syllables were paired one-to-one, there was no need to make all of the syllables begin with /p/; nonetheless /p/ was still the most common consonant in the cipher output.

Pufi was one of the few ciphers using all eleven Play consonants: /p b m f t n s š ž k ŋ/, though as above the labials were the most common. Likewise, the full Play vowel inventory /a i u ə ā ī ū/ was used. The vowels /u i/ had allophones /v y/ which were also treated as consonants here; at this time, many Play speakers were beginning to pronounce them like approximants.

The full word for corporation in Pufi was pufipapimtibimbe.

Pompum cipher

The pompum cipher had only two consonants, /p m/, and no rotator morpheme. But it required five vowels and used many closed syllables. It was similar to the Pufi cipher above, and some of the syllables were the same in both; for example, the word for corporation appeared as pompumpapimemmompep, with the same -papim- sequence representing the same two input syllables.

The intent here was that the Pompum cipher would be one of many such ciphers, all identical in vowels, but with different choices for the two consonants. To prevent confusion, there was never a version of this cipher in which the consonants were switched. That is, since Pompum existed, there could be no Mopmup; if Toptup existed, there could be no Potput. Likewise, the vowels were never altered.

Pompum was derived from Pufi just as Pufi was derived from Pasampima. But Pompum with its many heavy syllables scarcely resembled Pasampima in any way other than the heavy use of the consonants /p/ and /m/, especially /p/.

Shorter ciphers

Yet another cipher aimed to preserve the syllable count of the original Andanese word, or to have less: here, the word for corporation appeared as šupamunaleso. While more efficient, this type of cipher was used rarely because it was not immediately obvious, out of context, that the word being heard was being represented through a cipher.


To ensure accurate transmission, the Players devised each cipher such that a message in it would have only one possible interpretation. For example, if a cipher used the sequence pama for one Andanese letter and ta for another, that cipher could not also have sequences pa and mata, as this would create two possible interpretations of the longer sequence pamata. This is why so many of the Players' ciphers had most or all of their thirty words begin with the same consonant, and why most of those not using this pattern had all of their words be one syllable long.

Military use of ciphers

The Players developed their ciphers originally to name corporations and other foreign entities, but soon realized that they would be of use in the military. Though the Play language was famously difficult to learn, the Play military planners knew that they had also at times fought wars against fellow Play speakers. Therefore, like the peacetime ciphers, the military ciphers were based on Late Andanese.

Since the Players were spreading some basic knowledge of Late Andanese to their enemies by naming corporations and placenames in Andanese, they sometimes used different vocabulary items for the few areas of semantic overlap.

Military ciphers were much more difficult and were intended to keep communications private even from those few spies who had managed to learn both Play and Andanese. While the peacetime ciphers mostly represented the language by pairing a Late Andanese syllable with a particular phonemic sequence, the military ciphers purposefully obscured syllable boundaries, and to some extent even morpheme boundaries, forcing any interceptor to handle extremely long words with no obvious places to divide them up.

Pakapa cipher

The Players soon developed a radically different and much more complicated cipher called Pakapa.


The Players also announced the two-layered pununīeives cipher, and claimed it would never be broken. It was a combination of the preexisting punu and ciphers, both of which were unknown outside Play territory as well. To break the code, a spy would need to learn Late Andanese, take time to write down the transmitted message, determine that it was encoded twice, discover both codes, and then apply them in the proper order.

Pununīeives was a modified version of the Late Andanese language, retaining its original vocabulary, but changing the behavior of compounding to make it vastly more difficult. The Players believed that the language they were creating was so difficult that it would be impossible for anyone to understand a message they overheard; even a spy who had broken the code would need to write the message down and find the time to sit down and decode it.

The Players designed this after the Lava Bed morphology of some Andanic languages, which Late Andanese had lost. Lava Bed inflections were famously difficult, but now the Players produced a table of inflections far beyond the scope of even the most difficult known Lava Bed language, and yet at the same time their table of correspondences was perfectly regular, so no message would be lost in translation.

The code required a message of at least four syllables, as for any shorter message, the code would simply repeat the original message. Likewise, since it was based on compounding, the message required at least two words; however, any word of at least four syllables could be artificially split and still come through in its intended form. For example, the input word hutuhuku "parliament" emerged after ciphering as lagakiugu, without a single syllable the same as in the original.

When challenged by skeptics who believed that they could break the code, the Players offered a hint, telling them to spell the message in Late Andanese and then read it diagonally.

NOTE, this cipher is only half of the proper translation. i will do the rest later. it is actually possible that the two methods of encoding would undo each other and cannot both be used after all.

Reflection of cultural attitudes

Because of its connection to the military, Late Andanese came to be seen as a masculine language, and men were encouraged to speak Andanese amongst themselves to maintain their fluency in it. Although Play women also grew up learning Andanese in school as girls, they were not commonly seen to use it apart from the number system and certain words associated with business and finance. Therefore the Late Andanese language was one of the few avenues in society where men had access to something women did not.

The Moonshines also considered Andanese to be masculine, but associated it with childhood just as they did with Play, and therefore in their art, Andanese speakers were typically young boys.

Use of Play ciphers by enemies and foreigners

STW created the Lilypad Association, a corporation-like entity used to contain the various political parties run by children who spoke Play but mostly opposed the Players' ongoing northward expansion into their territory. A group of Lilypad children calling themselves the Rash (Šaŋašīs) had rescued a Play girl named Stargazer from an army of kidnappers. The Players said that the Rashes were kidnappers themselves, but the girl came with them willingly. She understood Play and Late Andanese, and also several of the Players' military ciphers.

Matrix ciphers

In 4193, the Matrix army began to learn Late Andanese and some of the simpler Play ciphers, having talked their way into an alliance with the Lilypads, whose territory was being rapidly eaten up by the roving Play army. The Lilypads were not fond of the Matrixes, but by this time few adults took the Lilypads' wishes seriously, and so the Matrix army declared themselves the protectors of the Lilypad association and began to learn Play ciphers. They also began writing their own.

The Matrix ciphers can be called Xap and were referred to with numbers. This name is a distortion of the name of Baeba Swamp.

Vowel-only cipher

The Matrixes created a vowel-only cipher, Xap 21, in which the thirty syllables of Andanese were represented by a sequence of two vowels; the first syllable had a seven-vowel inventory and the second had a four-vowel inventory; the remaining two syllables were represented by a silent vowel in each syllable. There were consonants in Xap 21, but they did not carry important semantic meanings, except in the rare cases where the Matrixes used the cipher two encode two messages of about the same length alongside each other.

New Play language policy

Note that this section takes place in the 4280's, long after the section immediately above. The Andanese had been absorbed into the Play population, and officially abolished as a tribe, for about 110 years by this time.

Changing attitudes towards Andanese

The Players maintained their belief that linguistic diversity would allow them to preserve knowledge that no outside cultures could understand, and that the Late Andanese language was a good means of intertribal communication.

Criticism and praise

For more than a thousand years, the Late Andanese language had been spoken only where Play was spoken. Therefore, the Players considered it to be their language just as much as Play was, and a marker of Play cultural identity, though of a particular subculture more narrowly. Play-speaking scholars had defended the Andanese language against criticism from foreign scholars, who often said that Andanese was the slowest language in the world, that it was more math than words, and that it was spoken by a subculture who perversely made the language impenetrable to outsiders so that they could carry on a parasitic lifestyle within the Play-speaking host society.

Abolition of Andanese teaching

However they stopped teaching Late Andanese in schools, saying that their nation no longer had any people whose ancestry was solely Andanese, and told these schools that they could only teach in Play from then on. The government also maintained tight control over the teaching of the Play language, since dialects had been diverging as populations in outlying areas grew apart. The government outlawed the teaching of any dialect of Play that was not readily understandable to those speaking the standard language taught in Pūpepas, saying that the preservation of existing languages was for reasons that did not apply to newly evolved languages.

Traditionally, the /l/ sound had been a marker of Andanese cultural identity, for which Play speakers substituted a /w/ sound. Later, a spelling reform (not a sound change) had changed this to /b/. But now that the Andanese people had been legally abolished, Play speakers were allowed to pronounce the /l/ sound. This came into fashion as Play speakers began a conditional sound shift of y > l, meaning that the inherited /b/ sound remained as /b/.

Police language

The Police continued to speak Moonshine, a language closely related to and intelligible with Leaper, which had become the language of world diplomacy. Moonshine was a very complex language with separate speech registers for men and women. Because all Police were women, they had no reason to teach the language to men, and therefore no need to communicate with men, even their own family members, in Moonshine. Thus, the Police stated that only the feminine speech register of Moonshine would be taught in Play territory. They also passed a law criminalizing any use of the wrong speech register, which effectively made it illegal for men to speak Moonshine, even if repeating words they had heard Police women use. This new law therefore created yet another new crime that Police women could use to arrest men.

Meanwhile, by restricting use of Moonshine to the Police, the Police firmly established Play as the operating language of their nation. While other cultures scoffed at the Play language, describing it as infantile in sound, the Police told the Play speakers to be proud of their language, and promised that the police force would not be allowed to hide knowledge from the public by speaking Moonshine.

Retirement of Andanese

Traditionally, the Players and their ancestors had been fond of puns involving their two official languages, Play and Late Andanese. This had led to the creation of many proper names that were meaningful in both languages, such as the Players' own party name, pata, and many longer names such as kupukapukipa.

The coinage of words like this extended to common nouns and had a long history. Loanwords were rare; instead, Players tended to use phonosemantic matching, a form of pun, to link words between the two languages.

For example, Play nuīifaekes "orphanage building", which meant literally "young adolescents in the dark", had been coined because it sounded like Late Andanese nuyiihaiku, a transparent word made up of the native Andanese word yiiha "orphan" surrounded by the building classifier circumfix nu-...-iku. But the Play word did not contain the Play word for orphan, tāu, and therefore had needed to be learned as a word on its own.

Nativization of vocabulary

As Late Andanese became a ceremonial language, its ornate scripts survived in works of art such as flags, where the geometric shapes corresponded to the letters of the Andanese syllabary, but few people understood what they meant unless a translation was provided. Therefore, newly coined proper nouns typically no longer had any meaning in Late Andanese except by pure happenstance, and even these names were scarcely ever understandable as wordplay.

The Police thus purified the Play language by replacing words like this with natively coined derivations, which were typically shorter and easier to learn. For example, in place of the disliked /nuīifaekes/, the Police created the new word taves, which was transparently derived from the word for orphan.

Celebration of sounds

Having been freed from the constraints of the two overlapping phonologies, most newly coined Play names had a sound more typical of the language as a whole, with an even greater use of the bilabial sounds p b m v (the last of which spells IPA /w/), and very little use of the velars k ŋ. The Players felt that k ŋ might nonetheless come back into fashion someday as their cultural association with Andanese diminished.

Attitudes towards other minority languages

Hamatap language

A hundred years earlier, the Hamatap tribe (also known as the Bap people) historically of northeastern Nama, which had recently signed the Feminist Compact and considered itself to have joined the Moonshine Empire, rebelled against Moonshine to join the Players in their war against Moonshine. This was one of the rare conflicts in which the Moonshines and Players were on opposite sides. After the war, the Hamatap tribe remained in the Play nation and chose to assimilate permanently to Play culture. However, they retained their Moonshine language rather than switching to Play.

Now, the Police worried that the Hamataps would try to claim that they were all Police because they had spoken Moonshine natively just like the Moonshines who had migrated southward to become Police. Indeed, some Hamataps had been admitted to the Police party, but in no great numbers, as they had gone through a hundred years of cultural assimilation in which they had thrown off any attitude of superiority they had inherited from the earlier Moonshine culture. Moreover, the Hamataps spoke the full Moonshine language rather than just the women's speech register, meaning that male Moonshine speakers existed. This was illegal according to a recently passed law.

The Police then declared that Hamatap was a separate language, but planned to phase it out quickly as it was obvious to the Bap speakers that their language was identical to Moonshine, the teaching and speaking of which was protected according to the new Play laws.

Galà language

The Galà language had held on in the high mountains of Nama for thousands of years, defying the many waves of immigration that had repopulated the surrounding lowlands. Like Thaoa, the people of Galà considered themselves to be culturally superior to other peoples, but unlike Thaoa, they were isolationists who preferred to live in poverty instead of invading and exploiting other nations. Therefore the ancestors of the Players had never seen any need to subdue the people of Galà. Galà had been pro-Nama as it had come to consider itself part of Nama, but by this time Nama had become a victim nation incapable of pursuing its own needs, so they were still effectively isolationists. When the Players took over this area of Nama, they considered Galà to be part of the Play nation. Thus, they wanted to assimilate the speakers and turn them into monolingual Play speakers. But the Play Parliament was hesitant to enforce this, saying that the Galà people had never done the Players any harm and should not be forced into the same punishment as the people of Thaoa.

Toy block script

The new Players promised to keep the many ornate Andanese scripts in use, and therefore preserve the Andanese language even though it would be for ceremonial and artistic use only. But they also created a new artistic script for the Play language, pupumūes,[1] based on the colored toy blocks (pupumuba) their children played with.


Traditionally, Play children had learned the letters of their main script by reading the letters carved into each block and spelling out longer words. But this had been problematic as their script was syllabic, and therefore a large number of blocks were needed.

Blank blocks

Now, new blocks were cut with no carvings at all; the blocks themselves were the writing medium. Since there was only one size and shape of block, the colors and positions of the blocks indicated the syllables of the words. Therefore the script was two-dimensional. When the player ran out of space to position more blocks, a new row would be built beside the first one, creating a three-dimensional array of blocks. When writing in the "compact" method, the rows were parallel as in traditional scripts. When writing in the "sprawling" method, the rows were perpendicular, with each sentence sprouting from within the last. Thus, if there were four or more sentences to write, the message often looped back on itself, forming a three-dimensional shape somewhat resembling a castle.

Only two colors of blocks were needed, though it was common to see three colors, such that each block would have two faces painted with each color. Another alternative used four colors, with two faces each painted in the two primary colors, and one face each in a color, often darker, intended to complement the primary colors. The third and fourth colors were supplementary, used for greater contrast only, since they did not carry any information and could in every instance be replaced by blocks of the first color. Supplementary colors were not used to indicate blocks of the second color, however, because this was the "marked" color whereas the first color was the background color, typically more common.

The script could also be imitated without colors on a traditional medium by outlining clusters of the same block color together, and then indicating the color by etching a pattern within the shape.

The new toy block script was important to the Players because traditionally the ornate scripts so loved by all had been for the Late Andanese language only, whereas the Play language had always only one script, a traditional one, which itself was partly based on Late Andanese.

Direction of writing

The toy block script was two- or three-dimensional, as there was no fixed height for a word or letter, and words could overlap. The Players had always written left-to-right in their traditional scripts, and therefore taught children to play from left to right as well.

But the new script required vertical positioning of blocks, such that letters could be stacked on other letters, and in some cases, a letter fit better underneath a letter if it was offset by or surrounded by another letter. It was permissible and sometimes required for the player to use a top-left or bottom-left positioning, meaning that writing sometimes went slightly backwards. This meant that the player would often need to move blocks they had already placed in order to accommodate the next letter in the word.

Therefore the Players decided that the script would be written primarily from left to right and from bottom to top, with words allowed to overlay other words and in some cases to use a slightly reversed order to ensure that the blocks would fit together into pleasing shapes.

The Players kept the writing order of their traditional carving script as it always had been, saying that the two scripts had no connection to each other, and therefore did not depend on each other.

Omission of vowel-initial words

The new script was entirely independent of Andanese and, although it could be used to write Andanese as well, it was best suited for Play.

For example, the new script had no way of indicating a vowel-initial word, and no easy way for future users of the script to work vowel-initial words into the script, because the first letter of any word could not be positioned relative to a previous letter and therefore had fewer possible values than succeeding letters. Play had very few vowel-initial words and the small resulting ambiguity did not hinder communication. (The word-initial glides y v were considered phonetically to be allophones of /i u/, but were spelled as if pronounced /bi bu/ since these sequences did not occur before vowels in Play. Word-initial a e could not be respelled in this manner because the sequences /ba be/ were common in word-initial position.)

Extension to other languages

The new toy-based script was not easily extensible to other languages because there were no unused shapes. The Players saw this as a strength, as it would make other languages look defective, just as Play had been called defective for needing more letters than the Andanese syllabary could provide.

The Players also created a new toy block script for Late Andanese, based on the Andanese bottom-to-top tile script, but still using the Play blank blocks instead of the Andanese carved blocks. Thus words in this script needed four times as many blocks as they had in Andanese, but were far more convenient to spell.

Differences from past scripts

Earlier toy block script

The Players' new toy block script, when adapted to write Late Andanese, was distinct from yet another toy block script that the Andanese had earlier created on their own. The old Andanese toy block script had long been unpopular both because it made color syntactical, and because it distinguished between blocks of the same color laid together and a double-sized block of one color. There were eight colors. This meant that the Andanese had needed both eight colors of blocks and sets of differently shaped blocks in order to write their script. In fact, the Andanese script had had precisely thirty blocks: eleven each in the two primary colors (traditionally red and yellow), and eight more in the six secondary colors. The secondary colors were used less often, and this was deliberate, because the choice of colors represented the traditional red and yellow associated with Andanese culture. Nonetheless, an Andanese message could begin with any of the eight colors.

The word putaanapai spelled in Late Andanese also spells naappis in Play.

Essentially, the traditional Andanese script used blocks that represented syllables, and that is why there were thirty blocks. These blocks were tetrominoes. By contrast, the Players created a toy block script that just had one shape: the simple unit block. Rather than each block representing a syllable, different words were indicated by the relative positioning of the blocks, and by the two colors.

Furthermore, all Play messages began with the primary color, which meant that the Players could pick any two colors they wanted to spell their messages, since it would always be clear which was the primary and which was the secondary color. The Players could also imitate color on other mediums by drawing outlines around blocks of the same color, which the Andanese could not do because in the Andanese script, both color and shape were syntactical. The old Andanese script had had the advantage of extreme visual compactness, but the Play toy block script was much easier to write.

Bilingual messages

One trait in common between the two scripts was that any combination of blocks, even if thrown together blindly, would always spell a readable message, since there were no unused blocks in the inherited Andanese script, and no unused positions in the one-block Play script. Whichever color block was in the leftmost position in the Play word became the primary color. In both languages, many combinations were meaningless, but all combinations nonetheless spelled valid syllables.

The Players realized that since the various toy block scripts used the same writing medium, messages written in one script could be read in another, with completely different sound values. They realized the potential for using this as a peacetime or even a military cipher. They figured the difficulty of translation would be enough to hinder communication, but easy to decode for even the most elementary speakers given enough time. Words written in Andanese were thus read in Play. For example, Late Andanese putaanapai "corporation" was identical in the toy block script to Play naappis. It was rare for a message of more than a handful of syllables to be meaningful in both languages unless the writer deliberately chose to spell a pun; here, the Play word /naappis/ has no clear meaning, but could mean something such as "bramble river".

Backwards transliteration was not possible because the Play script contained less information than the Andanese; Play ignored shape boundaries and reduced eight colors to two. This is also why the Play words were shorter; here, a six-syllable Andanese word becomes three syllables in Play.

Another difference between the two scripts is that in Andanese, position was not syntactical, but in Play, it was. That is, although both scripts were written bottom-to-top and left-to-right, in Andanese, the player could begin a new tower of blocks at any point without changing the resulting message, whereas in Play, a new tower represented a new syllable beginning with a consonant. Thus, if the Andanese blocks above were rearranged to stack only vertically, the resulting Play word would be a single consonant followed by a long sequence of vowels (and in most cases also one final consonant). It was simply by chance that most Andanese writings had taken on a squarish shape so that most words and short phrases were about the same height as a sequence of typical Play syllables.

Because the Andanese script had been written with blocks of multiple shapes, it was possible for some blocks to overhang others. In Play, there was only the simple unit block, meaning that every block on a high level had to have blocks below it all the way to the ground. To represent overhang, the Players interpreted it as if there were blocks of a secondary color below the overhang, which in Play always translated to the primary color, and therefore the resulting Play sentence was buildable.

Third toy block script

The Andanese had adapted their toy block script to representing yet another medium, beads that had traditionally been hung from the ceiling, and was written top-to-bottom and did not allow overhanging. Here, the Play word naappis as spelled above would be read as sihunu, showing that a six-syllable Andanese word had been transliterated into Play and then back into a three-syllable Andanese word.

Admiration by foreigners

Although long messages in the new toy block script ("the Parliament script") were mostly written by adult artists, foreign diplomats who saw children playing with the blocks and spelling out sentences were amazed at what they saw, and this further underscored the common belief among some foreign powers that even the youngest Play children were smarter than the adults of the traditional scholastic societies outside them.

Anti-scholastic propaganda

The Moonshines in control of the Players' diplomacy had not intended to cultivate this stereotype. They had seen the many Andanese ornate scripts before, and planned to forever preserve them in art, but from exposure the scripts had long since lost their novelty and the Moonshines saw them for what they were.

Although Play children in fact attended schools rather similar to those outside their nation, there had been an important period in recent history when the Players had been unable to attend school, and the Police realized now that some foreign nations did not realize that situation had been temporary. In fact, Moonshine's own diplomats had made that mistake when attempting to form an alliance with the Players in the early 4190s, almost exactly one century earlier. The fallout from this diplomatic mistake had cost the Moonshines an opportunity to form an alliance with the powerful Play nation, and indeed Moonshine was at war with the Players within four years. However, as there was no common land border at the time, the two nations never faced each other on the battlefield.

Likewise, the Police were women who had attended traditional Moonshine-language education after graduating from the elementary Play-language schools, and the Moonshine homeland also continued the traditional model (originally derived from STW but with reforms rushed in after a major war).

In their first decades of contact, the Moonshines had had much the same opinion as the hostile powers around them: the Players were poor and stupid because they rejected traditional education and sent their children out to play every day. Only when the Moonshines drew closer to the Players diplomatically did they realize their mistake, and that in fact the Players had been trying their hardest to open schools during their first decades in power but had been held down by poverty, plagues, wars, and political stagnation all at once.

Spread of stereotypes

The Police now realized it could greatly benefit both the Players and the Police to have other nations believe that the Players still rejected scholastic education, but yet were the smartest people in the world. The Moonshine-speaking Police would then claim that they had modeled their own education system after the Players'.

Thus began to spread the myth that Play children were smarter than foreign adults precisely because they did not attend school, and that school, at least in its later years, was actually detrimental to intelligence. The Police propagandists conflated intelligence with the ability to learn, stating that adults educated in scholastic societies were dumber than their own children because they had lost the ability to learn during their time in school. By pretending that Players did not attend school, the Police escaped the difficult question of why their own adults were not also dumber than children, and why adults were in control of Play society.

Among widely spread foreign cultures, the new stereotype of the intelligent Play children spelling their unfathomable language with toys that seemingly indicated only two letters competed with the much older stereotype that the Players were ineducably stupid, living rough because they didn't know how to take care of themselves, and barely able to cook their food, let alone prepare meals to taste. Foreigners had felt that the Players' stupidity justified aggression against them, because even if the Players suffered, their long-term situation would be improved. Thus the Ghosts considered themselves to be fighting a humanitarian war.

But if the Police could convince the Ghosts that the Players were intellectual equals or even superior to the Ghosts, the Police hoped that the Ghosts would call off their war or at least take care not to harm civilians when their soldiers arrived. The Police knew that this propaganda would be difficult to pull off, however, as the Ghosts could demand to see proof of Play academic superiority besides the fact that the Play language was very difficult to learn.

Changes to traditional Play script

The Players still used their stone-carving script as the primary script in their nation, though they began to spread softer writing instruments such as paintbrushes to the general population.

Restoration of sleep letters

Late Andanese had been written with a 30-glyph syllabary because Late Andanese teachers had considered their language to have only 30 syllables. The Play traditional script had augmented this with a few dozen more glyphs, but writers found this clumsy.

Now the Play teachers announced the restoration of the full alphabet that had been in use more than four thousand years earlier, which contained 484 syllabic glyphs and an extensible means to transcribe heavy syllables and bisyllables. These long-forgotten glyphs were called sleep letters and were similar to Japanese hentaigana. Overnight, the Play syllabary swelled with tens of thousands of new glyphs, all derived in a formulaic way, but with some shapes such that they had to be learned independently. These were intended as abbreviations for common words and syllable sequences. For example, the word pupumuba was usually spelled out, but could be compressed into a single glyph, whose sleep pronunciation was /nuba/ because the part of the glyph that spelled /pupumu/ was originally intended to be pronounced /nu/.

Mixed-height characters

The traditional Play script was written left to right, with gaps between each letter that could not be linked. This helped with stamp-based writing, which was uncommon due to the very large size of the syllabary, but nonetheless familiar to Play scribes. Play characters were all either 3x2 or 2x2, meaning that they could either be square or be taller than they were wide. Most other scripts had all of their characters the same size and shape. However the Dreamer ideographic syllabary also had two heights of characters, with the taller characters mostly being used for heavy syllables. Indeed, in Play, the taller characters were also originally used for heavy syllables. In Dreamlandic, all the characters aligned on the baseline, but in Play, the characters aligned on the top instead, as if the shorter characters were floating. The Players said that their system made more sense because the syllabic characters were internally read from top to bottom, and light syllables were those which lacked a final element, meaning that light and heavy syllables were often the same for the first two thirds of the glyph. However the Play glyphs contained elements that occupied the bottom two-thirds of the glyph, so they were not cleanly separable into onsets, nuclei, and codas.

Influence on Moonshine

The Moonshine-speaking Police also admired the Play language and its many scripts. Because they tightly restricted the use of the Moonshine language in Play territory, Play adopted nothing significant from Moonshine, while Moonshine took on much influence from Play.

The Moonshine Parliament enrolled representatives for the Police even though they lived outside Moonshine territory. Because of the status of Memnumu, the Police could vote on laws effective in the Moonshine territory (because they were voting for party-internal resolutions), but the Moonshines as a whole could not vote on laws effective in Play territory except in the case where such laws also applied to the entire Moonshine territory as well. Therefore, despite the Parliament's tight control of the Moonshine education system, they could not also control the Play education system.

The Moonshines voted to preserve the Late Andanese language and script for all eternity, seeing it as their duty to preserve such a beautiful language and all of its ornate scripts, even though the language was of no use to the Moonshines. They also made their children's speech register after Andanese, rejecting a Parliamentary proposal to make Play a so-called children's language in Moonshine territory, displacing their own native children's speech register, stating that Play was, despite its sound, a language of education and therefore a language equally fit for children and adults.

Unlike the Players, they did not adapt the ornate Andanic scripts to their own language, Moonshine, even though at the time Moonshine's syllable structure was only slightly more complicated than Play's. (MS had more consonant clusters but Play had more vowel sequences and diphthongs.)

Attempts to introduce ideograms

Instead, the Moonshines created an ideographic script resembling that of Dreamlandic, a language that they were told to hate passionately, and stated that they were going to clean the Dreamer script so that it would be appropriate for use in a language as beautiful as Moonshine.

Play-based system

Some of the Moonshine scholars wanted to also extend the ideographic script to Play. Since the Police were already using the Play script to write Moonshine, a group within the scholars proposed that the ideographic script should also be based on Play, perhaps with ties to Andanese, since even after the retirement of the Andanese language, important links remained.

A survey in the early 4290s showed that the Players' favorite syllable was pu. The scholars figured that because /pu/ was a common syllable, and appeared in many words for happy things such as pupumuba "toy blocks", then the ideograph chosen for /pu/ should be both happy and easy to write. They chose a circle, even though they were also planning to use a circular symbol for the word for sun, pip.

Repercussions on Andanese

Both the Moonshine-speaking Police in Memnumu and the Moonshines in the far north had similar authoritarian forms of government. Both Parliaments understood the legal concept of ownership of language, and both claimed jurisdiction over the relics of the Late Andanese language along with the living Moonshine language (though this was still very similar to Leaper).

Now, some Moonshines in the north wanted to extend the ideographic script to Andanese, giving it yet another artistic script, but one very different than all of its others. They claimed that since Andanese had only 30 syllables, it would be possible to create 930 ideographs to represent all possible one- and two-syllable combinations. They considered a 30-syllable inventory far too simple.

The real intent of these people was to use the Andanese ideographs as the basis for Moonshine's own ideographs, since they realized that Moonshine would change over time, and that if the Moonshine ideographs were based on Moonshine's own words, they would either be forever in change or would quickly lose their relevance and confuse language learners. The Dreamer ideographic script had encountered this problem early in its history, before the Dreamers had united into an empire, meaning that Dreamers had great difficulty reading other Dreamlandic languages, even those that closely resembled their own, because even words pronounced identically in two Dreamlandic languages could be spelled with unrelated ideographs. Likewise, the Dreamers had been forced to recompile their own historical writings in the inherited Tapilula script that they hated and taught only to scholars and diplomats.

First resistance to ideographs

Nonetheless, resistance to ideographs soon appeared both in Play territory and in the wider Moonshine Empire. The Police in Play territory stated that they preferred the angular Play scripts even though they were full of masculine, anti-Moonshine energy, and that ideographs were a sign of a weak mind.

One argument against the use of ideograms was that, if they were tied to meanings rather than sounds, they would need to be continually replaced as the language evolved, meaning that texts just a few centuries old would become scarcely readable. The Dreamers acknowledged this problem with their own ideographic script, meaning that Dreamers with closely related languages could understand each other better when they spoke than when they wrote. Moonshine solved this problem immediately by proposing that the ideograms be based on an extinct language, a solution that seemingly had never occurred to the Dreamers even in the 2,700 years they had been using ideograms.

The Moonshines proposed using Late Andanese and stated that the ideographic script would consist of 930 symbols, representing the possible one- and two-syllable sequences in the Late Andanese language. However, the Police argued that there was no value in such a solution because the Play children would then need to learn 930 words that had no meaning in Play.

Cosmopolitan Script Society

The Moonshine Parliament then banned and imprisoned the Cosmopolitan Script Society (CSS), a group of female Moonshine scholars who appreciated the new ideographic script and wanted to promote it in Dreamland as well. They had dutifully obeyed Moonshine law by requiring the Dreamers to send female diplomats to meet with them, and by explaining privately that they believed the promotion of the new script would help Moonshine in the long run by weakening the Dreamers' desire to continue their war against Moonshine and the Players. But the Moonshine Parliament ruled that there could be no friendly communication with the Dreamers so long as Moonshine had not yet defeated Dreamland. Some CSS members then stated that they were apolitical, not pro-Moonshine, but that they still opposed Dreamland.

This killed public interest in the new script, though a group of Moonshine scholars calling themselves GSI went to work on a new ideographic script, untethered to any foreign language, stating that the problems encountered by Dreamland were not worth a solution, since it was natural that speakers of two languages would be unable to read each other's writing. They wanted to tie the script to the children's speech register, saying that children's speech resisted change better than the language as a whole, and that it would not matter whether the children's speech register was remade after the Andanese model (as the Parliament had intended) or retained the inherited model. They also stated that the script would be for the Moonshine language only, and therefore that Moonshines would never be confused by reading other languages written in the script. The Moonshine Parliament's reaction to this was to imprison the GSI women as well.

Police reaction

The Police agreed that an ideographic script was poorly suited for all of their known languages — Play, Moonshine, and Late Andanese — and that it was probably poorly suited even for the Dreamlandic languages that used it.

The Police therefore continued to write their own Moonshine language in the Play-derived script, refusing both the ideographic script and a proposal for a mixed script. They did this even admitting that the Play script was inferior for writing Moonshine because unlike Play, Moonshine allowed a wide variety of consonants in the syllable coda.

The Police also declared that while they spoke Moonshine, they were Players, and not merely a group of Moonshines that ruled over the Players. They thus declared that they would make their own decisions on language issues, and that the Moonshine Parliament's hostile attitudes towards the ideographic script proposals had no standing in Play territory. Even though the Police agreed with the Moonshines on the issues at hand, they opposed the Moonshines top-down control, realizing that if they allowed the Police to dictate language policy in Play territory, they could lose the ability to write Moonshine in the Play script they so preferred.

The Moonshine Parliament could not overrule the Police in Play territory. The Moonshine government model was a top-down federation, rather like the Play model, but constitutionally reserved important rights to the states, and even to the cities, within its control. It thus mattered nothing at all whether the Moonshine Parliament voted narrowly or overwhelmingly against the ideographic scripts; a simple majority in any one Moonshine state could nullify the federal law within that state. Thus, despite its tight control over so many issues, therefore the Moonshines' central government was weaker than the Players' central government.

The result of this was that Moonshine's central Parliament, despite its tight control of education and thus of language policy, was forced to declare that there was no official script for Moonshine, since the Police's decisions were legal in their territory. The Police further insisted that, despite the universal opposition to the ideographic script proposals, they would not tolerate a law against ideographs, and that all of the scripts that were in use anywhere were therefore legal.

Other changes to Play language policy

Comparison with Dreamlandic

The Police avoided belittling the Play speakers as the Dreamers were now doing. The Dreamers, despite their own languages somewhat resembling Play, were now switching to speaking Leaper in diplomacy and other languages in daily life, mostly those of the western Dreamer tribes, those belonging to Laba's Hipatal tribal confederation, which did not have the infantile acoustic impression shared by Play and the easternmost Dreamer languages. This had long been a source of embarrassment for the Dreamers, as the very tribes which had been most successful in war were the Baywatchers and the Dolphin Riders, whose languages sounded very similar to Play. Now, Dreamer propagandists were phasing out these languages in favor of the western Hipatal languages, and saying that the Rider and Baywatch languages were suitable only for children's slang.

Because the Police propagandists wanted to disagree with the Dreamers in every way possible, they promoted the Play language as a source of cultural pride. They highlighted the differences between the eastern Dreamer languages and Play, using the Dreamers' own propaganda from a hundred years prior, when they had been more pessimistic. They said that the Players were in fact much more mature and adultlike than the Dreamers, even if not more manly, and that this was the reason why Play society had managed to survive so long with such a high fertility rate while the Dreamers' fertility rate was barely enough to keep their population steady.

Because Play's grammar was much more complicated than that of any of the Dreamlandic languages, including the western ones, the Play propagandists used this to promote the myth that Players were much smarter than Dreamers and that the proof of this was that Players could easily learn Dreamlandic but Dreamers had struggled to learn Play. However, Play and Leaper were fairly similar grammatically, so the Dreamers who were now growing up speaking Leaper had less difficultly learning Play later on.

Rejection of alphabets

The traditional Play syllabic script could not easily be reduced to an alphabet because the consonantal and vocalic parts of the inherited glyphs were rotated versions of each other, and were so simple that many of the symbols were the same. There was a means to indicate a lone consonant in the script, and just as easily a lone vowel, but these symbols were actually more complicated than the symbols that indicated CV syllables, and thus an alphabet based on them would be inconvenient. By this time, the Leapers were using an alphabetic script that had been derived from the syllabary, in which consonants were distinguished from vowels by being taller (except for the stressed vowel, which was consonant-height). Such a script worked well on its own, but it could not easily coexist with a syllabary of any type because the symbols overlapped.

The two-language landscape

Thus, by this time, almost all of the world spoke either Leaper or Play. Moonshine was a dialect of Leaper, known for its softer, somewhat Play-like sound, but still nonetheless mostly intelligible with the mainline Leaper dialect of Baeba Swamp.

The two languages corresponded to the two lineages of speakers, defined by their vocal anatomy, such that each group had a strong incentive to speak their own language even if they had learned the other.

The world was also divided by the genetic trait of feminism: in some tribes, women were taller than men (feminism), and in others, men were taller than women (masculism). Only a few tribes had a mix of these traits. This trait was genetic and was not related to the inherited speech anatomy traits. Both the Moonshines and the Players were feminist tribes, but they were divided by language.

The Moonshines were also much taller than the Players. They had long seen the Players as a childlike nation, their language a perfect fit for who they were, and the newer generations of Moonshines felt obligated to protect the childlike Players from the other peoples of the world, particularly those with a robust masculine build, men taller than women, and a male power structure. And the Moonshines knew that the Players were proud of who they were, including their small stature, childlike language, and feminine power structure.

But they knew that the Players saw themselves as the standard by which all other humans should be measured, and thus, while they seemed childlike to outsiders, they seemed normal to themselves, and did not peer up jealously at the taller peoples around them, as if wishing they could grow to be like them. Instead, Play men had often taken pride in their physical hardiness, showing that they could win fights against taller men by bringing the fight to nature, where the Players seemingly always handled the harsh outdoor environment better than their adversaries, regardless of what the weather and environment was like. Likewise, because Play men were smaller than their women, they did not see male tallness as a desirable trait, and for the most part, Play women did not desire taller men either. Yet the typically taller Moonshines had taken control of Play society by forming the Play police force, made up largely of Moonshines who had joined the Play party and then kept control. They were required to marry non-Police, because the Police were by definition an all-female force, but by natural preference the Police had mostly selected taller Play men and thus their height advantage over the Play peasantry had remained.

Cultural associations of language

The Players were the largest nation of Play speakers, but Play ideology demanded loyalty to the nation and not to the language or culture associated with it; therefore the Players felt no obligation to fight for the interests of the Play speakers at the bottom of society in places like Tata and Baeba Swamp. Play propaganda had often tried to argue that these people were the descendants of Dreamers, who had always been the enemies of the Players. But many Players felt sympathy for Play speakers who were held down by Leaper-speaking populations, as Leaper had long been a language associated with abusive ruling castes, usually physically robust, who ruled over small, delicate peoples who had increasingly come to speak Play.

The Players preferred to see their language as feminine rather than childlike, but acknowledged that the world's most feminist society was Moonshine, which spoke a dialect of the Leaper language, and that outsiders had long associated Play culture with childhood and childlike things, even down to their original party name, celebrating their founders' success in freeing their child population from the labor camps of the oppressive Leaper governors.

Acceptance of foreign stereotypes

Even as they disliked being compared to children, the Players realized that they could harness the stereotype in their favor as propaganda. The Dreamers had been careful to describe the Players as ordinary adults in their own propaganda because they knew that Dreamer soldiers would be reluctant to attack a population they saw as helpless and childlike, but now the Players began to argue that the Dreamers' entire motivation for the war was that they saw Play men as precisely the targets they had always wanted to beat up on: easy to abuse and unable to gain the sympathy of the wider world.

Therefore they accepted the foreigners' stereotype of Players as childish people, both mentally and physically. This so-called childlike behavior was exemplified by their people's strict obedience to laws, preference for female authority figures, involvement of children and children's issues in politics, and the acoustic sound of their language. Likewise, the Players were now the shortest people in the world, since they had been historically short and then had absorbed the Andanese, who by that time had come to live only among the Players.

But the Players did not repeat these stereotypes to their own people because they considered their way of life to be normal, and claimed that all of the non-Play nations were unnatural instead. They claimed that soon the Players would either be a majority or nearly half of the world population, and their claim to be the only humans living according to the laws of nature would then be more believable, even to their enemies.

Žafa tales

But at this time, the Players began to write stories about žafa warriors, Play men who attacked enemy soldiers many times their size. These heroes were depicted as ordinary men thrust into situations they found overwhelming, only to persevere by remaining brave and outsmarting their enemies.

Because the Players were at war with both the Ghosts and the Dreamers, and because Ghost and Dreamer soldiers tended to be much taller than Play men, the Players writing these stories believed that they would help motivate and convince their soldiers to be proud of their body type.

Moonshine use of Play in diplomacy

As the Ghosts and Dreamers joined forces to invade the Play nation, the Players turned to their only ally, Moonshine. Moonshine promised to support the Players diplomatically, but signed a pact with the Ghosts (not the Dreamers) stating that if the Ghosts did not attack Moonshine, Moonshine would refuse to help the Players against the Ghosts. Moonshine did support the Players against the Dreamers, but the same Moonshine-Ghost pact also had the Ghosts promise to not let the Dreamers sail around Ghost territory to invade Moonshine. Thus the war had three sides, but this was no comfort to the Players, because the Moonshines' peace treaties attracted both armies towards the Players, and the Players were thus forced to fight the entire war on their own.

There was no land border connecting the Play and Moonshine territory; they could only contact each other through a river. The Ghosts planned to take control of this river and cut the Players off from Moonshine completely. However, they still hosted four-party diplomatic meetings at which Play, Moonshine, Ghost, and Dreamer diplomats were all invited, and sometimes other parties sat in too.

The myth of the smarter child

As the Ghosts and Dreamers continued their invasion, the Moonshines began showing pro-Play propaganda at diplomatic meetings. They claimed that Play children were measurably smarter than other nations' adults, showing that Play children as young as five had mastered the Play toy block script, while Ghost and Dreamer diplomats could not even identify which parts of the script were the letters. The Moonshines also touted the very difficult grammar of the Play language, showing that Play children as young as five years old were able to communicate masterfully while foreign adults trying to learn the language struggled to tell the difference between nouns and verbs and wondered how the Players managed to communicate in a language that had no pronouns and no person markers.

The Moonshines built replicas of messages they had seen Play children build and challenged diplomats to decipher the messages. None of the diplomats ever managed to break the code, but many assumed that the Moonshines were creating the designs themselves or that every message was written in a different code. The Moonshine diplomats wanted the Players to spell their own messages, instead of having the Moonshines awkwardly do it for them. Indeed, the Moonshines wanted to embarrass the others at the meetings by bringing the youngest Play children they could find, and having the children challenge the adult diplomats to solve their puzzles.

But the Player diplomats were more interested in stopping the ongoing slaughter of their people than in impressing their enemies' diplomats. Therefore the invading armies' diplomats never met Play children up close, and never had a chance to measure their own intellectual abilities against the young Play children, as Moonshine had hoped.

Moonshine cultural attitudes

At first, the Moonshine diplomats had realized their claims were false; they needed the propaganda in order to convince their enemies that Players were much smarter than their enemies, and that intelligence should not submit to brute strength.

The Moonshine diplomats did not need to claim that the Moonshines themselves were also intelligent because neither of the armies was attacking the Moonshine nation, and so long as the Ghosts were invading the Players, they could not also invade the Moonshines.

Moonshines attempt to learn Play

In fact, the Moonshine diplomats did not understand the code themselves, and realized that they would need to learn both the Play language and its scripts if they wanted to continue to rely on their favorite argument. They wanted to first learn Play among themselves, and then learn the script so they could use it to write both Play and the Moonshine children's speech register, called Gĭri.

The Moonshines assumed that their own children were just as smart as the Players, and therefore that they could teach their children an extremely complicated script modeled after Play's without slowing down the rest of the Moonshine curriculum.

Moreover, many Moonshine citizens were not interested only in the war. They wanted to learn the Play script primarily to convince themselves that the Moonshine people were as smart as the Players. Some Moonshine artists also hoped to adapt the Play script to Moonshine itself, or at least to Moonshine's children's speech register, Gĭri.

Thus the Moonshines set about learning the Play language. They knew that some other outside nations, such as Dreamland, had failed to learn Play, but that other nations had adopted it to some extent from their captured slaves. These languages, however, were not truly identical to Play because the ruling classes had learned the language only imperfectly. The Moonshines set about the task, therefore, of learning the Play language perfectly, which no other outside tribe had done.

A group of Moonshine teachers traveled to Play territory and sat for classes, because the Players were more comfortable hosting foreigners in their nation than sending their people into a foreign nation. This was possible because the diplomatic meetings were also hosted in Play territory.

Some of the classes were private sessions geared towards the Moonshine diplomats specifically, but since the Players did not commonly teach others their language, the Moonshine diplomats were made to sit for most of their lessons in ordinary Play classrooms with very young children. There were no longer any Andanese monolinguals in the Play population, and so the Moonshines were unable to bond with children who were themselves still learning to speak Play.

Moonshines finish their studies

The Moonshines tried to learn Play as quickly as possible, because the war made travel difficult and they knew that they could not safely remain in Play territory indefinitely. After a few months in Play territory they found it unsafe to stay, and so they left, hoping that they had learned the basics of the Play language, returning to Moonshine territory with copies of many Play books that they could use to finish their studies at home.

Moonshine-written Play grammar

Back in Moonshine territory, the teachers worked together on a Play grammar which they could use to teach Play to other Moonshines. They disagreed slightly with each other on how to write the grammar, but all agreed that Play was the most difficult language they had ever come across, and how amazed they were at the young Play children who all spoke the language flawlessly. Unlike the diplomats from hostile nations, the Moonshine teachers had been allowed to meet and mingle with Play children up close and indeed, some of the classes they sat for were in classrooms full of young Play children.

However, because the war forced the diplomats to return to Moonshine, and the Players refused to send Play teachers with them, the Moonshines were forced to finish their lessons through self-teaching and could not ask native Play speakers to answer the questions that came up as they worked towards mastering the language.

Struggles with early script designs

The Moonshines now wanted to adapt the Play block script to their own language, so they could make similar claims to be smarter than other nations. The same Moonshine teachers who had ridden with the diplomats in order to learn Play had also taken home thousands of toy block sets, hoping that they could not only learn how to spell Play with the toy blocks, but also their own language and perhaps other languages as well.

Only a limited group of teachers had been able to visit Play territory, and among them, only a portion had also been given time to learn the scripts. The Moonshine plan was that these teachers would teach each other, then children, and then the wider Moonshine population, so that the knowledge would spread to the next generation. They wanted to avoid bothering the Players for another direct teaching session, knowing that the Players had grown irritated at how Moonshine seemed to prioritize learning the language over saving the lives of the Play soldiers and civilians.

Direct imitation of Play

Because the Play toy block script was based on positioning new blocks relative to previously placed blocks, the Moonshines created a toy block script in which each new block was to be placed ahead, to the left, or to the right of the previous block. This provided three directions; therefore the Moonshines decided that each syllable would be spelled with three blocks. Since this would create overhang in a vertical toy block script, the Moonshines stated that it would be played on the floor instead, and that vertical orientations would need to use a second color to fill in the gaps. Satisfied that they had understood the principle of the Play toy block script, the Moonshine teachers went to their elementary schools and taught kids how to spell words in the toy block script.

The Moonshine teachers knew that their adaptation of the Play block script would have problems, but hoped that the wide-eyed Moonshine child population would figure a way to solve these problems, just as the Play children had mastered their own toy block script. Since Giri's phonology was even simpler than Play's, and in fact simpler than that of Late Andanese, the teachers figured it was guaranteed that they would find a way to write Giri with toy blocks.

Arrival at school

The first group of Moonshine teachers arrived together at a large elementary school for ages 5 to 10, as was the Moonshine custom. (Players typically stayed in school for three years longer.)

Vowel-initial syllables

The students realized immediately one problem that the teachers had been trying to hide from them: it was not possible to spell 27 syllables using relative positioning of three blocks because there was no way to position the first block in the word relative to a previous block. The Play language did not suffer from this problem because it had no vowel-initial words, and it so happened that the array of impossible first-syllable arrangements just happened to match the number of syllables that would start with a vowel in the Play arrangement.

The teachers had known this, but had been unable to fully understand it. It was clear that Play had more consonants than vowels, so by losing the ability to position the first block in a word, it seemed that the number of possible initial Play syllables should be reduced by two-thirds. Yet the Play toy block script operated perfectly with this reduced inventory, and the Moonshine teachers had failed to understand the reason why.

Wraparound words

The teachers decided to solve the problem above by starting each word with a four-block sequence instead of three, though admitting it was inelegant. The next problem soon became apparent: to position blocks in three directions, the Moonshine teachers needed to rotate the frame of reference with each new block, since otherwise a sequence of left-right or right-left would be impossible. But using a rotating frame of reference, a sequence of right-right-right or left-left-left would return the stack of blocks to a previously arrived point, often meaning that further progress was impossible. This was not always a problem, as Giri mostly used short words, and the next word could simply be spelled with a new block tower. But the Moonshines knew that Play was able to spell very long words with this positioning mechanism, which also rotated after placing each block, and that the teachers must therefore have misunderstood this aspect of Play as well. If the teachers decided to start new towers for each two-syllable sequence, they realized their code would be easily broken, and they would fail to impress foreign diplomats. Therefore the Moonshines knew they needed to figure out the true Play system.

Ghost reaction

The Ghosts found the Moonshines' struggles hilarious, as the Ghosts had reliable access to a pool of Play speakers within their own territory: the descendants of captive slave parties such as the Cupbearers. The Ghosts had not encountered great difficulty learning the Play language, and therefore, every time the Moonshines talked about how intelligent Play children were, the Ghosts heard it as praise for themselves.

On the other hand, few Ghosts, even diplomats, had any reason to learn Play, and the Cupbearers had never learned the ornate scripts of their ancestors, let alone the even more complicated toy block script that the Moonshines were having such a difficult time with. So the Ghost diplomats could not embarrass the Moonshine diplomats by showing off their superior knowledge, but some Ghost diplomats did manage to understand parts of what the Play diplomats were saying amongst each other.

Moonshine attempts to create new scripts

Having conceded defeat on their attempt to either learn the Play toy block script or adapt it to their own language, the Moonshine teachers began work on creating a lookalike script that they would then say was as complicated as that of Play.

Symmetrical toy block scripts

A toy block set with a different block for each letter could be stored in a cube three blocks high. However this would mean each syllable could be used only once, while many Giri words had duplicated syllables because it was a children's speech register.

Single-width columns

A lesser-used Late Andanese script involved placing blocks in sets of six, three blocks high and two blocks wide, to represent their 30-character syllabary. These blocks had two colors. Thus the Andanese used only 31 of the 64 possible block combinations (30 if not using blocks to also spell the spaces).

Using three colors instead of two, the Moonshines could place two blocks to represent a consonant and one for a vowel. Thus the Moonshines could represent the Giri language with just three block faces, and since each block had six sides, so only one style of block was needed. Although this system would theoretically produce a more noisy, random-looking block wall when spelling long words, Giri was more repetitive by nature than Late Andanese, and the Moonshines figured it would balance out. But the Moonshines wanted something more artistic to compete with this very basic idea.

Later Moonshine attempts

Mistaking an infinity for a large number

The Moonshines failed to understand the Play secret: in both their script and their language, what seemed like unfathomable complexity was actually a system based on zeroes, infinities, and ones: numbers that could not be counted. Many word classes that were closed in most languages were open in Play, or else did not exist. When Moonshine linguists tried to describe Play's grammar in terms of countable categories, they kept finding more and more of what they were looking to categorize and did not know where to stop.

For example, in Moonshine and Leaper, there was a group of a few dozen verbs that could be embedded into nouns to create phrases such as "the book you gave me", but in Play, any verb could be embedded into any noun. Moonshines analyzing the language from the perspective of Moonshine did not realize this, and had no native speakers to ask; indeed it did not even occur to many of the teachers that there might be such a thing as an open class in this morpheme position; they merely assumed that Play had an extremely long list of embeddable verbs.

In some cases, Play really did have closed classes, but they escaped detection. Famously, Play had about a dozen common noun classifier suffixes, a word category also present in contemporary Moonshine and in related languages such as the still-intelligible Leaper. And yet, there was no evident morphological difference between a noun classifier suffix and the suffix that appeared at the end of certain compound nouns to pad the chain of infixes that marked verbal embedding; neither could these suffixes be identified with noun classifier suffixes. The Moonshine scholars could not tell the difference, and for that matter, Play teachers did not see a difference either; Play children simply learned the suffixes as they encountered them in new words. Therefore, the Players considered these suffixes an open class as well, but the Moonshines did not think of this possibility and instead believed that there were several dozen and perhaps over a hundred noun classifier suffixes in Play. In this case, both the Players and the Moonshines analyzed Play incorrectly, but the Play solution made more sense to learners.

This pattern continued when looking at Play more broadly as well. With no particles, no pronouns, no person markers, no nouns, and no verbs, the Play language simply had no parts of speech. Moonshine linguists attempting to count parts of speech in the manner of Moonshine added more and more categories until they realized that every Play word would be in its own part of speech. Aspects like this explained why outsiders found Play so difficult to understand, much less learn.

Likewise, although the most popular Play toy block script did take some time to learn, it was based on a design such that all possible block shapes spelled some valid Play word, and therefore it was impossible for even a toddler to misspell; they had simply made a different word. This was possible because the Play blocks were not tied to syllables or even to phonemes. The fact that there was no way to go wrong helped entice Play children to learn the script, but the Moonshines' ideas could not do this.


Gold (1900) to Play (4100)

The Play language evolved from the Soft Hands dialect of Gold, also known as Wolf in Wool, Broken Shields, and perhaps at least one other name. It drove out the Lazy Palms language and took relatively few loanwords. There were also several other languages spoken in this territory, including one language spoken by Star immigrants, probably a branch of Amade.

Wolf in Wool had not yet evolved its characteristic sound, so the relative scarcity of loanwords was not due to the acoustics of the language, but rather a cultural identification with the new language being imported from overseas. Any loans that were taken in had /e o/ shifting to /ə/ for the entire time period of this language, though /ē ō/ may have been borrowed as /əi əu/ or /ai au/ or either.

  1. At the end of a syllable, the pharyngeal fricative ʕ disappeared and changed the previous vowel to a high tone. It also voiced the following consonant.
  2. Syllable-final k ḳ ŋ changed to kʷ ḳʷ ŋʷ.
  3. Feeding on the above change, in compounds, if the final consonant was one of /kʷ ḳʷ/ and the first consonant of the next morpheme was one of the velars k ḳ h ŋ, it also became labiovelar. Thus for example /kk/ > /kʷkʷ/ or /kʷ:/. It did not happen for other consonants. Prenasals did not shift; later, the cluster /ŋʷk/ becomes /mk/, which is pronounced as spelled but later becomes [ŋk], [mpt], etc depending on dialect.
  4. In initial position, the labialized coronals tʷ dʷ nʷ shifted to t d n. Elsewhere, even in clusters, they decoupled to the sequences tu du nu.
  5. The bilabial approximant w changed to v (in internal reconstructions, also spelled "β") before a vowel.
  6. Then l lʷ both became w (not */v/) in all positions although it retained a rhotic allophone. The distinction between this new /w/ sound and the one that had just changed to /v/ is important later on, as it keeps sequences like /ʕl/ from being corrupted to /ʕʷ~gʷ/ and then on to /v/, /b/, and /p/. Rather, /l/ stays as /w/.
    Notably, the sequence sl (which was pronounced as IPA [hl] or for some speakers [ɬ]) shifted here to sw, and did not become */hʷ/ or */f/. That is, it behaved as the sequence that it was morphologically, instead of sliding with the phonetics into a new single consonant.
    NOTE ON POLITICS: Proto-Highland Poswa breaks off here.
  7. The labiovelar consonants kʷ ḳʷ hʷ gʷ became p ṗ f v unconditionally. This includes sequences like /kʷl/, despite the precedent set by /sl/ above, because in this case, /kʷl/ was already [kʷ] at the surface level in the proto-language.
  8. Sequences of two vowels in which the first vowel was i or u became rising diphthongs. Then all clusters of a consonant followed by a semivowel came to be pronounced as coarticulated single consonants. Thus pua became pʷa, pia became pʲa, and so on.
  9. Stressed syllabic nasals were opened to sequences containing a schwa.
  10. The voiced fricative g assimilated to a neighboring glide /j/ or /w/, thus creating sequences of /jj/ and /ww/. The shift thus was gj jg gw wg > jj jj ww ww. This includes g after /ī/ and /ū/.
  11. The voiced fricatives d dh g became silent between vowels and occasionally in initial position (due to compounding).
    When I wrote this, there was no /ž/ in the language at this stage, and so it is possible that ž also shifts to Ø.
    NOTE ON POLITICS: This time period is around 3100 AD, near the beginning of the "Time of Happiness" (Yeisu Kasu: 3138 - 3302 AD). The branches of the language that fork off from mainline Bābākiam in 3138 all die out, and therefore all of their names in the history are written in Babakiam, but they could be revived as minor local languages, and there would be quite a lot of them.
  12. A voiced consonant in a cluster after /p/ or /s/ changed briefly to ʕ and then disappeared.
    This shift is responsible for important consequences in verb morphology in Poswa more than 5000 years later. Note that the inherited clusters gh hg had been merged as h already in Gold; /hg/ was morphologically equivalent to /sg/, which explains why /sg/ shows up in Play as š instead of s like the others. Lastly, this shift explains why the Play toponym Fanašasa corresponds to Leaper Xʷanaxanta.
  13. The voiced fricatives v z ž g changed to b d ǯ ġ before a high tone. Unlike other languages, Play considered the long vowels to be high tones here.
    This is how Play does /g/ > /k/ even though /g/ was a fricative.
  14. The post-velar fricative consonants ħ ʕ, which had been developing labial compression, changed unconditionally to f v.
  15. The velar fricatives h g were fronted to š ž unconditionally. šʲ žʲ became š ž. This includes the /čʲ/ sequence, which had long ago become [šʲ] but was maintained in spelling because of its importantly distinct grammatical behavior.
    Importantly, this shift included conditions in hiatus ("holes" in Play terminology), so that čiva became čua.
  16. The labialized voiced stops bʷ dʷ ǯʷ ġʷ changed to b.
  17. The palatalized voiced stops bʲ dʲ ǯʲ ġʲ changed to ǯ.
  18. Any remaining voiced stops b d ǯ ġ changed unconditionally to p t č k (except when in clusters).
  19. The voiced fricative žʷ changed to v.
  20. Tones were eliminated. However the stress accent (nouns on the penultimate syllable, verbs on the ultimate) remained and became regularized.
  21. The voiced stops d ǯ ġ (now found only in clusters) changed to n nʲ ŋ unconditionally.
  22. Remaining v changed to b.
  23. Remaining z changed to s.
  24. Newly created vowel sequences beginning with i or u collapsed into rising diphthongs, thus creating a new series of palatalized and labialized consonants.
    Note, however, that the reflex of /buya/ is still /buya/; it did not become /bʷia/ and then /bia/.
  25. The labialized consonants bʷ žʷ changed to b unconditionally. (Despite the fact that a nearly identical sound change had occurred only shortly before this one, this rule was very common in verb forms that were created by the shift of /bua/ > /bʷa/ > /ba/, and likewise for other vowels.)
  26. The palatalized consonants bʲ žʲ changed to ž unconditionally. (The above shift also applies here; many verbs underwent a shift of /bia/ > /bʲa/ > /ža/.)
  27. A schwa ə in a word in which the following syllable had /a/ changed also to a. Note that this is the only vowel change in the entire history of the language going back 3500 years, even before the Gold language, except for a few diphthongizations such as /ua/ > /wa/. However, the vowel system became very unstable in the succeeding period as the language developed into Poswa and Pabappa.
  28. The stress was shifted to the first syllable in all words.



  1. This may need a longer name, however