The Sounds of Láadan
a as in fAther and wAander
e as in bEll and bEst
i as in bIt and bIg
o as in hOme and hOpe
u as in sOOn and mOOn
th as in THink and THree — two letters, but just one sound
zh as in pleaSure and garaGe — two letters, but just one sound
sh as in SHine and SHare — two letters, but just one sound
b, d, h, l, m, n, r, w, y — For speakers of English, these sounds (and /th/, /zh/, /sh/) are pronounced as in English.
lh — a sound English doesn’t have, made by pressing your tongue against the roof of your mouth, drawing back the corners of your mouth the way you would for a smile, and then saying “sh.”
An accent mark over a vowel (or, when your keyboard doesn’t offer accents, a vowel that’s a capital letter) means that the vowel has high tone.
For English speakers, this means that you should give the high-toned vowel slightly higher pitch and a bit more emphasis. The word “wáa” has a sound-pattern like English “UH-oh!” The word “waá” has a sound-pattern like English “ah-AH!”
Láadan Grammar Facts
Láadan has two kinds of words: content words, and function words.
Content words are words like “house” and “cat” and “eat” and “run.”
Function words are words like “of” and “and.”
Most Láadan content words can be used as both verbs and nouns.
This is like the way any English verb (“swim,” for example) can be used as a noun if you add the “-ing” morpheme to it, as in “Swimming is fun.”
Notice that in Láadan you don’t have to add anything to the word to make it a noun or a verb.
Definition: A morpheme is any part of a word that has a meaning of its own and cannot be divided into smaller parts. For example, the English word “walking” has two morphemes: the morpheme “walk,” which can be used all by itself, and the morpheme “-ing,” which cannot stand alone.
Láadan doesn’t have any words like English “a, an, the.”
In Láadan, verbs and adjectives are the same class of words, and they are only one class, the way conjunctions or pronouns are only one class of words in English.
The word for “red” can mean the name of the color red, or it can mean “to be red.” Which means that in Láadan you don’t need “is/are” or any other form of “be” in sentences like “Roses are red” and “Jane is a linguist” and “This is the bus stop.”
Láadan has a group of function words called “Speech Act” words.
For example, the word “Bíi” means “I say to you as a statement,” while the word “Báa” means “I say to you as a question.”
English can do the same thing; we can say “I ask you” and “I promise you” and “I warn you,” and so on. The difference between the two languages is that in Láadan the Speech Act words are required, while in English they’re optional.
A Speech Act word will always be the first word in a Láadan sentence.
Note: We’ll be discussing Speech Act words in more detail as we go along.
Láadan has a group of function words called “evidentials” that English doesn’t have; many other languages do have them.
An evidential tells you why the speaker feels justified in claiming that the words being said are true.
For example, “wa” means “The reason I claim that what I’m saying is true is that I have perceived it myself” and “wi” means “The reason I claim that what I’m saying is true is because it’s self-evident; everybody can perceive that it’s true, or everybody is in agreement that it’s true.”
The evidential will always be the last word in a Láadan sentence, and — unlike the situation in English — it’s required to be there.
Note: We’ll be discussing evidentials in more detail as we go along.