The beginning is the most important part of the work.
Welcome to your first lesson in colloquial Lapine! Before we begin, here are a couple of things to help you get started. Firstly, it would be handy if you got used to my accent, so here's a short welcome message in English [LISTEN]. You'll notice two things: one, that I can't roll my Rs properly - just call it an odd dialect, okay? - and two, that the microphone is a cheap'n'nasty one. Oh well...
Here, after Zoe Kealtan, are the inflected Lapine forms of the present tense (plus the imperative) for the verb flay, "to eat":
flaya - I eat
flayi - you (singular) eat
flaye - he (or it) eats
flayo - she eats
flayon - we eat
flayes - you (plural) eat
flayai - they eat
flay! - eat!
Points to note
a) The -o form is used only for "she", with -e standing for both "he" and "it". Rather sexist perhaps, but languages tend to be like that!
b) Unlike in many languages, there is no distinction between familiar and formal forms of "you," but merely a singular/plural distinction.
c) The imperative is the same as the infinitive.
Some features of Lapine are reminiscent of Welsh (which, out of interest, does indeed have e or o meaning "he", depending on dialect), and one notable feature of Welsh is the great difference between the "literary" and "colloquial" forms of the language, to the extent that some consider them to be separate tongues. So it is with Lapine: traditional tales (eg those of El-ahrairah) are commonly told in formal language, with everyday speech being less so.
One feature of colloquial Welsh that is very useful to the learner is the large number of tenses which can be formed by means of auxiliary verbs. (Indeed, in some dialects, every common tense can be formed in this way.) For example, in literary Welsh, "I sing" is canaf, while in the everyday tongue it is something like (depending on dialect) dw i'n canu, from yr ydw i, "I am" + yn canu, "singing". (Let's for the moment ignore the fact that "I sing" and "I am singing" can mean slightly different things in English.)
Lapine's personal pronouns are straightforward: the subject pronouns are simply the endings of the inflected verb, and the object pronouns are the same words with the addition of m- to the front. Here's the complete list:
a, ma - I, me
i, mi - thou, thee
e, me - he (or it), him (or it)
o, mo - she, her
on, mon - we, us
es, mes - you, you
ai, mai - they, them
This use of m- explains m'saion, "we meet them", found in Watership Down. This is a contraction of mai saion - which literally translates as "them meet-we" - see note d) below for a little more on this word order.
Now, think about the English verb "to be". In most dialects of English we have to say "I am singing", "we are singing", "he is singing" and so on. But one of my local dialects, that of the Black Country (the urban area to the west of Birmingham), simplifies things still further and regularises throughout, so that one says "I am", "we am", "they am" etc. This also happens in Lapine: we simply use lay in every case, with the personal pronoun being the only indicator of person.
Putting all this into practice, then, we can see that, while the formal (inflected) Lapine for "I sing/I am singing" is haina, the colloquial form is a lay hain, literally "I be singing". To illustrate this further, I have made up some sample sentences. Thray, "to bite", and aydir, "pike", are the two extra words you'll need.
English - Naylte Hyao - Naylte Éan
[LISTEN] I see the cars - A lay hay u hrududil - Haya u hrududil
[LISTEN] We go out to feed after moonrise - On lay silflay fu Inlé; - Silflayon fu Inlé
[LISTEN] She sees the nice groundsel and eats it - O lay hay u sayn narn a flay me - Hayo u sayn narn a m'flayo
[LISTEN] Foxes? They stink! - Hombil? Ai lay embli! - Hombil? Emblai!
[LISTEN] The moon is shining outside - Inlé lay hy silf - Hye Inlé silf
[LISTEN] Are you (pl.) does? - Es lay marlil? - Layes marlil?
[LISTEN] They see a stupefied badger - Ai lay hay lendri tharn - Hayai lendri tharn
[LISTEN] We meet them! - On lay sai mai! - Mai saion! (--> M'saion!)
[LISTEN] Cats are enemies - Pfeffil lay elil - Layai pfeffil elil
[LISTEN] The pike bites the hedgehog - U aydir lay thray u yona - Thraye u aydir u yona
Points to note
a) As in Welsh, there is no word for "a" - "a badger" is simply lendri.
b) Basic questions are indicated merely by tone of voice.
c) Adjectives follow the noun (eg marli tharn). An exception to this is when special emphasis is required - and in the case of embleer, its "swearword" status means that it always carries such emphasis, so always precedes the noun. This also explains why Fiver's O embleer Frith! was so shocking.
d) Note how inflected Lapine uses object pronouns - by the use of mai etc before the inflected verb. Where the person is obvious (as in the third sentence above, or in Bigwig's song - we know it refers to a "them", as u embleer Hrair have already been mentioned), this indicator can be shortened to m'.
e) In formal Lapine, the inflected verb, lay if necessary, begins the sentence, except when an object pronoun takes precedence.
f) Look, it's a particularly stupid pike, all right?
Bonus extra bit!
As a reward for sticking with me this far, here's a common general-purpose greeting - Frithaes! [LISTEN] What? Well, it's a shortening of Frith a mes!, meaning "Frith and you!", rather as "Goodbye" is a contraction of "God be with ye", and with much the same meaning. This can be used for both greeting and farewell, along the lines of "all right!" in some dialects of English. (Incidentally, this is one of the very few common words in Lapine that contains the double vowel ae.) And as you'll hopefully have noticed, it's the title of this very course!
That's all for now, folks. Frithaes until next time!
Copyright © David "Loganberry" Buttery 2002-4. Updated 27/04/04.