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Unit 07: Questions; Plant (and Rabbit!) Names

And have they fixed the where and when?
And shall Trelawny die?
Here's twenty thousand Cornish men
Will know the reason why!
(RS Hawker, The Song of the Western Men)

We've already seen the most simple way to ask questions in Lapine: merely by changing the tone of one's voice:

Sayn lay narn, marli! - Groundsel's nice, mother!
Sayn lay narn, marli? - Is groundsel nice, mother?

However, this only allows us to ask certain types of question (at least, without a good deal of roundabout phrasing), so we need to learn the Lapine for the most common basic question words: "where?", "why?" and so on. Here they are:

bleth? - what?
pli? - who?
yao? - where?
hloth? - why?
ureth? - which?
lung? - how?
lungeth? - how many?
blair? - when?

a) British readers are allowed one "humorous" remark at blair - then you can stop sniggering, all right?

Let's move straight on to some examples - all the vocab here has been mentioned either in previous units or in Watership Down itself:

[LISTEN] Blair laynt Hrairoo hay u yona? - When did Fiver see the hedgehog?
[LISTEN] Hloth lay u Rah asith u marlil? - Why is the Chief with the does? (hey, I said no sniggering!)
[LISTEN] Ureth nayltil lay éan-nyt? - Which (of the) rabbits are very old?
[LISTEN] Pli laynt meth "i lay embli"!? - Who said "you stink"!?
[LISTEN] Lungeth roolil lay hraray? - How many kittens are fast?

No need for any explanatory notes here, I think - it all looks pretty obvious to me. (As ever, tell me on the watershipdown Yahoo Group if you disagree.) That means that we can go on to something really important: plant names. As I'm sure you're heartily sick of being told by now, sayn is groundsel. Two very common and useful words to learn are preen, "tree" (careful not to pronounce it in the English way!) and efath, "plant" (in general).

Onto the names themselves then - you might just be able to work out my main criterion for selection! In general, bucks are named after plants and does are given more poetic or descriptive names, and although there are exceptions to this rule (Fiver and Clover, for example) it's fairly reliable. Given the importance of most of these words to all of us, I'm conscious of a considerable responsibility in getting this bit right, so please let me know if I've done something stupid here. I've decided to make the list rather longer than it might have been, for reasons which will become apparent:

threar - rowan
thrennion - rowan berry
flayfath - grass (lit. "food-plant")
kothen - hazel
kothennion - hazelnut
dahloi - dandelion
brek - bramble
brekennion - blackberry
tardrayn - buckthorn
mayth - oak
maythennion - acorn
hehlant - speedwell
duhreth - hawkbit
syrién - strawberry (plant)
syriénnion - strawberry (fruit)
kranahl - cowslip
hleengar - holly
pathun - bluebell
preenahlarny - laburnum

a) To get the word for the fruit, nut etc of a plant, add the ending (e)(n)nion. The double N is a bit of an oddity for a (more or less) phonemic language, but Adams introduced it, and I can hardly contradict the Great Man!
b) The word for "rowan berry", thrennion, is slightly irregular - this is just one you have to learn. Plurals are formed as per usual, so that "cowslips" is kranahlil and "acorns" is maythennionil. The buck Strawberry is named after the fruit, so that he is saddled with one of the longest names in Lapine, the five-syllable Syriénnion - something of a reminder of his decadent origins, perhaps. (But see note e below!)
c) We are told in WD itself that "laburnum" translates as "poison-tree". We can see this if we break down Preenahlarny into its constituent parts: preen-nahl-narn-nyt, literally "tree-not-nice-very" (nahlarny is indeed Lapine for "poison").
d) We are, of course, still missing one name from the original party, "Silver". His Lapine name is Thlaynlé, literally "fur-moon".
e) What, me? Nice of you to ask. As it so happens, I share with Strawberry the distinction (if such it can be called) of a five-syallable Lapine name: Loganberry translates as Brekytennion, which literally means "fruit of the nearly-bramble". My decadence or otherwise is probably not for me to comment on!

Here are the second lot of example sentences for this unit - new words are thayrte, "river" and ven, "in(side)" - note that the opposites silf and ven are not a "matched pair" (see Unit 06):

[LISTEN] Dahloi lay zayn meth mon methrah syriénnionil nos-nyt! - Dandelion's going to tell us a story about giant strawberries!
[LISTEN] Laynt Preenahlarny naylte vao aisi nao? - Was Laburnum a good or bad rabbit?
[LISTEN] Blair Kothen-rah ao hrair me laynt hla u thayrte? - When did Hazel-rah and his crowd (lit. "the thousand of him") swim the river?
[LISTEN] Hloth lay nahl Tardrayn a Pathun ven u Owsla? - Why aren't Buckthorn and Bluebell in the Owsla?

a) The fourth sentence is something of a "lesson by stealth" - if you read carefully, you'll see that you now know how to form possessive adjectives (eg "my") - there'll be a proper section on this later on, but suffice it to say that the noun followed by the relevant object pronoun generally does the trick.
b) "His crowd" is an approximate translation; you might equally say "his lot" or similar. It's a slightly informal usage, even by colloquial Lapine standards, but very useful.

And finally, a question that you ask entirely at your own risk! I can accept no responsibility for ripped ears, random maimings (what? See efrafa.org) etc resulting from this part of the unit:

[LISTEN] Yao lay hrair, Kranahl? - Where is everybody, Cowslip?

Phew! This unit's been quite a slog in places, hasn't it? You deserve a rest now. Until next time, then, it's Frithaes from me. (And it's Frithaes from him... this joke makes no sense whatsoever unless you know the BBC TV series "The Two Ronnies".)

Copyright © David "Loganberry" Buttery 2002-4. Updated 26/03/04.