Linguistic Tricks, a story for the Giraffe Call

This is a sibling piece with N is for Nereid, O is for Octopi, and P is for Poinsettias, and follows after R is for Rituals.

It is set in the Things Unspoken ‘verse, and was written to [personal profile] chanter_greenie‘s prompt here to the current Giraffe Call.

Eliška Konvalinka had been in Scheffenon for less than a month, and already she found herself learning a new language.

One of the key skills looked for in potential Informers – next to a keen eye for detail and a flawless memory – was a good ear for languages and dialects. Eliška’s primary linguistic family was the West Torvaldic, of which Cornesc, the language spoken in Scheffenon, was a key example. That was one of the reasons the Informers had placed her here. In three days, she was speaking Cornesc, if not like a native, then like a long-time visitor.

And it was once that she had Cornesc firmly settled in her mind and on her tongue that Eliška began to hear another language.

A large portion of the Informers’ job was to mingle, to shop and to listen. Informers did not have servants run errands for them, although sometimes they dressed in the garb of the Informers’ Embassy to run those errands. Informers listened, and they learned.

And what Eliška was listening to was a small but notable minority of Scheffenon who were speaking in an utterly different language. Not a different dialect – this language was not even of the same family as Cornesc. The r’s were rolled in a way that only the far-Western languages did, and the s’s were soft and susserated, the consonants languid.

It took Eliška a week to place the speakers – not all of the speakers, but the ones who spoke it the most languidly, with the smoothest trilled r’s. The men wore elaborate head-scarves, while the women went bare-headed, their hair parted three times. The women wore small sheathed knives on necklaces; the man wore very loose pants. And they all averted their eyes from the mermaid fountains and octopus murals that were splashed all over Scheffenon.

Eliška was fascinated. She made notes in her logs; she added a paragraph to the teaching poem of Scheffenon. And she began to listen in earnest to this new language, so strange in the harsh-consonants lands of the West Torvaldic linguistic family.

If you want more, Eliška’s story has plenty more coming! Drop a tip in the tip pack below.

Giraffe Call rates apply: $1/100 words.

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