Gelack inflects pronouns to convey relative status of the speaker to the person(s) addressed. Usage also varies between houses with respect to gender forms.
first person, second person, and third person in singular, plural, and (mostly archaic) forms covering groupings of mixed status or allegiance
Horth addressing Erien
Erien addressing Horth
'Tatt addressing Erien
Erien addressing 'Tatt
Informally, brothers raised together like Ditatt and Erien or Ditatt and Branstatt, tend to use rel-peerage. That is they would both use render "you" as "bree". This eliminates all differencing and the rel/pol case distinction. Peerage of convenience was introduced by Ameron in meetings with highborns as a means of simplifying conversation and fostering "family" feeling among supporters. Amel has a tendency to use it too freely, feeling awkward about speaking down to people who feel more like social superiors than inferiors to him. Rel-peerage address effectively raises the lesser sevolite to the status of the greater.
Commoners addressing each other as equals use pol-peerage. This is how Amel learned to speak with commoners while growing up. "You" in pol-peerage is breh, not bree. Normally only commoners would use pol-peerage.
One step less informal than rel-peerage, but friendlier than formal address, is to drop all the suffixes but still to the "up and down" distinction implied by use of the rel and pol cases. It is also handy in situations where there is uncertainty about the relative rank of the other party as a sort of "opening bid" on the status deduction game. Simple rel-pol address retains only the rel/pol case aspect of status grammar ignoring the differencing suffixes. It is acknowledges "up and down" in other words, but not "by how much".
Speaking up farther than formally required is a way of honoring someone. Used frivolously it is mere flattery and excessive use is considered ridiculous. But it can also be a meaningful gesture or treasured proof of regard.
Speaking down farther than one ought to is an insult. A social inferior grammar-bargaining too freely for the honor of conversing with a superior in rel-peerage or even rel-pol address might be slapped down by getting dropped, instead of elevated, a notch, since it is generally polite for the higher sevolite to lead in such matters. Or someone's bad behavior may provoke you to "down speak" them in disgust.
NOTE: whether insulting or elevating someone, the actual words used can be identical. One must know one's status compared to the speaker, before it is possible to figure that out. For Horth Nersal to address Perry D'Aur as "breh-sa" promotes her a birth rank. If he said it to a misbehaving fellow Highlord, it would be a pointed insult.
Rel/pol consciousness bears a stronger resemblance to the oriental concept of ying/yang than a simple good/bad or weak/strong translation. Pol usually labels traits associated with being less resilient to reality skimming. It can also, however, adhere to the finer arts and the higher spiritual being. Survival of the fittest is rel. Self-sacrifice in the cause of the family is rel. Self-sacrifice in the cause of the greater good is pol in a mystic sense. The transition in attitude Horth makes toward Amel, in Far Arena, is one of interpreting pol as "defeated/weak" to one of interpreting it as something belonging to the realm of zer, or priest souls.
Court Gelacks are "Protestant" in their interpretation of Okal Rel. Nesaks are "catholic". Rel/pol is a fundamental aspect of Okal Rel.
Percentages refer to sevolite DNA in the individual's genotype. Genotyping is "off the shelf" technology bought from the Luverthanians who work directly only with House Monitum. So the technology is available, but only through channel, and access is controlled at the top. Actually performing a genotyping is a skilled profession. It can be performed by gorarelpul, Silver Star Medics, most educated Monatese and a sprinkling of self-educated Sevolites. Most highborn Demish can read a gene map, and even the Vrellish might give it a go although they usually turn to Monitum for advice in such matters.
The courtly preoccupation with genotyping is expressed, in the abstract, through house braid, which is a symbolic way of wearing your genetics.
Sevolites discussing how sevolite someone is talk about his or her "percentiles".
Birth ranks are grouped into three challenge classes: Highborn, Nobleborn and Petty Sevolite.
It is honorable to fight within one's own challenge class. In formal situations, such as a title challenge or contract dispute, it is expected.
Where champions are used, it is the challenge class of the person being championed which matters, since the champion is acting on his or her behalf. But a nobleborn champion fighting a highborn principle would be a serious disadvantage if their skills very anywhere near close because of the gifts the highborn phenotype bestow.
A liege may assume a challenge on behalf of his or her vassal of a lower challenge class, but this invites defense from the opponent's liege or l'liege in the same challenge class. This happens most often between Demish and Vrellish houses. If Prince H'Us (Highborn) decided to fight the challenge of a nobleborn vassal being intimidated by a Vrellish nobleborn of Spiral Hall, for example, he would thus empower Vretla Vrel (also Highborn) to assume the challenge on the Vrellish side. Which would discourage him from doing so.
Challenge protocol prevails where there are agreed upon stakes and witnesses to enforce the outcome with peer pressure. A lot of blood is spilled in informal clashes, particularly among the restless young vying for a place in the social pecking order.
Vrellish habitually use common-gender pronouns (in Red Reach) and titles to refer to both genders, whereas Demish use masculine and feminine pronouns and titles. With reference to titles, a Vrellish Royalblood would never be called "Princess", just "Royalblood" or "Highness". In the nobleborn challenge class, Demish females are all "Lady" and male title holders "Lord". A Vrellish title holder is "Liege", or maybe "Admiral", regardless of gender. No spouse title is applicable because the Vrellish don't marry.
Ditatt Monitum is sometime referred to as "Prince" because the Monatese have, historically, been influenced by Lorel and Demish usage. It is less likely, however, that a female Monatese Royalblood would use "Princess".
Local custom often generates its own set of grammar classes in which high status commoners in a village or workplace may be given honorary Fractional sevolite status. This might be referred to as a class of its own, called "High commoner". It is really a particular usage of grammatically expressed respect or flattery.
Animals and inanimate objects are not normally referred to with differenced pronouns and therefore have no need of an explicit status. Animals are addressed with pol pronouns by most Gelack subcultures, with a few exceptions. I.e. Cats acquired a special cachet for their close husbanding by House Lorel and the Monatese "worship" the horse as a sporting animal.
Usage has changed over time. Some highlights follow.
|1 ... 's||4 ... 'f||7 ... 'p|
|2 ... 't||5 ... 'v||8 ... 'l|
|3 ... 'w||6 ... 'k||9 ... 'n|
|10 ... 'd|
Subjective, accusative, generative, locative etc. are expressed by context, word position and the use of prepositions. Gelack has a tendency, however, to create new nouns and verbs by jamming phrases together. (There is a tendency to retain the second consonant sound rather than the first, in such contractions, separating the most recently "squished" words with an apostrophe)
brerelo ... this is derived from a phrase meaning "you who are my peer in the 'good' fight"
mekan'st'ma ... "my mekan'st", politely eliding any possible status differences
Page last updated: 17-Sep-2003