Gelack Grammar


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.


status cases

masculine, feminine,
common or neuter

first person, second person, and third person in singular, plural, and (mostly archaic) forms covering groupings of mixed status or allegiance


  • no cases for parts of speech such as possession, conveyed by word order and/or prepositions
  • the most wickedly complex plural forms for "we, you and they" are obsolete except in Demoran dialect, but survive in idioms expressing affection or insult, and in "naming words" which are actually compacted phrases in an older dialect
  • gender usage differs in isolated Vrellish and Demish populations, but this is vestigial in court dialect
    • Demish use male and female always; High Demoran even uses different pronouns for 'she' and 'he' based on status and/or accomplishments
    • in Red Reach (and historically) Vrellish use gendered pronouns only when sex is at issue, such as options for child gifting or pairing up. Using gendered pronouns could imply you are making a pass. Common gender is not asexual. It covers "male or female" but excludes neuter. To use a neuter pronoun when referring to a Vrellish man or woman is a vulgar insult.
    • "modern" court usage (c. Courtesan Prince) reflects both Demish and Vrellish influence, with a drive towards simplification in both cases. Vrellish common gender has been adopted for "I" and 'you", dropping the complex "gender" distinctions of High Demoran dialect but the usage has settled on a gender distinguished third person ("he" and "she" in English) in preference to common gender in all but sexual connotations.
    • Use of sexually potent pronouns (in Red Reach dialect) in all contexts by courtiers is one of the reasons behind the Red Reach attitude that court is decadent.
  • rel-to-pol address occurs when superior speaks to/of an inferior, "speaking down"
  • pol-to-rel address occurs when inferior speaks to/of a superior, "speaking up"
  • rel-to-rel (rel-peerage) between sevolites of the same grammar class
  • pol-to-pol (pol-peerage) between commoners or in rare circumstances either spiritual or intimate among sevolites
  • Ameron Lor'Vrel coined the term "peerage of convenience" during his first reign, to cover his use of rel-peerage when discussing business with trusted vassals. By the time of his second reign, "peerage of convenience" is common among courtly Sevolites between friends, or as a special show of condescension and/or intimacy.
  • nursery Gelack is simplified with respect to pronouns, usually based on rel-peerage among family and simple rel-to-pol down-speaking with servants; Vrellish who do not learn adult usage run the risk of being accused by Demish counterparts of the linguistic equivalent of clinging to a security blanket.


component terms

'ta (two step differencing suffix)
'sa (one step differencing suffix)
bree ("you", rel form, 2nd person singular, common gender)
breh("you", pol form, 2nd person singular, common gender)

Horth addressing Erien
bree'ta ("you" speaking up two ranks, e.g. Highlord to Pureblood)

Erien addressing Horth
breh'ta ("you" speaking down two ranks, e.g. Pureblood to Highlord)

'Tatt addressing Erien
bree'sa ("you" speaking up one rank, e.g. Royalblood to Pureblood)

Erien addressing 'Tatt
breh'sa ("you" speaking down one rank, e.g. Pureblood to Royalblood)

Rel-peerage (bree, bree)

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.

Pol-peerage (breh,breh)

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.

Simple rel-pol address (bre, breh)

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".

Purposefully wrong differencing

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.


Grammar and Okal Rel

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.


Usage at the time of Courtesan Prince (191 P.T.)

1. Pureblood (100% )
2. Royal (50% to 99.99%)
3. Highlord (36.80% to 49.99%)
4. Senior lord (aprox. 25% to 36.80%)
5. Midlord (aprox. 18% to 25%)
7. Pettylord (roughly in the 6 to 18% range)
8. Fractional (usu. at least 2 or 3%)
9. Commoner

How sevolite are you?

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".

Challenge class

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/Demish differences

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".

High commoner

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.


Historical Variations

Usage has changed over time. Some highlights follow.

Golden Demish Dialect
Demish usage became baroquely complex during the Golden Age of Dem c. -800 to -600 B.T. (Before Treaty). Birth ranks took on a second dimension expressing how Lorel, Demish or Vrellish the person was. Special emphasis was given to "Golden Demish" blood. Verbs also gained inflections which conveyed allusion to Demish classics. This gave one the power to suggest how a thing was meant but mostly to show off one's virtuosity and confound the more volatile, less verbal Vrellish. Inventing new inflectional usage derived from the latest popular epic poem was a critical business. It had to be obvious enough to people in the know to gain you their admiration, but was only really worth it if it was fresh and appropriate. The Gelack language became one never ending poem during the Golden Age feeding upon literary works which fed back into the evolving language. Golden Demish dialect is very tough going, requiring an encyclopedic memory for starters and the instincts of a poet. Patterns in language are as fascinating to the pure Demish as spatial patterns are to the pure Vrellish. Golden Demish dialect survives in a more or less petrified form on reclusive Demora where the Golden Demish fled c. -600 B.T. to avoid admitting defeat to the H'Usian Demish following the 2nd Civil War (Demish Civil War).
Challenge Class Boundaries
Highlords migrated from nobleborn to highlord to accommodate San Nersal, by decree of her mekan'st and liege the Nesak Ava called K'isk Nesak. There had been Highlords with the highborn traits of a dominant Sevolite phenotype before, and exceptions made on an individual basis. San's raising made it automatic henceforth (regardless of phenotype). Only 36.8% Sevolite herself, her "percentiles" set the bottom limit for a Highlord.
Number of inclusion and exclusion (archaic)
Gelack grammar creates difficulty when more than one person is included in a pronoun. How do you say "they" if you are a Seniorlord referring to a collection of Highlords with one Midlord in the crowd?
Golden Demish solutions were simplified by the Nesak Avas to a system of numerical suffixes used with "xek" for exclusion and "xik" for inclusion.
 1 ... 's  4 ... 'f  7 ... 'p
 2 ... 't  5 ... 'v  8 ... 'l
 3 ... 'w  6 ... 'k  9 ... 'n
     10 ... 'd
ther'sa'xek'w would translate as "They (rel form) all one superior to me excluding three." Deciding whether to include some or exclude some was part of the art. (Proving that Nesaks do, indeed, have Demish blood.) Long winded sticklers for accuracy would go on to add another term to cover the three being excluded.
Modern Nesaks retain vestiges of the full blown system. Modern court usage has dropped it in favor of "inclusion of convenience" or carefully picking your groups. (Archaic usage can still be invoked to make a point. In Throne Price, Ameron honors Ranar by including him in a collective pronoun which embraces his sevolite supporters.)


Other Notes

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)

Naming Nouns

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

Bound Nouns

A "bound noun" is one in which a verb is viewed as captured in the noun by the addition of suffixes.
verb lyko (to love in a light fashion, as an amusement)
bound nouns
lyka (inferior, usually commoner, lover of a sevolite)
lyka'st (superior, sevolite lover, usually of kept person or courtesan)
lyka'stan (plural including both lyka and lyka'st)

Miscellaneous Notes

Binding words to each other (to convey part of speech) is accomplished in "soft" dialects through elision etc., but court speech relies on how "close" the two words are. Result can produce a staccato cadence. Rel/pol case helps sort it out too. Consider "She killed him with his sword", where "she" is a highlord, he is a mid lord, and a senior lord is talking "she" is "fer_su" (rel up one)"; "he" is "sem_su" (pol down one); and "his sword" is "swa_sem_su" probably in this case, the second "su" would be dropped since "how far down" has been established with the stand¨alone pronoun. The Vrellish would probably drop it. A pedantic Demish might retain it to annoy a Vrellish person who could not keep up without verbally tripping. The sounds swa_sem_su would be said very fast to give the effect of a single word, so that the sem_su does not mistakenly get taken for a free standing pronoun.
One of the reasons the Monatese use English for their historical records is to avoid the complexities of Gelack. The practice began as a protest against the evolution of status grammar, as some members of the founding House of Monitum were 'commoner'.


Page last updated: 17-Sep-2003
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