Syldavian is a fictional West Germanic language created by Hergé as the national language of Syldavia, a small fictional Balkan kingdom that serves as a major setting in some The Adventures of Tintin stories. Hergé modeled the language on Marols, a dialect of Dutch spoken in and around Brussels. The entire corpus of the language has been analyzed by Mark Rosenfelder.
As presented in the Tintin books, Syldavian resembles a Slavic language due to its orthography. It is most commonly written in the Cyrillic alphabet, albeit with the Latin alphabet by the royal court. It shares numerous orthographic features found in various Eastern European languages, most notably the "sz" and "cz" of Polish. However, the language is clearly a Germanic language. Its vocabulary and grammar resembles that of Dutch and German and has little in common with any Slavic languages. The language also appears to have been influenced by Bordurian, Slavic languages and Turkish. The Syldavians often bear names of Slavic origin, such as Wladimir; the dish szlaszeck that Tintin encountered also appears to be a borrowing (szaszłyk is the Polish word for "shish kebab", borrowed in turn from Turkish). Many words are based on common French slangs. For examples, "clebcz" is constructed on the French parisian slang "clebs" meaning "dog".
This language, which is Germanic but bears a great resemblance to Polish may be likened to the artificial Romance language Wenedyk, or to the endangered Vilamovian language.
Notably, there is no indication anywhere in the books that the language is Germanic outside of examining the corpus, and the casual reader is led to assume Syldavia is a Slavic country. This is so even though it wouldn't be difficult to explain Syldavia as a Germanic country, such as being established by Transylvanian Saxons or descendants of the Goths, with Romania being a real-world Romance equivalent.
Syldavian boasts a wide range of soundda
In addition to the diacritical marks shown in the chart below, there are acute and grave accents that may indicate stress. The vowel inventory is quite typical for a Germanic language.
|Near-close||/ɪ/, y||/ʊ/, û|
|Open-mid||[æ~ɛ], ä||/ɔ/, ô|
In addition to these letter, Syldavian also comprises several digraphs and letters for which the pronunciation is uncertain:
- â - uncertain
- ï - uncertain. Likely a diaeresis indicating to pronounce as syllabic /i/ rather than /j/.
- oe - /ø/
- ou - /ou/
- eu - uncertain: perhaps the vowel /œ/ or /ø/, perhaps a diphthong /eu/ or /ɛu/. It is only seen in one word: teuïh ("door").
- ei - /ei/
|Nasal||/m/, m||/n/, n|
|Approximant||/l/, l||/j/, j|
Note: As in Czech, the letter r can be syllabic, as seen in names such as Staszrvitch and Dbrnouk.
There are some additional digraphs and trigraphs, including tch (used in names and pronounced with /t͡ʃ/), chz (uncertain, but may be an alternative form of cz /t͡ʃ/), and th /t/. These demonstrate either that the Latin-based orthography has a number of irregularities; another possibility is that alternate or archaic spellings commonly occur in surnames even if they do not in the standard language, as in Hungarian.
- Native words are pluralized with -en: klebczen - "dogs"; fläszen - "bottles"
- Loanwords are pluralized with -es: zigarettes - "cigarettes"
- Singular: on - "a"
- Plural: onegh - "some"
Note: "yhzer" may be an inflected form, with the base form being "yhz". The second person plural forms are unknown, and the sound correspondences with Dutch and German are irregular enough to make reconstructing them impossible, although one possibility would be "jei", "jou", "öhz".
czei - this
tot - that
Most adverbs tend to be identical to adjectives in form.
szplug - a curse word, perhaps equivalent to "damn". (Not found in original French edition, only English translation.) szplitz on szplug- a more extreme form of szplug
Samples of Syldavian from only two periods - the 14th century and the 20th century - are available to us. But even with such a small sample, some changes can be seen in the language over a 600 year period:
- pho became vüh ("for")
From a 14th century manuscript, Noble Deeds of Ottokar IV:
- Pir Ottokar, dûs pollsz ez könikstz, dan tronn eszt pho mâ. Czeillâ czäídâ ön eltcâr alpû, kzommetz pakkeho lapzâda. Könikstz itd o alpû klöppz Staszrvitchz erom szûbel ö. Dâzsbíck fällta öpp o cârrö.
- "Father Ottokar, thou falsely art king; the throne is for me." This one said thus to the other, "Come seize the sceptre." The king thus hit him, Staszrvitch, on his head. The villain fell onto the floor."
Czesztot on klebcz. - "That's a dog."
"Hamaïh!" - "Wow!"
Kzommet micz omhz, noh dascz gendarmaskaïa. - "Come with us to the Police Station." ("politzski" in the English translation.)
On fläsz Klowaswa vüh dzapeih... Eih döszt! - "A bottle of Klow water for this guy... He's thirsty!" (cf. Swedish törst, "thirst". Note: It's unclear why it isn't something like *eih dösztigh, which is what one might expect from the other Germanic languages.)
Czesztot wzryzkar nietz on waghabontz! Czesztot bätczer yhzer kzömmetz noh dascz gendarmaskaïa? - "That's surely not a tramp! Isn't it better for him to come to the police station?" (Lit. probably "Is it better [that] he comes to the police station?")
Rapp! Noh dzem buthsz!-"Quick! Into the boat!"
Muskar - Muskh (Brave) and Kar (King), given name of Hveghi.
- "On the Syldavian language" by Mark Rosenfelder