¿Como se dice, in a lost Native American language…?

My first book reading was a bit of an eye-opener for me. As I prepared–taping strips of paper with notes into the pages of my book and repeating the seven pages I was to read over and over until my voice was hoarse–World mapI realized that there were a number of words I could not properly pronounce. This tends to happen fairly often, given that I’ve picked up the bulk of my vocabulary from reading. There are hundreds of words that I love, and use frequently in my writing, but am reluctant to utilize in everyday conversation. Why? I’ve no clue what they’re supposed to sound like coming out of my mouth, even if I am confident of the meaning.

Under normal circumstances, I could just turn to a trusty dictionary for pronunciation tips and tricks. All those slashes and hard lines, double dots and apostrophes. It’s downright exciting to an uber-word nerd like myself, and I would happily while away an hour or evening checking each and every word not yet locked and loaded in my verbal arsenal.

Alas, the words that had me stumped; my place names in my fantasy world would not go quietly with a flip of the page or quick Merriam Webster Internet search. You see, I culled these names from Native American words–Cherokee and Zapotec, Ohlone and Nomlaki, Yakama and Niesenan. I deliberately chose languages now or near extinction. Because the idea that a language can die, can disappear from lips and memories, is just too cruel to fathom. Language is as much a living thing as any person–more so, in some ways, because it requires a collective effort and more time to mature. Every feeling, every idea, history, romance, identity, is all bound up in language. So when a language dies, it is not a few musty sounds with hoary beards and mothball sweaters that we are losing, but an entire world, a way of thinking and seeing that can not be replicated elsewhere.

I don’t pretend to be a savior of these languages. I’m not that cocky. Or naive. But I liked the way they sounded in my head, these words, liked thinking about the things they meant, the way they had been used, liked the way they felt in my hand as I lifted them up to the light, hoping that someone else would recognize their value.

And now I’m hoping that someone–a linguist or someone with a fancy for words and language, or just someone who likes to work out puzzles–can help me determine how they’re meant to sound. Or, if that is impossible, how these lovely words might be given a contemporary edge.

I would like to come to some sort of understanding with these words as soon as possible, for the sake of future readings, but also for the words themselves, to give them time to try on and adapt new pronunciations or, better still, remember their former selves and glory in the ideas and mundane tasks they helped facilitate.

So, put on your linguist hat. And give your honest opinion of how these words ought to sound.

Amelige (means “America” in Cherokee). Second largest urban center in É:lhal behind Cansem. Most consider Amelige the cultural and intellectual heart of the country, if not technically the capital city. Archangels Iakobos and Amadeo are sent to Amelige to stop merchants from sending their wares up the Mem to Shilowa Pass. A city of free-thinkers who have been known to paint their houses strange colors and elect officials who wear neither patriotic pins nor ties.

Benda (means “fish” in Zapotec). The first village along the Qinchu trail, nearest Kakë:’ët.

Bizu (means “bee” in Zapotec). An island off É:lhal ‘s southeast coast.

Cansem (means “five” in Nomlaki). Capital city and financial center of É:lhal. Base of the Brotherhood of the Righteous Haddock. Home to hundreds of bizarre marketplaces and quarters, and twice that many rumors and conspiracies. Among the more popular markets are: the men’s fashion quarter, the smoked meat quarter, the smoking quarter, the fishing quarter, the water park quarter, the tanning quarter, the tea quarter, the temple quarter, the shaving quarter, weaving quarter, and the rubber ducky market.

Chúush (means “water” in Yakama). An ocean to the east and south of É:lhal. A source of fish, and escape from hunger and despair.

Cyyj (means “four” in Niesenan). The refuge of the rich who suffered the burden of large estates that would be unduly taxed if they resided within the limits of the capital city. A few dozen gated estates in the hills just beyond the gates of Cansem.

É:lhal (means “dog” in Yakukwé). The country in which all things—good, bad, and in between—occur and in which all people—good, bad, and in between—are born.

Gueye (means “five” in Zapotec). Village at the end of the Qinchu trail.

Gu’pl (means “two” in Tsimshian). The flat terrain at the base of a small mountain range known as the Holy Scrubbing Grounds. Damacias’ followers take pilgrimages to Gu’pl where they are baptized at first light in the condiment of their choosing.  A three-day ride south from Cansem.

Hemetca (means “one” in Ohlone). Kirby Hernshaw’s hometown, a quiet coastal town to the south.

Horenhot (means “sing” in Cayuga). Region to the far east, famous for its sacred pools. Beyond it lies a seemingly endless desert and, beyond that, who knows?

Hvshi (means “sun” in Seminole). A large patch of desert and salt flats occupied by a nomadic people who live in yurts they move every few days. Miles’ home.

Ilik’ (means “water” in Chukchansi). The largest lake in É:lhal, located between Amelige and the Qinchu trail. It has several dozens islands, the largest of which is Mítaat (“three” in Yakama).

Kakë:’ët (means “white” in Seneca). Second largest forest in É:lhal, unless you count the ghost forest of Raterennotha’ which obviously doesn’t count because it’s a ghost forest. Kakë:’ët is the source of the Barculo family’s incredible wealth, and the reason the Qinchu trail is known as a sad, haunted place.

Luptsinna (means “yellow” in Zuni). Village at the base of Trundlewood Academy in Shilowa Pass. It is densely populated with barbecue pits, though a small and well-respected lettuce pickers’ union also calls the village home.

Mem (means “water” in Nomlaki). Largest river in É:lhal, flowing from Shilowa Pass to Amelige with several towns along the way.

Nonpa (means “two” in Dakota Sioux). A fishing village in the north where the prophet Damacias was born and raised. It was in Nonpa that Damacias secured his first band of followers.

Ojisa (means “four” in Miwok). A branch of the mem that flows near Amelige.

Parwes (means “five” in Ohlone). Colony of beekeepers just west of the Horenhost sacred pools. Source of luxury ink for Trundlewood Academy and site of the Archangels Dulce and Kalum’s attempted invasion to prevent the colony from shipping ink to the academy.  It was in Parwes that he pagan warrior queen Adelais made her final stand against an invading army that outnumbered her own four to one, and a beeswax effigy in the colony center honored her sacrifice.

Pichca (means “five” in Quechua). Fishing town in the southwest corner of É:lhal.

Pínapt (means “four” in Yakama). A village along the Qinchu trail, between Benda and Gueye.

Qinchu (means “hummingbird” in Quechua). The trail from the edge of the Kakë:’ët forest through the villages of Benda, Pínapt, and Gueye to Cansem, the capital city. Because none of the villages were willing to shoulder the burden of the cost, the government built the trail as a nonsensical, loopy affair that forced travelers to tramp in giant circles. Most mapmakers refuse to include the Qinchu trail in their work because they’re worried it will be interpreted as an error and make them look sloppy.

Raterennotha’ (means “sing” in Mohawk). A forest that disappeared one night and no one has a clue how or why. A ghost forest.

Soopin (means “three” in Chukchansi). A coastal village south of Talhlhá’pi.

Sëksu (means “black” in Lenape). An island off the southwestern coast. A place where bad ideas fester and Damacias assembles a secret weapon he intends to unleash against Trundlewood Academy.

Shilowa (means “red” in Zuni). The name of the mountain range to the far north where Trundlewood Academy is located. Also, the name of the trail that leads from Luptsinna through the mountains to the academy—a very difficult pass to navigate, and the responsibility of a cart driver from Luptsinna who receives a stipend from the Trundlewood Trust for his service. Located at the base of the Mem.

Talhlhá’pi (means “five” in Chickasaw). The largest forest in É:lhal, home to hundreds of species of trees and thousands of animal species. The Gilded Trident is sent to the forest to cut off shipments of parchment to Trundlewood Academy.

Tar (means “moon” in Ohlone). An island off É:lhal ‘s southeast coast.

Yet’a (means “one” in Chukchansi). The region between Hvshi and Kakë:’ët. The least densely populated region in É:lhal and rumored home to a troop of kangaroos.



  1. um well there are Language Families. Maybe you should remember the history of the the tribes. And the language families. Look up Native American Language Families. A map. or yeah. It’s good to visualize. Algonquian and Norse show much similarity, and theyre near that area. There was a Viking COlony too. I don’t know how much it played part! But Algonquian is a huge language family and the Old Norse show through. I wonder how much Inuktitut and Icelandic are similar, given Inunktitut is Kaallikut if I spelled that right, Greeland. Far East, Korea, Manchuria, Japan, Aleutian Islands, and Sakha Republic, Kamchatka, and Chukotka. The Eastern Federation has 10 Turkic Federations. Like Turkistan. Except in the Eastern (Russian) Federation. Uralic, Altaic, Tungustic, and Turkic.. China knows about these peoples. It’s in its history. PS Yup’ik is found in Alaska and Eastern Russia……… Oh and also.. Native Americans are darkest in Mexico – referring to pre-gabanchos and colonists and Americans and yeah.. The Olmec and Mande , of the Mande people of the African landmass.., are the same.. Dr. Clyde Williams talks about it. Also on WIKIPEDIA Olmec origination theories African is right on there…. And the aborigines are known to have come from Africa on a ship.. Denisons is what African-stupid people call them, the MAnde, of the Mande empire which anteceded Egypt. It’s not a fact standing alone.. but Egypt had pyramids and so do the Mayas and Aztecs and idk where the Olmecs are, their pyramids. Hiding under forest or look like hills. I don’t understand where the Mande pyramids are. The Sahara Desert is the sand beneath lakes that have dried up. The Mande Empire and the common tribes would travel across these lakes, to other parts and to the Atlantic Ocean.. I really venerate this empire.

    P.S. my website is sadly my name

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