Language of Narnia

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Language of Narnia

Postby Dernhelm_of_Rohan » Jul 08, 2012 8:49 pm

When Aslan created Narnia, the first language spoken was obviously English. The King and Queen spoke it and so did Strawberry/Fledge, Aslan and all the the Animals. But over the course of several hundred years, shouldn't new languages have evolved, particularly among countries who did not respect Aslan? I only know a little about etymology, but even assuming that it takes five hundred years for a sub-language to originate, there should have been ample time.

What do you think? Should and could a new language have been spoken in the Narnia world?
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Menelve » Jul 08, 2012 10:15 pm

Well, the most obvious evolution of language would be the Calormen language. Even though a language difference is not directly intimated in the books, the huge difference in the names should be a good indication of a separate language.

There is also the question of where the influence of Jadis's language from Charn went. MN specifically states the language beneath the bell in the hall of images is not English even though Digory can magically read it. It would be logical that Jadis had passed along her language to others in the world of Narnia.

Another question. In MN Aslan's song is described as having no words, yet he is creating Narnia probably through the use of the Deep Magic which would therefore require an incantation. Thus, shouldn't the Deep Magic/Deeper Magic be a different language from English and the "native" language of Aslan and the Emperor Over The Sea?

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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Narnian_Archer » Jul 09, 2012 8:13 am

While it is true that languages do evolve over a period of several hundred years, they still do remain recognizable. Take Elizabethan English and compare it to modern British English - it has evolved, but we still can understand literature from that time. I think it's logical to assume that Narnian English would have remained recognizable to the English children who returned to it. And remember, the Pevensies ruled Narnia during the Golden Age, so whatever Narnian English has become at that point, they easily could have "updated" it to an English closely resembling the English they spoke and the Narnians could easily have retained that while in hiding as the Telmorines ruled the land. (And, also, we don't know where the Telmorines were from. They easily could have been English pirates as well as any others, and so could also be English speakers)

I think it's going a bit far in classifying Aslan's song as an incantation. It's something mysterious, something we cannot understand, and is something I don't think worth dissecting as a language or form of language. It was obviously something other-worldly, something we as humans could not understand. I don't think it was a concrete language, but more an audible and almost tangible power, so great that the witch could not stand it. It was light in its audible form. I can't really explain it...it's something out-of-this-world, something words cannot describe. It's Aslan!!!!! Of course, it's all parallel to the Creation, which is another reason I dislike calling it an incantation. The Deep Magic is a way of explaining the power of God and His Laws - a representation of them, if you will. So I think I'd go with the fact that the song was not actually words, but, as I mentioned before, audible power, light in its audible form.
That's how I'd explain it. :)
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby wild rose » Jul 09, 2012 8:55 am

Honestly, I never really thought of different languages for the different lands, because in the books no matter where they are, they always understand each other. When Edmund and Susan are speaking to Shasta (Cor) whom they have mistaken for Corin, they aren't speaking to him in a language of the Calormen, and he understands them perfectly, taking into consideration that Shasta (Cor) spent his whole little fishing village, where if the Calormen had had a language, it would be the only thing he had heard, and he shouldn't havek known anything else. I really don't think there were language barriers in Narnia and the adjoining lands. I do agree that there is a large name difference between the Narnians and the Calormens and even perhaps the Archenlanders, but that doesn't exactly have to mean there were completely different languages. The same is true in English, there are different types of English, British English, American English, Australian English and so on, all the same language, yet at the same time different, with different pronouncian and rules and perhaps even a difference in some words. It could be the same with Narnia. Also when the Pevensie children came to Narnia, they didn't have any trouble understanding anybody, so obviously the language hadn't changed that much, or else they would have had difficulty understanding the creatures. Perhaps there were changes and differences, but they obviously werent great enough to give the Pevensie's any difficutly :)
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Narnian_Badger » Jul 09, 2012 6:44 pm

I think something worth noting is that Narnia never had a "Tower of Babel", as it were. Language, as I understand it, doesn't typically morph into something entirely new on its own--and when it does, it'd most likely be an "Artificial language", i.e., one that was deliberately created. As such, Narnia's language is likely similar to British/American/Australian English. Possibly even as close as regional accents, like the American Southern accent as opposed to the Northern accent.
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 09, 2012 7:36 pm

Menelve wrote:There is also the question of where the influence of Jadis's language from Charn went. MN specifically states the language beneath the bell in the hall of images is not English even though Digory can magically read it. It would be logical that Jadis had passed along her language to others in the world of Narnia.


I don't think she passed on her original language much - or if she did, it would be only to her own evil minions. I don't think she communicated much with the ordinary Narnians, and she could talk to them in English anyway.

In MN Aslan's song is described as having no words, yet he is creating Narnia probably through the use of the Deep Magic which would therefore require an incantation.


I disagree - I believe that he could use pure music (in some kind of humming), and that no incantation was needed. The Deep Magic was something more profound than spells and incantation - it had to with the Emperor's power.
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Narnian_Badger » Jul 09, 2012 7:45 pm

Varnafinde wrote:I disagree - I believe that he could use pure music (in some kind of humming), and that no incantation was needed. The Deep Magic was something more profound than spells and incantation - it had to with the Emperor's power.

I always thought it'd be a bit like Romans 8:26: "In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words" (NASB). Aslan's song was "too deep for words"--it went beyond the barrier of human language, and on to something higher, transcendental, powerful.
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Ithilwen » Jul 11, 2012 9:15 pm

I think the reason why the languages didn't branch off is simply because there was no need for it story-wise. In fact, it might have bogged the story down a bit. Things such as translators might have been needed, they might not have been able to understand the people they met on the different islands on VDT. It's just easier to have them all speak one language.

Lewis was not like Tolkien, who was an avid linguist and seemed more focused on inventing a new language than the story itself. Lewis just wanted to create a simple, yet beautiful story. There wasn't any need for complexities. :)


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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 12, 2012 8:57 am

Ithilwen wrote:I think the reason why the languages didn't branch off is simply because there was no need for it story-wise.


It's often a convention in fairy-tales and children's stories that languages is not an issue. Everyone understands everyone else, and no questions are asked. This is probably the external reason for the lack of language discussions.

It's great fun, though, to speculate about what must have been the "real" language situation in Narnia, and what it would imply. Perhaps the humans in MN only magically understood the Narnian language for a couple of days, and that Frank and Helen would have to learn it for real over the next weeks?

They might still try to teach the Narnians English to establish that as the Court language ...
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Movie Aristotle » Jul 14, 2012 11:31 am

Magic. I think that's the best way to account for the preservation of the language in Narnia.

Frank and Helen spoke English, and so that accounts for why Aslan chose to let the talking beasts speak English. Charn was another world of magic and it is probable that Jadis was familiar with some sort of translation spell which allowed her to instantaneously learn English before she left Charn. Thus English was firmly established as the official language of Narnia.

Why didn't Narnian English change through the centuries? I'm not sure. I like Narnian Badger's explanation the best. With the exception of Charnian, which was likely a forbidden language and only used in evil incantations, and the theoretical language of The Emperor over the Sea, which was not likely taught nor spoken in Narnia, there was no other language to rival English.

Narnia strikes me as a rather conservative place and thus more resistant to changes. Other than that I can't really account for it other than magic.

One clue though: Narnia doesn't even last three millennia. While in real life that is more than enough time for a language to evolve, it is noteworthy that it is much shorter than Earth has been around. -Less time for the language to change.

There does seem to be some minor differences in dialect between countries though.
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Varnafinde » Jul 14, 2012 2:59 pm

Movie Aristotle wrote:Frank and Helen spoke English, and so that accounts for why Aslan chose to let the talking beasts speak English. [...] Thus English was firmly established as the official language of Narnia.


I suppose that's even more likely than for there to have been a separate language that the English-speaking guests would have to magically learn. So we're left with the question of why there were not a lot of other languages in that world.

Movie Aristotle wrote:One clue though: Narnia doesn't even last three millennia. While in real life that is more than enough time for a language to evolve, it is noteworthy that is much shorter than Earth has been around. -Less time for the language to change.

There does seem to be some minor differences in dialect between countries though.


A realistic comparison would be between modern Greek and Classical Greek, then. That should be about the right time frame. But I don't know how far it's possible for modern Greeks to understand the Classical Greek without having to learn it.

When I read Old Norse, which is only one thousand years old, there are single words that I can understand from modern Norwegian, but for most of it I need to read the translation. The Scandinavian languages, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish, all have their roots in Old Norse, but they are to a large degree mutually understandable. We also have Icelandic, which is not immediately understandable for Scandinavian speakers.

There would be time for some new languages to evolve, but the more conservative the inhabitants are, the less the language will change.
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Re: Language of Narnia

Postby Lilygloves » Sep 03, 2012 4:22 pm

I can't really imagine a purpose for a different language. There was no actual "Tower of Babel" event and it could be considered that without that event, there would be much less languages in the world. It kind of seemed as if most of the Narnians wouldn't care enough to make another language, especially because Lewis had such bad experiences in school and that attitude is reflected in the books. They appreciate knowledge, but not pointless work.
If anything, the Telmarines might have had a different language from when they were pirates, since we don't really know their race. Even then, they probably would have had to adapt in some way to Narnian culture and their language might have died out.
The Calormens might have developed a language and I think would be the most likely to have a different language besides the Telmarines. It just didn't contribute anything to the story.
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