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Gorean Language
Gorean Alphabet
Gorean Words

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Gorean Language

"Gorean speech is no less complex than that of any of the great natural language communities of the Earth nor are its speakers any the less diverse. It is, incidentally, a beautiful language; it can be as subtle as Greek; as direct as Latin; as expressive as Russian; as rich as English; as forceful as German. To the Goreans it is always, simply, The Language, as though there were no others, and those who do not speak it are regarded immediately as barbarians. This sweet, fierce, liquid speech is the common bond that tends to hold together the Gorean world. It is the common property of the Administrator of Ar, a herdsman beside the Vosk, a peasant from Tor, a scribe from Thentis a metalworker from Tharna, a physician from Cos, a pirate from Port Kar, a warrior from Ko-ro-ba."
"Priest-Kings of Gor" page 52

"There are several barbarian languages spoken on Gor, usually in more remote areas. Also, some of the dialects of Gorean itself are almost unintelligible. On the other hand, Gorean, in its varieties, serves as the lingua franca of civilized Gor. There are few Goreans who cannot speak it, though with some it is almost a second language. Gorean tends to be rendered more uniform through the minglings and transactions of the great fairs. Too, at certain of these fairs, the caste of scribes, accepted as the arbiters of such matters, stipulate that certain pronounciations and grammatical, formations, and such are to be preferred over others. The Fairs, in their diverse ways, tend to standardize the language, which might otherwise disintegrate into regional variations which, over centuries, might become mutually unintelligible linguistic modalities, in effect and practice, unfortunately, separate languages. The Fairs, and, I think, the will of Priest-Kings, prevents this."
"Beasts of Gor" page 154

"There are, of course, many languages spoken on Gor, but that language I have called Gorean, in its various dialects, is the lingua franca of the planet. It is spoken most everywhere, except in remote areas. One of these remote areas, of course, is the equatorial interior.
"Explorers of Gor" page 100

"The fairs do much to unite intellectually the otherwise so isolated cities of Gor. And I speculate that the fairs likewise do their bit toward stabilizing the dialects of Gor, which might otherwise in a few generations have diverged to the point of being mutually unintelligible - for the Goreans do have this in common, their mother tongue in all its hundred permutations, which they simply refer to as the Language, and all who fail to speak it, regardless of their pedigree or background, of their standards or level of civilization, are regarded as almost beyond the pale of humanity. Unlike the men of Earth, the Gorean had little sensitivity to race, but much to language and city."
"Outlaw of Gor" page 47/8

"Occasionally, however, an English word in Gorean, like 'axe' or 'ship', would delight me. Certain other expressions seemed clearly to be of Greek or German origin. If I had been a skilled linguist, I undoubtedly would have discovered hundred of parallels and affinities, grammatical and otherwise, between Gorean and several of the Earth languages. Earth origin, incidentally, was not a part of the First Knowledge, though it was of the second."
"Tarnsman of Gor" page 45

"Gorean is written, as it is said, as the ox plows. The first line is written left to right, the second, right to left, the third, left to right again, and so on."
"Players of Gor" page 243

"Kamchak had never been able to pronounce her name, which he regarded as of barbarian length and complexity. "E-liz-a-beth -card-vella" he would try to say, adding the "a" sound because it is a common ending of feminine names on Gor. He could never, like most native speakers of Gorean, properly handle the "w" sound, for it is extremely rare in Gorean, existing only in certain unusual words of obviously barbarian origin. The "w" sound, incidentally, is a complex one, and, like many such sounds, is best learned only during the brief years of childhood when a child's linguistic flexibility is at a maximum (..."
"Nomads of Gor" page 173/4

""I will give you a name," I said.
She looked at me.
"Alyena," I told her. The 'l' sound in this name is rolled, one of two common "l" sounds in Gorean. An English transliteration, though not a perfect one, would be rather along the lines of 'Ahl-yieh-ain-nah,' where the 'ain' is pronounced such that it would rhyme with the English expression 'rain.' The accent falls on the first and third syllable. It is a melodic name."
"Tribesmen of Gor" page 54

"Thank you, Master," she breathed. elated.
'Feiqa,' is a lovely name. It is not unknown among dancers in the Tahari. Other such names as 'Aytul', 'Benek', 'Emine', 'Faize', 'Mine', 'Yasemine' and 'Yasine'. The 'qa' in the name 'Feiqa', incidentally, is pronounced rather like 'kah' in English I have not spelled it 'Feikah' in English because the letter in question, in the Gorean spelling, is a 'kwah' and not a 'kef'.
The 'kwah' in Gorean, which I think is possibly related, directly or indirectly, to the English 'q', does not always have a 'kwah' sound. Sometimes it does; sometimes it does not; in the name 'Feiqa' it does not. Although this may seem strange to native English speakers, it is certainly not linguistically unprecedented. For example, in Spanish, certainly one of the major languages spoken on Earth, the letter 'q' seldom, if ever, has the 'kwah' sound. Even in English, of course, the letter 'q itself is not pronounced with a 'kwah' sound, but rather with a 'k' or 'c' sound, as in 'kue' or 'cue'."
"Mercenaries of Gor" page 13

"Gorean, I might note, is somewhat similar, and though I speak Gorean fluently, I find it very difficult to write, largely because of the even-numbered lines which, from my point of view, must be written backwards. Torm, my friend of the Caste of Scribes, never forgave me this and to this day, if he lives, he undoubtedly considers me partly illiterate. As he said, I would never make a Scribe.
"It is simple," he said. "You just write it forward but in the other direction."
"Priest Kings of Gor" pages 100

"Initiates do not eat meat, or beans. They are trained in the mysteries of mathematics. They converse among themselves in Archaic Gorean, which is no longer spoken among the people. Their services, too, are conducted in this language. Portions of the services, however, are translated into contemporary Gorean."
"Marauders of Gor" page 26

"On the other hand, I suspect that they fear too broad a dissemination of the Caste knowledge. Physicians, interestingly, perhaps for a similar reason, tend to keep records in archaic Gorean, which is incomprehensible to most Goreans."
"Magicians of Gor"

Occasionally heralds, or criers, would pass by, calling out news or announcements. Many on this world, you see, cannot read. Thus the importance of the heralds, the criers, and such. Many things are advertised, too, in such a way, by calling out bargains, the fruits in season, the markets, the cost of cloth, and such. Too, one may hear men, or often boys, for it costs less to hire them, calling out the pleasures of various taverns, and the delights that may be found in within."
"Witness of Gor" page 37

"One of the most interesting was the Translator, which could be set for various languages. Whereas there was a main common tongue on Gor, with apparently several related dialects or sublanguages, some of the Gorean languages bore in sound little resemblance to anything I had heard before, at least as languages; they resembled rather the cries of birds and the growls of animals; they were sounds I knew could not have been produced by a human throat. Although the machines could be set for various languages, one term of the translation symmetry, at least in the machines I saw, was always Gorean.
If I set the machine to, say, Language A and spoke Gorean into it, it would, after a fraction of a second, emit a succession of noises, which was the translation of my Gorean sentences into A. On the other hand, a new succession of noises in A would be received by the machine and emitted as a message in Gorean. My father, to my delight, had taped one of these translation devices with English, and accordingly it was a most useful tool in working out equivalent phrases. Also, of course, he and Torm worked intensively with me. The machine, however, particularly to Torm's relief, allowed me to practice on my own. These translation machines are a marvel of miniaturization, each of them, about the size of a portable typewriter, being programmed for four non-Gorean languages.
The translations, of course, are rather literal, and the vocabulary is limited to recognitions of only about 25,000 equivalencies for each language.
Accordingly, for subtle communication or the fullest expression of thought, the machine was inferior to a skilled linguist. The machine, however, according to my father, retained the advantage that its mistakes would not be intentional, and that its translations, even if inadequate, would be honest."
"Tarnsman of Gor" page 39

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Alphabet

Al-Ka Ba-Ta Ar Delka Eta Homan Ina Kef Nu Omnion Sidge Shu Tau Tun Val

"The Gorean alphabet has twenty-eight characters, all of which, I suspect, owe their origin to one or another of the alphabets of Earth. Several show a clear-cut resemblance to Greek letters, for example. 'Sidge', on the other hand, could be cuneiform, and 'Tun' and 'Val' are probably calligraphically drifted from demotic. At least six letters suggest influence by the classical Roman alphabet, and seven do, if we count 'Kef', the first letter in 'Kajira'. 'Shu' is represented by a sign which seems clearly oriental in origin and 'Homan', I speculate, may derive from Cretan."
"Explorers of Gor" page 9

There were twenty-eight characters in the Gorean alphabet."
"Priest-Kings of Gor" page 94

"The expressions "Al-Ka" and "Ba-Ta" are the two first letters of the Gorean alphabet."
"Priest-Kings of Gor" page 94

""For example, we have learned not only the order of frequency of occurrence of letters but, as would be expected, rough percentages of occurrence as well. Eta, for example, occurs two hundred times more frequently in the language than Altron. Over forty percent of the language consists of the first five letters I mentioned, Eta, Tau, Al-Ka, Omnion and Nu."
"That seems impossible," said Samos.
"It is true," said Bosk. "Further, over sixty percent of the language consists of those five letters plus Ar, Ina, Shu and Homan."
"Slave Girl of Gor" page 384

"On the chest was a bloody triangle, the "delka,". That is the fourth letter in the Gorean alphabet, and formed identically to the fourth letter of the Greek alphabet, the 'delta', to which letter it doubtless owes its origin."
"Magicians of Gor" page 176

"We may suppose," said Bosk, "as a working hypothesis, that the message is in Gorean. As far as we know, Belisarius, whom we know only by name, and it may be a code name, is Gorean." "Yes?" said Samos.
"See," said Bosk, who was examining the necklace, "The most frequent combination of colors is blue and red."
"So?" asked Samos.
"In Gorean," said Bosk, "the most frequently occurring letter is Eta. We might then begin by supposing that the combination of blue and red signifies an Eta." "I see," said Samos.
"The next most frequently occurring letters in Gorean," said Bosk, "are Tau, Al-Ka, Omnion and Nu. Following these in frequency of occurrence are Ar, Ina, Shu and Homan, and so on."
"How is this known?" asked Samos.
"It is based upon letter counts," said Bosk, "over thousands of words in varieties of manuscripts."
"These matters have been determined by scribes?" asked Samos.
"Yes," said Bosk. "Why should they be interested in such things?"
"Such studies were conducted originally, at least publicly, as opposed to the presumed secret studies of cryptographers, in connection with the Sardar Fairs," said Bosk, "at meetings of Scribes concerned to standardize and simplify the cursive alphabet. Also it was thought to have consequences for improved pedagogy, in teaching children to first recognize the most commonly occurring letters."
"I was taught the alphabet beginning with Al-Ka," smiled Samos.
"As was I," said Bosk. "Perhaps we should first have been taught Eta." "That is not the tradition!" said Samos.
"True," admitted Bosk. "And these innovative scribes have had little success with their proposed reforms. Yet, from their labors, various interesting facts have emerged. For example, we have learned not only the order of frequency of occurrence of letters but, as would be expected, rough percentages of occurrences as well. Eta, for example, occurs two hundred times more frequently in the language than Altron. Over forty percent of the language consists of the first five letters I mentioned, Eta, Tau, Al-Ka, Omnion, and Nu." "That seems impossible," said Samos.
"It is true," said Bosk. "Further, over sixty percent of the language consists of those five letters plus Ar, Ina, Shu, and Homan."
"We could still try all possible combinations," said Samos.
"True," said Bosk, "and, in a short message, which this appears to be, we might produce several intelligible possibilities. Short messages, particularly those which do not reflect statistical letter frequencies, can be extremely difficult to decipher, even when the cipher is rudimentary."
"Rudimentary?" asked Samos.
"There are many varieties of cipher," said Bosk, "both of the substitution and transposition type. I suspect we have before us, tin this necklace, a simple substitution cipher."
"Why?" asked Samos.
"It was interpreted almost instantly by the man called Belisarius," said Bosk. "A more complicated cipher, indexed to key words or key numbers, would presumably have required a wheel or table for its interpretation."
"Can all codes be broken?" asked Samos.
"Slave Girl of Gor" page 383

"The brand was the common Kajira mark of Gor, the first letter, about an inch and a half in height and a half inch in width, in cursive script, of expression 'Kajira', which is the most common expression in Gorean for a female slave. It is a simple mark, and rather floral, a staff, with two, upturned, frondlike curls, joined where they touch the staff on its right. It bears a distant resemblance to the printed letter 'K' in several of the Western alphabets of Earth, and I suspect, in spite of several differences, it may owe its origin to that letter. The Gorean alphabet has twenty-eight characters, all of which, I suspect owe their origin to one or another of the alphabets of Earth. Several show a clear cut resemblance to Greek letters, for example. 'Sidge,' on the other hand, could be cuneiform, and 'Tun' and 'Val' are probably calligraphically drifted from demotic. At least six letters suggest influence by the classical Roman alphabet, and seven do, if we count 'Kef', the first letter in 'Kajira'. 'Shu' is represented by a sign which seems clearly oriental in origin and 'Homan', I speculate may derive from Cretan. Many Gorean letters have a variety of pronunciations, depending on their linguistic context. Certain scribes have recommended adding to the Gorean alphabet new letters, to independently represent some of these sounds, which, now, require alternative pronunciations, context-dependent, of given letters. Their recommendations, it seems, are unlikely to be incorporated into formal Gorean. In matters such as those of the alphabet conservatism seems unshakable. For example, there is not likely to be additions or deletions to the alphabets of Earth, regardless of the rationality of such an alteration in given cases. An example of conservatism in such matters is that Goreans, and, indeed, many of those of the Earth, are taught their alphabets in an order which bears no rational relation whatsoever to the occurrence pattern of letters. That children should be taught the alphabet in an order which reflects the frequency of the occurrence of letters in the language, and thus would expedite their learning, appears to be to radical and offensive an idea to become acceptable. Consider, too, for example the opposition to an arithmetically convenient system of measurement in certain quarters on Earth, apparently because of the unwillingness to surrender the techniques of tradition, so painfully acquired so long ago."
"Explorers of Gor" page 9

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Words

- Tal (Greetings)
"“Tal,” I said to the man, lifting my arm in the common Gorean greeting."
"Outlaw of Gor" page 70

- Carnarium (Refuse Pit)
"“You could have retrieved from a carnarium,” I said. This was one of the great refuse pits outside the walls."
"Magicians of Gor" page 38

- Har-ta (Faster)
"I shouted to my tarn, in Gorean and in English. “Har-ta! Har-ta! Faster! Faster!”"
"Tarnsman of Gor" page 57

- La Kajira (I am a slave girl)
""La Kajira," said Eta, pointing to herself. "Tu Kajira," she said, pointing to me. "La Kajira," I said, pointing to myself. "Tu Kajira," I said, pointing to Eta. I am a slave girl. You are a slave girl.

- Kan-lara (Brand)
Eta smiled. She pointed to her brand. "Kan-lara," she said. She pointed to my brand. "Kan-lara Dina," she said. I repeated these words.

- Ko-lar (Collar)
"Ko-lar," she said, indicating her collar. "It is the same word in English," I cried. She did not understand my outburst. Gorean, as I would learn, is rich in words borrowed from Earth languages; how rich it is I am not a skilled enough philologist to conjecture. It may well be that almost all Gorean expressions may be traced to one or another Earth language. Yet, the language is fluid, rich and expressive. Borrowed expressions, as in linguistic borrowing generally, take on the coloration of the borrowing language; in time the borrowings become naturalized, so to speak, being fully incorporated into the borrowing language; at this point they are, for all practical purposes, words within the borrowing language. How many, in English, for example, think of expressions such as 'automobile,' 'corral,' and 'lariat' as being foreign words?
"Collar!" I said. Eta frowned. "Ko-lar," she repeated, again indicating the neck band of steel fashioned on her throat. "Ko-lar," I said, carefully following her pronunciation. Eta accepted this.

- Ta-teera (Slave Rag)
Eta pulled at the bit of rag she wore. "Ta-Teera," she said.
I looked down at the scrap of rag, outrageously brief, so scandalous, so shameful, fit only for a slave girl, which I wore. I smiled. I had been placed in a Ta-Teera. "Ta-Teera," I said. I wore the Ta-Teera.
"Var Ko-lar!" asked Eta. I pointed to the collar on her throat. "Var Ta-Teera?" asked Eta, smiling. I pointed to the brief rag which I wore. Eta seemed pleased. She had laid out a number of articles. My lessons in Gorean had begun."
"Slave Girl of Gor" page 80/1

- Bina (Cheap Necklace)
"Suddenly, stammering, I said, "Eta-var-var Bina ?"
Eta looked at me, surprised. (...)
"Var Bina , Eta?" I asked.
Eta lightly lifted herself to her feet and went to the cave. In a few moments, she emerged. She carried, in her hands, several strings of beads, simple necklaces, with small, wooden, colored beads. They were not valuable. She held the necklaces up for me to see. Then, with her finger, moving them on their string, she indicated the tiny, colored wooden beads. "Da Bina ," she said, smiling. Then she lifted a necklace, looking at it. " Bina ," she said. I then understood that ' Bina ' was the expression for beads, or for a necklace of beads. The necklaces and beads which Eta produced for me were delights of color and appeal; yet they were simple and surely of little value.

- Bana (Expensive Necklace)
I went to the cave, Eta following. I lifted one of the chest's covers. I took from the chest a string of pearls, then one of pieces of gold, then one of rubies. " Bina ?" I asked, each time. Eta laughed. "Bana," she said, "Ki Bina . Bana." Then, from another box, Eta produced another necklace, one with cheap glass beads, and another with simple, small wooden beads. She indicated the latter two necklaces. " Bina ," she said, pointing to them. Bina , I then understood, were lesser beads, cheap beads, beads of little value, save for their aesthetic charm. Indeed, I would later learn that bina were sometimes spoken of, derisively, as Kajira bana. The most exact translation of ' bina ' would probably be "slave beads." They were valueless, save for being a cheap adornment sometimes permitted imbonded wenches."
"Slave Girl of Gor" page 81/2

- Kaissa (Game)
"Kaissa The word actually cried was “Kaissa,” which is Gorean for “Game.” It is a general term, but when used without qualification, it stands for only one game."
"Assassin of Gor" page 26

- Kurt (Whip)
"Eta lifted up a stout whip, with long handle, which might be wielded with two hands, and five dangling, soft, wide lashing surfaces, each about a yard long. "Kurt," she said. I shrank back. "Kurt," I repeated.

- Sirik (Set of Chains)
She lifted up some loops of chain; there were linked ankle rings and linked wrist rings, and a lock collar, all connected by a length of gleaming chain running from the collar. It was rather lovely. It was too small for a man. I knew, however, it would fit me, perfectly, "Sirik," said Eta. "Sirik," I repeated."
"Slave Girl of Gor" page 83

- Lo Sardar (I am a Priest-King)
"“Lo Sardar,” it said. “I am a Priest-King.”"
"Priest-Kings of Gor" page 76

- Glana (Virgin) "“This type of distinction is drawn in various ways in Gorean,” I said. “The closest to the English is the distinction between ‘glana’ and ‘metaglana.’ ‘Glana’ denotes the state or virginity and ‘metaglana’ denotes the state succeeding virginity. Do you see the difference?”
“Yes,” she said, “in Gorean virginity is regarded as a state to be succeeded.”"
"Savages of Gor" page 203

- Ostraka (Tickets)
"When a fellow had paid his tarsk bit Miris would reach into the copper bowl carried by Tula and draw forth from it one of the small, glazed three inches long and an inch wide, thin, flat, brittle, glazed, baked-clay ostraka. They were oval and, along the long axis, slotted. The ostraka are lovely and fragile. A number, the same number, was written at the bottom and top of each item. I winced as Mirus snapped one of the ostraka in two, giving half to the purchaser and throwing the other half into Aynur’s bowl. “Good luck!” he said."
"Dancer of Gor"

"The last time I had been to Ar, that time I had received the spurious message, to be delivered to Aemilianius, in Ar’s Station, there had been no need of yellow ostraka, or permits, to enter the city. Such devices, or precautions, had in the interim apparently been deemed necessary, doubtless for purposes of security or to control the number of refugees pouring into the city which, even earlier, had been considerable. Many had slept in the streets. I had rented, at that time, a room in the insula of streets. One permitted residence in Ar received the identificatory ostrakon, for example, citizens, ambassadors, resident aliens, trade agents, and such, was a function of heir owner’s possession of such ostraka. Others might enter the city on permits, usually for the day, commencing at dawn and concluding at sundown. Records were kept of visitors. A visitor whose permit had expired was the object of the search of guardsmen. Too, guardsmen might, at their option, request the presentation of either ostraka or permits. Ostaka were sometimes purchased illegally. Sometimes men killed for them. The nature of the ostraka, for example, taking different colors, being recoded, and so on."
"Magicians of Gor" page 36

- Ostrakon (Ticket) "“Sight unseen,” called Mirus to the crowd, “who will try the luck of the first ostrakon? Only a tarsk bit each! Who is first? Who is for the first ostrakon? You, sir! Yes! And you the second! The third! Yes. And you! And you!” I listened to him selling the ostraka."
"Dancer of Gor"

- Ta-Sardar-Gor (To the Priest-Kings of Gor)
"“I am offering a libation,” he said. “Ta-Sardar-Gor.”
“What does that mean?” I asked, my words fumbling a bit, blurred by the liquor, made unsteady by my fear.
“It means,” laughed Cabot, a mirthless laugh, “to the Priest-Kings of Gor!” "
"Outlaw of Gor" page 13

- Veck (Stand)
"I felt myself being rolled roughly on my back. “Veck, Kajira,” said a voice, harshly. “Veck, Kajira.”
"Slavegirl of Gor" page 12

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