THE MERFOLK TONGUE (MERMISH)

“Tahi mhaawhoo ^ Hhu~hng mhaawhoo! (Tide change, heart change!)”

Mermish as humans know it is actually a pidgin, or composite of two tongues, and should properly be called "Cant Mermish". True, or Genuine Mermish, is a primarily-whistled and sung language which carries for long distances underwater and is almost unreproducible in the human mouth. However, merfolk being the curious mimics which they are, have taken up many Tharian words and integrated them for speech with the sailors and fishermen whom they often encounter. Thus Cant Mermish is an odd mix of sibilant ‘human’ expressions and authentic harmonizing twitters and trills from Genuine Mermish, possibly simplified for use in the air. The vocabulary here is Cant Mermish, but where possible we have marked differences in word use or origin.

Merfolk use long whistling melodic phrases which can be represented in humans transliteration by hyphenated sentences, the hyphen (drawn as a wave form to signify the Mermish Tongue) placed between separate words where they can be distinguished, as well as beginning and ending the phrase. For example:

~Lla~bi~dehffoo~ = “She-in-state-of-sad” = “She’s sad.”
~Lli~toh~bi~ffewuu~ = He-not-has-happiness” = “He’s unhappy.”

Other sentences transliterated might read ~She~in~hunger~male (for "She's in season and wants to mate") or ~He~man~thing~with~boat~not-with~fish~ ("The sailor doesn't have any fish...") or ~Dolphin~many~in~playful~with~great-fire~ ("The dolphin pod is active and playful this morning...")

Mermish sentences tend to be vague. Where their own kind will always understand them, other sentient beings may not. When speaking in terms of direction, they must always point. When speaking of present, past, or future, they can only refer to the phases of the current moon, and seem to have no memory of the past further than that. A few of the more intelligent merfolk can make guesses and predictions about the future, though some have no idea of times to come. They have no concept of money, morals or logic. Things simply are.

However, merfolk have as many words for feelings as they do for water, perhaps because both are so characteristically fluid, epitomizing the life of the mer. They are keen observers of sensation and emotion alike, and appear to have therfore a wide variety of adjectives for colours, sounds, textures, and temperatures, most of which have not been translated to date.

Merfolk emotions change rapidly and it is hard to document the wide range these creatures go through, especially since some seem to be uncertainly translated. Often body language accompanies the translation for easier interpretation of a mer’s behaviour. Note that the Tharian is irregular; the mer do not distinguish between ‘angry’ and ‘anger’, since ‘being angry’ and ‘having anger’ are grammatically the same in mer: ~bi~gahfooruh~

Those that live above the sea need to remember that merfolk can only relate well to things beneath the sea. If they speak of things, it is usually from that perspective. A mer finds it confusing if someone asks whether they mean 'above' or 'below' the surface, and can only point when asked about other directions. However, they do have words for ‘up’, ‘down’, and ‘ahead’, used in swimming.

In Old or Genuine Mermish, the plural is a sharp dual cough: ~Uk~uk~. However, mer have gleefully taken up the human habit of adding an ‘s’, and when speaking Cant Mermish, no matter how awkward it sounds, an 'S' is always added to the end of a word to make it plural. In words that end with a hiss, the plural just doubles the sound , for example: ~beefees's~ would be pronounced BEE-fees-ees.

Merfolk by the way do not speak in singular pronouns. When referring to themselves, they use ~Ffa~, “we”. In this case alone the pluralizations ~Uk~uk~ and “Ss” are not used.

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