The Middlelander language is a mildly tonal, agglutinative language that uses subject-verb-object word order. It is typically written using a syllabary called Middlelander Script and is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Low-Middlelander language.
Modern Middlelander is the native tongue of the Middleland people, spoken as a first language by the vast majority of Middlelanders. It is also widely spoken as a common second language between the other cultures of The Continent, especially between Outerlanders of different tribes who may have mutually unintelligible local languages. In addition, it is the lingua franca of science, education, and Maharan theology, and is the official language of the Middleland central government.
It is closely related to the Lowerlander family of languages.
Modern Middlelander has two major dialects: the Southern dialect, which is spoken by the majority of Middlelanders in the more populated and wealthier areas, and the Northern dialect, which is most commonly spoken by isolated patches of rural mountain people.
Though both dialects are mutually intelligible and don’t differ much in fundamentals like grammar, the Southern dialect of Middlelander is considered “standard” and is what is typically taught in schools. As a result, the Northern accent has “uneducated” and “poor” connotations and many Northerners who move to the South will adopt the Southern accent.
Unlike the Upperlander tongue and most Outerlander tribal languages, the Middlelander language has two basic tones–flat and rising–which can alter the meaning of words. That said, most words do not rely on tones to relay their denotative meaning and foreigners with monotone accents are generally well-understood through context.
More often, tonality is used to modify particles at the end of a statement in order to indicate a more nuanced intention: declarative, interrogatory, accusatory, etc. Because this is rarely discussed in textbooks, foreign speakers of the Middlelander tongue may have difficulty catching the true intentions of native speakers in certain situations.
Middlelander has separate pronouns for “animate” (dah) and “inanimate” (muh) beings. What is considered animate and inanimate is highly influenced by the Middlelander religious perspective, which includes elements of animism.
For example, all dead things are referred to as inanimate, so when a person dies, their body is referred to by a different pronoun than their living self. This makes Middlelanders particularly uncomfortable with states of being that are between life and death; they are very binary in their concept of animate (“with soul”) or inanimate (“no soul”) states, as their religion has a rigid perspective on this.
On the other hand, the Middlelander language completely lacks gendered pronouns. It also lacks true differentiation between plural and singular pronouns. Most of the time, plurality is implied by context, though referring to various levels of a collective (family, nation, etc) can be achieved by adding a suffix to a first-person pronoun.
Second-person pronouns (“you”) come in two versions: one to be used while praying to deities and addressing clergy, and one to be used with non-clergy. First-person pronouns also come in two versions: one that is used by the clergy and one that is used by non-clergy. In this way, one can tell that a priestess is speaking even without seeing her.
In the distant past, priestesses tended to refer to themselves in the third person and would avoid personal pronouns altogether, but the practice fell into disuse. Occasionally, very old priestesses in isolated monasteries will still speak this way. (e.g. “The Priestess is very angry at you right now and she will meditate first before deciding your punishment.”)
When addressing a person of very high status who is not clergy, average Middlelanders will often refer to the individual in third-person as well, a feature which the language shares with the Upperland tongue. However, though Upperlanders tend to speak to their parents in third-person as a sign of respect, Middlelanders will tend to use a plain “you” with all family members.
Just as with pronouns, Middlelander titles do not have a gender. Instead, a person is typically addressed by their highest-status position followed by either their given name or their family name, depending on how familiar the speaker is to the person addressed (e.g. “Innkeeper Jaya”). If they are of unusually high status (such as a priestess), their given name is almost always used to differentiate them from family members of lesser status.
Priestesses may be directly addressed by the title “Priestess” (maaga) followed by one of their names, but in practice they are usually addressed with the title alone. It is considered disrespectful to refer to a priestess by just her name, even when not directly addressing her.
Middlelanders will use a special title to address their mothers (maah-mah or mama), sometimes followed by the mother’s first name if they need to specify which of the two mothers they are speaking to. This title does not differ depending on whether it is the higher mother or lesser mother when directly addressing said mother; when speaking of the mother to someone else, a prefix may sometimes be added to specify that it is the higher or lesser mother.
Grandmothers are referred to as mah-bah. Aunts are mah-ha; though this is also a common title used when addressing older women whose names are unknown to the speaker.
Men are usually called by their first or last names with no title (or, if the name is unknown, they are generically addressed as mahmshyá–literally “man” or “little woman”) unless they are of advanced age, in which case the title mah-heh may be used.
People of high status may not always use titles when referring to people of very low status. Children are called by their given names with no title and siblings will continue this practice with each other into adulthood.
Foreigners and slaves are often called by their family name alone with no title. However, it is polite to use the title “Slave” when addressing a criminal who has been forced into labor by the Middleland government.
Robust women will sometimes address each other with the informal title fahm or hahm (pronunciation differs regionally), which can be roughly translated to mean “buddy.” As a result, this word also evolved into a derisive slang term for “soldier,” because so many members of the front-line military are robust women. (Early in Goda’s Slave, Goda uses this title to address a soldier, but Kanna, unaware of robust women, misses the nuance.)
Middlelander names are always binomial, comprised of a given name and family name. The given name is always said first. The family name will change if the person is either adopted into a family or marries into a family.
The person who marries into a family and takes on their name is called a lesser wife, the one who accepts the person into her family through marriage is called a higher wife. Almost always, the higher wife has more status than the lesser wife and can pass this status onto their children.
Middlelander given names are typically unisex, though some names can imply a specific gender. For instance, the suffix -ma at the end of a name is often found in male names (e.g. “Parama”). Male names will often be female names with this suffix attached. Most, though not all, Middlelander given names end in the vowel -a or the consonants -m, -n, or -d.