The Lore Train: The Old High Sylphic Language


Back at E3 we learned that Fernehalwes had developed a language for the Sylphs and that with Patch 2.3 we would get a glimpse at it. What we didn’t know at the time is that this preview of the langauge would be in the battle theme for Ramuh.

Since then, the lyrics have been released and yesterday, Fernehalwes took to the lore forums to explain the finer details of Old High Sylphihc.

First off, let me say I’m delighted that you’ve taken interest in the ancient tongue of the sylphs. Clawtooth’s post was especially fun to read, as it took me back to my days at university when I was studying linguistics. I began creating Old High Sylphic (OHS) back before the original FFXIV launch as it was still undecided whether or not players with the Echo would ‘hear’ beast tribe languages in Eorzean (English) or in the original. Unfortunately, due to circumstances far beyond my control (ulp), OHS never got its chance to shine…that is, until Soken-san came to me recently asking for lyrics to the Ramuh battle song. I remembered the language I’d started creating almost 4 years ago and asked if it would be okay to have a stanza in Old High Sylphic. He agreed and the rest is history.

Please note, the Japanese, French, and German translations of the lyrics were all based off the English, so any differences in those are individual localization decisions, and not Illuminati-approved hidden meanings 

Alright, so to start off, Old High Sylphic is quite different from the language spoken by the Five Races in not only sound, but in structure. I’m not going to go into the fine grammatical details here because that would take a far too long and I have far too much unfinished patch translation waiting for me (another ulp), but I will do a quick walk through the lyrics:

1 Ula menida tula oh (Hoary Arbor, Lord of Light)
2 Tela omnida tula ei (Thine advent quelleth creeping night)
3 Ona ramuhda deme os (The wicked burn, their pyres bright)
4 Nola tulama tela ei (Smote by Levin’s blinding might)

Remember, the Eorzean (English) translation to the right here is actually a “localization” made so that the lyrics would fit the melody/available syllable count, as well as rhyme. A far more literal translation of the OHS would look more like this:

The burning of (ula) fire (meni) is (-da) bright (tula) because (oh)

The quelling of (tela) the wicked (omni) is (-da) lightning (tula) the reason (ei)
– (tula ei -> caused by lightning)

The coming/arrival of (ona) Levinlord (ramuh) who is (-da) old tree (deme) also (os)

The slow moving of (nola) light (tula)‘s opposite is (-ma) quelling of (tela)‘s reason (ei)
– (tulama -> night)
– (tela ei -> is quelled because of the coming of the Levinlord)

The fires burn bright because
The wicked have been smote by lightning
The Lord of Levin’s─the old tree’s─arrival
Is the reason that the creeping night is quelled

As you may have noted, “tula” is translated as light (dark=night), bright, and lightning in the lyrics. Context plays a major role in Old High Sylphic with a single word able to possess multiple meanings depending on how and where it is used.

Again, I’m not going to get too deep into the language, but here’s a little more on the verb situation:

The be verb (am/is/are) ‘DA’ is always attached to the end of the noun acting as the sentence’s subject:

-da (be verb = is/are) [-dan -> negative]

omnida = the wicked are
menidan = Fire isn’t

‘MA’ also works as the be verb, but it changes the attached noun to its antonym (opposite)

-ma (be verb + changes the preceding noun to its antonym) [-man -> negative]

tulama = dark is (tula = light)
meniman = water isn’t (meni = fire)

Most other verbs are always presented as gerunds (the noun form of a verb -> arrive=arriving) paired with the be verb.

on (arrival/arriving)
tel (quelling/smiting)
ul (burning/smoldering)
nol (moving slow) <-> nor (moving quickly)

An ‘a’ added to a gerund serves as an ‘of’

On = arriving -> Ona = the arriving of

Articles are non-existent, and verb tense and pronouns are not represented by words, but rather by the pitch with which words are spoken. These pitch changes cannot be represented in any font that Microsoft provides, so I am unable to post them here today, but they involve curved lines above and below the words. Finally, rhyme in Old High Sylphic was not achieved by pairing the sounds of words, but by pairing the timbre with which they were sung (this is why the ‘localized’ version rhymes when, on paper, the Old High Sylphic seemingly doesn’t).

Finally, I seem to recall a few weeks ago there was a post asking for the translation of “Ona Ramuhda,” as it appeared as the title for an in-game tome. “Advent of the Lord of Levin” is probably pretty close.

Okay, that post was way longer than I had intended it to be…
Maybe in the future when time is no longer my enemy, I can release more background and maybe a glossary. MAYBE!