Saturday, October 22, 2022

"Black Adam" - Kahndaqi Language

I was hired in 2021 to create two languages for the film "Black Adam," one for timeline-hopping wizards (called the Language of Eternity in the credits), one for Kahndaqi, Black Adam's language. The wizard language does show up in the film, but is somewhat masked by voiceovers, so I'm just going to say a few things about the Kandaqi language here, for those curious.

The nation of Kahndaq is imagined to somewhat predate the rise of the more familiar ancient Near Eastern civilizations of Egypt and Sumer. We discussed various options how to base the language, but I convinced them to go with a language isolate (i.e., a language not related to anything else), but which had also spent a lot of time living in close company with Sumerian and Elamite.

Languages that live next to each other a long time start to borrow things from each other — not just words but even grammatical tendencies. So, from time to time when creating a new Kahndaqi word for dialog, I would go take a look at a Sumerian or Elamite dictionary to see if there might be something reasonable to borrow (usually modified a bit, in either sense or phonology). For example, the Kahndaqi word for king, lúke (accent marks stress) hints at a relationship with the Sumerian word, which is usually romanized lugal. Mostly I picked a few core nouns for this sort of borrowing, since those are most easily borrowed. Most Kahndaqi vocabulary, though, I generated myself. 

As in Sumerian (and Hurrian), ergativity pops up in some parts of the language, though not identically to Sumerian. There are a few unusual features of Elamite grammar which I didn't feel I could get away with borrowing into Kahndaqi, the personal noun classes, especially. (One person on twitter asked about Elamite in particular, I'm guessing for exactly this fun part of the grammar.)

I'll give two examples for the linguistically inclined. This is the first bit of dialog I produced, and it appears in the second trailer (just after the 20s mark):

Soemel tilam.
soemi-el til=am
magic-2.POSS weak-COP.AN
Your magic is weak.

So, personal possession is often marked with suffixes, as in soemel your magic. I used an animacy-based noun class system, and soemi magic is grammatically animate, which is why the copula clitic is the animate form here.

Erentas ma'ate inger.
Eri-enta-s ma'ate i-nger-∅
people-1PL.POSS-ERG champion 3PL.ERG-need-3AN
Our people need a champion.

Here we have another example of personal possession as a suffix, our people. And a taste of ergativity, both in the subject noun marking and the verb. Transitive verb subjects are marked with prefixes. That apostrophe marks a glottal stop, ma'ate /mɑˈʔɑte/. 

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"Black Adam" - Kahndaqi Language

I was hired in 2021 to create two languages for the film "Black Adam," one for timeline-hopping wizards (called the Language of Et...