The Mri Language

From the Faded Sun Trilogy by C. J. Cherryh

The Faded Sun Trilogy (Kesrith, Shon'jir, and Kutath) is an original creation of C.J. Cherryh, copyright 1978, 1979 by C. J. Cherryh, all rights reserved. Mention or discussion of copyrighted characters and terms in this reference work is not intended, nor should be interpreted or construed, as a challenge to those copyrights.

This glossary and discussion is intended as a supplement to increase readers' enjoyment of the Faded Sun Trilogy, not as a substitute for reading the original. If you have not read the Faded Sun books, but find the material presented here of interest, please consider purchasing the Faded Sun Trilogy.

Attested forms are followed by a page reference to their first appearance in the text (volumes are given in Roman numerals, pages in Arabic numerals). Conjectured forms (whether from analogy to known words or by derviation from combined forms) are preceded by an asterisk.

*a- -- honor (see a'ani)

*ani -- combat (see a'ani, yin'ein and zahen'ein)

*a'anu -- champion (see a'ani, su-she'pani kel'en a'anu)

a'ani (I:7) -- "honorable combat," apparently consisting primarily of single combat between matched warriors with ancient weapons

a'ai sa-mri (II:109) -- "the beginnings of the People," the original mri homeworld

ab'aak (III:21) -- a kind of stew, made in the field of whatever is available

*-ai -- locative suffix (see nla'ai-mri)

ai'a (II:211) -- "self-peace, being right with one's place"

*-al -- nominalizing suffix, "that which is done" (see seta'al)

*an -- house, home

an'edi (II:211) -- "house-peace," being together under the leadership of one she'pan

an-hi (III:148) -- a greeting

An'jir (III:212) -- the song of the mri who stayed behind on Kutath

*-anth -- caste leader (see kath'anth, kel'anth and sen'anth)

*ar- -- speech, tongue (seemu'ara and hal'ari)


(I:16) -- the sun of Kesrith (this may be a regul word, cf Kesrith

*as -- singular of as'ei

as'ei (I:5) -- short blades used by kel'ein in playing shon'ai, or worn sheathed on the belt, its hilt can be touched to give warning that an intruder is not wanted

as'en (III:180) -- singular of as'ei

ath-ma'ai (II:111) -- tomb-guardians (the concept appears in the first book, but no term is provided)

*av -- a blade, particularly a long blade

av'ein-kel (I:66) -- long blades characteristic of the kel

av-kel -- "Kel-sword," apparently the singular of av'ein-kel, although one might expect *av'en-kel

av-tlen (I:174) -- a bladed weapon, smaller than the av-kel, but apparently longer than the as'ei

bu'ina'anein (II:129) -- presumptuous

ch'au (I:208) -- an expletive of frustration

cho-silk (I:65) -- a very delicate type of silk (this may not be a mri word)

*daith' -- son (see tsi'daith'

daithon (II:200) -- son (but different)

daithenon (III:146) --a variant of daithon

dus (I:9) -- creature rather like a cross between a bulldog and a bear, self-aware but inarticulate, living in a semi-amicable companionship with mri of the Kel caste

dusei (I:56) -- plural of dus

*-e- -- feminine infix (see kel'e'en, sen'e'en)

e'atren-a (II:133) -- a song associated with Sa'an (the text is unclear as to whether this is a term for that particular song, or of a general type of song)

edun (I:15) -- House, the citidel in which mri make their home

edunei (I:121) -- plural of edun

Edun Kesrithun (I:15) -- House of Kesrith, the mri citadel on the world of Kesrith

*e'ed -- entrance, entryway, access

e'ed su-shepani (II:190) -- entryway to the tower of the she'pan

e'esin (II:114) -- inner robe of the Kel

*-ei -- pluralizing suffix

*-ein -- plural form of -en, but is also a simple plural in mez'ein and zaidh'ein

elee (II:207) -- the other surviving sapient race native to Kutath, tall humanoids resembling the mri in social order, but different (for instance, their she'pan is not necessarily celibate.

Ele'et (III:220: -- the city of the elee

*-en -- partative suffix, denotes a member of a group or a part of something

e'nai (II:117) -- remove it

eshai'i (I:66) -- "lack-honor," an insult

fen'anth (III:155) -- senior fen'en

*fen'en -- singular of fen'ein

fen'ein (I:163) -- "the Husbands," kel'ein who are associated with the she'pan and sire the children on the kel'e'ein and kath'ein

*ha- -- wild, free, unbound

ha-dus (I:164) -- a dus unbonded to any kel'en, can be dangerous

ha-dusei (I:164) -- plural of ha-dus

*hal -- high, noble

hal'ari (II:121) -- the High Speech, the sacred tongue of the mri which is preserved unchanged throughout their migrations

hao'nath (III:53) -- a tribe of mri on Kutath, hostile

hne'mi (III:149) -- friend

i (II:117) -- all

*-i -- adjectival suffix "of or pertaining to" (see Kesrithi)

*-i -- plural suffix (see j'tai, sigai)

ika'al (I:59) -- ritual suicide of a kel'en as a point of honor, comparable to Japanese seppuku

islai (III:188) -- plural of islan

islan (III:187) -- knot

ja'anom (II:202) -- a group of mri on Kutath, led by Sochil

*jir -- song

jo (I:241) -- "mimic," a creature native to Kesrith, harmless, an eater of snakes

j'tai (I:16) -- medallions of honor, won by a kel'en through meritorious service to the People, worn on the siga

j'tal (I:160) -- singular of j'tai

ka'ani-nla (II:136) -- arrogant (perhaps more literally "buried by the weight of combat"?)

ka'islai (II:134) -- weighted cords that hang from the belt

Kath (I:5) -- the childbearing caste of the mri, blue-robed and children too young to enter the Kel or Sen caste. Only females may remain Kath after their coming of age.

kath'anth (I:168) -- the senior membor of the Kath caste

kath'dai'ein (II:153) -- children in the Kath caste

kath'en (I:205) -- a member of the Kath caste, it has no feminine form because only females may remain Kath after coming of age

kath'ein (I:12) -- plural of kath'en

Kel (I:5) -- the warrior caste of the mri, black-robed, forbidden literacy but permitted to use a numerical keyboard, they live for the moment and question nothing. They are the Hand of the People, the Face that is Turned Outward, and because they interact with outsiders, they are permitted to know nothing that should not be discovered by outsiders.

kel'anth (I:6) -- the senior member of the Kel

kel'anthein (III:154) -- plural of kel'anth

kel'en (I:5) -- a member of the Kel caste

kel'e'en (I:8) -- female kel'en

kel'ein (I:5) -- plural of kel'en

kel'e'ein (I:163) -- plural of kel'e'en

Kel'es-jir (II:133) -- the high songs of the Kel

Kesrith (I:15) -- world on which the action of the first novel of the Faded Sun trilogy takes place, barren and desert

Kesrithi (I:15) -- pertaining to Kesrith

*-ko -- adjectival suffix, "in the condition of" (see miuk'ko)

komal (I:80) -- a drink or drug used to bring sleep

kuta'i (II:211) -- peace, "the tranquility of nature"

Kutath (II:170) -- the original homeworld of the mri, an ancient, dying world, home of many other races now dead, and of the elee, also surviving.

lij'aiia (I:66) -- the beginning of the Watch of the Dead, a ritual

lo'a-ni (I:222) -- a form of respect

*mal -- sleep, release (see komal, *ko)

mez (I:16) -- veil worn by a kel'en to hide the face from tsi'mri

mez'ein (I:155) -- plural of mez

miuk (I:74) -- the Madness, an illness of dusei that causes them to behave abberantly

miuk'ko (I:74) -- in the throes of the Madness

*mu -- common, ordinary

mu'ara (II:121) -- common speech, developed during the Between and cast aside during the Dark

mri (I:7) -- the People

*-n- -- elided form of ani (see a'ani, yin'ein and zahen'ein)

Na'i'in (II:169) -- the Sun, the primary of Kutath, original homeworld of the mri

*nla -- bury, burial (see nla'ai-mri).

*nla'ai -- burial-place (see nla'ai-mri).

nla'ai-mri (I:223) -- burying place of the People, Sil'athen

*pan -- sacred, holy (see Pana, pan'en and she'pan)

Pana (I:12) -- the Revered Objects, the Mysteries, the Forbidden, usually kept in the sen-Shrine, behind the screen beyond which no kel'en may pass

pan'ai-khan (III:51) -- the status of a kel'en who has handled a pan'en, halfway holy and halfway accursed.

pan'en (I:242) -- sacred item retrieved by Niun and Melein, part of the Pana

*pan'ein -- sacred things, several items from the Pana

*s' -- particle in mri naming that prefixes the name of the she'pan under whom one was born, this combination follows the personal name, i.e. Melain s'Intel Zain-Abrin

Sa'an (II:133) -- the Giver of Laws, first of the Kel (the text is not clear on whether "Giver of Laws" is a translation of his name, or merely a descriptive)

sa'ahan (II:211) -- peace, "the tranquility of strength"

Sa'er (II:216) -- name of a Kath woman on Kutath, it is said to be "like the word for morning," although that is never given

sa'jiran (II:199) -- (?)is made (the text is unclear on the gloss)

Sen (I:5) -- the scholar caste, gold-robed, celibate by law and custom

sen'anth (I:6) -- the senior member of the Sen caste

sen'en (I:248) -- a member of the Sen caste

sen'e'en (I:13) -- a female sen'en

sen'ein (I:168) -- plural of sen'en

*sen'e'ein -- plural of sen'e'en

*seta -- (?) cut, incise

seta'al (I:16) -- distinguishing scars of a Kel, three blue-stained lines across the cheekbones

she'pan (I:8) -- the sacred matriarch of a mri House, reckoned as a member of the Sen caste and thus celibate

she'pan'anth (III:201) -- senior she'pan

she'panei (I:12) -- plural of she'pan

*shon -- pass, a core concept of the mri, shown both in the shon'ai or passing game and the Shon'jir or Passing ritual. To understand it is to understand the mri.

shon'ai (I:5) -- the passing game or Game of the People, in which stones, swords or staves are tossed back and forth following the rhythm of a chant that describes the characteristics of the three castes of the mri.

shonau (II:120) -- pass

Shon'jir (I:85) -- the Passing ritual, a verse that speaks of the Dark and the times between, performed at a mri birth or death, also the period in which the mri migrate between homeworlds

siga (I:16) -- long, flowing black robe worn by a kel'en

sigai (I:63) -- plural of siga

Sil'athen (I:12) -- mri burial ground

*sov -- brother (see sov-kela)

sov-kela (II:186) -- kel-brother

*su -- prefix of specification, roughly corresponding to a definite article

su-she'pani kel'en a'anu (I:89) -- the she'pan's kel'en

*tsi -- no, not, un -- negativizing particle

tsi'daith' (I:66) -- "un-son," an insult

tsi'mri (I:7) -- "not-people," all other sapient species beside the mri

tsi'seta (III:186) -- lacking seta'al, the caste-scars of the Kel

*-u -- agentative suffix, "one who does" (see *a'anu, a'ani)

*-un -- genative suffix, "of or pertaining to" (see Edun Kesrithun)

yai (I:56) -- meaningless syllable used to mean many things by a kel'en speaking to a dus

*yi -- tradition, traditional

*yin -- traditional combat

*yin'en -- singular of yin'ein

yin'ein (I:8) -- traditional weapons, used in a'ani, in which innovation is shameful

*zahe -- modern

*zahen -- modern combat

*zahen'en -- singular of zahen'ein

zahen'ein (I:9) -- modern weapons, in which innovation is permissable

zaidhe (I:16) -- tasselled headcloth with a visor, worn by kel'ein

zaidh'ein (I:155) -- plural of zaidhe


Overall, the samples provided in the text comprise a naming language, rather than a complete langauge suitable for fannish use. While there are nouns for the various special concepts unique to the mri, there are no nouns for ordinary things used in conversation, nor are there any verbs save a few that might be conjectured from various nouns referring to the performers or results of actions

A few grammatical relationships can be deduced from the corpus -- most particularly, morphemes that make a word plural, or feminine, or transform parts of speech.

Last updated October 19, 2012