The Grammar of Trigedasleng

About Trigedasleng

Trigedasleng is a constructed language (conlang) developed by David J. Peterson for use on the CW show The 100. The Woods Clan (Trigedakru/Trikru) and Sand Nomads (Sanskavakru) have been heard using this language, but other groups of grounders (that is, earth-born people not born inside Mt. Weather) may also speak the language. Some of the Sky People (Skaikru; those from the Ark) began to learn Trigedasleng after repeated contact with the Trigedakru.

Trigedasleng is descended from a heavily-accented dialect of American English. It has evolved rapidly over three generations. Its development was also influenced by an early code-system that was developed shortly after the Cataclysm, but this only affected the lexicon in any substantial way. At the time of the Ark's descent, it is believed that most grounders speak only Trigedasleng; warriors (and certain others, like Nyko the healer) speak both Trigedasleng and American English, a fact which they are careful to hide from their enemies.

Trigedasleng is not a creole, but a descendant of American English alone, and while it may share similarities with AAVE (African American Vernacular English, which is also derived from American English), those similarities are not intentional, and Trigedasleng does not derive from AAVE.

Pronunciation & Writing

Trigedasleng doesn't have its own writing system. The bits of writing that have survived the last 97 years are incomplete and have probably been passed down from warrior to warrior along with English. The writers of The 100 asked Peterson to use a simplified spelling system for the scripts, instead of using more English-like spelling rules. The table below illustrates this simplified system.

VowelSounds LikeEnglish Name
A, a*appleshort A
Ai, aiicelong I
E, egetshort E
Ei, eifacelong A
I, imeet OR kidlong E / short I
O, olaw OR sonshort O / short U
Ou, ouwrotelong O
U, urudelong U
* A, a (end of word)sofaschwa
Au, au (diphthongized)loud"ow"
ConsonantSounds LikeConsonantSounds Like
B, bballP, ppull
Ch, chchairR, rradio
D, ddaftS, sseven
F, ffireSh, shshine
G, ggood (not giraffe)T, ttalk
H, hhelloTh, ththink (not these)
J, jjuiceV, vviking
K, kkickW, wwater
L, llimeY, yyellow
M, mmadeZ, zzipper
N, nneed

Trigedasleng does not use the letters C, Q, or X.

Names

Names in Trigedasleng are rendered phonetically, or 'sounded out', based on the system above. Here are a few examples from the show:

Bellamy Octavia Clarke Lincoln Lexa Gustus Nyko
Belomi Okteivia Klark* Linkon Leksa Gostos Naikou
* Peterson originally transcribed Clarke's name as Klok, but later corrected the spelling to Klark.

Note that names are not translated into Trigedasleng, only transcribed.

Surnames are also transcribed in Trigedasleng, and are handled as a second given name. For example, "Clarke Griffin of the Sky People" is Klark Grifin kom Skaikru and not, say, Klark kom Grifinkru.

When writing in Trigedasleng, it is the author/speaker's decision whether to use respelled names or to use Modern English spellings. Because of Trigedasleng's descent from American English and the romanization system devised for the language, many names are spelled identically or nearly-identically either way.

Verbs

Verbs in Trigedasleng have the biggest differences from English of any part of speech. Trigedasleng verbs have two parts: the verb root, and one of nine satellites.

Some verbs don't have or require satellites (auxiliary/modal verbs, function verbs, causative/performative verbs, verbs having to do with agent-initiated motion). These verbs can co-occur with satellites, but that typically changes their meaning.

Satellites

Most verbs have a satellite that directly follows the direct object, if one is present. If a direct object is not present, the satellite follows the verb root. Satellites precede indirect objects and other phrases which follow the verb.

Nine satellites have been seen in Trigedasleng—op, in, au, we, of, raun, daun, klin, thru—though more may exist.

Some useful guidelines for satellites follows:

  • raun: used for base-transitive verbs when used intransitively, and replaces the transitive satellite (usually op or in); also used for many base-intransitive verbs
  • op: typically attached to concrete verbs (verbs for doing and acting on the physical world)
  • in: typically attached to abstract verbs (verbs for things like thinking and saying and hearing, which have less impact on the physical world)
  • klin: indicates finality and has special uses
  • au: typically used where its English ancestor ("out") would be used
  • we: typically used where its English ancestor ("away") would be used
  • daun: typically used where its English ancestor ("down") would be used; n.b. the second-tier demonstrative daun ("that-one-here")
  • thru: indicates continuation or progressive action (e.g. kik raun "to live" vs kik thru "to survive")

Copulas

There are three copulas ("to be" words) in Trigedasleng.

Ste, the stative copula, is used with adjectives, and with verb phrases as a progressive auxiliary (see topic "Auxiliaries & Modals").

  • em ste tofon "it is difficult"
  • ai ste yuj "I am strong"
  • emo ste gon choda op "they are fighting each other"

Laik is used with nouns and adverbial or prepositional phrases.

  • em laik tofon "it is a difficult thing"
  • ai laik ticha "I am a teacher"
  • emo laik kom trigeda "they are from the forest"

Bilaik can also be used as a figurative or circumstantial copula with nouns, adjectives, and adverbial/prepositional phrases. (It's kind of like using air quotes.) Its use in certain contexts may indicate disdain.

  • em bilaik tofon "it is 'difficult' (so to speak)" or "it's a 'difficult' thing"
  • ai bilaik ticha "I'm a 'teacher' (I guess/for all intents and purposes)"
  • emo nou bilaik gonakru "they aren't (real) warriors"
  • du bilaik splita
  • "he's an outcast" (du indicates disdain or contempt)

Auxiliaries & Modals

Auxiliary and modal verbs are used in a variety of ways. Primarily, they are used to form the tense structure of Trigedasleng, but there are other ways to use them. The future tense, for example, is also used for "in order to" phrases and dynamic modality ("I can"). Trigedasleng also fails to distinguish perfect tenses, and uses only a simple past tense.

    Present tense: no auxiliary

  • ai fis em op "I heal him"
  • Past tense: don

  • ai don fis em op "I healed him"
  • ai don fis em op "I have healed him"
  • ai don fis em op "I had healed him"
  • Future tense: na

  • ai na fis em op "I will heal him"
  • ai na fis em op "I can heal him"
  • ai don fis em op na sis oso au "I healed him in order to help us"
  • Passive aspect: ge

  • ai ge fis op "I get healed"
  • ai ge fis op "I am healed"
  • Progressive: ste

  • ai ste fis em op "I am healing him"
  • ai don ste fis em op "I was healing him"
  • ai na ste fis em op "I will be healing him"
  • Modality: beda and souda

  • ai beda fis em op "I should heal him"
  • ai souda fis em op "I must heal him"
  • ai beda don fis em op "I should have healed him"
  • Question negation: din

  • din yu don fis em op? "didn't you heal him?"
  • din yu na fis em op? "won't you heal him?"
  • din em ge fis op? "isn't he healed?"

Nouns & Adjectives

Nouns and adjectives have no plurals or case distinctions. It is possible to emphasize plurality using emo or a plural-possessive pronoun.

emohonemosobweop
3PLfind3PLtunnelSAT
they find (plural) tunnels

Adjectives are placed before the noun they modify.

Pronouns

Independent Pronouns

singular plural
first person ai oso (inclusive), osir (exclusive)
second person yu yo
third person em, du (pejorative) emo, du (pejorative)

Use oso to include the person the speaker is addressing; use osir to exclude the person the speaker is addressing. Use du when the person or thing referred to is held in disdain or contempt, or to mean "someone".

Yumi is a third "first person plural" pronoun, and literally means "you-and-me."

  • ai laik Skayon "I am a Sky-Person"
  • oso laik raunon "we are [all] people" (oso includes the addressee)
  • osir laik gona, ba yu laik fisa "we are warriors, but you are a healer" (osir excludes the addressee)
  • yumi na chich oso heda op "you and I will talk to our commander"
  • yu laik fisa "you are a healer"
  • yo na gon raun "you-all will fight"
  • em ste yuj "he is strong"
  • du ste kwelen "he is weak" (du indicates that "he" is not respected or liked by the speaker)
  • emo don hon sobwe-de op "they found the tunnel"
  • du ste torch ai op "they are torturing me"
  • du na hon em op "someone will find it"

Possessive Pronouns

singular plural
first person ain, omon oson
second person yun, oyun yon, oyon
third person emon, omon emon, omon

The pairs of pronouns in the cells above indicate whether the thing being referred to is singular or plural.

  • dison laik ain "this is mine"
  • dison laik omon "these are mine"
  • dison laik oson "this/these is/are ours (not you)" "this/these is/are ours (all of us)"
  • dison laik yun "this is yours"
  • dison laik oyun "these are yours"
  • dison laik yon "this is y'all's"
  • dison laik oyon "these are y'all's"
  • dison laik emon "this is his/hers/its/theirs"
  • dison laik omon "these are his/hers/its/theirs"

Possessive Adjectives

singular plural
first person ai, oma (oso, osir)
second person yu, oyu yo, oyo
third person em, om emo, omo

These look pretty much like the independent pronouns, but each of the cells except first person plural has an alternate "plural referent" form. The alternate form is used when the thing being possessed/owned is plural.

  • ai java "my spear"
  • oma java "my spears"
  • oso stegeda "our village/s (all of us)"
  • osir stegeda "our village/s (but not yours)"
  • yu java "your spear"
  • oyu java "your spears"
  • yo stegeda "y'all's village"
  • oyo java "y'all's spears"
  • em java "his/her/its spear"
  • om java "his/her/its spears"
  • emo stegeda "their village"
  • omo java "their spears"

Yumi has no possessive forms; instead use the standard first person plural forms.

Demonstratives

Trigedasleng enjoys a three-way distinction for demonstrative pronouns, demonstrative adjectives, and spatial adverbs.

this-here (1) that-near (2) that-far (3)
demonstrative pronoun dison daun daunde
demonstrative adjective disha dei dei de (circumfixed)
spatial adverb hir der ouder

For more information on each word, check the respective dictionary entries.

Possession

Aside from the possessive pronouns and possessive adjectives (see topic "Pronouns"), non-pronominal kinds of possession/belonging are formed either by apposition or, in some cases, using kom.

  • Leksa swis "Lexa's knife"
  • Abi yongon "Abby's child"
  • Okteivia kom Skaikru "Octavia of the Sky People"
  • heda kom stegeda "the village's leader"

Numbers and Counting

Trigedasleng's number system is inherited from English, so the bulk of the changes are mere respellings to comply with the romanization system developed by David Peterson.

Cardinal Numbers
1 won 11 len 30 thodi
2 tu 12 twel 40 fodi
3 thri 13 thotin 50 fidi
4 fou 14 fotin 60 sisti
5 fai 15 fitin 70 sendi
6 sis 16 sistin 80 eidi
7 sen 17 sentin 90 naidi
8 eit 18 eitin 100honet
9 nain 19 naitin 1000thauz
10 ten 20 tweni million, billion miyon, biyon

Numbers are put together the same way they are in English: irregular numbers up to twenty, followed by tweni won, tweni tu, etc. Large numbers also follow English rules: tu honet fidi fai (255)

Ordinal Numbers
1st fos 11th lenon 30th thotit
2nd seken 12th twelon 40th fodit
3rd thot 13th thotinon 50th fidit
4th fot 14th fotinon 60th sistit
5th fit 15th fitinon 70th sentit
6th sison 16th sistinon 80th eidit
7th senon 17th sentinon 90th naidit
8th eidon 18th eitinon 100th honet
9th nainon 19th naitinon 1000th thauzet
10th tenon 20th twenit millionth miyonet

Most ordinal numbers, with a few exceptions, are simply the cardinal number + -on, except multiples of ten (+ -t), one hundred (no change), and powers of ten (+ -et). As with English, ordinals that have multiple components (24th, 112th) only have an ordinal at the end (tweni fot, honet twelon).

Prepositions

There are a limited number of prepositions in Trigedasleng, so each one has many different meanings that are context-dependent.

  • gon: for, on, to, at, against, towards, because of, upon...
    • yumi na throu daun gon emo "you and I will fight aganst them"
    • stedaun gon Skaikru! "death to Sky People!"
    • ai don fis em op gon heda "I healed him for the commander"
    • ufnes gon homplei "strength for a hunt"
  • raun: (locative) near, around, in, next to; shares origins and meaning with satellite raun
    • raun faya, oso wada klin... "in fire, we cleanse..."
    • oso na gon emo op raun stegeda "we will fight them near/in the village"
  • ona: (locative) on, under, into
    • em don gyon au ona Maun-de "he went into Mount Weather"
    • em laik ona tri "it is on the tree"
  • kom: from, of, with; often indicates belonging or possession
    • em don slip daun kom skai "he fell from the sky"
    • Indra kom trigeda "Indra of the forest"
    • kom disha kru "with these people"
  • hashta: about, regarding; narrow usage
    • mochof hashta yu prom "thank you for your question"
    • em don tel osir op hashta kongeda-de "he told us about the Alliance"

-de

This emphatic particle is used to denote a specific instance of a noun. It is only used in special cases, so proceed with caution.

tri-destesenyuop
tree-EMbehear2SGSAT
the trees are listening

yulaikkongeda-de
2SGbealliance-EM
you are the Alliance

osowadaklinlaudnes-dekomfotaim
1PL.INCLcleanSATpain-EMfrompast
we cleanse the pain of the past

teikemkamprauntribau-de
take3SGstay-nearSATlog-EM
put him on the log

de is also used as part of the demonstrative adjective dei de (see topic "Demonstratives").

Lexical Stress

Lexical stress is handled in Trigedasleng the same way it's handled in English--that is, finding the stress isn't always predictable and is mostly a matter of rote memorization. Mostly, you can use your English intuition about where the lexical stress should fall in a word. See citations on this article for more information on lexical stress in Trigedasleng.

Relative Clauses

Relative clauses can be formed as in English, without any subordinators or conjunctions.

  • gona ai don fis op ste klir "{the warrior I healed} is safe"
  • gona ai don led op ge fis op "{the warrior I wounded} is healed"
  • ai na gon raun kom gona ai don fis op "I will fight with {the warrior I healed}"

Relative clauses can also be formed using bilaik, which has no direct counterpart in English. It can introduce "that"/"who"/"which" clauses and hypothetical or conditional clauses.

  • gona bilaik don fis ai op ste klir "the warrior {who cured me} is safe"
  • gona bilaik ai don fis op ste klir "the warrior {whom I cured} is safe"
  • ai don tel em op bilaik oso ste klir "I told him {[that] we are safe}"
  • oso souda lok emo op fou bilaik emo hon emo sobwe op "we must locate them before they find the tunnels"

Bilaik

Bilaik is probably the most difficult concept of Trigedasleng grammar for speakers of Modern English to grasp. It has many uses, and it's often difficult to tell when to use bilaik over some other word or construction. It has no direct counterpart in Modern English, though it is derived from the "be-like" construction (called "quotative BE LIKE" by some linguists). Some guidelines on use of bilaik follow.

As a copula:

Bilaik can be used as a figurative copula, and loosely means "to be ... for all intents and purposes/so to speak." It may be used with the pejorative du when talking about someone not held in respect or regard. (see topic "Copulas")

As a subordinator:

Bilaik can be used to introduce subordinate and relative clauses, and is translated as "that"/"who"/"which" in such cases. It can be used to introduce hypothetical or conditional clauses as well (but n.b. taim...taim "if...then"). In some contexts, bilaik can be used to mean "like" or "as" (bilaik yu don tel ai op "like you told me")