A Grammar of Shyriiwook
Note: I created this Conlang created for my fanfictions. I have created some aspects of Wookiee culture which I believe are fairly consistent with how they are generally portrayed in Canon and Legends.
This Conlang is not nearly as complete as Bothese. The grammar here is a consistent functional working grammar I use, but may evolve into a full-fledged constructed language over time, especially if more Star Wars fans begin using it in their works, or if I started focusing more on Wookiees (this happened with Mandalorian/Mando'a which was just a small sketch of phrases and a few rules in Karen Traviss's works, but evolved into something more).
The sounds of Shyriiwook are my most complete part at the moment; I have simply put a lot of thought into Wookiee anatomy and approximating the sounds we hear in the random animal noises to actual phonemes.
I borrowed a small portion of my lexicon from Wookieepedia's Legends page on Shyriiwook, as well as the Complete Weermo's Guide to Shyriiwook. Neither of these sources were enough to actually employ a working Conlanguage. I invented the overwhelming majority of Shyriiwook words from scratch for my works, as well as all of Shyriiwook syntax and morphology.
For the phonology, or the sounds of Shyriiwook, I was also informed greatly by Alden Ehrenreich's pronunciation of Shyriiwook in Solo: a Star Wars Story, but, for the most part invented that from scratch as well.
Shyriiwook is one of the languages spoken natively by the long-lived tall furry humanoid species, Wookiees.
It is a Galactic Basic-based Creole language that originally evolved as an interlanguage between Wookiees and humans but has since come to dominate most of Kashyyyk.
Wookiees are anatomically incapable of speaking Galactic Basic however, other species, including humans, are capable of speaking Shyriiwook at least to a level where they can be understood. Wookiees themselves can hypothetically speak a few alien languages including, notably, Bothese and many other Bothan languages, as well as Defelese. However, Wookiees can only speak those languages in Growl Voice (for a Grammar of Bothese, see Appendix B in Republic Fracture).
1. The sounds and High Galactic Rendering
The sounds of Shyriiwook are partly shaped by Wookiee anatomy. Shyriiwook has no dorsal stops /t/ /d/. The Wookiee palate is simply too wide for their tongue to completely obstruct the airway.
The orthography used here is based on High Galactic. There is also a Wookiee orthography which cannot yet be rendered in Unicode.
Before we even get started on greetings, it is necessary to go over the sounds of Shyriiwook and the orthography.
International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) pronunciation: /a/
High Galactic: a
Like the British English 'hard' or American English 'hod.' In Dressel, it is pronounced more like the vowel in 'court.'
Long-a. Like the /a/ above but carried on for a longer duration.
Like 'mb' in 'bumble.'
This is a Wookiee attempt to make the /t/ sound. It sounds closest to the 'ch' in chip.
Somewhere between the ay in 'way,' and the e in 'bed.'
Like an 'f' but only with the lips and no teeth involved. The lips are spread wider, allowing more air to flow through. This sound is rare and is often pronounced and spelled /w/ in loanwords from Basic.
Like 'g' in go, never like 'g' in giraffe.
The most common pronunciation for this sound by humans is a voiced velar fricative /ɣ/. Some humans pronounce it further back, and a bit closer to the sound of a Wookiee growl, as a uvular fricative /ʁ/. The spelling gh actually represents the Wookiee growl sound. Species that do growl, such as Tarsunts, Bothans, Shistavanens, usually simply growl for this sound.
Like the 'h' in 'hippo.'
Like the ey in 'key'
Like the i above, but carried on for a longer duration.
Like 'k' in king.
Like the 'l' in 'leer.'
Like 'm' in moon. Like 'n' in noon. Wookiees pronounce this not only with air flowing through the nose, but with a bit of air flowing out of the mouth through slightly pursed lips.
Like 'n' in noon. Wookiees pronounce this not only with air flowing through the nose, but with a bit of air flowing out of the mouth around the tongue.
Like the ow in 'row.'
Like the 'oo' in Wookiee, not like the 'oo' in moon.
This letter only exists in loanwords. Wookiees cannot pronounce this sound without air leaking through the lips giving it a fricative quality. Most /p/ words from Basic are borrowed as hm /m̥/, a voiceless m sound.
Wookiees pronounce r as a uvular trill, similar to Twi'leks. This is not to be confused with rr.
This sound is the dorsal trill spelled with two rs. The closest sound humans can make is the trill represented by IPA /r/.
This sound is a purr. The closest humans can get to it is a voiceless alveolar trill.
Like the 'sh' in ship.
Same as 'ch.' Very rare letter that is more commonly used in some Wookiee languages other than Shyriiwook, such as Xaczik.
Like the oo in 'moon.'
Like the 'w' in went.
A voiceless version of the 'w' sound. It sounds like /w/ but with an audible /h/ component, or like a /w/ but with a whistle of air.
Before vowels, y makes an IPA /j/ sound like in English 'yes.'
Confusingly spelled with the same letter, but not too easy to confuse. This makes the vowel in 'bit.' When 'y' occurs where a vowel should, such as in Shyrii, it makes the sound of the vowel in 'bit.' When it occurs before a vowel, like in Yarrgh, it makes the sound of the consonant in the word 'yes.'
Like the sound at the end of 'garage,' the sound in the middle of 'Asia' or the sound at the start
Shyriiwook also allows for extra-long vowels—vowels that are longer than the two long ones (aa and ii). These are spelled with three sequences of the same vowel: aaa, iii. On occasion, when deciding how a Wookiee word would be spelled in High Galactic rendering, there were inconsistencies. A few Shyriiwook words are spelled with five or six copies of the letter a in a row aaaaa, even though there is no difference in pronounciation between that and aaa.
Similarly, many words are spelled with doubled consonants even though these hold no meaning. The most extreme example is Ghrummmmmmprrrri, which ironically means 'annoying' and is pronounced /ɣʀumpri/.
This is entirely the fault of mostly human transcribers of Shyriiwook but, unfortunately, the spelling of these words has become standardised and must simply be memorised.
A few words such as Woohiee 'Wookiee' also ended up with completely nonsensical spelling over the years. That word is pronounced: Woohii if we were to transcribe it using the system outlined above.
Now that we have gotten the sounds of Shyriiwook out of the way, it is time for greetings and phrases:
Wyaaaaa—hello (pronounced /wjaa:/ with an extra-long /a/)
Yuow—goodbye (pronounced /juow/)
Ur-oh—thank you (pronounced /uʀ oh/)
Uma—yes (pronounced /uma/)
Yarrgh—yeah; borrowing from Galactic Basic (pronounced /jarɣ/ or /jar/ but in a growl voice).
Na—no/not (pronounced /na/)
Muawa—no; more formal jargony way of denying a request like 'that's a negative' or 'request denied' in Basic.
Ohha—all right (pronounced /ohha/)
Sharghug—sorry (pronounced /ʃaʀɣhug/)
Moshe—maybe (pronounced /moʃe/)
Like most languages in the Galaxy, Shyriiwook has pronouns. The pronoun system of Shyriiwook is fortunately quite simple. It does not distinguish subjects and objects (e.g., no distinction between I and me) but it does distinguish singular and plural, as well as possessives.
With one exception, possessive pronouns are formed with the suffix -o:
2. Word Order:
Like Galactic Basic, the word order in Shyrriiwook is Subject-Verb-Object (SVO). Shyriiwook has less flexibility in word order than Galactic Basic so, in fact, it is almost always SVO.
Egh mishmash oin.
I meet droid
'I am meeting a droid.'
Modal verbs such as wighu want stack before the main verb:
Egh wighu mishmash oin
I want meet droid
'I want to meet a droid.'
Negation words, like na 'no/not' simply precede the verb in the sentence unless they are being as a whole utterance.
Muawa/Na. Shu na ga oin.
NEG. There NEG be droid.
'That's a negative/No. There is no droid.'
Rather than changing the word order, to ask a question, we use the suffix -yug on whatever is being questioned.
Egh ga-yug Ghrummmmmmprrrri
I be-Q annoying
'Am I annoying?'
The suffix -yug can be attached to nouns, adjectives, and verbs but generally not to prepositions.
Shyriiwook nouns behave one of two ways: body parts and everything else.
3.1 Body Parts
Body parts in Shyriiwook take the -rargh plural, just like pronouns (recall egh~egh-rargh 'I~we'). In fact, we might as well get some the body part words out of the way while we are at it:
Raaagh—foot and leg
Laryarulek—eyelashes/eyebrows also small hairs on the head of other species
Take any noun from the list above. To make it plural, stick -rargh onto the end of it. Korwis is 'chest.' To say 'chests' it is now korwis-rargh. 'Faces' are warrrrgh-rargh, and so on.
2.2 Everything else
Every other noun in Shyriiwook is pluralised with -n. Oin is 'droid'; 'droids' is oin-n. This /n/ bears its own syllable always so even if the word ends in n, it is audible. Oin is two syllables; oin-n is three.
Other examples are nama 'name' which is nama-n in the plural. Woohii (alternate and completely nonsensical spelling 'Woohiee') has the plural Woohii-n.
Shyriiwook verbs are much more complicated than nouns. While they do not have person agreement, they do have marking for tense and aspect.
To express the past tense in Shyriiwook, we use the prefix wen-. This was actually borrowed from Galactic Basic 'went' during the early contact period between humans and Wookiees. Awa is 'to go' so wen-awa is 'went':
a. Egh wen-awa sha Rosha.
I PAST-go to Trandosha
'I went to Trandosha.'
b. Egh wen-awghu nyrr
I PAST-see s/he
'I saw him/her'
Similarly, the subjunctive or conditional is expressed with the prefix wy-:
shenihiy wy-mashargh oh
Centipede COND-bite you
'A centipede would bite you.' (e.g., if you were to walk on the ground barefoot, a centipede would bite you.')
4.3 Phrasal Verbs
As hinted at in the introduction, Shyriiwook evolved initially as a contact language between Galactic Basic and other Wookiee languages. While the other Wookiee languages generally lack prepositions that go with verbs (e.g., search for in Galactic Basic), Shyriiwook has a plenitude of these.
The rules for phrasal verbs are similar to Galactic Basic only it is more common for the preposition to occur immediately after the verb:
Egh ghukash fa yirekri
I look for directory
'I am looking for the directory.'
To turn a verb into an agentive noun (-er in English), we simply suffix the verb with -esh if the verb ends in a consonant, and -yesh if the verb ends in a vowel. Thus, awa is 'go' and a 'goer' is awayesh. Arralis study and arralesh is 'studier.'
Arralesh wen-arral Shyriiwook
Study-AG PAST-study Shyriiwook
'The studier studied Shyriiwook.'
The basic syntax between adjectives in Shyriiwook and adjectives in Galactic basic is the same. Adjectives go before nouns.
5.1 Comparatives and Superlatives
Like Galactic Basic, Shyriiwook has comparatives (-er) and superlatives (-est). Like Galactic Basic, these are also suffixes: rurh and rurgh. Mawyenis 'good,' 'better' is mawyen-rurh, best is mawyen-rurgh.
In Wookiee pronunciation, the comparative is essentially a purr, while the superlative is a growl.
The syntax for comparatives is similar to that of Galactic Basic as well. To link the two nouns nizh 'than' is used:
Awerl ga Ghrummmmmmprrrri-rurh nizh Itoll
Awerl Be annoying-COMP than Itoll
'Awerl is more annoying than Itoll.'
Shyriiwook also allows for adjectives to be formed from verbs, like Galactic Basic. This is most commonly done with the suffix -ana. Mashargh is 'to bite,' mashargh-ana is 'biting.' Thus the phrase 'the biting centipede' is mashargha-ana shenihiy.
This section will be expanded upon as necessary.
6.1 Question Words
Like any language, Shyriiwook has question words.
These question words can be used as question words at the beginning of a sentence, and also as linkers between sentences.
Shyriiwook, unlike Galactic Basic, has a base-4 counting system. Small numerals very quickly become quite a mouthful:
Wyoorg a-oo-ah 'seven'
Ah-ah wyoorg 'eight'
Ah-ah wyoorg ah 'nine'
Ah-ah wyoorg aa-ah 'ten'
Ah-ah wyoorg a-oo-ah 'eleven'
a-oo-ah wyoorg 'twelve'
a-oo-ah wyoorg ah 'thirteen'
a-oo-ah wyoorg ah-ah 'fourteen'
a-oo-ah wyoorg a-ooh-ah 'fifteen'
Non-native speakers of Shyriiwook have not yet been brave enough to explore quantities beyond fifteen in Shyriiwook (AN: I haven't fully developed the number system yet).
7. Working Dictionary
Bon-warr 'bounty hunter'
Ey—egg (body part plural)
Hak-lash 'parking lot'
Rey Herashon—Trade Federation
Sal – rain
Woohii-Wookiee (alt spelling, Woohiee)
Ahuma-awa—go out, escape
Ga – to be
Ghukash fa—look for
Hua – can/be able to
Huah – shine
Mahan-sheyachu—like, enjoy someone, make companionship
Maybe – moshe
Shayan—move/ shayan sha—get in
Shen sha—send to
Shyrii – to say/speak
Yaaagh – break
Napuuurgh – dry
Puuurgh – wet
Prepositions and clausal phrases:
Awwwrrrrrrrr-well (linker to start a statement)