Ghale Garmillon!
The language system of Garmillas

When the two-volume book set of designs from Space Battleship Yamato 2199 was published by Mag Garden, it instantly became the most comprehensive reference for the series. This extends beyond the exquisite artwork to include a collection of interviews with key staff members, including this one-of-a-kind essay by the linguist who created the Garmillas language from scratch.

Everything began with
“Tsubak kan salma”

An analysis of the Garmillas language system

by “Hoffnung”

Profile: Ph.D. (linguistics) with specialties in grammar, semantic analysis, and comparative linguistics. I was a junior high student when Space Battleship Yamato was first broadcast. I wrote SF short stories for doujinshi in high school and college, and translated criticism. I watched Gundam while in university and Macross in graduate school, and continued to steadily miss opportunities to “graduate.” I got to work on Evangelion and when I came across Yamato 2199 as a coup de grace, I realized it was the 21st century. I devised my handle name when I participated in a certain anime fansite while studying abroad in Germany. My hobbies are progressive rock, early music, and collecting grammar books.


While reporting the analysis results of the captured Gamiloid, Kaoru Niimi says, “Garmillas has the same understanding of physics and mathematics as we do, so communication with their civilization is possible.” That means they speak the “same language” as the people of Earth. That “same language” has a structure and functionality equivalent to language on Earth, meaning that it has risen up the same evolutionary ladder. It is a technique of organizing and sharing information to support the development of civilization, with language communication at its core. Like the technology and physics of Garmillas, their language system can be understood by Earth people.

The phrase “Tsubak kan salma” was the sample sentence that lead to a successful early solution on the Earth side. It is understood to be a command meaning “take to tank.” “Tsubak” is the word for “take” (many verbs in the Garmillas language end with a ‘k’). “Kan” is the preposition expressing a direction (to), and “Salma” is the word for “tank.” In the analysis of Garmillas words, it is not an overreach to proceed from the basis of this example. The overview is shown below.

Basic Word Order

There is a theory in linguistics called typology. The languages of the world have infinite variety, but like the Periodic Table of the Elements, they can be divided into several types. Some types are relatively common while others are uncommon.

Word order is well-known as a standard of typification. (To be precise, it is more correct to include units smaller than a “word” such as prefixes and suffixes, and units larger than a “word” such as a clique clauses, when referring to the order of components, but we’ll let that pass and just use “word order” here.)

The basic sentence pattern of the Garmillas language takes the SVO [Subject Verb Object] word order. This is similar to many languages, including English.

Milon kes spatek al ghadizak

We (S) / past / to lose (V) / one / carrier (O)

“We lost one carrier”

This word order is the second most common on Earth. According to the data of the WALS [World Atlas of Language Structures] project based at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, SOV word order (as in Japanese) is about 41%, and SVO word order accounts for about 35%. (By the way, the language orders of VOS and OVS also exist, but they are in the minority. An example of the former is Margazhi, and an example of the latter is Carian.)

The word order of such a basic sentence pattern is known widely and has shown a correlation with others in the category since Joseph Greenberg’s research in the 1960s.

For example, in SVO laungages, a noun modifier (by an adjective, numeral, possessive, relative clause, etc) often comes after a noun. For the Garmillas language, although an adjective follows a noun in many cases, it may come before a noun. This resembles Latin, and there seems to be some flexibility in the word order to some extent, depending on the amount of information. Although a possessive is basically added after a noun, in the case of an idiom it may be placed in front of the noun for a rhetorical effect.

In English and French, a relative clause is postponed. In a normal SVO-type language, it is placed in front of the noun as in Garmillas language. However, from a structural viewpoint it is not clear whether “take” has a relationship (= dependent) or if the two sections are parallel as exemplified in the “correlated type relative clauses” of the Hindi language on Earth.

Let’s look at an excerpt from the speech of President Dessler from the start of Episode 8 (9th kind and 10th kind are described later).

Melberlaze Deyn Garmillon.

Beloved / great / Garmillas subjects

il – ehre-di. Gardola ilun es mag, di-zes ya

I – know – 9th kind. / Glory / my / upon / myself / 9th kind / emphasis

kharon, beh-berlaze-ru dena, kharma ruha,

this / you – love – 10th kind / all of you, / this / nation

kharma rieha, Deyn Garmillas, torma behotz.

This / planet. / Great / Garmillas / that / heart.

“Beloved subjects of the Garmillas Empire.
I know.
The glory upon my head is a gift of patriotism you have given to your nation, to this planet, to Great Garmillas.”

In this example, after declaring “the crown of glory on my head,” “your love of the nation and this planet, the Great Garmillas” is said in a way that makes “your love” the subject in this part. Flattening the sentence structure from “here” to “this” is to achieve concord with a straight appeal to the patriotism of the multi-ethnic audience.

When we look at the word order some more, the Garmillas languages places a preposition before a noun.

[~ to] kan、

[~ upon] es、

[~ together] uft

(see paragraph below)

And so forth.

The auxiliary verb is placed before a verb. “Kes,” (“the past”) is one example. But when making an interrogative sentence of subject and verb, we don’t invert the auxiliary verb, and the final particle “zi” (for an inferior) or “ni” (for a superior) is added at the end.

Ershtuk zi? Rohl uft millo.

Prisoner / (question) / Fight / together / we

“A prisoner? We fight together.”

Actually, an interrogative sentence using the inversion is almost limited to the European area on Earth, and if you think of it as a “special” expression of strategy, it can be said that the grammar of the Garmillas language is rational. (According to the WALS, only 2% of languages sampled on Earth make an interrogative sentence by inversion, and like the Garmillas language, the majority are the type that places a final particle at the end of a sentence.)

Harmonic tone

The parts of Garmillas speech are noun, verb, auxiliary verb, adjective, adverb, preposition, numeral, demonstrative, pronoun, interrogative, conjunction, particle, and interjection.

The demonstrative pronoun “kharma” denotes a close object and “torma” denotes a distant object. Although a pronoun consists of first person, second person, and third person, since the Garmillas world has a strict hierarchical order, “beh” becomes “belk” as the honorific title of a second person. Speaking in English, “Zah belk” would be “yes, sir.”

It should be noted that there are ten kinds of third person in the Garmillas language. In Russian and German, nouns are divided into three categories: male, female and neutral. In the Garmillas language, in addition to these three categories (for Garmillas people) there is a fourth (living thing), a fifth (inanimate object), and a sixth (vehicle), and the noun class is divided by an attribute of the referent. For example, if you say “I saw it” in English, “it” is limited to the range of “something other than human. If you were to say “Il-zobak-gach” in Garmillas, it would mean “I – saw – 4th kind.” In other words, “I saw a [non-human creature].” In the phrase “Il-zobak-dach,” the “dach” is a 5th kind, so it would mean “I saw an [inanimate object].” In addition, the 9th kind of pronoun was heard in Dessler’s speech, which means “abstract idea,” and also the 10th kind, which represents “stable land or nation.”

The pronoun system is based on such noun classes (here I call it a classification pronoun), which is widely found in the languages of Africa, particularly Bantu. Classification pronouns appear in the basic SVO word order of noun/one verb/one object pronoun. However, in a case when the S and O are equal and stated clearly in the same sentence, one is usually redundant and therefore not used. Although the classification pronoun is exceptionally used in the speech quoted earlier from Dessler, this is considered to be a literary style in the Garmillas language.

There are several types of small prefixes in the Garmillas language. One of them is “zi,” which represents a question when placed at the end of a sentence. “Reza” is used for a request. Also, the small prefix “ya” can be attached relatively freely to words and phrases to give them greater focus or emphasis.

Ya Czvarke kash da! Bek zohl

(Emphasis) / Czvarke / above / there / your / unit /

bashum zi?

where / (question)

“The Czvarke up there! What is your unit?

As for interjections, “zah” means “yes,” “dat” means “no,” “bashuk” means “surprise” (used as an interrogative), and “ghale” means “hail.”

Inflections and Grammatical Relationships

There is no inflection in the Garmillas language. Conjugation of verbs for past and future are represented as an auxiliary verb, and auxiliary verbs are only expressed in a passive voice. There is also no change of case for nouns or adjectives. At this point, it is close to an isolated and very analytical language. Also, there are no case particles as in Japanese, and grammatical relationships such as subject and object are represented by the word order. The use of classification pronouns can be regarded as a main-marking-type example, and it remains as one option for expression.

The Garmillas language is highly capable of coining words by combining two or more nouns, which is a point it has in common with German. When a compound word is made, a partial shortening of sounds often occurs. “Melbelaze” (meaning “Dear”) and “melberij” (meaning “from heart”) can be combined and shorterned to “berlaze” (“love”). Also, “desjave” (“cease fire”) is a combination of “dels” (“battle”) and “jave” (“stop”), and “Garmillazibo” (“Garmillas language”) is a combination of “Garmillas” and “ziebo” (“say”).

In the context of a word-coining method, I will mention some fixed expressions included in some of the previous examples. Every language has fixed expressions such as greetings and prayers that differ from normal grammatical rules (such as “sayonara” in Japanese, which becomes incomprehensible when translated into English).

・Il Phuzeron (my President)

・Zah belk (Yes, sir)

・Ghale Garmillon (Hail Garmillas)

・Ghale Phuzeron (Hail President)

・Rud Iskandar (Noble Iscandar)

Possibilities for Interstellar Linguistics

Given the basis of the description so far, in terms of phonemes and inflections in the Garmillas language, it can be said to have a concise structure (though the written letters include thousands of irregular exceptions, due to the vastness of the Garmillas Empire’s territory). On Earth, the languages use a wide range of common words and tend to follow a path toward simplicity. On the other hand, the complexity of phonology and morphology is seen when a small group attempts to negotiate with the outside world.

Finally, I want to describe the Iscandar language. Based on the data obtained up until now, the Garmillas and Iscandar languages are comparable, and it is proper to assume that regional differences create a gap between them. When compared to the languages of Earth, Garmillas has a hard sound comparable to German, and the Iscandar language gives a softer, more elegant impression. The first Earthlings who heard it said it reminded them of French or Welsh, but since there is no record that they themselves knew these languages well, this is just a reference point. This goes beyond an analysis of language based on the social composition of a single planet, and the search for interstellar linguistics is a subject for the future.

Making-of and Asides

One day I was approached by an old friend and asked, “could you make up words for the Garmillas language?”

He was a fellow student from the doujinshi days who went on to become a scriptwriter, and we’re friends who still occasionally meet up. In addition to being a linguist, I’m a born SF lover, and as an anime fan, I immediately thought I had no choice but to do this.

After that, I participated in staff meetings at Xebec [Yamato 2199‘s animation studio] and had my first meeting with general director Yutaka Izubuchi. I was told the basic concept and given a memo outlining the Garmillas language along with a word list. The word list was quite thick – the names of weapons and celestial bodies related to Garmillas – and it went on into a comfortable unit system. In design terms, my system is to put lines together and supplement it with necessary words, which I imagine is like “brushing up,” so to speak. Actually, there’s more beyond that, but we’ll have to get to that some other time.

Of course, a language isn’t just words, the words must be arranged according to certain rules (grammar). And it is necessary to reduce the number of sounds so it can accommodate quick movement on the screen. The lack of inflection and the analytical nature of the Garmillas language results from it being designed to speak as briskly as possible.

Although it is sometimes said that the Garmillas language sounds like German, I think this impression comes from its pronunciation (which may have a little bit of Slavic flavor, too). Since the language itself was invented, it is stateless.

According to the commentary, it can be said that the grammar is a hybrid that I chose from the SVO category. Its structure is one that “could exist” in a language system. Having said that, what enlivened this invented language was the people who brought the story to life with their performance as voice actors.

Analyzing how the Garmillas language is used in the production is likely to be studied as another perspective on the story, but apart from that, the staff has made a monumental achievement with Yamato 2199, and I especially want to praise the voice actors. Truly, thank you very much.

Garmillas language syllabus
and number table

Irun – my
Balus – shoot
Baisrak – cut down, clear
Teroa / Terron – Earth / Earthling
Yamate – Yamato
Vual – aviation / flight
Ga – plane
Delus (Delusvualga) – battle (fighter)
Fuize (Fuizevualga) – torpedo (torpedo bomber)
Borme (Bormega) – bomb / bombing (bomber)
Doshu (Doshubormega) – heavy (heavy bomber)
Bueza (Buezabam) – beam (beam gun)
Megovuia – reflection satellite
Gesh Darbam – Wave-Motion Gun
Bashuk (Bashuk?) – what (what?)

0, 1, 2, 3 – Zeo, Al, Beo, Nel
4, 5, 6, 7 – Ji, Gal, Gig, Zek
8, 9, 10 – Pak, Bea, Kes

The End

Special thanks to Neil Nadelman for translation support.

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