Spacer's Cant

The 21st century oversaw perhaps the single most severest decline in number of distinct languages the human species has experienced in its history. In the year 2000, there were approximately 6,500 spoken languages in the world. By the end of the massive population decline from the Great Contraction in the latter half of the 21st century, less than a thousand spoken languages with more than a thousand speakers remained. For a time, it indeed looked like the human species was rapidly headed for a mono-lingual existence.

With the end of the Great Contraction, a period of aggressive, even breakneck colonization of the solar system ensued. The increased isolation bred by the vast distances of space combined with increasingly sophisticated translation software resulted in am abrupt reversal of this trend; while the overall number of languages spoken is still, in fact, decreasing, the rate of decrease has greatly diminished, and some distinct spoken dialects have begun to compete with the established lingual hegemony of Earth.

In the Asteroid Belt between Mars and Jupiter lies the debatable land of the solar system where legal recourse is limited and the competition for resources is rich. Many different polities inside the Belt along with external polities have laid claim to various asteroid clusters, with the result being a tapestry of political, cultural, and linguistic variation.

Spacers, in particular, face a lonely, nomadic lifestyle. While transit times have dramatically improved since the early days of the Diaspora, the fact remains that the pilots, engineers, and others who run the innumerable frigates, research vessels, and other, less savory vessels visit many ports of call and must deal with dozens of languages. Often, entire generations of families are born, grow up, and die shipboard, never putting down roots at all. While most spacers do pick up a smattering of many different languages as a simple survival skill, spacers as a class have contributed to the development of a common pidgin called Hilde.

Hilde originated in the Hildas Triangle, a loose national polity sprawled across a large geographical area of the Asteroid Belt. While the Hildas Triangle is far from the most populated region of the Belt, it has achieved an outside influence as a widely-spread culture that is found frequently throughout the solar system, yet itself holds no political or military aspirations of hegemony.

As a pidgin, Hilde is not so much a complete language of its own but a simplified, neutral means of communication, although among spacer families it is quickly developing into a native creole language. As such it has developed with particular rules of grammar and phonemes that have made it particularly easy to pick up.

Phonemes and Letters

Much as Japanese, Hilde has a relatively low number of phonemes, or sounds. Ever letter has exactly one sound. The stress is always on the penultimate syllable (second to last), and there are no tonal variations built into the language. Unlike English, there is no distinction between upper and lower case letters; when typed, Hilde is generally all lowercase or all uppercase.

There are a total of five vowels and fourteen consonants in Hilde:

/a/ - pronounced "ah" as in "adieu" or "a-choo"
/e/ - pronounced "eh" as in "end" or "eleven"
/i/ - pronounced "ee" as in "ski" or "mean"
/o/ - pronounced "oh" as in "orange" or "open"
/u/ - pronounced "oo" as in "lure" or "raccoon"

/b/ - pronounced "b" as in "bat" or "boat"
/d/ - pronounced "d" as in "dog" or "damn"
/g/ - pronounced "g" as in "great" or "gold"
/h/ - pronounced "h" as in "hang" or "hot"
/j/ - pronounced "j" as in "John" or "giraffe"
/k/ - pronounced "k" as in "king" or "color"
/m/ - pronounced "m" as in "mother" or "must"
/n/ - pronounced "n" as in "not" or "null"
/p/ - pronounced "p" as in "pulse" or "pop"
/l/ - pronounced "l" as in "long" or "lost"
/s/ - pronounced "s" as in "summer" or "Sun"
/r/ - pronounced "r" as in "rug" or "red"
/t/ - pronounced "t" as in "top" or "total"
/y/ - pronounced "y" as in "yes" or "yellow"

For example, hilde is pronounced HEEL-deh.

Word Order and Grammar

As with Esperanto and Classical Latin, Hilde has cultivated a free for all system of word order that does not mandate a particular word order. Partially, this is simply to accommodate word ordering systems from various native speakers' languages, but partially as well this allows for the speaker to apply emphasis to what is being said purely by word order, with the most forceful or important component of the sentence at the front.

There is one notable exception to this; adverbs and adjectives usually follow the verb or noun they are modifying. For example, the word for "ship" is statek-, while the word for "red" is ros. "The red ship" would thus be stateke rosa (Unlike English, and like Russian, Hilde does not use articles, although it will sometimes use adjectives to achieve similar effects.) In casual conversation or where either the subject or object is not being explicitly called out, this convention is, however, often flouted.

Tenses indicating time are handled purely by adverbs, and are often implied by content and not explicitly included in a sentence.

The grammatical function of a word in Hilde is determined by its suffix. In theory, this means any word can serve any grammatical function, though in practice this does usually fall into regular patterns.

Noun (subject) - BASE WORD + e
Noun (object) - BASE WORD + o
Adjective - BASE WORD + a
Adverb - BASE WORD + i
Verb - BASE WORD + u
Interjections - BASE WORD

For example, the word for the Hilde language is, when the subject of a sentence hilde as in "Hilde is sometimes also called Spacer's Cant." When the object of a sentence, it would become hildo as in "Do you speak hildo?" As an adjective, it would be hilda as in "A hilda word." As a verb, meaning to speak in Hilde, it would be hildu.


Hilde's vocabulary is a healthy mix of several different languages, most notably English, Russian, Polish, Romanian, and German, a direct consequence of the Hildas Triangle's original settlement out of Union.

Hilde does not use gendered nouns, pluralization, or subject-object agreement.

As noted above, any word base can technically be used as any part of speech, although in practice usage is more specific.

Some common words:

- A -
ag - agriculture
aridist - attitude thruster (as a noun), to fire an attitude thruster (as a verb)
arm - gun
at - water (as a noun), to drink (as a verb)
atmos - atmosphere (as a noun), to vent atmosphere (as a verb)
ay - help

- B -
bimsim - fuel (as a noun), to refuel (as a verb)
bot - frigate
but - possession (as a noun), to have, to possesses (as a verb)

- D -
dak - docking bay (as a noun), to dock (as a verb)
dank - thanks
dek - why
din - who
distroyer - Destroyer-class warship
drednot - Dreadnought-class warship
dron - drone

- E -
erd - Earth (as in the planet)

- G -
gas - gas (as in nitrogen or oxygen)
gen - ten
gesets - law or legal agreement (as a noun), to sign a contract or agree to (as a verb)
gesetso yeta - illegal (as in, "That is illegal.")
gram - gram (as in the unit of measurement)

- H -
hab - habitat
hild - Hilde language or the asteroid Hilda, depending on context

- I -
ilter - filter

- J -
jis - g (as in gravity measured by Earth gravity = 1)

- K -
kand - when
kapitan - captain
karg - cargo
kayad - coffee
kelb - bulb (referring to container of drinkable liquid for usage in 0g)
kep - what
kerer - to want (as a verb)
kil - kilogram or kilometer, depending on context
kilogram - kilogram
kilometer - kilometer
klem - clamp (as in a docking clamp)
komum - joint (as a noun), to join together (as a verb)

- L -
ladim - half
likt - light

- M -
m - me or I
mars - Mars
mesaj - message (as a noun), to email (as a verb)
meter - meter (as in the unit of measurement)
mil - world (used to refer equally to planets, moons, dwarf planets, asteroids)
modul - module
module aga - agricultural module
module haba - habitat module
module motsa - power module
moj - maybe
mots - energy or power

- N -
nesis - to need (as a verb)
niptun - Neptune

- O -
oksijen - oxygen (as a noun), to pressurize with breathable air (as a verb)
orbit - orbit

- P -
palik - full burn (referring to spacecraft main engine usage)
paliko ladima - half burn (referring to spacecraft main engine usage)
par - apology
pas - to break (as a verb), a wreck or derlict (as a noun)
pemal - criminal
perom - rum
pomp - pump
pos - the Belt (as referring to the Asteroid Belt)
predkos - velocity
problem - problem
pukt - point (as referring to a decimal point)

- R -
rads - rads (as in how many rads of radiation one has been exposed to)
rakum - vacuum
relat - relative (as in "relative velocity")
ros - the color red
rotet - rotate

- S -
sar - the Sun
sas - airlock
s - she, he, it, or they
seks - sex
sel - hand terminal
setemeter - centimeter
seros - zero
siotus - CO2
skadand - spacesuit (as a noun), to put a spacesuit on (as a verb)
skusats - excuse
sprek - speak (including as in a language)
sorm - the color black
stansek - orbital station
statek - space vessel
stel - star
strum - electricity

- T -
t - you
tak - yes
tank - tank (as in a receptacle for liquid or a gas)
termal - heat (as a noun), to heat up (as a verb)
tuk - fear, afraid
tuten - death (as a noun), kill (as a verb), deathly (as an adjective)

- U -
und - where
ustroy - nation or polity

- Y -
yarog - please
yeld - weld
yemus - Venus
yest - to be, am, is
yet - no, not, none, or null

(Remember to add -e for subject and -o if the object, e.g., "marso")

I or me - m (so, as the subject "me" pronounced "meh", or as the object "mo" pronounced "moh")
You - t (so, as the subject "te" pronounced "teh", or as the object "to" pronounced "toh")
He/She/It/They - s (so, as the subject "se" pronounced "seh", or as the object "so" pronounced "soh")

What - kep
Who - din
Where - und
Why - dek
When - kand


Yes - tak
No - yet
Hello - hey
Bye - bay
Do you speak Hilde? - spreku hildo?
Help! - ayu!
Excuse me - skusatsu mo
Sorry - paru me
Thanks - danku
Please - yarog
I'm [name] - me yestu [name]
I'm afraid - tuko butu (literally "have fear")

(Remember to add -e for subject and -o if the object, e.g., "marso")

The Sun - sar
Mercury - merkur
Venus - yenus
Earth - erd
Luna - lum
Mars - mars
Asteroid Belt - pos
Ceres - seres
Vesta - yest
Hilda - hild
Jupiter - jupiter
Io - yon
Europa - yorop
Ganymede - ganed
Callisto - kalist
Saturn - setern
Titan - titan
Uranus - yurenus
Oberon - oberon
Ariel - aril
Titania - titanyam
Miranda - miram
Neptune - niptun
Triton - triton
Kuiper Belt - pos(e/o) kepera
Pluto - plut
Xena - sen
Sedna - sedn
Orcus - orkus
Quaoar - kuar
Haumea - hum

Numbers and Measurements

1 - uno
2 - do
3 - tro
4 - karo
5 - kimo
6 - sasemo
7 - septo
8 - okto
9 - nino
10 - geno
100 - sento
1000 - kilo
10,000 - kilo gena
100,000 - kilo senta
1,000,000 - milyono
1,000,000,000 - bilyono
1,000,000,000,000 - trilyono
. (as in decimal point) - pukta

meter - meter
centimeter - setemeter
kilometer - kil(ometer)
gram - gram
kilogram - kil(ogram)

For an article on the development of Spacer's Cant, check out Heretic's article on his personal blog about the evolution of a constructed language.