D'ni: A Language Primer

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The following article is written from an Out-of-Cavern (OOC) perspective. All fictional events should be considered fictional.

D'ni: A Language Primer is a short beginner's guide to the grammar of the D'ni language, written by Richard A. Watson and included in the Uru: Complete Chronicles: Prima Official Game Guide, released in 2004. The guide is a revised version of the earlier The Basics of D'ni Grammar guide included in From Myst to Riven.


Although an alien language, D'ni resembles many human languages in the same way that the D'ni themselves could pass for human. D'ni is most frequently compared to Hebrew, because the two languages have similar characters and sounds. But there are many differences, the most obvious one being that Hebrew is written from right to left, while D'ni is written from left to right.

The D'ni alphabet has 24 characters, but there are more than 24 consonants. The additional consonants are made by adding accent marks to the base consonants. For instance, the character for an "f" sound is the same character for a "p" sound, only the "p" has a dot added to it. Generally, a character without a dot is fricative, meaning it's produced by air passing continually between the tongue and lips. A consonant with a dot contains a stop, meaning that the air is cut off. In the case of a dotted "f," the air is stopped by the lips, changing it from an "f" to a "p." Also, by adding a dot to certain vowels, D'ni's six vowel characters are used to represent the eleven vowel sounds in their spoken language.

D'ni follows a noun-verb structure common to many Western languages. Adjectives follow the nouns they modify, and adverbs follow the verbs they modify.

Quantifiers, which add emphasis to phrases, such as "very," "extremely," and "really" are indicated by numbers from one to twenty-five. The higher the number is, the stronger the emphasis is. The phrase "I am a little happy" in D'ni becomes "I am happy to two." "I am very happy" would be "I am happy to twenty." Quantifiers above twenty-five indicate a hyperbolic emphasis. For example, "I am deliriously happy" might literally be translated as "I am happy to thirty."

Several common prefixes and suffixes are used in D'ni. As in Spanish, verbs use suffixes to indicate both the number and person of the subject. For example:

  • The D'ni word for "speak" is "mees." Unmodified, it implies a first-person singular subject ("I speak").
  • The suffix "-en" is added to imply the third-person singular ("he, she, or it speaks" is "mees-en").
  • Third-person plural ("they speak") uses the suffix "-eet" ("mees-eet").
  • First-person plural ("we speak") uses "-et" as a suffix ("mees-et").
  • "You speak" (second-person singular) uses the "-em" suffix ("mees-em").
  • The second-person plural uses the suffix "-tee," meaning that "you (plural) speak" is "mees-tee."
  • You can change second-person phrases into commands by adding the additional suffix "-ah." For example, to order an individual to speak, you would say, "mees-em-ah!"

Verbs use prefixes to indicate the verb's tense—the past, present, and future. To say that you have finished speaking, the phrase is "ko-mees." To say that you are currently speaking, the phrase is "do-mees." To say that you will speak later, the phrase is "bo-mees." Other forms of the prefix are:

  • kodo (past progressive): kodo-mees (I was speaking)
  • le (perfect): le-mees (I have spoken)
  • kol (past perfect): kol-mees (I had spoken)
  • bodo (future progressive): bodo-mees (I will be speaking)
  • boko (future perfect): boko-mees (I will have spoken)
  • bodol (future perfect progressive): bodol-mees (I will have been speaking)

Another common prefix is "re-" for "the." The D'ni word for book is "kor," so to indicate "the book," the phrase is "re-kor." The word "and" is "ga-," so to indicate "and the book," you would say, "ga-re-kor."

Suffixes can also indicate ideas such as possession and plurality. To indicate possession, add the suffix "-okh," which roughly corresponds to "of." The phrase "Gehn's book" in D'ni is structured, "book of Gehn," and is written, "kor-okh Gehn." To make a noun plural, add "-tee" to the end. The word for "books" is "kor-tee."

An adjective, such as "garo" ("mighty"), can be changed to a noun with the suffix "-th," as in "Garoth" ("Mighty One"). You can also change some adjectives into an adverb with the suffix "-sh," as in "garosh" ("mightily").