High Thessian (also known as simply "Thessian", "asari standard", etc.) is the closest the Asari Republics come to a single common language. In fact, though, it is not a language in the usual sense at all - High Thessian is rather a framework of rules and conditions for combining multiple individual languages into a single multilanguage. Asari speaking High Thessian - or any of the dozens of other multilanguage structures common in asari space - switch between individual vocabularies and syntaxes, often in mid-sentence or even mid-word, in order to augment the literal meaning of their words with additional shades of meaning. In other sapients' terms, the technique bears the hallmarks of poetry, or structured musical improvisation.
High Thessian as typically spoken by asari is a combination of between three and fifteen individual localised languages - the theoretical maximum is in the low forties, but fifteen can be regarded as a practical upper limit for everyday conversation. Like many multilanguages, High Thessian sentence structure contains indicators specifying the languages an asari intends to employ, and her particular relation to them; the process is somewhat like a "handshake" in electronic communications terms, after which, having established what amount to groundrules for each participant's intentions, conversations tend to grow far more linguistically complex.
As a complex linguistic structure, education in multilanguages must be preceded by a solid fluency in their component languages - virtually all asari are multilingual in the traditional sense, thanks both to the extended "childhood" period which, compared to most other sapients, affords a great deal of time for education, and the rapid assimilation of language made possible by the use of melding techniques. Asari entering primary education are typically fluent in whatever local dialect is their "native" language, as well as one of a number of more widespread languages to facilitate communication between children from different geographical or cultural areas. By the time asari begin the equivalent of tertiary education, they are generally quite fluent in most of the Thessian "grand languages" - those native to Serrice, Armali, Dassus, Kendra, and other prominent city states - as well as their own local dialects, and a number of specialist "component languages" relating to specific areas of culture and education they have taken an interest in.
Notable among languages employed in education is Thesserit, which occupies the role of a "scholarly language". Thesserit is a multilanguage structure, like High Thessian, with which it shares a significant amount of its structure, however it also encompasses a range of unique linguistic properties and a considerable vocabulary, drawn from multiple fields of study but most prominently epistemological theory. Half-evolved, half-designed, Thesserit is a precise, content-rich language which in its use encourages open discourse and critical thinking. Most asari will be at least familiar with introductory forms of Thesserit; asari who have completed university-level education can generally be expected to be fluent in the complete Thesserit multilanguage, and will habitually use it in academic settings.
Non-asari languages and language change
Due to their long lifespans, asari who learn the languages of shorter-lived species often find it necessary to update themselves, to follow the linguistic mutation and evolution of these languages into new forms; this is particularly notable in the case of salarian languages, where over the course of a single asari lifespan a salarian language can evolve into a form that would be incomprehensible to its original speakers, sometimes several times over. Asari native languages experience similar evolution, albeit on a slower timescale; the commonly-used forms of multilanguages such as High Thessian are known to change more frequently, but their flexible structure and composite form allow for a form of "backward compatibility" - a modern asari's day-to-day High Thessian would be difficult for a salarian-contact-era asari to readily understand, but using the language's own structure they would quickly be able to establish a common language-form suitable for fluent communication.
At the time of first contact with the salarians, asari translation technology was comparatively limited - the ability of asari to gain fluency in one another's languages via melding, as well as their cultural and behavioural trends surrounding language and discourse, made technological translation a relatively unimportant pursuit. Fortunately the possibility of encountering alien life, with entirely unfamiliar means of communication, had been foreseen by both asari and salarian explorers, and they had prepared accordingly as best they could, both technologically and academically; fluent communication was quickly achieved.
Contact with non-asari made translation technology a more pressing priority, and the field was rejuvenated on Thessia and its newly founded colonies, in concert with salarian linguists and programmers. Virtually all modern translators are entirely conversant with the intricacies of asari language, including High Thessian, Thesserit, and other multilanguages, and although a great deal of raw information is sacrificed in translating asari multilanguages to other species' more streamlined languages, the sophistication of translating software in these instances means that vital information is rarely omitted.
It is worth noting that, while asari learn and speak a number of languages, they do not make efforts to eliminate their native accents when employing non-native languages - the traditional belief is that the "proper" accent for a language is the one inherent to the speaker, not to the language's group of origin. Asari accents are thus fairly consistent and easily recognisable, even when being translated, despite the complexity and variation in the language(s) being used.
Multilanguages such as High Thessian allow for the possibility of speaking both asari and non-asari languages, as part of the overall multilanguage structure. Many asari will use the native language of their non-asari parent as one of their speech components in everyday use; certain asari philosophies hold that it is proper, when discussing a social or cultural group in any significant detail, to use their own native language in doing so.
The written forms of asari languages share the multilanguage structure, employing shifts between alphabets and writing styles to a similar effect; alphabets are not so much linked to specific languages as defined as a series of overlapping areas of influence. The majority of scripts include calligraphy-like features which modify or alter the meanings of the more conventional alphabetic forms they surround; the practice is intended to replicate the array of meanings added to spoken language by non-verbal cues, such as intonation, body language, facial expression, and so on. In some cases, particularly in artistic compositions and lyrics, phonetic alphabets may be omitted entirely, with the written language taking a form more akin to expressionist artwork.
Nonetheless, virtually all asari written languages (barring certain forms used primarily in ceremonial settings) can be transcribed in "plain text" if needed, although to non-asari, the "plain" alphabets used in such cases still encompass a seemingly unwieldly number of distinct characters.
Although multilanguages use many words and phrases also found unchanged in their component vocabularies, some composite words are unique:
- ber'ah: strange (a positive, with connotations of beauty)
- galea: dreadnought (from Armali "galea", a species of fighting fish)
- kena sa'ki: literally "the heart of evil", a term commonly applied to Omega
- le'wĕth: the soft ridges extending from beneath the rear of the scalp, merging into the back of the neck (not to be confused with "le'weth" (no accent), which refers to an erogenous zone elsewhere on the body)
- le'ku: the primary (outermost) layer of the asari scalp; can be used to refer to the layer as a whole, or individual tendrils; "Le'kú" refers to the second layer of tendrils, "lĕ'kú" to the tertiary (innermost) layer
- maanru: a type of shoaling fish; also refers to civilian skycars
- mea're: "new tribal sister", to address a tribal sister of a loved person
- siame: "one who is all", a loved one cherished above all others
- siari: "all is one," an expression of the central tenet of the Siarist religion
- sim're: "sister of my sister'", not intended for relations, meaning a dear friend's loved one
- voniferus: perfection
- yakshi: night winds (from Majesan)
- ai'a me: a trusted friend and unquestioned ally
- nara: literally "bearer"; one who shoulders another's burden, aids others in difficult times
- tzu: bottom (anatomical)
- ulla: literally "let it be"; used to express affirmation/agreement
- ba'leer: a common type of public bathhouse, intended to serve as a place of relaxation and peace; literally "the stand of the tide", the period in which the tide is neither ebbing nor flowing.
- rebekha: guardian, protector; literally "watcher of the night" (also used as a given name)
- ardat-yakshi: "demon of the night winds".
- keles: courser (root word of "kelandion", a type of sailing vessel)
- pterios: birdlike, feathered (hence "pterion", a species of fish with fins resembling wings)
Slang and common expressions
- Azure: slang for asari genitalia. The term originated in Nos Astra, Illium, but can be found in use elsewhere due to propagation via extranet; generally treated as a euphamism, but regarded as vulgar in some areas.
- "Tides": a shortening of the asari saying "tides are". The original saying is a reminder that individuals are not always in command of their own destiny, commonly invoked to put aside frustration; conversely, the shortened form is generally a (mild) expression of exasperation.
- The page image for this article is Vulcan script from Star Trek.