Pravic Phoneme Inventory

stops, oralp bt dk gkv gv
stops, nasalmn
fricatives/affricatesf vθs zʃ tʃ
liquidsl r

Total consonants: 19

front centralback
mide o

Total vowels: 5

Pravic names are assigned by computer. The usual pattern is CVCVC (e.g. Shevek, Takver, Sadik, Bedap, Tirin, Gvarab, Kadagv). Given this, the total possible name count is 171,475. In practice, the number in use may have been less than this; it seems unlikely, for example, that the computer would allow names with three identical consonants.

In any case, this number represents the upper limit of the population of Anarres before the computer must find a new paradigm. Curiously, a few names in The Dispossessed do violate the CVCVC constraint: Labeks, Skovan, Terzol. Though these are bit characters whose ages may not be obvious, they appear to be of Shevek’s generation or older. Both of Shevek’s children, however, receive names that fit the paradigm. This may indicate either that the names Sadik and Pilun became available by chance due to the deaths of their previous holders (since Anarresti names are recycled) or—a more interesting possibility—that population on Anarres declined at some point between Shevek’s generation and that of his children.

Obviously, the great famine at the time of Sadik’s birth could cause such a decline. Le Guin may or may not have had this possibility in mind while writing—it is admittedly a thin thread—but intended or not, this is a curious example of the power of considered linguistic invention in other-world fiction.

Return to Caveat Lector entry.