Hergé's Syldavian:
A grammar
Tintin images © 1947, 1953, 1975, 1981 by Casterman. Used by kind permission of the Fondation Hergé.

En français


The adventures of Tintin, by the great Belgian artist Hergé, are enjoyed the world over; for the linguist, they offer the added attraction of providing tantalizing glimpses of a previously undocumented language, Syldavian.

Hergé never, to my knowledge, provided any grammatical sketch of this language, and other sources on Syldavian are precious few. I have taken the liberty of laying out the known facts on this fascinating language.

There are several ways to read this document:

  • Simply to find out what the scraps of Syldavian mean. For this, simply read the Annotated Corpus, ignoring the sections in this color type.
  • To grasp Syldavian as a system— phonology, orthography, morphology, syntax. For this, see the Grammar and Lexicon, again ignoring this color type.
  • As a linguistic detective story: following how the scraps were deciphered, what the cognates are, how the results were assembled into a plausible, coherent whole. For this, read the sections in this color type.

Not all of my interpretations and interpolations may be correct; I don't know Dutch, which as will be seen is a requisite for this work, and I've had to rely on the help of Dutch and Belgian correspondents on the Net. Corrections are welcome (but please don't tell me about Marols; I know about it already).

—Mark Rosenfelder

The Annotated Corpus

Below I list every scrap of Syldavian found in the Tintin books. All citations are of course from the original French books. Translators occasionally made alterations in the Syldavian text— e.g. the English version gives politzski for gendarmaskaïa.

Transliterations follow the equivalents given under Orthography. Too bad html is so brain-dead about non-Roman scripts.

First, content words, phrases, and full sentences, by album; then, proper names.

Le Sceptre d'Ottokar (1947)

5 szlaszeck type of meat, later said (probably deceptively) to be dog; szprädj type of red wine
5 khôr currency
6 Handwritten restaurant check: 1 Szlaszeck champ., 1 Szprädj ("1 szlaszeck with mushrooms, 1 red wine")
19 muskh glossed as valeur (valor) kar glossed as roi (king) kloho glossed as conquête (conquest) ow glossed as ville (city)
21 Eih bennek, eih blavek - motto of Syldavia: "Here I am, here I stay."
The motto is glossed in the Syldavian tourist brochure as Qui s'y frotte s'y pique— "Who rubs himself there, gets stung." This gloss however is simply the motto of Lorraine, referring to its emblem, the thistle, and must be taken as an attempt to translate the expression into French cultural terms (indeed, the brochure goes on to quote the English motto Honni soit qui mal y pense.) The true meaning can be seen from the Dutch Hier ben ik, hier blijf ik "Here I am, here I stay", almost certainly the meaning in Syldavian as well, confirmed by the use of blaveh 'stay' in a later book. Since we also have eih = 'he', it seems that 'here' and 'he' (cf. Du. hier, hij) have merged in Syldavian. On the other hand, the motto is medieval, and it is likely that in the centuries since Ottokar, some way has been found to avoid such an inconvenient homophony.

From a 14C manuscript, Noble Deeds of Ottokar IV:
"Pir Ottokar, dûs pollsz ez könikstz, dan tronn eszt pho mâ." Czeillâ czäídâ ön eltcâr alpû, "Kzommetz pakkeho lapzâda." Könikstz itd o alpû klöppz : Staszrvitchz erom szûbel ö. Dâzsbíck fällta öpp o cârrö.
"Father Ottokar, thou falsely art king; the throne is for me." This one said thus to the other, "Come seize the sceptre." The king thus hit him, Staszrvitch, on his head. The villain fell onto the floor."

This was the trickiest passage to decipher. I'd worked out less than half of it before coming across a translation provided by Frédéric Soumois in Dossier Tintin (1987): "'Father Ottokar, thou art then king of the city, so the throne is for me.' That one says to the other. 'Come take the sceptre.' And the king hit Staszrvitch with a blow of the sceptre, which made him fall on the floor like a nanny-goat."

I've departed from Soumois in a number of respects.

  1. I've interpreted pollsz as 'wrongly' (cf. Ger. falsch), which makes better sense— if Staszrvitch were really acknowledging Ottokar's kingship, he wouldn't go on to claim the throne. (The same can be said of an alternative reading of 'king of the Poles').
  2. Soumois translates alpu as 'sceptre'. (The first one could also be akpu; but the second letter doesn't match the other k's in the text). This is defensible, though he cannot supply a cognate. However, I think it reads better as a connective or intensifier, though the precise meaning is hard to pin down. The closest Dutch cognates I can find are al te 'too', aldus 'thus'.
  3. I've taken lapzâda = sceptre (admittedly with no cognate) and szûbel = head from the context; possible cognates for the latter are scalp or Ger. Schopf 'forelock, tuft', or Fr. cheveux 'hair'.
  4. I don't see any justification for the convoluted syntax at the end of Soumois's translation.
  5. 'Nanny-goat' seems undignified for a royal chronicle. That may be the etymological meaning, but obviously the word has changed its sense.

For lapzâda a correspondent suggests Du. lap' zei hij 'slap! says he' or lap' zei de 'slap! says of (king)'. I can't see this, myself. Almost any Syldavian expression can be given such a syllable-by-syllable interpretation in Dutch; but the result won't necessarily hang together. Note that the immediate context is "Come seize —-", which doesn't segué very well into the suggested translations; and note that we already have czäídâ 'said' in this very passage.

Yves Horeau interprets ön eltcâr alpû as 'The sceptre to each one in turn', relating the first part to aan elkaar (literally 'one other'). This is plausible, but I find it an odd thing for the king to say. He also takes lapzâda as 'knocked', which is very tempting, but hard to fit with klöppz in the same sentence.

In the 1939 black and white version, the text is quite different.

Yves Horeau has undertaken the heroic task of translating it; his transliteration and translation follow:
Pir cegan caillouz rgmopz aouidzl birûzn
"The Little Father heard this callow faker of a baron say,
konigzx ü szrigt daon tron es fou maat
'I have the right to be king, thus the throne is for me!'
wazs ceg de xzliele coe
'What do you say, dirty cow?'
gnrufinz shakas turxz atre
'The sceptre to each in turn!'
comurr tur sblsalcomuder
'Come here, you, take my place!'
en nsocödrugt lapzszrazdzeu kzöenig u zgaf se nez
And the king kit him with the sceptre on the nose,
clörp op de pi etendzantecz dazs bic oms car.
the blow laying him at his feet, this goat, on the floor."

This is largely correct, in my opinion, except for a few debatable words. In this first, curiously slangy version, Hergé relied for exoticism principally on inserted odd letters (e.g. aouirdzl for a ouï) rather than diacritics.

24 Peasant, watching Milou falling from sky: Zrälùkz! "Look!"
Peasant, pointing, as Milou lands: Czesztot on klebcz! "That's a dog!" The Dutch version of this book has Czesztot on Foxsz, referring to the fact that Milou is a fox terrier.
The first word could be Zie's dat "Look at that" or 't is dat "It is that" or 't is toch "It is surely" or French c'est "That is". The meaning (here and in the next text) most clearly matches the derivation from French.

In the 1939 version, the other peasant responds, Hamaïh!... "By..."
It's not hard to identify this as the Syldavian equivalent of Bordurian amaïh "hail!", probably used here as an exclamation of surprise.
25 Peasant, discussing Tintin's arrival with his friend: Czesztot wzryzkar nietz on waghabontz! Czesztot bätczer yhzer kzömmetz noh dascz gendarmaskaïa? "That's surely not a tramp! Isn't it better for him to come with us to the police-station?"
In the 1939 version, some words are spelled differently: waghabont, yhzr, kzömmet (and there's a reversed circumflex on some of the o's).
Same peasant, to Tintin: Kzommet micz omhz, noh dascz gendarmaskaïa! "Come with us, to the police station!"
Label on police station: ГЕНДАРМАСКАИА Gendarmaskaïa.
26 On a wall we find an АДВИЧА advicza— a notice.
28 Kursaal concert hall
41 Shop sign (partially obscured): ПРАТН- ЗІГАРЕ- PRATN- ZIGARE-. "(Unknown). Cigarettes."
The first 3 (z) is written backwards, evidently a mistake, as we have it the right way in zigarettes from L'Affaire Tournesol.
42 Amaïh! In L'affaire Tournesol one hails the dictator Amaïh Plekszy-Gladz! Very likely, then, this is a Bordurian loanword.
60 Zyldav Zentral Revolutzionär Komitzät, Müsstler's organization: "Syldavian Central Revolutionary Commitee", of course.
Could this be Bordurian? Possibly; but note Bordurian zservis 'service' (from L'affaire Tournesol), vs. Syldavian zekrett. Likely zentral is Syldavian, while the Bordurian would be zsentral.
61 Szcht! - silence!

Objectif Lune (1953)

3 Zepo, abbreviation for the secret police
Sign: ЮЕРХВЕН / ВЕРТЗРАГЗ Verkhwen / Wertzragh 'Work / slow down'
Sign: ФОРВОТЗЕН ЗОНА Forwotzen Zona 'Forbidden zone'
5 Policeman, to Haddock who is leaving car: Hält! Ihn dzekhoujchz blaveh! "Stop! Stay in the car!"
Dzekhoujchz is written as one word, but the assigned meanings and cognates are incontrovertible: cf. Dutch koets 'coach', blijven 'stay'. Compare dzapeih and dzoeteuïh below; it's clear that the definite article can fuse with the following word in Syldavian.

Note the verb at the end, sounding very Germanic.
To Haddock, querying: Ah? Döszt? "Ah? Thirsty?"
To another policeman: On fläsz Klowaswa vüh dzapeih... Eih döszt! "A bottle of Klow water for this guy... He's thirsty!"
At first I thought vüh dzapeih was 'water bring.' Dutch speakers, however, have suggested voor daarbij 'for nearby', voor die pief 'for the dude', or voor da pei, voor de pee (Brussels dialect) 'for the guy'. I've adopted the last of these over my original guess, since it fits the context and offers a better explanation for dzapeih.
In Syldavian you don't say you 'are thirsty' but (as in French or Dutch) that you 'have thirst'. I've nonetheless identified eih with 'he', not 'he has'. I can't quite see eih as an abbreviation for hij heeft, even pronounced, as it probably is in Marols, [E: e:]— there doesn't seem to be enough trace of the verb; and I hate to see Syldavian littered with inexplicable abbreviations anyway. I suspect that 'has' is virtually undetectable after 'he' and is omitted— compare 'you' and 'you're' in non-rhotic dialects of English.

6 Driver, to Haddock, explaining why a helicopter is blocking their route: Kontzroll, Monzieu. Monzieu is probably just monsieur in a Syldavian accent. "Checkpoint, zir."
Policeman to agent inside car: Güdd.. Zrädjzmo... Zsálu endzoekhoszd... "Good... Keep driving... See you later."
My first guess for endzoekhoszd was 'quickly' (Du. inderhaast). The Dutch speakers prefer to read it as Salut en de kost, meaning (idiomatically) "see you later". This doesn't seem like what a policeman would say, but it's the best we have.

Sign: ШАЛТ Halt! We have this as Hält in Sceptre.
Hergé uses the Cyrillic letter Ш sh for H— an odd choice, especially when Syldavian has a sh sound (sz). But Cyrillic doesn't have an h, and Hergé may have figured we wouldn't check up on him.

Yet another agent, to driver: Güdd! ...Zrädjzmo!... Zsoe ghounh dzoeteuïh ebb touhn... "Good!... Keep driving!... They're going to open the doors."
For the first part, suggestions include Goed [zo]... Rijdt u maar "All right, carry on.", or Da's mooi "That's nice." I'm uncomfortable with explanations that insert word boundaries at will, but the link to rijden is irresistible. An unexpected clue comes from the Arumbaya in Tintin et les Picaros, also based on Dutch: Fretmô 'Just eat!'; cf. Du. Vret maar. -mo seems to act as an intensifying clitic in both Arumbaya and Syldavian.
For the rest, the best suggestion is Ze gaan de deur opendoen "They're going to open the door." (Note deur is common gender; and 'to open' is openen, opendoen, or opengaan in Dutch.)

The driver replies Güdd! "Good!"
12 Zekrett Politzs - secret police

L'Affaire Tournesol (1956)

15 Pack of cigarettes: МАЗЕДОНИА ЛОЗКТЕХ /-ИХ СЗТОУМПЕХ   Mazedonia, lozktekh, —ikh sztoumpekh, 20 zigarettes- Dropped by a guy in a grey trenchcoat, who turns out to be Bordurian. I've taken it as Syldavian, however, because the Bordurians, as can be seen from the street scenes in this album, use the Latin alphabet exclusively. This particular Bordurian spy must have a taste for the enemy's cigs.
The meaning of lozktekh and sztoumpekh is uncertain. The latter may be related to Dutch stomen 'smoke, steam' or to stoemp 'cigarette butt'. The first may be related to Ger. lustig 'merry'; from the context I'd suggest the Syldavian meaning 'pleasant'.

30 Syldavian agent, taking Tournesol to the water: Rapp! Noh dzem bûthsz! "Quick! To the boat!"

Proper names

Persons: Sporowitch (SO 5), Kroïszvitch (SO 6), Schzlozitch (SO 18), Hveghi, Muskar (SO 19); Almazout, Ottokar, Staszrvich (SO 21); Trovik, Wizskiszek, Sirov (SO 26); Sprbodj (SO 29); Kromir (SO 30); Czarlitz (SO 33); Wladimir (SO 39); Müsstler (SO 42); Kaviarovitch (SO 60); Stany, Boldov (AT 41)

Places: Wladir, Moltus (SO 19; rivers); КЛОВ Klow, Kragoniedin, Zileheroum, Dbrnouk, Niedzdrow (SO 19, OL 4; towns); Zlop (SO 27); ЗЛІП Zlip (SO 28; town); Kropow (SO 30; castle); Istow (SO 57); Douma (SO 61; port); Klazdroje (OL 2); ТЕСЗНІК Tesznik (OL 4); Sbrodj (SO 3); Zmyhlpathes (OL 9; mountains); Zstopnohle (OL 51; mountain)

A Grammar of Syldavian

This section necessarily involves more interpretation, although I've based everything as closely as possible on phrases from the corpus. I've not hesitated to fill in details when it seemed advisable; words unattested in the Tintin oeuvre are marked in blue.

Genetic affiliation

Many have assumed, from its phonology, that Syldavian is a Slavic language. And of course the first king of Syldavia, Muskar, was a Slav. But history tells of many nations whose people and whose sovereign do not (or did not originally) share the same language.

If one looks for cognates with other European languages, putting aside international words and proper names, the results are striking:
Syldavian Dutch German Russian
bätczer beter besser luchshe better
blaveh blijven bleiben udyerzhivat' stay
bûthsz boot Boot lyotka boat
dascz de das the
döszt dorst Durst zhazhda thirst
fläsz fles Flasche flyaga bottle
forwotzen verbieden verboten zapreshchat' forbidden
güdd goed gut dobryy good
eih hij er on he
ek ik ich ya I
ihn in in v in
kar koning König korol' king
khoujchz koets Kutsche karyeta coach
kzommet komen kommen prittí come
micz met mit s with
muskh moed Mut muzhestvo courage
nietz niet nein nye not
omhz ons uns nas us
wertzragh vertragen verspäten zamyedlyat' slow down
werkhven werken Werken rabotat' work

The evidence is clear: Syldavian is of Germanic stock, not Slavic; there are no cases (apart from proper names) where there is a Slavic but no Germanic cognate.

Naturally, Slavic influence on the language is significant, both because the Syldavian nobility was Slavic, and because of its geographical location. Proper names in Syldavia, for instance, are normally Slavic; and there is some evidence for a Slavic influence on syntax.

Though Syldavia is in the Balkans, Syldavian forms are usually closer to Dutch than to German (cf. güdd, nietz, wertzragh above). Extratextually the reason is simple: when he needed foreign words, Hergé regularly used Marols, the Brussels Flemish dialect his grandmother spoke. (Another example is the Arabian city of Wadesdah— "What is that" in Marols; and see the Arumbaya in L'oreille cassée.)

Some readers conclude that Syldavian "is" Marols, but this is an exaggeration. Take a closer look at the cognate list above; eih, fläsz, forwotzen, muskh, and micz are closer to German than to Dutch. Note also the plethora of forms of 'the'— dascz, dze, dzem, dza, dzoe— indicating an article declined by case and gender, as in German; the Dutch article has just two forms, and does not decline by case. There are also clear imports from French, such as czesztot, klebcz, gendarmaskaïa, adwicza, zrälùkz.


Syldavian has a rich inventory of consonants. In the usual transliteration:

              lab     dent    alv     velar  uvular

stop b p t d k g
fricative f w s z sz zs kh gh h
affricate tz dz cz dj
nasal m n
lateral l
approximant v r rz
semivowel j

Most of these sounds exist in English; only the spelling (on which more below) is unusual to English-speakers.

sz and zs are the alveolar fricatives ʃ ʒ spelled sh and zh in English. The related affricates cz (also spelled tcz or tch) and dj are pronounced like English ch, j. Some linguists would count kz, pronounced [ks], as a separate phoneme.

tz is pronounced /ts/, and dz is simply the voiced equivalent.

I've taken the interpretation of zs from Hungarian, which spells this sound in this way. Sz and cz are interpreted as in Polish; such spellings were common in eastern Europe, as witness the word Czech. The spelling -tch (Sporowitch), imitating the Slavic patronymic (Ivanovich), is obviously taken from French; as we only see tch in proper names we can assume it is an orthographic variant— that's the nice way of saying that Hergé should have been consistent and written Sporowicz. tcz is attested only in bätczer; as a t doesn't change the sound of a cz, this is best interpreted as a another spelling variant— or perhaps indicates a doubled consonant.

How do we interpret khoujchz? The Dutch equivalent koets suggests only that some affricate is involved. chz can surely not be the same as tz; more likely (given that we've already seen the variant tch) it's yet another form of cz.

kh (sometimes spelled ch) is pronounced like the German ch in Bach. The voiced equivalent is gh.

The voiced gh /ɣ/ is not that common in European languages— it's common in Turkic ones— but is clearly suggested by the Dutch model; e.g. vagebond is pronounced [vaɣebont]. The coexistence of such words as ghounh, güdd suggests that in Syldavian, unlike Dutch, /g/ and /ɣ/ contrast.

In older Syldavian we find c used for /k/: eltcâr, cârrö. We don't see this in modern words, and I suspect k is now used, at least for words perceived as native.

As in the Slavic languages, one must be careful to pronounce the dental phonemes against the teeth. Thus s and sz, tz and cz contrast much more strongly than they do in English. The l is always clear, as in 'light', even at the end of the word— never dark, as in 'tale'.

The r is a flap, as in Spanish, Italian, or Japanese, never a uvular fricative as in French or German, or a retroflex approximant like the American r. The rz is the same palatalized r found in Polish (rz) or Czech (Dvorak); to American ears it sounds something like rsh.

Confusingly, w is /v/, as in 'avid', while v is a bilabial approximant /β/, as in continental Spanish lavar.

The phonemes w and v are something of a puzzle. From the word Klow, which is given in both alphabets, we see that w corresponds to Cyrillic В, which is /v/ in all Slavic languages; compare also loan-words like Wladimir, and the pronunciation of w in German and Polish. Nonetheless we see v used as well, in such words as Hveghi. The key to this mystery is provided by the word ЮЕРХВЕН 'works', cognate to German Werken, for which Hergé does not provide a transliteration. Thinking of Russian words like soyuz, we may be tempted to read /yuerxven/; but I believe this is misreading the usage of the letter yu in Russian, where it marks not y + u but a form of /u/, specifically, any /u/ following a palatalized consonant. Palatalization is not important in Syldavian, but 'a form of u' is the key point. The best interpretation of the facts is that Syldavian Ю is a bilabial approximant /β/, as in continental Spanish lavar, and should be identified with the v seen in transliterated Syldavian. After a consonant, as in Hveghi, it is likely that v becomes an approximant: [hweɣi]. Note that Dutch has the same /v/ vs. /β/ distinction, but the opposite orthography: v, w.

In two words (bûthsz, Zmylpathes) we see a digraph th; I take this as an orthographic variant for t, as in French or German. In the second case the spelling is obviously suggested by the 'Carpathian' range. There's no good explanation for the th in bûthsz; but equally no reason for a fricative in this word. The only Germanic languages with a fricative th are English and Icelandic, and the cognate lists make it clear that Syldavian follows the other Germanic languages (cf. döszt, dze vs 'thirst, the') rather than these.

The vowels are:

         front     mid    back

high i,y ü u û
mid e ö o ô
low ä a

The phonetic realization of the front vowels is clear: as in French and German, i and e exist in both unrounded and rounded variants. The interpretation of ä is unclear: it may be a rounded form of a, or a fronted [æ] as in 'ask', or it may represent [ɛ], as in German.

It's also unclear how û and ô are pronounced, especially as they appear in only one word each (bûthsz, khôr). I suggest û = u as in put; ô = open o as in caught.

We also see a few uses of ou, oe, y. The first can be taken as a diphthong, and the second as a variation of ö. I've taken y as a high lax vowel, the /I/ of 'pin', but it may simply be an orthographic variant of i.

The plethora of diacritics and alternate spellings are really a flaw in Hergé's invention. He would have done well to sit down and decide on the sounds of Syldavian once and for all, then stick to them. The lack of systematicity may only bother a linguist; but there is an artistic problem as well: the reader can have no idea how to pronounce the language consistently.


In medieval times the Syldavians apparently wrote their (Germanic) language using the Roman alphabet (see for instance the 14th century manuscript shown in Le sceptre d'Ottokar). To this day the coat of arms of Syldavia shows the motto Eih bennek, eih blavek in Latin characters (to be precise, in what is called in English black-letter script, and in German Fraktur).

In the present day, Syldavians write their language using the Cyrillic alphabet. When the changeover occurred and why cannot be determined.

Here are the Syldavian consonants in the Roman and Cyrillic alphabets:

In some cases (cz, tz) digraphs are used instead of the single letters used in Cyrillic. We can only assume that the Roman alphabet was used first in Syldavia, and that the Cyrillic spellings were based on it.

I've had to supply a few equivalents here, for sounds Hergé gives only in the Roman alphabet. The use of ЗС follows Hergé's model— the Syldavians presumably had their reasons for not using Cyrillic Ш sha and Ж zhe. Finally gz is suggested as the transliteration of gh; this both provides a missing equivalent and produces a neater pronunciation for the word wertzragh.

Parts of Speech


Nouns are either of common or neuter gender. Most nouns, including most of those referring to persons or animals, are of common gender.

Plurals: -es (zigarettes, Zmyhlpathes) and -en (verkhwen) are both seen.

  • Common words normally pluralize in -en: klebczen 'dogs', khôren 'khôrs', fläszen 'bottles', verkhwen 'works'.
  • Loanwords generally pluralize in -es: zigarettes 'cigarettes', komitzätes 'committees'.

The chief reason for postulating two genders in Syldavian is the multiple forms of 'the'.


subject object possessive
1s I ek ma mejn
2s thou dûs da dejn
3s he eih itd yhzer
3s she zsoe irz yhzer
1p vei ohmz ohmz
3p zsoe khon khon

Subject forms are used, naturally, for the subject of a sentence:

Eih döszt. He's thirsty.
Ek nietz itd werlagh. I don't want it.

Object forms are used for the object of a verb or after a preposition.

Wladimir irz löwt. Wladimir loves her.
Kzommet micz omhz. Come with us.

The deictic pronouns are czei 'this', tot 'that':

Eih czei klebcz klöppta. He hit this dog.
Tot eszt on döszt waghabontz. This is a thirsty tramp.
Tintin noh czei bûthsz kzommet. Tintin is coming to this boat.
Hadok öpp tot bûthsz fällta. Haddock fell off that boat.

Other known pronouns are eihn 'here', daren 'there', eltkar 'another (person)'.


The indefinite article is on.

on klebcz a dog
on fläsz Klowaswa a bottle of Klow water

The plural is onegh. Note that English omits the article in this case, or uses 'some'.

onegh klebczen dogs, some dogs
onegh fläszen Klowaswa [some] bottles of Klow water

The definite article is declined, as in German.

m/f n pl
nom dze dascz dzoe
acc dzem dascz dzoe
dat dze dza dzem
gen doscz doscz doscz

Nominative forms are used for the subject of a sentence:

Dzebûthsz wzryzkar vertraght. The boat is surely slowing down.

Accusative forms are used for the direct object (as well as after certain prepositions):

Dzem bûthsz werlagh ek. I want the boat.

Dative forms are used for the indirect object (as well as after certain prepositions):

Ek itd dzekönikstz werkopta. I sold it to the king.

Genitive forms are used in possessive phrases:

Eih fällta öpp o kârrö doscz bûthsz. He fell on the floor of the boat.

The forms ending in a vowel attach to the following word: dascz gendarmaskaïa 'the police station', but dzoeteuïh 'the doors'.

Attested forms are:
dâzsbíck 'the nanny-goat' in the medieval chronicle; should be feminine, but seems to be neuter instead. The zs is an assimilation of the expected scz before the following voiced consonant.
noh dascz gendarmaskaïa 'to the police station'
noh dzem bûthsz! 'to the boat!'; Boot is neuter in Ger. but common in Du.
ihn dzekhoujchz 'in the car'; Kutsche is fem. in German, common in Du.
vüh dzapeih 'for the guy' - logically should be common; but then it should be dze-, so I take it as neuter, otherwise unattested
dzoeteuïh '[open] the doors'; deur is common in Du.

Compare German and Old Dutch:
m f n pl O.Du.
nom der die das die die
acc den die das die dien
dat dem der dem den dien
gen des der des der des

Syldavian must have once had set of forms more like the German. It is not hard to see what has happened. Final -r was lost (-r is unstable in Syldavian; compare döszt with 'thirst', or vüh with 'for'), and final -m as well. The distinction between de and die was also lost, perhaps at the same time both affricated to dze. The fem. acc. and gen. should have been dze as well; the masculine dzem (from earlier den) and doscz (from des) were adopted by analogy, merging the two genders. With palatalization of das in the neuter, the present system was attained.


Adjectives precede nouns: forwotzen zona 'prohibited area'; Zekrett Politzs 'Secret Police'. They are not declined.

(Actually, there isn't sufficient evidence to tell whether adjectives ever change in form. The rules in Dutch are complex.)

Note the derivation Klow > Klowaswa. This is merely one of many adjectivizations, however; compare Zyldav 'Syldavian'.

Adjectives can be used to modify verbs (or, if you like, adverbs have the same form as the corresponding adjective):

Nadja Wladimir zekrett löwt. Nadja secretly loves Wladimir.
Dzapeih wzryzkar eszt on vaghabontz. The guy is surely a tramp.

Verbs: Conjugation

Attested forms:
bennek - am (with cliticized pronoun)
blavek - 1s present indicative (with cliticized pronoun)
ghounh - 3p present indicative
forwotzen - past participle
kzömmetz - (Czesztot bätczer yhzer kzömmetz noh dascz gendarmaskaïa?) infinitive ("better for him to come...") or 3s subjunctive ("better that he come...")
kzommetz - imperative (to 1 person)
touhn - infinitive
wertzragh - generalized command, possibly in infinitive
kzömmet - imperative, T or V form (to 1 person). V form = stem + -t in Dutch!
hält - imperative, T or V form (to 1 person)
zrälùkz - imperative, T or V form (to 1 person)
blaveh - imperative, T or V form (to 1 person)
zrädjzmo - imperative, T or V form (to 1 person)
ez - art (2p pres. indic. of 'be')
eszt - is (3s pres. indic. of 'be')
czäídâ - said (3s past indic.)
pakkeho - seize (infinitive)
klöppz - knocks (3s pres. indic.)
fällta - fell (3s past indic.).

Verbs are either weak or strong. The strong conjugation can be taken as follows:

Infinitive blavn 'stay'
Present indicative 1s blav, 3s blavet, 1p/3p blaven
Past indicative s blev, pl bleven
Subjunctive s blavetz, pl blavendz
Imperative 2s blaveh, 2p blavet
Participles pres blavendz, past bleven

And the weak:

Infinitive löwn 'love'
Present indicative 1s löw, 3s löwt, 1p/3p löwen
Past indicative s löwda, pl löwenda
Subjunctive s löwetz, pl löwendz
Imperative 2s löweh, 2p löwet
Participles pres löwendz, past löwen

The differences are in the past tense (formed by alternation of the root for strong verbs, by the addition of -da (-ta after an unvoiced consonant) for weak ones) and in the past participle (which for strong verbs shares the same vowel alternation as the past tense).

There isn't any evidence on which to base 2nd person forms— indeed, we don't even know whether medieval dûs 'thou' survives. I suggest using the 1s/1p forms.


Known prepositions:

ihn in
micz with
noh to
o at, about
öpp up, off
vüh for

Interestingly, prepositions become postpositions with 3s pronouns, using the special form er; thus: erom 'at or against him/her', ervüh 'for him or her', etc.

Prepositions generally take the dative, except where movement is implied, when the accusative is used. Thus there is a difference in meaning between
ihn dzekhoujchz (dat.) (something takes place) in the car
ihn dzem khoujchz (acc.) (something moves) into the car

As a corollary, some prepositions are used with only one case: e.g. noh, which always expresses movement, always takes the accusative; while o, which never does, is always followed by the dative.

I base this description on German, since Dutch (including Marols!) lacks the declined definite article. It's consistent with the prepositional phrases found in the Corpus (see Articles).


The verb normally follows the object:

Ihn dzekhoujchz blaveh! In the car stay!
Ek mejn mädjek löw. I love my girlfriend.
On sprädj werlagh. I want some wine.

Where there's an auxiliary and a main verb, the verb remains at the end, and the auxiliary moves just after the subject:

Zsoe ghounh dzoeteuïh ebb touhn. They're going to open the doors.
Ek werlagh ihn Klow blavn. I want to stay in Klow.

In earlier Syldavian the pronoun may follow the verb, and this form may still be used for emphasis:

Eih bennek, eih blavek Here I am, here I stay. [medieval spelling]
Wzryzkar kzomme ek! I'm coming, for sure!

You can say either Eihn ben ek or Ek ben eihn, but never *Eihn ek ben (unlike English, where you can say 'Here I am'). In general "X is Y" can be inverted to "Y is X". When X is a pronoun, the inversion adds some emphasis: Güdd eszt itd, 'Good it is.'

In the kzommet sentences in the corpus, prepositional phrases follow the verb. The comma, however, is a signal that the prepositional phrase has been moved for emphasis, or because it is an afterthought:

Kzommet micz omhz, noh dascz gendarmaskaïa! Come with us to the police station!

Forms of 'be' directly follow the subject :

Könikstz eszt güdd. The king is good.
Sbrodj eszt on forwotzen zona. Sbrodj is a forbidden zone.
Dan dzetronn eszt ervüh. Then the throne is for him.

The merged form czesztot 'it is, that is' begins a sentence: Czesztot Tintin. "That's Tintin."


To negate a sentence, the particle nietz is placed after the subject, in auxiliary position.

Müsstler nietz dzem könikstz löwt. Müsstler does not love the king.

In copulative sentences, nietz is placed after the verb (or czesztot) :

Müsstler eszt nietz güdd. Müsstler is not good.
Czesztot wzryzkar nietz on waghabontz! That's surely not a vagabond!


Simple questions are normally indicated simply by a rising inflection:

Dzekönikstz het döszt? Is the king thirsty?
On klebcz fällt? Is a dog falling?

If there is an auxiliary, or a verb accompanied only by a subject, it may instead be inverted with the subject:

Ben ek eihn? Blav ek eihn? Am I here? Do I stay here?
Ghounh Tintin noh Sbrodj kzömmen? Is Tintin going to come to Sbrodj?

The one known interrogative pronoun is vazs 'what':

Vazs eszt tot? What is that?


For strong verbs, the past participle is given after the main entry.

adwicza - n. notice [probably from French avis]
Almazout - n. Syldavian noble, crowned as Ottokar I
alpû - adv. thus, next, even [Du. aldus]
amaïh! - v. Hail! [borrowed from Bordurian]
bätczer - adv. better [cf. Du. beter]
ben - v. am
bíck - n. villain, beast [Fr. bique 'nanny-goat']
birûzn - n. baron [from the original version of the medieval manuscript]
blavn (bleven) - v. stay [cf. Du. blijven]
bûthsz - n.n boat [cf. Ger. Boot]
champ. - abbreviation for 'mushrooms'. (The restaurateur may simply have written down the order in French; but since he was Syldavian, it's also possible that champignons has been borrowed as a culinary term.)
czaïgan (czaïda) - v. say [Du. zeggen; cf. cegan in the first version of the medieval manuscript.]
czei - pron, adj. this [Fr. ce]
czeilla - pron. that one [cf. Fr. celui-là]
czesztot - phrase it is [czei eszt tot cf. Fr. c'est]
da - pron. thee (acc.)
dan - pron. then, therefore [Du. dan]
daren - pron. there
dascz - art. the; see dze
Dbrnouk - n. town in the south part of Syldavia
dejn - pron. thy, thine
döszt - n, adj. thirst, thirsty [cf. Du. dorst]
Douma - n. chief port of Syldavia
dûs - pron. thou [cf. Ger. du]
dze - art. the. Common nom/dat dze, acc dzem; neuter nom/acc dascz, dat dza; plural nom/acc dzoe, dat dzem. Genitive, invariant doscz.
ebb - adj. open; ebb touhn verbal phrase open [lit. 'do open'; cf. Du. opendaan]
ek - pron. I
eih - pron. he, archaic here
eihn - pron. here [from eih ihn 'herein', expression which replaced the earlier eih 'here' once it had inconveniently merged with eih 'he']
eltkar - pron. another, the other one [Du. elkaar]
en - conj. and [Not directly attested, but recoverable from endzoekhoszd. Du.en]
endzoekhoszd - adv. later on [cf. Bruxellois Dutch en de kost]
er - pron. him, them (form appearing before a preposition)
fällen - v. fall
fläsz - n. bottle [cf. Ger. Flasche]
forwitzen (forwotzen) - forbid
forwotzen - part. forbidden
gendarmaskaïa - n. police station
ghounh - go [cf. Du. gaan]
güdd - adj. good
Hält! - v. stop!
hamaïh! - v. hail! [cf. Antwerp Du. amai, used as an expression of surprise - hamaïh can be used this way in Syldavian as well]
heben - v have [cf. Du. hebben]. 3s present indic. het tends to be lost after a subject ending in a vowel, e.g. eih.
Hveghi - n. Slav chief, rebelled against Turks, crowned as Muskar I
ihn - prep. in
irz - pron. her [Du. haar, Ger. ihr]
Istow - n. Syldavian town (56 km from Klow)
itd - pron. him
kar - n. king
karrö - n. floor [Fr. carreau]
khon - pron. them, their [Du. hun]
khôr - n. Syldavian currency
khoujchz - n.f. car [cf. Du. koets 'coach'].
klebcz - n. dog [cf. Fr. clebs, Arabic kalb]
kloho - n. conquest
klöppen - v. knock, hit
Klow - n. capital of Syldavia, at the confluence of the Wladir and the Moltus [kloho + ow]
Klowaswa - adj. of Klow; as n. Klow water
komitzät - n. committee
könikstz - n. king [Du. koning, Ger. könig]
kontrzoll - n. check, checkpoint, control
Kragoniedin - n. town known for its thermal springs
Kropow - n. castle near Klow, where the Royal Treasure is guarded
Kursaal - n. concert hall
kzou - n. cow [Du. koe, appearing as coe in the B/W version of the medieval text, but modified in light of the later handling of 'come' and 'car'.]
kzömmen - v. come [Du. komen]
löwn - v. love
lapzâda - n. sceptre
lozktekh - pleasant [cf. Ger. lustig]
mädjek - girl, girlfriend
Mazedonia - n. Macedonia
ma - pron. me
mejn - pron. my
micz - prep. with [Ger. mit]
-mo - particle just, only, more: Zrädjzmo! Drive on! Keep driving! [Du. maar]
Moltus - n. second major river of Syldavia
Muskar - n. name of several kings of Syldavia, including the first [muskh + kar]
muskh - n. valor
Niedzdrow - n. town on the Wladir
nietz - adv. not [cf. Dutch niet 'not']
noh - prep. to [cf. Ger. nach, Du. naar]
o - prep. at, about [archaic ön; Du. om]
omhz - pron. us, our [cf. Ger. acc/dat uns (Ger. uses dat. after mit); Du. objective and possessive form ons]
on - art. a, one [cf. Du. een]
onegh - art. some [Du. enige]
öpp - prep. up, off, at
Ottokar - n. name of several kings of Syldavia
ow - n. town
pakken - v. seize [Du. pakken]
peih - n.. person, guy [Brussels Du. pee < Fr. père. Note that this same French word was previously borrowed in medieval times as Pir.]
pir - n. father [Fr. père]
politzs - n. police
pollsz - adj. false, wrong [Du. vals, Ger. falsch]
rapp - adj. quick, fast [Belgian Du. rap]
revolutzionär - adj. revolutionary
Sbrodj - n. Syldavian town, site of the atomic research institution from which the first expedition to the Moon was launched
Staszrvich - n. rebellious Syldavian noble in the time of Ottokar IV
szcht - n. silence!
szlaszeck - n. type of meat, said (probably jocularly) to be dog
szprädj - n. red wine [Fr. rouge?]
sztoumpekh - ?? [Du. stomen 'smoke, steam' or stoemp 'butt'?]
szûbel - n. head
Tesznik - n. Syldavian town
teuïh - n. door [Du. deur]
touhn - v. do [cf. Du. doen]
tot - pron. adj. that [Du. dat; Russian tot]
tronn - n. throne [Du. troon, Fr. trône]
vazs - pron. what [Du. was. Appears as wazs in the B/W version of the medieval text, but I've modified the first letter to match Syldavian's orthographic w/v reversal.]
vei - pron. we
verkhwen - n. works (pl.) [cf. Ger. Werken]
vüh - prep. for [archaic pho, surely pronounced fo; cf. Du. voor]
waghabontz - n. vagabond, tramp
werkopen - v. sell [Du. verkopen]
werlagh - v. want, desire [Du. verlangen]
wertzragh - v. slow down [cf. Du. vertragen]
Wladimir - n. patron saint of Syldavia
Wladir - n. principal river of Syldavia
wzryzkar - adj. sure; adv. surely [cf. Du. voor zeker 'for sure']
yhzer - poss. pron. his, her [cf. Ger. ihrer]
zekrett - adj. secret
zentral - adj. central
Zepo - Zekrett Politzs - n. Secret Police
zigarettes - n.pl. cigarettes
Zileheroum - n. Turkish capital of Syldavie, on the Moltus; now Klow
Zlip - n. town
Zmyhlpathes - n. a mountain range in Syldavia [mixture of 'Carpathian' and Fr. mille-pattes 'centipede']
zona - n. zone
zrälùkzen - v. look (irregular imperative Zrälùkz) [Fr. reluquer, a combination of regarder and middle Dutch locken, both meaning 'look']
zrädjzen - v. drive, ride [cf. Du. rijden]
zsálu - interj. hello [Fr. salut]
zsoe - pron. she, they [Du. zij]
zsoen - v. be; irregular verb: ben, ez, eszt... [cf. Du. zijn]
Zstopnohle - n. name of a mountain near Sbrodj
Zyldav Zentral Revolutzionär Komitzät - n. prewar Fascist organization
Zyldav - adj. Syldavian
Zyldavja - n. Syldavia