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Nerys Ghemor August 29 2008 05:38 AM

Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
After consulting via PM with RevdKathy to determine where this material should go, I'm opening this single thread for all of the background development I'm doing for the Star Trek: Sigils and Unions continuity.

The majority of the material will be background into the Cardassian Union--its culture, geography (of Cardăsa Terăm...that is, Cardassia Prime), history, language, and so on...since there was so much about Cardassian culture beyond the Orwellian surface that was left for speculation.



Tonight, I'll begin with the Cardassian Guard's rank system as I envision it. Though some parts of it match the system you see in the Terok Nor novels, I have made significant modifications based on two things: a differing interpretation of the rank of "glinn," and the need to use terms in some cases that were more fitting to what I imagine of Cardăsda (the official language of the Cardassian Union).

(Information about the proper pronunciation of these and other Cardăsda words, and the differences between Ilojan and Federation Standard transliterations will come later--some FS transliterations are approximate only!)

Here are the ranks, their Ilojan transliterations, rough Starfleet equivalents, and etymologies. If you're familiar with the structure of Semitic languages like Hebrew and Arabic, you'll notice some similarities in the roots from which words form. In Cardăsda, however, roots may contain consonant clusters, and some may be biconsonantal rather than consisting of three consonants (or consonant groups).

Legate (Thăkliv) Admiral (th-kl-v: to shape/mould)

Gul (Gul) Captain/Fleet Captain (g-l: to command)
Glinn (Glin) Lieutenant Commander/Commander (gl-n: to stand)
Dalin (Dalin) Lieutenant (d-l-n: to channel)
Riyak (Riyăk) Lieutenant (j.g.) (r-y-k: to specialize)

Ragosh (Ragoš) Ensign/Chief (r-g-š: to link)

Gorr (Gor) Petty Officer (g-r: to support)
Garresh (Garheš) Crewman (g-rh-š: to obey)

Please note that the Starfleet rank equivalencies are very rough: Cardassian ranks are best understood on their own terms. The key for those not in a position to actually observe a Cardassian Guard crew at work is to envision the meanings behind the ranks as illustrated by their roots. The chart above also gives something of an idea; as you will see, there are fewer ranks in general than Starfleet, as within ranks, age seniority plays a greater (although uncodified) role than it would in Starfleet, and there are four general categories of ranks, with two (Legate and Ragosh) standing by themselves.

The rank of Thăkliv, commonly translated into Federation Standard as “Legate” (due to difficulties in pronouncing the sound represented by ‘th’ in Ilojan transliteration) is one who shapes Central Command policy. Younger legates tend to continue operating in the field, though not on the front lines: they are often seen commanding an Order, all forces on Cardassia’s larger colony worlds, for example. An older legate, such as the late Tekeny Ghemor, takes greater part in the policy-making aspects.

A Gul is one who commands a significantly-sized unit: for example, a Gălor-class warship, a large planetary troop garrison (of several hundred men), or holds certain influential administrative positions.

A Glin, commonly transliterated as “glinn,” is one who stands by his or her gul, figuratively speaking. In almost all cases, two glinns report to a gul: on a warship, the glinns hold the positions of XO and chief engineer—one to maintain the infrastructure and function of the ship itself, one to help the gul in managing that ship’s personnel and interactions with the galaxy. Though both glinns hold the same rank, it is acknowledged that the XO is the senior of the two and while the engineer usually defers to the XO, it is the gul who breaks impasses between the two.

(This is a rank that I have chosen to break from the Terok Nor novel system on as evidence suggests that glinns tend to have wider-ranging duties than one would expect of a junior officer—Damar’s function under Dukat’s command in particular points in this direction. I did also like the Terok Nor rank of “dalin,” but I have placed it directly under glinn. You might now question why Gul Macet brought both of his glinns aboard the Enterprise—why would all three of the Trager’s senior officers go onto the vessel of a borderline-enemy? I have decided Macet was deliberately sending a message to Picard even though he did not always show it with his words, that he was going well out of his way to work together with him, including that act of trust. This may be a reason Picard took Macet’s intent to keep the peace seriously even though he knew Central Command was re-arming.)

A Dalin is one who channels inputs from varying specialties to develop comprehensive scenarios and reports that gul and glinns will use to decide their ship’s course of action. Operations and tactical officers are notable examples on the bridge crew of a typical Gălor, as well as several positions in engineering, medical, and other fields. While a dalin tends to have particular strength in a certain field, he or she typically has cross-trained in other areas with relations to his or her own field to understand how they impact one another.

A Riyak is one who specializes in a particular field, supervising others in that same specialty. In civilian society, this would typically represent skilled professions and trades—shipboard, this might include such positions as navigator, security chief, head of linguistics, a fighter pilot, and similar positions. This is the lowest rank that can be directly equated to the Federation’s idea of an “officer.” Highly-skilled professionals, when conscripted, enter at this rank: lawyers, doctors, engineers, and so on.

A Ragoš, commonly transliterated into Federation Standard as “ragosh,” links the ships’ officer contingent to the lower decks. Ragosh is a rank with similarities to both a Starfleet Ensign and Chief—one could easily imagine Chief O’Brien holding the rank of ragosh were he serving in the Cardassian Guard. There are two ways to earn this rank: to enter the Guard as an officer—typically an individual with a university or advanced trade school education, or to earn the rank by working one’s way up through the “conscriptee” ranks. This leads to some very interesting dynamics between certain ra’agouš since the rank holds a combination of “green” young people and seasoned veterans and there is an interplay between age and position that determines seniority within this rank.

(What follows are Terok Norranks again.)

A Gor, commonly transliterated as “gorr,” supports the ragosh and officer staff and does supervise younger conscriptees, but is generally part of carrying out policy rather than playing any role in shaping it. (Consider the role of an assistant manager or shift supervisor in many Terran retail settings.)

A Garheš, commonly transliterated as “garresh,” obeys the orders of superiors in the carrying-out of his or her day-to-day work. This is the equivalent of “crewman” in Starfleet ranks—typically just out of preparatory school (the Cardassian equivalent of high school) and while very often a conscriptee, is sometimes a person coming from an economically-disadvantaged background who has entered the military for career experience and a ticket to trade-school education upon separation.

Mistral August 29 2008 06:34 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
Wow-fascinating. I mean that. Intense research/thought put into this. Normally I hate it when a writer sets up a ton of background exercises but yours is a pleasure to read.

Nerys Ghemor August 30 2008 01:07 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread

Mistral wrote: (Post 2003961)
Wow-fascinating. I mean that. Intense research/thought put into this. Normally I hate it when a writer sets up a ton of background exercises but yours is a pleasure to read.

Thanks. I'm very glad I could interest you. I try to write my background information as if you were pulling up a "Wikipedia" article in-universe--as though it were something somebody in the Trek universe might look up if they wanted to know about the subject. :)

And of course, only some of the ideas were mine--some of the others came from the Terok Nor books with varying degrees of consistency.

I intend only to reveal stuff as it becomes relevant to the story rather than unloading an overwhelming amount of information. (The Cardăsda language is already quite extensive and I STILL haven't finished with all of the major grammatical points!) Since this particular information is relevant at this point, I thought it was a decent time to unveil it.

Nerys Ghemor September 14 2008 05:01 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
OK...what I would ideally like to post next is my beginning lesson in Cardăsda pronunciation. I have audio files, but I don't know where to host them that is a) free and b) has a tolerable level of ads (i.e. no spyware, no giving out of personal information to hear the files). Does anybody know where I should upload them?

TheLoneRedshirt September 14 2008 02:37 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
Well done! I appreciate the thought and effort in creating this background material on the Cardassians. One of the things that has always bothered me about the canon Star Trek universe is how the cultures seem to be simple derivations of human culture - particularly with the military factions. Your explanation of Cardassian rank structure has a more "alien" feel (a very good thing, imho).

Would you mind if I borrowed from this for future reference?

DavidFalkayn September 14 2008 06:38 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
You've really put forth a lot of effort in 'universe creation' here--you're doing a wonderful job in making the Cardassians come across as a truly different culture.

To echo Redshirt: May I have permission to borrow some of this?

Nerys Ghemor September 14 2008 07:33 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: (Post 2067905)
Well done! I appreciate the thought and effort in creating this background material on the Cardassians. One of the things that has always bothered me about the canon Star Trek universe is how the cultures seem to be simple derivations of human culture - particularly with the military factions. Your explanation of Cardassian rank structure has a more "alien" feel (a very good thing, imho).

It's funny...when I was first playing with the system, I was thinking of trying to directly equate the ranks to human equivalents--but once I got what you see here, I started looking at it and thinking the system just made so much sense as it was that to add to it would cause more problems than it would "solve." In addition to the linguistics issues that made me overhaul the rank system shown in the Terok Nor novels, that's the other reason I decided to stop: I liked the fact that this system could not be directly equated to human culture.

A Cardassian looking at Lieutenant Commander Spirodopoulos, for instance, might equate him to either a dalin or a glinn depending on the role they saw him acting in: as tactical officer, he'd be a dalin, but if he were chief engineer, or for whatever reason ended up filling the XO's shoes or something similar, he'd be thought of like a glinn. Making the correct translation requires one to actually observe what a particular crew member is DOING rather than just looking at a conversion table.

The other reason in my mind for fewer rank gradations is the role that we know age/seniority plays in Cardassian culture. They very much respect a person's years, so I could easily see age accounting for the finer gradations between ranks that you see in Starfleet. (Which also means that when somebody gets promoted early, it can cause friction--the gul of the Sherouk, for instance, has his age going against him as well as his disability.)


Would you mind if I borrowed from this for future reference?
Sure if you credit it, and same thing to DavidFalkayn. :)

One warning, though: by and large I don't think the Sigils and Unions continuity is going to mesh well with United Trek considering the direction I intend to take things, but if you'd like to use this part, feel free...the rank and language stuff I doubt is going to be a continuity issue for us.

Nerys Ghemor September 25 2008 01:17 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
All right...I don't know how long these links are going to last, but I am hoping they'll last long enough for you to get the idea.

Now you get to hear your first taste of the Cardăsda language--yes, you get to hear it! Just click the links before each section to get the audio for this lesson, as if you were a Federation citizen studying the language!

(Man, I hate my voice. And I know what it says on that website but don't even THINK about making ringtones or any other crap out of this. I would never be able to crawl back out from under my rock and face humanity again if you did. Oh, and I'd never forgive you. :p )

Lesson 1: Consonant Pronunciation

Cardassian pronunciation has a reputation among speakers of Federation Standard (once known as English) for being difficult due to the prevalence of certain consonants of relatively rare occurrence among Terran languages. The truth is that this reputation is somewhat unfair—Cardassian is not as difficult as it’s commonly made out to be. Most Cardassian consonants are quite straightforward, with only a few minor points that Federation Standard speakers need to be aware of. In fact, Federation Standard speakers have a distinct advantage over native speakers of languages such as Spanish, Rihannsu, Klingon, and other prominent galactic languages due to certain similarities in vowel pronunciation—right down to a tendency to de-emphasize vowels occurring in non-accented syllables. That’s why we will spend little time dealing with the vowels: they will by and large take care of themselves as long as you follow the Ilojan transliterations listed on your display. We’ll work on them a few lessons down the line.

It can accurately be said of native Federation Standard speakers that if one masters the consonants, a near-native accent will come easily (the trouble being, of course, that many Cardassians, upon hearing well-pronounced language, will expect perfect grammar to come with it!). Still, put aside your fears—in not too long, you’ll be well on your way.

Before we begin, please note that every Cardassian letter has a name, such as loubăk for “l.” Don’t worry about these names for now—you’ll learn them later. We’ll start our lessons with proper names, some of which you may have heard on the news. This will give you the advantage of knowing somewhat what to expect, allowing you to focus on mastering each sound without having to worry about unfamiliar vocabulary.

On your display you will see two transliterations of each name: first, that currently used by the Federation News Service, and second in italics, the Ilojan transliterations used by Starfleet Linguistics to phonetically render Cardassian. It is strongly advised that you focus on the Ilojan text—as we progress through this series, we will drop the FNS transliterations altogether. By the end of this lesson, you’ll know how to pronounce the famous poet’s name the way a native-born Cardassian would.

We’ll start simple—this first set of consonants works exactly like Federation Standard.

B: Benil / Beniyl
D: Dukat / Doukat
H: Hovat / Hovăt
M: Macet / Maset
N: Nador / Nădor
P: Pa’Dar/ Pa’Dar
V: Vorlem / Vorlem
Y: Yaltar / Yăltar
Z: Zarale / Zarayl

“L” works similarly to Federation Standard—however, it is always pronounced with the sound known as “dark l,” further back in the front, never with the “light l” from the tip of the tongue, heard in many England-based dialects. Listen to the correct pronunciation:

L: Lemec / Lemec

This name should never be pronounced *Lemec.

From now on, we will deal with the consonants in sets. That will allow you to hear the contrasts between them. We’ll move in order of relative difficulty. We will also provide you with accepted substitutes that will allow you to make yourself understood while you perfect your accent—however, we do not advise relying on them in lieu of developing a Cardassian accent, as some of the sounds are difficult to substitute in a way that will make you understood to Cardassians who do not understand Federation Standard.

Here’s our first pair—listen for the contrast in the beginning consonants.

S / ă: Seska / Seska
Jasad / ăasad

Place your tongue in the same place you would for the “s” sound and lower it slightly, allowing for air to pass above it. Don’t pull the tip of your tongue back into the position used for the Federation Standard “sh” sound.

If you have difficulty with this sound, you may substitute “j” or “sh.”

Here’s the next—and possibly one of the most important ones to learn, considering that you must use this to name the people, the language, and the world that you’re studying:

K / C: Kell / Kel
Corak / Corăk

Begin in the same way as you would for the “k” sound, but accompany it with a sharp release of breath that continues into the following vowel. This is not to be confused with the sound heard in the German name “Bach” or the sound heard in the Spanish word “baja.”

The “ch” sound in “Bach” may be used as a substitute if necessary.

The next set is pronounced very similarly—after we contrast them against each other, we’ll contrast with one of the previous examples for review.

G / Gh: Garak / Garăk
Ghemor / Ghemor

Begin as you would for the “g” sound, but accompany it with a sharp release of breath that continues into the following vowel, though this may be somewhat more abbreviated than the previous example.

The “j” sound in “baja” may be used as a substitute.

Let’s make a few more comparisons:

C / Gh: Corak / Corăk
Ghemor / Ghemor

Here’s the next pair.

T / Th: Tain / Tayn
Thrax / Thrăks

Though transcribed the same as the Federation Standard “th” sound, this is nothing like it. Begin the same way as you would the “t” sound, but accompany it with a sharp release of breath. You may find you need to lower your tongue very slightly after the initial attack.

You may use the “th” sound as a substitute if necessary, though native Cardassian speakers unfamiliar with Federation Standard may find this a bit difficult to understand.

The final pair is perhaps the most challenging to speakers of Federation Standard who do not also speak a language such as Spanish, Russian, or Rihannsu which contains similar sounds. Both consonants in this pair deserve special attention. In the second case, you will hear it in the middle of the word.

R / Rh: Rusot / Rousot
Marritza / Marhitza

The first is pronounced with a “tap” of the tongue much like the Spanish “ere.” If you are unfamiliar with this sound, start by saying “ede” more and more rapidly until you match the sample. In some dialects, such as that heard from Gul Dukat (Gul Doukat), this sound is a full trill like the Spanish “erre.”*

Begin the pronunciation of the second sound just as you did the first, and accompany it with a sharp release of breath. This will result, if done properly, in the “r” component turning into a trill.**

Use the Federation Standard “r” for the first as a substitute if necessary.

A trill may be used as a substitute for the second—however, native Cardassian speakers may have difficulty understanding this due to its use in certain dialects for a different consonant.

You may be wondering why we don’t cover the glottal stop heard in Pa’Dar (Pa’Dar) in this lesson, given that it is a consonant. This sound is considered by Cardassian grammarians to be a vowel, much the same way Federation Standard grammarians debate whether “y” and “w” should be considered vowels. It’s a very simple sound, just as you hear between syllables in the word “uh-oh.”

*I couldn’t help it. Yes, that quirk of Dukat’s is a reference to a certain historical someone.

**That is one godawful and completely unintended—and unavoidable—pun…

Mistral September 28 2008 09:17 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
I haven't gone through the whole language lesson yet but wow! You really need to preserve this work in a unified form for future reference! Amazing!

Nerys Ghemor September 28 2008 07:38 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread

Mistral wrote: (Post 2117488)
I haven't gone through the whole language lesson yet but wow! You really need to preserve this work in a unified form for future reference! Amazing!

Thanks! :)

The grammar is still a work in progress--it's definitely coming along but getting it organized into teachable format is going to take some work. ;)

TheLoneRedshirt September 29 2008 09:12 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
Very impressive, detailed work!

Nerys Ghemor September 30 2008 01:33 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread

TheLoneRedshirt wrote: (Post 2122661)
Very impressive, detailed work!

Thanks for checking it out!! :)

Nerys Ghemor October 12 2008 06:53 AM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
Lesson 2: Common Courtesy

Before launching into the full details of the Cardăsda language, it's wise to go over some of the basic etiquette rules in Cardassian society that will go a long way towards conveying your earnestness and respect for those whose language and culture you're studying.

Here is a small sampling of the indicators you should take care with:

Physical contact and proxemics

As with many cultures, Cardassians value their personal space, and to intrude upon this territory may provoke discomfort or even hostility. This space, however, is considered to extend further than some students may expect, and to violate that boundary could unwittingly convey an impression of anything from boorishness to threatening intent.

It is generally advised to allow at least 1.5 m [appx. 5 ft.] between you and a person you are meeting for the first time; more is not inappropriate as long as both parties can comfortably hear each other (more on this topic later). Conversely, do keep in mind that a Cardassian's decision not to approach you closely should not be interpreted in isolation as a sign of standoffishness--rather, the respect of your personal space often signals willingness to reserve judgment and come to know you better. This is a common mistake that has often led to people from cultures that accept smaller amounts of personal space to get off on the wrong foot with Cardassians in spite of what the Cardassian regarded as a respectful approach.

Most importantly, though--unless the other party initiates the gesture, do not ever introduce oneself with any greeting ritual that requires physical contact, especially between opposite sexes. Cardassian propriety forbids physical contact between man and woman outside of the context of engagement or marriage, and especially when initiated by a foreigner, any violations are likely to be taken as insults.

Ritual embraces, kisses, handshakes, and any similar greetings are strictly off-limits unless invited by the person you're speaking with.

You may find that some Cardssians will disregard these rules for varying reasons; it is very important to read the context of the situation before letting instinct take over.

accept if a Cardassian greets you with the ritual of your culture: this is a sign of respect that should never be snubbed, and should be repaid at the soonest appropriate moment by demonstrating your own respect for their customs.

However, as a foreigner, you may encounter individuals who intentionally violate your personal space as a means of intimidiation. Where the situation does not appear volatile, it is best in such cases to calmly assert for yourself the amount of space this person would be expected to provide for another Cardassian: maintain your posture and level of eye contact, but without comment, simply take a step to the side as necessary.

The bow

While not as elaborate or nuanced as in many cultures, the bow has a prominent place in Cardassian etiquette. Varying from a slight incline of the head to an actual bend of the waist, the bow is used to greet, signify thanks, and obedience--in that order from shallow to deep. This position is generally held for anywhere from less than a second to up to three--the longer the bow, generally, the more distance in rank or age between speakers.

Unlike some Earth cultures, once is enough under almost all circumstances. Furthermore, in informal circumstances, it is perfectly acceptable to maintain eye contact with the other person--and preferable once a favorable relationship has been established.

[NB: Watch Garak and you'll get an idea of the mannerisms I'm talking about--it's definitely far subtler than, say, in Japanese culture, but it's there.]

Age and youth

Cardassians confer great respect on the aged. They do not typically hide signs of aging--in fact, they are seen as marks of dignity. Seniors and the elderly should be afforded the utmost respect at all times, and students should always use the most respectful forms of address possible unless absolutely instructed otherwise by the other party.

Part of that respect is to avoid circumlocutions when referring to the other party's age. Adjectives such as "older," "senior," "mature," and even "ancient" when speaking of the very elderly are appropriate and respectful. In fact, after a relationship is established on pleasant terms, you may even ask a Cardassian his or her age--if you believe they are older than you. And yes--that goes for women too.

Similarly, make an effort not to show embarrassment at any features you have that may indicate age. The fact that a Cardassian seems to visibly note your wrinkles or grey hair is not an insult (and may even be a sign that your words will be treated with the respect due towards age). Don't refer to any such embarrassment. Nobody wants to hear you agonize over your first grey hair or wrinkle, or your dread of your 70th birthday. (Especially note that on post-Dominion War Cardassia, your perceived inability to be grateful for a long life may come off as particularly insulting given the extreme number of those within the Cardassian Union who will never reach what are referred to as one's "summit years.")

Finally, don't refer to a Cardassian's youth unless you are very clearly speaking of a young child. What may seem like a compliment to other cultures--praising a person's "youthful" looks, energy, and so on--instead conveys the idea that you don't take the other person seriously. Especially when dealing with Cardassians in positions of responsibility, you do not want to mistakenly convey any impression that you feel he or she is not yet mature enough for his or her position. Speaking of youth should be treated with the same caution as speaking of age in many Terran societies.

Cardassian hearing: do's and don'ts

It is acknowledged fact, by both humans and Cardassians, that Cardassian hearing is the slightly weaker of the two (the contrast with Vulcans, of course, will be even greater). It's for this reason, many linguists believe, that certain "redundancies" exist in the Cardăsda language, to provide more opportunities for grammatical cues to be heard over background noise.

Humans and other species with greater frequency and decibel ranges should be aware, though, that there are proper and improper ways to address this disparity.

Do, if carrying on an untranslated conversation in your native language, make an effort to eliminate regional accents that may make you unclear to someone speaking Federation Standard as a second language. Enunciate clearly, taking care to avoid things like dropping consonants or making your vowels indistinguishable from each other, but do not exaggerate your speech.

Do not speak any louder than you might with anyone else with the same ambient noise level, unless you are specifically asked to do so--raising your voice unnecessarily is quite rude. Similarly, only move closer if invited. It is, however, a wise idea to make sure that if you're in a fairly noisy environment, that you are facing the person you're speaking to--especially with untranslated conversation in either language (where the other speaker's comprehension or your accent may interfere, respectively)

Respect individual experience

Finally--and this applies to all cultures--respect the fact that no non-hiveculture is monolithic, even where governments have made active attempts to bring that about. While these guidelines will generally work, remember that the upbringing, personal experiences, and even some of the customs and opinions may differ. The experience of a Nevotda vintner certainly will not be the same as that of a career military officer from Upper Rivšal, or the resident of a recently-settled rasgălor (outworld).

And though it's hard to conclude a list of do's and don'ts this look at most interactions as an opportunity to establish amiable relations--and if you're fortunate, sound working relationships or even a friendship.

Nerys Ghemor November 4 2008 05:10 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
Now that I've introduced individuals from all three main regions of my version of Cardassia--and now that I've drawn an example (here on the Trek Art forum) of regional costume, here's some background to explain some of the terms you've probably picked up on by now.


One thing I don't see dealt with in most of the alien cultures is ethnic variation. Plus I also needed to reconcile certain things from "The Wounded" (TNG episode) with the future appearances of the Cardassians--I decided not to gloss over it. goes.

There are three main ethnic groups on Cardassia. In the Hebitian days, the differences were much clearer in terms of culture, dress, and language; however, following Tret Akleen's (Ilojan transliteration: Tret Aykliyn) consolidation of the Cardassian Union, all territories were required to adopt a single language which for the most part was derived from one widespread through the planet's dominant region.

Still, even on a very united world, Cardassians proved very loyal to their ancestral homes and lands, due to the tendency of three to five generations to live under one roof. Therefore these days, the only way you will typically be able to determine a person's region of origin is by appearance or that person's statement about where they live. Though there are small clues to be had from accent or a person's name (which originally Akleen wished to force people to change to fit a Rivšalda mould but was talked out of this by his advisors), unless one actually travels to Cardassia, noticing the accent tends to be uncommon due to the standardized nature of the outlying colonies (settled after the centralization of the Union) and the intense pressure on officers, as they rise in the ranks, to adhere to standard speech.

Rivšal (adjective: Rivšalda)

This is the most populous group by far, and the one that most people picture when they think "Cardassian." This is in part due to the sheer population density of the Rivšalda, as well as the fact that in pre-Cardassian-Union days, their nations were extremely active in colonization efforts due to financial and other resources--this has exaggerated an already notable population advantage to the point where many foreigners with only casual knowledge of Cardassia have never seen a non-Rivšalda.

It is the language of one of the greatest pre-Union Rivšalda nations that was eventually enforced upon the Cardassian Union as the standard tongue for the entire empire. It is also Rivšalda kănar that many people think of when picturing the drink--a thick, dark brown, almost molasses-looking drink.

Rivšalda typically have a cool grey cast to their skin, with varying levels of hue that can become almost white in those from the northernmost regions [think of Garak--sometimes he seemed quite pale]. The macroscales tend to be sharply defined on the eye and the ear/jawline ridges, as well as down the sides of the neck. Height and build are quite variable depending on subregion.

As the Rivšal regions continue to be the most financially-influential on Cardassia in addition to the most populous, notable Rivšalda are quite numerous and include people such as Dukat, Damar, Tekeny Ghemor, and Elim Garak.

Nevot (adjective: Nevotda)

Cardassians of Nevotda origin appear very similar to the Rivšalda except for a few small differences: their skin generally takes more of a "warm grey" cast with a darker preponderance of hues than the Rivšalda, particularly on the jaw ridges. This hue is often described by Cardassians and foreigners alike as "shale-grey" even though it never actually becomes that dark. There are also differences in the facial structure, though the extent to which this is actually noticeable varies. The eyes tend to be very dark brown if not almost black. Because the ridging and scaling patterns are generally very similar to the Rivšalda, however, foreigners may not necessarily recognize that the person they are speaking to hails from Nevot rather than Rivšal.

While Nevot is distinctly behind Rivšal in population and economic power, the situation was actually worse before the founding of the Cardassian Union. In the days of the Union, a person of Nevotda origin will typically find few social hindrances among the Rivšalda majority. While not as prosperous as the people of Rivšal, there are many well-to-do Nevotda families, especially since Nevot retains some small areas of arable farmland. Those who own such land tend to be very well-off, such as the Va'Kust family.

Many who grew up in the region of Nevot have a slight but noticeable accent--Nevotda vowel pronunciation tends to be crisper, with less tendency to slur or de-emphasize non-accented vowels than the standard Rivšalda pronunciation. As a result, many students of the Cardassian language, whether intentionally or not, tend to speak with what native Cardassians will often identify as resembling a Nevotda accent while learning. Unless a student comes to Nevot or a planet settled by people predominantly from that region, though, this tends to shift as the student learns Rivšalda pronunciation. Still, it is often advised that if a student's native language is relatively vowel-poor, that he or she seek out recordings of speakers from the Nevot region (or better yet, actually enroll in a class taught by someone who is either of Nevotda origin or who has spent an extended time in Nevot) and focus on cultivating an authentic Nevotda accent.

One of the most notable Nevotda recently is Legate Broca, the man who temporarily assumed leadership of the Cardassian Union under Dominion rule. Though this has led to some ribbing aimed at the Nevot region, most of the rhetoric is aimed specifically at Broca himself and therefore has not incited any form of ethnic conflict.

[Other Nevotda you've seen in the story so far: Zebreliy Va'Kust, Sekdain Istep.]

Hăzăk (adjective: Hăzăkda)

Perhaps the Cardassian ethnicity least frequently seen offworld is that of the Hăzăkda.

The region of Hăzăk is in Cardassia's southern hemisphere and in Hebitian days primarily relied on an agricultural economy. When the planet's climate shifted, Hăzăk suffered the blow most severely as their entire livelihood was wiped out, taking an entire continent's economic infrastructure with it. This, coupled with the fact that the Hăzăkda had historically been disadvantaged (comparatively speaking) even in the planet's days of plenty, has often hindered the advancement of Hăzăkda in Cardassian society despite constant initiatives by the Detapa Council and even Central Command to alter this situation.

Some of these efforts, however, have been halfhearted--in pre-Union days, the Hăzăkda were sometimes victims of discrimination and mistreatment of varying types, especially in the pre-spacefaring era.

Part of this has stemmed from the noticeable difference in appearance between the Hăzăkda and natives of Rivšal and Nevot (who are much more similar to each other than they are to the Hăzăkda). The macroscales of the typical Hăzăk native are far less defined than those of the other two groups, and they tend to exhibit prominent ridge patterns on their foreheads and temples. The ear-to-jaw ridges also take on a very different pattern, with additional ridges being seen in the upper ear and the lower-ear ridge flowing less smoothly towards the jaw. Finally, the skin tends to exhibit an almost beige hue mixed in with the usual Cardassian grey (an acceptable description of this tone is "sandstone-beige") and the hair is more likely to exhibit a noticeably brown color as opposed to the black or dark brown common among other groups.

The combination of all of these features often led to rude speculations (all disproven by genetic analysis) that the Hăzăkda either represented a subspecies or genetic throwback, not "true" Cardassians. In fact, the truth is that the population of Hăzăk simply became isolated to their continent in the planet's prehistoric times (much as large landmasses like Earth's Greenland, Australia, and Antarctica are from other major landmasses) and spent thousands of years with no real contact with other regions, allowing them to develop more distinctive features than the Rivšalda and Nevotda, who had more contact with each other and therefore more similarity in features with each other.

In modern times, certain prejudices against the Hăzăkda still exist, even though it is illegal in Union law to treat any Cardassian differently because of the place of their forebears. Though the "different species" and "throwback" theories have been conclusively refuted, terms like "inbred" and other insults similar to the Earth insults "redneck" and "trailer trash" are still not erased from the Cardassian cultural consciousness, insults derived from the low Hăzăkda socioeconomic status, perceived lack of cultural sophistication, and "outdoor"-focused culture (a holdover from their agricultural days). Remarks about Hăzăkda appearance are generally regarded as unacceptably crude...though in the rougher areas of Cardassia, one may hear uncomplimentary descriptions of Hăzăkda ridging patterns--most especially about the women.

Hăzăkda success in Cardassian society has therefore been more limited than that of their Rivšalda and Nevotda brethren, though particularly within the military structure, there have been Hăzăkda who have achieved real success, and it has been observed (an observation to which there is much truth) that the people of Hăzăk, once achieving success, show great dedication to helping others from their area succeed and will sometimes go out of their way to mentor and promote other Hăzăkda where possible, though outright favoritism, just like outright discrimination, is banned under Union law. [In the story you will have observed this with the Ghiletz and Trager.]

Hăzăkda kănar, though referred to by the same word as the better-known alcoholic drink, is made from a different plant and therefore has a blue appearance not unlike Romulan ale (which despite common misconception, is not a component of the beverage). Hăzăkda kănar, while still more viscous than the typical alcoholic drink, is not as much so as the more common variety and therefore tends to be more successful with offworlders. In the parlance of Federation colonies near or within Cardassian space, this drink tends to be referred to as "Cardassian pale ale."

Perhaps the most notable Hăzăkda in a position of power is Gul Macet.*

[Daro and Telle are also Hăzăkda, as is Gul Speros.]

*Interestingly, Macet is the cousin of Gul Dukat--and although technically Macet is only half-Hăzăkda, he identifies with that group as one who has been on the receiving end of the appearance-based bias (not to mention a rocky relationship with the Dukat side of his family).

SLWatson November 4 2008 06:28 PM

Re: Star Trek: Sigils and Unions--Background Thread
Wow. I'm thoroughly impressed with your world-building. I know I've said that a few times, but it's true -- there have been a lot of talented authors who have drawn me into their worlds of late, and it's precisely because of this kind of care taken.

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