A reader recently asked some questions about the dryads in Orison. They were actually really interesting questions (to me), and it happens that I spent a lot of time thinking about the dryad world while I was working on the background story. In case anyone else is interested I thought I'd give some information.
The question was about the language of the dryads, and their naming conventions--specifically why their names were somewhat European sounding, since dryads would have been here in the Pre-Columbian times.
In it's purest form, dryads communicate in something called greenspeak, which is the shared language of living things, especially any kind of plant life. It's a language of instinct, conveyed through the rustles of leaves and whispers of grass.
Dryads have their own version of greenspeak--sort of a dialect, but it's not quite language as we think of it. It's based on more on the sounds found in nature, especially sounds around trees. Think of wind rustling through trees, or water dripping from leaves. That sort of thing. Dryad names are really sounds, based on the way nature interacts with the tree with which the dryad is associated.
However, in 1780, Ephraim King settles King County. Intrigued by the human, the dryad queen falls in love with him, and they eventually get married. Unable to pronounce her dryadic name, Ephraim calls her Athena, named after the Greek goddess of wisdom and war.
As the dryads and humans interact, the dryads keep their own language, but human customs--including language--slip in. Over the years, the dryads begin to move to their own hybrid version of greenspeak and English.
One custom that changes is names. Instead of referring to each other by unique natural, markers, they begin using names. At this point, the names are somewhat influenced by the European background of the humans around them. But more than that, they are attempts to express the earlier sound-based names in verbal language. In that regard, they are sort of like transliterations.
One other note: the dryads are light and ethereal, and so are their voices. They flow easily over vowel sounds, and some lighter consonants. But sounds like, "n" are difficult for them to make, so they have to hit the letter really hard, giving it extra emphasis. That's the reason for the double n formulation found in their names (and, of course, they don't have a written language. So the way it's written in the book is an attempt to put it into some kind of form basically comprehensible to readers).
They use those frequently, by the way, because their whole existence is based around finding something strong to bond with. Having a heavy consonant sound in the their names is sort of a linguistic expression of the driving instinct of their lives.
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