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Solution to Mother Goo-se

by Kevin Wald

This puzzle consists of a two-way written exchange in and about three very closely related languages:

L2 and L0 are new for this puzzle; L1 was used in four previous Mystery Hunt puzzles:

(What was known of the language prior to the current puzzle is compiled in the Dictionary and Grammar linked to on the puzzle page.)

These languages differ in a small number of sound changes L0 > L1 and L0 > L2, affecting some consonants and (originally) diphthongal vowels; these are shown below ( - indicates that the sound was dropped entirely):

L0 (Goðoθ) φ β θ ð k g ʍ h ai oi ui
L1 (Moldan) s z - - k g f h e i y
L2 (Fulda) f v s z - - h q au ou uu

Note that these sound changes are not reflected in L1 and L2's borrowings from Greek, which must have happened after the changes. L0 has no Greek borrowings.

A complete translation, and any vocabulary not covered in the previous four Realm of Unspeakable Chaos puzzles, can be found at the bottom of this page.

The poem (whose author is called Goo-se in L1 and Ozos-potnia in L2; the proper name, in L0, must thus be Goðoθ) is "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star" in L0. The L0 word for "star" (in the sense of a celestial object, rather than a ☆ shape) has been replaced in the poem and the discussion with [123], which consists of a root word [1] modified by two affixes [2] and [3]; we must determine what [123] is:

[1] is the L0 word for "dot-shape"; the L1 and L2 "dot-shape"-words are descended from it. We know that "dot" in L1 is "gosu," so in L0 it is "goφu" (there could be extra θ and/or ð sounds thrown in, but it will turn out later there are not).

[3] is an affix meaning "little"; diminutives are formed in L1 by changing the last (non-front) vowel to its corresponding front vowel, and adding l to the end. From the vowel sound changes shown, it appears that this is just the outcome of a diminutive suffix "-il" in L0.

[2] is an affix (meaning "highest") that we have not encountered before as a productive affix in L1, but we get examples of it in use in L0:

ʍruθu ʍruθta > L1 "fruta" = upward arrow.
woðu woðda > L1 "woda" = ☆ shape with an upward point.
θuθu θuθta > L1 "uta" = equilateral triangle with an upward point.
ʍoloβu ʍoloβba This would give L1 "*folozba"; however, L1 uses the borrowed Greek "lithos-adamantinos" or native simple noun "babo" instead. From this, and also from the use of "ʍoroβba" in the poem, we infer that the compound, which would literally mean "highest stone," denotes "diamond."

So suffixing here involves replacing a final u after a fricative with that fricative's corresponding stop, plus "a"; "goφu" ([1]) thus adds this suffix to become "goφpa" ([12]), which then adds the diminutive suffix to become "goφpail" ([123]). This L0 word would become "gospel" in L1, and "ofpaul" in L2; the answer is thus GOSPEL OF PAUL.

New Vocabulary

(* indicates forms that are completely unattested, even in derivative forms.)

Part of speech L0 Word L1 Word L2 Word Translation (exact wording may vary)
Nouns *buro buro buro affix
ʍoloβu folozu holovu stone
glodo *glodo *lodo world
kaφu kasu afu question
paφo paso *pafo sky
Adjectives blub_ *blub_ *blub_ overhanging
mobuh_ mobuh_ mobuq_ highest
θw_d w_d sw_d little
Verbs *laimoran lemoran laumoran is descended from
luiton *lyton *luuton twinkle
Pronoun pron pron pron what
Interjection *al al *al yes
Adjectival suffix -kw_ -kw_ -*w_ -like


Ms. Green What is your question about Ms. Goðoθ?
Ms. Red: Ms. Goðoθ said:
Little [123], twinkle, twinkle!
I wonder, "What are you?"
World-overhanging, highest,
In the sky like a diamond!
I wonder: What did "[123]" mean?
Ms. Green: In Old Chaotic, "[123]" meant "star in the sky" — like Sirius, or like Antares, or like Betelgeuse … (But "[123]" did not mean "☆-shape". A ☆-shape was a "woðda". I say "woda", and you say "wozda"; "woda" is descended from "woðda", and "wozda" is descended from "woðda". In "[123]", you see a root-word ("[1]") and two affixes ("[2]" and "[3]"). ("Affix" means "word-part" — like "-rai", or like "-iβat/-iβot/-iβut", or like "-kwa" …)
Ms. Red: I know. In Old Chaotic, did "[1]" mean "●-shape"?
Ms. Green Yes, "[1]" meant "●-shape"; My "●-shape"-word is descended from "[1]", and your "●-shape"-word is descended from "[1]".
Ms. Red: And "[3]" meant "little" (or "small"); my "little"-affix is descended from "[3]", and your "little"-affix is descended from "[3]". But what did "[2]" mean?
Ms. Green: "[2]" meant "highest" (or "uppermost"). When "ʍruθu" sported "[2]", it was "ʍruθta" (my "fruta", your "hrusta"), and when "woðu" sported "[2]", it was "woðda" (my "woda", your "wozda"), and when "θuθu" sported "[2]", it was "θuθta" (my "uta", your "susta").
Ms. Red And when "ʍoloβu" sported [2], it was "ʍoloβba" ("highest stone") — my "holovba", and your "folozba"?
Ms. Green: Yes. (But nobody says "folozba"; I say "adamantine-stone" or "diamond".) So when "[1]" sported "[2]", it was "[12]" ("highest ●-shape"), and when "[12]" sported "[3]", it was "[123]" ("little highest ●-shape").
Ms. Red: I see! Eureka!