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Sebacean Sounds and Alphabet

Orthography (Spelling) Versus Phonology (Sounds)

Sebacean Consonants:
# 1 2 3 4 5 6
1 Labial [f] f, *ph [v] v, *bh [p] p [b] b [m] m [%] % (1)
2 Dental [s] s, ss, c [z] z, s [t] t [d] d, dh [n] n [t, ’] ’ (2)
3 Velar [tc] ch, cz [dj] j, g [k] k, c [g] g, gh [ng] ng [ny] ny (3)
4 Glides [h] h [y] y [w] w [r, r] r, rh (4) [l] l [ly] ly (5)
5 Other [ks, gz, z] x, xh [θ] th (6) [k, s] c [k, kw] q, qu ~ ~
Unattested In Sebacean So Far:
6 * [f, φ] ph [v, β] bh ~ [ð] dh (7) [x] kh (8) [γ] gh (9)
7 * [c] sh, sch [j] j, zh (10) ~ ~ ~ ~
  1. The indrawn sound here shown by [%] is unknown to me. This is from Aeryn’s speech in “A Human Reaction.” It is indrawn (implosive) and sounds like a lip-smack or a tsk-tsk sound.
  2. The sound [’, t] is a glottal stop, pronounced like bottle (bo’le) in English Cockney dialect, such as in My Fair Lady.
  3. The sound [ny] as in onion, jalapeño, occurs frequently in the sample of Aeryn’s speech in “A Human Reaction,” even though we haven’t heard it or seen it in written or spoken Sebacean words or names.
  4. The [r] sound is a retroflex or American R, rather than a Spanish or Italian trilled R or a French uvular R. As in British, Australian, and Eastern American dialects, the R is mostly silent after a vowel and tends to lengthen the vowel. The spelling Rh in Rhed’s name may indicate a current or former [R] (French uvular R) or [hr] as in the Beowulf character Hrothgar and Greek words with Rh.
  5. The [ly] sound is unattested in Sebacean, but usually occurs when [ny] is also present. The [ly] sound is like billion.
  6. Th as in thin, with.
  7. Dh as in they, father.
  8. Kh as in German buch, Scottish loch, a very strong h sound, not a k.
  9. Gh as in Spanish paga, agua. Like kh but voiced, vibrating the vocal chords. Gh is to kh as v is to f or dh is to th.
  10. Zh as in treasure, pleasure, French beige, French garage, that is, not J or dg as in judge.
Sebacean Vowels:
# 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
1 Long [i:] i, ih, ii, ee, e, y, ie; [e:] e, eh, ei, ey, ai, ay; [æ:] ae, aeh, a; [ë:] ë [a:] a, ah, aa; [o:] o, oh, ou, ow, au, aw; [u:] u, uh, uu, oo, ooh;
2 Short [i] i, y; [e] e, ai, ay; [æ] ae, a; [ë] ë [a] a, ah, aa; [o] o, au, aw; [u] u, uu, oo;
Unattested In Sebacean So Far:
3 * ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ [œ, ø] oe (11) [ü, ü:] ue (12)
  1. Ë as in butter. Spelling: probably any unstressed vowel may reduce to ë
  2. OE as in French cœur, feu, German schön, Öhl. Say Ay or Eh, but with rounded lips as for Oh or Aw. Sebacean probably doesn’t have the [œ, ø] sound, but since it has AE, the letters OE probably occur, and may be pronounced like ay or eh or ee.
  3. UE as in French tu, German Müller, Ühr. Sebacean, Delvian, Luxan, and Nebari probably don’t have these sounds, since they all have trouble saying Gruenschlik’s name.
Sebacean Diphthongs:
# 1 I 2 E 3 AE 4 Ë 5 A 6 O 7 U
1 I [ii] ii [ie] ie [iæ] iae [ië] ië [ia] ia [io] io [iu] iu
2 E [ei] ei [ee] ee [eæ] eae [eë] eë [ea] ea [eo] eo [eu] eu
3 AE [æi] aei [æe] aee [ææ] aeae [æë] aeë [æa] aea [æo] aeo [æu] aeu
4 Ë [ëi] ëi [ëe] ëe [ëæ] ëae [ëë] ëë [ëa] ëa [ëo] ëo [ëu] ëu
5 A [ai] ai [ae] ae [aæ] aae [aë] aë [aa] aa [ao] ao [au] au
6 O [oi] oi [oe] oe [oæ] oae [oë] oë [oa] oa [oo] oo [ou] ou
7 U [ui] ui [ue] ue [uæ] uae [uë] uë [ua] ua [uo] uo [uu] uu


“A Human Reaction” is the only time we have heard Sebacean / Peacekeeper language. Note: occasionally, we’ve seen what may be Sebacean / Peacekeeper writing. It could be mixed with alien writing. Samples have not been clear enough yet to analyze. The writing system is of unknown structure and meaning.

Unknown origin for many Farscape words. Most are probably Sebacean, except for proper names (persons, places, etc.). All words will be considered Sebacean unless proven otherwise. The Premiere episode, as well as A Human Reaction and two episodes from Season 4 have given short phrases in non-Sebacean languages, such as Delvian, Luxan, Hynerian, Scarran, and Pilot’s language.

It is unknown whether all members of a given species speak the same language. Presumably, there are at least varying dialects, and probably several languages for each species. Peacekeepers are Sebacean. They certainly have several jargon words that are specific to the military. There is no evidence for or against a separate Peacekeeper language. (Compare Urdu in India.)

The episode, A Human Reaction, gives us a possible sample of Sebacean speech. Otherwise, we appear to be limited to names and some common words, some of which could be from other species’ languages. It is too short to be sure of the meanings and structure of the language. The sample of Sebacean speech seems to differ from Sebacean names. The names we know tend to have more consonants, whereas the speech sample is high in vowels and has at least one indrawn click or stop sound unheard in the names.

There are probably many Sebacean dialects and possibly several Sebacean languages. Peacekeepers may even use a separate language from civilians, just as Urdu was used by the Indian army, Mandarin was used by the Chinese bureaucracy, and various languages have been used by Earth’s religions.

Clear examples of Sebacean writing and writing from other species do not yet exist to guess at alphabets or writing systems. Sebacean may use an alphabet, a syllabary, ideograms, or a mixture of these. One suggestion has been that an ideographic system would help get past the many difficulties in communicating among several species, each of which may have radically different pronunciations.

The English spellings of several known Farscape words (from official publications and websites) are at times highly peculiar. This could be due to alien pronunciations and John Crichton’s attempts to write them down in English spelling, since he is not a linguist. If these spellings are indeed transliterations of Sebacean or other writing, then this could indicate conservative spelling based on historical, not current pronunciation. The same situation exists in many human languages with a long written history, including English, which has inconsistent or strange spelling and pronunciation correspondences.

Some patterns can be observed, however.

Vowels can be doubled to indicate length (long or short). Vowels can occur in pairs (diphthongs). It is unknown whether single long vowels, such as long i, are shown by a single letter or multiple letters in the original source language.

Consonants can be doubled. Apparently any consonant can be followed by an h. The reasons are unknown. Here are some possibilities:

  1. A different consonant pronunciation: t versus th;
  2. The consonant is aspirated (followed by an h sound): such as ph, th, ch/kh in Sanskrit or Classical Greek; (pronounced like English cupholder, lighthouse, deckhand;)
  3. A separate letter in the source language;
  4. A letter in the source language modified by a diacritic or accent mark, usually to show a change in pronunciation;

Observed combinations and pronunciations are given below. Notable are: The zh = [z] rather than soft-j [j]. The xh = [z], at least initially; it is probably [ks] or [gz] elsewhere. The letters c = [k/s], g = [g/dj], ch = [tc] as expected. The ae appears to be short-a [ae], long-a [e:], or short-e [e]. The i/y appears to be long-i [ai], long-e [i:], or short-i [i]. Overall, the vowels seem to occur long and short, much as in John Crichton’s native English.


Phonetic transcription below:

  1. Here is some human text (translation, human language, human font).
  2. Here is some translator text (transliteration, alien language, human font).
  3. Here is some alien text (verbatim, alien language, alien font).
  1. ë for schwa = English uh;
  2. : follows long vowels;
  3. % for ?indrawn-click?; // consonant of some kind; a glottal or pharyngeal stop, click, flap, or something; using the lips or tongue; it sounds indrawn, rather than exhaled;

[1.16] A Human Reaction

Aeryn to Ancient-Jack in “A Human Reaction”:

{Sebacean} [ h% wa tsi: ë wa nyi:, h%, nye a tsu ë h%, h% nu: a i:. ]

According to stlscaper, a pre-production version of the script translates this line as, “Thank you. John said I should trust you. He was right.”

Jack responds, “Thank you, Aeryn Sun.”

Audio Clip: sounds/thankyouaeryn.wav. [Windows .wav].

Rygel to Crichton in “A Human Reaction” (Very unsure on this transcription.)

{Hynerian} [ po: dop di:m nyobi: di:p nyo: ba ? ] ~ [ Why are they treating me like this? ]

Crichton, explaining humans’ actions to Rygel: ”They’re freaking out. You’re an alien and...they’re freaking out.“

Audio Clip: sounds/freaking.wav. [Windows .wav].

[4.05] Promises

Episode 4.05, “Promises” gives a few more lines of alien dialogue in at least two alien languages. There is what we’ll call “Pilotese,” the Pilots’ species’ language. There is also Scarran.

The attributed language and transcription are the best I can estimate at present.

The first sample is spoken by Sikozu to the DRDs. Scorpius recognizes it as the Pilots’ language for “stasis command.” The first sound is unclear. It may be th, f, sh, sf, sth, or skh.

{Pilotese} [ thli:zëp tarkö ]

The second sample is from Scorpius to Sikozu: “What else can you speak? ... Scarran perhaps?” Sikozu answers, “Yes.”

{?Scarran?} [ fäklë nolek vez plo:kom? ] ... {Scarran} [ kRejnë skarënza? ] — [ dza:. ]

Note that the pauses in the dialogue allow us to identify three words, presumably all Scarran: [ skarënza; ] = Scarran; [ kRejnë ] = perhaps; and [ dza: ] = yes.

Sikozu then asks Scorpius, “On Arnessk, why did you save my life?” to which Scorpius responds in normal language.

{?Scarran?} [ prredjil arrnesk, vek bläkëto: brriksë skelttë? ]

Later, Scorpius shouts to Sikozu, “Stay out of it!”

{?Scarran?} [ tcinok provëtog! ]

The last line of alien dialogue is in Pilotese, but is not translated, since it was discussed earlier in the crew’s plan. Moya’s Pilot commands her to shut down her pulse.

{Pilotese} [ väklo: empiyo rrosat wiklo: moya. ]

  1. rotate blue crystal,
  2. turn yellow disc,
  3. extinguish orange light,
  4. open copper rods, black,
  5. pattern depressed halfway,
  6. dial tri-connector open,
  7. hot progression,
  8. purple, green, orange, gold,
  9. lights, green knob, maximum thrust