Gallifreyan Personal Pronouns

Earlier this week, my attention was directed to this Tumblr post, as well as this Cracked article, and I decided it was time to publish my hypotheses about Gallifreyan personal pronouns. 

I like the idea of a gender-less Doctor, even though in my fanfiction I have been writing the Doctor as a man, because a gender-less Doctor fits with my pronoun hypotheses.

I am not alone in attempting to reconstruct (or just construct) a system of Gallifreyan pronouns. Some interesting ideas have been put forward here, although the lack of explicit sources and the history of the page (all contributions were made by one and the same person) make the actual content somewhat dubious. This person hypothesises that there are sixteen nominative pronouns in Circular Gallifreyan, which are genderless and case-less. However, it must be acknowledged that this person did a ridiculous amount of work on Circular Gallifreyan grammar, and thus offers a good starting point. Some art on Pinterest offers about six pronouns, which differ little from English, and their respective circular expressions. 

Generally, however, fan work on (re)constructing Gallifreyan is distinctly lacking.

As said, I support the hypothesis that Gallifreyan is genderless; although the gender of some Time Lords is explicitly referred to in the Big Finish ‘Gallifrey’-audio range (generally on the alternative Gallifreys, however), the fact remains that Time Lords can apparently regenerate in any form (see Romana in Destiny of the Daleks, see also The Night of the Doctor and The Doctor’s Wife). Given this, explicit reference to any Time Lord’s gender would be somewhat useless. Especially when referring to a Time Lord one has not seen in a while; any gendered reference may be completely off.

Gallifreyans, whether Time Lord or not, seem also not particularly accepting of aliens – the Doctor leaves Sarah Jane in Croydon/Aberdeen in The Hand of Fear because the Time Lords won’t accept her visiting, and indeed the Time Lords are not particularly accepting of aliens when the Doctor takes Leela to Gallifrey in The Invasion of Time. Nyssa and Mel are made a tick more welcome in respectively Arc of Infinity and The Trial of a Time Lord, but, as my linguistic analysis of these trials (I’ll post an overview once I’ve done my Westminster paper) shows, the Time Lords are still generally rather condescending towards non-Gallifreyans.

The aforementioned Conlang Wikia page indeed distinguishes between Time Lords and those of other races (as well as animals and objects, which I will not write about now); however, suggestions have been made that there may also be Gallifreyans who are not Time Lords (such as the Shobogans mentioned in The Deadly Assassin). 

As such, I propose a distinction between Gallifreyans (regeneration plural, ergo Time Lords), Gallifreyans (regeneration singular) and non-Gallifreyans.

With regard to (regeneration singular), I propose that these refer to non-Time Lord Gallifreyans, and, where applicable, the single regeneration of a Time Lord.

Indeed in The Day of the Doctor, Matt Smith’s incarnation claims that ‘I’ and ‘us’ are the same thing, yet the fact that another incarnation challenges his use of the singular suggests that in any case there may be a distinction between regeneration singular and plural – however, this is inconclusive with regard to whether Gallifreyan simply distinguishes between first person plural and singular, or also regeneration plural and singular (presuming they are actually speaking Gallifreyan with each other in that dungeon in the Tower). I hypothesise the latter, given the Time Lords’ penchant for order and formality.

Indeed, this penchant also suggests that Gallifreyan is likely to have the T-V distinction we Earthlings see in, among other languages, French, German, and Dutch (tu/vous, du/Sie, jij/U). 

I also hypothesise that since Time Lords are so keen on their own separateness from the rest of the universe – the non-interference policy, transduction barriers, sky trenches, everything – they are likely to distinguish between inclusive and exclusive first person plural, so indicating whether the Addressee is or isn’t part of the referred-to group. Similarly, I hypothesise that third person plural may be split between whether the referred-to group contains solely Gallifreyans and/or Time Lords, solely non-Gallifreyans, or are mixed/unknown. Finally, a split in third person singular – known Time Lord (reg. pl.), known Gallifreyan/Time Lord (reg. s.), known non-Gallifreyan, unknown Gallifreyan / Time Lord (in the case of suspected use of the Chameleon Arch, presumably very rarely used and perhaps practically limited to highly ceremonial occasions attended by non-Gallifreyans who are nonetheless assumed to be ‘equal’ [i.e. they are respected enough to be referred to in a manner indicating ‘they could have been a Time Lord if they hadn’t been an alien’]), and unknown non-Gallifreyan (which is basically the equivalent of indicating ‘I honestly don’t care what they are’ and thus rather insulting). 

As such, I hypothesise that there are three categories of Gallifreyan personal pronouns, and though the persons (first, second and third person, singular and plural) are maintained, each is split into several forms, generating the following personal pronoun matrix of 33 possible nominative pronoun forms:

 

Time Lords and Gallifreyans

Others

Gallifreyan / Single Regeneration

Multiple Regenerations (Time Lords only)

1st person

Single (I)

   

One may hypothesise visitors to Gallifrey are translated as such when they do not speak Gallifreyan

 

Plural inclusive (We)

   

See above; may presumably also be used to indicate ‘we’ including both Gallifreyans / Time Lords and non-Gallifreyans

 

Plural exclusive (We)

   

See above

2nd person

Single informal (T-form) 

     
 

Single formal (V-form)

     
 

Plural informal (T-form)

     
 

Plural formal (V-form)

     

3rd person

Single known 

     
 

Single unknown

Presumably rare (Chameleon Arch? Respected visitor?)

Presumably rare (Chameleon Arch?)

 “Whatever”

 

Plural

     
 

Plural mixed / unknown

Presumably relatively rare (though less so when the Doctor brings his companions along)

Presumably relatively rare (except with the Doctor)

References others of multiple species

One may perhaps even hypothesise that to address a Time Lord by their regeneration plural form is a mark of respect for those who understand and/or speak Gallifreyan, and regeneration singular only used by friends / loved ones, or those being condescending (tutors in the Academy, perchance?), or those needing to distinguish between regenerations, but as I have yet to find conclusive canonical evidence of that, this hypothesis will have to remain head canon until indication is given. 

As I stated, my matrix is for nominative, or subjective, personal pronouns. Older Earth languages have more cases – e.g. Latin has six cases whereas modern English has far fewer. There are indeed different forms of Gallifreyan – the Doctor is notably proficient in Old High Gallifreyan, which few Time Lords seemingly are – but not nearly as many as the age of Time Lord society (“Ten million years of absolute power,” according to The Trial of a Time Lord) would suggest. So either Gallifreyan will have had all the time in the universe (pun intended) for all cases to be developed out, replaced by prepositions and other circumlocutions, or it will have retained numerous cases. As Time Lord society is so very hierarchical and conservative – I would not put it past them to have a language preservation group not unlike the Académie Française (it’ll be part of the Academy, presumably) – I hypothesise Gallifreyan has retained its cases, presumably in any case accusative, genitive, dative, vocative, and instrumental, and, seeing as they can time-travel, locative and ablative cases that indicative not just place and direction in space, but also in time. Of course, if Gallifreyan has so many cases for nouns and pronouns, much like in Latin, word-order would only be of importance with regard to poetic and/or ceremonial functions, rather than meaning construction like in English. If Gallifreyan has all these cases, my matrix can simply be reproduced for each of them, and each case may very simply just be realised through pre- and/or suffixes (and an added circle, dot or line in Circular Gallifreyan). If it hasn’t, my hypothesised Gallifreyan will simply have the proposed 33 personal pronouns, plus a set for each case it has (if any), and a vocabulary of prepositions and circumlocutions to indicate (other) cases instead, and will have to have set syntax to aid meaning construction.

Mind that these are just some hypotheses on Gallifreyan personal pronouns; though I constructed my matrix based on suggestions made by some episodes, and Gallifreyan ideology as communicated by the series as a whole, there is very little conclusive evidence to suggest I am right.

I am, however, willing to investigate how English pronouns are used in the speech of Gallifreyans, and draw further conclusions from that. This, however, will have to wait until I have time – I, unfortunately, am not a Time Lord. 

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Author: Ilse A Ras

There are times when I am doing research on crime news and language; sometimes I'm obsessed, sometimes I'm bored, and sometimes my tea is getting cold.

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