Fremen derives mainly from Arabic however it has distanced much from that ancient language, and enriched with other contemporary ones, usually towards simplification. The emphatic consonants as well as pharyngeals and the glottal stop have disappeared. Same happened with vocalic length.
Complex mutational morphology was simplified towards a syntactically isolating language.
Gender distinction in adjectives and dual number were noted near the end of the Zensunni's stay on Salusa Secundus.
While on Rossak, one Sayyadina called Yarbuz gained access to the memories of all the Sayyadinas in her ancestry and successive Reverend Mothers repeating the experience, found how far their language strayed from its ancestral form and began to educate the people to return it to the original form. Over the next centuries, they rolled back 16000 years of language change.
The private language of House Corrino, standard Galach the language of Ishkal (usually theological or legal concepts) as well as the speech of the dilaubite miners of Rima contributed to the vocabulary.
Eventually, when the Fremen were gathered on Arrakis in 7193 AG, the climate was so ferocious that an awareness of it hovered in the background of every conversation and the language naturally mirrored this awareness and priority; the vocabulary multiplied the new distinctions that allowed for their survival, such as terms for variations of sand and wind conditions. Pardot Kynes noted that they were the first people to express climate in terms of a semi-mathematic language. He also noted that the written symbols embody external relationships.
During Muad'dib's reign, Fremen became the sacred language of the Imperium, used in philosophy, theology law and education.
Dialects and Geography
The two major dialects of Fremen were Eastern and Western.
The Eastern group extended from Arrakeen (30o W) to the False Wall-West and the Habbanya Erg (150o E). It included the sietches beyond the Plastic Basin and Observatory Mountains, the Rock Outcroppings on the Funeral Plain, Sietch Tabr and Bight of the Cliff.
The Eastern dialect figured in the rise of the Umma Regent
That dialect employed the plural markers -at and -an.
The Western group extended from the Sihaya Ridge (55o W) to the False Wall-South (150o W) and included the sietches of the Ridge, Hole-in-the-Rock, Gara Kulon, Pasty Mesa, Chin Rock.
It employed terms borrowed from the smugglers near the edge of the Minor Erg.
Its plural marker was -u and Arabic adjectives retained gender distinctions. Initial kh- was absent as well as g
Fremen retained many Arabic sounds:
- Sibilants: s, z, sh
- Liquids: l, r
- Velars: k, g
- Uvulars: q, kh, gh
- Labials: b, f, m
- Dentals: t, th, d, dh, n
- Laryngeal: h
- Glides: w, y
The vowels are a, e, i, o, u and all have the same length.
The Western dialect lacked initial kh- as well as g.
Words that derive from Arabic show the triconsonantal root pattern of Semitic languages: words are composed of three radical consonants, combined with patterns of vowels to generate different but related words.
Plural is marked by several endings depending on the dialect:
- -at (Eastern; from Arabic feminine plural marker)
- -an (Eastern; probably from Tailara)
- -u (Western; probably from the Blue Hill speech of Rima).
However some words retained the archaic formation of Arabic. Such exceptions include abra (tear), pl. ibar.
Fremen is a syntactically isolating language. Word order and prepositions indicate meanings. The syntactic order is SVO: subject precedes the verb, which precedes the object of the sentence.
Syntax is relatively free compared to Arabic, allowing, for example, the absence of relative pronouns and expanded the construct case (idafa) to allow verbal clauses to act as the complement of the head noun.
Patterns of negation are expanded.
The Fremen alphabet derives from the Arabic, and is written from right to left; some dialects, such as in the Sihaya ridge, wrote boustrophedon.
Unlike Arabic script, this represented full vowels (attributed to Ali ben Ohasi) and later had come to be streamlined, an alphabetic script with only one form of a letter per phoneme (attributed to planetologist Liet Kynes).
Many values of the letters have been reassigned, new symbols have been introduced (contrived from other letters) and even totally arbitrary assignment of the letters.
A sign called shadda indicated a doubled consonant.
The Bedwine or Nomadic Fremen, reversed the letters m and u.
- ach - Worm calls (imported from Ishkal)
- derch - Worm call (imported from Ishkal)
- geyrat - Worm call (imported from Ishkal)
- ya ya yawm - Now hear this!
- subakh ul kuhar - are you well?
- subakh un nar - I am well, and you?
- soo-soo-sook! - water-seller's cry
- mu zein wallah - nothing good, good for nothing
- lisan al-gaib - Voice from the outer world
- kull wahad - I am profoundly stirred
- kitab al-ibar - Book of Tears
- dar al-hikman - school or religious translation
- aynayn darrad fi hamman - the eyes of one who breaks wind in a bathhouse
- sallamaka al-lahu wa-nasaraka - May God protect you, and grant you victory
- thallamaka al-lahu wa-natharaka - May God split you and scatter you all over
- 'ammā l-hākimu farajulun qawīyun - The Governor is a strong man (ancient Terran form)
- kõpáo legî vrochlû kefeisû - The Governor is a strong man (Rossak form)
- sallat Allah bi-kaswatay-h al-jaam - may God give him mange in his genitals
- akir man yamut malak al-mut - the last to die is the angel of death
- halal hu/haram hu - it is lawful/it is forbidden
- anamilan bariyya min al-dam - fingers innocent of blood (Abma, the Fremen Medical Corps).
- iday alakrab - the hands of the scorpion
- mawda jami l-al-timar - grove (lit. "the place where trees are gathered")
- Ekkeri-akairi, fillissin-follas. Kivi a-kavi, nakalas! Nakalas! Ukair-an... jan, jan, jan... - "This is the water of (the new owner). Never the more to be measured or counted by the heartbeats of (the old owner). Go, go, go..."
- Ish yara al-ahdab hadbat-u — a hunchback does not see his own hunch.
- Bi-la Kaifa - Amen (Literally: Nothing further need be explained), an expression of finality.
- in kan madat al-hawatim baqat al-asabi - if the rings are gone, the fingers are left (on their way to Salusa Secundus)
- al-lubb ay ma yawi ma yadi - wolves do not cause harm in their dens
- al-raqs quddam alumi majhudan la yura amal-u - dancing in front of the blind is an effort goes unseen ('l-Riyas on Bela Tegeuse)
- ash-hal takul sayim tusbih - no matter how much you eat you wake up fasting (while on Rossak)
- kuntu saghidan fi shababi - a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush
- man yuta-shu wa-yaba-h yatlub wa-lis yuta-h - who is given and refuses will seek and not be given
- kull mansuj manfud - all weaving has an end
- umma tamut wa-umma tanbut - one nation dies and another is born
- ida rayt al-tin abshir b-al-tin - when you see the fig season, then you can announce the muddy season
- ida lam laktafil anta fil - "if you cannot be satisfied, you are an elephant (said to overeating children)
- kull ahad yalumm al-nar li-qursu - "everybody draws the coals closer to his own loaf
- man galab-ak b-al-hafira glab-u b-al-tanqiyya - "he who beat you in digging, beat him in pruning"
- and al-diq la ashu - "in bad times there are no brothers"
- al-xishf al-muzakki - "the grown fawn" (a tavern in Arrakeen)
- abra pl. ibar - tear
- adab - insistent memory
- akrab - scorpion
- alam - griefs, cares
- alazor - old, oxidized sand, yellow to red-brown
- albudeite - scarce water (name for Ishia)
- almirez - new sand, usually grey colored
- araq - sweat
- atambal - impacted sand with the property to amplify any sound blow; found on the windward face of dunes
- atanin - jowl
- bakka - The Weeper
- baklawa - dessert pastry
- baraka - miracle worker
- baz - falcon
- bidriyah - coarse silica frit
- bled - flat, open desert
- chaumas - poison in solid food (imported from Rima)
- chaumurky, musky, murky - poison in drink (imported from Ishkal)
- cherem - brotherhood of hatred (imported from Ishkal)
- chouhada - purposeful fighters (imported from Ishkal)
- cielago - (from older Harmonthepic compound ciel "water" and lako "fowl"; or more probably from "murciélago", bat in Spanish)
- chukka - a food made of meat
- el-sayal - rain of sand or dust of medium altitudes that brings moisture
- entary - sheer gown worn by women
- fedaykin - death commandos
- fight - law (especially religious)
- galbana - pea-sand, that requires slow movement
- garrufo - pebble sand that ensures reliable footing
- ghafla - negligence
- ghanima - booty
- guidichar - holy truth (imported from Ishkal)
- guimlik - a kind of attire for women
- hajj - pilgrimage
- hajra - journey of seeking
- hiereg - desert camp
- ichwan - brotherhood (imported from Ishkal)
- idray - hands
- idras - sand-teech; dangerous sand
- ikhut-eigh - water-seller (perhaps related to an ancient Arabic root for "sibling")
- ilm - theology
- istislah - warfare law (imported from Ishkal)
- jihad - holy war
- jubba - a type of cloak
- kala - desert
- karama - miracle (imported from Ishkal)
- kaymun - sand finely ground sand like powder
- ketman - the practice of concealing the identity when revealing it might be harmful.
- khala - spirit invocation (imported from Ishkal)
- kindjal - curved, double-bladed short sword
- kiswa - figure of design
- kuhar - good (perhaps from Arabic khayr)
- kvetch - food made of milk
- Kwisatz Haderach - shortening the way (imported from Ishkal)
- liban - spice drink
- mahdi - he who is rightly guided
- maqbara - graveyard (a name for Rossak)
- matar - a rain of sand from high altitudes
- maula - slave
- midri - winnowing fork
- misr - People, the Zensunni
- mu'addib - preceptor
- muad'dib - desert mouse
- mudir - governor
- mushtamal - garden (imported from Ishkal)
- nahya - cobra (from ancient Indi nag "snake")
- nefij - exile
- qanat - open canal
- ramadhan - ninth lunar month
- ruh -
- sadus - holy judges (imported from Ishkal)
- sarfa - turning from God (imported from Ishkal)
- sietch - a meeting place in time of danger
- shadda - strengthening mark for writing
- shadout - well-dipper (perhaps from shaduf on Ishia)
- shari-a - ritual
- sihaya - desert springtime
- suhl - peace
- tabara - kind of honey based dessert
- tawalil - warth
- tilsam - a kind of ornament like a medallion
- tshka - a dress worn by children
- umma - prophet
- usul - base, root
- wali - an untried youth
- ya - O (vocative)
- yali - living quarters in a sietch