The Race's Language is the official language of the Race and its empire.


Prior to contact with Tosev 3, the Race's language was the only language in use on Home. Rabotev 2, or Halless 1. The only professions which called for familiarity with other languages were historian (for study of ancient empires on Home prior to the unification of that planet, and of the pre-Conquest societies of the Rabotevs and Hallessi) and various professions related to the early stages of the conquest of new planets. Rabotev and Hallessi languages were not useful for communicating with members of those species; they had been completely lost to anyone but historians.

When the Conquest Fleet landed on Tosev 3, members of the fleet set about learning the various Tosevite languages so that they could treat with local emperors and not-emperors. However, it became far more practical for Tosevites who had to deal with the Race to learn its language, and it was soon studied throughout the world, both in societies which had surrendered to and were cooperating with the Conquest Fleet, and in societies which were actively resisting conquest. Front-line troops learned certain key phrases (such as "surrender" and "truce") in the Race's language, as did Race troops in the languages of the armies they were facing. In the rear echelons, people who had to deal with Race prisoners learned rather more of their language, or at least employed translators who had. It quickly became desirable for physicists working on atomic bombs to be able to communicate with the Lizards, as their prisoners were assumed to possess valuable knowledge on nuclear physics. Military intelligence also learned the Race's language, but surprisingly few diplomats did; treatment with the Race's leadership was done through translators, and often through translators provided by the Race. This pattern continued after the Peace of Cairo.

Within territory the Race controlled, displaced persons often learned parts of the Race's language out of necessity. Sometimes, when the Race took Tosevite "subjects" to space or to other parts of the planet, the Race's language would be the only one a person had in common with his or her fellow humans.

After the war ended, humans continued to study the Race's language, at a more leisurely pace. As humans were trading for so much advanced technology from the Race, a good deal of technical vocabulary was borrowed by various human languages. The Race's language became the standard language of all space-faring nations when interacting in Earth orbit and deep space. When the Admiral Peary and later the Commodore Perry, and presumably the Molotov, traveled to the Tau Ceti system in the early 21st century, all members of their crews were fluent in the Race's language.


With the coming of peace between humans and the Race came interspecies trade. Independent Tosevite not-empires acquired various items of advanced technology with which human inventors and technicians were familiar. a good deal of technical vocabulary was borrowed by various human languages. One example is the word "skelkwank," a beam of light of uniform frequency which travels in just one direction.

The Race's language also began borrowing words from human languages, most often English. Proper names of people and places were borrowed, as were names for local flora and fauna (and, of course, ginger), but concepts apparently unique to Tosev 3 and its people also required loan-words, because the Race had no names for them. "Love" is one example, as friendship was the strongest bond between two individuals which the Race could imagine. "Marriage" is another, as the Race's concept could not be expressed more concisely than "exclusive mating arrangement."

Literary Note on Vocabulary[]

Skelkwank is one of very few known words in the Race's vocabulary which refer to something other than a person or place or an animal species invented by Harry Turtledove to flesh out the Race's society. As stated above, skelkwank is the Race's word for "laser." Humans had not invented the laser before World War II, so were introduced to it in technology captured from the Race during the Race Invasion of Tosev 3. They forced POWs to explain its workings and applications as best they could and continued to use the word "skelkwank" to refer to it after learning how to manufacture it themselves.

There is also a "ftaskelkwank," a device which emits laser light. According to Sam Yeager, the prefix fta- is roughly equivalent to the suffix "-er" in English.

Another Race word Turtledove has revealed is apopka, which means stink.


The pronunciation of the Race's language is, of course, uniquely suited to the shapes of the speech organs of members of the Race. To human ears, the dominant sounds are hisses and pops, as well as clicking noises.

While members of other species can speak the Race's language comprehensibly, they cannot pronounce every sound correctly no matter how fluent they become, even if it is their first language. In human mouths, the Race's language will inevitably sound mushy to Lizards and those who have heard them articulate their language. The Hallessi accent, on the other hand, is characterized by a very squeaky quality.

Written Form[]

The Race is literate and its language has a written form. Its alphabet is dominated by a series of curlicues, which might reflect the curved fingerclaws with which the Race holds its writing utensils.

In the late 20th century, humans such as Sam Yeager and Kassquit enjoyed instant messaging members of the Race; unlike speaking, they were able to write without betraying their alien identities, since there is no such thing as a written accent and since they could read and write as fluently as any Lizard.

The Race also has an extensive body of literature which enshrines and reflects its cultural values. Given the age of the Race's culture and the long period of time during which they have been able to store written information, they have preserved a massive canon of classical literature, so much so that many members of the Race who are not of a literary bent (such as Fleetlord Atvar) find it tediously excessive.

Given the Race's mating behavior and lack of family structure, it should not be surprising that their literature contains no romances; when Lizards are aroused, either by their own hormones (in the case of females) or by females' pheromones )in the case of males), they are too consumed with physical desire to have any interest in writing songs or poems or stories; and when the mating season is over, they are too uninterested in sex to want to do so. Instead, the Race's literature includes many poignant tributes to friendship, such as the classic novel Gone With the Wind. Stories of friends who part over time are so common as to be considered a cliché.

By the early 21st century there were signs that the Race might soon develop romance literature as a consequence of the popularity of monogamy among ginger-tasting expats. One monogamous female, living in exile in the United States, wrote a stirring defense of her lifestyle and her connection with her male companion titled One Life, One Mate. Though the attitudes she expressed were considered perverse in the extreme by the Lizard establishment, the book was not censored on Home, or at least not effectively. It was available in a bookstore in Sitneff.

Members of the Race, for various reasons, also developed an interest in forms of Tosevite literature, which required familiarity with Tosevite languages. The American movie Rescuing Private Renfall (set during the Race Invasion of Tosev 3), for instance, was made available for mass audiences on Home, but was shown in the original English; the Race's broadcasters employed subtitles, a device which had not been seen in the Race's broadcast entertainment since the unification of Home.