# Star system that isn't the Sun: words for “sunlight”

Language revolving around the Sun would probably not be used on a planet with a different star, right? For example, if a planet was orbiting Sirius, "siriuslight" or "siriusburn" seems a tad clunky, while "starlight" is something we've associated with nighttime.

Perhaps starlight for during the day could work, with moonlight at night? Thoughts?

• Is this WB, or is it English.SE? Anyway... when you're on a planet orbiting Sirius, then Sirius is your sun, and therefore it's sunlight. – RonJohn Mar 16 '18 at 1:03
• I think that "Sun" is like "Home". It's a word that points to different places depending on where you come from. – Henry Taylor Mar 16 '18 at 1:15
• There's actually a conlang stack exchange now. – Cort Ammon Mar 16 '18 at 2:21
• @CortAmmon For the Sun it is "aphelion". "Apehelion" applies orbiting around primate star instead of the more usual primary star. Thank you for a typographic error of such brilliance. – a4android Mar 16 '18 at 7:10
• – James Mar 19 '18 at 20:00

In some ways this is more of a conlang question, but what RonJohn says in his comment is essentially correct; the people around Sirius won't call their sun Sirius, they'll call it 'the sun'. English at least tend towards reductionism and contract commonly used words so that they're easier to say faster so you can get your message across quickly.

Take for instance CAR. Horseless Carriage -> Carriage -> Car.

(also Chariot -> Car, and Train Carriage -> Carriage -> Car for less modern utilisations of this contraction; thanks James)

Or if you prefer, Facsimile Transmission -> Facsimile -> Fax. Words that we use more often will eventually have the shortest form possible. Hot. Cold. Hard. Soft. Tall. Short. Dog. Cat. Moon. Sun. The list goes on.

Not all languages seem to follow this model. Spanish doesn't seem to follow this trend for some reason. With words like Caliente, Adelante, etc. this trend of contraction doesn't seem to follow. Greek also seems to have longer words in common usage. Chinese (from the little I know of that language) seems to have a different approach completely; keep ALL words short, and use vocal inflection to differentiate between words rather than infer punctuation. Words like Wong. and Wong? in Chinese are actually different words, rather than the same word with the change in pitch reflective of it being a question or not.

So; the Spanish for Sunlight is Luz del Sol, which in its own way is every bit as clunky as Siriuslight, but then the Greek version looks to be even more complicated (according to Google; I'm not going to try to pronounce it) and ultimately, we have to remember that unless it's a human colony, there's nothing to say that the pronunciation of 'Sunlight' doesn't take place with a pheromone sequence or similar instead of the generation of sound waves.

As an aside, here in Australia we have a ex-mining town in Victoria called Bendigo. When it was first settled during Australia's Gold Rush, the town was supposed to be named after one of the 'Three Faithful Servants' of a story out of the Old Testament (Book of Daniel or Ezekiel if I remember correctly); Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. No-one could pronounce Abednego correctly, so it fell into 'Bendigo' in general parlance and that was how the name finally came to be known.

Know anyone named Felicity? What you might not know is that Felicity is a legitimate (yet now uncommon) word for great joy or happiness. But it's 4 syllables so most people just stopped using it in favour of Joy. Or happiness, which although it's 3 syllables so doesn't represent that much of an improvement, was based on a common word so people understood it.

The key point here is that words that are cumbersome to use and yet have common application tend to resolve themselves in time if it's a priority for the speakers.

So; your 'Siriuns' will find their own word that describes what they see in a manner that they're comfortable with. That said, 'Sirlight' doesn't sound too bad as an option.

• English spelling was fixed sometime around the end of the 17th century. The spelling of the word knight reflects the Old English pronounciation /kniçt/. English has not been written "for a lot longer than other European languages"; languages such as Italian or French have literary masterpieces which are centuries older than the English language itself. The most striking characteristic of English compared to other Germanic languages is not the shortness of words (a.k.a. phonetic erosion) but the almost complete loss of inflection. English joy < French joie < Latin gaudia. – AlexP Mar 16 '18 at 2:13
• While I agree that words were spelt differently over time and we've seen that fixed more recently, my understanding of why that happened is the relative isolation of those doing the writing in the first place, and that the Renaissance allowed for conventions to be established. Are you also saying that the Germanic languages were written continuously through the 'Christian' era before the Renaissance, or just that they wrote prior to the Roman Empire? – Tim B II Mar 16 '18 at 2:20
• Modern English (the language we are both writing in) begins in the (late) 15th century. The Divine Commedy and the Decameron (for example) were written (in Italian) in the 14 century: they are older than Modern English itself. You cannot cheat and include Middle English or Old English in the written tradition of English, because in such a case the Italians will come with Vergil and the Greeks will come with Homer -- Modern English is not at all more similar to Old English than Italian is to Latin or Modern Greek to Ancient Greek. They are all different languages. – AlexP Mar 16 '18 at 2:33
• And of course people wrote in various forms of French, or Spanish, or Italian, or Greek, or English or German throughout the Middle Ages. Latin was used in Europe much like English is used today -- a language for higher learning, or for legal documents, or for international communication; but fiction and documents for personal use were written in the vernaculars. Consider Stack Exchange itself: people of many nations communicate in English, but this does not mean than we don't also write in our own languages in other contexts. – AlexP Mar 16 '18 at 2:41
• @Draco18s, Eridaylight? – Tim B II Mar 16 '18 at 22:02

Daylight?

An important feature of your local star's light is that, unlike starlight from other stars, it's bright enough to turn night into day. So if you say 'a beam of daylight broke through the clouds' it's pretty unambiguously coming from the star the planet orbits around, since that's the star that makes the day/night cycle.

Some science-fiction authors choose to use the common name "sun" for the main star(s) of the local system. It can even take a majuscule, being more like a title given to said star(s). So if you are in the Sirius system, Sirius is the Sun, and its light is sunlight.

This use is similar to how we use "moon" as a common name to mean "artificial satellite of a (non-star) celestial body", while it was originally only the Moon. We can even imagine that inhabitants of another planet with one notable moon would call it the Moon in everyday language.

But then, how would we call the original Sun and Moon? Generally, science-fiction authors (and sometimes astronomers) go for the Latin names: Sol and Luna. Similarly, Earth becomes Terra - though it is less common to see other planets being locally called "Earth".

{Sun}light

Whatever said planet's word for "sun" is, that'd likely be the root for source of their light.

It's reasonable to suspect that other people would make the same (wrong) assumptions we did - the big ball of fire in the sky is in some way different than the little tiny ones we see when the big one is gone, and so the big one gets its own name. Whatever their local lightsource is called, it's going to be their word for "sun".

Nick Pollotta, in his book Illegal Aliens, presents the idea that every planet's original name for its world is "dirt". The name of the planet, and the name for the stuff the plants come out of is one and the same. Only later as they progress scientifically do they come up with more unique names. But even Terra is just Latin for, essentially, "dirt".