|Featured In||The Stormlight Archive|
”Anak malah kaf, del makian habin yah.—The phrase 'To be human is to want that which we cannot have' in the Dawnchant
The Dawnchant was the language of the original inhabitants of Roshar, the Dawnsingers - ancient ancestors to the modern day singers. The language is in the root of the Dawnate language family, consisting of the Shin, Parshendi, and Horneater languages. While the vocabulary of these languages varies greatly, they share similar grammar.
Modern lore claims that the Dawnchant was the language spoken by the Heralds, but its actual Dawnsinger origin likely means that the humans adopted it, at least in its written form, after their exodus from Ashyn and arrival on Roshar. At some point in history the Dawnchant became a shared written language for all humankind on Roshar, even as separate peoples had their own languages. As the Desolations buffeted human civilization, the different human cultures adapted the original Dawnchant script to fit their own languages and developed their own scripts. This process began with simple phonetic substitution, in which humans used the Dawnsingers' script to transcribe their own languages, but it eventually led to the emergence of the proto-Thaylo-Vorin glyphic radicals, which the modern Vorin and Thaylen glyphs come from.
Untranslatable for thousands of years, the Dawnchant was finally cracked by Navani Kholin during the War of Reckoning. When listening to Dalinar's words from one of his visions, she recognizes a phrase recorded in Corvana's Analectics - a phrase that originates with the songs of the Vanrial, an ardent order that has kept a record of ancient songs believed to have been written in the Dawnchant. This discovery leads to a large number of Dawnchant texts being translated by scholars around the world.
Texts written in the Dawnchant or one of its derivative dialects have survived the millennia of Rosharan history and have been subject to scholarly research throughout the ages. Some are recorded as mere phrases and excerpts inside other bodies of work, while others survive in their original form. The following is a comprehensive list of both.
The Vanrial Songs
The Vanrial are an order of artists who live on the slopes of the Silent Mount in Jah Keved. Corvana's Analectics, a volume Navani owns a copy of, include a number of songs sung by the Vanrial, written in an ancient script Navani identifies as the Dawnchant using the visions Dalinar experiences towards the end of the War of Reckoning. A line in one of the Vanrial chants reads "Anak malah kaf, del makian habin yah" - a Dawnchant phrase Navani deduces must mean "To be human is to want that which we cannot have."
Silver Kingdoms Maps
During the events leading up to the re-discovery of the Shattered Plains Oathgate Shallan examines several maps of the Silver Kingdoms. Some of them include writing in the what Jasnah had suspected was the Dawnchant, some of which Pattern is able to read; others include writing in other languages, which Pattern recognizes as derived from one another, or perhaps from the Dawnchant itself.
Oathgate Chamber Inscriptions
The chamber around the Oathgate on the Shattered Plains includes inscriptions on the walls Inadara recognizes as the Dawnchant. The Urithiru Oathgate platform connected to Thaylen City has patterns on the floor that form glyphs in the Dawnchant.
It is noteworthy that the language the gem archives were recorded in was not the Dawnchant, but a derived language Navani's scholars could translate.
Bendthel's collection of Dawnchant transcriptions includes three codices Ellista and Urv work on translating in the Jokasha Monastery. The collection leads Ellista to conclude that the same version of the written Dawnchant was once used all across Roshar, with specific references to Makabakam, Sela Tales, and Alethela. The collection includes further proof that the original Dawnchant script evolved into multiple languages as different peoples started using it to phonetically transcribe their own languages. Urv mentions another text, the Covad Fragment, but deduces that it must have been written in one of the derived languages, and not the Dawnchant.
The Eila Stele
One of the oldest documents in written history, the Eila Stele was written by the Dawnsingers in the version of the Dawnchant they spoke. The full text of the stele reads this:
”They came from another world. Using powers that we have been forbidden to touch. Dangerous powers, of spren and Surges. They destroyed their lands and have come to us begging. We took them in, as commanded by our gods. What else could we do? They were a people forlorn, without home. Our pity destroyed us. For their betrayal extended even to our gods: to spren, stone, and wind. Beware the otherworlders. The traitors. Those with tongues of sweetness, but with minds that lust for blood. Do not take them in. Do not give them succor. Well were they named Voidbringers, for they brought the void. The empty pit that sucks in emotion. A new god. Their god. These Voidbringers know no songs. They cannot hear Roshar, and where they go, they bring silence. They look soft, with no shell, but they are hard. They have but one heart, and it cannot ever live.—Eila Stele