Been listening toÂ Merlyn Bragg’s audiobook TheÂ Adventures ofÂ English, which traces theÂ history ofÂ theÂ English language starting from its earliest days inÂ England.
Which sparked some ideas about languages inÂ
But Bragg makes it clear that languages must constantly fight forÂ their lives. Every unique language inÂ existence must have atÂ least one reason forÂ existing right now that makes it more valuable than aÂ common language.
After theÂ Norman Invasion, French became theÂ national language ofÂ England forÂ centuries. It survived because theÂ English resented French. English was theÂ language ofÂ theÂ English people, which survived through spite andÂ adaptability. Instead ofÂ being anÂ ornery holdover from theÂ past, it absorbed large amounts ofÂ French toÂ become anÂ even stronger language, creating aÂ vocabulary forÂ similar concepts with different shades ofÂ meaning.
InÂ some worlds, races are widely separated byÂ physical distance; dwarves still speak Dwarvish andÂ elves Elvish because those races keep toÂ themselves, andÂ rarely need toÂ speak Common. InÂ that case, adventurers encountering dwarven orÂ elven civilizations will be unable toÂ speak with nearly everybody. Imagine your party having toÂ rely onÂ aÂ translator, andÂ wondering just how accurate theÂ translator is.
Also, any writing left behind byÂ dwarves orÂ elves will invariably be written inÂ Dwarvish orÂ Elvish.
But let’s look atÂ
Let’s look atÂ D&D 4th edition; every single one ofÂ its languages is aÂ racial language (besides Common, theÂ special case):
- Deep Speech
This assumes aÂ world inÂ which each primary race lives mostly alone amongst its own kind. Every language choice can be defended; giants probably aren’t going toÂ learn aÂ new language. But it’s aÂ rather dull idea.
Imagine aÂ world inÂ which primordials, gods, angels, andÂ devils all speak variations onÂ theÂ same language–they were all created atÂ roughly theÂ same time, anyway–but theÂ devils developed Abyssal asÂ aÂ magical tongue with strange properties. AÂ curse spoken inÂ Abyssal actually works–but its words andÂ grammar are closely guarded byÂ theÂ devils.
OrÂ what if theÂ Primordial language is woven into theÂ world itself, so that speaking sentences inÂ Primordial shifts theÂ world toÂ your whim? OfÂ course, doing so draws theÂ attention ofÂ theÂ Primordials themselves.
Where is theÂ language ofÂ scholars? AnÂ ancient, dead language provides great adventure hooks, especially if its meaning is not entirely understood. Even better if it’s used forÂ prophecies orÂ clues toÂ aÂ treasure.
My, theÂ possibilities.