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SaMoCon
Learned Scribe

USA
210 Posts

Posted - 29 Mar 2017 :  18:49:02  Show Profile Send SaMoCon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Darnit! I stumbled on this thread too late.

I agreed with the OP about how "Common" makes no sense. Who would learn a regional language when everybody already speaks Common as a language and can be clearly understood on any subject from the most simplistic (that way is North) to the most complex (Waterdeep's harbor moon coins are of lesser value after the Time of Troubles because the smelters used a lower gold content in the electrum alloy in the government's efforts to mint more coins to pay for reconstruction). That interpretation runs counter to how language mashes work and the descriptions of what Common is as provided from the various incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons.

The FR setting has languages. A single common tongue for trade and diplomacy just doesn't exist. In fact, the lore suggests that languages twist and change across distances rather than remaining unified and unchanged so any universal Esperanto would have broken up into regional languages over the roll of years. Languages and their implementation help to convey the fantastic world of the FR, which is why they were included in the campaign setting.

Now, as a DM, I have a choice to how I want to run the game and what I or my players should ignore because playing using all the rules and setting information all the time actually interferes with enjoying the game. From previous posts arguing for Common, I can see a trend of DMs/players deciding that languages are just too much trouble - this is a practical decision of game play. That said, if languages were that much of an issue then why would the DM be running games that would go across borders and through multiple cultures including enemies? I think this is an issue of DM game preparation.

For example, I had made my own change to the 3E rules that makes an honest skill out of the Speak Languages skill. Basically, being understood by someone that doesn't have a shared language is a skill check with a DC based upon how complex the idea is to get across and modified by the yes/no differences in home regions, alignments, races, and creatures types. The possibility still exists for the characters to communicate with any intelligent creature but the effort and chances to fail makes the players want to seek out help for languages they do not know. Thus, "Common" is a mix of pantomime and attempts to use perceived vocalizations of the unknown language but talking to someone using this Common is time consuming and the more complex the subject the more frustrating the exchange for both parties.

Make the best use of the system that's there, then modify the mechanics that don't allow you to have the fun you are looking for.
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
29792 Posts

Posted - 29 Mar 2017 :  19:26:20  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SaMoCon

Darnit! I stumbled on this thread too late.

I agreed with the OP about how "Common" makes no sense. Who would learn a regional language when everybody already speaks Common as a language and can be clearly understood on any subject from the most simplistic (that way is North) to the most complex (Waterdeep's harbor moon coins are of lesser value after the Time of Troubles because the smelters used a lower gold content in the electrum alloy in the government's efforts to mint more coins to pay for reconstruction). That interpretation runs counter to how language mashes work and the descriptions of what Common is as provided from the various incarnations of Dungeons & Dragons.


As I noted earlier, page 84 of the 3E Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting explicitly states Common is a second language for those who speak it, and specifically states it is a trade language:

quote:
All speaking peoples, including the humans of various lands, possess a native tongue. In addition, all humans and many nonhumans speak Common as a second language. Common grew from a kind of pidgin Chondathan and is most closely related to that language, but it is far simpler and less expressive. Nuances of speech, naming, and phrasing are better conveyed in the older, more mature languages, since Common is little more than a trade language.


So it is not described the way you refer to it.

quote:
Originally posted by SaMoCon

A single common tongue for trade and diplomacy just doesn't exist.



And the lore does not describe Common as a language for diplomacy -- only as a trade language.

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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1378 Posts

Posted - 29 Mar 2017 :  21:58:43  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
In FR, there are "Common" (dialect of just happens to mostly coincide with Planecommon), Undercommon (Underdark pidgin), Serusan (Serosian common pidgin), corresponding to the large communities that deal more on the inside than outside. And if you include Zakhara, also Jannti (genie common). Sounds about right.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Markustay
Realms Explorer extraordinaire

USA
13386 Posts

Posted - 29 Mar 2017 :  22:35:30  Show Profile Send Markustay a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Latin used to work very much as the 'trade language' in Europe, and today English takes that spot (even though more people speak Chinese, and Spanish is more widely spoken). I have many international friends and they all speak English with me ('stupid American' that I am). English is also excepted as the language of the sciences, so there's that as well.

So a 'common tongue' does exist, and eventually, if we don't blow ourselves up. we'll all be speaking local dialects of a universal pidgin tongue.

Except for France... they have rules about that. Silly France.

Personally, I never cared for the way everyone can simply communicate easily in Scify and fantasy. Its not very believable. I like the way it was handled in the well World novels (and perhaps borrow a bit from Doctor Who, in regards to planer travel - you just start speaking whatever is the most common tongue on the other end... say its just some sort of 'cosmic thing'). In the Weel World novels, they had some sort of psionic-based crystal that grew naturally in one of the places, and they could place inside your throat and people would be able to understand what you are saying (two-way communication was only possible if both parties had a crystal). And some races didn't have bodies in the physical sense, or were 'too alien', so it was an imperfect solution. I had planed to adopt that for my own homebrew world (something very similar, not the exact same thing). Maybe in FR/D&D use an Ioun Stone, or even a gem set in the forehead could serve the same purpose.

Something as simple as that would go a long way to solving the 'no-one really needs to learn any languages' thing which always bugged me. Whats the point of having all those nifty D&D languages when every bugbear and beastie can speak YOUR language?

"I have never in my life learned anything from any man who agreed with me" --- Dudley Field Malone


Edited by - Markustay on 29 Mar 2017 22:46:23
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SaMoCon
Learned Scribe

USA
210 Posts

Posted - 29 Mar 2017 :  23:48:30  Show Profile Send SaMoCon a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
So it is not described the way you refer to it.

Let me try restating my position and see if that clears up this point of misunderstanding.

How Common is used is not how it is described because the system does not differentiate communications via Common versus any other language. Common is used in the game for PCs to FULL ON TALK TO, PERSUADE, NEGOTIATE WITH, ARGUE AGAINST, AND BULLY NPCs. When and how do you limit the use of Common by saying that it is just "a pidgin" and only a "trade language" when it has all the same use as a full real language? And why would anyone learn any other language if EVERYBODY already speaks Common?

How long does a language need to exist before it is "mature" as the FRCS states? Is there a new Common every decade or every century or did Common not exist in the FR prior to the 13th century DR? Wouldn't Common be a fully matured language after the century jump? It does not make sense for Common to exist... period. Especially in not such a static setting as the FR.

And as far as lingua francas are concerned, everyone might do well by looking at real world examples of them and seeing that each one is a full language. From wikipedia: "Examples of lingua francas remain numerous and exist on every continent. The most obvious example as of the early 21st century is English, which is the lingua franca in most parts of the world. There are many other lingua francas in particular regions, such as French, Spanish, Urdu, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Arabic, Mandarin, and Swahili." If anything, the language of the culture that has the most dominant influence in the region becomes a lingua franca.

Just by looking at the wiki I can see that what would count as "Common" would be the language available in a character's home region that is spoken by the majority of nearby regions or the most powerful nation in the region. By that standard, Chondathan would have sway over many heartland areas in pre-Time of Troubles Faerun with Illuskan being the common of the Northwest, Alzhedo in the South & Southwest, Damarran in the North & Northeast, and Mulhorandi in the Southeast & East. That would make far more sense than a thing called "Common" that is the same in Samarach as it is in Narfell and by orcs and giants as it is for humans.

Make the best use of the system that's there, then modify the mechanics that don't allow you to have the fun you are looking for.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
5240 Posts

Posted - 30 Mar 2017 :  00:11:43  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TBeholder

In FR, there are "Common" (dialect of just happens to mostly coincide with Planecommon), Undercommon (Underdark pidgin), Serusan (Serosian common pidgin), corresponding to the large communities that deal more on the inside than outside. And if you include Zakhara, also Jannti (genie common). Sounds about right.



If you include Zakhara, its Midani, which is their version of common as a trade language.

And according to the wiki for Midani
"A version of Midani, known as Uloushinn by some scholars, was also spoken by the Bedine."

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Wooly Rupert
Master of Mischief
Moderator

USA
29792 Posts

Posted - 30 Mar 2017 :  01:09:01  Show Profile Send Wooly Rupert a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by SaMoCon

quote:
Originally posted by Wooly Rupert
So it is not described the way you refer to it.

Let me try restating my position and see if that clears up this point of misunderstanding.

How Common is used is not how it is described because the system does not differentiate communications via Common versus any other language. Common is used in the game for PCs to FULL ON TALK TO, PERSUADE, NEGOTIATE WITH, ARGUE AGAINST, AND BULLY NPCs. When and how do you limit the use of Common by saying that it is just "a pidgin" and only a "trade language" when it has all the same use as a full real language? And why would anyone learn any other language if EVERYBODY already speaks Common?


Just because the game system does not enforce strict language rules does not mean the existence of a language makes no sense.

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Aldrick
Senior Scribe

709 Posts

Posted - 16 May 2017 :  21:17:16  Show Profile Send Aldrick a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Sigh. I am in this thread late. However, I do hope that I will be able to add something of value to the discussion, and hopefully, its preservation will be useful to anyone searching for information on the Common Tongue.

The issues I believe people are having is that both D&D and the Realms dumbs down how hard it is to communicate for the sake of moving the story, plot, or game forward quickly. It is a tradeoff: How much time do you want to spend trying to communicate versus how deeply do you want the setting to have an immersive atmosphere? The Realms and D&D come firmly down on the side of simplicity.

However, that does not mean that you must do this as a DM. You can easily go back and add in some complexity. So, how do you do that?

It is important to begin by understanding that "common" is something that exists in the real world. What we refer to as the "Common Tongue" is called a "lingua franca." Lingua franca’s arise all the time and is a language that is used to communicate between individuals that do not share a common native language. As noted elsewhere in the thread, English is a common lingua franca. Obviously, not being able to communicate is a serious barrier and problem, so lingua franca’s are incredibly common. Outside of using English as a lingua franca, which is pretty much global at this point in our history, there are regional and national lingua franca’s. An example of a regional lingua franca is French in some parts of Africa. There are many different languages spoken there, and due to French colonialism, the language was spread there and is now used as a lingua franca to communicate with individuals that do not share a native language. An example of a national lingua franca is in Pakistan where there are many different languages spoken, but the lingua franca is the national language of Urdu. There can even be regional lingua franca’s within the same nation, an example here would be the Philippines, which like Pakistan, has many different languages, but has several lingua franca’s, the two most common being English and Tagalog.

A lingua franca will ALWAYS* develop in an area where there is a high degree of contact between groups of people who do not share a native tongue. (* Unless they are engaged in either active genocide or cultural genocide—killing them all or actively erasing their culture.) I will speak more about this in a moment. Trade is another situation where lingua franca’s are necessary.

So, let's talk about two very specific types of lingua franca’s. These are pidgin and creole languages. There are many pidgin and creole languages because they are a type of language category. The first thing that defines them is that both pidgin and creole languages start out as a lingua franca. The second thing you need to know is that all creole languages start out as pidgin languages. So, what defines a pidgin language? Well, when we think about a lingua franca we often think about a language like English, French, or Spanish--due to the history of colonialism in our world, these languages spread across the globe. However, when there are a lot of different languages spoken in a small area, and there is no real dominant language that a majority speaks, a pidgin language will often start to develop. (Once again, lingua franca’s happen because the need to communicate is essential!) The defining trait of a pidgin language is that there are no native-born speakers--in other words, the pidgin language is always a second language and never a mother tongue. Another defining trait of pidgin languages is that they are essentially a "compromise" between two or more languages spoken in a region. Usually, one language tends to dominate the others, and the other languages are finding ways to "conform" to the more dominant language. Usually, this is the language most commonly spoken, but this may not always be the case--as social status can also play a role. Pidgin languages adopt the basic vocabulary of the dominant language while retaining a simplified form of the grammar of their mother tongue.

Fun fact: The term lingua franca was a pidgin language used around the Mediterranean Sea from the 11th to the 19th century. Lingua franca literally means "language of the Franks"--which at the time referred to Western Europeans. It was a language mostly used for trade. Many pidgin languages first develop this way—they develop due to the need to communicate and serve a specific purpose, such as trade. However, sometimes a pidgin language can become expanded in use outside of their specific purpose—such as social and family life, and thus get passed down from generation to generation as a fully-fledged language.

Next, I will move to the discussion of creole languages, and for this portion of the discussion, I am going to use Haitian Creole as an example, since it is the most widely spoken creole language in the world. So, what separates a pidgin language from a creole language? Well, a creole language is a pidgin language that has come into the expanded use that was just discussed, but what defines it is the fact that creole languages have native speakers—meaning that the pidgin language has become their mother tongue. So, let’s look at Haitian Creole. It started as a pidgin language as French colonialists brought slaves from Africa to work various types of plantations—cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, etc. Obviously, native Africans do not speak French which is a European language, and many of them do not share a native language between themselves. This necessitates the need for a pidgin language, and since French is the language spoken by those that enslaved the Africans, it becomes the dominant language. The overwhelming majority of the vocabulary of Haitian Creole is French. However, the grammar is mostly rooted in various West African native languages. Because the slaves struggled to communicate with each other—having no common native tongue in many cases—the pidgin language rapidly gained an expanded use. The children of the first several generations of slaves began to speak the pidgin language as their native tongue, thus making it a creole language. Whereas pidgin languages tend to be rather simplified, creole languages on the other hand gain in increasing complexity as they expand to cover all aspects of life, rather than the more limited functions like the pidgin language was originally developed for—such as trade. That is the reason Lingua Franca died out as a language, but Haitian Creole is now a fully-fledged language.

Finally, just to add another layer of complexity there is the issue of dialects. A dialect is more than just having an accent, though it might often sound that way to the ear. Languages are not static things, they are always shifting, changing, and evolving. This is how different dialects arise. In some cases, a dialect may become so different that it becomes its own language. However, there are two core things that define a dialect, and both are rather fuzzy and imperfect. First, is the need for the different dialects to be mutually understood. In other words, people who are speaking should, at least in theory, be able to understand each other. This understanding may not be perfect, it may be extremely difficult requiring someone to speak slow and use some gestures, but communication is still possible. Second, is that they should share a common standard writing system for the language, this writing system can be, in some cases, the way the “formal” language is spoken. Generally speaking, there may be a regional or cultural dialect of a specific language, where the way people sound and talk is very different. However, when people with different regional dialects get together to communicate, they all revert to the “formal” (i.e. written) way of speaking. To add another wrinkle of complexity, it is possible, primarily those who are under educated, to be able to speak the regional or cultural dialect, but not the formal dialect. For example, a regional or cultural dialect of English, something I might speak informally, might sound like this, “Hey y'all, we been thinkin’ ‘bout goin’ to tha store Thursday, y’all wanna come with?” This is an informal dialect of English, this is how people I grew up around spoke, and how I speak with them. This is that same sentence in formal English, “Hello everyone, we are thinking about going to the store on Thursday, do any of you want to come with us?” Both of these are dialects. They are dialects because even if you do not speak my regional and cultural dialect of English, you can still understand it, and we both can easily revert to the formal way of speaking to make communication easier. Of course, for most of us English is our shared mother tongue, and this makes this much easier. Imagine if it were your second or third language, and it was a pidgin language on top of that. You can now hopefully see all the layers of complexity.

I went through this entire digression because it is important to understand how this type of phenomenon develops in the real world. We can now take this knowledge and apply it to the Realms, and as you will see—the “Common Tongue” will make a lot of sense, once I explain it in the proper context.

So, how did the Common Tongue develop? It developed after the fall of the Jhaamdathan Empire. When Jhaamdath was destroyed, refugees went all over the place. They carried with them two languages Thorass ("Old Common") and Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”), both of which would eventually become Chondathan (“Formal Modern Chondathan”). Thorass was a pidgin language that developed in the Lake of Steam region of Faerûn between the Jhaamdathan’s and the Old Kingdoms of Calimshan who spoke various dialects of Alzhedo. Jhaamdathan was the dominant language and thus most of the vocabulary of Thorass was Jhaamdathan, and it would have had a simplified form of Alzhedo grammar. Thorass was a greatly expanded pidgin language, even going so far as to develop its own alphabet and writing system, which eventually became the default alphabet and writing system for both Calimshan and Jhaamdath. Because of all of this, when Jhaamdath fell, they took with them both Thorass (“Old Common”) and their native tongue (“Old Chondathan”). Essentially, what happened is that the Chondathan refugees took with them their language and the Thorass alphabet and writing system. “Formal Modern Chondathan” is a creole language that is primarily made up of Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”) and Thorass (“Old Common”) vocabulary, with varying degrees of loan words from other languages, and it largely uses Alzhedo grammar. I would argue that “Formal Modern Chondathan” vocabulary is 75% Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”), 10% Thorass (“Old Common”), 15% Various Other Languages (mostly Alzhedo, Turmic, Shaaran, Old Illuskan, and Low Netherese). The grammar would overwhelmingly reflect Alzhedo and Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”). “Formal Modern Chondathan” uses the Thorass alphabet, and is what we would consider the “Common Tongue” of Faerûn.

It should be noted, however, that there are many different regional dialects of “Modern Chondathan.” Some of those dialects may use varying degrees of vocabulary and grammar not found in “Formal Modern Chondathan.” See my example for how an informal dialect sounds in the real world as an example of different vocabulary and grammar. The different regional dialects, however, would all still use “Formal Modern Chondathan” as their common written language. Thus, communication would not be overly difficult between educated Chondathan’s who can speak, read, and write the language—even if it may sound like various Chondathan’s have very heavy accents when they speak.

Thorass (“Old Common”) would sound to a “Formal Modern Chondathan” speaker the same way Middle English might sound to a modern English speaker. To give an example, I will use the first four lines of the prologue of The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer. In Middle English, “Whan that Aprill, with his shoures soote / The droghte of March hath perced to the roote / And bathed every veyne in swich licour, / Of which vertu engendred is the flour; ...” And in Modern English, “When [that] April with its showers sweet / The drought of March has pierced to the root / And bathed every vein in such liquor, / Of which virtue engendered is the flower; ...” You probably could translate and understand some of it, and with some time and difficulty you could probably translate it if you are a native English speaker. Thorass would be very similar to someone who spoke “Formal Modern Chondathan” or what we would consider the Common Tongue in Faerûn. Both Thorass and the Common Tongue / “Formal Modern Chondathan” use mostly Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”) vocabulary and simplified Alzhedo grammar.

However, to add layers of confusion—there would not be a single unified Common Tongue. What we would consider “the Common Tongue” is “Formal Modern Chondathan.” However, there would be many regional dialects and pidgins of the language. So, let’s talk about how that would work and what it would sound like.

Let’s say you are a Sailor from Turmish. Your mother tongue is going to be a dialect of Turmic. You are likely under educated, so you cannot read or write—neither your own language nor “Formal Modern Chondathan.” However, communication is still necessary, you likely have ended up on a merchant vessel numerous times with people who did not speak Turmic. This necessitates the need to speak some sort of common language to communicate. This language would likely be a regional dialect of the common tongue, which would mostly use the vocabulary of “Formal Modern Chondathan” and simplified grammar of your native language—Turmic. This would be a pidgin dialect of the Common Tongue. To someone who was fluent in “Formal Modern Chondathan” you would sound uneducated and speak with an incredibly thick accent. Instead of saying something like, “We are sailing to the nearest port city.” You would instead say, “Sea sail close port city we go.” It is intelligible to someone who speaks “Formal Modern Chondathan” but the grammar is all wrong. If you did not know “Formal Modern Chondathan” and instead only spoke a regional dialect of Chondathan, the accent and the incorrect grammar combined would make understanding the Sailor incredibly difficult, but not necessarily impossible. To speak to one another, you both would need to speak slowly, use only necessary words, and likely use lots of gestures.

Contrast the Turami Sailor with a well-educated Turami Merchant. They are both from Turmish, and so if they are speaking to each other, they would speak to each other using their mother tongue—Turmic. However, if they are speaking to others they both would use the Common Tongue. We know how the Sailor speaks, but the Merchant, because of his formal education, would speak using the formal grammar. So instead of saying, “Sea sail close port city we go.” He would say, “We are sailing to the nearest port city.” He would still have his Turami accent, just like the Sailor, and this may make understanding him difficult for some who only speak an informal regional dialect of Chondathan. However, it would be nowhere near as difficult as the Sailor. People, when not understanding him, would complain about him having a thick accent. People, when they cannot understand the Sailor, would likely think he is speaking some type of gibberish with some Chondathan words thrown in there. From the prospective of the Merchant from Turmish, those who spoke a regional dialect of Chondathan would be difficult to understand, and he would likely regard them as uneducated backward country hicks who cannot speak properly. (The way someone might view my regional / cultural dialect of American English.)

Now, this is complicated enough, but it can get more complicated still! Let us take Tethyr as an example. In Tethyr there are three primary ethnic groups: Tethyrians, Calishites, and Chondathans. The mother tongue of most Calishites in Tethyr is a regional dialect of Alzhedo. However, the primary language spoken in Tethyr is a dialect of common known as Calant. Calant is a creole language. It is heavily influenced by Thorass (“Old Common”) and Alzhedo. It is moderately mutually intelligible to individuals who speak “Formal Modern Chondathan” and Alzhedo, and it is considered a dialect of them both. Calant probably has a vocabulary that is roughly 40% “Modern Formal Common,” 15% Thorass (“Old Common”), 35% Alzhedo, and 10% Other Languages (mostly Ancient Elvish and Dwarvish). It would use the grammar of Alzhedo. Someone who spoke a pidgin form of the Common Tongue, such as the Sailor from Turmish, would likely struggle to understand things being discussed in Calant—finding it near impossible. Someone who spoke a regional dialect of Chondathan, but not formal Chondathan, would also struggle heavily but not quite as much—due to the similar grammar. However, someone who spoke Alzhedo, Thorass, or Formal Modern Common would likely be able to communicate with some varying degrees of difficulty. Because there is a lot of overlap between “Modern Formal Common” and Alzhedo, Calant is the lingua franca of the Lands of Intrigue---Amn, Tethyr, and Calimshan. They would speak Calant down there rather than “Formal Modern Chondathan.” To add yet another layer of complexity, individuals in this region also keep the Thorass language alive, which is effectively the formal language of the state in both Tethyr and Amn. The nobility speak it in Tethyr and it is the official language of Amn for all governmental and merchant business.

So, to someone who speaks “Formal Modern Chondathan” A.K.A. “the Formal Common Tongue”, Calant sounds like a regional dialect. If you are a native English speaker, and you have ever attempted to read a language like Spanish, you may notice that you might be able to figure some of it out. Many of the words are very similar or even the same as they are in English. This is very similar to how things are for Calant, but more pronounced. It is not just some words, it is a nearly identical grammatical system (based on Alzhedo) and many similar words. There would be some difficulty understanding each other, but it would not be impossible.

A Calishite farmer in Tethyr would likely grow up learning two languages. The first would be his native dialect of Alzhedo, and the second would be Calant. Calant would sound like a dialect of his language, with the grammar being largely the same, and it would have many familiar words. He would speak Alzhedo with his family and is Calishite friends, but when he goes to market to sell his crops, he would speak Calant. A Tethyrian farmer in Tethyr would grow up speaking only Calant. He may, depending upon his interactions with Calishite’s, also pick up some of Alzhedo. A Tethyrian Noble in Tethyr would grow up speaking Calant, but would also be formally educated in speaking Thorass. He would speak Thorass at court and among the nobility. He would make all official proclamations in Thorass. He may learn some Alzhedo depending upon his interactions with Calishite’s. Overwhelmingly, the lingua franca for Tethyr is Calant.

A Tethyrian farmer in Amn would be much like their counterparts in Tethyr. However, they would also have to learn to some degree how to speak Thorass. A Calishite farmer in Amn, however, would learn Thorass instead of Calant—although learning some Calant is likely still inevitable. Thorass is much more common and widespread in Amn—if you are a government official, a merchant, or are an individual who interacts with them—you speak some or are fluent in Thorass. This makes Thorass the lingua franca for Amn. If you are among the educated in Amn, you likely are fluent in multiple languages: Thorass, Calant, “Formal Modern Chondathan,” and Alzhedo. This may sound like a lot of different languages, but they are all very grammatically similar, and share many of the same words. The most difficult to learn would be Thorass, which would be like a modern English speaker attempting to learn Middle English. The educated Amnish Merchant would effectively be writing in two separate languages, the official language of Amn, which would be Thorass (“Old Common”) and “Formal Modern Chondathan” (“New Common”).

What does this all mean for books in Faerûn? It means that when you pick up a book it is either going to be written in a native language that may not be known to you, likely using an alphabet for which you are familiar (the Thorass alphabet), or it will be written in Old or New Common. If it is written in Old Common (Thorass), and it is a recent book, its author was likely from the Lands of Intrigue. If it is written in New Common (Formal Modern Chondathan), this does not rule out it being from an author that comes from the Lands of Intrigue, but it is more likely from elsewhere in Faerûn.

Now, let’s set aside language for a moment and discuss culture. Someone made the comment that common did not make sense because everyone would share the same culture. However, there is a major problem with this—it misunderstands the current culture of Faerûn! It is correct to state the language is an important part of culture, and this is certainly true in the Realms. As Chondathan’s spread, they took their culture with them, and picked up quite a few things from other cultures as well.

Just as one example, the entire Faerûnian Pantheon is a result of the spread of the Chondathan’s. There used to be many different regional pantheons, each held by various ethnic groups of Faerûn. What has happened is a type of religious Hellenization across the continent. This is how deities like Helm, Tyr, Ilmater, Shar, Mystra, and Selûne end up worshiped across Faerûn. It is because of the spread of the Chondathan’s and the Common Tongue.

Bringing these complex language issues into play can be difficult. I would argue that, rather than trying to speak in a particular accent with varying degrees of success, simply describe what someone sounds like and give a broken common tongue version of what they are trying to say. “Lamar the Turami Sailor speaks in the heavy accent common among those from the nation of Turmish, and peppers his heavy accent with occasional bits of common speech. He gestures to all of you, and says, ‘Ale House. Much money spend. Other Ale House. Less money spend. Other Ale House Go.’” Speak in formal English when speaking in common, making mention of the accents. If someone is hearing a dialect that they are familiar with, but are having trouble understanding, point that out and give a handful of words that they can make out. Don’t be afraid to give bad information here, “You struggle to understand the Tethyrian farmers, but you make out the word ‘Sahadra’ and the phrase ‘get her ready.’ Sahadra sounds like the name of the female they are referring too.” Of course, in reality, they were discussing a river boat, and the player mistakenly believes they are talking about an actual woman and not the name of the boat.

I hope this has proven useful and helpful. Most of the information I referenced can be found in the 3E source book Races of Faerûn and the 2E source book Lands of Intrigue.
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

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Posted - 17 May 2017 :  10:09:49  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
Some interesting musings on the history of Lingua Franca.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
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Posted - 17 May 2017 :  14:50:40  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I really enjoyed the read above about Pidgin and Creole languages, etc.. However, I'd be skeptical to make the case that the common tongue is a result of Jhaamdath's fall. I think this places way too much emphasis on that one event. A hundred years prior, we had the Netherese diaspora also spreading all across the continent when they fled their homeland. We also had the fall of Narfell and Raumathar just following the fall of Jhaamdath, followed by some expansion of Mulhorandi influence in the east. Then throw in the movement of the Rus into Rashemen. Throw in the movement of the Suren across Raumathar and Narfell's wastes. Have the formation of Dambrath and the rulership by Crintri form up. Later the rise and fall of the kingdom of Phalorm.

I'd imagine that as you say Jhaamdath was a center point for the formation of the language, but I'd also posit that it was probably not due to the fall of Jhaamdath (which killed so many), but rather its central location in touching all of the other nearby kingdoms that led to its spread as a trade language. For instance, it touched the outer edges of Calimshan, Tethyr, Mir, and Iltkazar to its west. It was relatively close to the Netherese to its north. It touched the border of the empire of Unther via Chessenta (which granted it was off and on in conflict with over time). Given its proximity, it probably also had some involvement with Narfell (bearing in mind, the conflict they were embroiled in with Raumathar was on again/off again until the last few years). Given the proximity of Chondath to Raumathar and Mulhorand, they probably dealt in trade with them as well. So probably the foundation of common was felt prior to the fall of Jhaamdath.

I really like your explanation of how to bring this all into the game. Honestly, I've never gone that far very often, but it could be very fun with the right group. The problem I'd see is that the game already takes a lot of real world time. It would be interesting to see this kind of interaction in the novels possibly.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Aldrick
Senior Scribe

709 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2017 :  22:41:59  Show Profile Send Aldrick a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

I really enjoyed the read above about Pidgin and Creole languages, etc.. However, I'd be skeptical to make the case that the common tongue is a result of Jhaamdath's fall. I think this places way too much emphasis on that one event. A hundred years prior, we had the Netherese diaspora also spreading all across the continent when they fled their homeland. We also had the fall of Narfell and Raumathar just following the fall of Jhaamdath, followed by some expansion of Mulhorandi influence in the east. Then throw in the movement of the Rus into Rashemen. Throw in the movement of the Suren across Raumathar and Narfell's wastes. Have the formation of Dambrath and the rulership by Crintri form up. Later the rise and fall of the kingdom of Phalorm.

I'd imagine that as you say Jhaamdath was a center point for the formation of the language, but I'd also posit that it was probably not due to the fall of Jhaamdath (which killed so many), but rather its central location in touching all of the other nearby kingdoms that led to its spread as a trade language. For instance, it touched the outer edges of Calimshan, Tethyr, Mir, and Iltkazar to its west. It was relatively close to the Netherese to its north. It touched the border of the empire of Unther via Chessenta (which granted it was off and on in conflict with over time). Given its proximity, it probably also had some involvement with Narfell (bearing in mind, the conflict they were embroiled in with Raumathar was on again/off again until the last few years). Given the proximity of Chondath to Raumathar and Mulhorand, they probably dealt in trade with them as well. So probably the foundation of common was felt prior to the fall of Jhaamdath.

I really like your explanation of how to bring this all into the game. Honestly, I've never gone that far very often, but it could be very fun with the right group. The problem I'd see is that the game already takes a lot of real world time. It would be interesting to see this kind of interaction in the novels possibly.


I agree that it relies heavily upon Jhaamdath's fall. However, I was going by what is written in the lore. I honestly do not think anyone sat down and thought out human migratory patterns, and how the languages shifted and mingled. It was something that was sort of attached on as things went along. Anyway, here are all my sources from Realms lore:

"Today, Chondathan culture and language dominates much of central and western Faerûn. Thorass, the alphabet that arose from interactions between Jhaamdath and the Old Kingdoms of Calimshan, is commonly employed as the alphabet of most human tongues. Moreover, Common, the trade language of Faerûn, is simply a modern version of Thorass (“Old Common”), which in turn was largely based on Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”) and Alzhedo, the language of Calimshan. While the Calishites, the Imaskari, the Mulan, and the Netherese may have each forged the greatest human empires of Faerûn in their day, it is the Chondathans whose culture now predominates, an empire spread by commerce and coin, not by sword or staff." - Races of Faerûn, pg. 85

"Chondathans speak Common and Chondathan, two closely related tongues. Chondathan, one of the root tongues of Common, is the modern form of Jhaamdathan (“Old Chondathan”), which was one of two root tongues of Thorass (“Old Common”). Chondathan employs the Thorass alphabet, a set of characters used to represent the trade tongue that came into use thousands of years ago along the shores of the Lake of Steam." - Races of Faerûn, pg. 86

"The native tongue of Calishites is Alzhedo, a language derived millennia ago from Midani (the language of Zakhara) and Auran. Alzhedo is one of the two major root tongues of both Thorass (“Old Common”) and Common. Alzhedo employs the Thorass alphabet, a set of characters used to represent the trade tongue that came into use thousands of years ago along the shores of the Lake of Steam. Most Calishites also speak Common, particularly the singsong Calant dialect." - Races of Faerûn, pg. 82

"Ancient Jhaamdath was one of the first human cultures to develop the written word, and, as such, literate Chondathans have long honored Deneir, the Lord of All Glyphs and Images. The church of Deneir has spread to other cultures as Chondathan traders spread the trade tongues of Common or its antecedent, Thorass, bringing with them the Thorass alphabet. At present, the church of Deneir has its greatest influence among those literate Chondathans who dwell in Cormyr and Sembia." - Races of Faerûn, pg. 87

"Most Tethyrians speak Common as their primary language, usually a singsong dialect known as Calant that is heavily influenced by Alzhedo and popular along the Sword Coast. They employ the Thorass alphabet. As Talfir and other languages of the original western tribes vanished long ago, there is no ancestral “Tethyrian” tongue. Instead, Tethyrians have always adopted the languages of the latest wave of immigration. Today, most Tethyrians speak Chondathan, a legacy of the mercantile invasion from the east in recent centuries, although a few speak Illuskan or Alzhedo instead." - Races of Faerûn, pg. 104

"While nearly any tongue of Faerûn and beyond may be spoken by visitors and natives within Tethyr's borders, the standard native tongue is still considered the common dialect found all across the Realms. However, there are minor differences in grammar and accent all across the country due to various influences accorded by geography. Given Tethyr's history of rule by dwarves, elves, elementals, and a wide host of humans of many creeds and origins, the "native Tethyrian" tongue is a pidgin mixture of archaic elvish and dwarvish (southern dialects), Old Alzhedo (the "common" tongue for the Elemental Plane of Air), Calishite Alzhedo, Thorass, a now dead halfling racial tongue, and modern common. Tethyrian common contains borrowed words and phrases from its root languages." - Lands of Intrigue (Book One), pg. 5

"As a merchant nation, Amn hears every tongue of the Realms (and some other worlds and planes) in its markets. It rarely takes more than an hour in Amn to find someone who can translate any language spoken in the past few centuries' for a fee, of course. Still, merchants doing business in Amn must brush up on the ancient trade tongue of Thorass, long abandoned elsewhere for today's common language. All documents, contracts, court proceedings, and official scripts and speeches used by Amnian merchant houses or the government use Thorass. While an understanding of many languages is certainly helpful, the further one goes in Amnian politics or trade, the less one needs any tongue other than Thorass.

Agrarian folk living outside Amn's cities, being simple laborers and farmers, rarely use Thorass and speak a pidgin form of common, like the common tongue in Tethyr. "Amnian common" is frequently and indiscriminately peppered with Thorass constructions and terms, most often those referring to cities or the merchants therein." - Lands of Intrigue (Book 2), pg. 4

I also used the Forgotten Realms Wiki, and specifically this link on Thorass: http://forgottenrealms.wikia.com/wiki/Thorass_language

That is where I drew all of my assumptions and information from, and the lore is clear that Chondathan's spread the Common Tongue. The only reasonable conclusion as to how and why that happened is after the fall of Jhaamdath. Prior to its fall they were an expanding empire, not a merchantile culture. There is no other explanation for how and why Chondathan's ended up all over the Realms, except that it happened after Jhaamdath's fall as a result of waves of refugees leaving the region.

Edited by - Aldrick on 17 May 2017 22:46:03
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TomCosta
Forgotten Realms Designer

USA
389 Posts

Posted - 17 May 2017 :  22:56:30  Show Profile Send TomCosta a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I will say that Eric Boyd did think about migratory patterns back in the mid 2E days and mapped them out. I used his preliminary work when developing the Speaking in Tongues article. As we all know more than a few things have changed since mid to late 2E Realms that have had an impact on any early thoughts about migration and as we've already discussed on my original article on Realms languages. Nevertheless, both had an impact on 3E's Races of Faerun.
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Aldrick
Senior Scribe

709 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2017 :  00:10:04  Show Profile Send Aldrick a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by TomCosta

I will say that Eric Boyd did think about migratory patterns back in the mid 2E days and mapped them out. I used his preliminary work when developing the Speaking in Tongues article. As we all know more than a few things have changed since mid to late 2E Realms that have had an impact on any early thoughts about migration and as we've already discussed on my original article on Realms languages. Nevertheless, both had an impact on 3E's Races of Faerun.



I did not mean to imply that no one ever thought about it--literally ever, but rather it was an afterthought to the design process. When Ed created the Realms, if I remember correctly, he was mostly sketching things out as he wrote--starting with Mirt's adventures in the Sword Coast region. Over time, other sections of the Realms were designed, and some of them were shoehorned in without much thought to the overall setting.

So, when it comes to something like the Common Tongue and human migration, it's more a situation of attempting to reverse engineer it with 20/20 hindsight.

It's not a criticism, really. It is inevitable when you are building the world from the bottom up rather than the top down. It may also be inevitable when there are many different designers working on a shared setting. However, the result is that there are sometimes going to be either oversimplifications or jagged ends that do not quite fit together, which was the thread Sleyvas was tugging on.

People obviously thought about it, as I've thought about it, and I have used source material from pre-4E editions to try and work it out as well. However, it is all a process of trying to reverse engineer something that was not necessarily on the forefront of everyone's mind when nations, cultures, and various aspects of the Realms were being created and added. I do not really think someone was saying, 'Hey guys, wait a minute. Before we add Zakhara, which is going to have influence on Calimshan, we really need to work out how this is going to impact and influence the Common Tongue in our setting.' This is what I meant when I wrote, "I honestly do not think anyone sat down and thought out human migratory patterns, and how the languages shifted and mingled. It was something that was sort of attached on as things went along." Using Zakhara as an example, after it was added, someone else came in later (likely Eric) and thought about how it impacted languages, migrations, etc.
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sleyvas
Great Reader

USA
5240 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2017 :  00:48:34  Show Profile Send sleyvas a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Aldrick

[quote]

<snip a bunch of quotes that link common to Chondath>

That is where I drew all of my assumptions and information from, and the lore is clear that Chondathan's spread the Common Tongue. The only reasonable conclusion as to how and why that happened is after the fall of Jhaamdath. Prior to its fall they were an expanding empire, not a merchantile culture. There is no other explanation for how and why Chondathan's ended up all over the Realms, except that it happened after Jhaamdath's fall as a result of waves of refugees leaving the region.



This is the part where I think you made an assumption. All of the quotes do indeed link common to Jhaamdath and Chondath. However, they do not link them to its fall. Your assumption that because they were a growing military power disinclines them from also being a trade power is where I think the fallout would come in. I assert that Jhaamdath started back in -5800 DR and according to GHotR

"At the dawn of its second century, Jhaamdath underwent a cultural transformation. The governing oligarchy was supplanted by a psiocracy—a ruling body of powerful psions and psychic warriors known as bladelords. The vast majority of Jhaamdathans were peasant farmers whose needs for goods and services were met by local producers, but
considerable long-distance trade took place in both luxury goods and basic commodities such as metals, pottery, and foodstuffs. Although trade was essential to the empire’s survival, its commercial classes remained small, and their members enjoyed neither the wealth nor the status of the ruling bladelords."

So, essentially back around -5600 DR they were trading with surrounding territories. Also, they were hiring armies to defend them from Unther. I'd bet a lot of these mercenaries came from other lands. This may have spread their language as well. Their empire didn't fall until -255 DR. That means they lasted more than 5 thousand years (a long time). This was plenty of time for them to have been trading with surrounding territories and spreading their language. Hell, many empires (such as Narfell and Raumathar) probably used to work as mercenaries for them before their own empires were formed, and they probably brought some of the language skills of Jhaamdath home. They probably also had dealings with some of the non-human cultures in the area (such as the Yuir elves and humans of that region, the elves and dwarves that inhabited "the bloodstone lands", the elves of the Chondalwood, the people of the Shaar, etc..)which may have also enabled spreading of their language over those several millennia.

Alavairthae, may your skill prevail

Phillip aka Sleyvas
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Aldrick
Senior Scribe

709 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2017 :  01:36:36  Show Profile Send Aldrick a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

quote:
Originally posted by Aldrick

[quote]

<snip a bunch of quotes that link common to Chondath>

That is where I drew all of my assumptions and information from, and the lore is clear that Chondathan's spread the Common Tongue. The only reasonable conclusion as to how and why that happened is after the fall of Jhaamdath. Prior to its fall they were an expanding empire, not a merchantile culture. There is no other explanation for how and why Chondathan's ended up all over the Realms, except that it happened after Jhaamdath's fall as a result of waves of refugees leaving the region.



This is the part where I think you made an assumption. All of the quotes do indeed link common to Jhaamdath and Chondath. However, they do not link them to its fall. Your assumption that because they were a growing military power disinclines them from also being a trade power is where I think the fallout would come in. I assert that Jhaamdath started back in -5800 DR and according to GHotR

"At the dawn of its second century, Jhaamdath underwent a cultural transformation. The governing oligarchy was supplanted by a psiocracy—a ruling body of powerful psions and psychic warriors known as bladelords. The vast majority of Jhaamdathans were peasant farmers whose needs for goods and services were met by local producers, but
considerable long-distance trade took place in both luxury goods and basic commodities such as metals, pottery, and foodstuffs. Although trade was essential to the empire’s survival, its commercial classes remained small, and their members enjoyed neither the wealth nor the status of the ruling bladelords."


Yes, all of that is true. That is what led to the rise of Thorass. It seems pretty obvious that their primary trading partner was with the Calishite to their south--which is how Thorass started as a pidgin language of trade, and then quickly grew and expanded into a fully-fledged language.

Thorass may have spread further during this time and became seen as the 'trade tongue' in that region of the world. However, the problem is how you explain a language so widely spoken in virtually every nation in Faerûn. Trade alone is not sufficient. If that were the case, only merchants and others who specifically deal with the traders from the outside would learn the language--not RandomNPC382272. You only get there if you have really widespread use, the same way you have English being the lingua franca in our modern world.

To get to English being the lingua franca in the modern world you essentially needed British colonialism, plus the rise of a superpower like the United States that is one of the top centers of knowledge and trade in the entire world. In some ways, the Common Tongue goes beyond even that in the Realms.

So, how do you get there? The easiest explanation is having Chondathan's living all over the place, and making various dialects--like Calant--the native tongue of other nations and peoples. The way you get there is through the fall of Jhaamdath. That is when you are going to see a lot of migratory movement, and how you explain the reason behind having so many Chondathan's living all over the place.

I really do not see how you get to the Common Tongue becoming the second language everyone essentially learns after their mother tongue without the fall of Jhaamdath. You are right to say that it is putting a lot on the fall itself, but to look for alternative explanations would require even greater speculation and assumption, most of it much less grounded in the lore. The issue could be smoothed out by adding additional events and providing much more detail to Chondathan migration over the centuries. Understanding Chondathan migration is the key to understanding how the Common Tongue spread and became... well... common. Pun intended.

I am certainly open to alternative explanations, of course, but at the end of the day it is going to require more than just 'Chondathan's like to trade' because that is not sufficient. It is going to require a strong argument and understanding of Chondathan migration over the centuries. In the end, the migration of the Chondathan's is going to mostly begin with the fall of Jhaamdath. Beyond that, it is just filling in the details, and providing more explanation.
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TBeholder
Master of Realmslore

1378 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2017 :  11:02:31  Show Profile Send TBeholder a Private Message  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas

quote:
Originally posted by Aldrick

Prior to its fall they were an expanding empire, not a merchantile culture. There is no other explanation for how and why Chondathan's ended up all over the Realms, except that it happened after Jhaamdath's fall as a result of waves of refugees leaving the region.

This is the part where I think you made an assumption. All of the quotes do indeed link common to Jhaamdath and Chondath. However, they do not link them to its fall. Your assumption that because they were a growing military power disinclines them from also being a trade power is where I think the fallout would come in.

Indeed, often those go well together. Up to and inclluding trade empires who beefed up on their profits and to protect their interests. Who here have read "Picture This" by Joseph Heller?

Not that anything prevents all these factors to have different degrees of contribution in different neighbouring places and times. Consider the exodus stage: those who ran presumably chose directions where they didn't expect to be particularly unwelcome, but some of the places they would avoid could have been fought (or ripped off) by their compatriots earlier.

quote:
Originally posted by sleyvas


So, essentially back around -5600 DR they were trading with surrounding territories. Also, they were hiring armies to defend them from Unther. I'd bet a lot of these mercenaries came from other lands.

And trade with war together, yes.

People never wonder How the world goes round -Helloween
And even I make no pretense Of having more than common sense -R.W.Wood
It's not good, Eric. It's a gazebo. -Ed Whitchurch
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Starshade
Learned Scribe

Norway
82 Posts

Posted - 18 May 2017 :  19:08:39  Show Profile Send Starshade a Private Message  Reply with Quote
I think in the real world only Swahili could come close to being what Common is in D&D. Swahili belong to no "ethnicity" to speak of, got few native speakers, and is a primary language of commerce, trade and is an official language in a huge area, where a lot of the languages are related to Swahili (bantu languages).
It's a bit like having an artificial indo European language, a kind of "Esperanto" who contain the least complex parts of any language, and serve as a means of communication for all. Most important; it's "native", and not forced on anyone as the language of the foreign masters (this part is important).
Of course it's natural of me to say Kiswahili is the "best" comparison because; mimi ninasema Kiswahili kidogo

Edited by - Starshade on 18 May 2017 19:09:31
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