Languages

The Sunset Isles are a gabble of myriad different languages, all brought hence by the refugees in their flight from their homelands. Mingled with these are the tongues of the native sentients of the Isles, for all that few humans make much of an effort to learn them.

The "Common" tongue of the Isles is Low Imperial, the language favored in the Ninefold Celestial Empire before the coming of the Red Tide. All characters are assumed to be passably fluent in this language as a default, and while it becomes less common the further north one goes, it can still be relied upon as an effective trade language. The script of the language is a set of two dozen alphabetical characters, commonly written with an inkbrush.

A somewhat rarer tongue is Court Imperial, a variety of the common language notable for its refinement, elegance, and needless complexity. While a speaker of Low Imperial can generally understand the gist of a Court Imperial sentence, it requires little effort on the latter speaker's part to become completely incomprehensible to their social inferiors. Compounding this is the three thousand pictogram written form of the language, which is entirely impenetrable to one not versed in its subtleties. Court Imperial is jealously maintained by the scholars and princely ones of Xian as a court language, and all serious courtiers find it necessary to master it early.

The nonhuman races all share mutually intelligible tongues, and the dwarves of Altgrimmr can be easily understood by their northern brethren in Angrimmr despite the regional accents. Elves, gnomes, and halflings have preserved their own native tongues, albeit almost all nonhumans who spend any time in human company learn Low Imperial to communicate. The goblinoid races all share a single tongue, with orcs, bugbears, goblins, and hobgoblins all speaking a language they call "Shakuntal", the "speech of the god" that they claim fathered them. A written form of this language exists, but it is rarely known outside of the tribal priestesses and witch-women.

Elvish is one nonhuman language that has a particular split in its users. Traditional Elven is an extremely harsh, guttural language to human ears, with some orations sounding rather like a keg full of gravel rolling down a mountainside on its way to murder the listener's children. Indeed, Old Elven has over a dozen different pronunciation tones for the voiceless velar fricative "ch". Some Elven Creeds of more aesthetic bent deplore the harshness of Old Elven and have agitated for a sound transposition set known as "High Elven" for its supposedly superior beauty and flowing, liquid sound. Elven speakers can understand both dialects perfectly well, but outsiders are occasionally confused as to why one elf sounds as if he's speaking harp while the other one is answering him in tones that would make an orc's throat bleed.

The various human nations all brought their own tongues with them, though only Skandrvol, the tongue of Nordheim has any great currency. The tongues of Eirengard, Gadaal, and Eshkanti are the most common of the other refugee languages, but even those are almost never more than a folk-tongue preserved for speaking with kith and kin. Only in the most isolated and homogeneous villages do enough native speakers remain to make such speech a language of daily use.

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