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    Canonfire :: View topic - Language Question
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    Language Question
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    CF Admin

    Joined: Jan 09, 2004
    Posts: 404
    From: Stansbury Park, Utah

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    Sat Jul 27, 2013 8:04 pm  
    Language Question

    During today's game session in our long-running Nyrond campaign a question came up about the Oeridian and Common languages.

    I indicated that an animus mage had yelled something in Oeridian through an open door during an encounter and said, "none of your characters understand what he said because he said it in Oeridian." All of the characters speak Common, not Oeridian.

    One of the players said that Oeridian and Common are the same language and asked if the NPC yelled in Old Oeridian. I did not know!

    We consulted the Guide to the World of Greyhak and the Living Greyhawk Gazetteer and could not tell if Common is Oeridian.

    Any thoughts or ideas? May seem trivial, but our campaign/game thrives on these kind of details.

    Here is our campaign Web site for any curious parties: http://www.epicwords.com/redhandofdoom

    Happy gaming,
    -------- Greyson (Don) --------
    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
    Posts: 2625
    From: LG Dyvers

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    Sat Jul 27, 2013 8:38 pm  

    A Guide to the World of Greyhawk Fantasy Setting, Vol. III, A Catalogue of the Land of the Flanass..., 1983, page 16, Ancient and Current Languages, states:

    "Common: A combination of Ancient Baklunish and the dialect of Old Oeridian spoken in the Great Kingdom forms the basis of this new, widely used tongue. Virtually anyone who crosses national boundaries must learn at least a smattering of common or be greatly handicapped. It is frequently the case that one language must be translated into Common before it can be translated into another desired language. This is possible because of the universality of Common's roots."

    Thus, Common is largely a combination of the two languages used at the extreme ends of the Flanaess - Old Oeridian in the east and Baklunish in the west. In addition, considering the last sentence in the above quote, it includes words and phrases from most of the other languages of the Flanaess as well. So, anyone knowing Common may have a chance of knowing what your animus mage shouted, but it would be a small chance, if they didn't know Old Oeridian.

    Let's see about some math (I'm not expert here Wink ):

    If we begin with Old Oeridian and Baklunish as the bases of Common, we divide it 50/50%.

    But, we want to add a bit of Flan and Suloise as the other two major languages, so we'll give them each 10%, reducing the Oeridian and Baklunish influences to 40% each.

    Now, we won't add any Ferral, since it is a secret language, but we definitely need to add Nyrondese, since your campaign is based there. As it is only a dialect, we'll keep its influence at 5%. We'll do the same with The Cold Tongue because Nyrond is close enough to those lands to have merchantile dealings with them.

    If we grant Keolandish and Lendorian only 1-2% influence each (considering their rarity and distance from Nyrond) and add another 1-2% of new words not found in any of those languages, Old Oeridian's influence on the Common Tongue has been reduced to 33%-31%.

    Thus, your Common-speaking PCs would, at best, have a 33% chance to understand what the animus mage shouted through the doorway. Happy

    SirXaris
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    Apprentice Greytalker

    Joined: May 26, 2013
    Posts: 36
    From: San Antonio TX

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    Sat Jul 27, 2013 11:52 pm  

    Oeridian is a language you can take, therefore you can simply rule that the character doesn't understand it unless he has said language. If he speaks Old Oeridian then perhaps he understands a smattering of it.

    Or you can go with Xaris' and give him a percentage of what the man said (maybe give the pc an intelligence check to determine exactly how much).

    But seeing as common is based at least partially in Old Oeridian you could rule that he may catch some words that might have remained more common as language progressed. Simple words that may not have changed much, like the, it, you, me, etc.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

    Joined: Nov 07, 2004
    Posts: 1844
    From: Mt. Smolderac

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    Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:41 am  

    I believe this video is relevant. This isn't a definitive answer, because who knows how much of Common is Baklunish and Suloise. "Adding Depth to the Flanaess," DRG #52 calls it, "A mixture of Suloise and Oeridian tongues with some Baklunish admixture," but subsequent publications that mention the origins of Common drop any reference to Suloise and treat as a blend of Old Oeridian and Ancient Baklunish, with at least two specifying the dialect of Old Oeridian spoken in the Great Kingdom. In addition, the LGG mentions the existence of Middle Common being the ancestor of "modern" Common, so there was a transitional blend of Old Oeridian and Ancient Baklunish the evolved into "modern" Common. Given this, my opinion is that the party members would have almost no chance of knowing what had been said by the NPC.
    Grandmaster Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 10, 2003
    Posts: 1234
    From: New Jersey

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    Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:42 am  

    Greyson,

    I think a combination of Sir Xaris math and Noah's explanation can be utilized here. I would either make a secret intelligence check for the PC's or have those that inquired about the language to roll an intelligence check. If the check succeeds they would understand 30% of what was said add 5% more for those that speak nyrondese. Cold tongue or other regional languages add 2%. Then decide what exactly you want to give that player as far as an understanding. It can be easy to misconstrue the information so the lower the percentage, the harder it should be for the PC's to piece together the information. The other way to go about it might be to simply take the characters intelligence score and let that become their percentage of understanding the language. So the 10 intelligence character who speaks common would only be able to decipher 10% of what was said. While the 18 intelligence character would under stand 18% of what was said. Add 5% for each regional dialect the character knows and 2% for any other dialect related to old oeridian that the character speaks or knows. I might allow characters who have a high decipher script skill a small bonus because they are not reading the spoken word add 1% for every 5 skill point the character has in their decipher script skill. Bards could receive a percentage bonus based on 1/2 their level due to their Bardic knowledge skill.

    I hope this helps.

    Later

    Argon
    Paladin

    Joined: Sep 07, 2011
    Posts: 833
    From: Houston Texas

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    Sun Jul 28, 2013 9:43 pm  

    smillan_31 wrote:
    I believe this video is relevant.


    This was Great Simillan... It made me laugh..... though in my travels just in the Americas, similar things can also be said relating to The English versions from the North vs the pronunciation of us Southerners (Texan here).... or the Cajun of Lousiania vs the French of Montreal, lastly the Spanish of Spain and Tex Mex lol.... So in truth we here in the states probably speak "American", not English Laughing
    Grandmaster Greytalker

    Joined: Jul 10, 2003
    Posts: 1234
    From: New Jersey

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    Sun Jul 28, 2013 10:44 pm  

    Dark_Lord_Galen wrote:
    smillan_31 wrote:
    I believe this video is relevant.


    This was Great Simillan... It made me laugh..... though in my travels just in the Americas, similar things can also be said relating to The English versions from the North vs the pronunciation of us Southerners (Texan here).... or the Cajun of Lousiania vs the French of Montreal, lastly the Spanish of Spain and Tex Mex lol.... So in truth we here in the states probably speak "American", not English Laughing


    We definitely speak American. Sometimes we like to think of it as English.

    Later

    Argon
    GreySage

    Joined: Aug 03, 2001
    Posts: 3263
    From: Michigan

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    Mon Jul 29, 2013 6:07 pm  

    It's not specifically Greyhawk, but I liked A.D. Rogan's article on AD&D languages in Dragon #66, based partly on suppositions derived from which languages were assigned to which monsters in the Monster Manual. There are some interesting charts there tracking the influence of Old Elfin and Old Dwarvish on the languages of various other races, including an influence of Middle Elfin on Common. With multiple sentient races allied with humanity, it makes sense to me that nonhuman languages might have had some influence on the primary trade language, and that isn't incompatible with Common being primarily based on Aerdi and Baklunish (and/or Suloise).

    The same issue has an article by Arthur Collins with rules for determining how much of a language a character can understand based on how closely related it is to the languages the character knows. If Common is descended from Old Oeridian, native speakers of Common get a 44% fluency in Old Oeridian. It also gives a progression rate for languages related to a character class; for example, if Old Oeridian is a language of devotion for clerics of Oeridian gods, such clerics would begin with 5% fluency times their intelligence score and progress at 3% per level, to a maximum of 75% without special study.
    GreySage

    Joined: Jul 26, 2010
    Posts: 2625
    From: LG Dyvers

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    Mon Jul 29, 2013 8:40 pm  

    rasgon wrote:
    With multiple sentient races allied with humanity, it makes sense to me that nonhuman languages might have had some influence on the primary trade language, and that isn't incompatible with Common being primarily based on Aerdi and Baklunish (and/or Suloise).


    I agree. It was short-sighted of me not to include demi-human languages in my math above. Heck, there may even be a few orcish words, though I doubt they'd be common. The end result is that the PC's chance of understanding any other language based on their knowledge of the Common Tongue is reduced even further.

    SirXaris
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    Grandmaster Greytalker

    Joined: Nov 07, 2004
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    From: Mt. Smolderac

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    Tue Jul 30, 2013 7:10 am  

    To be fair though, a couple of the sources I looked at for my answer above stated that Old Oeridian is still commonly (no pun intended) used in its written form by scribes as a way of maintaining a monopoly on literacy. Given this, you might rule that members of any likely more well-educated class, such as magic-users and clerics could read Old Oeridian, and might be able to decipher what the NPC had said, although I'd still rule that it might take some time (and a good memory).
    The idea above does lead to an interesting dynamic in the campaign, since many written works would be in Old Oeridian, making them unreadable to many characters.
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