Languages of the Flanaess
Date: Thu, August 04, 2005
Topic: Peoples & Culture

The Flanaess is home to myriad cultures, each with its own dialect, and often this creates confusion both for well travelled adventurers and the Players and DMs using the setting. Herein lies a more detailed and realistic language structure for the Flanaess.

Languages of the Flanaess
By: pykm
Used with Permission. Do not repost without obtaining prior permission from the author.

The Languages of the Flanaess

A recent monograph by the Keoish sage Yithomit the Fractious, with
assistance from Sarn Benk

by Tim Bugler with Ken Barns

Linguistics has been a long-undervalued subject of scholarship in the
Flanaess. Most scholars have been content to accept simplistic and at
times blatantly false models of linguistic evolution. Notably, one recent
tome stated: 'most scholars agree that only five of the countless dialects
of Eastern Oerik were or are spoken by enough people to be properly called
languages'; ie. Ancient Baklunish, Old Oeridian, Suloise, Flan and the
so-called 'Common'. This same source goes on to admit that Suloise is an
extinct language of purely academic interest, Baklunish remains only among
certain Paynim tribes, and that Flan is only spoken in Tenh.

The puzzling claim of widespread usage of these languages has gone
unremarked until recently because of the excessive credence given to the
Aerdi scholars Gaxyg the Grey and Renwit Teeves. Their 'proto-Oeridian'
and 'monoglossal' (or 'Common') theories are little more than invalid
assumptions, baseless assertions and Great Kingdom propaganda, fostered by
scholars intent on promulgating their Aerdi biases. Thankfully, recent
work in Keoland, Veluna and Furyondy, both in reconstuctive grammar and in
comparative field work (an apparently revolutionary concept to Great
Kingdom minds) has led to a full-scale revision of this area of study with
the formulation of the 'Oerikian' and 'Flan-Oerikian' theories.

Long-range historical linguistics is still in its infancy, and there is
little knowledge as yet of the ancient relations between the four primary
human language groups: Flanic, Suelitic, Oeridic and Baklunic. There are
a few shreds of evidence to suggest descent from a common Oerikic group,
but these hypotheses cannot be adequately tested until an investigatory
expedition can be formed to pursue detailed inquiries in Zeif and areas
further west. However, for developments in the post-Cataclysm era,
fragmentary records and refined academic analysis have yielded significant
discoveries that largely dispel the myths espoused by Aerdi scholars.

The single most grievous error in the 'Common' theory is the assertion
(based on a handful of nominal correspondences) that modern Aerdi is 'a
combination of Ancient Baklunish and the dialect of Old Oeridian spoken in
the Great Kingdom'. Although it is difficult to determine from their poor
scholarship and worse prose, Gaxyg and Teevs appear to have reached this
conclusion based upon the apparent similarity between the words 'khan' and
'king', supported by some poorly referenced comparisons of grammar.

The response of Fankin of Dyvers has convincingly demonstrated the
near-total inaccuracy of these grammatical comparisons, without which the
'khan/king' comparison is insufficient to oppose the weight of historical
evidence. The 'khan/king' comparison is however an important
consideration in the Oerikic hypothesis mentioned above.

The second error is the claim that 'Oeridian was totally free of outside
influence until a few centuries ago'. This claim is of such staggering
falsity that it need not be further discussed.

A brief overview of the four language groups follows.

The Flanic Languages

While the supposedly autochthonic origin of the Flanae has long been under
suspicion, it remains certain that they were the first humans in the
Flanaess. Current research suggests that Flanic immigrations filled the
vacuum created by genocidal wars between demi-humans and humanoids. The
Flanic group would have contained a number of ancient variants, but can
probably be divided into four main branches of Ancient Flan.

The four branches, equating to the four main territorial groupings of the
pre-Cataclysms Flanae, have been referred to by area or by a geographic
reference, ie. North-eastern or Arton, North-western or Quag,
South-western or Seldon, Central or Nyr Dyv. Flan settlement seems to
have been minimal south-east of the Duntide River; Flanae in the regions
now under the Great Kingdom derived from the Central population, which has
led some scholars to suggest redefining the Central group as the
South-eastern. Other scholars maintain that a division between
North-central and South-central Flanic should be recognised.

The invasive migrations that followed the Twin Cataclysms resulted in the
almost universal subjugation of the Flan peoples. Loss of political
independence has largely led to loss of linguistic independence. However,
a small number of Flan languages remain.

Tenhah, spoken by maybe half a million people in and around the Duchy of
Tenh, is the most noted Flanic survivor, so much so that eastern scholars
refer to it as (Modern) Flan. The language of Tenh is a direct linear
descendant of North-eastern Ancient Flan.

Shwanah is the language spoken (in various dialects) by the Rovers of
the Barrens, also a descendant of North-eastern, but with more borrowings
from the Baklunish of the western nomads.

While most Perrenlanders are bi- or tri-lingual, Spaenhah is the oldest
language in their region (and still boasts some 200,000 speakers). Though
heavily influenced by other languages, particularly Northern Baklunish
(Yachokh), it is still recognisably descended from the North-western
Ancient Flan. The tribes of the Burneal Forest are reported to be of Flan
extraction; if this is true, they would presumably speak an offshoot of

South-western Flan has at least one surviving descendant, Alad (or
Aladnhah), the original language of the Geoff region. Although Alad has
been largely displaced by Keoish, it is still spoken as a primary language
by 50-100,000 people in the west and south of Geoff and in northern
Sterich, and many Geoffites are bilingual. Dialects of Alad and/or
remnants other South-western Flanic languages survive in small populations
in Sterich and the Yeomanry.

Central Ancient Flan has no known descendant in modern usage, but in seems
probable that the tribesmen of the Abbor-Alz are of Flan heritage. If so,
they would fall into this group. Also, the language of the Rhenee, the
lake folk of the Nyr Dyv, has not been sufficiently studied as they rarely
use it in the presence of outsiders, but scholars of Furyondy and Urnst
believe it to be a Central Flanic derivative.

The Suelitic Languages

The unification of the Suloise Empire largely suppressed all Suelitic
languages except the imperial tongue: Ancient Suloise. The migrations
following the empire's cataclysmic collapse renewed development within
this group, but it is largely noted for its influence upon other
languages. However, Ancient Suloise itself remains a language of
considerable academic interest, and does have living descendants.

Fruz, also known as the Cold Tongue, is the language of the Thillonrian
barbarians; thus it has about a million speakers. It is marked by
significant influence from Ancient Flan (North-eastern). Although each of
the three Cold Tribes has its own dialect, all three are mutually

Lendorian is also part of the Suloise family. This obscure isolate is
found only on Lendore Isle in the Spindrifts. Lendorian is supposedly a
language secondary to Aerdi, and mainly of ritual significance. Gaxyg
also asserts that Lendorian bears no relation to Fruz, but no reputable
study has yet been conducted in the archipelago to throw light on this
puzzling statement.

The Suloise who fled into the south appear to have been absorbed by the
aboriginal inhabitants. However, a handful of other Suel remnants are
reputed to exist, such as the Bright Desert nomads; some or all of these
may speak a descendant of Ancient Suloise.

The Oeridic Languages

Most of the modern languages of the Flanaess are members of the Oeridic
family. Ancient Oeridian had numerous branches; most of these have no
representation in our region, many may be largely extinct, and only two
are of immediate interest. The Oerid peoples who fled eastwards from the
Baklunish-Suloise wars (appearing in the Flanaess from c.180 OR) spoke
various dialects of the branch known as Old High Oeridian (also Old
Oeridian, sometimes High Oeridian). Other Oerids fled northwards,
mingling with Baklunish peoples and later appearing as nomadic invaders in
the north c.960 OR; this language group has been tentatively labelled Low
Oeridian (see below).

Keoish in its modern form derives from Old Keolandish, a combination
of Old High Oeridian and Ancient Suloise that stabilized by c.900 OR at
the latest. The grammatical structure is largely Oeridian, but the
formation of tenses and written script are clearly Suelitic, and the
vocabulary is thoroughly hybridised. A major language traditionally
undervalued by Aerdi intellectuals, Keoish is spoken by about 5 million
people in the southwestern Flanaess. While significant differences can be
observed in regional dialects, especially in Ulek (Ulek or Lortmils
Keoish) and the Hold of the Sea Princes (Jeklea Keoish), these are
generally of mutual intelligibility.

Velondi, spoken by many farmers along the Velverdyva, is also descended
from Old High Oeridian. This minor language derives from the tribal
dialect of Oeridians who settled in this area prior to the establishment
of the Great Kingdom's satrapies in the region, and is thus almost a
thousand years old.

Bezirsh/Bezirkish, one of the languages of Perrenland, is yet another
member of the High Oeridian family. This tongue is descended from that of
the Oeridian tribes who were absorbed by Flan locals in the later phases
of the great migrations, and has been heavily influenced by Flanic
Spaenhah and Baklunic Yachokh, bearing little obvious similarity to other
Oeridian languages save Velondi.

Nyrondese is the collective term for local dialects in Nyrond. These
derive from a tongue referred to as Old Nyrondese, the tribal dialect of
Old High Oeridian spoken by the Nyrondal prior to their conquest by the
Aerdi in 535 OR. Most of these are not intelligible to speakers of Aerdi,
but the latter is known to most speakers of Nyrondese as a secondary

The Aerdi spoke Middle Aerdi, which became the common speech for their
Great Kingdom. An increasing number of scholars maintain a distinction
between Middle Aerdi and Old Aerdi, the latter being a tribal dialect of
Old High Oeridian spoken by the Aerdi before the creation of the Great
Kingdom proper and containing less Flan and Suel influence than the
former. (Great Kingdom assertions of the 'purity' of their language are
considered ridiculous by most independent scholars.) Middle Aerdi was
prevalent through much of the Flanaess, and has developed into two main
languages: Ferrond and modern Aerdi.

Ferrond is the dominant language across Furyondy/Velona and the western
shores of the Nyr Dyv, spoken by at least 4 million people. Despite the
importance of Ferrond, this language is completely ignored by Gaxyg; it
seems that the Great Kingdom scholars prefer to regard Ferrond as a
corrupted dialect of Aerdi, a stand which ignores the subsequent
divergence of both languages. As the Great Kingdom ebbed and the frontier
states became independent, linguistic differences grew; the Kingdom of
Furyondy was formed in 898 OR, after which Ferrond became prevalent. An
archaic and corrupted form of Ferrond is reputedly spoken in Blackmoor.

Aerdi, the so called 'Common' tongue used thoughout the Great Kingdom,
Nyrond and environs, is undeniably used by more people that any other
language in the Flanaess, particularly if one includes its dialects. It
is estimated that at least 20 million people use Aerdi as a primary
language, and over 10 million use it as a secondary language. The Great
Kingdom/Nyrond population is large enough to have developed significant
internal dialects, particularly in the south among the disaffected fiefs
now known as the Iron League. 'High Aerdi', a name used by many Aerdi
scholars and nobles for the language as a whole, is more appropriately
reserved for their own dialect of the language. Outside the Great
Kingdom, Nyrond, the Pale and the Urnst states have their own emergent

By way of a footnote, distinction must be drawn between the Nyrondese and
Nyrondal tongues. Nyrondese is an old language, predating the Battle of
a Fortnight's Length, and is frequently run across in backwater areas of
Nyrond. Nyrondal is a dialect that is developing in the speakers of
Aerdi living in Nyrond.

The Baklunic Languages

The Baklunish states of the far west, remnants of the ancient Bakluna
empire, speak Baklava, a direct descendant of Ancient Baklunish that is
referred to as Central Baklunish among eastern scholars. The claim made
by Gaxyg that Ancient Baklunish remains uncorrupted among certain Paynim
tribes is another demonstration of his inadequate grasp of this field and
his reliance upon hearsay. Serious study of the Baklunic languages has
been practically non-existant in the Great Kingdom, but such is to be
expected of the ivory-tower mentality of Aerdi sages. Baklava is spoken
by at least three million people. Non-Baklava dialects of Central
Baklunish also occur in the Plains of the Paynims.

The continuous intermingling of populations in Ket presents an interesting
field of study, and while the Ketite dialect of Central Baklunish can be
understood by Baklava speakers, some scholars maintain that there are
sufficient differences (most notably the absence of the ablative case) for
it to be considered a separate language.

The nomadic peoples created by the fusion of Oerid and Baklunish refugee
groups combined Ancient Baklunish with Low Oeridian (see above).
Following the patterns established by their subsequent settlement, this
language group falls naturally into two subgroups, North and South

North Baklunish is represented by Yachokh, the common language of the
Wolf and Tiger nomads (numbering somewhere under 1 million). Dialectic
differentiation has taken place between the two groups, but Yachokh is
still considered a single language, pending field studies in the region.

Several South Baklunish dialects exist among the Paynim tribes, but the
most important is Uli, the language of Ull, boasting at least 0.5
million speakers.

Game Mechanics


The concepts contained in here draw heavily on the languages system from
the "Dragon Warriors" RPG by Dave Morris and released by Corgi books
(mainly) in Australia and the UK in the mid-1980's. If you run across any
of the books in this series of 6, grab them! DW is the best RPG system I
have run across in my 15 years of gaming. Anyway, a summary of DW
terms (that DM's will probably adapt as they see fit for their own


Basic - a smattering of vocabulary (eg. 'cold', 'hungry', 'mercy')

Intermediate - Conversant, but will occasionally be misunderstand.

Fluent - Can think in the language.


Simple, Undemanding, Complex, Abtruse.

As an example, Ferral (the secret diplomatic language of the Iron League)
would be Simple (only able to explain limited concepts) and Modern Chinese
(with its reliance on word order, pronunciation and even pitch) would be
Abtruse to most westerners.


Close - as related as say Italian and Spanish are. Lowers the complexity
of the closely related language by one step (if you have Intermediate
proficiency in the first language) or two steps (if you are Fluent in the
first language).

Distant - as related as say English and French are. Lowers the complexity
of the distantly related language by one step if you are Fluent in the
first language.

So on with the languages:

Aerdi ("Common")

Speakers: (as their primary language): about 20 million.

Aerdi is the official language for all states from the Sea Barons through
to the Nyr Dyv, and from the Iron League to the Pale and Ratik. Many of
the Bandit Kingdoms use Aerdi as their primary language, and fluent
speakers of Aerdi are common in Greyhawk and the Wild Coast (nb. because
of its lucrative trading position, Greyhawk refuses to employ an
"official" language - most of its citizens are bi- or tri-lingual.
However most children are taught Aerdi first). Many dialects are
beginning to appear, although all are mutually intelligible.

Complexity: Undemanding

Aerdi is very easy to speak badly. With a bit of luck, others may just
think they are hearing a dialect they are unfamiliar with. High Aerdi
however is Complex, as the Great Kingdom nobility are less forgiving of

Closely related to: Ferrond

Distantly related to: Nyrondese, Velondi, Ancient Oeridian

Script: Classic Alphabet


Speakers: about 5 million.

Keoish is the official language of all lands lying between the
Crystalmists and the Lortmils, and Jeklea Bay and Bissel. Bissel and Ket
are linguistic jigsaws, with primary Keoish speakers in the majority in
Bissel and a substantial minority in Ket. Keoish (with significant Orcish
influence) is also the prevalent tongue in the Pomarj and Wild Coast.
Most citizens of Greyhawk have at least Intermediate proficiency in
Keoish, as do the citizens of Dyvers. Interestingly, Keoish has become
the universal language amongst sailors across the southern waters around
to the Lordship of the Isles. Historically, the Aerdi heavily
underestimated the importance of naval trade and warfare, and the first
Aerdi naval powers west of the Tilvanot were the memebrs of the Iron
League - a recent development.

Complexity: Complex

Many idiosyncrasies have arisen from the mingling of Oeridic and Suelitic

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Ancient Oeridian, Ancient Suloise

Script: a variant of Suloise Pictograms, including a unique phonetic
alphabet for dealing with words of Oeridic origin (think Japanese - Kanji
+ Hiragana/Katakana).


Speakers: about 4 million.

Ferrond is the official language of Furyondy/Veluna. From this base, it
gains acceptance by speakers in Bissel, Ket, and Greyhawk. About half of
the Bandit Kingdoms use Ferrond as the official language, although a
change in the halls of power of a Bandit Kingdom is often followed by a
linguistic change as well. Traders from Dyvers (which uses Ferrond as the
official language) carry familiarity with Ferrond across the Nyr Dyv, but
usually not fluency. Some parts of the Wild Coast also use Ferrond for
day-to-day communication, although this is rare. Interestingly, Iuz
himself uses Ferrond (liberally fortified with orcish influence) as the
main language in his domain, and the Hierarchs of the Horned Society are
rumoured to have come from a Ferrond-speaking Bandit Kingdom. As noted
noted elsewhere, Blackmoor also speaks a (barely) recognisable form of

Complexity: Undemanding

For the same reasons as Aerdi.

Closely related to: Aerdi, Velondi

Distantly related to: Ancient Oeridian

Script: Classic Alphabet


Speakers: about 3-4 million

The official language of Ekbir, Zeif, Tusmit and Ket. Also the primary
language of some of the more Baklunish of the tribes of the Plains of the
Paynims (that is, those tribes with minimal Oeridian influence, be it
genetic or cultural).

Complexity: Undemanding

Closely related to: Ancient Baklunish

Distantly related to: Southern Baklunish

Script: The sinuous, fluid alphabet of Jezant.

Southern Baklunish

Speakers: about 2 million across the Plains of the Paynims and Ull

Complexity: Undemanding

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Baklava, Ancient Baklunish, Yachokh, Ancient


Speakers: about 1 million.

Official language of Schnai, Cruzki and Fruztii. Some speakers in Ratik
and the Hold of Stonefist.

Complexity: Complex

Closely related to: Ancient Suloise

Distantly related to: Ancient Flan.

Script: Suloise Pictograms


Speakers: about 1 million in the Wolf and Tiger Nomads

Complexity: Undemanding

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Ancient Baklunish, Southern Baklunish, Ancient
Oeridian, Spaenhah

Script: Jezant


Speakers: about 0.5 million in the Duchy of Tenh and the Hold of Stonefist

Complexity: Abtruse - this is a highly codified language!

Closely related to: Ancient Flan

Distantly related to: Shwanah

Script: Flanic Hieroglyphs.


Speakers: about 0.5 million in backwater parts of Nyrond

Complexity: Undemanding

Closely related to: Ferral

Distantly related to: Aerdi, Ancient Oeridian.

Script: Classic Alphabet.


Speakers: about 0.3 million in backwater parts of Veluna and Furyondy

Complexity: Undemanding

Closely related to: Ferrond

Distantly related to: Aerdi, Ancient Oeridian

Script: Classic Alphabet.


Speakers: about 0.2 million in Perrenland

Complexity: Abtruse

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Ancient Flan, Yachokh, Shwanah

Script: originally Flanic Hieroglyphs, now Jezant.


Speakers: about 0.2 million in the Rovers and the Hold of Stonefist.

Complexity: Undemanding

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Ancient Flan, Tenhah, Spaenhah

Script: none originally, now Suloise pictograms in the Hold of Stonefist


Speakers: about 0.1 million in Geoff, Sterich and the Yeomanry.

Complexity: Complex

Closely related to: none

Distantly Related to: Ancient Flan.

Script: originally Flanic Hieroglyphs, now Keoish variant of Suloise


Speakers: nil (as a primary language)

Complexity: Abtruse

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Ancient Suloise

Script: Suloise Pictograms

Ancient Flan

Speakers: nil.

The language is extinct as a spoken tongue, but those with proficiency in
the language are literate in Flanic hieroglyphs as used by the Ancient
Flan. Sites with this language may be found anywhere in the Flanaess.

Complexity: Abtruse

Closely related to: Tenhah

Distantly related to: Spaenhah, Shwanah, Alad

Script: Flanic Hieroglyphs.

Ancient Suloise

Speakers: nil

Although the survival of Keoish and Fruz give an idea of what spoken
Suloise may have been like, as with Ancient Flan, a purely concept driven
script cannot preserve the pronunciation and vocabulary in the same manner
that a phonetic alphabet can. Proficiency in Ancient Suloise gives
literacy with the Suloise pictograms. In this case Fruz may be written
and read, but not spoken. Keoish, due to its Oeridic influence may pose a
little more of a problem. Sites with this language are usually found to
the south or to the east of the Nyr Dyv.

Complexity: Abtruse

Closely related to: Fruz

Distantly related to: Lendorian, Keoish

Script: Suloise pictograms

Ancient Baklunish

Speakers: nil (as a primary language)

Ancient Baklunish is still spoken in the courts of Ekbir and Zeif. Ket
and Tusmit use Baklava even in formal ceremonies. Sites with Ancient
Baklunish writings are uncommon east of the Yatils.

Complexity: Complex

Closely related to: Baklava

Distantly related to: Southern Baklunish, Yachokh.

Ancient Oeridian

Speakers: nil (and ignore Aerdi scholars and nobles who say otherwise!)

Truly Ancient Oeridian, a single language, long ago died out leaving only
tribal tongues such as Velondi, Aerdi and Nyrondese which arose from Old
High Oeridian. Low Oeridian only remains in the influence it has had on
the Northern and Southern Baklunish languages. (See part 4 of 6). Oeridic
sites are more common to the north than to the south of the Nyr Dyv, and
in any case Oeridian monuments are comparatively new, being at most about
1000 years old.

Complexity: Complex

Closely related to: none

Distantly related to: Aerdi, Nyrondese, Velondi, Ferrond, Yachokh,
Southern Baklunish, Keoish (from this it can be seen how Aerdi scholars
who define Ancient Oeridian as part of their language could justify the
claim that "Common" was the only language spoken in the Flanaess!)
Script: an emergent form of the Classic Alphabet, related to Jezant.

This article comes from Canonfire!

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