Modern Human Languages

The varied peoples of Golarion speak hundreds of languages, from widespread Taldane to the dying tongues of fallen human empires. The following are the most common of hundreds of tongues in and around the Inner Sea region.

Taldane: One of the oldest languages still in use in the Inner Sea region, Taldane is also the most widely spoken. From the Lands of the Linnorm Kings in the distant north to the necromancers of Geb far to the south, Taldane is known and used to facilitate conversation with disparate people. Written Taldane uses an alphabet of 26 letters, 17 of which come directly from Jistka, which in turn adopted them from Ancient Azlanti. Taldane uses Kelesh numerals to represent numbers.

Hallit: Spoken by the Kellid people in the far north, Hallit is a coarse, rough-sounding language with a vocabulary centered on survival and war.

Kelish: Throaty, phlegmatic, and passionate, this ancient language derives from the tribal tongues of the Padishah Empire of Kelesh in the distant east.

Osiriani: The most widespread language of Garund, Osiriani is directly descended from Ancient Osiriani. Modern Osiriani readers can, with some effort, decipher writings made in Ancient Osiriani.

Polyglot: The countless dialects of Garund’s Mwangi tribesfolk share enough remnants of a mysterious root language that members of different tribes from vastly divergent regions of the Expanse can generally understand one another even though they appear to be speaking completely different languages.

Tien: Tian generally speak Tien, the official language of fallen Imperial Lung Wa and its many successor states. This tonal language contains thousands of homonyms and its written form utilizes nearly 24,000 pictographs.

Skald: Famous for its long words and chanting pronunciation, Skald sounds at the same time lyrical and hard to the ears of southern Avistan people. Although it uses the 23-letter Dwarven alphabet, Skald adopted four letters from Jistka a few hundred years ago to give it more letters than Taldane.

Varisian: A mix of a lost proto-Varisian tongue, Taldane, and Thassilonian, with a smattering of Giant and Orc, Varisian is rife with subtle double meanings, innuendo, and very slight gradations of meaning.

Vudrani: Vudrani borrows and adapts words from both Kelesh and Tien, but its basis lies in a number of ancient tribal tongues from the Dhavala River basin. Even more than Skald, Vudrani is known for combining prefixes, expressions, and suffixes into tongue-twistingly long words.

Dead Languages

Although no longer actively spoken, the following languages nonetheless continue to play active roles in the lives of people around the Inner Sea.

Ancient Osiriani: This precursor to modern Osiriani shares many similarities and differs mainly in its hieroglyphics (modern Osiriani uses much simplified images) and lexicon (modern Osiriani contains more words, and a few words bear different meanings).

Azlanti: One of the most widely spoken languages of its time, Azlanti became the basis for dozens of languages all over Avistan and Garund. Its linguistic legacy is seen in languages as diverse (on the surface) as Hallit, Polyglot, Taldane, and Varisian.

Jistka: Jistka’s major contribution to modern languages is its alphabet. Skald, Taldane, and Varisian all use at least a few letters from it. Jistka numerals, where letters represent numbers (I is 1, V is 5, and so on), remain in use throughout Avistan as an alternative counting system employed almost exclusively by scholars and royalty.

Tekritanin: When desert nomads banded together to form the Tekritanin League, they combined elements of their different but related languages to form Tekritanin. Hundreds of words in use in a dozen modern languages, particularly those dealing with heat, deserts, and governance, come from Tekritanin.

Thassilonian: One of the ancestor tongues of modern Varisian, Thassilonian is mostly remembered for its now unused alphabet, consisting of three sets of runes. Some linguists put forward that Thassilonian was the first language with three grammatical genders.

Nonhuman Languages

Humans are far from the first race to communicate verbally or in a written form. The most common non-human tongues follow.

Abyssal: Many believe Abyssal was the first language to develop among natives of the Outer Sphere, although the high mutability of the language makes determining its history or parentage impossible.

Aquan: Developed from an ancient and unknown proto-Elemental language, Aquan shares many constructions with the other elemental tongues, but its vocabulary is decidedly water-based. Aquan pronunciation by humanoids relies heavily on the use of vibrating phlegm in the back of the throat.

Auran: Sharing its sentence structures and mechanical aspects with its three sibling elemental tongues, Auran is a breathy, gentle-sounding language that sounds best without the use of vocal cords.

Celestial: Celestial is used by all of the good-aligned planes of the Outer Spheres. Celestial borrows from other amazingly ancient tongues — such as Draconic and Sylvan — but retains the unique syllabic combinations that make it sound distinct.

Draconic: Considered by many (dragons) to be the oldest and most important language in existence, the influence of Draconic can be heard in nearly every other tongue. Draconic has provided thousands of words to various other tongues and dialects all across the multiverse, from the Taldane word “dragon” itself to the Elven “ithallyn.” Almost every word from Draconic has been absorbed by other languages, although as with all dialects time has often made its etymology difficult to discern.

Druidic: Since only druids speak this language, and they guard it so jealously, non-druids generally succeed only in picking out individual borrowed words from a variety of languages (mostly Elven and Sylvan), although without context they cannot know if the meanings remain the same. To date, no non-druid has discerned the grammatical rules of this mysterious tongue.

Dwarven: A guttural, phlegmatic language spoken from the back of the throat and consisting of hard consonants and clipped syllables, Dwarven sounds as rough-and-tumble as the hard-working beings who first spoke it. Dwarven owes much to the earthen language of Terran (which, although older, uses the Dwarven runes for its written form).

Elven: Linguists believe Elven formed when elven speakers of Sylvan attempted to integrate Celestial grammatical conventions and Draconic words into their already complicated tongue. The resulting conglomeration became impossibly complex, but over the course of only a few elven generations, it formed into a much-simplified yet beautifully expanded language capable of expressing concepts utterly alien to speakers of Sylvan. Elven is frequently considered the eldest mortal tongue.

Giant: Original Giant (perhaps the tongue of the ancient cyclopes is lost to time. During the reign of Thassilon, giants across Varisia were forced to forsake their ancient language. Over time, as Thassilon’s influence spread, so too did the use of the tongue among free giants. Today, the Giant language is believed to be a mesh of Original Giant and Thassilonian.

Gnome: Thanks to their propensity to code switch, gnomes created a very complicated language, which they inexplicably tied to Dwarven runes. Since the creation of Gnome, the language has grown and evolved at a dizzying pace. Modern linguists estimate that Gnome contains more than twice as many words as the next largest language (Draconic).

Goblin: An oral-only language known for its wide variety of subtly different expressions meaning, essentially, “kill that one,” Goblin also possesses a large vocabulary relating to death, servitude, and fear. The language is extremely flexible, and the nigh-incomprehensible yapping of goblins, the strict militaristic barking of hobgoblins, and the sibilant taunts of bugbears all use the same grammar and vocabulary.

Gnoll: Punctuated by high-pitched yips, deep barks, and throaty growls, this cacophonous language is difficult for non-gnolls to pick up—much less master. Gnoll contains 37 words for “slave” but only two for “work.”

Halfling: Whatever language halflings possessed before they met humans is lost to the dark clouds of time. The modern language of Halfling descends directly from Taldane, and is a code-based pidgin dialect of that language and Varisian. Halfling first arose in Cheliax, where halfling slaves spoke with one another in a code to baffle their masters. Over time, as halfling ex-slaves slowly disseminated out into the world and brought their code with them, this weird dialect became its own language.

Ignan: Sounding the most aggressive of the four elemental languages, Ignan consists of short words meant to be spoken quickly. The staccato feel of the language emulates the popping of fire.

Infernal: Infernal requires precise enunciation, for many of its words without similar meanings nonetheless bear extremely close pronunciations.

Orc: Harsh, loud, and known for the staccato delivery of its disjointed hard-consonant syllables, Orc sounds hard and angry. Despite the long animosity between their races, the native language of the orcs uses the alphabet of Dwarven for its written form — a development many suspect originated from dwarves trying to understand the language of their enemies.

Sylvan: One of the oldest languages, possibly nearly as old Abyssal and Draconic, Sylvan is estimated by many to be one of the smallest (in terms of vocabulary). Observers point to the immortal, insular nature of fey as an explanation for the language’s slow evolution and nearly nonexistent expansion.

Terran: Like its brethren languages, Terran uses the subject, object, verb sentence construction. It is a slow language, the sounds of which cannot be rushed.

Undercommon: Descended from Elven, drow-created Undercommon expands upon certain specific areas of its mother tongue’s vocabulary while completely ignoring others. Pronunciation of shared words evolved so differently as to make them nigh-unintelligible to speakers of the opposite tongue.


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