IK: Rogue's Bounty
Languages of the Iron Kingdoms
Languages in western Immoren have been evolving since before recorded history. In certain eras there has been a proliferation of tongues even more bewildering than the war-torn political landscape of the so-called Thousand Cities. Language has followed in the wake of culture, and warfare between tribes has resulted in the dominance and subjugation of tongues, while dialects have sprouted and evolved in isolated communities. Each of these tongues has a complex and varied history and many regional variances, and dozens of lesser languages linger on the fringes. It is quite common for inhabitants of western Immoren to speak multiple languages with various degrees of fluency. Being able to communicate effectively in two or three different tongues is common, as is exposure to multiple dialects of each. Written fluency is another matter and varies from kingdom to kingdom. For many there is a wide gulf between spoken comprehension and written fluency.
Languages are grouped based on their origins. Among human languages, there are four main language families, each named after their respective major languages: Caspian, Khurzic, Molgur, and Morridane. Of these, only Molgur is still spoken; the rest are known only to those interested in ancient documents.
While Caspian itself is no longer a living language, it is the largest language family and therefore of great interest to scholars and theologians. It spread with both the Menite and Morrowan faiths before it changed and fragmented into distinct regional languages with some commonalities, such as the alphabet they use. Several languages descended from Caspian are still in common use; the most significant are described here. Additionally, there have been a number of intermediary Caspian languages; most are of interest only to linguists, but some are still spoken in certain regions, although rarely as a primary tongue.
Caspian is a descendant of several ancient languages of the first major Menite communities in western Immoren, including that used in Ancient Icthier. The first written documents, such as text of the True Law, were in a tongue that predates Calacian, which was the immediate precursor of Caspian. The Caspian language reached its height during the Thousand Cities Era and became the language of educated discourse. Most ancient Morrowan and Menite texts in the south were written in Caspian, with the most modern and internally consistent version being set down by Ascendant Angellia when she presented the definitive translation of the Enkheiridion.
Cygnaran (and Sulese)
The language most directly derived from Caspian, Cygnaran is the dominant language of the southern Iron Kingdoms, having been widely adopted by the people of the Midlunds and Caspia itself. It is used throughout the region as a trade language and is the national language of Cygnar and the Protectorate of Menoth, although the latter refers to the language as Sulese. It is a rich language that includes a number of words borrowed from the Orgoth tongue that came into use during the Occupation as well as many commonly used trade terms for alchemy, engineering and the arcane.
Given its broad geographical region, Cygnaran has numerous dialects. Sulese is easily understood by any Cygnaran speaker but has adopted a number of Idrian terms and phrases and includes distinct religious terms. The riverfolk and swamp denizens of the northern stretches of the Black River are infamous for their “Swampie” language, a dialect that includes many terms from Morridane and is thus difficult to understand by the uninitiated. The Arjun employ a similarly dense dialect that mixes old Thurian with Cygnaran.
Llaelese is a direct evolution of the Ryn language of Rynyr and has changed very little since before the Orgoth Occupation. The people of this region have always been proud of their language as an essential element of their culture, although most Llaelese also speak Cygnaran. Since the nation’s occupation by the Khadoran Empire, inhabitants have begun to learn to speak Khadoran, but the Llaelese still use their traditional language among families and friends.
The modern descendant of Tordoran, Ordic is the most widely spoken language of the Ordic people, who are very often multilingual. The vocabulary includes many words from Thurian as well as a number of Orgoth terms. Other words have been borrowed from a variety of languages, likely as a result of Ord’s status as a seafaring melting pot. Ordic is notable for having established many widely accepted nautical terms, which are familiar to sailors of all nations.
There has been some debate as to whether Scharde, spoken throughout the Broken Coast and among the denizens of Cryx, can be considered its own language or should be classified as a dialect of Cygnaran. As the Nightmare Empire of Cryx has absorbed denizens of every mainland kingdom, its language includes words from Molgur, Morridane, Ordic, Llaelese, and Khadoran. Many traders and sailors of the Broken Coast become passably familiar with the Scharde Tongue.
Most Khurzic languages have begun to fall by the wayside in favor of modern Khadoran, which is spoken pervasively across the Khadoran Empire.
The roots of the Khurzic languages are difficult to trace, stretching back to prehistory in the north. It is believed several of these tongues came with pilgrims from the southern Exodus who spread Menite teachings into the northlands. Their disciples sought to translate the True Law into local tongues and preserve these scriptures in writing. Khurzic uses a distinct alphabet, although it was likely derived from the pre-Caspian alphabet used in Icthier. Like Caspian, Khurzic is no longer spoken but is studied by scholars of ancient history. Most other Khurzic languages have begun to fall by the wayside in favor of modern Khadoran, which is spoken pervasively across the Khadoran Empire.
The language of the Khadoran Empire is the enduring language of the north and has been learned by many in the regions bordering its expanding territories. Over the generations Khadoran has steadily swallowed up rival languages in the north, incorporating a variety of words and phrases from the other Khurzic tongues. Khadoran includes a number of Orgoth-derived terms as well as some taken from Molgur. Most Khadoran speakers can communicate easily with one another despite regional accents and colloquialisms, although fewer Khadorans in the rural regions can read and write compared to those in other kingdoms.
Kossite is now a little-used tongue, perhaps due to its scarcity of written literature. The Kossite people were largely illiterate for most of their history, even after many tribes converted to Menoth. In some remote forest communities and among certain families the language is preserved, but Khadoran has nearly swept it aside.
Umbrean is a distinct language, although it bears strong similarities to Khadoran; they share a structure as well as an alphabet and contain many similar words. Umbrean has been preserved by the people of eastern Khador and those of what was once western Llael and is still spoken both in homes and among other Umbreans. There are distinct Umbrean translations of the True Law, which differ in small but noteworthy ways from their Khadoran counterparts. This language has persisted despite the prevalence of Khadoran, although most Umbreans speak both, and many also speak Llaelese, Ordic, or Cygnaran.
Although Molgur has given rise to a number of distinct languages, they share many roots and elements; with a bit of exposure and familiarity, speakers can often make themselves understood to one another, although conveying complex ideas can be difficult. One of the most distinct dialects of Molgur is that used by the Tharn, who have their own words and phrases but whose language is otherwise quite similar to ancient Molgur.
The most ancient living tongue, Molgur originally spread across western Immoren with the dominance of that tribal people before the Warlord Era. It was once pervasive among Devourer-worshipers, but its use is now confined to fringe settlements and dialects adopted by Dhunian races. Due to its association with the Wurm, it is sometimes referred to as the “Berserker’s Tongue.”
While some linguists disdain to consider this a distinct language, it is arguably as divergent from the original Molgur as Molgur-Trul and is difficult for outsiders to comprehend. Gobberish is less cohesive and consistent than the other Molgur tongues, frequently becoming an amalgam including local human tongues of the region. The most broadly spoken dialect includes many Cygnaran terms. Since most southern gobbers can also speak Cygnaran, they sometimes seem to employ Gobberish just to confuse humans that annoy them. They also use it to speak privately to one another, often speaking particularly quickly to further confound outsiders.
Molgur-Og is common to the ogrun, who have added their own words and particularly expanded the language’s range of curses and swearing. There is no written form of Molgur-Og. Those ogrun who make their homes in Rhul write in Rhulic, and even in speech this language has become increasingly prevalent. Molgur-Og is on the decline among Rhulic ogrun, who retain its use primarily for Dhunian services and family matters.
Molgur-Trul is the most widely used Molgur tongue and is used by trollkin throughout western Immoren. It has diverged more dramatically from its linguistic roots than other Molgur languages to become the most versatile in that family. The trollkin possess a rich tradition of runic carving, and their written language is as versatile and expressive as their speech. Use of this language spread to other troll species, including full-blood trolls, pygmy trolls, and dire trolls, although their vocabularies and sentence construction are much more limited.
The most obscure and least widespread of the human language families, the Morridane languages are in serious decline. While Morridane has a distinct ancient alphabet, the two living tongues in this family abandoned it long ago.
The language of the people of Morrdh, Morridane is one of the more difficult ancient tongues, subject to far less scholarly study than Caspian. Morridane and Caspian are distantly related, having diverged from one of the tongues of Icthier after the Exodus prompted by the Time of the Burning Sky. The ancient writings of Morrdh are highly prized by occultists. Morridane’s original alphabet shares only a few symbols with the Caspian one.
Idrian is on the decline but is still spoken among the remaining tribal nomads on the fringes of the Protectorate of Menoth and elsewhere in the Bloodstone Marches. The majority of Menite Idrians switched to Sulese after converting a century ago. Idrian is classified as a Morridane language even though it was heavily influenced by other tongues used in this eastern region. In ancient times a number of Idrian tribes were conquered by Morrdh, which had a tremendous impact on their language. Idrian also incorporates many Molgur terms. Although written Idrian once had its own alphabet, it has been largely forgotten. Most who speak this tongue cannot read or write its original alphabet. Idrians converted to Menite worship who still speak Idrian use the Caspian alphabet for writing it. Other tribes have taken up the Molgur alphabet instead.
The most widely spoken of the Morridane languages, Thurian has persisted in Ord and northwestern Cygnar, as the descendants of Thuria are proud of their ancient roots. Thurians do not consider themselves descendants of Morrdh, but their kingdom had regular contact and periodic wars with the dark kingdom and eventually adopted a variant of Morridane mixed with tongues local to the coasts and bogs of the Thurian region. Thurian has evolved considerably away from its Morridane roots into one of the most distinct of western Immoren’s living tongues, making it difficult to learn by outsiders, although most Ordsmen know some Thurian as a matter of course. It is considered a “low” language in Ord compared to Ordic or Tordoran, a matter of dispute between these two peoples. Thurian literature is quite popular among the nobles of northwestern Cygnar, where the tongue has a more romantic connotation. Modern Thurian is written with the Caspian alphabet.
The so-called “Five Cant” is an artificial dialect of Thurian blending old Tordoran, Cygnaran, and Caspian. It is a very fast- spoken and intentionally confusing dialect used extensively in the town of Five Fingers that originally arose among the port’s criminals and has spread to the criminal circles of other cities.
All dwarves and most northern ogrun speak Rhulic, and this language is not generally well known outside of Rhul. Although some human scholars have undertaken its study, particularly in communities with dwarven enclaves, dwarves trading with humans prefer to speak in Cygnaran or Khadoran. Written Rhulic is complex, consisting of numerous runic combinations of geometric shapes. The alphabet also has a distinct variant used for written correspondence that differs from the angular variant used for inscribing text in stone or metal. Most ogrun of Rhul can speak Rhulic with fluency and some can even read and write it as a second language, which is useful when aiding the Rhulic mercenary companies with their copious records. The language contains a variety of minor dialects, with the most distinct used among clans who associate least with outsiders. The miners of Ulgar have a distinct dialect, for example, as do the dwarves of remote eastern Farhallow.
The Iosans speak a language called Shyr, a name shared with their capital in Ios. This is an ancient and extremely complex language, with rigid rules of syntax and grammar entirely dissimilar from human and dwarven tongues. Written Shyr is not phonetic and uses thousands of intricate glyphs. Shyr is almost never heard outside of Ios, and as the Iosans guard their language as tightly as all their secrets, only a handful of scholars outside Ios are familiar with its written form. There are distinct dialect differences between the language used in Shyrr, Iryss, and Lynshynal as well as among those used in some of the outlying fortifications. Additionally, the numerous houses have developed terms specific to their use, although these do not generally represent a barrier to communication. Members of the Retribution of Scyrah have created an extensive system of gestures to be used in place of spoken language for certain tasks.
Aeric, the language of the Nyss, is related to Shyr but diverged considerably after the Nyss left Ios and settled in northern Khador. The written form bears no similarities to Shyr’s.
There are many other languages in western Immoren, including dozens of tongues among isolated areas on the fringes of Khador or other nations. Some are obscure like Satyx, the language of the Satyxis, and the nearly incomprehensible Thrallspeak utilized by the more advanced undead. Some are guarded, blasphemous tongues such as the words of infernal entities or the occult runes of the Telgesh script studied by Thamarites. The Thousand Cities era saw the development of dozens of tongues now of use only to scholars attempting to piece together the distant past.