Old, Middle, and Modern Commontongue

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Old, Middle, and Modern Commontongue

Postby Philomena on December 31st, 2012, 1:57 pm

Hullo, all!

Perhaps this question is too specialized, and simply has no answer, but I wanted to ask. According to the language chart at http://www.mizahar.com/lore/Language, modern common tongue did not appear as a distinct language until the year 500. So, does t his mean that we are currently in the midst of a linguistic transition? Is there some people, dialects and regions that still resemble middle common? Or is it regional? (With such isolated ci ties, I would expect some linguistic drift? And creolization of some of the corners of the world where humans are mixed with o ther races.)

Also it begs the qu ration of how certain books are written. For example, I live in Zeltiva. Would the Circumnavigation by Kenabelle Wright be in Middle Common? Or in. Transitory dialect similar to Shakespeare's English?

Finally, what was the trigger for each of th see linguistic shifts? In English the Norman invasion began the shift from Old to Middle English and the (admittedly mysterious) great vowel shift was the transition from middle to modern. Is there something similar I n o up culture?

Sorry, I know these probably sound like dull as sticks questions, but they are integral to the character I'm developing...
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Old, Middle, and Modern Commontongue

Postby Dariel on December 31st, 2012, 5:36 pm

I'm sure someone else is better suited to answering this, but basically I'd see the ongoing development of Common as license to have your character talk as you want them to.

The thing is, in the real world, languages have a tendency to diverge, not converge. Except where there is a central authority and more importantly a ready exchange of information.

Consider that Sanskrit, Greek, Latin, Germanic and Celtic are all Indo-Germanic languages. They all have a common ancestry some 10,000 years removed. You just couldn't tell by looking at them. Or to use a more recent example, Latin. While the Roman Empire was alive and well it was the lingua franca all throughout its borders. The aggressive settlement policy, the well-maintained roads, the expansive bureaucracy, the cultural offerings, they all ensured that it was in use. With the loss of centralized authority and cultural infrastructure however, this common language was lost in a few short centuries and fractured.

Now, don't think that it just fractured into the Romanic Languages we know and recognize today. It took another thousand years and the French Revolution before a Parisian could actually have an expansive chat with a guy from, say, Provence. Other large feudal entities like the HRE, never mind the Chinese Empire, had similar issues all throughout history.

Even if we assume that the Ahlean and Suvan Empires established or at least furthered Common as a courtly, bureaucratic and ultimately diplomatic language it's actually unlikely that the language would have kept on developing as a singular entity over the past five centuries since the Valterrian. The various city-states of Mizahar are isolated entities with much wilderness in between and little large scale cultural exchange. There is of course exchange and due to various factors such as the existence of Magic it's more than a similar scenario would see in the real world. But it's still limited to individuals rather than entire cultures.

Which is a long-winded way of saying you can't apply real-world linguistic thinking to this chart. But at the same time, the same line of thinking at least suggests there's room for local colour and personal variation. Play it by ear, and if you get it wrong, someone will smack you.
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Old, Middle, and Modern Commontongue

Postby Philomena on December 31st, 2012, 7:34 pm

Mr Dariel -

Thank you for the well though out ideas. I don't disagree. If I didn't know what languages were spoken everywhere, I would, frankly, expect that Common would by now become little more than an academic tongue - like Latin, as you expressed. Without clear central authority to force the issue, and without constant intercommunication, 'common' tongues fragment, right?

At the same time I COULD see arguments, I suppose for the survival of a common tongue. Even at the crudest level, after all, we have Gods in this world, and the God of Memory and Writing, for example, might intercede, I suppose, to shape the development of language. Perhaps even, while some new words woudl be inevitable, she might shape the language to develop in such a way that there is still a new common language. I could see this being the birth of 'Modern Common', I suppose. Or, that there is a strong enough literary and scholarly tradition that anguage persists through a written record - the fact that the character creation process presupposes literacy, for example, suggests that this is a far more literate world. At this point, you might see a marked fragmentation of dialect and accent, but still have the core language be soewhat intact (though it doesn't necessarily explain 'modern common'?).

But, it is a question I'd like to answer, because my character is a scholar of literature - to a scholar of literature, it's a pretty important question. If she is to specialize, for example, in early Post-cataclysmic literature, would she then need to be fluent in Middle Common? Where would that need end? Did Old Common survive as a ''dead language' like Hebrew to Yiddish? Etc.
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