The Languages of the Flanaess | A recent monograph by the Keoish sage Yithomit the Fractious

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 North-western.

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 intelligible.

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 language.

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 dialects.

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 Baklunish.

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 campaigns)...

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 variation. 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 languages.
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 Ferrond. 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 Oeridian


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. Yachokh. 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. Nyrondese
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. Spaenhah
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, Shwanah. 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 pictograms.
Lendorian. 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.

built by unclefester | sternzwischen | updated 14-05-29 23:15:23