Friday, May 7, 2010

We Had A Common Tongue... Sort Of.

I am currently reading A World Lit Only By Fire by William Manchester. In his discussion of the early days of the printed word, he brings up the fact that, if you wanted your book to be widely read, you wrote it in Latin. The educated peoples of most European countries at the time knew Latin, whereas the learning of the languages of other countries was far less common. Latin used to tie Europe together, at least, linguistically.

In most of my campaigns, I usually set Common up as the language of a fallen empire, sometimes one from distant antiquity, sometimes one that was recent history.

In my present AD&D game, there is no Common language.

Just some food for thought.


  1. Also Greek. To speak (and think) as a Greek was the mark of the educated man from the Hellenic era onwards.

  2. Point. The author seems to focus on Latin, but now that you mention it, he has mentioned Greek a few times.

  3. Never heard of that book before, I think. I'll have to read it, er, add it to the stack.


    I only had language in a game be a big part of it once. I ran the Desert of Desolation series in GURPS and had the players characters starting out not knowing the language of the land they found themselves in.

  4. My game world has a common tongue but only because the aliens that brought humans to the world insisted on their being one. That language is actually English, more or less.

    Most people speak it as a second language to facilitate trade.

    This way I have a logical reason why almost everyone can communicate.