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Languages


dubz
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This thread isnt about how inconceivable it is that everyone in Randland and Seanchan speak the language...although if we want to discuss it, it would be interesting to hear what people think on this.

 

This thread is actually wondering how the hell the Forsaken can speak the common tongue, or new speak or whatever the language is that everyone uses (maybe its English)

 

They became trapped in the bore when everyone still spoke the old tongue (which probably wasn't called the 'old tongue' at the time, maybe 'new tongue' or just 'tongue') and were released when no one could speak the old tongue anymore except for scholars, some aes sedai and some nobles.

 

So, how did they learn it?  Are they all genius linguists, did they have darkfriend scholars and tutors come to the bore to teach them or can they learn it using saidar or saidin?

 

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Jordan addressed all of this, so forgive if I get to the question last.

 

In the AoL, there was one world language.

 

Over the next two millenia, there was linguistic drift. However, linguistic drift is greatly retarded by literacy, and this world never lost the printing press. So things drifted, but not too badly.

 

Hawkwing re-imposed the dialect of his home kingdom throughout his empire- his son did the same in Seanchan, and high levels of trade contact with the Aiel and Sharans, along with shared books, etc., did not quite re-establish one world language, but came close.

 

So in Randland you have about a 1,000 years of drift in highly literate cultures- really, they should understand each other less well, but it's not out of the blue. You can even see further linguistic drift happening- the Illianers use the wrong tense, the Taraboners are putting the words in the order wrong, etc.

 

Since the books are supposed to be "translated" from the actual language, these are ways of representing this drift.

 

As to the Forsaken, the current language may be likened to Koine, the simplified form of Greek common in the post-Alexander Hellenic period. The Old Tongue is Attic Greek- more complicated, more precise, more tenses, etc. So if you speak the Old Tongue, the "new tongue" is extremely easy to pickup. For simplicity, consider it the baby-form of the same language.

 

It would be more complicated, of course, but that's the explanation and idea behind it.

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Seems plausible how they all can speak the same language (a little far fetched but it does make it easier to tell the story, many different languages would make it so complicated) but concerning the forsaken understanding the new tongue, I still don't buy it.  Look at how different the two languages are.  If a forsaken heard someone say the "lucky soldiers", he would think ahhhhhhhhhh "dovienya drin"...I don't think so.  The two languages are in no way similar at all.

 

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Yes- I believe RJ himself used the analogy of a native Latin speaker and modern Italian. Romanian would probably be even better- I understand spoken Romanian, and the only non-English languages I studied in school were French and Latin. It sounds like weird (but very clear) French with a few random German loan words to my ear. If my French wasn't rusty, give me a couple of weeks in Romania and I'd be speaking Romanian.

 

Think of the Old Tongue like Latin or Greek- a very precise language with case functions- and the "modern" tongue as a descendent like one of the Romance languages- a linear word order, no imbedded clauses, only two or three forms of the word, everything mentioned explicitly without "implied states," and you'll realize just how well RJ thought this out.

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Guest The Thin Inn Keeper

Another example might be Arabic. If you go from one end of the Arabic-speaking world, say Morrocco, to the other, say Iraq, there are huge linguistic differences.

 

But, in the main these differences exist in the colloquial language (the everyday stuff), not in the written. As a result, an uneducated Moroccan would struggle to communicate - talk to - an uneducated Iraqi.

 

However, if you then assume a level of education, assume that these people can read, the problem, to a great extent disappears. The language has evolved drastically, however, the evolution of the spoken tongue has far outstripped the evolution of the written.

 

So, I'm not convinced that the printing press would arrest lignuistic drift as much as Jordan thought. Yes, people can understand each other in this case, but only with a struggle and a reasonable knowledge of the written (largely unchanged) language. The written language might be contstant (to a great degree) but the spoken is very diverse.

 

In addition, Arabic is perhaps the only language that is truely old that has is currently spoken in a large area of the world - by old I mean almost Biblical times. English and Spanish (the other 2 international "biggies") have spread too recently for any real assessment of drift to take place. -- Even then, the differences between Australian, American and British English are clearly noticeable.

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Thing is, the language spoken in the 3rd Age is "translated" to us into american English by RJ. In "reality" they speak a language that looks nothing like English.

 

Just like American English then  ;D ;) :P

 

My Spanish isn't anything approaching fluent, but I can converse with someone who speaks only Spanish and has little or no American.  I kind of have to for my job.  When I was in South America (all those years ago), I was able to puzzle out Portugese when it was spoken to me, even though I've never studied that language.  Watching the Godfather or a Fellinni film, I get the gist of what they are saying, even if I miss the subtleties. 

 

The point is that while I am able to speak neither Protugese nor Italian, as romance languages, the verbs and conjugations are similar enough I can get by in a pinch.  If I was dropped into either of those countries without a phrasebook, just as the Chosen were dropped into the third age, I'd probably be babbling like a native in a week. 

 

Now, if I was dropped into France, bets are off.

 

 

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I believe somewhere in the books though, Graendal or Semirhage mentions how easy it was to pick up on the primitive tongue of this era. Besides weren't the Chosen extremely bright even in their own day? Picking up a new language shouldn't be too difficult.

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Knowing Dutch, i was able to piece out written Norse as well. Sure, it was basically an educated guess, but i was still able to tell which were the verbs, and after i could identify the elements that composed the sentence, i could basically understand what was being said after i found out the context. Sure, it wasn't rocket science, but for a first time seeing it i believed i didn't do half bad either.

 

Back to Randland. I think Gleemen had a large part in keeping the languages standardised as well. They were known to travel halfway across the World, the profession was held in high esteem so there was never a shortage of them and -- most importantly -- they had enough experience to know what their public was talking about.

 

Ehh, drifting off topic again. Sorry.

 

Anyway, remember what Thom said? There was High Chant, Plain Chant and Common. I see High Chant as the stuff for high ranking nobility, similar to Shakespearian English here. Plain Chant would be a bit easier to understand for the average educated person in Randland, more similar to modern poetry, and Common... Is about as subtle as throwing Kinslayer's Dagger at a fly for buzzing around your head. Still, the stories themselves would be memorised start to finish, thus adding another stabilising factor in keeping Randlandian dialects from drifting too far apart.

 

Gah, something tells me my post isn't making sense... Sorry if i am, i hope i still get the gist of it across ><

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Don't strain so hard.  You'll hurt yourself. ;)

 

Remember, this is just a story.  Reality is whatever the author decided to make it.

 

In this case, Jordan made the current spoken language a subset descendent of the old language and one easily learned by the baddies.

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Which brings up another question.

 

Gleemen are allowed across the Waste with glad tidings from any Aiel they meet.

 

Are they allowed into Shara?

 

Jain Farstrider has apparently been there and based on his stories, both the written ones and what he has told as Noal, that has the ring of truth.  I wonder, was he disguised as a gleeman during his travels?

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What better way to pick up all the local gossip and learn the local legends than to be a gleeman.

 

I think when Ishy captured and tortured him, was when his hands got mangled.  While he can still do most things quite well, I'd guess that that experience cost him the dexterity needed to play an instrument.  Thus, he stopped being Jain Farstrider and became Noal Charin.

 

People were used to, and wanted, gleemen not just storytellers.  He's probably been on the streets and eating out of dumpsters ever since.

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Anyway, remember what Thom said? There was High Chant, Plain Chant and Common. I see High Chant as the stuff for high ranking nobility, similar to Shakespearian English here. Plain Chant would be a bit easier to understand for the average educated person in Randland, more similar to modern poetry, and Common... Is about as subtle as throwing Kinslayer's Dagger at a fly for buzzing around your head. Still, the stories themselves would be memorised start to finish, thus adding another stabilising factor in keeping Randlandian dialects from drifting too far apart.

 

I believe the closest analogy is Chinese/Mandarin  - with Guanhua (language of the imperial magistrates) for the High Chant, and Putonghua for the Common Chant; with something like Beijing dialect in between for the Plain Chant.

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The Age of Legends must have been a pretty homogenized society, a world engulfing society where the "Old Tongue" was practically the only language spoken in every region.

 

That would be the plausible explanation as to why the Forsaken can speak common and be understood anywhere.

 

Several analogies in this thread talking about the relationship between Spanish and Italian and Latin. Mandarin to Cantonese...French to Flemish...

You see though, it's by regions that are relatively close to one another and when a language has spread to great distances, it's through Imperial means.

 

In our reality it's not so easy to figure out how to speak an Indian dialect if you're from, say...the Basque region.

 

There isn't just a couple of steps there you see.

 

This issue is one of those that suspension of disbelief is stretched for me. I can get by it with little problem really. It doesn't bother me that much...No more than how in Star Trek they have universal translators, but somehow when a Klingon speaks Klingon, it comes out as Klingon...I digress.  ;)

 

I can see how a universal language can develop. I don't mean numbers either. Because of mass communication, broadcast media, Internet...I could easily see that given time, there can be a spoken language developed that everyone with such tools can understand.

 

That brings the cultural identity issue into play though. People don't forget their language and their culture too easily. Still, steadily, as the generations progress, an old language has a harder time competing with a more universal, popular language.

 

But perhaps this was RJ's point. In the Age of Legends, if there was but one language, it would be easier to see that there were peaceful relations world wide.

 

If everyone in the world learned one language, the same language fluently, humanity probably would take a huge step forward, being able to communicate with one another directly with ease, no translation. In the beginning, if such a social event came to pass, most people would slowly get into it, until it spread by technological means. They would prefer their language of birth most likely...But eventually, there would be parity, and then their cultural language would slowly, through the generations, fade.

 

Perhaps this is what happened.

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Lets look at some other factors that could cause this.

 

English, in one form or another, spread with the British empire.  That's a fact.  To a great extent it accounts for the widesperead usage of the English language, from the States to Hong Kong to India to Europe.

 

Let's look at something else that has a parallel.

 

If you are an airline pilot, anywhere in the world, you speak at least enough english to land a plane.  Every commercial airline pilot.

 

In the AoL.  Wouldn't the Aes Sedai have come from every region.  Wouldn't, by necessity, they all have to speak the same language?

 

To me, it's no surprise that there was one language.

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Which brings up another question.

 

Gleemen are allowed across the Waste with glad tidings from any Aiel they meet.

 

Are they allowed into Shara?

 

Jain Farstrider has apparently been there and based on his stories, both the written ones and what he has told as Noal, that has the ring of truth.  I wonder, was he disguised as a gleeman during his travels?

 

Don't remember which, but one of the Aiel said that Sharans interact with Sea Folk and Aiel traders only, and any contact is restricted to the trading posts or smth like that, so he could have visited one of the closed ports or cities.

 

Btw, Shara might be the one place in Randland where there are still several different languages - judging by the different names that country is known to outsiders.

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One thing really that helps the language stay together is that there hasn't been any opposing languages, foreign language influence. For instance some romance languages have stayed very similar, but french with all the germanic influence is already quite different, and english being such a mixed language isn't all that close to anything else (though not being very far either).

 

An example of the latter is Finnish and Estonian. They apparently slowly started to separate perhaps 1000-1500 (this is not known very well) years ago. On one hand, there was quite a much of contact between people across the gulf, which helped keep the languages similar. On the other, both are very different from the germanic and slavic languages around them, and this strong external influence would have pulled the languages in different directions. Well, indeed the languages are grammatically very similar, but actually I can only understand separate words of Estonian: looking at Estonian text I see some words that are obvious what they mean, though the actual meaning may have drifted, and the rest is simply unintelligible; I'll perhaps be able to guess something of written Estonian, and I know that I will understand nothing of the spoken language since the pronunciation has drifted also. And I am a native Finnish speaker. But this highlights the effects of external influence, that is Indo-European languages, whereas in Randland there will have been none.

 

 

On the other, Jain Farstrider and Noal, I smell Graendal and Asmodean. There's a little straw for a theory, at least. Really his hands are broken, and he played an instrument! That's Asmodean. Asmodean knew where Graendal stayed, and Graendal has a firm reputation of having Compelled Noal, presumable after he was free of Ishamael, Ishamael dying. Perhaps this might explain her activities in Shara, possibly causing their civil war by snatching their leaders. In my opinion Graendal took hold of the gholam after Sammael's death, and planted Noal to Mat. Later the gholam seemed to try to get Mat leave Ebou Dar, which would translate to Graendal wanting him to leave Semirhage's presence. Unlike Semirhage, it is established that Graendal had spies among Maidens, she knew who he was and had a look at him in Maerone as well. But Noal's hands being broken ties an thread to Asmodean destroying artists' abilities to create music.  ;D

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Great explanations, but all of the languages mentioned previously are pretty similar which explains how you can understand or get the gist of a sentence even though you don't speak it.

 

French: amour

Italian: amore

Spanish: amor

 

But, the old tongue is in no way similar to the new tongue

 

Old: dovienya

new: luck

 

old: Mandarb

new: blade

 

old: aiel

new: dedicated

 

sure some words are similar but I still can't see a forsaken completely understanding the new tongue simply because he speaks the old tongue. We meet some of the forsaken minutes after they are released from the bore and somehow Rand and moiraine can understand aginor and balthamel?  come on

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But English isn't the Common Tongue spoken in the books! What we read is a translation of the Common Tongue, or a translation of the Old Tongue sometimes when the PoV character understands that better. Such as when Mat speak the Old Tongue, when the Chosen converse with each other, the prologue to the Eye of the World. Even their script is not anywhere near our latin one.

 

When the Wheel turns enough it will turn into our time when there may be a language alike English, but that is far off. Actually the only languages we know from WoT are the Old Tongue and Finnish, which last as the language of the Aelfinn and Eelfinn is timeless.

 

Also, Aginor and Balthamel were aware of the world evolving, being trapped too loosely.

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