Author Topic: Language in the Imperium  (Read 4926 times)

Offline Zephon

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Language in the Imperium
« on: November 04, 2009, 05:01:34 PM »
Low Gothic: the related dialects spoken on most Imperial worlds. How different are the dialects of Gothic? Like a strong accent or a related language?
High Gothic: a complex language used when precision is needed. Spoken only by the educated. The importance of High Gothic must depend on the similarities of Low Gothic, because if Low Gothic dialects are different enough to make them incomprehensible to an off-worlder without study, then High Gothic should be vital for all inter-planetary communications and probably be the sole language of the documents of the Imperium.
Local: languages very different from Gothic. Any ideas on how common these are?
Lingua-Technis: whatever the Tech-priests speak. Is this even a written language? Is it  a language at all, or just some kind of code?

Offline Tullio

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #1 on: November 04, 2009, 06:19:35 PM »
I always took Low Gothic to be a catch-all term for human language. Presumably within a sector Low Gothic is at least heavily related in terms of dialect, though I wouldn't expect someone from Cadia to easily follow someone from, say, Macragge. In all honesty I find the idea of countless local langauages rather more likely, given that the population of the Imperium hardly ever move off world.

High Gothic is apparently surprisingly homogenous the Imperium over, though it seems to be a language spoken by the snobby in the same way that Latin is spoken in the real world.

The Lingua-Technis is an obscure one - but if it's anything like the Mechanicus in general, it's probably a mix of techno-babble and legitimate science science turned into a dogma

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Offline Ynek

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #2 on: November 05, 2009, 03:24:38 AM »
Gothic - Low level common human language similar to English in the modern world. It's the international / interplanetary language. I'd imagine that most worlds speak it, or at least teach it.
Failing that, it could just be a catch-all term for all low-level human languages and native tongues.

High Gothic - Bastardised latin. Common high gothic languages such as "imperator dei" are directly taken from the modern latin.

Lingua Technis - I'd imagine this to be a catch-all name used by those outside the admech to refer to all levels of computer language, from binary up.
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Offline precinctomega

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #3 on: November 05, 2009, 12:10:26 PM »
Originally, Lingua Technis and High Gothic were essentially the same language, but lately in background terms the AdMech has moved towards the use of "binary cant" - a highly compressed form of information exchange that lacks emotive expression (although it may permit the use of emoticons, who knows?).

High Gothic does, indeed, bare many similarities to medieval Latin or, indeed, Greek at the time of Christ.  It is a lanugage of trade and of the intellectual elite and, as such, is pretty homogeneous from sector to sector.  Low Gothic is essentially a family of languages that evolved from the pre-Strife language that is today's High Gothic.  Linguists know that the line between a dialect and a language is a fine one and when one becomes the other is often hard to pin-point.  Suffice to say that Low Gothic on worlds with limited off-world contact (feral and feudal worlds, for example) will likely diverge greatly from common Low Gothic, with incomprehensible expressions and idioms ("he was as glip as a wooner's pongo!"), even where the grammar might be familiar.

On worlds with more regular contact, one could expect a degree of mutual comprehensibility to remain in basic communication, but more subtle levels of meaning, body language and social conventions will vary, leading to conflict and misunderstanding.

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Offline N01H3r3

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #4 on: November 05, 2009, 01:25:00 PM »
On worlds with more regular contact, one could expect a degree of mutual comprehensibility to remain in basic communication, but more subtle levels of meaning, body language and social conventions will vary, leading to conflict and misunderstanding.
And that's before you consider the likelihood of a world having both a Low Gothic dialect (likely inherited from crusade forces during the world's pacification by the Imperium, if it's a more recent conquest) and a local language that predates an Imperial presence on the world.
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Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #5 on: November 05, 2009, 04:56:11 PM »
It's rather hard to know.

Much like films and comics routinely have people who would be speaking a foreign language speaking English (or whatever language) for the benefit of the viewers, it's very probable that what we see in Black Library books - or GW publications in general - is a similar "translation".

These characters almost certainly don't speak English, or anything that bears resemblance. Consider how far language has developed in a few hundred years - a moderner would seriously struggle to get through Middle English (particularly the early variants), and that's less than a thousands years old. Indeed, Early Modern English (think Shakespeare) is work for many moderners to make out.
As an example, "Wherefore art thou Romeo" does not mean "Where are you, Romeo?" as many seem to think - wherefore means "Why". So, the sentence as a whole is therefore a question about why he had to be of a family she couldn't marry.

Now multiply these changes by the linguistic needs of a million worlds and nearly forty thousand years. Obviously, we'll not end up with anything that resembles modern languages at the end of it. (And this leads to some of the odd linguistic jokes I've made in "After Hours".)

This goes for Low Gothic, High Gothic... any of it really. However, from the perspective of what we actually see...

Low Gothic tends to be represented by English, or dialects of it. It's occasionally mixed with words or phrases from other languages, depending on what "country" the character's planet is supposed to be loosely based on.

High Gothic tends to be represented by Dog Latin (although if/when I'm writing it, I do my best to make it honest Latin.)

Lingua-Technis... not really sure. Probably any language you'd use for speaking to or about machines. Could be binary or assembler code for talking to them, and about them... well, anything. Likely a catch all term.

Local: Just like the languages of our word differ from English in so many ways, this can be represented by anything. Personally, I tend to work on the basis that most planets have a language (or languages) of their own, and that many people in the Imperium are bilingual for at least the local dialect of Low Gothic and their own planet/country's language. Which of Low Gothic or the local language is dominant will vary.

Slang: Whatever the hell you want.
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Captain L. Rollin: "Nonsense. Never heard of it."
Birgen: "Pick a window. I'll demonstrate".

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Offline Tullio

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #6 on: November 05, 2009, 06:14:41 PM »
Quote
Much like films and comics routinely have people who would be speaking a foreign language speaking English (or whatever language) for the benefit of the viewers

Most notably Tolkien, who actually gives a lowdown on the Common Tongue in the Return of the King appendix, but also Orks. Orks do not speak a kind of funny english, they have a language all of thier own. Why they're routinely shown conversing with humans in Low Gothic (Dawn of War) is beyond me.

Quote
Consider how far language has developed in a few hundred years - a moderner would seriously struggle to get through Middle English (particularly the early variants), and that's less than a thousands years old. Indeed, Early Modern English (think Shakespeare) is work for many moderners to make out.

Americans in particular have tremendous trouble learning the difference between some fairly simple Middle English terms. Watch a sitcom (Animated or otherwise) focussing on a Renaissance fair or similar and you'll see what I mean.

Tullio

Offline N01H3r3

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #7 on: November 05, 2009, 08:27:20 PM »
It's rather hard to know.

Much like films and comics routinely have people who would be speaking a foreign language speaking English (or whatever language) for the benefit of the viewers, it's very probable that what we see in Black Library books - or GW publications in general - is a similar "translation".
I recall at least one example of that being officially stated in regards to the background, though the only source I can find at the moment that says it is the dubious 'Fluff-bible' that circulates the internet from time to time, which has this to say:

Quote
+++NOTE ON LANGUAGE+++
The common language of the Imperium is represented by English, proper names have been rendered in an Anglicised form. Many of the titles of ancient institutions and organisations are presented as Latinised English (such as the Adeptus Terra). This represents an older tongue, itself a development of Twentieth Century languages, not necessarily Latin as such.
This older tongue is known in the Imperium as "Tech", being a version of the language in which technical rituals and ancient works are recorded. This developed during the Dark Age of Technology (in fact a golden age from the point of view of science - it is only dark in the minds of the men who now fear it). It derives from the common tongue of the time, an assimilation of English, European and Pacific languages which developed over many centuries in the American/Pacific region. This was the universal medium of written record until the Age of Strife, and was spoken as a first language by many and as a second language by almost everyone. Its idioms and vocabulary now appear archaic and mystic, many of its words have acquired religious significance over the years. It is the language of the Tech-priests and of forbidden books.
The common tongue of the Age of the Imperium is spoken as a first language on almost all civilised planets, and is accepted as a second language on planets within Imperial control with the exception of some medieval and feral worlds. This is a bastardised version of Tech, combining additional elements from several of the oriental languages of ancient Earth. Over the millennia it has changed greatly, and now bears almost no resemblance to the tongues from which it derived. Although a common language, it varies from planet to planet (and even from region to region), so that it is not always easy for two characters to communicate if they are from different worlds.
Medieval, feral and worlds suffering from long periods of isolation may have several indigenous languages derived either from Tech or one of the ancient Earth tongues. It was quite common during the Dark Age of Technology for worlds to be settled by small communities of 'isolationists'. These eccentric groups were often self financed and their journals unrecorded, many were of racial minorities attempting to recreate a sense of national identity away from the overpopulated Earth. Some of these groups made a deliberate attempt to revive long dead or moribund languages, perceiving them as a source of national identity and communal strength.
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Offline Ynek

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #8 on: November 05, 2009, 08:31:54 PM »
Just to clarify one of my earlier points...

When I said that low gothic would probably similar to English, I didn't mean that in quite so literal a sense. I meant it to mean that, like English, it was the common tongue. I didn't meant to imply that the two languages shared any similarities linguistically.
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Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #9 on: November 05, 2009, 09:29:06 PM »
Most notably Tolkien, who actually gives a lowdown on the Common Tongue in the Return of the King appendix.
I would have said the obvious example was most war films, where the Germans are all speaking English.

Quote
Orks do not speak a kind of funny english, they have a language all of their own. Why they're routinely shown conversing with humans in Low Gothic (Dawn of War) is beyond me.
Artistic license, raw convenience or misunderstanding on the part of the developers.

Either way, we know as much as either humans can understand the Ork language or vice versa, because there have been cases where Ork writing has been read by humans - whether it was Orkish or Gothic writing, I don't know.

So not truly impossible.
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Offline N01H3r3

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #10 on: November 05, 2009, 09:35:53 PM »
Either way, we know as much as either humans can understand the Ork language or vice versa, because there have been cases where Ork writing has been read by humans - whether it was Orkish or Gothic writing, I don't know.
We also know that there are examples of Orks who have learnt to speak Gothic - the infamous Bad Moons Warboss Nazdreg Ug Urdgrub, who allied with Ghazghull Thraka during the Piscina campaign, was known to have been able to speak Low Gothic fluently.
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Offline MarcoSkoll

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #11 on: November 06, 2009, 02:33:41 AM »
Either way, there is a precedent for communication between Orks and Humans. How common such communication may be is another matter entirely, but it can happen.
S.Sgt Silva Birgen: "Good evening, we're here from the Adeptus Defenestratus."
Captain L. Rollin: "Nonsense. Never heard of it."
Birgen: "Pick a window. I'll demonstrate".

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Offline Myriad

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #12 on: November 06, 2009, 02:37:06 AM »
Ironically it seems considerably more likely that an ork would learn low gothic to taunt imperial citizens than any human troubling to learn orkish (which would probably be considered mildly heretical).
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Offline Ynek

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #13 on: November 06, 2009, 03:42:37 AM »
I don't think that many orks would want to learn gothic. If they did, they would need a very good reason. Obeserve this dialogue between a group of orks of approximately equal standing in Ork society:

Ork1 - I just learned how to speak oomie.
Ork2 - Learnin' ta speak oomie? That's not very orky of ya. Wot are ya? Some kind a oomie grot?
Ork3 - Why would you want to talk to an oomie? Ya don't talk to dem. Ya crump em!

Ork 1 - Well, it's good fer insultin' em.
Ork 2 - Insultin' oomies is a waste of time. Yer better spendin' yer time crumpin' em than talkin' ta dem!

Ork 1 - Why does everything come down to crumpin' wif you?
Ork 2 - 'Cos that's the orky way! Or 'ave you forgotten that, ya oomie git?

Long story short... Orks would be unwilling to learn gothic because it makes them look weak and oomie-like to their peers. Similarly, humans would be unwilling to learn how to speak ork because it would make them look suspicious in the eyes of the Imperial authorities. Inquisitors are about the only people who would get away with learning how to speak ork, as they are above suspicion, allegedly....

Commissar: "Trooper Cleggan, I found these glyph drawings amongst your effects. Would you mind telling me what these are?"
Trooper Cleggan: "They're ork glyphs, sir. I'm learning how to talk to the Emperor's enemies, sir."
Commisar: "I see..." *hand rests on bolt pistol hilt.* "You don't need to talk to the emperor's enemies to kill them, Cleggan..."

Imperial Citizen : I just learned how to speak ork!
Imperial Citizen 2 : HERETIC! CALL THE AUTHORITIES!
« Last Edit: November 06, 2009, 03:46:21 AM by Ynek »
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Offline N01H3r3

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Re: Language in the Imperium
« Reply #14 on: November 06, 2009, 09:29:01 AM »
I don't think that many orks would want to learn gothic. If they did, they would need a very good reason. Obeserve this dialogue between a group of orks of approximately equal standing in Ork society:

Ork1 - I just learned how to speak oomie.
Ork2 - Learnin' ta speak oomie? That's not very orky of ya. Wot are ya? Some kind a oomie grot?
Ork3 - Why would you want to talk to an oomie? Ya don't talk to dem. Ya crump em!

Ork 1 - Well, it's good fer insultin' em.
Ork 2 - Insultin' oomies is a waste of time. Yer better spendin' yer time crumpin' em than talkin' ta dem!

Ork 1 - Why does everything come down to crumpin' wif you?
Ork 2 - 'Cos that's the orky way! Or 'ave you forgotten that, ya oomie git?

Long story short... Orks would be unwilling to learn gothic because it makes them look weak and oomie-like to their peers.
As long as an Ork is capable of pummelling naysayers into submission, he can do whatever he wants.

Besides, Orks use humans as slave labour, which requires a certain degree of communication beyond grunting and punching. Nazdreg, who I mentioned earlier, was notable not only for being fluent in Gothic (it's never specified which kind, but it's likely to be low gothic - the idea of an Ork speaking pseudo-latin just seems strange) but for using a system of reward and punishment (instead of simply punishment) as a means of motivating his slaves. Additionally, we have plenty of known instances of Orks acting as mercenaries for humans, and of the agreement between the deposed Commander of Armageddon, Herman von Strab, at the start of the Third War for Armageddon.

And beyond all that, given the Ork mentality, the only other reason they'd want to learn other languages would be so they could learn new swear-words :)

Quote
Similarly, humans would be unwilling to learn how to speak ork because it would make them look suspicious in the eyes of the Imperial authorities. Inquisitors are about the only people who would get away with learning how to speak ork, as they are above suspicion, allegedly....

Commissar: "Trooper Cleggan, I found these glyph drawings amongst your effects. Would you mind telling me what these are?"
Trooper Cleggan: "They're ork glyphs, sir. I'm learning how to talk to the Emperor's enemies, sir."
Commisar: "I see..." *hand rests on bolt pistol hilt.* "You don't need to talk to the emperor's enemies to kill them, Cleggan..."

Imperial Citizen : I just learned how to speak ork!
Imperial Citizen 2 : HERETIC! CALL THE AUTHORITIES!
Commissar Yarrick is known to be able to understand the Ork language. There are Xenolinguists across the Imperium - including within the Ordos Dialogous of the Adepta Sororitas - who have studied Xenos languages of all kinds (there are prime examples of this in the 3rd edition Eldar codex and the original Tau codex).

Whether or not the common masses of society - in either case - would do so is irrelevant. As civilisations, there is a need for the ability to understand the way the enemy communicates, even if it's only a matter of bellowing instructions at slaves or deciphering crude graffiti painted across the walls of a wrecked Hab-building.
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