The Demesnes - Languages

Human Languages

The humans of The Demesnes speak several major languages and many minor ones. These languages have changed over the millennia as the people who spoke them mixed and natural drift occurred within each language. In ancient times there was one Suloise language, a handful of Baklunish and Oeridian ones, and many mutually incomprehensible Flan languages. The main languages spoken today are: There are several other languages in use in the Demesnes, but they generally have very few speakers or are confined to tiny locations at the edges of the continent. There are also a few languages which are not spoken, but are studied in written form by scholars who need to deal with ancient texts. These include:

Human Writing Systems

There are a handful of main writing systems in modern use by human cultures in the Demesnes, and some used only for dead languages. In general, most humans are illiterate. Literacy is likely to be found among scholars, nobles, wizards, clerics, merchants, scribes, and diplomats. In a large city, members of the artisan classes are sometimes literate.

Elven Languages

With their extremely long lives and stable culture, the languages of the elves have changed almost imperceptibly since the beginning of the Elven Reckoning. Instead there has been a slow but steady increase in the use of Cerebor at the expense of less utilised languages. The main elven languages in the Demesnes today are:

Elven Writing Systems

Almost all elves are literate. Exceptions would have to be unusual cases, such as orphaned elven children raised by humans.

Dwarven Languages

The dwarves have long established a common language which is known by all. In addition, widely separated populations of dwarves have developed their own languages in order to foster a sense of community within the smaller group. When dealing with dwarves from their own area, dwarves use the local language, but switch easily to the common language when required to speak with outsiders. They will not usually use the local language unless all people who can hear them know it.

Dwarven Writing Systems

Most dwarves above the ranks of massed workers are literate. This means that most dwarves who come into contact with other races are literate. Common workers usually cannot read or write.

Other Demi-Human Languages


Gnomes have two major languages of their own: Geyrin is the most common, used in the western and central Demesnes; Tarreji is restricted to the east. Many gnomes also know Dängmir or the most common human language in their region. The gnomish languages are written with runes descended from dwarven runes, but traced in an unusual cursive style. Most gnomes are literate.


Halflings generally use whatever human language is common in their area. In some cases they will primarily use Dängmir, if they are close to dwarven populations. Lettered halflings use whatever script is used for the language they speak. Rustic rural halflings are not commonly literate, but populations closer to humans or dwarves tend to be literate.

Humanoid Languages

Lizard Men

Lizard men have three different languages; the one they use is based on their habitat. Thus desert-dwellers speak the tongue known as Passhar, jungle-dwellers use Ss'mlak, while those who live in swamps speak H'chlaa. This distinction is the same across the entire Demesnes, leading some scholars to postulate that the lizard man race separated into these environments based on some ancient caste distinction. The languages seem mutually incomprehensible to non-lizard men who have learnt one or more of them, but lizard men meeting fellows from a different environment seem to be able to communicate easily. Whether all lizard men know all three languages but only speak one is a mystery still unsolved by humans. The puzzle is further complicated by the fact that humans speaking one lizard man language do not seem to be able to make themselves understood by lizard men who speak the other two languages. Each language is written in the same highly stylised pictographic script with several thousand distinct symbols, but only leaders and shamans are commonly literate.


Orcs have as many languages and dialects as there are orcish tribes. Many share a common core vocabulary of words useful for trading, negotiating, arguing, insulting, threatening, and planning battles. Upon this base, each tribe builds a selection of lesser-used words which vary from region to region. Nearby tribes will probably be able to understand one another, but distant tribes will most likely be restricted to discussing concepts contained in the core vocabulary. (Not that this is much of a problem for orcs.) The core vocabulary is commonly known as Orcish among other races, and is really the only useful part of the language for a non-orc to learn. Orcish writing generally uses near vertical scratch-like marks arranged in patterns, sometimes vaguely based on local human writing systems. It is an imprecise art and even the best writers sometimes have trouble reading even their own words later. Few orcs have even this level of literacy.

The orcs living in the hostile environment of the north-eastern Demesnes (in the barbarian lands beyond the Griff Mountains and the Rakers) do not share the Orcish vocabulary. They have a more uniform language called Gra'nakk. On the odd occasion this is written, it uses the Cold Runes borrowed from the humans.

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