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Patrick Zoch
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Let's not devolve into a RSP issue here.
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Steffan O'Sullivan
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"All history is made up. Good history is made up by good historians; bad history is made up by the others." -David Macaulay
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When I retired, I decided to explore the Seven Deadly Sins. Perhaps I shouldn't have started with Sloth. It's been four years and that's as far as I've gotten.
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Humans are astonishingly bad at predicting the future. Most of us don't even know the past or present very well ...

While this image doesn't directly deal with language, it does deal with the ebb and flow of powers over the last 4,000 years.

It was published in 1931, so don't be surprised if the bottom line doesn't look accurate by today's world ...

... and WARNING: It's really BIG so don't click on it if your device doesn't like big images.

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John "Omega" Williams
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Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay had a pretty complete set of languages for the various races. There was a "common" tongue for humans but it wasn't called Common - it was Old Worlder. The rules stated there were regional dialects (Albion, Breton, Estalian, Tilean, Reikspiel, and Slavic), so you could tell where speakers came from but also understand pretty much everything they'd say. Many non-humans also spoke Old Worlder but they had their own racial language (and sometimes dialects) too. Halflings, Dwares, and Elves all spoke Old Worlder, too, and lots of Treemen also.

The rules for learning new languages were pretty simple, but seemed good to me.

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Evil Doppelgänger
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Backgrounding is an excellent general overview of language in RPGs.

Language Lessons I - Even Orcish is logical: Make the system fit the speakers and Language Lessons II - All games need names: But don't make a game out of naming! are both pretty good topical articles on how to make up a fantasy language.

Green and Pleasant Language (setting-specific... sort of...) is a good article of slang terms.

Languages, Culture, and the Common Tongue is pretty good, but too short to be really great.
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Roger Hobden
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What are currently the most spoken languages in the world ?

Like in all scientific areas of research, the answer depends in great part on the methodology used.

This website was updated the 21st of November 2018:

https://blog.esl.fr/blog/apprendre-les-langues/les-langues-l...

Most speakers (native only):
Chinois Mandarin (908,7 millions)
Espagnol (442,3 millions)
Anglais (378,2 millions)
Hindi-Ourdou (329,1 millions)
Arabe (290 millions)
Bengali (242,6 millions)
Portugais (222,7 millions)
Russe (153,9 millions)
Japonais (128,2 millions)
Punjabi occidental (119 millions)

Most speakers (native and non-native):
Anglais (1,121 milliard)
Chinois mandarin (1,107 milliard)
Hindi/Ourdou (697,4 millions)
Espagnol (512,9 millions)
Arabe (422 millions)
Français (284,9 millions)
Malais (281 millions)
Russe (264,3 millions)
Bengali (261,8 millions)
Portugais (236,5 millions)

Number of countries (official national language):
Anglais (59)
Français (29)
Arabe (26)
Espagnol (21)
Portugais (9)

Articles published on Wikipedia:
Anglais (46 238 749)
Vietnamien (13 967 480)
Français (9 821 714)
Cebuano (8 965 038)
Suédois (7 699 545)
Espagnol (6 500 443)
Allemand (6 260 023)
Italien (5 973 647)
Russe (5 720 760)
Chinois (5 564 787)

Books published:
Chine (440 000 livres)
États-Unis (304 912 livres)
Royaume-Uni (184 000 livres)
Japon (139 078 livres)
Russie (101 981 livres)
Allemagne (93 600 livres)
Inde (90 000 livres)
France (77 986 livres)
Iran (72 871 livres)
Italie (61 966 livres)

Food for thought. cool
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James Lowry
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Mallet wrote:
Books published:
Chine (440 000 livres)
États-Unis (304 912 livres)
Royaume-Uni (184 000 livres)
Japon (139 078 livres)
Russie (101 981 livres)
Allemagne (93 600 livres)
Inde (90 000 livres)
France (77 986 livres)
Iran (72 871 livres)
Italie (61 966 livres)

Do they give a breakdown by units (books), instead of money spent?

...And that seems to be by country, rather than language.
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Rindis wrote:
Do they give a breakdown by units (books), instead of money spent?


Err, livres actually is books. Only in French.

EDIT: Might be interesting to approximate the numbers by head of population though.

EDIT 2: Okay, here is a list of, I think, how many people are needed in the country to publish one book (or some other way of putting it). Looks rather different:

UK 361
France 836
Germany 879
Japan 914
Italy 956
United States 1,071
Iran 1,125
Russia 1,411
China 3,216
India 15,045
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Roger Hobden
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Azukail wrote:
Rindis wrote:
Do they give a breakdown by units (books), instead of money spent?


Err, livres actually is books. Only in French.



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Jamie Hardy
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In terms of games set in the present or future, some information to consider:

Linguists predict that most spoken human languages will be extinct in less than 200 years.

US GDP $18.7T
Major English Speaking Countries GDP total ~$27T
More than 1/3 of world GDP is from English speaking countries.

USD are the world's primary reserve currency.

Pilots and Air Traffic controllers must all speak English.

Global Universities are being taught exclusively or primarily in English even in non-native English speaking countries.

A small sample from US News of the percent of universities being taught in English in Europe: Finland 83.3%, Sweden 81%, Netherlands 65%, Lithuania 48.8%, Germany 43.3%

Japan is also moving towards primarily English instruction at its universities. This is primarily to attract other students from Asia.
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Roger Hobden
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SteamCraft wrote:


Linguists predict that most spoken human languages will be extinct in less than 200 years.



Some linguists might believe such a thing, but the ones that are the most credible and responsable do not .
 
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Some linguists might believe such a thing, but the ones that are the most credible and responsable do not.


[citation needed.]

I would be interested in how one would objectively measure the credibility and responsibility of linguists.

On the surface this seems like an unremarkable claim. The majority of languages ever spoken have already gone extinct.
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Mallet wrote:
SteamCraft wrote:


Linguists predict that most spoken human languages will be extinct in less than 200 years.



Some linguists might believe such a thing, but the ones that are the most credible and responsable do not .


Since I am married to a linguist and know linguistics, excuse me if I do not trust your unsubstantiated evaluation of what is credible or not.


I will avoid peer reviewed journals behind pay walls:

https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/what-endangered-la...
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070218140348.h...
https://sustainableunh.unh.edu/sites/sustainableunh.unh.edu/...
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Roger Hobden
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SteamCraft wrote:
Mallet wrote:
SteamCraft wrote:


Linguists predict that most spoken human languages will be extinct in less than 200 years.



Some linguists might believe such a thing, but the ones that are the most credible and responsable do not .


Since I am married to a linguist and know linguistics, excuse me if I do not trust your unsubstantiated evaluation of what is credible or not.


I will avoid peer reviewed journals behind pay walls:

https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/what-endangered-la...
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070218140348.h...
https://sustainableunh.unh.edu/sites/sustainableunh.unh.edu/...


The most important word is the word "could", as in "languages could vanish".

Also, there a huge difference between "some languages will vanish", and "most languages will vanish".

There are still over 5000 different spoken languages in existence.

So 3000 languages would be wiped in the next 200 years ? Seriously ?

Actually, the whole human race could vanish in a few hundred years, if nothing was done to stop the uncontrolled growth of pollution and global warming.

I prefer to be an optimist: the human race won't be wiped out, and the languages won't neither. Political and social measures will be taken to avoid these outcomes.

But to each his own.
 
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William Hostman
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SteamCraft wrote:
Mallet wrote:
SteamCraft wrote:


Linguists predict that most spoken human languages will be extinct in less than 200 years.



Some linguists might believe such a thing, but the ones that are the most credible and responsable do not .


Since I am married to a linguist and know linguistics, excuse me if I do not trust your unsubstantiated evaluation of what is credible or not.


I will avoid peer reviewed journals behind pay walls:

https://www.linguisticsociety.org/content/what-endangered-la...
https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070218140348.h...
https://sustainableunh.unh.edu/sites/sustainableunh.unh.edu/...


I do have a quibble with the first link - most bilingual children I've taught do have deficits in their english compared to their monolingual classmates - both in idiomatic expressions and in vocabulary. I cannot assess their Hmong, Thai, nor Laos, but the TAs comment that it's the same issue in those languages. These deficits persist through grade 6.
I can't attest for adults, but in elementary ed, it IS a problem.
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Roger Hobden
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aramis wrote:


I do have a quibble with the first link - most bilingual children I've taught do have deficits in their english compared to their monolingual classmates - both in idiomatic expressions and in vocabulary. I cannot assess their Hmong, Thai, nor Laos, but the TAs comment that it's the same issue in those languages. These deficits persist through grade 6.
I can't attest for adults, but in elementary ed, it IS a problem.



This issue might possibly be linked to the degree to which both languages are related to each other.

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Felix Lastname
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I think that having a setting with a Common language makes practical sense, and it would allow one to run games in which language difference plays a role largely regarding ancient texts etc.
Note: Did we have a QotD about literacy in fantasy settings yet?
It gets interesting when you have established that, and then you take the game to the edges of the area where the common language becomes less common. Or: People understand it, but resent its use (because it's the colonizers' language). Or: People only use it for commerce and governance, but never for personal matters. Or: People will pretend to not understand, a well-known weapon of the weak. Or: Only young people in a given place know it, not the old. What now?

These are all ways in which language can matter (and be fun/interestng) in a game beyond a binary "speak/not speak". If a campaign lingered in such a place, the PCs might even develop a genuine motivation to learn a local vernacular, and then it is clear that you'd need to spend time (and XP) on that (rather than getting it for free).

Also in other settings, languages allow for tactics beyond mere communication: You don't speak "Ancient" to talk to people from Ancientlandia; you speak "Ancient" to impress scholars and nobility, or to impersonate a bishop. If two of your PCs know the same obscure language, you can share secrets without anybody being the wiser.
Languages also provide backstory: If you know Orcish, that probably means you were a prisoner of Waaaaaaah for a while, you poor thing.

Etc. etc.
Many other examples could be listed; and they all work well precisely because there is a common language, that at some points stops being universally unproblematic, and then the fun comes in. To run a game with several equally represented languages would seem awkward and artificial, because living social environments tend to organize the available registers according to context and hierarchy.

As an anthropologist, I have worked in lingustically extremely complex settings, and it's amazing to see the many different ways people use and abuse language difference in practice - once you get beyond the basic question of "can people understand each other".

In my favorite ethnographic example, it was a peace meeting involving three ethnic groups, each with their own distinct mother tongue, and several administrators sent by the national center, who spoke or understood none of these. So elders were asked to speak in turn, and spoke in their "own" language, regardless of whether they could have spoken the national language as well; then, schoolboys from each group were asked to translate that speech (usually in two minute-segments, while the speaker held their pose) into the national language for the administrators, and then the others had to translate that from the national language into their respective local languages.
One young man at some point struggled to translate a "big" term from the national language into his own mother tongue, but then an elder from a different ethnic group helped him out by telling him the word he was looking for. Everybody laughed very hard (except the administrators), and the school boy looked properly sheepish, because several very important points had been made in that small gesture.

Using various languages is a means of conflict, a means of diplomacy, a means of claiming superiority or enforcing hierarchy, it is a means of maintaining secrecy, a way to express intimacy, and many other things; I like to have that in a game, and I find this faciliated by having "Common" as a baseline from which to develop interesting deviations. This also accords with my personal experiences all over the world, and passes a basic realism test.
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