Though languages across the Transitive Isles are prolific and usually technically separate, in practical terms all PCs and most NPCs speak Allarian (the common tongue of the setting) and many other languages are equivalent.
"The 4e philosophy" discourages the existence of many languages; at the same time some people feel that having only a handful of languages doesn't match a setting with as much scope as the Transitive Isles.
To split the difference there is an equivalence policy. There are independent languages that are close enough together that speakers can make each other understood (think about certain regions in China, English or Spanish as spoken in different countries or even languages with with a common written tradition (Chinese and Japanese).
For mechanical purposes consider languages on the same line sufficiently equivalent for you to communicate without significant effort (skill checks or the comprehend language ritual are not required). The background region of your PC determines the exact variation he/she speaks.
It is strongly recommended that you buy only one language from each line. (You will receive no mechanical benefit)
- Common = Allarian.
- Dwarven ~ Magari.
- Elven = Eladrin ~ Imperia ~ (Shadar-kai) ~ (Drow).
- Goblin ~ Hzakan.
- Primordial = Elemental ~ Tsugo.
Languages split with an equals (=)sign are the same. Allarian is just another word for common, the same for Elven and Eladrin (though certain fey courts may in fact consider their dialect to be distinct).
In comparison languages split with the equivalence sign (~) are not the same but similar. While Elemental is quite different from Tsugo, and Dwarven is different from Magari the speakers of those languages can communicate with speakers of equivalent languages without significant effort.
Faking your origin Edit
There are no hard and fast rules. Should a character attempt pass themselves off of a being from another region it is suggested that they must speak some equivalent language (Dwarven if they wish to pretend they are a speaker of Magari from the Valley of Bone) and make a bluff check.
The DM may, of course, assess bonuses or penalties as they see fit. They may choose to take into account factors including
- your characters familiarity with the region
- the listeners familiarity with the region (is it their native tongue?)
- the topic of conversation
- other factors effecting likelihood (ex: The Imperium traditionally kills drow on sight; so a drow speaking Elven with an Imperial accent may be greeted with additional skepticism)
Please note that this list is not designed to be exhaustive, but that creation of entirely new languages should be checked with the judges first.
The language spoken on Daunton and the Isles; Allarian is the common tongue of the setting. In fact it is sometimes called the common tongue (though that term is rarely used by scholars). All player characters should speak Allarian. Any character who speaks 'common' due to choices during character creation (race, class, etc) speaks Allarian instead.
Though similar to Old Allarian centuries of living in Daunton in a very different environment have transformed it into a distinct language which has absorbed many additional words.
If speakers of Allarian are impressed by speakers of Old Allarian, speakers of Old Allarian are impressed by speakers of Draconic. This ancient language is supposedly the common tongue of all dragons, the first language ever written, the language of magic, and possesses other legendary attributes. The only commonly known native speakers of draconic are kobolds.
It has fallen into disuse among the Dragonborn of the Kingdom of Jade, though some of the small dragonborn clans native to the shifting seas reportedly raise their hatchlings to speak it
The language of the servants of the titans and others who ruled before the gods overthrew them. Though it has a vast and impressive tradition Elemental is seen as a dark and unpleasant language by most people due to is association with cults
The language of the Empire of Hzaka, also common among older hobgoblins on Bacarte - it is similar enough to goblinoid that a Hzakan speaker could get across very simple concepts ("buy" "sell" "eat" "the number five") but no more.
The predominant language of the Valley of Bone. Related to Dwarven, but uses a different alphabet (hieroglyphs rather than runes), so Magari speakers cannot ordinarily read Dwarven, and vice versa. Magari also has a fair number of vocabulary words for traditions, flora and fauna, and other things that are unique to the Valley of Bone. A Dwarven speaker may not be able to understand these words without strong context or explanation.
The language of the Imperium, very closely linked to Eladrin; only native speakers of Imperia and Eladrin think the languages are different.
Old Allarian Edit
The language of the Allarian Empire used in the days before its fall. While many children studied it for a year or two in their youth Old Allarian is studied only by scholars and used in day to day life by only a handful of individuals (middle aged eladrin, old dwarves and a handful of warforged... thought all Dauntonian warforged are taught Old Allarian when they leave the creation forge many of the younger ones have rejected it)
A language that supposedly has no spoken sound the hieroglyphics of the Silent Word confound most scholars - the henges of the isle of opposition and other destroyed ruins are carved with markings of Silentus
The predominant language of the Kingdom of Jade -- the courtly dialect practiced by the genasi is so refined that is is effectively a separate language, but it's use has fallen into disfavor along with the genasi themselves in the wake of the betrayal of the Jade Emperor.
Greater Tongues Edit
Some texts suggest that demons and devils are have their own tongues; this is almost impossible to prove. And the very few who will admit to have trucked with fiends have discovered they will happily speak with anyone in their native language.
Likewise some religious philosophers insist that the servants of the gods have their own tongue. When interacting with mortals they seem to speak mortal tongues with whatever facility they seem to require.
Lesser Tongues Edit
There are dozens of minor languages including innumerable goblinoid dialects, the Shadar-kai, the Drow and the Veritas speak variations of Eladrin, there is a language spoken only by one tribe of pacifist orcs (though some say that they are actually cursed so as to be incomprehensible to all), the common language of the Savage Lands (which scholars argue is really only comprised of about 50 words including two for flesh-of-thinking-things (one cooked and one raw)), and so forth.