Languages Part 1
Languages will be more explored in the base wiki, but this provides a useful context for Common and Undercommon.
Pidgins: Common and Undercommon
“Orc take sword. I own sword. I tell you. I want sword. Orc give sword. I get sword. You tell orc.”
Common is not technically a language, it’s a linguistic construct called a Pidgin. A Pidgin is a linguistic
amalgamation that combines elements from several languages and has an extremely simple grammatical
structure with no iterative capability. Whoa that’s a lot of six-dollar words! The point is that all this stuff
with relative clauses and structured inheritance that makes D&D rulebooks read like a legal document is
completely absent from a pidgin.
Pidgins form when people from different groups come together for trading purposes. So in the Underdark,
Pidgin is pretty much just an extremely simplified version of the Drow version of Elvish. They trade with ev-eryone, and speak in “Tourist Speak” where they speak very loudly and slowly inDrow and everyone has pretty
much figured out what that means. Above ground, Common is mostly composed of the Halfling language, with
a few loan words from other cultures thrown in.
The only reason that Common and Undercommon stay relatively static in D&D is because the people
actually doing the trading are crazy long lived and do the trading everywhere. The big traders in the D&D
economy are not those stupid caravans who wander around full of swag. No, it’s Wizards and Outsiders who
teleport expensive and wondrous stuff all over the planet. The reason why you can get a cup of coffee or a
bolt of silk in your otherwise European villa is because people with teleportation are moving goods all over
the place. So people who speak Common actually do share a common trade language with people clear on the
other side of the planet. And they might not even know who the wizards in question are.
Interesting side note: People who grow up speaking a Pidgin as their only language actually speak a Creole,
which is a real iterative language just like any other that is made out of the words of the original Pidgin.
Human cultures in D&D apparently default to Common as their primary language. That means that humans
presumably speak Common as a language rather than as a pidgin. So the Wizards and Shadow Caravaners
come to Human settlements from time to time and regard human speech as being filled with vulgar crazy-talk.
The words are all there, but they have extra prepositions and jumble all the thoughts into single sentences.