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Elven Language

by Jonathan Nolan

The same doesn't hold true for elves, who live up to 8 times as long as humans do.

And I, in turn, must disagree with your view. While it is indeed true that the Elves are much more long lived than Humans, and there have been fewer generations since the GRoF (40 for humans/6 for Elves by the "Longest Age" calculation, or more accurately, ~200 for Humans and ~20 for Elves (I use the "Reproductive Generation" calculation; i.e., the average age of highest level of "reproductive utility", which I place at 20 for Humans and 200 for Elves)), IMO Elves are as likely if not more so than Humans to have a rapid, "personal" evolution to their language. This is my argument (off the cuff, as it were):

First, the Elves of Mystara are *extremely* clan oriented; this is obvious from all evidence in all the Canonical materials; while Elves do have an overall identity, they are more likely to identify with their respective clans than as "Elves", though quite naturally they will identify as "Elves" versus other races...

Second, the Elves of Mystara have undergone *intensive cultural evolution* since the Great Rain of Fire; even the Returnists, under Ilsundal, evolved greatly during the period following the GRoF, and their descendants evolved even further in their various regions (usually in isolation from one another). Elven cultural evolution takes place within the Clan structure, as is evidenced from the materials in GAZ5 The Elves of Alfheim (and other sources, notably GAZ9 The Minrothad Guilds). The Alfheim Clans alone are tremendously different even though they live within the same kingdom, and share the same history (save the Feadiels).

Third, imagine the differentiation that has taken place between the various isolated clans; now remember that language is reflectant (and reinforcing of) cultural forms, and then reflect on how the various Elven clans have had to adapt differing survival techniques over the centuries, not to mention the different peoples they have interacted with (for example, consider the environment of the Shiye Elves versus the Sheyallia Elves of Graakhalia)...

Now, mix it all together and what do you get?

1) Isolated Clans that have developed not mere "dialects", but their own *languages*.
2) Groups of related Clans that have developed a "Common Elvish" Language, yet each maintaining their own dialect of that "Common Elvish".
3) Clans that fall somewhat in between, like the Shiye, who are closely related to various other groups but have developed in relative isolation over the last centuries.

Thus you get the following relationships (approximately, again, off the cuff):

(#) denotes point at which group broke off from prior group...

Level of Understanding is equal to INT, plus any additional levels taken in the native dialect (which can be improved by 2 points per slot if a native speaker, or one point per slot if taken as a secondary language or as a general skill). Thus, your average Elf would have a Level of Understanding in his native dialect of ~10 or 11...

each * denotes 1 point of difference on a scale of 1 to 20. Compare to the following table to note the level of separation:

# Relation
1 Accent Difference (Yankee versus Southern American English)
2-5 Closely related dialect (American English versus Queens English)
6-10 Distantly related dialect (Scots English versus American English)
10-15 Separate language, close in family (English versus Dutch; "Germanic")
16+ Separate language, distant in family (English versus Persian; "Indo-European")

Total up the * by tracing back to the last common point and then up the (#)'s to reach the other language in question... thus, to get from an Alfheim Dialect to the language of the Sheyallia would require a path of: Alfheim (5) to Sylvan Realm (4) to Ilsundal (3) and back to Sheyallia (4), a total of 8 *'s, which would classify as a (rather) distantly related dialect; Blacklore Elvish versus Alfheim Elvish would be a 10 point difference, meaning that an Alfheim Elf would think that a Blacklore Elf was pretty much speaking gibberish (which is the way it should be) (while Blacklore has not essentially changed in over 3400 years, it is rife with technical terminology, as the Blacklore Elves were very intense into technology, sort of like the difference between modern American English and Lawyerese).

(D) denotes a Dead or Hypothetical language

(1)Southern Elvish (Davania)* (D; modern Blacklore Elvish+***)

(2)Returnist** (D)

(3)Ilsundal** (D)

(4)Sylvan Realm*

(5)Alfheim* (minor clans+*)


(7)Erewan* (6)Grunalf*
(6)Long Runner*

(7)Red Arrow* (6)Shiye*** (4)Shelliya**** (3)Southern Clans* (D)


(5)Meditor** (4)Londryl** (2)Second Group* (D)


(4)Belcadizian Dialect*** (1)Eastern Elvish (Blackmoorian)

Would include all the various Shadow Elven dialects, Schattenalfen, Icevale Elvish, and Gentle Folk Elvish, as well as (Canonical, that is) the Wendarian Elves.

As a general guide, for every 200 years of separation, subtract 1 point of understanding up to 5 points (1000 years), and 1 point for every 500 years thereafter (thus, an Elf transported from 4000 BC would lose 15 points of understanding, so he would not understand much modern Elvish at all unless he had a high INT or he had studied his mother tongue quite intensely). Note that this quick system doesn't fit exactly with the numbers above, as the above numbers reflect the fact that there was some connection between groups.