User:Vordur Steel-Hammer/Fiction/On the Languages of Tamriel

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On the Languages of Tamriel
by Vordur Steel-Hammer, Scholar of the United Explorers of Scholarly Pursuits
Historical conclusions of the study of Tamrielic languages

Contact and communication between different races has been a factor that has shaped Tamrielic history since time immemorial. While most of the communication in modern Tamriel is dominated by a single language, studying less widespread languages, besides just being interesting for a scholar, can tell us a lot about the history of their speakers. Below I have summarized the known facts and my own theories about the most important languages of Tamriel.

  • Cyrodilic. Despite being by far the most widespread language of Tamriel, the origins of the Cyrodilic language are surprisingly poorly known. The fact that virtually every denizen of Tamriel can speak it can undoubtely be linked with the conquests of the First and Second Empires, especially the latter. Because the Imperials themselves are thought to be descended from Nibenese tribes and the Nords (which is why the first Imperials are often called "Cyro-Nords"), I'm inclined to believe that modern Cyrodilic is an offspring of two distinct languages - the language of the indigenous people (let's call it proto-Cyrodilic for convenience) and Old Atmoran brought by the Nords. Most of the grammar and vocabulary of modern Cyrodilic seems to have evolved from Old Atmoran, with a substantial amount of vocabulary imported from proto-Cyrodilic; the latter is also evident in Imperial personal and family names, particularly those of Nibenay (funnily enough, the name "Cyrodiil" itself comes from Ayleidoon). The proto-Cyrodilic language was likely also the ancestor of Bretic, which will be described later.
  • Elven languages. This group consists of languages descended from Aldmeris, in particular Ald Chimeris, Ayleidoon, and the modern Altmer language. The similarity between those languages and their writing systems is a solid proof of the theory that almost all Tamrielic Elven races originated in Aldmeris. When the ancestors of the Ayleid and the Chimer left Summerset, they brought their language to the far corners of Tamriel. A lot of vocabulary of these languages is preserved as toponyms, in particular the names of the countless Ayleid ruins that dot Tamriel, and the geographical names in Summerset Isles and Morrowind. In case of Morrowind, the Chimer, who worshipped Daedra, seem to have abandoned the Elven alphabet in favor of the Daedric one.
  • Dwemeris. The Dwarves spoke a language completely unrelated to the other Elven tongues, which supports the popular theory that they were the only Elven race not to originate from Aldmeris. They, however, used the common Elven writing system, which they may have adapted from the Merethic Aldmeri explorers that built settlements like Ald Redaynia in Vvardenfell. The Dwarven language is poorly known and scholars often argue about the meaning of the known words, which mostly come from the names of the Dwemer ruins present in Morrowind, Skyrim, High Rock, and Hammerfell.
  • Ashlander. The language of the Velothi tribes is probably the biggest linguistic mystery to date. The followers of Veloth spoke Ald Chimeris, which was a part of the Elven family; however, the Ashlander names and certain Vvardenfell toponyms are nothing like it and certainly haven't evolved from it. In Vvardenfell, there are both Ald Chimeris toponyms (like Bal Fell or Molag Amur) and Ashlander toponyms (like Addadshashanammu or Zainsipilu). Currently, there is no good explanation about the origin of the Ashlander language, and when one emerges, it is bound to become a major discovery.
  • Old Orcish. The old language of the Orcs does not appear to be related to Aldmeris in any way, which would support the theory that the Orcs were present in Tamriel long before the Elves, instead of the most popular theory that they were outcasts from the Aldmeri society, transformed by Boethiah along with the god they worshipped, Trinimac. Most known samples of the language come from Wrothgar, dating back to the first Orsinium.
  • Ta'agra. As in the case of Old Orcish, the Khajiiti language does not appear to be related to Aldmeris, making it unlikely that they have Elven ancestry. One thing specific to the Khajiti culture is the use of Ta'agra honorifics appended to personal names.
  • Jel. The language of the Argonians is said to be completely unrelated to the other languages of Tamriel, which form the Ehlnofex family. The Argonians claim it comes from the Hist trees, which were already in Tamriel when the Ehlnofey - the ancestors of the other races - came to the continent. Jel is hard to pronounce correctly for non-Argonians, and does not contain tenses, because the Argonians perceive time as an artificial concept which poorly describes reality. The language is omnipresent in Black Marsh toponyms, particularly the names of Argonian ruins (or "xanmeer" in Jel). Some Argonians also use their Jel names outside of Black Marsh.
  • The Reach language. The toponyms and personal names of people living in the Karth valley are distinct from those in Skyrim and High Rock. While the Reachmen are mostly Bretons by blood, some scholars have suggested links with the ancient Keptu people, and perhaps this is where the language comes from.
  • Yoku. The language of the Yokudans is still in use, in particular by the Crown Redguards, who put great effort into preserving their Yokudan heritage. Many toponyms in Hammerfell originate from Yoku. Yoku words are also reported to be used by the Redguards of the Silverhoof Vale in High Rock.
  • Draconic. The language of the Dragons is unique in that it is as much a means of communication as it is a weapon, as the Dragons supposedly saw little difference between a fight and a debate. The language was written in a script that consisted of slashes and marks which were easy to make with a dragon claw. The Dragon language is a base for Thu'um, a form of Draconic magic that was later adapted and practiced by their subjects, the Nords. Despite the early Nords speaking Old Atmoran, the Draconic language influenced them so much that many epitaphs found on memorial walls throughout Skyrim are written in Draconic.
  • Old Atmoran. The Nords brought the Atmoran language to Tamriel during their migration, and it likely contributed greatly to the development of Cyrodilic when the Nord culture came in contact with the Heartlanders. Old Atmoran roots are still well preserved in Nord personal names and Skyrim toponyms.
  • Bretic. A really obscure language with very few mentions of it, Bretic lives on mostly in the personal names of the Bretons and few High Rock toponyms (like Mount Dore Elard). It also finds some use in culinary nomenclature.