30 October 2016

Something Else I Tried

Steve Jackson Games official fantasy setting from 2e on has been a myth-parallel of Earth called Yrth.

GURPS: Fantasy for 2e and 3e; GURPS: Banestorm for 4e.

One possibility for the players has been to play themselves captured by the Banestorm and transported to Yrth.

Humans were sucked up by the Banestorm from 1050 through 1300, in large enough numbers to found nation-states and displace the native Elves and Dwarves.

The players always assume that because the predominate language in the Christian nations is Anglish that they have a decent chance of speaking intelligibly with the natives.

The Christian nations of Yrth speak Anglish, a language evolved from medieval English with heavy outside influences, mostly Norman-French.
Now, watch this:

Anglish isn't English from today.  Heck, with the same sort of drift over a similar timeframe Latin became French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish.

I did succeed in speaking in a biblical enough fashion as an NPC to utterly baffle the players and get them to really understand that they weren't going to be blending in, even if they brought their SCA garb!


  1. I just wandered over from SB's for a look-see.

    Interesting! (I love the internet, where I can wander and realise that I'm not the only one with 'strange' interests and opinions. It's a joy to realise I'm not actually 'as' weird as I always thought I was – please note the qualifying 'as' - Hey, at least I'm honest).

    I'm in, and from, the UK. With its more 'extended' history the variations in accents is often 'quite dramatic'. Substantial differences are apparent (at least to locals) between adjacent villages/towns of only a few miles separation (due to the isolation of such villages from each other until the 'modern era').

    Travel further afield (and we're talking no more than a hundred miles at most) and the accents spoken by locals become almost completely unintelligible to each other – and that is speaking the same 'modern' language, written and spelled the exact same way, with a common understanding of the 'correct' (Queens English) pronunciation. (And that's not even counting the major variations in local 'slang' which can be completely different, even using the same/similar words for widely varying objects/actions/concepts – you don't want to know how many difficulties that can cause. I could cite as an example my 'arrest' and being placed in 'protective custody' in Idaho after I 'misunderstood' some 'very large, hairy and inebriated' local loggers discussing their penchant for wearing 'red suspenders' in public by singing the Lumberjack Song by Monty Python. To be clear, what you call suspenders, we call braces. What we call suspenders, you call garter-belts … yes quite!).

    But … at school I was 'forced' to read Chaucer (The Canterbury Tales) and 'as written' (different spellings, word structures and grammar) it appeared as almost a babble … until you realise that 'how it is spelled/written' isn't 'how it was spoken/pronounced' at which point it could almost have been the ramblings of one of the local elderly villagers waxing lyrical. So I 'do' wonder just how 'accurate' the presentation of language as 'so different' is, when nobody really knows what it actually did sound like.

    Similarly, saying that, on travelling I’ve found surprising … er, similarities in speech, pronunciation and even slang terms between my 'Northern English Durham/Cumbria/Border' accent and with locals in as diverse locales as Newfoundland and Appalachia (where isolation had ensured the past pronunciations and vernacular remained current).

    So? Even assuming a 'common language', a common means of pronunciation, and slang in a situation such as you describe is a delusion, and possibly a recipe for disaster. There 'will' be wide variations even over small distances, no? I suspect even in a situation where someone enters a widely separate, but isolated, community even with the same 'basic language' as their own will have considerably more difficulty 'fitting in' than most suspect. And the closer it appears to 'their own language' the greater the 'potential' for confusion, embarrassment and even conflict there will be. (Unless we're talking a trade argot, or a 'formal', religious/administrative/ruling-class, language of some kind?).

    1. Best. Comment. Ever! Thank you for stopping by!

      The thing that got me interested in how far English drifted was seeing a Shakespeare play done with original pronunciations. It was odd to hear, but it clicked quickly. Then I wondered, as the video asked, how far back before I couldn't listen for a bit and catch the rhythm and understand.

      That CGI Beowulf had some Old English in it and I can't understand a word, for example.

    2. Thanks, and I think I'll come visit again (there aren't 'that' many of us out there).

      Beowulf? Yes, but that's to you, based on your local language, no? Consider a Geordie (a native of Newcastle-Upon-Tyne) whose accent has 'more than a smidgeon' of 'The Danish' in its roots. My father was born/brought up in Byker (right in the centre of Newcastle) and to me, hearing Beowulf sounds quite similar to listening to him and his siblings chewing the fat (no seriously!). You can 'almost' understand it - if you can follow me?

      I'm a bit of a 'mongrel', Born in Wales of English and Scots parents, with English, Irish, Scots and Welsh Grandparents (we even have a Breton somewhere in the family bush - we're lower class sorts, we couldn't afford a tree), and so I've been exposed to Welsh, Erse and The Gaelic and hearing such speak English isn't that different to listening to/hearing Serbo Croat or Flemish at times (you haven't been scolded until someone with pronounced glottals does it to you in angry/upset/aggrieved Gaelic, believe me).

      I suspect that often the 'problem' is that we're judging past 'local' dialects against modern 'descendants' of 'different' dialects (or even languages). Modern 'Queens English' is the dialect of a small bunch of very localised powerful people that has been 'forced' on the rest of us to an extent. As I hinted, the 'way I talk/sound, slang and grammar' has more in common with an Appalachian 'hillbilly' than it does with anyone with an Oxbridge/BBC accent.

      So, bone up on that high-school French and German, get a good Gaelic dictionary (and a box of tissues since you have to expectorate to speak it properly) and it'll all sound a bit clearer.


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