Every character starts with at least one language. Depending on one's intelligence, a character may start with several languages. It is also possible to study and learn new languages by utilizing non-combat proficiency slots.
Before the Cataclysm (when the civilizations of Gaianar fell), each of the four continents developed a metalanguage called "commons". These were simple languages that were made from the common parts of the various local languages. These artificial languages permitted trade and exchange of knowledge between merchants, soldiers, and scholars who might not otherwise have a language in common.
Thus there exists North Point Common, South Point Common, East Point Common, and West Point Common. The metalanguages are straightforward, have few synonyms, and were developed solely to facilitate basic communication. Thus, while a menu or driving instructions might be written in a metalanguage, a play or novel would never be.
A good example of an exchange in a metalanguage might be:
Adventurer: "How much, those boots?"
Merchant: "7 copper"
Adventurer: "Will give you 6. Deal?"
Adventurer: "Good deal. Will buy from you."
Nobody has a metalanguage as their only language. Additionally, while some primary languages may have more than 250,000 words, meta-languages have only a few thousand words. These languages are handy to know when travelling, however, since it always helps to be able to ask where the restroom is and where one can find an inn with vacancies. Additionally, meta-languages need only be studied to intensity(1) due to their simplistic nature.
Note that the GM should give players advanced warning as to the location of the campaign so that they can select logical languages. Likewise, the GM should advise the players to not expend their native language slots (those initial languages tied to Intelligence) on metalanguages since they are not complicated languages and can easily be studied later.
Among the original languages, the interchangeability depends on how far apart the sources of the two languages are. If the languages originate on the same continent, then they would be as similar as French is to Spanish. If two languages originate on two different continents, then the difference is comparable to French and Japanese. Thus a person may be able to pick a few words out of an unknown intracontinental language, doing so with an intercontinental language would be nearly impossible.
Primary languages have both written and spoken components. Thus, the words of a primary language can be transcribed into a book or other document for later recall. Unlike metalanguages, primary languages have robust vocabularies in the 100,000-250,000 word range.
These are languages that rely solely on hand and finger motions, eye and head movements, and body positioning. American Sign Language would be a real-life example of a gestured language. On Gaianar, the Changelings use a gestured language called "Flag Speech" for communicating across long distances (because they can see for miles clearly, but voice doesn't travel that far.) Gestured languages differ from primary languages in that it has no written component. The meaning of a gestured idea must be translated into a known primary language or metalanguage before it can be recorded on paper.
All Constructs innately know this language. It is neither spoken nor written, however. Machine Language is the language that Constructs use to communicate with each other across vast distances. It is theoretically possible for a sentient humanoid to learn Machine Language, but few except the most dedicated of Mathematicians would find the resultant conversations interesting. An example of a thrilling Machine Language exchange might go something like:
FormanBot: Query Ident/Function
MaintDrone17: B78A9F6D / Maintenance Drone Beta Class
ForemanBot: Query TaskID
MaintDrone17: Refuelling Stack 6. 70% completed. Query next task.
ForemanBot: Next TaskID = Replace defective lighting tubes, Corridor 9.
ForemanBot: Acknowledged. End Query.
A character can have two types of linguistic mastery. "Native" refers to languages that the character speaks with perfect fluency. "Learned" languages are ones the character has had to study, and does not have perfect fluency. Characters who have learned a language through study often have thick accents compared to those who speak natively in the local area. In other words, the character speaking a studied language usually sounds like a foreign tourist. The quantity of native languages a character can learn is limited by raw Intelligence.
|Table: Languages of Gaianar|
|Abalesque||Raven’s Cape, Cape North||Primary|
|Baldeska||Cali, Bali, Saboo and Rivna||Primary|
|Clannish||Individual to the barbarian clan||Primary|
|Drakken’Da||Dwarfish settlements; and mountains of West Point||Primary|
|East Point Common||The Eastern metalanguage.||Meta|
|Ele-Kumu||South Point (jungle regions)||Primary|
|Flag Language||A gestured language used by Changelings.||Gestured|
|Gaelic||Isle of Gales, Touch Stone||Primary|
|Hand Speech||A gestured language used by deaf people.||Gestured|
|High Speech||By Gunslingers only||Primary|
|Machine Language||Used by Constructs to communicate with each other||Special|
|Militalk||A gestured language used by military operatives.||Gestured|
|North Point Common||North Point||Meta|
|River Speech||Towns along the Del Tela River||Primary|
|Sigil Writing||A written language used by Shaman and Barbarian classes. (not spoken)||Primary|
|South Point Common||The Southern metalanguage.||Meta|
|Thievish||A very simple gestured language used by spies, thieves, and other underworld types.||Gestured|
|West Point Common||The West Point metalanguage||Meta|
Of course, these are the "live" languages of Gaianar. The Game Master may invent all manner of dead languages from thousands of years ago.
|Table: Intelligence Attribute Modifiers|
|Attribute Score||Native Languages|
|2 to 3||1|
|4 to 5||1|
|6 to 7||1|
|9 to 10||2|
|11 to 12||2|
|13 to 14||2|
Intensity 1. Talks like a tourist. Can speak and read simple sentences (3rd grade equivalent; few idioms known)
Intensity 2. Talks like a worldly tourist; well versed in that language. Does not insult listeners simply by speaking. (6th grade equivalent)
Intensity 3. Firm command of the language. Foreign accent is still a giveaway, but natives will appreciate the dedication the character has toward their language. Decent knowledge of idioms. (10th grade equivalent)
Intensity 4. Masterful command of the language. Only a faint trace of accent remains. Most of the nuances of the language are known. (College-level equivalent.)
Intensity 5. Diplomatic command of the language. You speak better than most natives. Natives only notice the barest trace of any differences in speech between the the character and the a native speaker -- and only after listening for an extended period of time.
Things to Consider