On any given day, you may hear half a dozen languages spoken in Sanctuary. Given its position as a port town, it is not surprising that folk from many different countries come to trade in the city’s markets. This influx of languages, combined with the city’s history as an oft conquered prize, results in a strong local dialect that is both unique and difficult for nonnatives to master. Luckily, Sanctans speak at least one additional language, typically Rankene or Ilsigi.
Literacy is the exception to the rule among the city’s residents. While many ethnic Rankans (especially those who live out at Land’s End) are able to read and write Rankene, most Wrigglies are illiterate. The local dialect (referred to as Sanctan by the educated and as Wrigglie by everyone else) has no written form. While many of the signs and markers posted along the city’s streets are written in a combination of Rankene and Ilsigi script, they go largely unnoticed by the rank and file.
Detailed here are the languages commonly spoken in Sanctuary, both by the citizens of the city and its visitors. Languages are noted with an S (the language is spoken), a W (the language has a written form), or both.
Aurveshan is spoken extensively in the Gray Wastes. A throaty and guttural tongue, it shares a lot with the Raggah tongue, perhaps even descending from the same root language.
Though rarely spoken in Sanctuary these days, Beysin left its indelible mark on the local Wrigglie dialect. Beysin infers as much meaning through inflection and tone as it does through posture, and it can be a difficult language to master unless taught by a native speaker. The written form of Beysin is florid and extravagant.
The people of Caronne have a lilting speech that is very well suited for poetry and song. Similar in many ways to Ilsigi, some scholars consider it to be a distant cousin of that tongue. Despite its propensity for artistic applications, Caronnese possesses an intricate system of numeric and mathematical symbols, something Caronnese merchants make great use of. Caronnese has a written form with an alphabet descended from Ilsigi.
Cirdonian is as old as the languages of Enlibar and Yenized, and it has changed little in the millennia over which it has been spoken. A terse language, Cirdonian allows a speaker to communicate a great deal with only a few words. The Cirdonian alphabet is similar in some ways to Old High Yenized, but the two are mutually exclusive. It should be noted that in Cirdonian, the word used for “liar” and “enemy” are both the same.
Enlib is a dead tongue, known now to only a few dusty scholars and sorcerers (and then almost exclusively in its written form).
Ilsigi is one of the most commonly spoken languages in Sanctuary (as would be expected from the city’s once being an Ilsigi colony). Rankans typically perceive Ilsigi as harsh and low-pitched compared to Rankene, while the people of Ilsig see Rankene as stuffy and overly formal. Ilsigi’s alphabet is the most frequently used system of writing in Sanctuary, even in the transcription of other dialects.
Irrune has no written form. It is heavy on inflection and limited in vocabulary, and its rhythmic structure makes it difficult for nonnative speakers to distinguish between a statement and a question. When the Irrune arrived in Sanctuary, they had no words in their language to describe a body of water as large as the sea. In the years since, the Irrune adopted Sanctan words to represent such things, though the more conservative Irrune see these additions as corruptions.
Mrsevadan is a variation of Caronnese, and it uses the same Ilsigiderived alphabet. The similarity stops there, however, as Mrsevadan is spoken in a radically different way—almost as if the niceties of the Caronnese tongue had been removed from it (which isn’t far from the truth). A speaker of Caronnese can easily understand someone who speaks Mrsevadan, and vice versa, so long as both speak slowly.
Nisi is the dying language of the Nisibisi. It is known by only a few people in Sanctuary (most commonly sorcerers, scholars, and witches), and those who do know it rarely speak it in polite company, for it is a hissing, sibilant tongue. The Rankan Empire banned the use of Nisi, even going so far as to cut the tongues from the mouths of those who would speak it.
The Raggah tribes of the Gray Wastes speak their own language, similar in some respects to Aurveshan. The Raggah tongue is coarse and guttural, more like a series of growls and coughs than actual speech (at least to those not familiar with it). The Raggah refuse to speak their language in the presence of outsiders, using a sophisticated system of sign language (see following) when away from their camps. Raggah has no written form.
The sign language of the Raggah tribes is remarkably refined, given the growling tone of their spoken tongue. All Raggah learn Raggah signing at a young age.
Rankene is a cultured tongue often used in trade, business, and politics. At the height of the Rankan Empire, almost every major settlement across the continent spoke Rankene. In the years since Ranke’s decline, use of the language outside of the empire’s borders diminished. People from nations formerly subjugated by the empire were often forced to learn Rankene, making it unpopular in those places abandoned by Rankan legionnaires. Imperial Rankene is an elevated form of Rankene—flowery, complex, and academic when compared to vulgar Rankene. Reserved for theater, officials, and scholars, it sees little use outside the upper strata of Sanctuary society.
Also known as “Wrigglie,” Sanctan is Sanctuary’s peculiar dialect. Based heavily on trade tongue (see following), Sanctan blends Ilsigi and Rankene components with bits and pieces of Beysin, Irrune, and nearly every language spoken in a dozen other lands. While Wrigglies have little trouble deciphering the pure Ilsigi tongue, the Sanctan dialect is nearly incomprehensible to native Ilsigis. Sanctan has no written form, and is instead transcribed into either Rankene or Ilsigi by knowledgeable folk. When transcribed into Ilsigi, native speakers of Ilsigi can read and understand Sanctan with some difficulty.
The secretive S’danzo teach their language to no one. Unlike the Raggah, they speak their tongue freely in front of outsiders, comfortable in knowledge that the suvesh(non-S’danzo) around them have no hope of understanding what they say. Due to the S’danzo oral tradition, much of the language’s vocabulary is symbolic in one way or another. The S’danzo string allegory and metaphor together into expressive phrases which are often very difficult to translate. S’danzo lacks a written form.
Sherranpip is one of the rarer languages in Sanctuary, spoken by only a few wanderers. It originates from far across the sea, on the island nation of Sherranpip. The words of the language flow rhythmically together into a stream of speech that makes sentences sound like lengthy words unto themselves.
Trade tongue is an Ilsigi/Rankene pidgin language used to communicate simple ideas between merchants and traders. Though it has no written form, it does feature a simple system of numbers and digits that allows for the recording of transactions. Anyone who can speak trade tongue understands its limited written shorthand.
Twandan is a corruption of Rankene and Aurveshan, sometimes referred to as “low Rankene” for its earthier, less ornate quality as compared to the traditional Rankene language. Twandan’s written form uses the Rankene alphabet.
Yenized consists of two interconnected dialects: Low Yenized and Old High Yenized. Old High Yenized is an ancient language with clipped speech patterns and very formal undertones. Though often considered a dead language, people in isolated village across the continent still speak this tongue, and speakers of one form of Yenized can easily understand speakers of the other. Both dialects make use of the same Yenizedi alphabet.