Here’s the sound of a simple phrase in Draconic:
As some of you no doubt know, in Common we’d say that is, “Hello traveler, can I interest you in some of my wares?”
And there’s more on the way!
How are we sharing this complete language with backers as a stretch goal?
We were lucky enough to meet a linguist by the name of Jonathan Anders, who is working on constructing the whole language. Who is this Anders fellow? He is a Ph.D. linguist who has done work on constructed languages for video games and has a broad background in fantasy tabletop RPGs. Here’s a Q&A we did with him:
What’s your background and/or formal training?
I grew up in Birmingham, Alabama, having learned French and English simultaneously. I became fascinated with poetry by age 10. Throughout my life, the Romantic poets have remained a constant source of inspiration.
I received a Bachelor’s in English Linguistics from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where I studied Spanish, German, Chinese, French, and Portuguese. I received a Master’s in French literature from the University of Alabama where I studied French futurism and comic books.
Tell us about your gaming background.
I’m quite lucky to get to unite linguistics and D&D, the nerdiest and grittiest of pastimes. I love nitty-gritty systems with lots of moving parts and contradictory rule sets. Consequently, I like flexible jack-of-all-trade classes—I’d have to say the Warlock and Bard are my favorites.
What excites you most about creating Draconic?
I was most excited about working out the relationship of Koboldic to Draconic. Language design is excellent at capturing both large and small scale differences between groups of speakers, and I looked forward to seeing what correspondences I could devise.
The lore seems to suggest that they are mutually intelligible dialects, with Draconic being more prestigious than Koboldic. A passage in the Worldbook says, “mosts dragons pretend not to understand [koboldic].” This suggest minor phonological differences between the dialects as well as some specialized vocabulary.
The next step is to have different vocabularies, where I decided to be a bit scabrous and give kobolds and dragons different curse-words. Kobolds are more scatological, and Dragons are more imperial in their cursing.
What is challenging about this language in particular?
The most challenging part is the grammar and morphology. I want to make a language of reasonable complexity and syntactic regularity that speakers can understand in a short time.
To this end, I need to balance simplicity and complexity. If a grammar is too complicated, learners will be quickly bogged down in details and exceptions. If it is too simple, speakers run the risk of not being able to express complex thoughts.
And I need to make sure that whatever grammar I introduce is understandable to English and Spanish speakers. I had to delete an anti-passive verbal mood because, while grammatically simple, the concept behind it is too foreign to English and Spanish.
I first introduced regular endings to all nouns in a way that would differentiate them according to gender, the way Spanish does. But I didn’t want to do simple masculine and feminine, because that’s played out. I decided to use a more naturalistic gender system (and bear in mind that in linguistics, “gender” just refers to noun class), and went with a division between animal, vegetative, and mineral.
Though assignation of an animate gender is sometimes arbitrary, it obeys the following rules: Nouns that refer to objects composed of flesh, that are unrooted or unattached to a surface, or that move of their own power receive the animal gender. Hence, river, kobold, elf, wind, light, love, and dream, all receive the animal gender.
Nouns that refer to objects that have bark, stone, spores, roots, leaves, that are constructed by artifice or grow up from the earth, or that move because they are made to move receive the vegetative gender. Hence, pocket watch, tree, stalagmite, chariot, and revolution all receive the vegetative gender.
Nouns that refer to raw materials, to objects that neither grow nor are products of artifice, to alchemical and conceptual primitives like numbers, or transubstantiation receive the mineral gender. The category accommodates a great number of other nouns, and constitutes the largest class. Zero, iron, slag, death, and teeth all receive the mineral gender.
I have yet to thoroughly polish the verbal system of Kobold, but I believe I will combine the easiest elements of English and Spanish, so just use regular verbs and auxiliaries, without too many subordinating effects. A complicated, yet rewarding process.
Get your own Draconic primer!
We’ve hit the $300,000 mark on our brand new Kickstarter campaign for the Tales of the Valiant RPG!
That means every pledge of $48 or more receives The How to Speak Draconic PDF reward.
Want in? Our new 5E roleplaying game funded in under 30 minutes, and is still knocking down stretch goals like a drunken centaur.
Wolfgang & the Kobolds