Languages of the Ocean Language in The Ocean | World Anvil
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Languages of the Ocean

Learned Haftera--
Thank you for your assistance with this article. I appreciate your approval despite its lack of detail. Yes, there will eventually be more in-depth language articles. Yes, your input will be more than welcome. No, I cannot give you samples of Common Eihlari. You will have to eavesdrop on me and Uncle Nkeba for that.
Scribe Elan
The study of the world's languages is more than an exercise in academic curiosity. Extrapolating the ancestor of modern Oceantongue led us to rediscover the vastland, a land mass we had long ago forgotten existed. Deciphering the language of the szageki led us to recognize them as the first non-human species we could interact with as equals. As we continue to explore the ocean and possibly meet more creatures of intelligence, it is through language first that we will begin to understand them.


There is one language, Oceantongue, known and spoken by almost all oceandwellers, tideriders and islanders alike. Each island has its own dialect of the same but all are mutually intelligible. Tiderider families also have their own argots. Craft-specific vocabulary is the same from family to family, but a sailor's use of casual speech will mark her as raised on a particular mother ship.   Oceantongue is descended from Shipspeech, a trade language used between tideriders and atoll farms in the Western Gap in the latter half of the Oceanic Era. It was not widely used outside of economic transactions, however. The atoll evacuations beginning in the late 9600s Oce brought dozens of mutually unintelligible languages together in Galtern's refugee camps. A pidgin developed based on Shipspeech and incorporating elements from the various dialects, and by 9800 Oce this had become Early Oceantongue.  

Notable examples, by region


Populated by descendants of all the Oceanic Era's major tiderider families, Eihlari is the island with the greatest linguistic diversity. During the feud centuries clans deliberately used nonsense words or phrases to confuse non-family listeners. As these became part of each clan's everyday speech, the family dialects drifted further apart with each generation. Today each family still speaks its own dialect with its own blood members, with an emphasis on keeping clan business within the clan rather than aggressively persecuting outsiders.   Outside of the family dialects, Eihlarians use three languages to speak with members of other families. Common Eihlari is used between individuals of clan alliance, whether by marriage or by sept. Formal Eihlari is reserved for speech between completely unrelated individuals, and is the most often heard in the public sphere. Both are heavily influenced by the Zaiyevi dialect of Oceantongue, due to the many Water Seekers from that island who occupied Eihlari during the feud-ending Intervention. The third language is termed Handwave, and is a purely gestural language used with no regard to family status. Words may be used along with signs, but are not required to understand them.  


Uniquely among island dialects, Galternene Oceantongue employs an entire category of words to describe the reliability and source of information. Because an individual's local economic value is based on her reputation, making false statements about someone, even unintentionally, is considered fraud. After the Twilight Chaos in the early 1600s Vol, the Worthies in Galtern's capital city made it a punishable offense to repeat unverifiable information about a person. That restriction led to the gradual development of evidentiality markers unused anywhere else.  



The best-documented nonhuman language is Katadei Digenei, used by the reptilian szageki. Despite having only two categories of words, it is as complex a language as Oceantongue. Words called "markers" represent intrinsic characteristics, and "ways" represent relative characteristics. The specific meaning any word has depends on its position in a phrase and what other words are adjacent to it.   Katadei Digenei is written with a syllabary. Most words contain up to three characters; the only exceptions are recent coinages made by condensing descriptive phrases. Scribes use a tool to stamp symbols onto rock or paper surfaces.  


The tkevsa across the Eastern Gap use three unrelated forms of communication.
  • Their system of vocal calls does not meet the criteria for a full language, and seems to be reserved for names, commands, warnings, and insults.
  • They communicate visually over distances using a sign language performed with the feet and toes.
  • They use a complex written language for up-close communication, drawn with their toes and read via the whiskers on their feet. A discussion among a group of tkevsa occurs in the round, with up to eight individuals circled around a large plate of smoothed sand, heads out and feet in.


Chok talk to each other by collecting dead pieces of their armor and scraping them against each other. The Valdian linguist Haftera Djuur has been inside a swarm of chok in their oceangoing form, and reports seeing flashes of light which he believes are another method of communication.  


The eehur on the Great Southern Island are so recently discovered that almost nothing is known about their language except that it exists. It is a fast-paced speech provisionally known as Jabber.

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Jan 2, 2024 22:04 by Lady Arsenik

I love when people include dialects for their languages. So many exist in real life, so why not in fantasy?

Jan 3, 2024 06:47

Right? Sure, there's the practical difficulty of trying to write dialogue for characters from different places, but there's also such potential for drama and comedy when people speak almost but not quite the same language.

From The River to The Ocean, a civilization grows up.