Old High Humanic, the Language of the True Church Language in The World of Cartyrion | World Anvil

Old High Humanic, the Language of the True Church

Let the hunters hunt, the gatherers gather, and the builders build. But let each prosper from the other.
— Text of Saint Ancelin's First Tenet - the oldest known text written in Old High Humanic
When the Humans, and shortly thereafter the Halflings, were Awakened by the Humanar deities, they were gifted with the ability to communicate with each other by Multalius. This god knew that communication was a key to growth and prosperity, and so his contribution to the "Children of the Humanar" was a language of their own. In these early days, both Humans and Halflings spoke the same tongue; thus they were able to communicate and cooperate from the beginning.

Languages, though, like the folk that speak them, evolve over time. Today, the principle language of the Human-folk is called Commonspeech. It is a language that has been shaped not just by human origins, but by melding of the tongues of all the other Folk as well as the people of Cartyrion met, interacted, traded with, and eventually co-mingled with each other more and more. But Commonspeech has its deepest roots in that earliest of Human tongues - a language now called Old High Humanic by the sages of the world.
Originally Spoken By
Early Humans
Early Halflings
(before extensive mingling with other Folk brought about the evolution of Commonspeech)

Currently Spoken By
True Church of the Humanar
Enlightened Church of the Humanar
(it is the language of the sacred texts, and is used for religious rituals and prayers by clerics)

Origins and History

Tradition teaches that when Prominion and Caronalyn caused the Humans to Awaken, the other Humanar deities gathered there bestowed gifts upon their new "children". From Multalius, they received the gift of a language. This gift was also extended to the Halflings when Caronalyn caused them to be Awakened a few years later. This first language was a practical one, with words to represent the foods the Humans hunted and gathered, the tools they used, the actions they undertook, the feelings and sensations they experienced. And there were words to describe the colors, sights, sounds, and smells of the world around them. It was a language not of command, but of sharing of experience and knowledge, and with it, the Humanar hoped their children would become great by working together.

It was this language that Saint Ancelin of the Humans spoke. Driven by a desire to see his people flourish, Ancelin traveled far beyond the lands that Humans occupied, encountering some of the older Folk of Cartyrion along the way. He encountered the Elves of the Elvenhome, and the Dwarves of the Crystal and Iron Hills Delves. He encountered the Gnomes and Goblins that lived among them. He realized that each of these had different ways of looking at and interacting with the world around them, and he committed to memory those practices and beliefs that he thought would benefit his Human kin.

One thing he saw that fascinated him was the manner in which the Elves and Dwarves were able to turn their thoughts into something more permanent by means of strange symbols. The Elves called this "writing". They explained to Ancelin that the strange symbols represented words or sounds, and that once one learned the symbols, one could make a record of things spoken by people. The Elves seemed obsessed with writing anything and everything down - and their method of using thin sheets of what they called paper, and dyes made from plants or crushed stones, which they called inks. The Dwarves limited their records to important events and reminders, but chiseled them into stone monuments that would last forever.

When Ancelin returned to his people, he taught them many of the things he had learned, and with this knowledge, the Humans began to prosper. They developed permanent settlements and learned to farm the land and domesticate some of their animals. They learned to divide the many tasks needed to survive among their number, which allowed all to focus their best skills. But he also learned that his people were not like Dwarves or Elves - they were easily distracted, and often forgot what they were told. And so, Ancelin gave his kin perhaps the greatest gift since Multaius gave them speech: he developed a written language so that his teachings could be recorded and passed down long after he had journeyed to the Next Life.

Over the years, as Humans interacted more and more with the other Folk of Cartyrion, the language they spoke changed. Today, it lives on as the Commonspeech that is universally spoken by almost all of the sentient Folk of the world. But Commonspeech has evolved so far from its human roots that it is essentially indistinguishable from its original roots. That original tongue would have gone extinct except for its use first by Ancelin, and then by leaders who came after him to preserve important teachings. These teachings became known as the Tenets of Humanity, and those leaders eventually became the hierarchy of what is now called the True Church of the Humanar. The priests of this religion preserve the original tongue of Humankind in its written and oral forms as part of their scriptural legacy.

The Language

The Spoken Language

The original tongue of Humans and Halflings, which sages now refer to as Old High Humanic, bears little resemblance to the Commonspeech that descended from it, thanks to all of the borrowings from other languages and the inevitability of evolution over time. Though "spoken" by priests of the True Church and Enlightened Church, there exists some debate as to whether current pronunciations are accurate. Many claim that if a priests were to encounter an original speaker of the tongue from the past, they would not understand one another. The priests of the True Church consider this belief heresy - they assert they have preserved the tongue in the pure form that Saint Ancelin spoke. The Enlightened priests are not so sure, but also don't much care one way or the other - they are at least confident of their translations of the written scriptures.

The Written Language

It is taught that Saint Ancelin himself devised the system of writing that was first used to record texts of Old High Humanic. After studying the ink-and-paper writing of the Elves and the chisel-and-stone runic writing of the Dwarves, he devised something in between. His writing system was devised to employ clay or wax tables and a shaped stylus to impress marks into the soft surface. This allowed for corrections to be made to texts (something that the Dwarven system did not provide), but by baking a clay tablet, a finished text could be just as permanent as one of stone (solving what he felt was a durability problem with the Elven approach).

Symbols were assigned to phonemes that made up the written language. Each symbol was made by pressing parts of the stylus tip into the clay or wax to form the correct pattern. Three parts of the roughly "V"-shaped stylus tip were used: a long straight edge, a long curved edge, and the "V"-like point where these two joined.


There were four words or expressions that Ancelin considered the most important in the language - so important that he created special single symbols for these four words: Village, Cooperation, Responsibility and Law. One other special symbol translates as "Children of the Humanar"; this refers to the Human and Halfling ancestries collectively.

Current Usage

Old High Humanic survives to this day, but as an ecclesiastical rather than a common societal language. It is the official language of the True Church of the Humanar, a religious sect that can be found within the Human Kingdoms - especially the First Kingdom of Humankind. It is, in fact, the State Religion of that Kingdom; citizens are required to profess adherence to it. Many of the most solemn rituals - including that of installing a new High Sovereign, are conducted in the language. The Tenets of Humankind, the sacred scripture of the Church, are recorded in this script. In the exceedingly rare situation where a new Tenet is added to the scripture, Saint Ancelin's Stylus is even used.

The Enlightened Church of Humanity, a breakaway sect found predominantly in the Grand Duchies of Elvenpass and Eastguard also makes extensive use of the language, though only rarely in spoken form. Most of the written texts recognized as scripture by the Enlightened Church are the same as those of the True Church, though, so it is a requirement that all of the ordained priesthood be capable of at least reading and translating Old High Humanic into the Commonspeech used today. It too, records the rare addition or adjustment to scripture using the ancient written language, but as they do not have access to Saint Ancelin's Stylus, a modern equivalent is used.

There is another breakaway sect of note: the Reformed Church of Humanity, but only the most learned of scholars within this faith are familiar enough with Old High Humanic to be able to read and translate it, let alone speak it. While this sect claims to acknowledge the same scripture as the True and Enlightened Churches, it relies on earlier translations of its scripture into Commonspeech. Individual priests within this faith tend to have their own favorite translations - some of which are quite recent while others predate the Great Strife; this makes for some "lively discussion" regarding tenets of the faith among adherents following different church leaders.


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