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The Lore Train: An Introduction To Dragonspeak

22 Jan 2015


Yesterday, Fernehalwes took to the forums to bestow upon us some loregasm inducing knowledge about how they created the dragon language.


I hope you are all enjoying Before the Fall. Wait… Why are you here reading this post and not enjoying Before the Fall!?

Okay, you’re forgiven. Now on to the post!

Soon after the release of 2.5 there were some players who noticed differences in the length of dragon lines between the EN and JP versions, so I wanted to use this opportunity to talk a little about Eorzea’s dragons, their language, and how the ancient race has been characterized by the EN Localization team.

*Extremely minor spoilers ahead*

As I mentioned in the past, far back before even the original release of 1.0, I was tasked with creating an original language for the dragons of Dravania. The background information I received at that time was that the dragons had lived for several millennia and were highly intelligent, so I set about putting together set of rules that would fit naturally those criteria.

Firstly, I felt that the language would be fairly economical. Thousands of years of refining would render long words short, would eliminate most of the more complex consonants and compound vowels, and would see the complete disappearance of words with little meaning, or meanings that could be represented by similar terms (goodbye thesauruses!).

Secondly, as these dragons had lived together for so long and only spoke this language amongst one another, they would have the uncanny ability to anticipate what a speaker was going to say based not only on context, but on a kind of linguistic premonition. Think of it as how after fifty years of marriage, a wife can complete her husband’s sentences for him. The five-decade stockpile of conversations to draw upon has given her a sixth sense, if you will. Now multiply this sense by fifty or a hundred or even more, and you have the dragons. This ability to understand what is going to be said before it is even said, I believed, would affect their language in a way that saw single words taking on multiple meanings. For example, a word like ‘flesh’ could end up being used for ‘blood,’ ‘body,’ ‘corporeal,’ ‘concrete,’ or ‘intercourse’ (the border between nouns, adjectives, verbs, etc being blurred by ages of use). The dragons would know which word was intended based on context, position within a sentence, minute variations in inflection or vowel length, as well as the aforementioned knowledge of past conversations with the speaker.

So, it is safe to say that while a non-dragon may endeavor to study the dragon language, it would be nearly impossible in their short (compared to a dragon) lifespan to even begin to fully grasp the intricacies of it. And, because of this, the only way a non-dragon would be able to understand a dragon is if the dragon chose to speak in the non-dragon’s language, or the non-dragon was blessed with the power of the Echo.

When the Echo “translates” for someone, it is a joint effort between the listener’s mind and Hydaelyn’s gift. The gift is providing the knowledge, while the listener’s mind is using its previously compiled linguistic background to compile the data into something more familiar.

On the other hand, when a dragon speaks in a non-dragon language, it is the dragon himself who is doing the translation, and therefore it is only natural to assume that the resulting target language (in our case Eorzean/English) may somewhat resemble the structure of the dragon’s native tongue—short and concise, but chock-full of meaty ambiguous content.

The dragon’s knowledge of the target language also comes into play here. A being that has lived several ages in Eorzea will most likely have picked up its Eorzean long ago. Couple that with the fact that the being may not have had much in the way of communication with Eorzeans since then, making it difficult for him to pick up on more modern speech patterns. We felt that to reflect this (and the fact that they are simply very, very old beings), it would be better to give the dragons a slightly more archaic speech pattern, hence the ‘thee’s and ‘thou’s.

So finally we get to 2.5. In this patch are scenes in which a certain dragon speaks directly with the player. Here, the dragon has chosen to use the tongue of the player rather than his own language. When the EN Localization team received the relatively wordy Japanese lines for this scene, we felt that it would fit the character and his native language better if we localized it in a manner that seemed a natural fit with the dragon language I had created—that being something that was far more compact, but still contained the main core that was in the Japanese. And thus emerged the difference in the length of lines—EN being somewhat shorter than the JP. So fear not, for the content (while slightly jumbled up to accommodate the differences in grammatical flow between Japanese and English) is, for the most part, similar between versions, and Japanese users are not somehow privy to secrets lost to the winds of translation.

That’s all for today, as I have to get back to Gold Saucer translation. Thank you for making it this far, though. The post ended up being quite longer than I first intended. A dragon could’ve said as much in far less, I suppose… And for those of you crazy lore-fiends who found the post lacking, as we get closer to 3.0 (or maybe right after the launch of 3.0, depending on whether or not I’m given the green light by Yoshi-P), I hope to reveal more info on the dragon language, but until then…

[S][h]ess fta[h]r a[h]!

(Please look forward to it!)