I'm going to start this post the same way I started the last one which covered "Common" as a language.
I've been thinking a lot about RPG languages recently. (This article is pretty specific to TSR D&D and related games, but general principles apply to other games as well.) Some of the questions I've been asking myself are:
- Why is each species language seemingly monolithic? Humans don't all speak the same language so why should goblins or lizardfolk?
- Does it help to know a related language? If my character knows Goblin, does he have a chance to understand the gist of a conversation in Orcish?
- What the hell are alignment languages and why is there one for "Neutral?"
Finally, what is Common?
Law, Chaos and Neutrality also have common languages spoken by each respectively. One can attempt to communicate through the common tongue, language particular to a creature class, or one of the divisional languages (law, etc.). While not understanding the language, creatures who speak a divisional tongue will recognize a hostile one and attack (Oe D&D Vol. 1, 12).
In addition to the common tongue, all intelligent creatures able to converse in speech use special languages particular to their alignment. These alignment languages are: Chaotic Evil, Chaotic Good, Chaotic Neutral, Lawful Evil, Lawful Good, Lawful Neutral, Neutral Evil, Neutral Good, and Neutrality. The alignment of your character will dictate which language he or she speaks, for only one alignment dialect can be used by a character (cf. CHARACTER CLASSES, The Assassin). If a character changes alignment, the previously known language is no longer able to be spoken by him or her (1e AD&D PHB, 34).
[Edit: I missed a section in the DMG which alters the following assumptions somewhat. For now, just go with it knowing that this is my own take on alignment languages. I address EGG's thoughts in the DMG in the following post. ]
Conceptually, we are led to believe that these alignment languages are:
- Full languages in which two proficient speakers can converse
- Languages that "come with" a character's alignment - so they are neither learnable by someone of another alignment, nor retained if one changes alignment
- Of a nature that discloses one's alignment when spoken, or at least one's relationship to other alignments (e.g. not-lawful).