The world of Dragon Age is an absolutely fascinating one that's captured the imaginations of millions of gamers from all across the globe. The success of Dragon Age: Inquisition is a testament to that. Great stories set in a lively, awesome world are just some of the parts that make it a favorite for many fans of the RPG genre. The world itself has all these fun elements and different cultures that collide with each other that really gets the imagination of fans going. One particular fan has taken his imagination one step further by expanding on the language of the various peoples of Thedas. That's right, a single, amazing (and maybe a little insane) fan has taken it upon himself to take the bits and pieces of the languages shown in the games and expand them into actual semi-working languages. This entire endeavor is called The Thedas Language Project and it's as awesome as it is daunting.
But why would someone do that? Well, for a large chunk of fans the world of Dragon Age doesn't just stop at the games. There's a collection of books and comics out there that further expand on the world and its stories. More than that, there's also a thriving writing and roleplay community who tell their own stories either with friends via the tabletop RPG or online in text based roleplay and fan fiction. The impetus behind embarking on this epic quest is the desire to help Thedas feel more alive for those who write their own stories within it.
The purpose of this project is to add depth and immersion to the Dragon Age universe by expanding upon the Languages found, talked about, or simply assumed withing it. Language is a defining factor of a culture in many respects, and it is an aspect very much glossed over in most fiction. This project hopes to change that, at least as far as the Dragon Age universe is concerned.
For those familiar with the franchise, they know that there are a number of different cultures that live in Thedas. From the Orlesians, Fereldans, Avvar, Chasind, Dalish, Antivans, Rivaini, Marchers, and beyond. All have their own unique culture and, one would assume, their own unique language. Of course, everyone in the game speaks English* which is called Trade in lore. Within the lore of the game, however, Trade acts a lingua franca between the different races. They all have their own native languages as can be seen in the Dalish who speak Elvhen and the Qunari who speak Qunlat. We see bits and pieces of these in-game but of course Bioware didn't go out of their way to actually make these into full languages. They didn't need to and that would take an insane amount of time.
That's where FenxShiral comes in. He started this journey of creation with Project Elvhen which was his way of expanding on the language of the elves in Dragon Age. This was no small feat because taking bits and pieces from a game and trying to expand it into an actual language that can be used isn't like playing with made up language as a kid. He had to build the Elvhen lexicon, wrap his head around their phonology, nomenclature, lore, and all that super hardcore nerd stuff that my brain struggles with. On working on the language, FenxShiral used a few real world parallels as a frame of reference for the project.
Elvish is both agglutinative and fusional, similar to German. In short, what this means is that words, suffixes and prefixes can be stacked, almost infinitely, to make incredibly long words with variable meanings...Elvish shares a lot in common with both German and Portuguese in that it has words that are combinations of other words that make up a completely new meaning through poetic inference. For example, the Elvish word for rest: Ha’ma’in, which literally translates to “Put the old knife away.” But as one word, it means rest or relaxation.
Since he's been working on Project Elvhen the longest it has the most comprehensive construction of the Thedas Language Project. He's started recently on Project Alamarri which is the language of the human barbarian tribes in Ferelden, namely the Avvar and the Chasind. That's the one I'm more excited about seeing as I'm currently writing a story revolving around the Avvar and would love to be able to add some actual Alamarri in there.
All in all, this entire project is nothing short of amazing and I am beyond impressed with the work that's being done so far. If you're an avid fan of Dragon Age or if you have an interest in constructed languages and how they can be put together, I suggest giving FenxShiral's work a look. If you like what you see and want to help support his work, I've also linked to his Patreon below.
Nuva mar’shos’lahn’en ir’tel’dera Fen’Harel.
What's your favorite RPG?
*Or whatever localized language the game is in.