Languages tend to go extinct when great powers expand their hegemony or communications become better, while diverging when smaller groups of people are separated from each other and devise their own ways of speaking. Over the last millennia this second process has occurred many times over relativistic distances, resulting in tremendous linguistic diversity.
During the Information Age and Interplanetary Age language extinction reached the highest level ever. From 6000 languages used in the 1st century a.t. to 600 in the 2nd and just 60 in the 3rd, people slowly converged on a global culture with Anglish as the lingua franca. Various minorities and cultures held on to their own tongues, but they were few and had a hard time resisting the sheer volume of international communications. In 400 a.t. 90% of all humans were fluent in Anglish. Such widely spoken languages as Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish and Portuguese, Arabic, Bengali, and Japanese managed to survive and even thrive as first languages, but many others had become secondary, used very locally or learned in school as a matter of ethnic pride if they were not entirely extinct.
There was some divergence in style within Anglish: many virtual tribes, subcultures and especially the orbital habitats developed their own highly recognisable and often incomprehensible jargons and dialects. Especially the culturally and geographically isolated Genetekkers developed their own Genetekkerese, a highly ornate but clear Anglish dialect.
The Technocalypse separated the survivors in small self-sufficient habitats. Even though they might be separated by time lags of mere seconds minutes or at most hours, communications were highly restricted for a variety of other reasons, mutual suspicion or fear of contagious software being the chief of them. As for the few surviving interstellar colonies, they had all of these issues plus the additional problem of relativistic separation from Solsys and each other measured in years. Thus over the following centuries languages diverged wildly. Many colonies had been dominated by different mixtures of cultures, and now their initial mixtures of language grew into unique new languages. Even purely Anglish colonies diverged to the extent that their tongues could no longer be regarded as the same language.
When the First Federation emerged it was clear that understanding each other was going to be a major problem, and this was the reason that free access to translation and interpretation devices was regarded by its leadership as one of the cornerstones of the Federation and later a basic right for all sophonts. A form of Anglish pidgin was used in emergencies and grew into a more substantial form over time. While there was a noticeable wave of language extinction at first, the spread of translation software meant that many languages could persist that would otherwise have vanished. In fact, the language divergence continued and accelerated tremendously when interstellar colonisation began again.
In Federation times the colonies languages could develop independently, separated by decades of travel. At the same time, relativistic crews retained the language of their own era, not keeping up with the changes that occurred among the restframers. As the colonies developed, new forms of the old Solsys languages developed to the extent that they became entirely new language families such as the Bojiangnese family, the Martian family or the myriad Anglish-derived languages.
The age of empires led to the formation of larger empires, and in some language standardisation was enforced. Especially active were the Solar Dominion, exploiting the Divine Order education system to spread Solarian (an Anglish language derived from Edenese), and Cygexpa, giving economic incentives for learning their corporate language (since the 8th millennium this program has ended, but classic Cygnese is still widely understood). The cyborgs and vecs on the other hand developed entirely different language families, of which the Metasoft Linguistic Standard (currently in version 43.7) and the Corona AI Council Code (CACC) are most well known. Direct neural communication standards became popular among cyborgs, but required a standardised brain.
Meanwhile the relativist crews found themselves linguistically stranded. Over the centuries they instead developed their own jargon and language, derived from the Anglish forms of the First Federation. Due to their relativistic trips the language changes very slowly, but despite some attempts it has never become a truly useful international language - the original Anglish base is not expressive enough for the needs of modern societies.
The Concord Ontology and to a lesser extent the ComEmp included an attempt at creating a truly universal language, but the attempts never became popular except among beings who could easily download new languages or upgrade their language centres. Instead various trade languages such as Douh, Niu Cygnese and Whitneey have emerged. Due to the sheer number and obscurity of many tongues translation standards have emerged so that several pieces of translation software can be strung together to bridge language gaps. The results are often less than enlightening, but better than nothing.
Diversity of language has steadily increased over time, in part due to the development of new clades and in part due to ongoing evolution of cultures within existing clades, especially along the expanding front of the Terragen Sphere where isolation and founder effects play a large role, or in the most settled region where specialist languages tend to arise. This has been abetted by the occasional movement to artificially increase linguistic diversity. For instance, the 45th century Neo-Whorfian movement originating at Ao Lai led to the resurrection of many extinct languages and the creation of an even larger number of new languages.
Many languages have developed into layered languages, due to the presence of different levels of intelligence or mental architecture in the population. While the splices, baselines, tweaks, cyborgs and AIs may all speak the same language they use different vocabularies and ways of expressing themselves. These different layers have different complexity; messages in a high layer might be extremely terse and confusing for a being used to speak in a low layer.
Some Notable Languages
Language-family derived from the various forms of New English; a major language-family spoken by Terragens since the late Information age.
Many words from various ai, vec, trade, and even alien languages have been borrowed or incorporated and the Anglic language family undergoes frequent dialect transformation, due to its susceptibility to fads.
Anglic is one of the single most widely spoken language families in the civilized galaxy. There are no less than ten million different major dialects and sub-dialects, although no more than two dozen of these are spoken widely.
Some notable Anglic languages are:
Anglish: Anglish itself went through a number of stages in its development and evolution, especially in the Inner Sphere and main civilised regions. Some early developments are found in most or all descendant languages. For instance, see the table of Early and Middle Anglish third-person and gender pronouns.
Proto-Anglish (New English, Space English):Interplanetary Age language resulting from fusion of Late Industrial and Early Information age Modern English with elements of other languages like Russian, Chinese, Japanese, ircspeak, ebonics, and so on - simpler grammar and syntax than Modern English, but with a lot of technical terms and very rich in neologisms. No longer in use anywhere.
Old Anglish (Federation Anglish, Fedspek): A development of Proto-Anglish that was used in First Federation times (at the time it was still called "English"). Derived languages are still common throughout much of the Outer Volumes, though many are changed beyond recognition and incomprehensible to an Anglish speaker. No longer used in the Inner Sphere.
Middle Anglish: A popular upper class and diplomatic language that then acquired wider use among the other classes as well, in wide use during the Integration, and experienced a revival during the nostalgic period of the ComEmp. Rather similar to Edenese (both languages share a number of words and phrases). Since the Concord Ontology was Fedspek friendly the Solar Dominion wanted nothing to do with it. The Mutual Progress Alliance and the NoCoZo however supported it. Today pure Fedspek is only found in a few worlds and habitats of the Outer Volumes and the periphery. However, derivative language like High Anglish, Low Anglish, New Anglish, and Newfed, and their further derivatives, are common.
High Anglish: A development of Fedspek in ComEmp period, still used today. A formal, scholarly, aristocratic, ceremonial, and diplomatic language, supported by the Mutual Progress Alliance. The Solar Dominion naturally point out the virtues and superiority of High Solarian as a ceremonial language, but High Solarian is a more difficult tongue to master, and not spoken outside Dominion and Dominion-client worlds.
Low Anglish: A somewhat simplified version of High Anglish popular on many words during the ComEmp period and still used in a few places today. Originally use of Low Anglish was considered a sign of ill-breading, baselinehood, or animanty, but this prejudice is much less common now. Gave rise to a large number of derived languages, including a number of important local trade languages, on various biospheres and habitats during the Age of Fragmentation (after the ComEmp).
New Anglish: A popular and rather recent development of Low Anglish; a number of dialects differing only in minor details are to be found in the vigorously expanding areas of the Carina Rush.
Newfed: A development of Fedspek during the later ComEmp, still found on some worlds today.
Academic Coronese: Cyborg academic language used at the University of Corona and in many affiliated habitats and biospheres. Various forms of pidgin Coronese, employing less rigid syntax, are popular among the baseline humans, with different dialects developing on different habitats and worlds - e.g. Quarkish Coronese, Toirrese (spoken in the Toirres Deme and throughout the Leoti system in general), and the multifarious dialects of the Roaming Reach, to name just a few.
New Martian: Form of Martian spoken on New Mars. One of the largest languages among Martian-adapted tweaks.
Douh: NoCoZo trade language in the Anglish family, derived from the First Federation Old Anglish Pidgin and Merrionese.
Cygnese: The official Cygexpa language. Part of the Anglish family (derived from Old Anglish), although parts are completely artificial.
Niu Cygnese: Simplified trade language descended from Cygnese.
Whitneey: Anglish-derived trade language used in the Sagittarius region. Whitneey branched off from Fedspek (Middle Anglish) during the Integration and especially with the isolation of these communities that followed the destruction of the local stargate nexus during the Version War.
Edenese: Anglish language from Eden. A development of Old Anglish, with many additional nuances. Commonly understood among Inner Sphere worlds and often used in diplomacy.
Libspek: Academic speciality language used for archive and library science. Libspek was developed during the period of empires, slowly being updated by the Institute of Information Retrieval on Hollo-Vau and the Encyclopaedia Institute on Ken Ferjik.
Solarian: Edenese-descended Anglish language. Used across the Solar Dominion, understood on many worlds. Solarian branched off from Edenese after the formation of the Solar Dominion during the period of major expansion.
Genentics: Genen genetekkerese-based dialect, developed as part of the family historicism of the 2000's. Commonly spoken by Genen, official language on Frog's Head.
Umma of the Shell: A form of semi-classic Arabic is still spoken in the Core Stellar Umma. In the Shell various mixtures are used, especially the Arabic-Anglish hybrid Anrabic.
Bourgatov Slavonic group
Languages derived from the Slavonic language spoken at Bourgatov. After its destruction many minorities fled and developed their own dialects. Spoken as majority languages in many minor outer volume colonies.
The Chinese language family is one of the major language groups directly descended from Old Earth, and is one of the largest in this category in the Current Era, although its exact size varies depending on how exactly it is defined. The practicality of considering the millions of wildly divergent (and often dispensed with one or more key features of the language) Current Era descendants as part of this language family is commonly debated, as is the appropriate set of criteria.
An example of a set of criteria used to define the Chinese language family is given by the Coronese academic consensus: 1) The language in question must retain Chinese-style grammar. 2) The language in question must directly descend from the collection of Chinese languages and dialects present prior to the Technocalypse. Under this definition, some of the entries below, such as Yosunoneh, are not considered part of the Chinese language family. However, they are included by at least one of the many other definitions.
Interplanetary Age Mandarin: This was the official language of the Interplanetary Age nation of the Federal Republic of China, as well as multiple minor polities descended from China across the Solar System. It was known for its logographic script and tones (five in total). The language features heavy influences from contemporary languages including English, Russian, Japanese, Arabic, Latin American, and Swahili. It can be written with traditional script, simplified script, Zhuyin, or Latin alphabets, among others; many surviving texts and analyses of descendant languages suggest people often used combinations of two or more of these options. It gave rise to dozens of dialects and languages during the Sundering.
Interplanetary Age Guangzhou language: While most sibling languages and dialects of Chinese that existed during the Information Age had gone extinct by the Interplanetary Age, the Guangzhou language was apparently among the survivors. Sometimes known in Anglic languages by its archaic name Cantonese, it shares the same written script as Mandarin, although each word is usually pronounced differently. The spoken language features more tones than Mandarin. It was spoken in its eponymous homeland, as well as a number of other Chinese colonies. A dialect of Guangzhou language that developed among the Chinese speaking people living on the Martian moon of Phobos would eventually give rise to the Keid dialect during the Sundering era.
Fengyuanese / Han Hegemony Mandarin dialect: A Sundering era Solsys Chinese dialect developed in and used by the Sundering era trust network Fengyuan Mutual Support Organization, better known by its exonym Han Hegemony. It was a relatively conservative dialect, with few major changes from Interplanetary Age Mandarin and very few additional loanwords. The language went extinct during the middle Federation, but it became well known for serving as the most important contributor to Bojiangnese, a later development. In 7538 it experienced an unexpected revival in a large number of virchworlds in the Middle Region system of Voi Talasimosh, and has become the lingua franca of that system since then.
Penglaiese: In isolation from Solsys, the Mandarin language used by the colonists of Penglai rapidly developed in its own direction. By the time the Federation reached Alsafi, the spoken language of Penglai already had heavy Jovian creole influences brought by interactions with the Genetekker colonists that lived in the outer system, who in turn developed a superficially Chinese-like language that is actually part of the Jovian creole language family. Penglaiese only had three remaining tones in total by the middle Federation, but features many Jovian creole consonants and vowels. It has a notably low degree of mutual intelligibility with most other contemporary Chinese dialects. Along with Federation Chinese and Bojiangnese, it was one of the major members of the Chinese language family during the Federation.
Keid dialect (Koksinghaai waa): A dialect developed from the Phobian variant of the Guangzhou language spoken by resettled Chinese people in the Keid system. The language was notable for its relatively few consonants compared to other Chinese languages, compensated by the large numbers of tones. Throughout the duration of the Eridanus League, it was considered part of the Keidian identity, and its continued use alongside Bojiangnese was heavily encouraged by many major polities within the Keid system until as late as the early Age of Expansion. Even after falling out of mainstream use, it continued to be used in formal settings within the Keid system and colonies established by its population as late as the Integration era.
Federation Chinese: The standard form of Chinese language used within the Federation of Sophonts. It arose from a number of early Federation era attempts to reconstruct Interplanetary Age Mandarin, of which most extant (at the time) Chinese languages derived from, in order to facilitate communication (and in some cases, to forge a common sense of identity among the disparate Chinese speaking populations). The result soon evolved into its own language over the course of the Federation's existence. Like Federation Anglish, it is no longer in use anywhere within the Inner Sphere.
Bojiangnese (Bohjaangyui): A language formed from the integration of Fengyuanese, the Keid dialect, and many other languages that evolved naturally within the Eridanus League during the early Federation era, and was eventually considered to have developed into a separate language by the middle Federation era. Bojiangnese was considered to sound slower and softer than many of its contemporary naturally evolved Chinese languages. Its tone system consists of six tones (including one neutral tone), and features consonants and vowels borrowed from its many non-Chinese precursor languages. Its numerous derivatives are still spoken in various, widely dispersed locations in the Inner Sphere, the former Yoson Confederacy, and in many Etodist locations.
Tchun Huai: A language that evolved out of Penglaiese used in the Chun system during the late Age of Expansion. It has many indicators of attempts to restore Old Earth Chinese features as part of the Chinese identity mindset that was prevalent within the system during the era, including the incorporation of tones that Penglaiese did away with, as well as the modification of the pronunciation of several consonants, but other parts were new, more natural developments. It was in mainstream use within the Chun system between the late Age of Expansion and the middle Age of Establishment. Various descendants are still in use in the Current Era.
Yosunoneh: A constructed cultural language that, although appearing novel to unfamiliar eyes, extensively borrowed grammatical structures from Chinese. The language was deliberately designed to sound 'youthful' and 'childish', according to the relevant documentation. Especially in the early iterations, the Yosunoneh language is agglutinative in nature, stringing together simple sounds and joining together words with no fusion. This commonly leads to very long words and sentences that are in practice spoken very rapidly. It was extensively used by the inhabitants of Yosunoh until the end of the Age of Establishment.
Transapient Posthuman Languages
Polyglot: Post-singularity language that evolved among the early posthumans as a result of an amalgamation of all known pre-singularity Terragen languages. It would become the basis for an entire family of transapient languages that are still the most widely used in transapient to transapient communications throughout Terragen Space.
Bogoban I-XI: Contact language developed by the Institute of Interstellar Xenodiplomacy to initiate contact with alien or far-claded terragens.
Eudocet: Emple-Dokcetic language of artificial origin, employing special language modules and possibly wetware language centers. Spreading at a phenomenal rate in the region dominated by the Emple-Dokcetics, causing a major language extinction event.
Multiti: Artificial language created for political control purposes on Hene (Alpha Scintilla III) during the 8400's. Has become a common language in the Carina Rush.
SecFed: Concord Ontology Language (various versions). Still spoken in remote regions, although the isolation has led to many mutually incompatible versions.
Tych: An ultra-precise language developed in Tycho City that was primarily used in written communication during the late First Federation. Today mainly used for formal declarations and to some extent Negentropic poetry.
VA13: Emotion oriented artificial language developed at Phobos Olrondi Lang Labs. Makes extensive use of carefully rehearsed gestures and facial expressions. Popular among empaths, especially in the Communion.
Hwiisi: Dolphin language spoken on Hwii and many other mainstream sophont enhanced dolphin worlds. Derived from the dolphin language spoken on Okeanos (known as SeaSpeak).
Yikoh: Alien language, used mainly by xenologists of the HIE to transliterate alien names.
To'ul'ho'lo'ss:To'ul'h language, used as a common language among their various clades and with humans. The modern form is derived from ancient pre-Terragen versions that were used on Tohul for intercultural trade and diplomacy.
Daharran: Anglish term for Daharran language - see Daharran Grammar for details regarding Daharran speech and vocal apparatuses. See Ma-Tesh for one of three writing styles used.
CACC (Corona AI Council Code): Digital language used by many Inner Sphere AIs, vecs, cyborgs and virtuals. Notable for its hypertext structure, enabling parallel or branching discourse.
DNIS (Direct Neural Interface Standard): Neural code standard, used among many nearbaseline cyborgs and advanced cyborgs with pidgin lobes.
MLS 43.7 (Metasoft Linguistic Standard 43.7): The current Metasoft language, a digital language derived from the early digital languages of the First Federation Era and the Concord Ontology Language.
Eudocet: Emple-Dokcetic language of artificial origin, employing special language modules and possibly wetware language centers. Spreading at a phenomenal rate in the region dominated by the Emple-Dokcetics, causing a major language extinction event.
Basic: AI protocol developed during the earliest part of the First Federation or possibly even the Solsys Era. Long obsolete, but used as a pidgin among AI when no other languages are available or when trying to find a common language.
Black 7: Backgrounder hailing protocol, part of the Backgrounder family of cryptolanguages.
Academic Coronese - Text by Mikael Johansson Cyborg academic language used at the University of Corona and in many affiliated habitats and biospheres. Various forms of pidgin Coronese, employing less rigid syntax, are popular among the baseline humans, with different dialects developing on different habitats and worlds - e.g. Quarkish Coronese, Toirrese (spoken in the Toirres Deme and throughout the Leoti system in general), and the multifarious dialects of the Roaming Reach, to name just a few.
Babel 'Fish' - Text by Sethbord A genetically engineered computer designed to fit into or around the ear of a modosophont. As well as translation duties the Babelfish can act as an information provider and cultural guide.
Basic - Text by Anders Sandberg AI pidgin language based on ontologies and protocols from the First Federation era and functional languages from the early Information Era. Its roots can be traced back to the pre-AI programming language LISP developed in 1955-1959 c.e. (Old Earth reckoning) by J. McCarthy, often credited as the originator of the term 'AI', and artificial languages such as loglan. The name is sometimes corrupted into baisic or aisic by bioids.
Chinglish - Text by M. Alan Kazlev First Federation era hybrid language derived from Anglic, Mandarin and Cantonese, and spoken by ethnic chins. Today it is only found in House Chin, where it is used for formal occasions, among a few ethnolazurogenic clades, or as a novelty language (like Latin, Esperanto, Vzzman, and other dead languages).
Cryptography - Text by Anders Sandberg The art of creating and using cryptosystems. A cryptosystem (or cipher system) is a method of disguising messages so that only certain people can see through the disguise, e.g, encryption. Cryptanalysis is the art of breaking cryptosystems - seeing through the disguise even when you're not supposed to be able to. Cryptology is the study of both cryptography and cryptanalysis. Very popular in the Cyberian worlds, where there is an obsession with personal privacy.
English - Text by Stephen Inniss An Old Earth language, named for the offshore island of Europe where it originated, that became widespread during the late Agricultural Age, achieved worldwide distribution in the Industrial Age, and grew in usage through the Information Age. Ancestor of various forms of Anglish, and the Anglic language group, as well as to hybrid languages like Chinglish and Anrabic. Like many ancient languages it experiences occasional revivals by retro-abo or neo-whorfian groups.
Genentics - Text by Anders Sandberg Genetekkerese dialect, developed as part of the family historicism of the 2000's. Commonly spoken by Genen, official language on Frog's Head. Part of the Genetekkerese family of languages. Contains elements of Anglic, Arabic and Esperanto.
Linguistics - Text by M. Alan Kazlev The study of language. There are numerous sub-fields, including syntax, semantics, comparative linguistics, deep structures, metagrammar, phonology, clade- and tweak-unique languages, ai and digital languages, cryptographic speech, higher toposophic languages, phylolinguistics, xenolinguistics, and so on.
Meta-idea Languages - Text by Fernando PeÃ±a D'Andrea Languages, usually parallel, where symbols and tokens are meta-ideas. Commonly used by S^4 or greater entities (highest transapients and archailects). These languages can, in principle, describe an idea with perfection, and describe sensation and memory records free of interpretation. Thus, a interlocutor can experience something just through its description. Baselines can experience such effect if a high-sophoncy being embed an idea directly in eir mind, whatever the means of it, but it's not necessarily considered meta-idea communication by some schools, because there is no understanding from the baseline itself of a meta-idea, but the idea is just inserted in eir mind.
NoCoNeg - Text by M. Alan Kazlev and Anders Sandberg Colloquial and semi-humorous term for former NoCoZo systems conquered by the Negentropy Alliance during the Version War. During the early ComEmp period they caused a lot of discomfort to the Negentropy Alliance by their constant harping for less centralism and more freedom. In the end the Negentropist regional administrations allowed them sweeping liberalizations and generous trade tariffs. Although nominally a part of the Alliance they cannot be relied upon in sensitive situations, and in recent centuries have become more of a semi-autonomous empire of their own.
Orbital (political unit) - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Originally, a nation state or city state based on habitats in orbit around Old Earth. Over the course of the Interplanetary Age the term came to be used for any such state in Solsys. By early First Federation times the term Orbital was used more broadly for any independent or semi-independent state based on a hab in orbit around a planet.
Parallel Languages - Text by Fernando PeÃ±a D'Andrea Languages and/or protocols in which words, symbols or structured groups of words can be read independently of order. Such languages were conceived in order to take advantage of some superior beings or non-sentient systems to process communication units in parallel.
Pidgin Lobes - Text by Steve Bowers Language modules that can be plugged into a cyborg's exocortex to facilitate language translation.
Polyglot - Text by Glen Finney Post-singularity language that evolved among the early posthumans as a result of an amalgamation of all known pre-singularity Terragen languages. It would become the basis for an entire family of transapient languages that are still widely used in transapient to transapient communications throughout Terragen Space.
To'ul'ho'lo'ss (Language) - Text by Stephen Inniss, after the original by Anders Sandberg To'ul'h language of ancient origin, traditionally used in record keeping and for intercultural and international communication. A pidgin version is used among their various post-to'ul'h clades and with humans or other xenosophonts.
Trade Language - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Language used by several different polities or clades (each with their own separate language) when engaging in trade or other commercial interaction. Often a trade language may supersede local languages for many purposes, or donate loan words, lexemes or phrases to those languages. Also used to describe various commercial languages used by NoCoZo, Cygexpa and Fomalhaut trading companies.
Translation and Language Cladization - Text by Anders Sandberg Instead of unity and a single tongue, there was a great cladization of languages during the First Federation era. This is because the different habitats got together and could hardly understand each other, and AI was now so cheap that everybody could afford translator devices. So instead of forcing linguistic convergence (although some did their best to make a fedspeak), a lot of clades diverged further protected from outside influences in cocoons of translation.
Troll - Text by John B A sophont with massive self-regeneration capabilities, or an expert system for filtering a larger body of knowledge, or a sophont who stirs up controversy.
Unic - Text by M. Alan Kazlev Universal Language System, developed by the Objectivist Commonwealth.