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Portraying Dalish

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  • Portraying Dalish

    So, my wife is going to be playing a Dalish in our campaign, and she wanted to be able to say some things in Elven from time to time for flavor. Being the kinda guy that I am I whipped this up for her (though it will help for me too when I try and portray other Dalish as them GM). Figured I might as well share it here for others.

    Dalish Lexicon

    It is not really all inclusive or even terribly extensive, but it covers some phrases in a few common conversational contexts to help add a little flavor here and there. GMs of course would be encouraged to look up other phrases to use that they might need at different times (and so are players for that matter, but this handy little reference guide can still cover a bit).
    Dragon Age: Requiem

  • #2
    Re: Portraying Dalish

    The DA wiki also has a lot of words and phrases.

    http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Elven_language

    The problem with Elvish is that it is a half-dead language. Iirc, even if you know it, it's pidgin.

    Comment


    • #3
      Re: Portraying Dalish

      This is not that well established, I'm almost sure there were dalish claiming to be exclusively dalish-speaking among themselves.

      My take on the topic is that differences among clans are HUGE. Their take on what it means to be keepers of elven lore and culture would probably differ greatly from keeper to keeper, from clan to clan... Relevant to this particular area there would be two main philosophies:
      1. Purist approach. Elven language needs to be recovered/protected. They teach their children words and phrases, they try to gather what can be recovered, but that's terribly incomplete but avoids contamination. They see their progressive bretheren as weak, willing to turn on their heritage.
      2. Progressive approach. Elvish is a language, it's purpose is to be means of communication. Elven culture did not end with the Dales - it's alive and changing and the past should be treated as something you draw your strength from, not something you're constrained with. Among progressive clans there could well emerge a modern dalish, with new words for new things (or replacing lost words), with lots of words borrowed from trade tongue, orlesian or tevene...
      Thet way there could be clans that remember elvish - and those that actually use elvish as their everyday language, though the former and latter wouldn't necessarily be the same tongue - the latter being greatly extended from the stub that known ancient elvish had become.

      Please, do take note that the above is entirely my interpretation, the only canonical basis is that elvish tends to be treated/mentioned as language too incomplete to be used while there alsa had been claims made by some dalish that "at home" they use trade tongue only to communicate with outsiders.

      Comment


      • #4
        Re: Portraying Dalish

        Originally posted by eliastion View Post
        1. Purist approach. Elven language needs to be recovered/protected. They teach their children words and phrases, they try to gather what can be recovered, but that's terribly incomplete but avoids contamination. They see their progressive bretheren as weak, willing to turn on their heritage.
        Problem with these folks is they're almost certainly kidding themselves; given the Tevinter were influenced by the ehlvahlen so much, and the elves spent so much time under the Tevinter, what they think is elvish is almost certainly cross-contaminated by Old Tevern and they don't even realize it.

        Comment


        • #5
          Re: Portraying Dalish

          Originally posted by eliastion View Post
          This is not that well established, I'm almost sure there were dalish claiming to be exclusively dalish-speaking among themselves.

          My take on the topic is that differences among clans are HUGE. Their take on what it means to be keepers of elven lore and culture would probably differ greatly from keeper to keeper, from clan to clan... Relevant to this particular area there would be two main philosophies:
          1. Purist approach. Elven language needs to be recovered/protected. They teach their children words and phrases, they try to gather what can be recovered, but that's terribly incomplete but avoids contamination. They see their progressive bretheren as weak, willing to turn on their heritage.
          2. Progressive approach. Elvish is a language, it's purpose is to be means of communication. Elven culture did not end with the Dales - it's alive and changing and the past should be treated as something you draw your strength from, not something you're constrained with. Among progressive clans there could well emerge a modern dalish, with new words for new things (or replacing lost words), with lots of words borrowed from trade tongue, orlesian or tevene...
          Thet way there could be clans that remember elvish - and those that actually use elvish as their everyday language, though the former and latter wouldn't necessarily be the same tongue - the latter being greatly extended from the stub that known ancient elvish had become.

          Please, do take note that the above is entirely my interpretation, the only canonical basis is that elvish tends to be treated/mentioned as language too incomplete to be used while there alsa had been claims made by some dalish that "at home" they use trade tongue only to communicate with outsiders.
          It's fairly canonical that Elvish as a language was pretty much obliterated by the Tevinter. The original Dalish were trying to recover it but they were destroyed by the Exalted March. Some Dalish might know more than others, but I'm pretty sure that it's fairly established that few (if any) can speak complete Elvish. Maybe Flemeth.

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          • #6
            Re: Portraying Dalish

            Originally posted by shonuff View Post
            The DA wiki also has a lot of words and phrases.

            http://dragonage.wikia.com/wiki/Elven_language

            The problem with Elvish is that it is a half-dead language. Iirc, even if you know it, it's pidgin.
            Indeed, and thus the small amount of detail provided here (much of which was gathered or built off of info on the Wiki). Most of what is included in the document are things that we have a good amount of precedent established in the CRPGs of Dalish using these specific terms in daily conversation. The few that aren't directly used in the CRPGs themselves are ones that seemed to still fit the general context of how the Dalish use Elven these days. We have yet to see any Dalish speak exclusively in Elven (as the language is too dead to compensate that), but almost all of them say some phrases in the language.

            The context that seems to be established mostly in the lore of the CRPGs (and of which the RPG has also followed) is that the ability to read and write in Elven is the art nearly lost and that typically only Keepers hold the knowledge of. Many Dalish are still able to speak Elven to some degree though (thus the RPG allows us to take Elven as a spoken language but not one that can be read, something that BioWare approved before the product was released).

            Didn't expect so much debate or discussion over this one, honestly, but awesome that it did. Hope a few of you folks might find this handy to have you your tables. If anyone hasn't peeked it contains the Elven word or phrase, how to pronounce it, how it is used in current context, and the literal translation from Elven into Trade Tongue (much like the details provided on the Wiki since that is what I used as an inspiration and resource to compile this up, along with the site they linked discussing Elven in greater detail).
            Dragon Age: Requiem

            Comment


            • #7
              Re: Portraying Dalish

              There's also this link, but I haven't really gone over it too much:

              http://archiveofourown.org/works/359253/chapters/582281

              Comment


              • #8
                Re: Portraying Dalish

                That is actually that other site I was mentioning that I used as a reference while building this. Using those two sites one could really make a lot of Elven Phrases they could use (or their players could), but for the premise of the document I figured keep it to a few per conversational area. GMs and players can always work out more details using those sources if they want something additional. Thanks for dropping in the link though, awesome resource.
                Dragon Age: Requiem

                Comment


                • #9
                  Re: Portraying Dalish

                  Originally posted by shonuff View Post
                  It's fairly canonical that Elvish as a language was pretty much obliterated by the Tevinter. The original Dalish were trying to recover it but they were destroyed by the Exalted March. Some Dalish might know more than others, but I'm pretty sure that it's fairly established that few (if any) can speak complete Elvish. Maybe Flemeth.
                  As I said, I'm pretty sure I encountered an example of dalish elf claiming that his clan does indeed use elvish as their primary language. Though, admittedly, I don't remember where exactly it was so - quite obviously - I also can't point you to that source.
                  Still, if someone does find it or just likes the idea - my analysis may apply or provide some ideas for their own approach. To tell you the truth, it seems to me kinda fishy that nobody would try to restore elvish - seeing how diverse the Dalish as people are, taking into account the fact that they are supposedly at least capable of forming sentences (so the problems seem to lie in incomplete vocabulary rather than anything else) and considering very real contact with immortal spirits and - possibly - Fen'Harel himself. And wouldn't at the very least SOME clans try to switch to elvish even if they had to force themselves and pull half of the words straight out of their... you know. They had seven hundred years to do that - that could actually be enough time for some strange mix of elvish and trade tongues to pretty much become a brand new language even without conscious planning...

                  Problem with these folks is they're almost certainly kidding themselves; given the Tevinter were influenced by the ehlvahlen so much, and the elves spent so much time under the Tevinter, what they think is elvish is almost certainly cross-contaminated by Old Tevern and they don't even realize it.
                  Yep, the most ancient version of language that would plausibly be to any extent recoverable (without relying on some spirits to pretty much teach you the language if you find some that know it) would be Dalish. Still, the magic exists, so it might not be THAT hopeless. Some ancient elvish-speaking ghosts are encountered in DA:O. Perhaps some spirits/ghosts could be found that would both know and be willing to teach the language in its ancient form?
                  Still, by normal means dalish is as far back as you can really go. Though, even with no magic and "resurrect the language of Arlathan" agenda... would it really be the first time ideology defeated common sense?

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Re: Portraying Dalish

                    That's just it: they tried to restore it. But it had been some 800 years between the enslavement of the elves and the founding of the Dales. Not only that, but the Tevinter attempted to eradicate elvish culture, so they started with the language. Furthermore, you had the hundreds of years of blights, which decimated everyone. Finally, it's been 1200 years since - with a further fragmented culture and even more blights.

                    Not the best foundation for the restoration of a language.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Re: Portraying Dalish

                      Originally posted by eliastion View Post

                      Yep, the most ancient version of language that would plausibly be to any extent recoverable (without relying on some spirits to pretty much teach you the language if you find some that know it) would be Dalish. Still, the magic exists, so it might not be THAT hopeless. Some ancient elvish-speaking ghosts are encountered in DA:O. Perhaps some spirits/ghosts could be found that would both know and be willing to teach the language in its ancient form?
                      Still, by normal means dalish is as far back as you can really go. Though, even with no magic and "resurrect the language of Arlathan" agenda... would it really be the first time ideology defeated common sense?
                      There's no reason to think those ghosts don't date from the post-Tevinter period. They might have a slightly better form than the modern Dalish, but that still doesn't mean its full blown ancient Elven.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Re: Portraying Dalish

                        @Darkdreamer
                        Here I need to disagree. Among things we've seen in the game itself, there were a ghost of a child crying for his mam in elvish. If that doesn't prove they were speaking elvish as primary language there - I don't know what counts.

                        @Shonuff
                        I'm not sure where you got the 1200 years from fall of Dales, around 900 would be more appropriate - but that's beside the point.
                        Either way, "hundreds of years of blights" sounds nasty, but after the fall of Dales, there were exactly three blights including the 5th that ended within two years (or was it a year?) and affected (possibly) a handful clans - and even them mainly because they actually decided to take part.
                        Dalish culture is fragmented - but that's exactly why some of them would get some pretty extreme ideas into their heads. It's just bound to happen. Also, Dalish seem to be much more numerous and have potentially better communication (when needed) than it might seem - on really short notice they managed to gather locally present clans to form a considerable army during 5th blight. Also, they travel a lot, some clans travel long distances (like "walking around the sea through most of Ferelden, whole of Orlais, cross Nevarra and deep into Free Marches in a couple years" long) so we can assume that a clan really focused on some idea can - in a couple years of time - tap into pretty much any and all related resources Dalish have access to. And one of those resources is diverse magical tradition.
                        I don't say that it would be easy, or that replacing currently used language with something bordering on exotic and/or artificial isn't a crazy idea. I just say that someone was bound to have it - and act on it. And then some people would like it.

                        Still, that's one of those things GM would think about and decide for his world on his own. If he even has to - in fact, unless you have a really dalish-centered adventure, you don't really need to know all those things. You can even have a dalish PC and play the whole campaign through without actually establishing how much of elvish do Dalish know They won't speek much of it among people either way.




                        And, as another elvish-related topic (also concerning the restoring-half-dead-languages-is-hard problem) - one thing I figured would probably be true is about elvish alphabet. Note that it's another speculation (if there are any official sources on that, please let me know ) but it seems to me that main elvish alphabet would probably not be phonetic one, but rather something more similar to chinese. Just think of it - why would Keepers not share secret of writing with their people? The obvious answer would be: they're actually pretty bad at it themselves. They know some symbols and can try to guess the ones they don't know, but they can't really apply their knowledge of language much. Even if they know what a symbol would more-or-less mean, they still can't speak the word. Even if they know the word - that gives them little to no idea of how the symbol would look like. It's like two distinct languages...
                        The fact that elvish "likes" creating words by combining shorter words probably helps a bit (as it would make sense that symbols are likewise connected into "bigger" symbols) - but it's still playing puzzles rather than actually reading anything.

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                        • #13
                          Re: Portraying Dalish

                          Also, the ghosts encountered are more fragments than cognizant entities - they could even be demons imitating what they were able to witness while the Veil was thin. Furthermore, the Dalish typically don't interact with spirits.

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                          • #14
                            Re: Portraying Dalish

                            Originally posted by eliastion View Post
                            @Darkdreamer
                            Here I need to disagree. Among things we've seen in the game itself, there were a ghost of a child crying for his mam in elvish. If that doesn't prove they were speaking elvish as primary language there - I don't know what counts.
                            How do you know that was Elvish, rather than simply the Dalish language (which could easily be the elvish/Old Tevern pidgeon I referred to) spoken after the elves were freed? Or put bluntly, no, I don't think that proves a thing, because we don't have anything to compare it to.

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                            • #15
                              Re: Portraying Dalish

                              I did not expect such a scathing debate based on a little document that essentially just contains phrases we have repeatedly heard Dalish characters use in the CRPGs so a player could properly pronounce them and get the context they should be used in when playing a Dalish. I chuckle a bit every time I come into this thread, but I imagine the reason the developers like leaving loopholes in things is for these exact reasons.

                              Carry on, I just felt the need to toss in that quick interjection.
                              Dragon Age: Requiem

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