The Death of Language

In the year that would later come to be known as 0 N.D. by historians, a sequence of events occured, the repercussions of which were experienced worldwide. These events had a lasting impact on the history of the world. As such, it has been studied exclusively not only by historians, but by anthropologists, arcanologists, sociologists, and, perhaps most prominently, linguists.

As the culmination of these events has since been titled “The Death of Language,” it should be no surprise that linguists have taken a great deal of interest in how it came about. What follows is a summation of key players in these events, as well as theories about their motivations derived from centuries of study by many of the world’s top experts.

To say it began with Teneam Soreli — who is often referred to as Teneam the Scribe, Teneam the Poet, or by the more dramatic, Teneam the Destroyer — is perhaps an oversimplification, since there were many other cultural factors in play, and the climate of the times contributed to even the possibility of his success. Nevertheless, it is Soreli who is known as the instigator of the Death of Language, and for good reason.

Soreli considered himself a scholar of the highest order. There were not colleges or universities in his country in his time, not as we know them now. Instead, there were tutors and educators who operated either alone or in small cells, who would be hired by the nobility and others with sufficient affluence to instruct their children either individually or in small groups.

Soreli’s parents ensured that Soreli had a very broad education, as was popular among the very rich. He knew a great deal of what there was to know at the time about biology, geography, geology, art, and music. He could discuss those topics competently with experts in their fields, though it cannot be said he made significant contributions to the sciences. His skills instead lay in his proficiency with art and language.

In our present time, due to Soreli’s actions, the following may sound impossible and fanciful, but contemporary reports and the research of linguistic historians has shown it to be true. There were over 5,000 languages or dialects thereof being spoken when Soreli was born. Soreli himself was said to be able to speak, read, and write in at least 27, with at least some competence in upwards of at least 30 more. By the time he died, the number of the world’s languages had decreased to one.

Soreli marvelled at the world’s languages. He appreciated their differences and saw their formation as a majestic fusion of art, human expression, and cultural evolution. As he grew older, however, his sense of wonder disappeared, and he began to believe two things: one, that the multilingual nature of the world was limiting discourse and cooperation between cultural and political entities; and two, that the languages that had come about naturally were imperfect, and that by using his vast knowledge of so many different languages, he could create a superior system.

Other experts of his time, who were introduced to his constructed language before the natural languages were erased, all existed somewhere on a spectrum between complete disagreement that his new language was in any way superior to acknowledgement that it was, in many ways, simpler and more efficient. If there existed linguistic scholars who were in true agreement with Soreli and his plans, their writings have been lost to the passage of time.

Fortunately for Soreli — and unfortunately for the linguistic diversity of the world — the resistance of a large portion of the scholarly community did not prevent him from actualizing his dreams. He had the inheritance and the influence to approach individuals with both the power to realize his goals and the capability to do so.

Of course, those individuals were not swayed by Soreli’s money or even by his renown as a scholar and influencer. They chose to assist him knowing that they would be having an indelible impact upon the world, the entire world, and such an action is not often taken lightly even by those with great power. They were convinced because the arguments he presented in favor of his language were compelling.

Soreli began designing his language with simplicity at the forefront of his considerations. Whether he succeeded in this goal is a matter of debate today as it was during his time, but given what we know of the languages that preceded his, it can it least be stated objectively that there were qualities of it which were simpler than those languages, if not as simple as they could be.

The first stipulation Soreli imposed upon his language was that it must be as regular as possible. In Soreli’s original incarnation of Sorelian, all conjugation of verbs was entirely regular according to their tense and the noun with which they were associated. Declensions were almost eliminated, as they were limited entirely to pronouns and to indicating plurality of nouns and possession by them, both of which were indicated by the presence of a single syllable.

Soreli also required that his language be easily and uniformly pronounceable and readable, which to him meant that all ambiguity in regards to how words might be spelled, and how spelled words might be read, should be eliminated. To this end, he produced a syllabary which encompassed a list of syllables he envisioned as belonging in his language, all of which followed either the pattern of consonant-vowel or vowel-consonant.

The writing system of his syllable-based language consisted of over 200 symbols representing the individual syllables, each of which he intended to be simple both to scribe and to process when reading. However, analysis of the writing system, which is still in near universal use today, shows that, with the number of syllables he chose to represent, this proved to be more difficult than he originally imagined.

The number of syllables was further increased by the need for symbols representing punctuation and by Soreli’s decision to include a set of numeric symbols, which he discussed at length in his journals. Soreli had, at the outset of his design, decided to give each number from one to ten a single syllable, making them the only words in the language with that distinction. As such, each number in his system could be represented with a single grapheme even before he decided to assign them their own set of syllables.

Soreli changed his mind multiple times before settling on his decision to include a seperate, written numeric system. In his mind, in the end, syllabic symbols representing only their sound and the numeric symbols being the only symbols with meaning behind them had more clarity than other options. He wrote, for example, that he feared confusion could lead from new language learners when they encountered the symbol that also meant “one” in the middle of another word.

It is interesting, perhaps, that Soreli feared whether or not his language would be easy to learn, for the method he took to instill it in the populace denied the majority of the world the opportunity of learning Sorelian by choice. He travelled across the ocean, to the city that, though transformed by the centuries, still stands: Anaselise.

There he met with the Grand Council, the ruling body of Anaselise, for he had determined that, if there were any power within the world who could make his dreams of a unified linguistic system a reality, it was them. The Grand Council of Anaselise was comprised entirely of true wizards, for the Anaselise of the ancient past was the world’s center of arcane development. This influence can be seen even today, for it is due to the workings of magic from that time that the bones of Anaselise remain standing to this day.

The Grand Council were known to rule Anaselise with great authority. They were also known to keep a tight hold on knowledge of the greatest export, wizardry. The knowledge of wizardry held within Anaselise far exceeded that of any of their contemporaries. The Grand Council knew this, and endeavored intentionally to keep it as such, for this was their greatest advantage in the world from a perspective of both commerce and martial superiority.

The fact that they were far more interested in the former benefited Soreli’s position, for without that interest, they may never have gone along with his requests. The Grand Council disallowed sharing knowledge of wizardry without outsiders, but it freely exchanged ideas about other areas of study, and its members believed that easing discourse between countries could only prove to be beneficial to the world.

They believed, as Soreli did, that unifying language would be a step to unifying the world; that eliminating one difference would be one step along the path toward a peaceful world less full of strife and conflict. They did not foresee that this decision would lead to their destruction.

The listened to Soreli, and they studied his language with interest. They accepted it, and set some of their scholars to helping him improve upon it. There was little to be done, for Soreli had created a solid structure and system of rules. What he had not yet done was create a vocabulary robust enough for the plan he had proposed to them, which, after some deliberation, they accepted as not only possible, but ideal.

Once Soreli’s language had been developed both to his satisfaction and that of every member of the Grand Council, they brought together another set of scholars. These scholars, alongside the Grand Council itself, represented the greatest collection of magical knowledge in all of Anaselise, and therefore, the greatest collection of knowledge in the world.

According to Soreli’s own journals, which miraculously survived the aftermath, the spell that they crafted to realize their ends took three days to recite in its entirety. So much was lost in the wake of the repercussions from the casting of the spell that modern arcanologists understand neither how such a lengthy casting was possible, nor how the effects that spell produced could be within the realms of human achievement.

When the final words to that spell were spoken, all languages on Elal were erased and replaced by that of Soreli’s devising. Everything that had been written until that time was converted into Sorelian. Every word being spoken suddenly sounded in Sorelian, for every mind on the planet had been wiped of its mother tongue. The only remnants that remained were the names of people and places, which even then had been converted so as fit within Sorelian’s syllables.

The reaction, worldwide, was extreme. People cried out in desperation, anger, and mourning for what they had lost without warning or consent, for they remembered that they had once spoken another language; they recalled echoes of their old tongues, and the longed for them, though not one person surviving could recall a single word.

The destruction of Anaselise, which occurred over a stretch spanning from 1 N.D. to 2 N.D., represented a second loss: the loss of all of the arcane knowledge, which the Grand Council and the other mages of Anaselise held onto until every last one of them had died.

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