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Talking about Talking

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Nenicirene's picture

I agree with the notion that it doesn't have to be Shakespeare, but at least put in an effort…I doubt seriously that "Yo man, sup?" would be used in this era should it ever have existed.

I'm certain the goblins would disagree with you.

This does bring up the concept of being lost in the non-translation, which I first became aware of through an essay by Asimov. Language, aside from its literal meaning, has connotations that can be very important. By failing to shift things into a cultural context that is relevant to the intended audience, meaning can be lost. (The particular examples in the essay are the biblical stories of the Good Samaritan and the story of Ruth, which, to properly understand, require knowing which ethnic group in the story was a disliked minority; hence, a modern American audience would get the intent of the story better if the characters were made into inner-city African-Americans rather than left as inscrutable Samaritans or such.)

Getting to my actual point, to people who spoke in what we consider stilted and archaic language, their language was neither stilted nor archaic. It was perfectly natural. For us to attempt to speak in that manner preserves the form at the cost of the function. Since we are not, in fact, talking in Azerothian Common or Orcish, I favor using natural language to preserve the in-character perception of our own speech. It's like watching a movie set in France yet spoken in English because it's meant for an English-speaking audience. Why do the characters usually have French accents? To the characters themselves, their speech shouldn't sound foreign. By making it sound foreign to us, the audience, you're coloring our perceptions incorrectly.

This can be used to advantage in character. When playing my troll, I try to keep to the pseudo-Jamaican inflection and inaccurate grammar they've displayed in canon materials. Yet, if I ever talk in Trollish to another troll, I speak quite eloquently. To my character, Orcish is a foreign language she hasn't quite mastered, yet she's perfectly fluent in her native tongue, and I can represent this by playing with the form of my language, even though it's still actually English in both cases.

((OOC))I agree with your statements here. Extreme example: I read, write and speak Old and Middle English well enough to get by. Would many people understand if I used it in game? If they could, would it make RP more useful? no, 'cause I'd type it too slowly.

At the same time. "Hey, 'sup dood" does not get me into the role I'm playing. "How are you, Lady Eown, or Sergeant Eown", does.

I'd suggest using natural, modern language, but not taking that to mean the same style you'd use on MSN IM.

There is another level that seems to be missing, however.

You ask: "Why do the characters usually have French accents?"

This is because they are speaking in a different language. However, to the French, we would have an accent in American, British, German, or whatever point of origin. Yes, even to a Frenchman, hearing someone who speaks with a French accent will still sound like someone speaking with a French accent. It won't sound "normal", because English is not their first language.

I understand the direction you are going. If a Troll speaks Troll to a Troll, it should sound normal. I agree completely, and have a story written from the perspective of a troll in EQ that illustrates your point quite well. When he speaks to other trolls, he is very well spoken. But when he tries to speak in common (not his first language), the accent and broken speech is very noticable. But here's the kicker - it is also noticable to other trolls. They can tell it's a troll speaking common as well as a human can tell it's a troll speaking common.

Simply because you have an accent does not make it 'go away' just because you talk to people that share your accent's traits. I (player of Harvey) am from the southern United States. I am familiar with accents, and can even tell to some degree the differences between regional dialects. For example, I can generally tell a central Appalachian's (eastern TN, western NC) speech pattern from that of someone in Mississippi, or Georgia. I'm by no means an expert, but hailing from Tennessee, I can still notice some speech patterns in my own speech and those of people I grew up with.

So you put me beside someone from New York, or California, or Minnesota, and you're likely to notice obvious speech patterns. But those patterns don't go away simply because I go back to Tennessee. And that's mostly my point.

I might still say, "Ain't this just a purty day?" (I probably wouldn't but... using an example here, hehe) I'm still going to say it in that way, no matter who I am speaking to. I don't suddenly say "My this is just a beautiful day" simply because I'm talking to other Tennesseans.

The same holds true cross-lingual. Unless I learn fluent French, I will come across with a faulty form of French. It will remain accented, no matter if it's a Frenchman that is listening or not.

The only time that is not true is when a person learns a language to a degree that their speech is no longer accented. This is quite possible, but it is generally not commonplace.

I had a boss from England. She spoke with an obvious English accent. There were even some rather funny times when her time in the south had worn off, and she would come out with an "ain't" or a "y'all", though it was even accented. But she often remarked that when she returned home to England, her family would comment that she now had an "American" accent. In some ways, she was stuck with two accents, just depending on where she spoke.

Oops, this was long. Sorry about that, dear little gnome.

I don't know if I got my point across. But I do agree with you in terms of "normal language" coming into play when a race speaks to another of their race in their language. But there are many more variables involved that I do feel justify the addition of racial attributes and accents. You just have to remember what your fluency is in the language you are attempting to use for communication.

Nenicirene's picture

Harvey said, "This is because they are speaking in a different language."

My point is that they're not, due to an in-/out-of-character dichotomy. The characters within their world would be speaking in French. In the movie, they are speaking in English because it's made for an English-speaking audience. However, they speak English as a foreigner would, when to the characters in question, they should be speaking like a fellow person from the same region.

I see your point in that regard, and I agree. Generally, if a troll were to speak to a troll, you would think they would generally speak their native tongue (at least in private).

The problem with games is they just haven't quite gotten it right. I dogged the language system in EverQuest, but I think WoW has taken a step backwards. I will give them credit for their translation program, in that if it's not simply gibberish but a standard language that you can "learn". But that's the only good thing they did.

The notion of "common" is where I came from in terms of my example. It is a single language that everyone generally speaks, no matter what their native language. In that regard, their accent is retained - so if two trolls, a few orcs a tauren and an undead are having a conversation around a table, they would likely all speak orcish (I think that's what Blizzard decides is the Horde-side Common). Each would have it's distinct accent, assuming not everyone was magically a fluent speaker. Even the troll speaking to a troll would likely keep it in orcish, for the sake of not being rude. And that was where I was trying to pull the examples of accents being retained, even when speaking to people of your own race.

I look forward to a good game coming out that does languages right. I really dislike what Blizzard did, even moreso than EQ's half-ass approach. At least you learned languages there. =(