History of languages on the World of Isles

When they awoke on the Eldest of Days, nearly five millennia ago, all the people of the World of Isles shared a spoken language and a sign language. Since then the spoken language has followed the usual tendency to split up and mutate, producing a family of languages as alike as Earth's Indo-European family, which is to say as diverse as English and Hindi, Spanish and Russian. The sign language, for some reason, has proved less changeable, so that intelligibility has been preserved around the world.


The most important spoken language in Gehennum is Gehennese, which exists in a handful regional dialects and scores of local accents, but is everywhere recognisable and intelligible.


The only other language spoken in Gehennum to a significant extent is Elusian, the language of Elusion. This conservative language is spoken by the leshy, and is a language of scholarship, like Latin in mediaeval Europe. It is also the lingua franca of world trade, widely spoken by traders and sailors in nearly every country except Gehennum (which has little international trade).

Sign language

The sign language is about as powerful and expressive as an Earthly deaf-and-dumb sign language such as Ameslan or Austlan, except for having no alphabetic symbols, and therefore not allowing one to spell out words and proper names. It is commonly understood in Gehennum, being indispensable to soldiers, hunters, dancers, and merfolk (because they cannot vocalise underwater). Most people in the World of Isles gesture as they speak, for emphasis, elucidation, or because they find their speech stifled when they do not. Bad liars sometimes give themselves away by their signs.

Sign language plays an important part in the Gehennese art of narrative dance, which is fundamental to Gehennese theatre and religious observances.


There is only one form of writing current on the World of Isles, which was invented by the leshy scholar Galen over three thousand years ago. It is alphabetic, and has a cursive form (for writing with a brush or pen) and a capital form (for carving with a chisel).

In Gehennum, literacy is common, but not universal. About 30% of the population can read and write.

Copyright © 1988-2009 Brett Evill. All rights reserved.

Copyright © 1991 by Brett Evill. All rights reserved.