Ork linguistics

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Malika's picture
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Ork linguistics

Ork Language

This is partly an old discussion, however, it would be interesting to look into. One thing that always bugged me about the Orks was that they were portrayed as if they spoke like English hooligans rather than an alien race. Other have theorized that they use some sort of psychic power or potential to communicate. Personally I don't really agree with that statement, I find it to be a bit far fetched. Some of the Black Library works however presented us with a perspective that Orks communicated through crude sounding growls and roars, something that would sound rather animalistic.

Of course the novels tend to be taken from an Imperial perspective; same as how the Imperium assumes that Ork technology works simply because they believe due to the Imperium's inability to believe otherwise, Ork language is more complicated than it seems. If one were to write down the Ork language, it would be rather simplistic, based on the 56 word roots published in the very old "Waaargh Da Orks - Rogue Trader" (Stillman and Ansell, 1990: p95). I would like to add that there are probably more word roots out there. However, this would seem rather crude and simplistic, the complicated part comes in the pronunciation. This might mean that for example "Daka" (Attack, noisy weapon, shoot, fight) could have all those different definitions, but each different one being pronounced slightly different. Most would translate these words rather crudely, but they could also be done more sophisticated as for example Durzgor Wazmor (translated as: The Boss Who Slaughters Cities In Wild Ecstasy).

Food for thought

Kage2020's picture
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Forgive me for the brief response, but is not the reply to this thread really just an acknowledgement to the really bad writing standards of GW/BL?

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Dragon Lord's picture
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While one could cite some element of unimaginitiveness on the part of GW and the Black Library I would say there is another aspect that must be considered, in order for players to be able to understand and relate to a protagonist/race they have to speak the same language as the player, albeit perhaps in a different accent.  For example in a computer game or other such setting if you come across a French NPC (and I assume the player is an English speaker with little French) the NPC will not speak in French despite the fact that this is their native language, even if they are conversing with a group of other French NPCs, rather they will speak English with a French accent such that the player can understand them.  The presence of the French accent serves to make it obvious that the first language of these characters is French, not English, and if you think about it in a lot of the situations where they are conversing amongst themselves they would really be speaking French, not French accented English, even assuming that they are at least semi-fluent English speakers and so capable of conversing with the player.

I would say that this is to some extent the same situation with the Orks, in reality they would be speaking Orkish between each other, and indeed most would probably not be able to speak Gothic at all but to make them understandable to the player/reader they are represented as speaking in Gothic.  In fact of course we have a double representation because (low) Gothic is of course represented by English, despite the fact that it probably bears relatively little resemblance to the present day English language even if it were evolved from it originally, and GW have said as much themselves, low Gothic is represented by English and high Gothic by Latin, but that does not mean that they really are English and Latin.  In any case Orks are thus represented as speaking in Gothic/English with the addition of the 'hooligan' accent to distinguish them from the other races in the setting.  It is also possible that to a Gothic speaker the accent of those few Orks who can speak Gothic (such as Ork mercenaries) the impression would be similar to the impression we get from the 'hooligan' accent.  It occurs to me after all that the enormous and somewhat unwieldy jaws that Orks have would not particularly lend themselves to the same sorts of linguistic inflection that the human vocal apparatus is capable of.  In addition to which if the Ork native tongue is somewhat simpler than Gothic, which it could well be, we have no idea of the complexity of Gothic to use as a baseline, or even if it is just very differently structured, they might find it difficult to grasp some of the linguistic concepts of Gothic.

It is not just the Orks that this is the case for, we never, or certainly only rarely, see the Eldar speaking in the Eldar tongue or the Tau speaking in Tau.  In spoken form, on the Dawn of War games for instance, they each have their own accents in their spoken English however, the Eldar have a somewhat ethereal accent and tend to use more complex language, entirely reasonable as one imagines that the Eldar tongue is probably substantially more complex than Gothic and thus that learning Gothic is relatively easy for them.  The Tau accent although I can't remember it particularly at the moment was also distinct, in fact even the Necrons had their own accent and one imagines that in reality they do very little if any speaking!  The distinct Eldar and Tau vocal accents do not carry quite so obviously into written form as the Ork accent, if anything putting it in written form makes the Ork accent more obvious.

Each race does have their own written language which is represented however, the Eldar have Eldar runes, the Tau language has a complete alphabet and the Orks have glyphs.  Again even the Necrons have their hieroglyph like symbols.

Very few settings go so far as to create complete, self consistent languages for their different factions, the original Star Trek did for the Klingons, but then we got the 'Universal Translator' that solved that problem, and Tolkien did for some of the factions in the Lord of the Rings/Middle Earth but those are exceptions rather than the norm.

So anyway, that's my take on it at least.

Dragon Lord

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