What was (were) the language(s) in the savanna in the southern part of the Sudan at this time period?

I found a decent article on wikipedia:

taken with the obligatory grain of salt, though it should work as a good starting point.

It talks about 10 or so languages for that area, though that's outside of ME for the most part, isn't it? Timbuktu doesn't enter the picture again in canon until 1340s, after the dissolution of the Ghana empire in the 11th century. Still, it gained a reputation later as a place of learning, so there's no reason a seed of that library couldn't exist in 1220...but that's not exactly what you're looking for...

There's always tuareg, but I think that's further west than you want.

Hope that helps.


I'm not TOO picky, though I'd like it to be fairly accessible from the crusade at the time, which was the launching point for the Magus' expedition.

In medieval times, before radio or even the printed word started to solidify a "standard" regional speech, a dialect could be as local as a single valley, or one tiny geographical county in a larger barony.

There's a famous Old English text that describes a sea traveller from London getting caught in a storm in the English Channel, and getting blown ashore near Newcastle- the local greets him, and he responds "I'm sorry, I don't speak French".

At this point in history, there are thousands of mutually unintelligible dialects and languages in ME- to cut back by a factor of 10 is still both forgiving and realistically imposing.

Between tribes, isolated corners and independant cities, make some up, and call it good.

Even if the Sahara seems like barrier on the southern ME and even if crossing it involved hardship and dangers it was in many ways vital to medieval Europe. By the 1200s there had already been established well-travelled trade routes across the Sahara for half a millennium! These trade routes had been established and was continued to be used by Arabic Berbers. The introduction of the camel and the invention of a camel saddle revolutionized the Trans-Saharan trade. In fact the trade routes become so vital that entire tribes of Tuareg Berbers survived as either bandits preying on them or being bribe-able guides instead.

One major feature of the trade was slaves and some historians have estimated that more than 1.6 million slaves crossed the desert in the time period of 1100-1400. But most importantly was another good available from the West African kingdoms: Gold! Especially because it was one of the few inlets of gold into the European and it was vital to the economy.

In short there was a very high degree of contact between Europe and the Southern Mediterranean and the Sub-Saharan kingdoms and Empires. From the 11th century onward several of these kingdoms often had Arabic and Berber advisors. As the cities grew from the expanding trade their form of rule took one significant Muslim modes of Administration. Even physically, as Arabs architects and brick makers immigrated and shared their technologies, the impact was evident. Naturally this influence of Arabic Muslim culture also led to changes in religion as more and more adopted Islam.

Basically this only goes to show that just by the use of Arabic you’d be very well off if you were to cross the Sahara. Concerning the local languages you already have Leonis’ link on Nilo-Saharan languages – and where you to venture further south I’d recommend you to have a look at the Bantu languages.

Now because of personal interest, due to the fact that I’ve lived in Ethiopia, I’ll turn a bit to the east. At the far eastern end of the Sahel, closer to the present day country Sudan than to the region called Sudan here, a range of mountains rise. It is in fact 80% of Africa’s highlands concentrated there. In many ways you’d think this area even more secluded from medieval Europe, but it is in fact not. A couple of feature of medieval Ethiopia makes it quite interesting in terms of ME. The Falasha is a people living in the western most part of what is now present day Ethiopia. In Amharic, the major Ethiopian language, Falasha means “Exiles” or “Strangers”, but who is then this people who lived in that secluded mountaneus part of Africa since antiquity (and in fact did untill the 1990ies)? They were Jews! Black Jews! Their culture and religion being Jewish. Their language isn’t hebrew, at that time, but to make things interesting I wouldn’t pause a second to have them speak hebrew if using them in Ars. Or as a visiting 17th century Portuguese diplomat said "The Falashas or Jews are ... of [Arabic] race [and speak] Hebrew, though it is very corrupt. They have their Hebrew Bibles and sing the psalms in their synagogues."
In terms of history on theory is that they ended up there because social unrest in Judaea and the Roman suppresion of various messianic movements in the first and second century made groups flee to Al Fayyum in Egypt and from there further south following the Nile upstream into Sudan and onward. In terms of the Falasha’s (or Beat Israel as is their hebrew name) own traditions they are descended from Moses who got seperated from the other Children of the Israel either during the Exodus or in either the 10th or 8th centruy BC due to turmoil and breakup in the United Kingdom of Israel and Judah.

The Ethiopian Kingdom itself is at that time primarily ruled from Axum further north east of the Falashas (who fought each other for supremacy during the later middle ages). The Ethiopians, or specifically the Amharas and Tigray-Tigrinya not only speak a language that is not related to other African languages but in fact to Semitic languages but who also practice a branch of Christianity and who had a significant contact to the Fertile Crescent and medieval Europe. Their language being related to Hebrew and Arabic you might rule that knowing any of those languages might make you able to communicate – it would certainly add to the mythic that in a secluded mountain range you can suddenly find people knowing those languages. In terms of faith the Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (often mistaken for being Coptic) is very unique. It blends characteristics of Christian and Jewish faith and it revolves around the belief that the Ark of the Covenant was passed on to the Ethiopians during the reign of Solomo. Each church has a copy of the tablets (the original being well hidden) and the services revolve around tablets. The book of Kebra Negast is central to the faith and it is an interesting read – especially the fantastic passage on how Solomo seduces the Queen of Sheba and how this creates the dynasty of Ethiopian kings of Solomonic descent and how this led to the Ark ending up in Ethiopia.

Concerning the contact with Europe; In the late 12th century the later Ethiopian king Lalibela is said to have been in exile in Jerusalem – as his uncle and his brother had taken control of his homelands. When Labila returned and gained the throne he is said to have been the architect of the city of Lalibela – a city of churches and monasteries carved into the rock in a mirror image of Jerusalem. But what is also said in the annals of his time, is that he returned accompanied by tall blond people with red beards, chainmails and crosses on their mantles… As a historic fact there’s plenty of reservation toward it, but as an inspiration for stories and languages the potential is great! Not the least because Ethiopia was thought to be the fabled empire of Prester John (an in many ways a better candidate for that title than many other of the candidates) and in fact the Portuguese spend considerable amount of resources in the late middle ages to find this place for exactly this reason (and they went on to send military forces in the early 16th century to help the Ethiopian king against Ahmad ibn Ibrihim al-Ghazi).

I suspect some of the countrymen of my esteemed sodali from the US of A might have a similar reaction should the same thing happen to them today! Not always the most penetrable of accents, that of the pure Geordie.

I profoundly thank our resident Flambeau for his excellent post!
Perhaps he should consider contributing to an Africa-based Tribunal book.

As to local languages , i had thought it merely necessary to be fluent in either Yokel or Vernac.

'Ey, fuhggeddaboudit!

From my own experience of langauges.

I'm originally from Kent, south of London and I still remember my first week at university, the girl in the room next door came from John-o-Groats, the northern tip of scotland and spoke with such a strong accent and so fast that it really took me over a month to understand a sentence without having to ask her to repeat it a few times. Highly embarressing. She was speaking the same langauge, not using any words that I was not familiar with, but just her way of speaking was something I had to get used to.

Living abroad now, I am used to the accent of the area I am in in the Netherlands and can understand here well, but move out of the city and hear the farmers accents and I'm stuck again. Speaking a second langauge is far harder understanding accents, and from my experience in an international school and living abroad, the more langauges any person speaks the worse he speaks each individual langauge.

My brother has lived in the netherlands far longer than me and speaks better Dutch but his use of english has suffered dreadfully. For me I find myself speaking slowly and clearly and using the most simple way of expressing myself with the most commonly heard words and phrases, as I know the Dutch people who speak english will understand better like that. But that's not something you switch off easily when you start speaking to a native speaker again.

In game terms I would say a good way of handling multiple langauges is to put a cap on the skill level with each langauge, that decreases the more langauges you know, and for every language you learn that cap might cause you to lose xp in your old langauges.

For example a magus who speaks Latin and German at the start of his career learns French, Italian and Spanish over the course of his studies and finds Italian and Spanish phrases and spelling slipping into the texts he writes.

I recall how my first and longest time having to speak English on a daily basis was living in East Africa for a period. In many ways my English was worse when I came back then before my departure. Certainly my skills of speaking in a specific dialect was far better, but in terms of generel English it was really poor and awkward. Both in terms of vocabulary and way of speaking.

But I do somewhat disagree with your generel thought on being multi-lingual. I do not think that knowing several languages necessarily diminsh your skills. In fact some generel features across languages will in some ways make it easier for you to learn new languages once you're past a certain minimum cap. I think the problem is about two other important issues:

A) First of all how well you've learned the languages - if you get to a certain level and get to master a second language then you'll be less likely to mix it up with others. But if you on the other hand only learns it partial then your skills will disappear much faster as well as you'll easier mix it with other languages. From myself I know this from my increasing mingling of Russian and Ethiopian - and that I know from when meeting people who speak either of these I often accidentally speak the other language or mix them up in a wierd tongue to the embarrasment of many, and me in

B) Secondly it is important how often you use it - your language skill(s). This goes for many skills, and something most standard progressive RPG character development systems don't take account for. Not using certain skills make them deteriorate. Some more rapidly than others, and especially languages. So if you'd like to rule on the issue I'd prefer to set 'deterioration rate' on language skills when not using it for a given period or not moving among other speakers of it. And in ways this can become a cap on several languages as well - especially in a medieval world were you might not necessarily live in a cultural metropol where you might learn and maintain several language skills. But again, if you've really mastered a second language it will deteriorate slower then if only having passing knowledge of it (but with a XP system with progressively higher prices for skill levels this can be self regulatory).

That being said I have little plans of making house ruling on the issue myself - I'd rather use my time book keeping many of the other things involved in the game.

Hey Furion, can we all just have your phone number and call you with all our ME questions? Sure would save all this mucking about with guessing all the time.

You rock, bro.

His phone number can easily be found by looking for stones like this :

Wow, I can't believe he lives in the upside down A-backwards B-V country code. I'm having trouble holding my phone in such a way as to dial this.


No wonder if you have trouble reaching me - not only because this stone from the early 10th century is from before the recent change of area codes within the EU... but more so since it is not a phonenumber.

The stone reads something like:
"Ásfríðr gerði kuml þessi, dóttir Óðinkárs, ept Sigtrygg konung, son sinn ok Gnúpu. Gormr reist rúnar."

Translated to english it is more or less:
"Asfrid, the daughter of Odinkar, set these memorials for King Sigtryg, the son of her and of Gnupa. Gorm carved the runes"

While it is a great source on early Danish royal succesion it is a very poor contact info on me. At least for anyone but Indiana Jones! If he did stop by I'd probalby ask him to deliver a message in Aramaic, if he'd do the translation, that I thank for the very kind words above! :blush:

So you've shacked up with Asfrid, you dog you?

Grats, she's a great warrior-woman. Keep you cod-piece on, my friend.

(PS: I do live in Indiana, but the closest I can get to tracing my lineage to the venerable Joneses is Johnson through my Maternal Grandmother.)

(PPS: Ironically, we named our dog "Dane")

lol - a bit funny how Dane and Danish respectively to me at least conjures up different pictures. And in a sense I have a smaller trauma concerning the ''Danish'' variation that often make me either introduce me as 'from Denmark' or just simply as 'Dane'.

When I was around 12 and in the US for the first time I travelled with my mother and older brother by rental car from San Fran to L.A. and onward to the Canyon and Las Vegas and back. Crossing a state border we were pull aside by the state patrol because we had an apple on the board in the front window - apparently aggricultural produce could not cross state bounderies. The trooper told us this in a dialect I only knew from the movies, to which my mother replied in her broken accented english "Sorryy, I did not know. I am a Danish!" And that fatal little 'a' can still make me hurt from hysterical fits of laughter (often at my mother's expense), and it is also the reason I am very conscious to name myself as 'Dane' - especially when travelling in the US.

The trooper looked very aggrevated for a short while and then retorted with a "YEA! And I just had one for breakfast!! Carry on ma'am - get outta here."

But back then I might litereally have thought that american state troopers eat Danish people for breakfast.... :open_mouth:

A couple of great Danes and a Danish.

"Which of those things is not like the others?" :wink:

haha, great stuff guys.

Remindes me of "Ich bein ein Berliner."

Don't you mean Ich bein ein Binliner? :wink: