Languages in/around Mythic Europe

Hi. I haven't been here in quite a while after getting exhausted by all the computer trouble I had with the forums ages ago. But I've still been active with ArM5.

I've been working on putting together a collection of the languages in and around Europe in roughly 1200 C.E. I'm really no expert in languages, but I think I've done a decent job. I'm closing in and figured I'd share it. Maybe those who know better can help me fill in things or correct things. I figured this would end up being a useful resource for everyone, and I plan on converting it for the forums here once I'm done. For those who are interested, I've got it on an RPoL page. It will take some effort to convert it to tables here, so I'll just provide the link without it being direct (can't remember if we can post direct links here):


More extensive than my list - I may have to steal some of your work if we ever go into the outer reaches of the continent.

Do you actually bother with languages that much in play? I tend (at Triamore and the surrounding area) to stick with German and French - any finer distinction is just lost.

It's a pain to play, no doubt, esp i magi start traveling anywhere outside their local county. Language spells become very important, and/or Mentem spells to quickly gain the "cooperation" of a good translator (intentionally or no).

But you have to remember that there was no "France" nor "Germany" at this time, and so a "national language" had not homogenized. Almost every valley, plain and forest had its own dialect, and once you jump across a couple of those even "a single language" becomes very hard to understand.

First of all ... wow. Amazing job!

Second, a few notes about the small area I know something about. These considerations totally ignore existing game material.

Istriot is not spoken in Lombardy, but in Istria, the tiny peninsula north of Dalmatia at the very north(-east) of the Adriatic. As a language, it reads pretty close to Veneto, I'd say -1, or at the the very most -2 (a few centuries ago it was considered a dialect of Veneto by several linguists). It's also fairly close to Dalmatian; Dalmatian in turn, is not that far from Veneto (again, I'm saying this from reading them), certainly at least as close as Sabir is. So I'd say Veneto-Istriot -1, Dalmatian-Istriot-1, Veneto-Dalmatian either -2 or even -1.

Veneto is definitely not at just -2 from French, absolutely, no way. Possibly at -2 from the Langue d'oc (Occitan) (though if that's the case, so are all the languages in the italo-dalmatian family), but definitely not from Langue d'oil (French). French is no closer to Veneto than Latin is; in fact, I'd say it's even a little further away.

Tuscan, Sicilan, and Lombard are about as far from each other as Veneto is from all of them. They are definitely not dialects of the same language. There is no "Italian" in 1220. Dante Alighieri ambitiously attempts to create it by fusing his own (dialect of) Tuscan with what he considered the two noblest languages of the peninsula, Sicilian and Veneto.

Finally, you are leaving out Genoese (Genoa and the very thin strip of land between mountains and sea just north of the Tirrenian sea), Emiliano-Romagnolo (spoken in the northern papal states, including Bologna) and Piedmontese (Piedmont, east of Lombardy and north of the Genoa strip), which are probably at -1 or at most -2 with Lombard, and with similarities to Occitan.

In practice, this is what I'd do:

I'd remove Italian, and make all of its current "dialects" except Lombard, plus Veneto, into languages of the Italo-Dalmatian family. I'd make Corsican in 1220 a dialect of Tuscan. I'd make Istriot a dialect of Veneto or of Dalmatian, but give it a -1 to the other of the two languages; or I'd simply make Veneto, Dalmatian and Istriot dialects of the same language.

I'd make a Gallo-Italic family, with Piedmontese, Lombard, Genoese and Emiliano-Romagnolo as languages, but rule that they are only at a -2 penalty with both the Italo-Dalmatian AND the Gallo-Romance family languages rather than -3, being fairly related to both (which makes sense given that geographically they are in the middle!). In fact, you may want to rule that Occitan, too, is at -2 rather than -3 from Italo-Dalmatian (it certainly reads that way).

Finally, I'd treat everything south and east of Rome as a hodge-podge of dialects of Neapolitan and Sicilian. There are two ways to do this, the simple and the (more) accurate. The simple way is to say that there's just Neapolitan everywhere in the peninsula south and east of Rome, and Sicilian in Sicily. The more accurate way is to say there are 5 neapolitan dialects and 3 sicilian ones. The five Neapolitan dialects: Abruzzese (in Abruzzo, on the Adriatic, at the same latitude of Rome), Campano (Campania, south of Rome, but on the Tirrenian sea - that's where Naples is), Northern Apulian (Puglia, which is the "heel of the boot", except for the very tip), Northern Calabrese (Calabria, the "point of the boot", except for the very tip) and Lucan (Lucania, the small area between the point and the heel). The three Sicilian dialects are Sicilian (Sicily), Southern Apulian (the very tip of Puglia, the "heel of the boot"), and Southern Calabrese (the very tip of Calabria, the "point of the boot").

And of course, I'd remove any special relationship between Veneto and French. Really. Whoever came up with that was nuts.

I second the veneto - occitan link. I had an italian girlfiend from the area. I talked to her grandma in Catalan and she answered in her local dialect and we understood each other pretty well to the amazement to all present. I could not talk standardized Italian but could talk veneto-ish no problem :mrgreen:

About other stuff from the top of my head:

  • I would say thatportuguese and galician are the same language.
  • I would say that Catalan and Provençal can be put together as the same dialect.

Very good job here.

Awesome work, and I plan to mine it for future work :mrgreen:
I also place Catalan and Provençal as dialects in the same group, under "Occitan". Though I often let characters just write Catalan, because it is easier to remember the names of actual living languages.
Additionally, I also categorize Galician and Portuguese as the same language; Galician is the language, Portuguese is the primary dialect, and old Galician is the old style dialect still lingering it parts of Leon and Galicia.
One area that I differ, and Xavi has graciously allowed me this indulgence, is that I use the anachronistic term "Spanish" as a language to group together the dialects descended from the Visigothic Latin of the Austurians; Leonese, Castilian, and Aragoneese. Leonese is slightly more like Galician Aragonesse is slightly more like Catalan.

There is no evidence to support this, and I highly doubt this was ever the situation. You seem to think of medieval people as being stationary for generations. In actuality, people were highly mobile. Even commoners went on pilgramage, business travel, carrying stuff from town to town, colonization/resettlement of conquered/reconquered lands, and much more. The upper classes even much more so, off on crusade or diplomatic duties or attending court and again much more.

Thanks for the replies. I'll try to collect some replies to those below:

Bothering with languages: Yes, somewhat. No saga is likely to use anywhere near a quarter of these. But what if your troupe plays in a saga in Iberia followed by one in the Levant? And some places would be exposed to quite a number of these. So it's not so much that the whole thing is always of value as that having it makes things much easier from saga to saga or as magi move about. Yes, I like to pay attention to languages, especially with Mentem effects. There are effects for communication. Lacking those I don't think you should get past language barriers. This also helps make InMe less of a perfect story bypass in too many instances.

Veneto vs. French: I got that from one of the ArM5 books. Of course, there can be errors. I already sent in one erratum, fixing Danish from West Norse to East Norse. Mistakes happen.

Veneto vs. Occitan: Maybe that's what was supposed to be listed in the ArM5 book? Easy enough switch for me to make. Thanks!

Portuguese vs. Galician: I already have them listed as two dialects of the same language; I think you guys misread the columns. I should change the names to match what Mark wrote, though. But at least you guys agree with me putting them together.

Catalan vs. Provençal: Again, I think Mark misread the columns. Xavi has a different suggestion: they're the same dialect. I have "Occitan" as a language with five dialects: Auvergnat, Catalan, Gascon, Limousin, and Provençal. Hopefully you're OK with the other dialects. I don't remember if I got those from The Lion and the Lily or elsewhere; I'd have to check. That could be why I listed them as separate dialects instead of the same one. Between the two of you it looks like I could go either way and be OK.

Italian region: OK, looks like I should adjust those some. I spent a while going back and forth on a few depending on which sources I'd most recently read. I'll have to check what is written the ArM5 books to see just how much I got from them. Thanks for the big post on this; that will be helpful.

Again, thanks all!!! I'm open to more input, too.

And i think than the same mechanics are possible to the German Languages and Dialects from The Rhinne, and with the Catalan, the Veneto, the Provençal and the Aragones too (the old, pre-Spansih absortion, after all, the influences were from both Catlan and Provençal on the literature).
On the Spanish side: Ladino/Sephardi, Mozarab (variety from Al-Andalus), the Leones, and the Bable.
Galician and Portuguese are the same language, differents dialects.

Do you mean what is already done by grouping all the German languages into just a few (Dutch, High German, Low German) or something other than that?

I was wondering about Italian in my game actually.

The Sundered Eagle (p.41) lists plain "Italian" with Tuscan, Neapolitan, Sicilian, Corsican, and Istriot as dialects. Veneto is its own language skill. So where would that put "Lombard"? Is it covered by another language skill (Gallo-Italian?) or does TSE only list the dialects relevant to the region it covers?

With all due respect to the authors of The Sundered Eagle, they did a terrible job with languages - which, arguably, are a very minor point of an otherwise superb supplement, and are hard to model precisely with Ars Magica mechanics. But it could have been done waaay better. I think this would be a better breakup of the languages in 1220 in Italy (listing in parentheses only the major dialects - in fact there are literally dozens if not hundreds of different dialects):

All derived from Latin and at -3 from each other unless otherwise noted:
In the north: Piedmontese, Lombard, Genoese, Emiliano-Romagnolo, Veneto (Istriot, Dalmatian), Ladin, all at -2 from each other and at -2 from Occitan, and with Veneto at -2 from Sabir.
In the center-south: Tuscan (1220 Corsican), Neapolitan (Abruzzese, Campano, Calabrese, Pugliese), Sicilian; with Neapolitan at -2 from Tuscan and Sicilian, and Tuscan at -2 from Emiliano-Romagnolo.
In Sardinia ... Sardinian.
See below for a more detailed analysis.

Note there exists no Italian in 1220. A person from Sicily (speaking some dialect of Sicilian), one from Tuscany (speaking some dialect of Tuscan) and one from Istria (speaking Istriot) will have at least the same trouble understanding each other as they would have understanding someone speaking Occitan. In fact, even today someone speaking Italian (strongly related to 1220's Tuscan) will have a very hard time understanding someone who speaks pure, uncorrupted Veneto or Sicilian - no easier than understanding someone speaking Spanish or Catalan.

A more detailed analysis.
You want to partition Italy very roughly as follows. Remember, Italy is like a boot, with a northern area immediately south of the Alps, and then a peninsula with the Adriatic sea on the west and the Tirrenian on the east.

a) The northwest, except for the coastline of the Tirrenian sea, let's call it Piedmont.
b) The thin coastline north of the Tirrenian, let's call it Liguria or the Genoese coastline (Genoa is the main city).
c) Central north, Lombardy, north of the Po river. Milan is its largest city.
e) The northeast, north of the Po river, including the northern coastline of the Adriatic. Let's call it Veneto, but excluding the mountains and hills to the north.
f) The northeastern Alps and their foothills, let's call it Trentino.
g) The eastern coast of the Adriatic, let's call it Dalmatia, all the way to (but excluding) modern Albania.
h) The eastern coast of the Tirrenian north of Rome, let's call it Tuscany.
i) The western coast of the Adriatic north of Rome, let's call it Emilia Romagna (in fact, Emilia Romagna is just a portion of that, but we need a single name). h) and g) abutt each other somewhere in the middle, of the peninsula, along the mountain ridge knows as the Appennini.
j) The eastern coast of the Tirrenian south of Rome (but north of "tip of the boot"), let's call it Campania (largest city is Naples).
k) The western coast of the Adriatic south(-east) of Rome (but north of the "heel of the boot"), let's call it Abruzzo. Again, the Appennini separate h) and i).
l) The "tip of the boot", Calabria.
m) The "heel of the boot", Puglia (Apulia, in latin).
n) Sicily, the big island that Italy seems to be kicking.
o) Sardinia, the larger and southern of the two big islands in the middle of the Tirrenian.
p) Corsica, the smaller and northern of the two big islands in the middle of the Tirrenian.

Now, as far as languages go! People in these areas all speak languages derived from Latin, except for some minorities (particularly a lot of slavic folks in g), some germanic people in f), and some pre-roman folks lost in the middle of m) and n) that I'd probably treat as faeries).

Piedmont (a) speaks Piedmontese, Liguria (b) speaks Genoese (or "Ligurian", but people would think of it as Genoese in 1220) Lombardy (c) speaks Lombard. These languages are fairly related, though probably not related enough to be dialects of the same language in Ars mechanics. Penaltywise, they are somewhere between -1 and -2, though I'd make them -2 if I had to choose. They are also fairly related to Occitan (about -2), and in fact they are called Gallo-Italic languages because they straddle Italy and Gaul (modern day France/Switzerland/Cataluna). I'd also include among these the language "Emiliano-Romagnolo" spoken in Emilia Romagna (i), some people leave it out and some even leave b) out; but it's a little easier this way.

Veneto (e) and Dalmatia (g) speak various dialects of Veneto; I'd consider Venitian one of them, Istriot another, and Dalmatian yet another. Making them dialects of the same language may be straining things a bit as they fall somewhere between -1 and -2 from each other (there are in fact dozens of subdialects) but I'd say it's reasonable. As mentioned above Slavic people from g) also speak their own, totally different Slavic languages. Veneto is fairly intelligible to speakers of Occitan (-2), and it's one of the main components of Sabir, the trade language of the Mediterranean, so it should be at -2 from that, too.

Trentino (f) speaks several dialects of a Rhaetian language which we can call Ladin (pronounced Ladeen) probably at -2 from Veneto, Occitan and the northern languages of the peninsula, and probably at -2 to -3 from the rest of the peninsula. Lots of areas here instead speak germanic languages, totally unintelligible with Ladin.

Tuscany (h) speaks Tuscan. That's somewhat related to Emiliano-Romagnolo (i), somewhere between -1 and -2, and far less related to Gallo-Italic languages and Veneto (somewhere between -2 and -3). Corsica (p) in 1220 probably speaks a dialect of Tuscan (basically because there are a bunch of former Tuscans there!) save for some shepherds in the hills who've been there since before the Romans. In fact, there are a bunch of dialects related Tuscan, all the way down to Rome, where they slowly start to morph into dialects related to Neapolitan.

Campania (j), Abruzzo (k), Calabria (l) and Puglia (m) speak various dialects of the Neapolitan family. Again, they are sometimes fairly "apart" (somewhere between -1 and -2), but for simplicity, I'll treat them all as dialects of Neapolitan.
If you want to be really precise, there's a fifth dialect of Neapolitan, called Lucan, in Lucania, the tiny area between the "tip" and "heel" of the boot. There are two exceptions: the very very extremity of the extremity of Calabria and of Puglia speak dialects of Sicilian rather than of Neapolitan (see below). These are somewhere beween -2 and -3 from every other language of the peninsula.

Sicily (o) speaks Sicilian, two separate dialects of which are spoken at the very extreme tip of Calabria (l) and Puglia (m).
Probably at -2 from Neapolitan, and at -2 to -3 from every other language of the peninsula.

Sardinia (m) speaks Sardinian, which is its own language, still derived from Latin but probably at least at -3 from every other language of the peninsula.

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Sorry i meant: With the Iberian Languages we could do just like the German was made on Rhinne. My Score to talk here is English 4 (RPGames).

ezzelino, thanks, that was awesome! It also fits what I had found better than what's in the books. I'll have to adjust things some. The only thing there I'm having trouble reconciling is Dalmation. From what I can find Dalmation is very closely related to Istriot, but it isn't even considered Western Romance, let alone North Italian. It seems as though it's between Balkan Romance and Istriot. But maybe this is due to divergence over the more recent centuries.

Also, I can't figure out when Old Corsican died off, Old Corsican being closely related to Sardinian and not nearly so related to Corsican. Any idea?

Thanks for the help!

ezzelino (and others), I'm considering restructuring the Romance languages this way. This is only roughed out. I would have to adjust bits further. The dialects are in parentheses this way. But how do you think it looks as a framework?


  • Balkan Romance
    [list][]Vlach (Aromanian, Romanian)
    [*] Western Romance
  • Dalmation
  • Franco-Provençal
  • Langues d'Oil (Anglo-Norman, Bourguignon, Champenois, Lorrain, Norman, Orleanais, Picard, Poitevin, Walloon)
  • Mozarabic
  • North Italian (Istriot, Lombard/other Italian, Rhaetian, Veneto)
  • Occitan (Auvergnat, Catalan, Gascon, Limousin, Provençal)
  • Sabir (Western - more similar to Portuguese, Eastern - more similar to Veneto)
  • North Iberian (Astur-Leonese, Galego-Portuguese, Navarro-Aragonese, Castilian - including Ladino)
    ] Italo-Romance
  • Corsican/Tuscan
  • Neapolitan
  • Sicilian
    ] Latin
  • Latin
    ] Island Romance
  • Sardinian

I see more diffference between Iberians that just Galo-Romance, the own rules on other books made understandable differents languages related, so I should difference beetween Galo-Romance, Castillian and Portuguese, but with some of that dialects on their camp.

OK, I've worked on languages a fair bit and the requisite level of detail for flavour vs sensible detail for mechanics is a problem. I worked on the languages for The Cradle and the Crescent (and languages of the Levant revised for ArM5), Provencal, an upcoming supplement and took a stab at the Italian languages for my Mythic Genoa project.

It's complicated and any increase in granularity causes exponential issues.

See summary of my thoughts on my blog here.

To truly reflect the diversity of language in Mythic Europe (particularly Northern Iberia and the Italian peninsular) is virtually impossible without making using languages unworkable.

Multiple Languages creates the potential of a huge XP heat sink unfortunately.

The existing of Hermetic magic and various virtues (Faerie Speech, Gift of Tongues, Linguist) creates the potential for a "babelfish scenario" or "universal translator" concept. My understanding is that in many Sagas, language difficulties are hand waved as they are flet not to create extra enjoyment. It's a gamist vs simulationist stance in a way.

I completely agree that the Italian languages or the concept of "Italian" in 13th century Europe is a poor fit.

It's just that an exact fit doesn't add a lot to play IMO.


The problem I run into is that the system is too granular for reality. But I'm happy with that granularity - I wouldn't want it less so.

From what I can tell, Sardinian is far more different from Western Romance (I fixed the name), South Romance (Italo-Romance), and Balkan Romance than any of those are from each other. But it was easiest to include it at the same level. That pushes the next relationships to the next level. I figured since it seems, for example, that Aragonese and Castillian are more closely related than are Catalan and Gascon and Catalan and Gascon have been placed together as dialects of Occitan, then I should lump the various NW Ibero-Romance languages together as various dialects of one language. I think Mozarabic may be distinct enough that it needs to be a separate language, as with Franco-Provençal.

If I work the other way to separate the NW Ibero-Romance languages into different languages, it looks like it will push everything out to divorce many Romance languages from each other. So I think the way I'm headed may be better.

Thanks for the reply and the link, Lachie.

As far as the granularity goes, languages actually might work better if there were more levels rather than fewer while also moving languages to the Accelerated Ability category. Then, for example, perhaps a score of 7 is full fluency with an accent and still costs a little less than a current score of 3 does.

I agree Languages as Accelerated Abilities would be an interesting option.

I'm just not sure the extra complexity is warranted.


Agreed, even though I'm probably more of a simulationist than you are. That's why I don't have a problem putting all the NW Ibero-Romance languages together as a single "Spanish."