This article deals with Language as it relates to NationStates. For more general information, see the Wikipedia article on this subject.
Language is a system of communication or reasoning using representation along with metaphor and some manner of logical grammar. Many languages use gestures, sounds, symbols, or words, and aim at communicating concepts, ideas, meanings, and thoughts.
This article deals with the use of language on the forums, the ins and outs of the national languages of NS nations, roleplaying conventions relating to language, the use of language in gameplay and NationStates slang.
National languages in roleplay
In Roleplay, a great number of nations have English as their primary language. This is likely because a majority of the NS players are from English-speaking countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Singapore, New Zealand and Australia. Rather than attributing historical developments in roleplay (such as RL English settlers), the language is often, but not always, assumed to have always been there. In this sense, the English language and culture are dominant on NS Earth and beyond.
There have been some attempts at forming an alternative lingua franca; many Elvish nations speak Quenya and in the roleplaying circles around them it is sometimes used as a language of diplomacy. Many Quenya-speaking nations are part of the VERITAS alliance. More common then Quenya, however, are the RL languages. German and Russian feature prominently amongst them, but French, Dutch and Spanish are also quite common. There can be a wide range of different reasons for choosing a certain RL language (see choice of language)
A very interesting asset to linguistic diversity are the nation-specific languages, which are often made up as a constructed language (conlang). Often citizens are just assumed to be speaking "nationian" without there being any existing words or grammar rules behind it, but some players have made up entire languages for the game. Excellent examples of such languages are Rejistanian, Pacitalian, or Pataari.
Some nations do not limit themselves to having one single national languages, but instead have different languages for different regions or different sections of the population. These nations can have various constructed languages, a number of different RL languages, or a mix.
Choice of language
There are several factors that influence the choice of a player for his nation to have a certain (RL) language.
- The background of the player is very important, and often the choice of national language will reflect the language(s) the player is familiar with. However, sometimes the language reflects other things (listed here below)
- Other characteristics of nations that imply a certain language. Elvish nations for example are obviously bound to Quenya, Sindarin or some variant thereof. But often this also has to do with stereotypes. Communist nations (especially those that use a stereotype of the Soviet Union popular in the Western world), as well as monarchies inspired by or based on the Russian Empire, tend to have Russian as their national language. Fascist or authoritarian nations often have German in reference to the Third Reich. French is sometimes the chosen language of nations who wish to be more 'refined'.
- Location in the RL world. Nations in, for example, Earth II will often occupy a portion of RL territory. It is reasonable that the people inhabititing this territoriy will speak their native language and, as a result, this also becomes the language of choice for the NS nation claiming to posess those territories.
- Assumed or RPed history. People may adopt certain languages because of historic ties with other (NS or RL) nations. An example of a language that is entirely the result of such a history is Belmorian-Rejistanian. Pacitalia is an example of a mirror nation of RL Italy, but instead of Italian, speaks Pacitalian.
- Cultural affinity. Japanese quite naturally becomes the language in nations of Manga-freaks
Roleplay conventions relating to language
Virtually all roleplay is in English and the language for interaction between characters of different nation is often also English, at least OOC (that is to say, the posts are written in the English language). There are several ways to go about roleplaying (or assuming away) the language barrier.
- Assuming everyone speaks English is an often-used method. Sometimes this is appropriate (for example both nations have English as their national language, or if the roleplay has a diplomatic setting where diplomats will obviously speak a language everyone will understand), but at other times this means assuming away a language barrier that would exist. This may be useful as a plot device or the idea of a language barrier may simply not occur to players.
- Assuming that the characters are speaking an IC language while using English OOCly is also very common. It is useful when the characters speak a language that is either fictional or incomprehensible to other players. However its use is still limited to cases when all the characters are speaking the same non-English language. (If one character is speaking Quenya and the other is speaking German there is still a language barrier.) This is generally the case when characters are interacting with other characters from the same nation.
- Using coloured text to indicate which language is used. When the language barrier is important to the RP, using another language is indicated by using a different colour for the spoken text. (For example in an RP green lines mean Quenya is spoken, brown means the character is speaking German and using no colour when speaking means English is used.) This is especially useful when players do not want to assume away the language barrier but still want other players to (OOCly) understand what their characters are saying.
- Posting in the language that is spoken is fairly rare, as it usually precludes other players from OOCly understanding what is going on. Sometimes, however, it is used for a few sentences or a few words to add flavor to what someone is saying. This is especially the case when a concept does not exist in one language, but does in another. (e.g. Use of the word for "gun" to describe to a member of a pre-gunpowder society what they call the weapon) This concept can also be applied when the poster wants to have a character swear profusely, but does not want to violate the forum's PG-13 rating.
- Posting in the language that is spoken while at the same time posting OOC subtitles adds flavor while allowing other players to OOC what is going on, however it takes additional effort and thus is very uncommon.
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