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KingAlanI

Is Common Tongue really English?

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Its English because it is, we hear it as English, we can understand it, its just not named English, its called the common tongue, which is what English was called in England, the Aristocrats would speak Latin/French, the common folk spoke English.

People have to remember GRRM set Westeros as the UK, The Wall is Hadrians Wall, the War of the usurper/War of the Roses, The red wedding/The black dinner. Its all based around English history with other histories thrown in, so the common tongue being English even if its in "another" world, isnt too difficult to understand, since their are many other similarities, its more like a parallel world to ours.

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And this is not just an opinion. It's the only logical way of interpreting things, because worlds and stories require internal consistency - with fantasy worlds, said consistency implies that this is NOT our world and has a different history and evolution, therefore, nothing can be truly reminiscent of our own world - even Martin is quite clear on the fact that Westeros isn't on our Earth, not even in an ancient, future or parallel history.

By this logic, there can't be horses or wolves or ravens or trees or fruit either, right? Or even humans? How do you account for these things being part of the story?

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Many arguments in this thread are rather plausible, but I think Martin must intend Common to be English because he isn't a linguist, so when creating his world he didn't bother thinking about etymology.

Logically, Common should be a fictitious language and its words should have roots in languages previously spoken by the Andals, or the people that originated the Andals. However, I can't help but think of Tolkien. Tolkien, as a linguist, created his languages, and only then created a world around them. Martin didn't, so we should expect his grammar references (as in the hanged-hung example and rhymes) to work in any fictitious language.

I believe when he writes the books, the characters speak English in his head (because it's probably the only language he knows), although this makes no sense if you try to bring the ASOIAF languages into the real world logic.

But this discussion made me wonder about something. Common was brought to Westeros by the Andals. So what language did the First Men and the Children speak? Since the Andals didn't conquer the North, the version of Common currently spoken in the North must/should have traces of the FM language. Maybe their accent is very different and this should be pointed out by southern characters (like "uh, these northerners speak so weird"). Besides that, why was Common called like that by the Andals? Maybe they were formed by different peoples with different languages who had to have a lingua franca between them, and this evolved into Common at some point.

The First Men spoke the Old Tongue. The Children spoke the True Tongue.

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I've always assumed that it is not English and it is just being portrayed that way out of convenience. I read a blog from the person creating the languages for the show and they said GRRM isn't really interested in the languages,that's why so little of them appeared in the books (and what was there wasn't too creative-they didn't approve of dracarys because it seemed based on latin). I don't remember if it was the same blog where they said that Roman letters were used simply out of convenience. Westeros is not Earth and English doesn't exist there,it just makes sense to make the basic language being used easily understood by the target audience. This is also why it bothered me when I saw the series had the actors using different English accents. I don't know why but any American show taking place in the past or a foreign country has to portray the people with English accents. AsGRRM is not English,if anything I'd assume if it was English it would be the dialect GRRM speaks himself. To end this,I just tell myself that this series works kind of like Doctor Who-the tardis translates the alien language in your head so even you don't realize you aren't speaking English but the mother tongue of Skaros (and in asoiaf terms,you just understand when theyre speaking common,dothraki etc unless theres a reason to show a specific word. I mean,it makes more sense for Dany to address her khalasar in Dothraki,the Mereneese in their language etc right?

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Exactly. Otherwise we'd just be hearing people going "Yadda yadda gabba", with subtitles straight through. An instant audience draw, methinks. I think I've also brought up the TARDIS translation reference earlier on this thread. I'd meant to, if I haven't. :)


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I've always assumed that it is not English and it is just being portrayed that way out of convenience. I read a blog from the person creating the languages for the show and they said GRRM isn't really interested in the languages,that's why so little of them appeared in the books (and what was there wasn't too creative-they didn't approve of dracarys because it seemed based on latin). I don't remember if it was the same blog where they said that Roman letters were used simply out of convenience. Westeros is not Earth and English doesn't exist there,it just makes sense to make the basic language being used easily understood by the target audience. This is also why it bothered me when I saw the series had the actors using different English accents. I don't know why but any American show taking place in the past or a foreign country has to portray the people with English accents. AsGRRM is not English,if anything I'd assume if it was English it would be the dialect GRRM speaks himself. To end this,I just tell myself that this series works kind of like Doctor Who-the tardis translates the alien language in your head so even you don't realize you aren't speaking English but the mother tongue of Skaros (and in asoiaf terms,you just understand when theyre speaking common,dothraki etc unless theres a reason to show a specific word. I mean,it makes more sense for Dany to address her khalasar in Dothraki,the Mereneese in their language etc right?

The english accents used in the show are generally random.

Sean Bean and Mark addey had very similar accents, since they were using their own, but Ned and Robert are from different parts of Westeros. Of course they were fostered together at the Vale, and it is possible that a yorkshire accent would be too stubborn to be modified into an East midlands accent, but the actors were using their own voices. Stannis has a more Northern accent than many of the northmen, and different from his brothers', Especially Renly, although I suspect the show's producers had him Camp it up a bit in case no one noticed that he prefered Loras to his sister.

Neither Sansa nor Arya has a Sheffield accent, Jamie and Tyrion have accents that are at least trying to sound like their Father and Sister, who both have accents that are drilled into students at english acting schools. Although they do wobble a bit sometimes, but the performances are good enough to make up for that.

Davos, who was born and raised in Flea Bottom, and if the English analogy holds would be expected to have a cockney accent, is pure Geordie. a world away.

The Iron Islanders should have an Irish Brogue, and Margery should be talking like a proper brizzol gurl, (which would be excellent and would make Cercei's nose curl up even more)

The point is, that the english accents are nothing to do with the plot or they would have been much better regionalised. the story teller is speaking english, which makes us hear it in english,

English could, though, I suppose have been transmitted through the mists of space and time as a fully formed language to the Andals, replacing their own language, just before they invaded, (where did they invade from anyway?) but that is probably a different story, most likely written by Terry Pratchett or Neil Gaiman or someone like that if it were to be done any justice.

I think I might be rambling a bit now so I'll end the post

ETA just found out Liam Cunnigham is Irish so I don't know how Davos ended up with that accent, he does a Bloody god job of it to my Southerner's ear though

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A problem I have with the allocation of accents, as geographic analogues, in the series is that they are inconsistent. Neither Stannis nor Thoros of Myr should have Northern accents, and unfortunately do, and the same thing goes come to think of it for Davos, who should have the exact same accent as the other characters at KL.

PS - TV Davos just sounds like a Northener to me.

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I've always assumed that it is not English and it is just being portrayed that way out of convenience. I read a blog from the person creating the languages for the show and they said GRRM isn't really interested in the languages,that's why so little of them appeared in the books (and what was there wasn't too creative-they didn't approve of dracarys because it seemed based on latin). I don't remember if it was the same blog where they said that Roman letters were used simply out of convenience. Westeros is not Earth and English doesn't exist there,it just makes sense to make the basic language being used easily understood by the target audience. This is also why it bothered me when I saw the series had the actors using different English accents. I don't know why but any American show taking place in the past or a foreign country has to portray the people with English accents. AsGRRM is not English,if anything I'd assume if it was English it would be the dialect GRRM speaks himself. To end this,I just tell myself that this series works kind of like Doctor Who-the tardis translates the alien language in your head so even you don't realize you aren't speaking English but the mother tongue of Skaros (and in asoiaf terms,you just understand when theyre speaking common,dothraki etc unless theres a reason to show a specific word. I mean,it makes more sense for Dany to address her khalasar in Dothraki,the Mereneese in their language etc right?

It is George who used the "British" variant first! You know, all those "arses" and "me member" "she ast me to" and "s'posed"!

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From Storm, when Davos is learning to read from Maester Pylos:

“To the...five kings,” read Davos, [snip] “The king...be...the king...beware?”

Beyond,” the maester corrected.

“The King beyond the Wall comes...comes south. He leads a...a...fast...”

“Vast.”

“...a vast host of wil...wild...wildlings. Lord M...Mmmor...Mormont sent a...raven from the...ha...ha...”

“Haunted. The haunted forest.”

How can Davos mistake beyond with beware, vast with fast, and make the open mouth ha sound when struggling to pronounce haunted unless the Common Tongue is English?

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From Storm, when Davos is learning to read from Maester Pylos:

How can Davos mistake beyond with beware, vast with fast, and make the open mouth ha sound when struggling to pronounce haunted unless the Common Tongue is English?

This works in other languages too, your point makes no sense.

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A problem I have with the allocation of accents, as geographic analogues, in the series is that they are inconsistent. Neither Stannis nor Thoros of Myr should have Northern accents, and unfortunately do, and the same thing goes come to think of it for Davos, who should have the exact same accent as the other characters at KL.

PS - TV Davos just sounds like a Northener to me.

exactly

and even in the north, there are big differences in accent between mancunian and yorkshire, geordie and scouse. if you told someone from Sunderland that he had a Geordie accent he would bite your head off, I wouldn't know the difference though, anywhere past the Watford gap is North to me

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This works in other languages too, your point makes no sense.

What are the odds that another language, like English, has the same beginning sounds for beyond and beware, the same number of syllables for vast and fast, that they both rhyme, and that haunted starts with an open mouth ha sound?

We can use real life languages as metric for gauging uniqueness and likeness between them. Are there any real life language spoken by actual population groups that has the aforementioned exact qualities other than English? If not, then the odds that the Common Tongue is not an English dialect is extremely slim.

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I don't think there's a satisfying in-universe answer to this question. Logically, Common *can't* be English. Yet it undeniably is.

To assume that modern English with all its idiosyncrasies and roots in other real languages is arbitrarily foisted on the Westrosi flies in the face of the complexities and realism that are the series' hallmark. But on the other hand, GRRM hasn't decided to give us any trace or mention of Common's true nature, or to indicate himself as translator rather than author. This question really is incoherent; it crosses the streams.

For me, the lack of LOTR-level awareness of language issues in ASOIAF is really disappointing. But whaddya gonna do. At this point in my life as a fan I've learned to just accept works of fiction for what they are and to allow the larger circumstances of their real-world creation to guide and color my in-universe appreciation.

The bottom line is that GRRM doesn't seem to care, and neither should we.

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I'm actually beginning to realise that, with my reading of the Dunk and Egg stories, there are some other points that are maybe irreconciliable with logic. Referring to a nice-looking girl as 'a tall drink of water' etc. Those words may be translatable, but what are the chances of the idiom existing? So I'd like to prove my running argument definitively, but I'm being forced towards the fence. The biggest problems I have with my argument are with the 'Reek, it rhymes with...' moments, and names of characters such as Stark and Greyjoy which obviously feature English words. I can cope with place names being translated. That Martin would have offerered character names in translation, not so much. But as a counter, you have words like 'martial', which as one poster has said has no reason for existing in Westerosi in that form, because the word is derived from the Roman deity, Mars. I really wish that Martin would find the time to clear this up either way.

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It cannot be English, the First men and Andals all originally came from Essos, they are all from the same people, as are the Valyrians, they shared the same language. Common Tongue would be an amalgamation of several Essosi languages.

Its English because it is, we hear it as English, we can understand it, its just not named English, its called the common tongue, which is what English was called in England, the Aristocrats would speak Latin/French, the common folk spoke English.

People have to remember GRRM set Westeros as the UK, The Wall is Hadrians Wall, the War of the usurper/War of the Roses, The red wedding/The black dinner. Its all based around English history with other histories thrown in, so the common tongue being English even if its in "another" world, isnt too difficult to understand, since their are many other similarities, its more like a parallel world to ours.

The Black Dinner was not in Britain, the Red Wedding is based on the Massacre at Glencoe in Scotland.

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And with Andal and First Men languages as bases, since we know Dothraki, for instance, and Valyrian, are completely alien to our own foreign languages, it's unlikely that English was created from non-existing Anglo-Saxon, Latin and Norman sources, or their analogues as it were.

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The Andals were descendants of a coach party of medieval reenactors that disappeared somewhere on the snake pass in 1973, and were transported to essos through an interdimensional wormhole. This theory may sound slightly crackpot, but it does explain the language, accents, and way of life.

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Well, at least it would explain it. But how did High Valyrian come about?

there is always someone that has to show off. It was probably the one that sat next to the driver with a camra t-shirt on telling him about the traffic jams he's been stuck in and which way he should go to avoid rush hour and those lights on the high street.

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