Languages of the Levant

The multiple vernacular languages of the Levant during the Crusades reflect its complex history. Each consists of several distinct regional dialects, most characters should take the appropriate one as a specialty. Educated or well-traveled speakers will have tried hard to rid themselves of their dialect, and may have standard specialties (see ArM5, page 66). When two characters converse in different dialects of the same language they must both subtract one from their Language Ability scores.

French (Norman, Orleanais, Poitevin, Lorrain)
Occitan (Provencal)
Lingua Franca
(Western, Eastern)
(Ligurian, Tuscan, Neapolitan, Sicilian)
Romaic Greek

The Latin nobility and crusaders of Outremer typically speak French and it has become the default common tongue of the Christian forces. The Provencal dialect of Langue d’Oc is commonly heard in Tripoli thanks to the influence of its founder Raymond of St. Gilles. Anglo-Norman, English, High and Low German and many other western languages may be found amongst the various communities, knights and mercenary forces in the area.

Romaic Greek is still spoken by some groups in the former Byzantine enclaves along the coast. Dialects of Italian, Veneto and the Lingua Franca trade tongue are spoken by the merchant enclaves of Genoa, Pisa and Venice found in the Mediterranean ports. Latin is still used for most official documents and by the Church.

Arabic (Classical, Derija, Egyptian, Khaliji, Levantine, Maghrebi, Maslawi)
Parsi (Kurdish, Persian)
Oghuz (Ghuzz, Turkish)

Arabic is the most important Muslim tongue, as the language of the Qur’an and religion, of scholarship, and of the administration in most of the Muslim world – Levantine Arabic is heard throughout Syria although the Egyptian dialect may be found in the southern areas. The Khaliji dialect is spoken principally in Arabia and the Bedouin of Oultrejordain, whereas the Maslawi dialect is spoken further east in Iraq. The Maghrebi dialect is usually only spoken in western North Africa and Iberia, although Berber mercenaries may speak this tongue. The Arabic language uses the flowing Arabic script.

Throughout the Ayyubid dominated lands of the Levant the Kurdish dialect of Parsi is spoken by the Ayubbid emirs and their troops, although the Turkish dialect of Oghuz is commonly heard in the Seljuk-controlled areas of Anatolia. Historically, Oghuz was transliterated in Turkic ‘runes’, but only the distant Ghuzz retain this tradition; both Kurdish and Turkish are written using the Arabic script.

Armenian is spoken in Cilicia and the northeastern holdings of the Principality of Antioch.

Some unfamiliar languages that western characters may encounter include Hebrew (among Jews), the Persian dialect of Parsi (especially among scholars), and Aramaic (among some Christians). One language that is written and used liturgically but not commonly spoken is Syriac, a dialect of Aramaic used by Nestorian and Jacobite Christians.

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