Those who learn Dunmeris within outland temples or schools, studying the language in the interest of disentangling texts written in the tongue often find themselves ill-prepared for actually travelling to Morrowind and meeting speakers of the language. No language remains pure when exposed to people, and while the Aldmeris roots (via Ald Chimeris) are still apparent, it is no longer pure. Particularly fascinating is where the language has bent in modern use.
For example, in cities primarily governed by House Hlaalu, such as Balmora and Suran, one finds that trade with other cultures has led to the Cyrodiilic loanwords being more common. Beyond that, there’s a tendency to drop ‘you’ in direct commands or questions. Where a citizen of Ald’ruhn might say [something translated as] “Did you go to the marketplace?”, a resident of Suran might say “Went to the marketplace?” The difference is part of where some of the stereotype of Redoran retainers as stuffy and Hlaalu as overcasual comes from.
The Redoran, however, are known to code-shift into a rather clipped form of Dunmeris when there’s an emergency. Redoran children are taught that when an adult uses ‘Blight-Talk’, they are to listen and obey immediately. Failing to do so can lead to disaster in the blight storms common to Redoran territory. However, Blight-Talk is also used when the noble warriors of the house are in combat. Many is the enemy who’s been surprised by a level of coordination that seems near-telepathic with only a few words.
The Telvanni, meanwhile, tend to register formal voice and proper pronoun use more than the other Houses. One can just about derive the pronouns to use for a mer in a Telvanni settlement based on how high off ground level their living quarters are. Beyond that, there’s a hardening of consonants on the ends of words that can mark a speaker as having come from a Telvanni tower community. When they say “Sadrith Mora”, it sounds more like “Sadrit Mora”. Similarly, words ending in an L take on a nasal sound—chap’thil ending up more like “chap’thiln”.
Of course, Vivec City is a hodgepodge of members of all houses, but the Tribunal Temple seems to want to keep their language as close to Ald Dunmeris as possible. One may be seen as a bumpkin showing up to the holy city of Vivec with markers of other dialects, and it’s the Vivec dialect that is closest to the “high Dunmeris” taught to foreigners learning the language for the first time.
“The Elder Scrolls | Skyrim” | Photo and cosplay courtesy of TamillaArt, DeviantArt
1 thought on “Vvardenfell Dialects in Dunmeris in the 3rd Era”
I genuinely adore this kind of ‘small’ worldbuilding, the fine details that really help inform the experience of actually living in Tamriel. Accents are something that many don’t think terribly hard about in relation to TES, and yet they say so much about a person’s cultural, geographic, class and educational differences, I can’t imagine how they wouldn’t be considered vitally important to any character design.
I’m delighted to find this article is not only incredibly well-written and a pleasure to read, but also happens to dovetail nicely with my own headcanons on the subject. If I may offer an idea or two of my own to the author in thanks for their work:
“Due to the city’s nature as a river-based trade hub, the Balmoran Hlaalu dialect carries more than a little of the junk-trader’s drawl from the southern estuaries, as well as the faintest lingering traces of ancient Redoran inflection amongst the city’s elderly, owing to the city’s former status as a Redoran seat of power. The whole is a casual but rich creole, a lilting amalgam of urban efficiency and old tradition, studded with foreign loan words and newspeak-y abbreviations chosen more for pronouncability than logic or comprehensibility.”
Thanks again, and looking forward to more!