Linguistician (5e Background)

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At a certain point in your life, you were struck by the differences in the ways other people viewed and expressed their views on the world. You may have realised that your favourite story was translated from its original language, with remnants of its mother-tongue still to spot in the text. Perhaps you were exposed to multiple languages growing up and always marvelled at how they were so similar and so different at the same time. So when you reached the age of majority, you took to studying the frameworks and building blocks of languages; not a memorisation of the words or the patterns - perhaps you never even attempted to learn them fluently! – but the structures and morphology, the shifting patchwork of how the language came to be as they are.

Skill Proficiencies: History, Investigation

Languages: Two languages of your choice

Equipment: A work-in-progress grammar or dictionary, a copy of an undeciphered inscription or 2 sheets of parchment, a bottle of black ink, a quill, a set of common clothes and a pouch containing 10 gp

Feature: Linguistic Pride[edit]

Your interest in learning about languages makes you more appealing to foreigners with a strong sense of national pride, who love talking about their cultural heritage and their language (and may even insist on conducting conversations in their language). As such, you will have an easier time negotiating with and getting information from such people, to whom someone interested in their culture such as yourself seems more amenable. Work with your DM to best determine how this advantage in inter-cultural communication will express itself.

Alternate Feature: Natural Wordsmith[edit]

Though linguisticians generally focus more on studying languages than learning them (in much the same way as a physician studies diseases, rather than acquires them!), their work undeniably gives them an edge in learning and utilising languages. A linguistician will find it considerably easier to adopt a different accent or dialect of a language they are familiar with, and will even be able to learn a language they are less competent with, or fake competency therein, with a slight advantage above others, if only from a cursory glance at a grammar of the language. Work with your DM to determine how this might affect deceiving other characters in speaking situations, or what advantage (if any) it will give to learning new languages.


Most linguisticians have a pet favourite category of linguistic areas of interest.

d10 Specialty
1 Etymology. The origins of words, their original meanings and cognates.
2 Diachronic Linguistics. The development of a language from its earliest form to the present day.
3 Dialectology. The local idioms and quirks of the different regions, ethnicities and cultures speaking a certain language.
4 Grammar and Syntax. The system by which the words used in conjunction with each other give specific meaning.
5 Semiotics. The understanding of how languages conceptualise ideas differently from one another.
6 Phonemics and Phonology. How each language sounds in speaking, and what affects the sounds within the speaking environment.
7 Prosody and Poetics. The nuances in meaning and aesthetics of stress, tone, rhyme and rhythm in spoken and literary communication.
8 Graphemics and Graphetics. The development and functionality of different writing systems across different languages.
9 Biolinguistics. The psychological, neurological and anatomical processes by which sentient beings can communicate with language.
10 Sociolinguistics. The variance between language as spoken between different social groups in interaction with each other, within languages or between them.

Suggested Characteristics[edit]

d8 Personality Trait
1 I focus more on how people say things than on what they’re actually saying.
2 The first words I seek when learning about any language are the curses and obscenities.
3 I can and will overuse technical vocabulary and linguistics terms.
4 If you’re happy to be lectured to for hours, I am more than happy to patiently explain anything I know.
5 I’m so infuriatingly tired of people assuming I learn languages; I learn about them, there's a difference!
6 The best way to get my attention is to shout “undeciphered text!”
7 My notes are always less messy than my belongings and living space.
8 Eavesdropping on conversations in foreign languages is one of my favourite pastimes.
d6 Ideal
1 Curiosity. Learning about how others speak and understand each other is valuable in itself, without needing any other virtue attached. (Neutral)
2 Harmony. If I understand how others express themselves and understand the world, I can help unify people across boundaries. (Good)
3 Unpredictability. Every language understands things differently, and I revel in the thought of a world without universal rules or limitations. (Chaotic)
4 Unity. Somewhere out there, there’s a universal system that governs how everyone conceptualises and verbalises ideas and events. (Lawful)
5 Domination. Language affects how we view the world; perhaps with a greater mastery over language I can more easily manipulate others to my will. (Evil)
6 Self-Improvement. Learning how other people express themselves constantly helps me examine and refine my own thoughts and behaviours. (Any)
d6 Bond
1 I made a promise to my mentor to continue their unfinished work and prove that they were right after all.
2 I work to increase the knowledge and standing of my academy.
3 A person I cared for deeply was hurt by my words, and I’ve been searching for a way to understand how they felt.
4 My community is disappearing, and all of my work is devoted to preserving its dying culture.
5 I acquired my love of languages from my family.
6 I admire another culture which has enriched my life in ways I can’t quite express.
d6 Flaw
1 Being less shy would be helpful when speaking to foreigners. Or any other time, really.
2 I’m more likely to learn about cultural taboos by blundering straight into them.
3 I upset others by treating them like a study rather than a person.
4 I can’t focus on one thing at a time, and I jump between them before finishing anything.
5 I feel like I’ve wasted my life studying cultures instead of actually experiencing them.
6 I pretend to understand far more of what other people say than I actually do.

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