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Author Topic: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project  (Read 18831 times)

CaptainMcClellan

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Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« on: January 23, 2015, 02:37:50 pm »

Okay, in my desire to compose Dwarven Epics in actual Dwarven, relaying tales of the many forts I ( and others ) doom to fiery oblivion, I found myself in need of some language elements that may not be currently expounded upon. That is why I am founding this community project, which I will submit my own works to. The goal is to create a formal, standardized Dwarven for use by players, built on and incorporating both the extensive and existing Dwarven vocabulary, real-world linguistics, fan hypotheses and consensus, and (if possible) input from Toady and ThreeToe. ( ThreeToe especially given his background. ) Hopefully, all of this will go on to develop a fully functional fantasy language that will (eventually) be incorporated in the game. I speculate that ToadyOne and ThreeToe may already have some ideas in mind for doing this and as their fans, we should help offload the work so that they can focus on more immediate issues. That said, do keep in mind that Dwarf Fortress is still a game and while I want to treat this academically, including debates over the best or "most accurate" way to enact something, I don't want trolling or to start a flame war, or to split the fanbase. I don't expect this to be an issue, but if it is I may have to lock the thread.

Here are some current resources about the Dwarven language:

http://dflangs.wikidot.com/wiki:languages
http://dflangs.wikidot.com/wiki:alphabets#Dwarven
http://pastebin.com/QhSAEhQc

There will eventually be "official documents" posted to the dffd, chronicling the current versions of syntax, grammar, conjugation, and punctuation ( if any ) rules. Hopefully in a "for dummies" fashion, as I can see this project getting as hopelessly complex as the game itself. Also, there might come a point in which a list of "universal/multiversal" Dwarven proverbs and idioms is also available, but that's a low priority.

I understand something like this is probably already, or had been already, in existence. If so, all the better, please PM me about merging it into this thread.

What I have thought of so far:
-Conjugation rules for plurals when not given in the dictionary, of which I only have one potential rule.
-A method to use a known as an adjective with a suffix, pretty much the same as English.
-Separating conjugations into categories based on the end sound of the word being modified. ( For example, if the word ends in a consonant or vowel, if the last vowel was long or short, broad or slender, etc. )

What is especially needed:
-Sentence syntax structure.
-Punctuation rules, if we all agree or Toady/Three Toe states that Dwarves use punctuation. ( Probably yes. )
-More sophisticated pronunciation guides, ones that take into account stressed syllables, intonation, and how exactly the sounds are grouped in each syllable of the existing words. ( For example, the Dwarven word for abbey is "kulet" is that "ku-let" or "kul-et" and is which syllable is more prominent. Yadda-yadda-yadda. )

What I'd like to see:
-Speculation on the most likely meter of Dwarven poetry, including for different types of poems.
-Speculation on the difference(s) between Dwarven poems and prose.
-Some sort of symbolic number system unique to the Dwarves. ( Purely for aesthetic purposes, learning a new number system to play the game would be insane. ) Feel free to experiment with different number bases! :P
-At least one universal Dwarven axiom.
-Maybe some more words?

What we need to look out for:
-Changes in the official Dwarven dictionary.
-ToadyOne's comments.

If you know or become aware of anything like that please bring it up on this thread!

So, have at it! I look forward to the results.

Baffler

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #1 on: January 23, 2015, 05:02:48 pm »

PTW, for now at least.
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King_of_Baboons

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #2 on: January 23, 2015, 05:45:35 pm »

I am speechless....

This is the most epic idea I have ever seen.But what about the other languages?The current language system of DF only seems to affect names and nothing else.If Toady and ThreeToe really want to improve that system they could add a lot of stuff like:

-How will the different races communicate with each other?A dwarf probably wouldn't understand a single word of the elvish language and so on.So brokers need to be educated in every single language or otherwise you will not be able to trade with the other races.

-A whole system about education and reading.Players would need to educate the fortress children otherwise they will grown illiterate and dumb.So you better stop trowing them in those holes filled with traps you maniacs.

-Adventure confusion.The Reader skill finally would have purpose:Adventurers who have low reading will never understand a book written in a foreign language to them.This means you may be not capable of talking with a dwarf if you are a human unless you actually know one.The books should contain actual text that you can read.

-Toggle between English and Dwarfish:just in case the player wants to read stuff in dwarven language instead of English.

I totally support this idea.   
« Last Edit: January 23, 2015, 05:48:49 pm by King_of_Baboons »
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Dirst

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #3 on: January 23, 2015, 06:10:57 pm »

This sounds like a worthy project.  Assuming no one dredges up a near-complete syntax from the past, I'd suggest something relatively structured like Middle English and just abolish any irregular forms.  It was spoken in the 1300's, and has a really nice feature: the language was in transition, therefore scribes of the time were in disagreement on many details of the written language, therefore you almost can't be wrong.

M.E. had two regular forms for verbs, "weak" and "strong."  A nice example is "wind" which has two different meanings in English, one weak and one strong.  Weak "wind" (to become breathless) has a past tense of "winded" while strong "wind" (to wrap around something) has a past tense of "wound."  We don't need to stick to two verb forms, but some small number is appropriate.  Ideally they can be specified with deterministic rules that can be translated into "regular expressions" (a useful shorthand for search/replace operations); in the strong example "i" was replaced with "ou".

Irregular verbs tend to arise from inconvenient conjugations for common words.  With no historical baggage, we can just assign troublesome words to forms that work well.

If we can come up with a nice dwarfy set of categories that apply broadly, we can repeat that throughout the language.  One convenient set is the four elements Earth, Fire, Air, and Water. 
EarthFireAirWater
GenderMaleBoth/IndeterminateNeitherFemale
MatterSolidPlasma/EnergyGasLiquid
Verb tenseStatic/UnchangingPresentFuturePast
Verb form for "fortify"
dumed
Earth-form
dumedur
Fire-form
dmed
Air-form
dumd
Water-form
lidumed

Verb forms completely made up off the top of my head for illustration only.
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Ispil

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #4 on: January 23, 2015, 06:45:28 pm »

As speechless as I am about the valiant effort of this project, it did come up a while back. In curiosity, I emailed Toady to see his response.

To him, linguistics is one of those things that he'd rather do himself for... well, it's fun. The same reason why these threads come up is why Toady wants to do it himself- it's fun to do.
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bahihs

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #5 on: January 23, 2015, 06:51:18 pm »

As speechless as I am about the valiant effort of this project, it did come up a while back. In curiosity, I emailed Toady to see his response.

To him, linguistics is one of those things that he'd rather do himself for... well, it's fun. The same reason why these threads come up is why Toady wants to do it himself- it's fun to do.

Well there goes that I guess...

Would be quite interesting to see how dwarven culture would affect its language (culture to language not the other way around, afterall), like 20 different words for stone or dirt.

EDIT: While we're on the topic though, I like a non-irregular conjugation system for verbs. The verbs would be generated from root words which are already implemented (adjectives and nouns). There would be no ambiguity or multiple ways to say something (i.e for tenses, there is only one way to indicate a specific tense) since Dwarves are economical (though of course there could be many words for the same thing, i.e synonyms). S-V-O should work out fine, and we should stick to it strictly. I hope there isn't gender involved (because its rather arbitrary), but if there is it should follow a "dwarven" system. The 4 elements system outlined above sounds cool. I'd like to see something like "Hard" and "Soft" genders which are then reflected by changes in sound (dumed ->thumed) but that might be too much...
« Last Edit: January 23, 2015, 07:02:39 pm by bahihs »
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FallenAngel

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #6 on: January 23, 2015, 07:22:10 pm »

As speechless as I am about the valiant effort of this project, it did come up a while back. In curiosity, I emailed Toady to see his response.

To him, linguistics is one of those things that he'd rather do himself for... well, it's fun. The same reason why these threads come up is why Toady wants to do it himself- it's fun to do.
This doesn't mean we can't work on it.
It just means that our work probably won't become a feature, although if enough acclaim is generated, it's possible that the more memetic parts become official.

CaptainMcClellan

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #7 on: January 23, 2015, 09:38:27 pm »

I am speechless....

This is the most epic idea I have ever seen.But what about the other languages?The current language system of DF only seems to affect names and nothing else.If Toady and ThreeToe really want to improve that system they could add a lot of stuff like:

-How will the different races communicate with each other?A dwarf probably wouldn't understand a single word of the elvish language and so on.So brokers need to be educated in every single language or otherwise you will not be able to trade with the other races.

-A whole system about education and reading.Players would need to educate the fortress children otherwise they will grown illiterate and dumb.So you better stop trowing them in those holes filled with traps you maniacs.

-Adventure confusion.The Reader skill finally would have purpose:Adventurers who have low reading will never understand a book written in a foreign language to them.This means you may be not capable of talking with a dwarf if you are a human unless you actually know one.The books should contain actual text that you can read.

-Toggle between English and Dwarfish:just in case the player wants to read stuff in dwarven language instead of English.

I totally support this idea.   
Besides the last thing, that's not the point of this project. Besides dwarves are born literate in their language by blessing of Armok, as are gnomes to faciliate their (un)holy works. The point of this project is for players to become literate in Dwarven. For the sake of making amazing fan-projects. However! It'd be great if these things all did come to fruition in the game!
As speechless as I am about the valiant effort of this project, it did come up a while back. In curiosity, I emailed Toady to see his response.

To him, linguistics is one of those things that he'd rather do himself for... well, it's fun. The same reason why these threads come up is why Toady wants to do it himself- it's fun to do.

Well there goes that I guess...

Would be quite interesting to see how dwarven culture would affect its language (culture to language not the other way around, afterall), like 20 different words for stone or dirt.

EDIT: While we're on the topic though, I like a non-irregular conjugation system for verbs. The verbs would be generated from root words which are already implemented (adjectives and nouns). There would be no ambiguity or multiple ways to say something (i.e for tenses, there is only one way to indicate a specific tense) since Dwarves are economical (though of course there could be many words for the same thing, i.e synonyms). S-V-O should work out fine, and we should stick to it strictly. I hope there isn't gender involved (because its rather arbitrary), but if there is it should follow a "dwarven" system. The 4 elements system outlined above sounds cool. I'd like to see something like "Hard" and "Soft" genders which are then reflected by changes in sound (dumed ->thumed) but that might be too much...
Mm, I was thinking V-O-S maybe? XD "light the forge Sakzul". " listen to me little kid." Very authoratative and such. In English it would sound weird for non-commands, but maybe not in Dwarven. I don't think it'll catch on, but it's an idea. I like the hard/soft thing, but not directly related to gender, due to the equal badassery of male and female dwarves. How much gender even factors in Dwarven is debatable. Also, I'm for regular conjugation based on the base word with only a few exception.

In my notes I had "tilati" as a possible plural for "child", based on the base word " tilat" ending in a consonant and the last vowel being "broad". ( Sort of a variation of Gaelic vowel rules, except instead of the "slender" ( i, e, and variants ) to "slender" and "broad" ( a, o, and u and variants ) to "broad", it's opposites attract. Other examples in this vein would be "kuleta/kuleto" for "abbeys", from the base word "kulet". ) Still not sure how words ending in a vowel would work. Maybe "-en" or "-in" and "-am" or "-om". What does everyone think of that?

EDIT: I have read only one book on the Gaelic language, please excuse me if I got something wrong!
« Last Edit: January 23, 2015, 09:40:40 pm by CaptainMcClellan »
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Uronym

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #8 on: January 24, 2015, 10:10:04 am »

I imagine Dwarven to be a very isolating/analytic language; that is, I would see them not changing their words much for any given situation, instead using particles, prepositions and word ordering to get their meaning across (similar to English or Chinese). This would fit perfectly with the information that we are given about the language: just a huge list of words. We would simply need to make up the rules for syntax, word ordering and add a few particles so that it makes sense.

I like the idea of V-O-S word ordering; it gives a businesslike verb focus that fits the industrious dwarves. Adjectives (and other modifiers) should go before the noun, as they do in the game, with no preferred order for those adjectives (big red balloon/red big ballon both being fine). I would be fine using the same punctuation system as is used in English; it's almost universal, easy to understand, and covers everything necessary. As for pronunciation, I wish I had a clue what Toady meant by those diacritics, but for the basic phonemes, I would imagine mainly sticking to the IPA, with a few English digraphs (like th → /θ/ or sh → /ʃ/).

Finally, there is a somewhat glaring lack of pronouns and verbs in the vocabulary that we have already. We will need to either make more, or be exceptionally creative...

Compound words could be used to eliminate ambiguity and in place of more complex syntax. For instance, a steel sword could be delerdastot; essentially, using compound words instead of our (extremely limited) adjectives/adverbs. Some example sentences with these kinds of rules (with gloss):

Gethdbar zandelerdastot onolbomeshtn.
Past-create artifact steel sword mountain-home smith.
The smith of the mountain-home created an artifact steel sword.

Nanothgamil dkudos.
Never-trust tree-man.
Never trust elves.

Gomathubmosus gethub.
Legendary-dine-room past-dine.
(I) dined in a legendary dining room. [No first person pronoun. Perhaps dwarves are just that selfless?]
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bahihs

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #9 on: January 24, 2015, 10:37:00 am »

Keep in mind that "gender" doesn't really mean gender in the male or female sense. Its just a placeholder for an idea, like "positive" and "negative" charge. You can call it anything you like, for the dwarves something like "Hardness" or "Rigidity" makes sense. Thus somethings are "hard" and their sounds corroborate that, other things are "soft" and, likewise, their sounds show that also.

V-O-S can be annoying for Romance language speakers because it is so foreign. The sentences you choose make sense even in English (this is what I mean by sticking to S-V-O strictly, such constructions would not be sensible), but things like: "Eat roast you" are nonsensical (in English). Still, it could work; things like that are rather arbitrary anyways.

But if you want to get really foreign, we need to start eliminating things. Like verbs. Lets just get rid of verbs and replace them with articles which tell the reader/listener the next word is a verb. All words are either nouns (pronouns) or adjectives, and the word "ore" (for example) would indicate the next word (always a noun or adjective) is a verb in the infinitive form, and "ash" indicates present tense.

For example (in English): "He ash need ore dying today!" or "He ash need alcohol ore getting through working day" (Note that here I use the gerund forms of the verbs, but technically any noun form indicating the idea would work, i.e death instead of dying, necessity instead of need etc.)

This would create a brutally simple language in which the user would need to memorize only nouns and adjectives (and pronouns), and then the conjugating articles to indicate action. Number and person can be determined by the use of a pronoun or just context.

So, the sentence: "He needs alcohol to get through the working day" becomes "He (no pronouns in the dictionary yet) ash dal ucat ore okon ducim alod"

Which literally means: "He greeds beer to bear work day"

Couple things to note with this bizarre sentence:

1. For whatever reason the words "need" and "want" are not in the dwarven dictionary (irony?), so I used "greed" instead, since it is closest thing I could find to the intended meaning
2. The word "get" is also missing, so I used "burden" which works in this context since "get through" kind of means "bear".

After looking at the dwarven dictionary, however, it seems verbs do exist in the language so you might was well scrap everything here...
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bahihs

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #10 on: January 24, 2015, 10:41:51 am »

I imagine Dwarven to be a very isolating/analytic language; that is, I would see them not changing their words much for any given situation, instead using particles, prepositions and word ordering to get their meaning across (similar to English or Chinese). This would fit perfectly with the information that we are given about the language: just a huge list of words. We would simply need to make up the rules for syntax, word ordering and add a few particles so that it makes sense.

I like the idea of V-O-S word ordering; it gives a businesslike verb focus that fits the industrious dwarves. Adjectives (and other modifiers) should go before the noun, as they do in the game, with no preferred order for those adjectives (big red balloon/red big ballon both being fine). I would be fine using the same punctuation system as is used in English; it's almost universal, easy to understand, and covers everything necessary. As for pronunciation, I wish I had a clue what Toady meant by those diacritics, but for the basic phonemes, I would imagine mainly sticking to the IPA, with a few English digraphs (like th → /θ/ or sh → /ʃ/).

Finally, there is a somewhat glaring lack of pronouns and verbs in the vocabulary that we have already. We will need to either make more, or be exceptionally creative...

Compound words could be used to eliminate ambiguity and in place of more complex syntax. For instance, a steel sword could be delerdastot; essentially, using compound words instead of our (extremely limited) adjectives/adverbs. Some example sentences with these kinds of rules (with gloss):

Gethdbar zandelerdastot onolbomeshtn.
Past-create artifact steel sword mountain-home smith.
The smith of the mountain-home created an artifact steel sword.

Nanothgamil dkudos.
Never-trust tree-man.
Never trust elves.

Gomathubmosus gethub.
Legendary-dine-room past-dine.
(I) dined in a legendary dining room. [No first person pronoun. Perhaps dwarves are just that selfless?]

This is fucking incredible, seriously.

I especially love how conjugation is replaced simply with the word "past" for past-tense. That is so dwarven its accelerating the growth of my beard.

EDIT: I think we can combine my idea of transforming ordinary nouns/adjectives into verbs using articles, with the compound-word idea to generate all the verbs we need. But seriously, this really does sound dwarven. Kudos to you Uronym. 
« Last Edit: January 24, 2015, 10:45:17 am by bahihs »
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SirQuiamus

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #11 on: January 24, 2015, 01:15:33 pm »

As for pronunciation, I wish I had a clue what Toady meant by those diacritics, but for the basic phonemes, I would imagine mainly sticking to the IPA, with a few English digraphs (like th → /θ/ or sh → /ʃ/).

Well, we cannot know the exact phonetic values of those diacritics without consulting Toady, but it's easy enough to find out whether they signify different phonemes, or allophones of the same phoneme.
I fiddled with regular expressions for a bit, and it turns out there are quite a few cases in which the change of a diacritic causes a significant change in meaning.
For example, here's a list of minimal pairs involving the different versions of the "a" letter:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Someone remarked in an earlier thread that the creation of a language should begin with the phonetics, and I'm inclined to agree.


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Dirst

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #12 on: January 24, 2015, 03:21:08 pm »

As for pronunciation, I wish I had a clue what Toady meant by those diacritics, but for the basic phonemes, I would imagine mainly sticking to the IPA, with a few English digraphs (like th → /θ/ or sh → /ʃ/).

Well, we cannot know the exact phonetic values of those diacritics without consulting Toady, but it's easy enough to find out whether they signify different phonemes, or allophones of the same phoneme.
I fiddled with regular expressions for a bit, and it turns out there are quite a few cases in which the change of a diacritic causes a significant change in meaning.
For example, here's a list of minimal pairs involving the different versions of the "a" letter:

Spoiler (click to show/hide)

Someone remarked in an earlier thread that the creation of a language should begin with the phonetics, and I'm inclined to agree.
Though I agree that the different vowels differentiate the meanings, there are some words that appear to be intentionally similar.

Code: [Select]
[T_WORD:BLOOD:nazush]
[T_WORD:BLOODY:nashon]

[T_WORD:HAND:otad]
[T_WORD:HANDY:oddet]

And there are other words that are intentionally split from one another like spring (metal coil), spring (season) and spring (to jump) to make it clear that DF languages consider these distinct concepts.

But most words that you'd expect to share a root don't (e.g., sorcerer and sorcery, seduce and seducer, negative and negate, master and mastery, clear and clearing, ally and alliance and allegiance, etc.).  This makes me hesitant to assert that you can just compound words at will and retain their meanings.  That said, the language_words.txt file does assign multiple parts of speech to the same word fairly often.

Coming back to verb forms for a moment, the groupings don't have to make sense.  There's no real unifying concept of why Spanish verbs are ar-type, er-type or ir-type.  The important thing is that they create predictable and useful conjugations.

Among the many, many words that aren't in the DF dictionary, one of the troubling ones is "to be."  I know that whoever developed Klingon did it without "to be" (only to be told later by the script-writers to put it in), so it's possible.  My idea was to use the static/unchanging tense to indicate a permanent state "I fight" to distinguish it from the present "I am fighting" without resorting to a linking verb "I am a fighter."
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CaptainMcClellan

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2015, 02:40:16 am »

I agree with Uronym and particularly love his method for denoting tense because (in Dwarven) it sounds really nice and it seems to make a lot of sense. I also agree that dwarven is probably fairly analytic, but I should think that it's also rather symbolic. If we're going in with an analytical approach, then could we use intonation shifts or suffixes for certain adjectives: colours, or relative numbers? At very least, have a plurals system for one object vs more than one objects. I'm thinking it could go along the lines of what Dirst suggested. Though, as he pointed out, this could be compunded with issues of similar words, especially those that are very weakly associated.

Also, frankly I don't understand bahihs's system, like at all. Mind trying to explain again in a different way?

In response to his other thing, gender usually denotes biological sex or concepts associated with a sex. While there's not absolutely no place for that, I don't think it would play as heavily in Dwarven as in Human or elven languages where (I suspect that theoretically) the sexual dimorphism is more pronounced. (In practice, both genders are functionally identical beyond reproductive capacity at this time. Also, please keep sexism out of this, for flameproofing and because the dwarves don't have any. ) That said, I think some sort of "essence" descirptor is in order. Whether it be as simple as binary configuration of elements (eg"Earth"/"Sky', " Depths"/"Surface", "Hard"/" Soft" or "Dark"/" Light" ) or as much as Dirst's quartenary or even as complex as basic abstract colours ( usually 10-11, occasionally 12 elements, and if we go with Dwarf Fortress UI, a whopping 16! ) is up for debate. Possibly relevant: http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basic_Color_Terms:_Their_Universality_and_Evolution

Final paragraph of this post: I see no reason not to go with the IPA chart in the OP until told otherwise, but if someone wants to ask ToadyOne or ThreeToe, please do! :)

Orange Wizard

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Re: Dwarven Linguistics Core Project
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2015, 03:02:55 am »

PTW.
Although all these projects have died in the past without making much progress, I shall remain hopeful.
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