Languages are a fascinating element of many fantasy games. The work that directors and writers have to do to create an entire new language is difficult and intense, but often leaves a mystifying addition to their world. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is no stranger to this, having written several languages for the game's universe. One of these languages is spoken by Dragons.
Dragon Language is a core mechanic of the game itself, as the Dragonborn learn words in their tongue to be able to shout. One facet of the language itself is that it uses characters other than those we use in English, while each word directly translates to one in English. Once you learn all three words of a shout, it forms a phrase that illustrates what the shout itself does. However, there is so much more to the language and the lore behind it than many casual players will recognize.
Dragon Language Is Inspired By Cuneiform
The Dragon Language in Skyrim has easily recognizable characters that resemble scratch marks. According to the game's creators, this was inspired by Cuneiform, the written language of the Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
Pictured above, Cuneiform is one of the earliest depictions of written language available to us. It's considered to be one of the most significant contributions made by the Sumerian Empire during their time. This choice was made to help the players believe that the dragons themselves could write, as their massive claws could easily carve characters into the rocky terrain around them.
Hela Thrice-Versed Discovered Dragon Language
The most information we can find in-game on the language of dragons can be found in the book "Dragon Language: Myth no More: by Hela Thrice-Versed.
According to the text, she was the first Nord to dive deep into the ancient language, and the first to be able to translate it. She explored the idea that dragons were actually not the mindless beasts most Nords believed them to be, but rather an advanced society with oral and written language, as well as an iron will that they bared over all other species.
Dragon Language Is Used To Mark Graves
Another discovery made by Hela Thrice-Versed in her studies of the dragon language is the true purpose of the game's Word Walls. Typically, all most players think of when they approach a Word Wall is gaining the next part of a shout. What Hela discovered, however, is that each Wall is used to mark a grave.
For instance, one such Wall reads as follows when translated: "Here lies Yngnavar Ghost-Bear, who did Seek glory on the Battlefield of Sorrows, but instead found death and dishonor."
Using her knowledge, she is able to translate several full Word Walls, and the game's active community has been able to find full translations of each Word Wall.
Dragon Names Are All Shouts
Like the shouts that can be used by the Dragonborn, dragon names are also considered shouts. Each name is composed of three single-syllable words that combine into one name. Each one is unique and can be translated into phrases instead of individual words. For example, there is a dragon whose name is Odahviing, which translates to Snow-Hunter-Wing, or Winged Snow-Hunter.
According to researchers in Skyrim's lore, dragons could shout each other's names to communicate over long distances. Since each name is unique, these shouts could be used over extremely vast distances.
Dragon Language Used To Be More Widely Spoken
If ancient Nordic graves were marked with Dragon Language, it follows that the language used to be more widely known. In Skyrim, you encounter Dragon Priests (whose masks are extremely valuable), ancient followers of the dragons, guarding Words of Power. These Priests clearly speak Dragon Language, as they shout during combat.
The Greybeards, living in selcusion on the highest mountain in Tamriel, also know how to shout. These appear to be the only remnants of those who learned the language, as it's evidently very hard to learn, unless you're Dragonborn.
Dragon Language Doesn't Have Tenses
In the study of the Dragon Language, both in-game and in the real world, people have discovered that it doesn't have tenses in the same way that most modern languages do.
Senior designer of Skyrim's developing team, Emil Pagliarulo, said in interviews that as they built the language, it became too complicated for designers to reasonaly use without making mistakes. This led to a lack of apostrophes, conjugation, and (you guessed it) verb tenses.
Dragons Taunt Us With Their Language
When adventuring throughout Tamriel, you will encounter many dragons. They've harnessed the use of many different shouts, from ice breath, to fire, to just plain loud.
What any players may not notice, however, is that if you translate some of the phrases the dragons shout, they become taunts. For instance, one of these taunts is, "Skuldafin fenkos dinok!" Translated to English, this means, "Skuldafin will be [your] death!"
Skyrim's Theme Is In Dragon Language
The legendary main theme of Skyrim is one that many gamers can quickly recognize. A slightly lesser-known part of the theme, however, is that it's written entirely in Dragon Language.
When translated, it sings the praises of the Dragonborn, the hero prophesized to save Tamriel from the scourge of the dragons with their own shouts. It covers in detail the return of Alduin that is shown at the beginning of the game, as well as the climactic final battle where the Dragonborn ensures he never returns.
Other Races Could Earn Dragon Names
In the history of Skyrim, Dragons tend to have very unique names. Each one translates to an epic-sounding title, like Grahkrindrog (Battle-Courageous-Lord) or Kruziikrel (Ancient-Dominate). These names were exclusive to the dragon race, except on rare occasions, where you can find others that earned dragon names. These include Ahkahtuz and Toshrakhat.
Ahkahtuz earned their name through the trials they faced as the Vestige, the character you play as in Elder Scrolls Online, another extremely popular game in the Elder Scrolls universe. Toshrakhat was a Khajiit warrior who earned her name by forming an alliance with the dragon Nahfahlaar, who also granted the Vestige their dragon name.
You Can Learn It, Even Though It's Short
The Dragon Language of Skyrim is remarkably short, at only about 600 words total, and it's completely possible to learn this language for yourself. Many people have devised websites and guides to help other dedicated gamers learn the unique language.
Imagine how cool it would be if you could translate each Word Wall as you go through a playthrough of the beloved game. You could show off your knowledge by knowing what exactly each shout means without having to look at the translation. What better way to impress fellow gamers than by learning a cool, obscure language.