According to the Forgotten Realms wiki, the Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting (3rd edition) material from Wizards of the Coast asserts that Common is only a simple trade language:

Common was little more than a trade language; that is, it was not useful for complicated topics. It was simple and not very expressive as a language.

Trade languages tend to emerge from multiple people in one place without a shared language needing a way to communicate, so this suggests Common came from some other more advanced and expressive languages. What languages did Common come from?

The wiki says the predecessor of Common was Thorass.
However, Thorass language is described as "old":

Thorass, or Old (Auld) Common, was an old human language

Thorass was similar enough to modern Common that it could be directly translated into the latter language, though it would have an jarring form and archaic vocabulary.

That means when Common became popular, there were no Thorass native speakers anymore (among humans, at least). I guess Thorass was a kind of "Old English" for modern faerunian people. If not Thorass, what language did Common come from?

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Predecessors are old... I don't understand what you want to know that isn't obviously answered here. \$\endgroup\$
    – mxyzplk
    Jun 30, 2017 at 15:48
  • \$\begingroup\$ @mxyzplk an analogy - there are Simple English language, an international simplified version of English. However, despite the fact that Simple English is widespread, English is still alive. There are native English speakers, but there are no Simple English native speakers. \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jun 30, 2017 at 16:02

1 Answer 1


Common is a simplified version of Thorass, but not in the way that Simple English is a deliberately-simplified version of English, and more like how English is an accidentally-simplified version of Old English.

Thorass was already the trade language of the Realms, and Common simply replaced it. There is no other language that Common is descended from, and it's not an intentionally simplified language. It merely developed organically to be simpler (like real-world Spanish is simpler than its parent, Latin, or English is simpler than Old English). Eventually Thorass itself fell out of common use and “Simple Thorass” replaced Thorass as the trade language and common language of humans. Although its proper name is Thorasta,[1] it's more often called Common because that's what it is — the common speech. (There is an obvious parallel with our own Latin and Vulgar Latin… which was literally named “common speech” in Latin!)

The native speakers of “Complex Common” — Thorass — are still around: humans. Thorass is still used by scholars, and business dealings in Amn and Durpar are still conducted in Thorass[2]:

By the second half of the 14th century DR, few were literate in Thorass, with some exceptions in the southern parts of Faerûn. For example, in Amn, as late as 1370 DR, all official business was still conducted in this archaic language, and even its warriors were required to speak the language. […] Like in Amn, business in Durpar was often conducted in Thorass.

Just like Latin in our own history, Thorass fell out of disuse slowly with the common people (in our history, Latin as spoken by common people became Vulgar Latin, which then itself mutated and split into the various latinate European languages along geographical lines). Common simply replaced Thorass as the, er, common language, and replaced Thorass as the trade language.

As for Thorass being old — yes, it's thousands of years older than Common. Common is hundreds of years old though, and their existence overlaps, so there's nothing odd about that.

As for Common being simple — yes, and that makes it inconvenient as the only language that's spoken by someone. But common Thorasta is typically a human's second language, not first. Their first language is another language like Aglarondan, or a dialect of Thorasta that is more expressively rich (these are the native Common speakers), but only properly understood in limited geographical areas (again, mirroring our own history's Vulgar Latin)[1]:

there were literally thousands of […] local dialects.

In general, the analogy of “Thorass is to English as Common is to Simplified English” is leading you astray. Thorasta is a natural language, not a constructed language. There is no Simplified English equivalent in the Realms — there's no language that was intentionally developed as a simpler version of a current living language in order to make trade easier. Common's place in the world of the Realms is more like Vulgar Latin — a transitional language with many diverse dialects, all more-or-less mutually intelligible, but destined to eventually develop into separate, mutually unintelligible languages. This has even begun to happen: Calant, Kouroo, and Skaevrym are major dialects of Thorasta that are different enough that they have their own distinct identities,[1] even if they are (currently) still mostly mutually intelligible.

The reason that Common is the trade language is not because it was made to be a trade language, but because it is widespread enough (and before it, Thorass was widespread enough) that people learn it on purpose to advance their goals. That's in the same way that today, people learn English in order to participate in global communications, or in the way that ancient Europeans learned Latin in order to communicate, trade, and gain status within the Roman Empire.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Just would like to point out that several english and spanish words are still similar to latin. \$\endgroup\$
    – ShadowKras
    Jun 30, 2017 at 16:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @ShadowKras Yep, English didn't develop from Latin, but it has borrowed liberally from French and Latin (for weird historical reasons). Common words like that are called cognates, and are part of how linguists trace the ancestry of languages to group them into language families. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2017 at 16:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ So there are native Common speakers, aren't they? \$\endgroup\$
    – enkryptor
    Jun 30, 2017 at 18:37
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    \$\begingroup\$ @enkryptor Yes, all those humans who don't speak Elvish or Dwarven or Illuskan or whatever speak a dialect of Thorasta. The most “pure” Common is apparently spoken in the Western Heartlands (see links in post), kind of how the most “pure” version of British English is Received Pronunciation, but someone speaking Geordie English can (theoretically… mostly…) communicate with someone speaking Devonian English. \$\endgroup\$ Jun 30, 2017 at 18:45

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