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The 9th level spell Shapechange gives you many of the traits of the creature who's form you assume:

... You also retain all of your skill and saving throw proficiencies, in addition to gaining those of the creature. If the creature has the same proficiency as you and the bonus listed in its statistics is higher than yours, use the creature's bonus in place of yours.

[...]

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them, provided that your new form is physically capable of doing so. You can't use any special senses you have (for example, darkvision) unless your new form also has that sense. You can only speak if the creature can normally speak. - (PHB 275)

Speech seems to be tied to the creature's ability somewhat, but it only speaks about proficiencies you get from that form. In normal English we speak of being proficient in a language, so this could be considered to include language "proficiencies" (though they're not explicitely referred to as such in the PHB to my knowlege). Features (of which languages otherwise might be considered a member) only appear to come from your own sources.


This answer suggests that True Polymorph might work, though it trades some of its power for the range of 30 ft instead of Self. On the other hand, it makes no hard claims that this would work RAW. Not surprisingly, its question is related - if Shapechange works, it's a valid answer. If not, other solutions (which obviously are) would be interesting to include here.

Critical Role came up against this, and for interest Matt Mercer's ruling is below (spoiler):

In Vox Machina Go to Hell Matt Mercer ruled that Shapechange would not grant the languages known by the assumed form.

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Rules-as-written, yes.

Your game statistics are replaced by the statistics of the chosen creature, though you retain your alignment and Intelligence, Wisdom, and Charisma scores.

Is language part of the creature's "statistics"? Yes. Monster Manual p.6 describes "statistics" thus:

A monster's statistics, sometimes referred to as its stat block, provide the essential information that you need to run the monster.

That heading is followed by sub-headings for Size, Type, Alignment, Armor Class, Hit Points, Speed, Ability Scores, Saving Throws, Skills, Vulnerabilities, Resistances and Immunities, Senses, Languages, Challenge, Special Traits, Actions, Reactions, Limited Usage, and Equipment. So yes, language is specifically part of its statistics, and, rules-as-written, you gain it when you shapechange.

Of course, the DM is free to rule otherwise, and many DMs will rule that you don't gain languages since it doesn't make a lot of sense. But the question does ask what the rules-as-written answer, and technically, you gain langauges.

You also retain your existing languages:

You retain the benefit of any features from your class, race, or other source and can use them, provided that your new form is physically capable of doing so.

As a side-note, nowhere in the rules specifically refers to a language as a proficiency. For example, on p.14:

A background gives your character a background feature (a general benefit) and proficiency in two skills, and it might also give you additional languages or proficiency with certain kinds of tools.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ What reason do you have to believe that language is included under the umbrella of "game statistics"? This answer disagrees... \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 3 '18 at 0:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ I've updated the answer to explain why language is part of a creature's statistics. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard Aug 3 '18 at 0:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Slagmoth then by all means, write an answer! I'd love to see your reasoning too! \$\endgroup\$ – Isaac Reefman Aug 3 '18 at 1:00
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    \$\begingroup\$ It doesn't make logical sense, but it's what the rules-as-written say. \$\endgroup\$ – Quadratic Wizard Aug 3 '18 at 1:02
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    \$\begingroup\$ @IsaacReefman I would but Quadratic has the actual ruling and RAW answer posted, also JC confirmed it in Tweets, regardless of whether they throw out the entire idea of schools of magic as how they have defined them. Personally, I enforce the schools and correct the obvious errors I find when I play. Like Goodberry being described as Conjuration when it is categorized as Transmutation. I think their editors missed a LOT, tbh. Anything I would post as an answer would be opinion albeit using framework of the PHB as support, but this site isn't really for opinion based answers. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Aug 3 '18 at 1:49

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