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Jeremy Crawford, in a tweet, wrote that a Moon Druid can speak the languages it knows while shaped as an Elemental because the Elemental can speak.

The Giant Elk can speak the "Giant Elk" language, so does that mean I can speak all the languages I know if I Wild Shape into one?

Then again, the Giant Elk is said to "Understands Common, Elvish, And Sylvan But Can't Speak Them". Does that mean I can speak all languages I know except these three?

Or can I only speak Giant Elk, because other languages include verbal components that the Giant Elk is incapable of reproducing?

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    \$\begingroup\$ Any answer given would/should apply to Giant Eagle as well for the same reasons posited here. \$\endgroup\$ – Slagmoth Apr 12 at 18:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ True, and Giant Owl too. \$\endgroup\$ – Merudo Apr 12 at 18:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ "Understands Common, Elvish, And Sylvan But Can't Speak" seems to imply that it can't speak any complex language. The sentence "Understands Common, Elvish, And Sylvan But Can't Speak THEM" would give the meaning you seem to imply. The Giant Elk language may not consist of what we would consider words and just be a series of grunts and whistles, etc. \$\endgroup\$ – Steve Apr 13 at 3:18
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Steve: The book does indeed say "can't speak them". D&D Beyond's display of the Giant Elk languages also has that phrase, though it seems to be improperly phrased compared to the book (compare the Giant Owl, which is correctly formatted on DDB). I've reported the error to them. \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Apr 13 at 4:14
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RAW, you can speak any language you know, but it is unclear as to whether you are disallowed from speaking Common, Elvish, and Sylvan.

The relevant section in wild shape (PHB 67) states:

... and your ability to speak [...] is limited to the capabilities of your beast form.

The relevant section in the sage advice compendium 2019 (page 3):

Can a Circle of the Moon druid speak the languages it knows while in the form of an elemental?

Yes, since the elementals listed in Elemental Wild Shape can speak. A literal interpretation (RAW) of Wild Shape could reasonably lead you to think that transformed druids can speak only languages that appear in an elemental’s stat block, but the intent (RAI) is that druids retain their knowledge, including of languages, when they transform and can speak the languages they know if an adopted form can speak.

So you retain your knowledge of all languages (this includes not knowing Giant Elk).

However, it is unclear whether it is a limitation of the capabilities of the beast form that prevents it from speaking the three languages or something else.

My opinion on the matter, as a DM

If it is the physical capabilities of the creature that prevent it from speaking those 3 languages (we see this in the real world with dolphins, for example, who speak "dolphin", but can also understand the humans, but cannot speak English), then it perhaps could be assumed that Giant Elks work the same way, and therefore are limited to not speaking any language.

If it is a mental thing that prevents the creatures from speaking the 3 languages, then it does not make sense that a new mind inhabiting a Giant Elk's body would be subject to the same limitation.

I, therefore, would either say that you can speak no languages, undercutting the RAW ruling, or could speak all of the ones you know, ignoring the potential 3 language restriction ruling.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Why wouldn't the Druid be able to speak Giant Elk? \$\endgroup\$ – Merudo Apr 15 at 18:34
  • \$\begingroup\$ For the same reason they can’t automatically speak primordial if they turn into an elemental. \$\endgroup\$ – Blake Steel Apr 16 at 3:26
  • \$\begingroup\$ The description of Wild Shape says "Your game Statistics are replaced by the Statistics of the beast". Languages are part of the statistics, so you can automatically speak Giant Elk. \$\endgroup\$ – Merudo Apr 16 at 6:03
  • \$\begingroup\$ I refer you to the end of the quoted sage advice section: “druids [...] can speak the languages they know if an adopted form can speak” \$\endgroup\$ – Blake Steel Apr 16 at 13:00

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