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The Giant Owl can speak the language Giant Owl:

Languages Giant Owl, [...]

Notably, this language does not appear on any of the tables of languages in any sourcebook (e.g. the Languages tables in the PHB/basic rules), but it does appear on the statblock of the Giant Owl and the Skeletal Giant Owl (a variant of the Giant Owl statblock that's described in Infernal Machine Rebuild, p. 33).

The second point of the Linguist feat says (PHB, p. 167):

You learn three languages of your choice.

Is Giant Owl an eligible language that can be learned with the Linguist feat? Or does the feat only allow choosing a language from one of the "Languages" tables?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ How are the language tables presented? Is it "here is a list of some languages that exist", or "here is a list of languages that PC's can learn"? or "here is a list of languages that you can roll randomly on for NPC's"? How do the texts say they are supposed to be used? \$\endgroup\$ – Kirt Sep 10 '20 at 18:17
  • \$\begingroup\$ FYI: The Skeletal Giant Owl isn't actually a separate statblock, just a variant of the Giant Owl statblock that's described in Chapter 4, room 12 of the temple in Infernal Machine Rebuild: "The skeletal, rotted creature uses the giant owl stat block with the following changes: [...]" \$\endgroup\$ – V2Blast Sep 10 '20 at 21:40
  • \$\begingroup\$ OT: if your date tells you they "took a semester in Giant Owl at University", walk away slowly. \$\endgroup\$ – Ed Beaty Sep 11 '20 at 19:00
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Not by default

In general, you choose your known languages from the table on page 123 of the Player's Handbook. Specifically, the section on Languages (in Chapter 4: Personality and Background > Character Details) includes:

Choose your languages from the Standard Languages table, or choose one that is common in your campaign. With your DM's permission, you can instead choose a language from the Exotic Languages table or a secret language, such as thieves' cant or the tongue of druids.

The Giant Owl language is not on either list, and so can't be chosen unless your DM has made it common for your campaign (in which case you would hopefully know) or their permission. I recommend coming up with a really hooting backstory reason for knowing it.


†: Neither are the other monster-specific languages like Giant Elk, Giant Eagle, Hook Horror, etc.

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    \$\begingroup\$ That passage appears to only be talking about languages known at character creation time/level 1. What reason is there to think it also applies to Linguist? \$\endgroup\$ – jwodder Sep 10 '20 at 18:32
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwodder What reason is there to think it isn't? It is the general rule which the Linguist feat does not make an exception to. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Sep 10 '20 at 18:33
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    \$\begingroup\$ The paragraph before it in the PHB indicates the passage is only about languages known through race & background, and thus it could be argued the rule is not general enough to apply to feats. \$\endgroup\$ – jwodder Sep 10 '20 at 18:35
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    \$\begingroup\$ @jwodder It is an exception to how you learn/gain languages, not which you can choose. \$\endgroup\$ – Someone_Evil Sep 10 '20 at 18:36
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    \$\begingroup\$ +1 for the really hooting back story ... \$\endgroup\$ – KorvinStarmast Sep 10 '20 at 18:47
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RAW, it should be eligible, but your DM has final say.

Some languages have special restrictions for learning them on a lore and physiological basis.

  • Druidic is typically taught only to aspiring druids, with rare exceptions
  • Deep Speech is knowable, but to properly articulate complex ideas requires multiple mouths.
  • Plants have a complex and complicated form of language that involves rustling leaves, waving branches, and takes a long time to simply convey a greeting.
  • The languages of different beasts might be dependent on possessing a certain body part in order to be understood, and often rely on more than just making vocalizations (which are done differently from different species).

There's also the matter of how, and from whom, you came to learn these languages. Again, this is between you and your DM, but generally you would learn languages from a creature that you are capable of establishing two-way communication with, or some form of texts or codex with translation (such as the Rosetta Stone.)

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Yes, if the DM allows it

The Linguist feat (PHB, p. 167) uses similar wording to languages learned through a character's background. For example, the sage background gets:

Languages: Two of your choice

In the languages section where the tables are detailed, the instructions are given (emphasis mine):

Your race indicates the languages ​​your character can speak by default, and your background might give you access to one or more additional languages ​​of your choice. Note these languages ​​on your character sheet.

Choose your languages ​​from the Standard Languages ​​table, or choose one that is common in your campaign. With your DM's permission, you can instead choose a language from the Exotic Languages ​​table or a secret language, such as thieves' cant or the tongue of druids.

While the first paragraph specifically refers to languages learned through your background and race, it does not say these are the only ways to learn languages, and since the wording is the same I would say that languages learned through other methods (including the optional feat rules) follow the same restrictions.

Note that languages allowed by the DM are not restricted to languages from the Exotic Languages table, but can include other secret languages, of which Giant Owl may be considered one.

As noted above, languages you can learn from the linguist feat must be one of these three things:

  1. Found on the Standard Languages table
  2. A language common in the campaign world
  3. Approved by the DM as a learnable language for you

Giant Owl is not a language on the Standard Languages table, and while I do not know your campaign world, I will assume it is not commonly spoken. In this case, Giant Owl is a learnable language only if the DM approves it as a language you would have had the opportunity to learn.

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