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The oracle curse tongues says, in part, that the oracle that's so cursed must

Pick one of the following languages: Abyssal, Aklo, Aquan, Auran, Celestial, Ignan, Infernal, or Terran.

Whenever you are in combat, you can only speak and understand the selected language. This does not interfere with spellcasting, but it does apply to spells that are language dependent. You gain the selected language as a bonus language.

At 5th level, pick an additional language to speak in combat and add it to your list of known languages.

Emphasis mine. Keep in mind that Ability Scores says

You apply your character's Intelligence modifier to:

  • The number of bonus languages your character knows at the start of the game. These are in addition to any starting racial languages and Common. If you have a penalty, you can still read and speak your racial languages unless your Intelligence is lower than 3.

Emphasis mine. What is meant by calling the tongues-cursed oracle's level 1 language a bonus language? Is the language merely added to the list of bonus languages the oracle can pick because of the oracle's high Intelligence score or is the bonus language added to oracle's languages known upon picking the curse?

If the bonus language is added to the oracle's languages known upon picking the curse, why is the addition of another language known at level 5 phrased completely differently, omitting the bonus language concept completely?

To speak in combat from levels 1 through 4 must an oracle pick the language of his tongues curse either as a bonus language due to a high Intelligence score or through the skill Linguistics?

Note: My initial impression was that the bonus language is merely added to the oracle's list of bonus languages that the creature can (but doesn't have to) pick, so an oracle that doesn't pick that language as a bonus language due to high Intelligence could spend levels 1 through 4 not talking at all in combat, but this reading goes unmentioned, for example, by this oracle guide and on the Paizo message boards. I include this information because the initial question did, and some answers address that reading.

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I have always read

You gain the selected language as a bonus language,

as meaning that you add the language to your list of known languages when you create your character (as a bonus language), not that you add the language to the list of bonus languages you can choose from to learn with a high intelligence modifier. The reason I believe this is that it says you "gain the language as a bonus language," not "add it to your available bonus language options" as other similar features do.

This is no different in my view from gaining a bonus language from a high intelligence modifier.

You apply your character's Intelligence modifier to:

  • The number of bonus languages your character knows at the start of the game.

I interpret this as meaning that it is a bonus language because it is not a language you have learned through a rank in linguistics or from your racial features -- that is, it is a bonus on top of your standard known languages. Essentially, you have a list of languages to choose from, and when you gain one from high intelligence or a class features, it becomes a bonus language. They are bonus languages because they do not require ranks in linguistics to learn them (because a linguistics rank allows you to learn any language). When you become an oracle you gain that language as a bonus.

The text that follows,

At 5th level, pick an additional language to speak in combat and add it to your list of known languages,

indicates to me that the language added at 5th level is in addition to the bonus language gained at level 1.

Unfortunately, there is no real explanation for why the game writers used two completely different phrasings to mean the same thing, if you accept the premise in this answer as true, and, absent any developer or writer commentary on why such choices were made, I doubt we can make a determination on that.

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The bonus language granted by the Tongues curse is added to the languages you know, not the languages you can choose to know by virtue of high intelligence. Here's why:

You apply your character's Intelligence modifier to:

  • The number of bonus languages your character knows at the start of the game."

Note the wording: Bonus languages are languages your character knows at the start of the game, not a list of languages they could potentially know. Here's another quote, this time from the races section of the PRD:

Languages: Dwarves begin play speaking Common and Dwarven. Dwarves with high Intelligence scores can choose from the following: Giant, Gnome, Goblin, Orc, Terran, and Undercommon.

The reason why this quote is significant? Those languages aren't described as "bonus languages." Again, this is because "bonus languages" are languages a character knows as a bonus of having high intelligence, not languages they could potentially know.

Incidentally, if you don't gain the language, it's not really a bonus. That'd be like calling "elf" a "bonus race" for your dwarf character because it's an option you could have taken.

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There are two possible parsings of that phrase I see. Both allow for the Oracle to speak in combat due to the wording of the rest of the class feature.

A:

"You gain the selected language as a bonus language."

This is the most common reading I have seen, you gain the language as a known language, in addition to every other language you might speak.

(Note the wording: "You gain the selected language", not "as an option")

However the wording could also mean

B:

"You gain the selected language as a bonus language."

However even in the case that you only add the language to your bonus language list, you must remember this section of the curse:

"Whenever you are in combat, you can only speak and understand the selected language. "

So, in the more restrictive reading of the rule, You gain the ability to speak and understand the chosen language, in combat only but you must choose the language through a high INT or a rank in Linguistics if you want to use the language out of combat.

In games I GM, I would likely rule option "A" as valid, but if you are convinced of "B" then the Oracle should still have access to that language in combat (but only in combat)

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The language is a curse. You would have no understanding of the language out of combat unless you took it as a bonus language. Essentially while in combat your character would be trying to speak Common (or whatever language is its base language.) but instead the cursed language would be the words spoken.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This was my thinking originally, but so many folks have come down on the other side, that I doubt my (our?) reading. Pathfinder doesn't seem to use the phrase bonus languages the same way 3.5 does, which only complicates matters. If you could find further support for this reading (I couldn't which is why I asked the question), I'd happily upvote it. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan May 1 '16 at 1:58
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I think you're thinking too hard. My interpretation is that the cursed oracle gets an extra language (on top of any other source of natural languages or bonus languages) that can be used at all times. During combat, the curse restriction is that the oracle can only use the language associated with the curse. The cursed oracle does not have to burn a rank of linguistics to acquire the curse-related language, and the curse-related language can be used in or out of combat.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Welcome to the site. You're probably correct and I am overthinking this (as is my wont), but I like to puzzle out things before they hit the table and a disagreement erupts between me and a player or the DM. In all likelihood, the intent is to just give the oracle both languages, but the unusual phrasing leaves me wondering. I didn't downvote this because sometimes being told Don't worry so much is a good reminder, but I can't upvote it either because it doesn't allay my worry. Anyway, thank you for participating and for helping strangers. \$\endgroup\$ – Hey I Can Chan Apr 29 '16 at 1:22

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