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I have been polymorphed into a squirrel, but thankfully I am under a permanent tongues spell.

Squirrels have no listed language but from personal experience in the real world I know they can make sounds. While under the tongues effect can I speak any language I wish while a squirrel?

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By narrow RAW probably yes, but a GM could easily rule otherwise

The literal text of the spell does grant the “ability” to speak and understand any creature. It makes an exception only for creatures who don't speak, but this is not referring to the target of tongues, it is referring to creatures that the target might attempt to speak with:

Tongues does not enable the subject to speak with creatures who don't speak.

(The meaning being, you can't cast tongues and then talk with an intelligent plant that has no language or even mouth, or cast tongues and then have a conversation with your horse.)

All of these bits clearly assume that the target of tongues already is capable of speech, though it does not actually say so. The assumption is implicit, and therefore arguably not literal RAW.

So given that the spell grants the “ability” to speak with any intelligent creature, a GM could justifiably rule that, yes, rules as written tongues grants the ability to speak, to a target that otherwise lacks the ability to speak.

But a GM could easily rule otherwise

Spells only do what they say, and though you could parse the spell as saying

This spell grants the creature touched the ability to speak and understand the language of any intelligent creature

You can also parse it as

This spell grants the creature touched the ability to speak and understand the language of any intelligent creature

Perhaps the distinction isn't clear. Here's the crux put differently: the second reading is that tongues only grants language facility, not the more fundamental ability to speak in the fist place.

Hence, a GM could easily rule that tongues only grants facility with any language, not the prerequisite ability of speech itself. Since reading over the spell as a whole clearly assumes a pre-existing speech ability, focuses on language, and acknowledges that basic speech ability is required on at least one side of the attempted communication, and that the spell is named tongues (“languages”) and not speech or somesuch, a wide-RAW contextual reading rather than narrow-RAW literal reading of the spell could lead a GM to conclude that, rules as written, it only grants language ability, not the speech ability necessary to use the granted language ability.

And squirrels can make sounds, but they do not have the power of speech, even if they could be taught to understand even one language.

Unfortunately, this means you'll have to hash it out with your particular GM.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ In game we ran with I was able to speak, but I like knowing the actions I take are legal ones and so I often end up doing research AFTER something has happened. \$\endgroup\$ – Fering Jan 8 '17 at 19:55
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    \$\begingroup\$ @Fering Just as in real laws, sometimes the law as written doesn't explicitly say either way, and a judge's ruling is the only way to decide. Since we have many jurisdictions (every group, or even every campaign, is a “sovereign country”!), there may not be a stand-alone legal answer without the local “judge” making a ruling, and the “law as written” may be understood to mean different things in different jurisdictions. \$\endgroup\$ – SevenSidedDie Jan 8 '17 at 19:57

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