Okay so the Language entry on the Kenku states

You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait. (VGM, 111)

and I know there's the whole race background thing with being cursed and losing their voices. But, in the Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide, the new Sorcerous Origin Storm Sorcery has the follow class feature

Wind Speaker: The arcane magic you command is infused with elemental air. You can speak, read, and write Primordial. (Knowing this language allows you to understand and be understood by those who speak its dialects: Aquan, Auran, Ignan, and Terran.) (SCAG, 137)

So, would the specifics of the class ability beat out the limit of the racial feature? It is magic that is allowing you to "speak, read, and write Primordial"

  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ There is another thread here that goes over a similiar question rpg.stackexchange.com/questions/93309/…. This is not an answer per se since it doesn't address the telepathy or primodial concerns. But the takeaway i had from it was no, you cant speak primordial. \$\endgroup\$
    – Maarek
    Mar 6, 2018 at 21:28

6 Answers 6



Player's Handbook page 7:

If a specific rule contradicts a general rule, the specific rule wins.

... For example, many adventurers don't have proficiency in longbows, but every wood elf does because of its racial trait.

This can easily be extended to the question of Kenku as such:

Most Storm Sorcery Sorcerers can speak Primordial, but if he/she's a Kenku, he/she cannot because of its languages.

...but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.

You would, however, now be able to understand Ignan, Aquan, and Terran and, after conversing with creatures who speak these languages enough, pick up enough phrases to use Mimicry for these languages too.

Why is the Kenku language more specific than the Storm Sorcery feature?

To identify which rule is more specific, you have to identify which rule is general. In this case, the general rule is Wind Speaker, because it can apply generally to all races while Kenku language restriction only applies to the Kenku.

If Kenku was the general rule, then Wind Speaker would have to clearly allow speech beyond the Kenku restriction. It is, however, clear that Kenku can not speak without Mimicry,

specific: (adj.) clearly defined or identified.

Similarly, the specific case of being mute would also restrict you from speaking with Wind Speaker (since it doesn't specify speech beyond normal means).


No: "speak" is subjective, and knowing a language isn't "specific"

All Kenku can "speak" Common, in the sense that they can understand it and can repeat sentences that they have heard which bear relevancy to their current situation. This class feature will permit them to do the same with Primordial phrases, (as well as Aquan, Auran, Ignan, and Terran), but:

When mimicking voices, they can only repeat words and phrases they have heard, not create new sentences. (MM, p. 194)

Technically, Kenku can mimic all languages, the same way that if a human has an excellent memory they can repeat a phrase they have heard in a language they do not speak (although they won't know what they're saying). For a Kenku, the ability to "speak" a language means that they can select sentences or phrases they have heard (although only precisely as they heard them) with care, choosing one whose meaning has some relevance or use (rather than one which was said loudly to represent anger, or one which was said while attacking to indicate a threat).

There is nothing about the feature of the Storm Sorcerer which would override that. If you argue that the Storm Sorcerer's language feature is a "specific" rule that overrides their "general" curse, I would ask how so? Many classes (like Druids or Draconic Sorcerers) gain languages (which they are explicitly said to be able to speak). The ability to "speak, read, and write" a language is a quality that most intelligent creatures have: you can't get much more general than that. It is the Kenku's curse of Mimicry which is rare, unusual, and thus specific.


No. Whether by magic or by other means, learning a new language would not circumvent a deity-level curse. I think the only way to get around this would be to use telepathy.

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    \$\begingroup\$ So a 1st level Kenku Warlock of the Ancient One would bypass the language restriction? \$\endgroup\$
    – J Nason
    Jan 1, 2018 at 2:11
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    \$\begingroup\$ @JNason yes, but only to one person at a time, and only if they can see the creature, and if they are within 30 feet. Honestly, these restrictions are similarly confining as needing to write a message down (which they also can do). \$\endgroup\$ Mar 7, 2018 at 5:46

@NautArch post from 1/2017 states with references:

No, a Kenku will never be able to speak fluently

The Kenku were cursed by their previous Master after betraying it. The curse came in three parts (Volos PP 109):

  1. The wings of the Kenku were withered and fell away, leaving them bound to earth.
  2. The spark of creativity was torn from their souls.
  3. Their master took away their voices. In addition, they can only be Hopeless Plagiarists (Volos PP 110)

Although unable to speak in their own voices, kenku can perfectly mimic any sound they hear...kenku cannot create new sounds and can communicate only by using sounds they have heard. Most kenku use a combination of overheard phrases and sound effects to convey their ideas and thoughts.

The phrase highlighted above further shows that while a Kenku can read and write Common/Auran, they can only communicate with others via Mimicry, and that mimicry is limited (no passing notes in class!)

On page 111 of Volos, there are further directions for roleplaying a Kenku that describe how you this can be done at the table.

The curse given to them by their Master has negated their ability for fluent speech. Their ability to mimic allows them to communicate, but not fluently. Fluent speech would be a removal of the third part of the curse, which has not, and likely will not occur by simply using their current capabilities.

Not from @NautArch post below

In reference to the Telepathy question for a warlock:

  1. Officially Awakened mind is 1 way communication only
  2. Awakened mind would allow you to communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you since there are no need for shared languages at all and it doesn't refer to this as speech.

Awakened Mind PHB pg 110

Starting at 1st level, your alien knowledge gives you the ability to touch the minds of other creatures. You can communicate telepathically with any creature you can see within 30 feet of you. You don't need to share a language with the creature for it to understand your telepathic utterances, but the creature must be able to understand at least one language.

Since the spell describes them as utterances, not speech, your DM should not have any issue with a Kenku using it.


As far I understand it:

You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait.

Racial traits usually override normal rules or are in addition to other ones unless specified otherwise. Magic and telepathy can help a Kenku 'speak' without actually speaking, thus avoid breaking the curse. Note that this doesn't mean the Kenku can use normal speech with magic, just that a Kenku can use methods like 'talking inside the mind' of someone else because the Kenkus ability 'to think' was not taken away.

The racial ability part about reading and writing Common & Auran is the same as the starting languages other races have, however ...'you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait' is related to the curse, and as such will always persist.

So what does this mean?

It means a Kenku can learn new languages and how to read/write those, like the other primordial ones, but all of them will only be 'spoken' with Mimicry.

Related question is if Speak with Animals would be considered 'speaking' by the Kenku curse. On which question I don't have an answer.


I would say that Wind Speaker would allow you to speak primordial without issue, but in the odd/limited way that kenku speak by mimicking words and syllables they have heard.

You can read and write Common and Auran, but you can speak only by using your Mimicry trait. (VGM, 111)

emphasis mine

Per Jeremy Crawford's Sage Advice, "A kenku is capable of speech. But that speech is a bizarre mix of syllables, words, and phrases in voices the kenku has heard."


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