Common was the trade language of Faerûn. Almost every sentient, civilized being spoke a smattering of it, and most were fluent. While most could not read or write the language, generally, the people of Faerûn were able to converse with each other in this language.
Common was little more than a trade language; that is, it was not useful for complicated topics. It was simple and not very expressive as a language.
Dialects varied from region to region, but generally, communication was possible. Calant was a melodious dialect spoken on the Sword Coast, while Kouroo was a Chultan variant, and Skaevrym was spoken in Sossal, but there were literally thousands of other local dialects.
The Common spoken throughout Faerûn was properly called Thorasta by linguists and peoples from other continents, such as Zakhara. The purest version of Thorasta was spoken mainly in the Western Heartlands, from Way Inn in the north to Beregost in the south, and from Baldur's Gate in the west to Hill's Edge in the east.
In other realms, "Common" could be altogether different; these were not in fact dialects but different languages. An example was in the Underdark, as the residents there spoke what was known as Undercommon. Inhabitants of different planes also speak different forms of "Common".
Limitations and Advantages
The obvious advantage to Common was that practically every sentient creature could speak it. Even in remote areas of Faerûn like Murghôm, Samarach, and the Great Glacier, the inhabitants could speak at least enough of it to make themselves understood with a little creative pantomiming. Admittedly, regional accents had a tendency to confuse the issue; natives of distant areas sometimes regarded each others' accents as strange or silly, but they could still understand each other.
However, it also had its disadvantages: not every concept could be easily related to others. Nuances of speech, names, and phrases could be expressed easier in older languages such as Illuskan and Dwarven.
According to Faerûnian linguists, Common developed directly from Thorass, or "Old Common", which was itself a pidgin variant of the Jhaamdathan language ("Old Chondathan") and Alzhedo. Among living languages, Common was most closely related to Chondathan.
- Thomas M. Costa (1999). “Speaking in Tongues”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon Annual #4 (TSR, Inc), p. 28.
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 85. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, Robert J. Schwalb (September 2008). Forgotten Realms Player's Guide. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 156. ISBN 978-0-7869-4929-8.
- Ed Greenwood, Sean K. Reynolds, Skip Williams, Rob Heinsoo (June 2001). Forgotten Realms Campaign Setting 3rd edition. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 84. ISBN 0-7869-1836-5.
- Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 8. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
- Jeff Grubb (August 1992). Land of Fate (Adventurer's Guide to Zakhara). (TSR, Inc), p. 124. ISBN 978-1560763291.
- Thomas M. Costa (1999). “Speaking in Tongues”. In Dave Gross ed. Dragon Annual #4 (TSR, Inc), p. 26.
- Steve Kenson, et al. (November 2015). Sword Coast Adventurer's Guide. Edited by Kim Mohan. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 110. ISBN 978-0-7869-6580-9.
- Jeff Grubb, Ed Greenwood and Karen S. Martin (1987). Forgotten Realms Campaign Set (Cyclopedia of the Realms). (TSR, Inc), p. 9. ISBN 0-8803-8472-7.
- Reynolds, Forbeck, Jacobs, Boyd (March 2003). Races of Faerûn. (Wizards of the Coast), p. 85. ISBN 0-7869-2875-1.