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Darkovan Languages

Darkovans use a number of languages, in spite of the political unity of the Domains. The variations in languages are due primarily to the difficulties in traveling across the planet imposed by its climate and the minimal level of technology; both factors tend to isolate one region from another. However, one can usually rely on the two principal languages, Casta and Cahuenga.


Casta is the noble language, that of the Comyn and the learned. According to official protocols, conversations with Terrans must be in casta (The Heritage of Hastur). Casta is apparently similar to Spanish (op. cit.), but it appears to be very difficult to learn.

Why Casta is difficult to learn

Contributed by Antti Roppola

The reason for this difficulty was mentioned in one of the Magda Lorne novels (maybe The Shattered Chain):

Darkovan languages rely very heavily on intonation and pronunciation, presumably in a manner similar to Chinese where a small change in intonation can totally change the meaning of a word. The example given in novel were the words for "female partner", which sounded exactly the same to Terran ears, but the meaning ranged anywhere from "mistress kept for sex" to "honored wife". Considering how polite Darkovan society is, you can imagine the consequences of a Terran getting the pronunciation wrong!

I believe the use of intonation is a consequence of laran, which used to be far more widespread in the Darkovan population than it is now. One can imagine that when you could make your intended meaning of a word very clear by projecting the right feeling/impression, the actual word used was of secondary importance. Since it is very easy to differentiate intonation if you are brought up from childhood to do so, the resulting language changes would be perfectly adequate for "normal people" too and hence been maintained after laran became marginalised in the population.

Naturally, since Casta is the language of people strong in laran, the affect would be most noticeable in Casta.


Cahuenga is the common language of Darkover. It is spoken nearly everywhere and seems much simpler than casta. Due to the difficulties in traveling about Darkover, cahuenga has a number of local variants. It appears that cahuenga might be a derivative of English and Gaelic (The Heritage of Hastur).

Other Languages

In addition to casta, cahuenga and their variants, there are a number of other dialects. For examples, there is the dialect of the Hellers, which is a form of pure Gaelic (op. cit.). Then there are the dialects of the Dry Towns, which also exhibit traces of English and Gaelic. In fact, it seems that all of the languages of Darkover have their roots in Spanish, English and Gaelic.

copyright 96-99 Fabrice Rossi (
Translated by Michael J. Haas, from

source file (Last modification: Wed Apr 21 17:21:45 1999)