The Common Tongue or Common Speech is a language commonly spoken in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros. There are regional accents, but these do not result in a lack of comprehensibility.
While some free folk who live beyond the Wall understand the Common Tongue, many clans instead speak local languages. The Thenns, for instance, speak the Old Tongue and can only speak a few words of the Common Tongue.
Differences in speech can be observed between the highborn and lowborn of the Seven Kingdoms. These differences can be found in the sound of their speech, but also in the use of specific phrases and words. An example is the use of "my lord" by nobles, but "m'lord" by peasants. According to Lord Roose Bolton, peasants pronounce "m'lord" as if they have mud in their mouths. Although the degree of which it is used differs greatly between the common born, the lowborn patois can be seen in multiple further instances:
- Example 1: "She ast me to, m'lord," Mycah said. "She ast me to."..."It's not no sword, it's only a stick."
- Example 2: "She don't know me," he said, "but I knows her, oh, yes."
Regional accents can lead someone to determine where a person has been born. This is not limited to the regions of Westeros (crownlands, Dorne, Iron Islands, north, Reach, riverlands, stormlands, Vale, westerlands), but also specific cities. For example, Tyrion Lannister, a highborn man from Casterly Rock, near Lannisport in the westerlands, tries to evade suspicion by claiming to be a noble's bastard son who grew up in Lannisport, thereby accounting for his speech. Another example is Samwell Tarly, who is identified as a highborn by Pypar, who states that Samwell is "southron, most like near Highgarden", based solely on his speech.
The largest difference within the Seven Kingdoms can be found in Dorne, where the Common Tongue is marked by the influences of the language of the Rhoynar. This influence can be found all over Dorne, but most strongly among the salty Dornishmen, who have the most Rhoynish blood. The Dornish speak with a Dornish drawl, stretching, rolling, or lilting some words. Some describe the Dornish speech as charming.
Yes, Westeros has regional accents. I played with the idea of trying to depict them with phonetic misspellings (and indeed I do a little of that, with some less educated characters), but that way lies madness. I try to suggest the accents with syntax and taglines instead.
Tyrion took a mordant pleasure in inventing the details of the colorful life of Hugor Hill, also known as Yollo, a bastard out of Lannisport. The best lies are seasoned with a bit of truth. The dwarf knew he sounded like a westerman, and a highborn westerman at that, so Hugor must needs be some lordling's by-blow. Born in Lannisport because he knew that city better than Oldtown or King's Landing, and cities were where most dwarfs ended up.—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
—thoughts of Tyrion Lannister
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 11, Daenerys II.
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- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 38, The Watcher.
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- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 50, Arya IV.
- A Dance with Dragons, Chapter 57, Tyrion XI.
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- So Spake Martin: Cyvasse, Accents, Historical Mysteries, and Dornish Nationalism, April 18, 2008
- A Game of Thrones, Chapter 72, Daenerys X.