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Warhammer Armies: Beasts of Chaos (2003), p74 — The Beast Tongue (Dark Tongue, Black Speech)

The Dark Tongue is a ritual language and the only tongue in which the tru mysteries of Chaos can properly be expressed. The language is rich in words and phrases that express the mystical and arcane complexity of Chaos. It is the language used by daemons when they enter the material world, as well as the basis of the languages spoken by the many mortal followers of Chaos, including the Beastmen.

The core of the Dark Tongue is a collection of root words, heavily endowed with meaning. The root word is altered by the addition of prefixes and suffixes to bring out the various potential meanings held within the root. Yet more meanings are yielded from the root by mutation of the root itself. It can be a highly complex language, but equally it can be spoken in a very simple manner. Although it is convenient for mortals to attack basic meanings to each word, in reality they are imbued with far greater and deeper significance to the daemons themselves; each word encompasses a myriad of associated meanings and concepts, as well as holding a power in themselves. The socerers worshipping Chaos have begun to tap the power of the Dark Tongue, but only the most powerful will even have an inkling at the potential power that is contained within it. Few mortals can unlock all the secrets within the language, nor do they need to in order to communicate effectively. The Chaos Warriors and Marauders of the far north all speak their own debased tribal variations of the Dark Tongue. Communication is possible between the different tribes, as almost all worshippers of Chaos can communicate with each other no matter what dialect they speak, although it might be difficult and slow.

Beastmen can only form many of the sounds of the Dark Tongue with difficulty, and other sounds are impossible for them to pronounce with their fang-filled, bestial mouths. They use a crude mix of brutish sounds together with the Dark Tongue and the regional languages of the Old World to form a language commonly called the Beast Tongue. To an outsider, this bastardised language sounds little more than a braying jumble of noise, a cacophony of growls, bleats and guttural howls. Indeed, their language is not at all subtle, and some of them do not have the power of speech at all. However, they are intelligent creatures, and even the most base of them can understand speech, though they themselves might only be able to communicate using grunts and growls. The Beast Tongue is an unnatural sounding language that Men cannot speak - when Beastmen and the Human followers of Chaos meet, they communicate using a mix of basic Dark Tongue, Beast Tongue, body language and signals to convey their meanings.

When leaving their mark on the herdstones, the Beastmen use a corrupted and simplified version of the phonetic runes that are sometimes used to write the Dark Tongue. However, the marks carved by the Beastmen are crude affairs, for they write only with difficulty and, as such, their written language is particularly direct and to the point.

An example of the Dark Tongue

Ghaar-Gor Kharnn Grrarh Raahkhamshy'y

This is the typical type of sentence that a Wargor might scratch onto the central herdstone at a Brayherd gathering. It states simply "Ghaar-Gor, Khorne, 5 and 10 warriors". This would indicate that the Wargor Ghaar-Gor, Champion of Khorne and his warband that numbered either 50 or 15 (the language tends to be unspecific about numbers and is written using different conventions by different herds) camped at the stones.