John Carter's Barsoom is an 'end time' world, a relict ecology
which has painstaking reassembled itself after a massive planetary extinction
event and environmental collapse.
It isnít controversial then, that the Barsoomian civilization,
or civilizations which exist in that age are also themselves the consolidated
relics of prior civilizations. Evidence of this abounds.
As one example, there is the fact that almost all Barsoomians
of all races speak a common language.
Yet, there is ample evidence to suggest that other languages must
have existed in the past. This includes the exclusion of primitive
White Ape speech. The Great White Apes, notwithstanding their
well deserved reputation for savagery, are also acknowledged to be intelligent.
Some of them wear clothes, they employ crude weapons, they gather socially,
and clearly they are seen to converse with one another. They are
physically capable of speech, as we see in the brain transplant hybrids
of Master Mind of Mars. However, their speech or language,
whatever it is, is foreign to the common tongue.
There is a residue of other language words from the Black race.
More interestingly, there are different written languages found in
each city state. The city state written languages are not easily
intelligible to each other. One has to assume that the
oral language precedes a written language. One also has to assume
a written language has a greater portability across space and time.
So the only inference must be that each written language represented a
distinct oral language at one time.
Ethnic distinctions would suggest the evolution of different languages.
The humans and the green men represent entirely different evolutionary
lines. How is it that they speak the same language? Surely
it did not evolve together, and if one line adopted the others language,
then surely it must have been capable of a language of its own, and if
so, we can easily assume a proto-language or full language.
The other human races, red, black, white and yellow, the kangaroo
men, even the kaldanes/rykors must have been isolated for a period of time
to develop their different ethnic characters... It only stands to
reason that they developed languages as distinctive as their appearances.
In short, for much of Martian history, the inevitable trend must
have been towards linguistic diversity, much as we see on Earth.
So what happened to these languages? Probably the same things
that happen on Earth. A dominant society emerges, its language becomes
a trade speech of commerce and religion, and everyone picks up a little
bit of the tongue in order to talk to visitors, strangers, traders etc.
So where did the common language or trade speech originate?
Itís possible that, as on Earth, there were several trade speeches occupying
history, with only the final one known to us. The blacks of Omean
in the Southern Hemisphere and Kamtol in the north may have had one of
the first trade speeches. In both regions, they still retain the same or
similar words of their original tongue. The Okar appear to
have made no contribution at all that we can find.
The most likely candidate for Barsoomís ultimate or final common
language is that of the Orovars who, according to the histories, became
a sailing and seafaring people, traveling the five oceans and dominating
However, a trade speech does not necessarily mean that other languages
become extinct. Talking to strangers is one thing, talking to family
is another. Stable societies would have meant stable languages.
Itís likely that the collapse of Barsoomís ecology, and the destruction
of stable societies meant the death of local languages. When
entire populations were on the move, when devastated societies united with
other devastated societies for common defense or offense, when half the
planet was refugees, then knowing the common trade language was far more
important than speaking a local language.
Under pressure of radical social change and upheaval, local languages
literally disintegrated. At times, speaking a local language could
be a social death sentence, since it identified you as belonging to a weaker
or subservient group.
The process of linguistic consolidation must have happened extremely
swiftly, affecting all ethnic groups. Only the First Born whose
core habitats were ultimately stable retained any of their original language.
Even the Okar, who were able to escape the collapse by fleeing into their
arctic refuge wound up adopting the common language and losing their own.
So the process must have been completed well before that time.