Take a look at this map of the Caucasus region. I count twenty-nine languages, in eleven different branches of three different language families.
Here’s the question: when was the last time you read a fantasy or scifi novel with that level of linguistic complexity? Heck, when was the last time you read a fantasy with three languages, let alone three language families?
Yeah, that’s what I thought.
The other interesting thing is how jumbled together all the language groups are. The boundaries overlap and bleed into each other and dance around, with little islands of one group inside the boundaries of another, and several tiny languages that exist only as enclaves within a bigger area. Keep in mind, this is a historically normal linguistic situation. We here in the USA are used to the idea of enormous, homogenous linguistic areas like contemporary North America, and so we project that assumption into our sff. If we do bring in linguistic diversity, we do it in the European style, with a simplistic “one language per country” assumption.
This is ridiculous. The really large mono-lingual areas (the Americas, Russia, Australia) are all the result of imperial expansion obliterating earlier linguistic diversity. And Europe’s “one language per country” is nothing more than an illusion: the national language of most European countries is really an amalgam of highly divergent dialects, and every European country is pockmarked with minority linguistic and ethnic enclaves. To give two examples close to (my) home, there are Germans in Romania and Romanians in Hungary.
<<Sigh>>. Well at least I’m doing my best to solve the problem :).