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Let's say that in an alternate universe, humans developed on a relatively small supercontinent, so their languages and cultures were somewhat similar. After a while, all of the nations merged into one nation with the same language. Soon afterwards, they developed interstellar travel and proliferated across a handful of nearby solar systems.

However, something happens to this empire, and the interstellar language quickly fragments and evolves into completely distinct languages. This all happens within the span of a few centuries, enough for humans to re-establish communications and re-connect the empire. However, when they do so, they discover that the other humans speak entirely different languages.

Disregarding any plot holes in the above scenario, what event might cause this?

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  • $\begingroup$ Few centuries is the normal rate of language evolution. There is nothing hyper about it. $\endgroup$ – L.Dutch - Reinstate Monica Apr 27 at 17:17
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Tower of Babel-type event

Somehow, for a few centuries, the interstellar travel between inhabited planets shuts down completely. As L.Dutch pointed out in a comment, a few centuries is sufficient time for a language to shift, so if each of the planets within the space empire fall completely out of contact with each other for those few centuries, than it makes (some) sense that there would be a unique language developed on each planet. However, they would still be capable of communicating with sub-light messages, so it's likely that they would have two language on each planet - the new, developing one and a dead version of the original language that's used for official sublight communication - kind of like how Latin and the romantic languages were treated in Europe during the Middle Ages.

As for how this event happened - well, that's your prerogative as the writer. Maybe the initial FTL ships ran on a unique form of unobtanium and the Empire lost their only machine to synthesize it alongside all the knowledge in a freak accident. Maybe they used hyperspace drives and there are an explosion within the hyperspace that prevented travel for all those years until someone figured out how to clean it up. Maybe there was a friendly alien race who lent FTL ships to humanity, and because of their own politics were forced to take them all back and leave humanity alone. It's your call as a writer.

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  • $\begingroup$ Agree, actual events are up to OP to decide, but loss of FTL travel and communication for that period of separation would likely be necessary. $\endgroup$ – TitaniumTurtle Apr 27 at 17:34

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