The Most Popular Fictional Languages
The world of languages is fascinating, with every lexicon and alphabet having its own rich characteristics, making learning a language incredibly rewarding.
Many languages have been spoken and written for thousands of years, evolving along the way. But some languages have been created a little more recently than that.
Fictional languages are just as fascinating as traditional languages – they are often constructed by people with a passion for languages, and some are incredibly well-developed.
Here, Language Connect takes a look at five very different fictional languages and their place within their universes:
Klingon is widely regarded as the most developed fictional language of all. It was developed as a language to bring an extra layer of realism and continuity across the Star Trek franchise.
Linguist Dr Marc Okrand was brought in to develop the language, with The Klingon Dictionary published in 1985.
Today, major works including Shakespeare’s Hamlet have been translated into Klingon, while some couples choose to say their wedding vows in the fictional language. There are also believed to be around 20 fluent Klingon speakers across the globe; this may not sound like many, but it’s quite remarkable for a language that didn’t exist until the 1980s.
The many varieties of Elvish were created by author J.R.R. Tolkien, who had an extensive knowledge of language from Latin to Old Norse. He used this to develop the Elvish languages, which include Quenya and Sirdarin, and built his fantasy worlds around them.
Building a fictional world around languages was an innovative approach, but only added to the rich detail of the Tolkien universe.
Online guides and Elvish dictionaries are available to help people to pick up the language themselves.
The Languages of Star Wars
The Star Wars franchise features multiple fictional languages – so many that it actually has its own lingua franca, Galactic Basic.
However, there are other languages used throughout the franchise, from the Shyriiwook spoken by Chewbacca to droidspeak and Ewokese.
There’s no denying that the Harry Potter universe created by J.K. Rowling is incredibly well-developed, but the magical languages referred to throughout the franchise are nowhere near as developed as the likes of Klingon.
Inspiration is taken from Latin and other Romance languages for many of the spell incantations used in the stories, while magical characters speak Parseltongue, Mermish, Troll and even Gobbledegook – but no more than a few words of each is ever referenced.
Regarded by many as the most developed fictional language since Klingon, Dothraki first appeared in the George R. R. Martin novel A Song of Ice and Fire, part of the Game of Thrones franchise.
Just a few words of Dothraki featured in the book, but for the HBO TV series, David Peterson of the Language Creation Society was brought in to develop the language into a complete lexicon.
Dothraki is one of the few fictional languages to transcend into the popular lexicon; the term ‘Khaleesi’, meaning ‘wife of a ruler’, has become a popular girls’ name in recent years. In 2018, 560 babies were registered with this name in the US, placing the name among the country’s 1,000 most popular girls’ names.
The legacy of fictional languages can be huge, and we look forward to seeing the creativity and intricacy behind the fictional languages of the future.