At Rosetta Stone, we teach languages, we don’t create them. That’s why it’s so fascinating to learn about fictional languages that have been created to deepen the storytelling of fantastical worlds. We’ve touched on these languages before in our RVoice posts, and today guest blogger Miranda González shares more intriguing information about fictional languages. Why not explore them in your next literary adventures?
Numerous fictional languages have been invented to add dimension to the imaginary worlds of books, movies, and video games. These languages include everything from Minionese (the babble that Minions speak in Despicable Me) to Parseltongue (an inherited, hissing language used in the Harry Potter series to communicate with snakes) and Simlish (a hodgepodge of languages used by characters in The Sims video games). A lot of fictional languages are just gibberish, made to sound like real languages but with no genuine structure. However, did you know there are several fictional languages that are fairly linguistically complex and can actually be used to communicate? Here are a few:
Some basic phrases of Klingon were first invented by James Doohan (“Scotty”), but the producers of Star Trek later hired linguist Marc Okrand to devise a grammar structure and develop vocabulary. The Klingon language debuted in 1979 as part of the movie Star Trek: The Motion Picture. It was then expanded as Klingons made further appearances in Star Trek productions.
The language has a loyal following. While it’s estimated that only about 30 people worldwide have mastered Klingon, there’s the Klingon Language Institute, which promotes use of the language, and even a translation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in Klingon! Earlier this year, the wise guys at ThinkGeek came up with a dead-on parody promoting a complete Rosetta Course in Klingon. It was part of an April Fool’s prank, and Trekkies everywhere were sorely disappointed that it wasn’t real.
Dothraki is the language spoken by the nomadic Dothraki people of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire book series and Game of Thrones, the ultra-popular TV show patterned after the books. Again, a linguist was commissioned to make sure that the fictional language referenced in the book had a robust vocabulary and a practical framework for the show. David Peterson, Dothraki’s creator, has said that the still-evolving language now has approximately 3,700 words.
FUN FACT: Since Game of Thrones has about 14 million viewers per episode, the BBC estimates that more people hear the fictional language Dothraki each week than hear the languages Welsh, Irish, and Scots Gaelic combined.
Long before George R.R. Martin dreamed up Dothraki, J.R.R. Tolkien created many fictional languages including Elvish, Quenya, and Sindarin, which were featured in his wildly popular Lord of the Rings. What’s interesting is that Tolkien first thoughtfully constructed his new languages, only then to write stories to complement them.
A professor of English language and literature, Tolkien also extensively studied other languages, which influenced the languages he created. For example, Quenya was influenced by his study of Finnish, and Sindarin shares linguistic similarities with Welsh.
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