A Tongue-Twisting Adventure: 11+ Mind-blowing Fictional Languages
Language is an intricate part of human culture. It can be a way to express oneself and form bonds with other people in the same linguistic community. Language also has the power to create worlds that feel real and vivid through its use.
It’s no surprise that many creators of fiction have used language for this very purpose, whether explicitly or implicitly. In this article, we’ll explore ten mind-blowing fictional languages that have captured our imagination in recent history!
Table of Contents
Dothraki– Game Of Thrones
Dothraki is a fictional language from the HBO series Game of Thrones. Created by David J. Peterson, it has been described as “a full language” with its own words and grammar rules. It was developed for use in the television show to speak that dialogue in Dothraki without translating into English. Still, it has also gained significant popularity among fans of the TV show who have taken to learning Dothraki themselves!
The origins of Dothraki are not widely known in Westeros or Essos. What is known is that it originated as a common form of Valyrian spoken by some members of the Ghiscari Empire about four thousand years ago – long before Daenerys Targaryen was even born. The common tongue used to be called “Low Valyrian” until three hundred years ago when High Valyrians from Pentosi invaded their lands, killed off 90% of the population and renamed themselves as the new ruling class – Maegi for those who were left alive.
In the series, we see how Daenerys Targaryen teaches herself to speak Dothraki by reading about the language in a book written by her brother Viserys, who was exiled from Westeros as a child.
In the books, we learn that she asked Jorah Mormont for help, and he tells her one word: “khalasar” – meaning army or people of Khal Drogo’s khalasar.
The TV show has taken to learning this fictional language themselves! The language is now the third most popular constructed language on Conlanger.org, after Esperanto and Klingon.
While some aspects seem similar to real-world languages (it contains influences from Turkish), others can be more obscure- like words with harsh consonants. Many fans of the television show have attempted to learn the language.
Klingon- Star Trek
Star Trek features many languages and dialects, but none is more famous than Klingon. We first see the language in 1984’s “Star Trek III: The Search for Spock” to bridge the gap between humans and aliens. It has since become well-known outside of the series, with dictionaries and even schools teaching it!
In addition to its appearance in movies and TV shows, Klingon is becoming more popular among fans who want to learn more about it – there are even schools teaching children how to speak it.
Klingon was developed by the actors for the show’s third episode, “The Search For Spock.” One of these actors was James Doohan, who played Montgomery Scott. When they looked to create a language for the Klingon character in this episode and future episodes, they contacted linguist Marc Okrand (who had developed Vulcan dialogue) to write it phonetically with English letters.
Doohan claimed that he didn’t know what he was doing when developing Klingon – but because of his engineering background and experience with other languages like French and German, and Latin, he managed to come up with something unique! Looking at Wikipedia now, you can see over 600 words written in both English script (pIqaD) while maintaining original spelling conventions from Okrand.
It is now the most popular constructed language globally, with Klingon speakers popping up all over.
Quenya- Lord Of The Rings
Quenya, a fictional language from the Lord of the Rings series, was created by J.R.R. Tolkien in 1915 and has had quite an exciting development over time. The language was initially called Qúnya but later changed to Quenya as it is pronounced in Sindarin or Grey-elven tongue, closely related to Quenya and English. One of the most exciting things about this language is that it’s written with Latin letters instead of runes, so many people can read and write it even if they don’t know how to speak it!
The Quenya language is still spoken by very few people and has a slightly different pronunciation than Sindarin, but it’s still the most popular of all Tolkien languages! It was created to replace Finnish as an international auxiliary language. Quenya words are often derived from Latin, so those who speak Spanish or Italian might understand some more complex sentences too!
Quenya grammar shares many similarities with English which makes learning easier for speakers of these two languages. Many new verbs in this fictional language are conjugated according to person since they distinguish between first-, second-and third-person singular forms. They also have three cases instead of just one like we do in English: nominative, genitive, and accusative.
Some Quenya words are so old that they’re only used in songs! The language is very complex and has many different dialects, but Tolkien created a standardised speech called “Book Quenya”.
In this fictional world, Quenya is often associated with elves because it was originally spoken among them. It’s not related to Finnish at all, as some people might think, since both languages come from entirely different parts of Europe, unlike English or Spanish speakers who speak variants of Indo-European languages!
Navi is a fictional language from the movie Avatar. It was created by Paul Frommer, Dr Marc Okrand, and David J. Peterson for use in the film’s fictional universe of Pandora. The language has developed since it first appeared in the movie, with more words being added to give it more depth as a culture and its unique sound.
The “Na’vi” people speak Navi on Pandora. The language has developed since it first appeared in the film, with more words being added to give it more depth as a culture and its unique sound.
Navihi means Navigator, and Neytiri, daughter of Eytukan, learned how to speak English from her school friend Jake Sully at an early age because she had been cut off from her Na’vi roots following the death of both parents.
She was able to teach herself basic English quickly through the use of a translator device that interfaced with her neural implant but continues speaking using Navi when among other Na’vi or humans who do not understand Navi or have difficulty understanding English due to its more complex linguistic structure.
The Na’vi are humanoid creatures who live on the planet Pandora, which is rich with natural resources that humans desire for their economic gain. The Na’vi have mystical connections with nature and believe all living things should be honoured.
Navi means “navigator”, and it is the only spoken language of this fictional tribe; like most indigenous cultures around Earth, they speak what’s called endangered languages such as Quichua or Ainu at home among themselves but English when outside of their community or school setting because outsiders typically do not speak it.
The Navi written word consists of glyphs that are more elaborate than any human-written alphabet. Still, their phonetic structure matches English lettering in most cases: It has a Roman-style vertical orientation to read left-to-right with spaces between words and punctuation marks.
The writing embodies an artistic tradition that we can only guess because there haven’t been many examples found on Earth yet. However, suppose you take into consideration how much detail went into creating this fictional culture. In that case, it stands to reason they would have very developed art styles, which makes this type of speculation worth entertaining.
Alienese is a fictional language that was initially developed for Futurama, an American animated sci-fi sitcom. It has since been used in other works and even created its fandom, including creating fonts to represent this new writing system.
Alienese most closely resembles Chinese or Japanese characters as they are known to us today – it consists of square blocks with each block representing a character. The letter “A” is represented by one different shape, while the letters “B” through “Z” consist of many variations on those shapes (often from two lines next to each other).
When Futurama premiered in 1999, it was a revolutionary show with an original premise: what if aliens invaded Earth and humans were forced to live as second class citizens? It also introduced us to the first fictional language ever created for TV or film. The creators of Futurama wanted to create something that sounded like natural alien languages might sound, so they consulted linguists from Yale University who helped them develop this new language.
The language was created by Dr Amy Okuda, a linguistics professor at Yale University, along with Wylie Herman and David O’Dell, back in 2000 before Futurama even aired for the first time on TV.
Valyrian- Game Of Thrones
The Valyrian language is a fictional language from the Game of Thrones series and is spoken in Essos. It was created by David J. Peterson, who also developed Dothraki for the TV show.
If you’re a fan of the show, then chances are that you’ve heard Valyrian. It’s an ancient language spoken in Essos and Westeros by noble families, including Daenerys Targaryen. The word “Valyrian” derives from the name Valyria, which was once a mighty empire founded on the eastern continent of Essos.
Ironically, Valyria was destroyed by a cataclysmic event and the language with it. Valyrian is now only spoken in Westeros as a “learned” tongue which scholars study extensively to gain access to the knowledge of their ancestors. Valyrian’s grammar has its roots from High Valyrian (the old dialect) but borrows features from other languages such as Astapori Valyran or Volantene Valyran.
The main difference between these two variants is that while they are mutually intelligible, some words may be used primarily in one region rather than another.
Valyrian shares some features with other languages such as High Valyrian or Astapori Valyran and has unique qualities, making it impossible to confuse it with any different language in Westeros. One thing that distinguishes Valyria from all other languages is how vowel-less they are: instead of having vowels, words are constructed based on their consonant roots and usually end in -a (the feminine suffix).
Fans of Game of thrones have attempted to reconstruct Valyrian by compiling a dictionary of words and phrases from the series. Examples of terms in the series include:
Valar morghulis” – All men must die!
“Valar dohaeris” – All men must serve!
Vulcan – Star Trek
The Vulcan language, also known as “Vulcan Standard,” is the constructed language spoken by the Vulcans in Star Trek. The fictional backstory of this language evolved from ancient languages used by early humans on Earth, and so it is a simplified or “childlike” form of human speech.
Star Trek is a cultural phenomenon that has generated many different aspects of fandom, including fan art, role-playing games, and yes, even language. One of the most popular languages in this fandom is Vulcan, which Leonard Nimoy developed for his character on the show. Vulcan is a constructed language, meaning that its grammar and vocabulary are deliberately designed rather than being drawn from a natural language.
Although Nimoy was the only actor to speak Vulcan on Star Trek, many other people were involved in its development. They included Dr Marc Okrand, who created some of the first grammatical rules for Vulcan; James Doohan (Scotty), who made up words such as “nit’a” which means blood brother or sister when it is used between two Vulcans; Bill Theiss, who came up with names like Sarek’s wife T’Pau and their son Spock; and Rick Berman who helped design the world of Vulcan society including how they communicate verbally, electronically, through touch telepathically, by use of Vulcan sign language, and through body language.”
It has an alphabet consisting of symbols from Greek, Cyrillic, Latin scripts (written left to right) with no letter “P” because it would be hard to distinguish between a lowercase “p” and an uppercase “Q”. The spoken form was developed from recordings that James Doohan had initially done for other films but became more refined as time went on.
Vulcan is now a fan favourite amongst the Trekkies, and it can be found in many places such as the Vulcan Language Institute’s website, a book on learning to speak Vulcan called “How To Speak Vulcan” by Marc Okrand.
Atlantean- The Lost Empire
Atlantean is a fictional language from the lost empire. Elves, humans, and dwarves speak it in this world. Atlantean has its roots in English, but it has evolved to become completely different from what we know as modern-day English.
In the fictional world, Atlantean was developed by the Atlantean colonists to communicate with the other people they met. The first humans who spoke this language were sailors, merchants and craftsmen who sailed from Atlantis into a world of new experiences.
The development of Atlantean is continuing today as more settlers come to Atlantis seeking work. In general, it’s been found that young people are drawn to the language because it feels like their own culture has returned while older generations have spoken English all their lives, so they’re reluctant or resistant.
Since there isn’t much written about this language on paper yet for me to reference, I’m going off my knowledge regarding what I’ve learned through classes and talking with other students.
It is primarily an Indo-European language with some Samoyedic influences. Atlantean has three major dialects: Eastern, Western and Southern.
Eastern Atlantean shares features with Finnish, Samoyedic languages and Inuit languages due to its proximity to those regions of Earth; Western Atlantean shares features with Spanish, French and Arabic due to contact during the European colonial era; southern Atlantean shares features with various indigenous American languages due to long periods of isolation in that region of Earth’s surface.
The development process for Atlantis began when director James Cameron asked Marc Okrand about how he wanted the dialogue in Avatar to be. Cameron, a linguist himself and aware of Okrand’s work in the field, was interested in developing an entirely new language for his film that would not sound like any real-world language to avoid giving away what planet Pandora is set on.
Okrand created over 1000 words with 140 grammatical rules based on the Proto Indo European Language, which formed around 5000 B.C. when humans first started settling down into villages and farming crops rather than hunting animals before moving onto other territories (Wikipedia).
Every Atlantean word has a meaning attached to it based on key concepts from English and ancient languages such as Finnish or Inuit.
Huttese – Star Wars
Huttese is a fictional language from the Star Wars universe. It was created by sound designer Ben Burtt for the film Return of the Jedi and first spoken in 1983’s Jabba the Hutt scene.
It is often used to represent dialogue that appears on screen as unintelligible gibberish or “alien talk.”
The origin of Huttese can be traced back to when it was first conceived for use in Return of the Jedi. The original intention was for it to resemble Slavic languages such as Polish or Russian. Still, after recording sessions with director George Lucas and actor Larry Ward (who played Jabba), they decided that it sounded too much like another alien race already seen in earlier films. Instead, they wanted Huttese to resemble Bela Lugosi’s Hungarian in the 1931 film Dracula.
The Hutts speak the Huttese language, or Hutt Clan, an integral part of the Star Wars universe. Huttese is spoken by Jabba, his father Zorba and Bib Fortuna in Return of the Jedi.
-Huttese was first heard when used as a form of dialogue by Princess Leia Organa while she was held captive by Trandoshan slavers on their home planet in The Clone Wars episode “Slaves of the Republic”.
Kryptonian is the language spoken by Superman and his people, native to the planet Krypton. It is not an Earthling language, but rather a fictional one created for use in DC Comics. Despite this, it has become increasingly popular among fans of the superhero as they are introduced to its nuances and intricacies through media such as television shows and films.
Superman is one of the most popular superheroes of all time. He’s been around since 1938 and has gone through many iterations in his nearly 80 years as a character. However, one thing that has remained constant is his ability to speak Kryptonian – an alien language that Superman picked up when he was sent from Earth to live on the planet Krypton before it exploded.
The origins and development of Kryptonian can be traced back to two significant points: Action Comics #1 (1938) and John Byrne’s The Man of Steel (1986). From there, it grew over decades across comic books, cartoons and movies, which resulted in several different variations on the language spoken by Superman’s homeworld.
Some of the more recent incarnations have been mixed with English, while some older versions had no relation to any Earth languages.
The language has never been given an official name or recorded dialogue, but with some help from various sources, we can get a good idea about how it sounds. For example, some words have been translated into English while other words can be inferred due to context clues such as “Kal”, meaning both “hope” and “saviour”.
We also know that Kryptonian grammar is mainly reliant on word order. The fanfare around the fictional language is a mix of people creating new words and characters for their writing and translating English to Kryptonian. We imagine that the language will continue to expand as more people interested in the culture take part.
The development of Kryptonian will be inclusive to English speakers and those across languages, making this a global community experience. With these contributions, we may gain an even better idea about what this fictional language can do. When we see new words created or translations expanded, our curiosity increases along with hope for yet another day where characters on the screen can speak to us in a way no one else has before.
Languages are a big part of the cultural identity and history of many cultures. They can also be used as an effective way to stretch the boundaries of our imagination and build communities around shared interests. In this article, we’ve showcased ten fictional languages that have captured our attention over the years.
From Dothraki from Game of Thrones to Na’vi from Avatar, these languages show us how some people choose to express themselves beyond what is possible with English. Remember to subscribe to this magazine for more exciting articles on language, literature and culture from all over the world and beyond!