Do you know what are the most popular conlangs in video games and movies? But first, do you know what a conlang is?
Constructed Languages or Conlangs in Pop Culture
The most famous conlangs -or constructed languages- have become a very common part of the entertainment industry.
But, have you ever wondered if those languages you hear while watching movies, series, or playing games are real or just made-up words created for specific scenes?
The best conlangs or fictional languages are made up by a person, usually a linguist, rather than evolve over time.
List of Popular Conlangs
Here are just 5 examples of conlangs created for the entertainment industry to enhance the experience of the audience:
Elf Languages – Sindarian and Quenya (LOTR)
Creating languages was Tolkien’s passion which he was ashamed of and he described them as a ‘secret vice’ or ‘nonsense fairy languages’. He started creating languages when he was 13 years old and has not stopped until his death.
He created his stories so the constructed languages have an environment to live in, not the other way, constructing languages to make the story more believable.
His first fictional words were created before the publication of ‘The Hobbit’, where the reader can find singular terms in Sindarian.
The first longer conlang sentences appear on “The Fellowship of the ring”, and that was Quenya, the other elfish language created by Tolkien.
Both Sindarin and Quenya come from the language Quendian. Tolkien wanted to give the languages the feeling that they were lived in and evolved over the years.
Sindarin is the language of the Grey Elves and is the common tongue of elves in Middle Earth. Do you know that the Welsh language was an inspiration for the grammar of Sindarian and other Celtic languages? (Learn more about the Welsh English accent).
These famous conlangs were not complete enough to have a conversation in it. So, the languages used in The Lord of the Rings movies were completed by linguist David Salo.
Today there are societies dedicated to languages created by Tolkien’s. They have published the manuscripts of linguists’ materials.
Dragon Language (Skyrim)
The Dragon Language in the game Skyrim, is one of the most interesting conlangs.
The person responsible for writing the Dragon Language was a senior designer and writer for Skyrim Emil Pagliarulo.
Adam Adamowicz is a concept artist who decided how the language will be written down which resembles scratch marks and was inspired by a language used in Mesopotamia called Cuneiform. This also allowed the language to look like it was written by a dragon claw.
To make this interesting conlang easy and simple, they have not included apostrophes, conjugation, and verb tenses. It is very short as it only has approximately 600 words.
David J. Peterson is the linguist who created the Dothraki language for the Game of Thrones. He is also responsible for High Valerian. It is really interesting to know that Peterson compared the creation of a new language to programming, puzzle-making and problem-solving.
To create this fully developed conlang, Peterson looked at Dothraki and their culture and then began building a lexicon to express it.
He started with the consonants and vowels and decided how this language would sound. Then he moved on to the syllables, and at the end, he focused on grammar, sentence structure, and derivation.
Reading the numerical system, David decided to use a system based on 8 for Dothraki. And the last step was to create the lexicon.
This top constructed language counts around 4000 words. In comparison, the English language has 171,146 words.
Simlish (The Sims)
Compared to the previous conlang languages, Simlish is just gibberish. This conlang was created to enhance the players’ experience of ‘The Sims,’ one of the first life simulation games.
For the game’s first edition, Sims used only 20 words, which are now still part of the Simlish language.
Initially, the creators tried to base Simlish languages such as Ukrainian or Estonian. However, the language is now mostly made up on the spot, allowing the creation of a unique and universal language that left room for players’ imagination when listening to the characters.
Kingston (Star Trek)
Marc Okrand started his work with ‘Star Trek,’ creating a few lines for the Vulcan language, today one of the most popular conlangs.
Later, he was called to create Klingon, the language of humanoid warrior species originating from the planet Qo’noS.
Unlike Dothraki conlang, Klingon was not created as a whole language. The linguist wanted to build only lines for ‘Star Trek 3’.
The starting point for this linguist was Klingon names which appeared earlier in the franchise, and a few sentences at the beginning of ‘Star Trek: The motion picture.
He has listened to those made-up lines, written them down, and decided what means what. This was the beginning of the whole language!
Okrand wanted Klingon to sound like something other than human language. Therefore, he added sounds that were pretty hard to say and put them beside each other.
He also chose ‘object verb subject‘ as a basic word order for this language as it is the least common in human languages.
Interestingly, sometimes the words or grammar would change because of how actors said it while making the “Star Trek” film. So, Okrand decided to change those words in his dictionary.
After filming, this popular conlang came out slightly different than when it was created. It changed just like all languages, however, much faster!
FUN FACT: Did you know that Star Trek fans have translated Hamlet into Klingon and staged productions, and Klingon High and Valyrian are now available on Duolingo?
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