A Brief History of Conlangs and Their Uses in Pop Culture|
When you were a child, did you ever come up with your own language to discuss secret playground topics with your friends? Or perhaps you whispered some phrases in Quenya after watching some hobbits trample through Middle-earth on the big screen?
The different types of conlangs
Linguists and philologists have created many conlangs
A philosophical, minimalist language with 120-137+ words, with over 700 speakers, known for its small vocabulary and easy acquisition. It was developed by Sonja Lang to try and simplify thoughts and communication.
A tonal language oriented towards women. It was created by Suzette Haden Elgin to test if natural languages are biased towards men and to compliment her science fiction series, Native Tongue.
A significant effort to systematize the international scientific vocabulary. It aims to be immediately comprehensible by Romance language speakers and, to some extent, English speakers.
An auxlang created by George Boeree and further developed by many of its users. It is based on the vocabulary of Romance languages, and with creole-like simplified grammar, it is very straightforward to learn, similarly to the “Pidgin” languages.
A conlang designed by Dr. Hans Freudenthal. It was made to be understandable by any possible intelligent extra-terrestrial life for use in interstellar radio transmissions. Because it doesn’t rely on any “earthling” based syntax, it has the potential of being a bridge language between diverse, intelligent species.
A difficult language designed to express deeper meanings briefly and clearly. It tries to minimize the vagueness and ambiguity in natural human languages, using its excessive grammatical complexity.
Conlangs in Fantasy and Pop Culture
Lord of the Rings and the new show, the Rings of Power
Game of Thrones and its dragon inspired language
Star Trek and the ways of Klingon
Avatar and the Na’vi
Other Notable Examples
While the majority of languages spoken in the Star Wars series don’t qualify as conlangs, such as Droidspeak (Spoken by the droids) and Shyriiwook (Spoken by the Wookies), they do have a Tusken Raider sign language (seen in the recent Mandalorian series) that is based on ASL (American Sign Language) and Huttese, which has a few commonly used phrases, but by all accounts, is an incomplete language.
An alien written language was used in the show Futurama that was created as an in-joke to see how fast fans could decipher it. The dedicated fans (obviously) solved the first language almost instantly, and the second language (which was a bit more complicated) was deciphered shortly after.
A language used in the book series that is spoken by rabbits. The creator Richard Adams wanted the language to sound “wuffy, fluffy” and describes it as “the language of the countryside”.
Marc Okrand (who created the Klingon language) also made the Atlantean language for the citizens of the mythical city of Atlantis. The writers designed the language to be a possible mother language for all of today’s natural languages. It was inspired by Sumerian and North American Indigenous languages to match the tone of the ancient city.
One of the older languages on this list was initially used in the original 1917 book series. However, only 400 words or so were created by the creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. Paul Frommer (the linguist behind the Na’vi language) re-created and significantly expanded upon the language for the 2012 film John Carter.
Spoken by Belters, inhabitants of the asteroid belt and outer planets of the Solar System, it is a language created by Nick Farmer, who also made a couple of conlangs for the Star Trek: Discovery TV show. It was designed to be an evolution of various languages and dialects that co-existed for generations in close quarters together. It is a compound combination of all of them.
Created by the author and linguist Anthony Burgess, Nadsat is a fictional Russian-influenced English language used by teenage gang members in the novel.
Created by George Orwell, Newspeak is a form of controlled English created by an authoritarian government to gradually reduce the capability of human thought, thus preventing rebellion. Newspeak follows most of the rules of English grammar yet is a language characterised by a continually diminishing vocabulary; complete thoughts are reduced to simple terms of simplistic meaning.