Cinema, literature and television series often take their fictional universe to break all the limits of known reality. Beyond creating their fantasy worlds, their characters, their customs and their costumes, in many cases they even dare to inaugurate their own language.
There are multiple books, audio-visual productions and even works of art in which the author, director or artist build their fictional universe in the field of language as well. Thus, to make this imaginary society even more credible and governed by its own rules, they give rise to artistic or alternative languages. Undoubtedly, these languages also constitute an extra attraction for the followers of these fictional worlds that arouse so much fanaticism in the five continents.
What are artistic or alternative languages?
Artistic or alternative languages are artificial languages that have been invented as a merely creative act by the author of a production. These languages are characterized by being created for a single reason: to enjoy the aesthetic pleasure of the result and its effect on fiction. That is, unlike other artificial languages such as philosophical language and logical language, these lack a purpose motivated by the experimentation of socio-linguistic theories.
Although there are different schools in the creation of artistic languages, the most important is the naturalistic school that tries to imitate the complexity and historicity of natural languages. Other alternative languages were not inspired by the natural evolution of languages, but are of a more abstract style that has nothing to do with existing languages in reality.
Which of these languages are famous around the world?
In recent years, fictional literature, film and television series pay increasing attention to artificial languages created exclusively to deepen the meaning of these productions.
Among all the artistic or alternative languages that currently exist, we present the five best known internationally:
- Klingon language (Star Trek saga)
It is an artistic language developed by the American linguist Marc Okrand as the vernacular of the Klingon race in the Star Trek universe. This language was designed with the linguistic typology known as Object Verb Subject (OVS) to make it less intuitive and give it a more alien look.
While actor James Doohan created the basic sounds along with a few words for the first film in the series (1979), Okrand turned that sparse vocabulary into a comprehensive lexicon and complete grammar for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and subsequent production
- Na’vi (Avatar)
It is the artificial language spoken by the natives of the Na’vi people, inhabitants of Pandora, the moon of the fictional planet Polyphemus from the movie Avatar (2009). This artistic language was created by the doctor of linguistics Paul Frommer at the request of the film director James Cameron.
Cameron asked Frommer to create a language that was “pronounceable” for the film’s actors but had nuances that would substantially differentiate it from natural languages. Currently, the Na’Vi vocabulary has more than 2,250 words, yet it continues to grow as fans of the film invent new terms that are approved by Paul Frommer.
- Languages of Middle-earth (books by J. R. R. Tolkien)
Middle-earth is a fictional continent where most of the stories written by British author J. R. R. Tolkien take place, including The Lord of the Rings.
For his fictions, Tolkien mainly developed two related Elvish languages that would later be known as Quenya (spoken by the Vanyar, Noldor, and some Teleri), and Sindarin, spoken by the elves who stayed behind in Beleriand.
However, the languages of Middle-earth include all these artificial languages: Dunael or Adunaic (spoken by the Númenóreans), Entic (spoken by the Ents), Black tongue (spoken by the servants of Sauron), Khuzdûl (spoken by Dwarves), Valarin (spoken by the Ainur), and Rohírrico (spoken by the Rohirrim) and related to Kuduk (a language originally spoken by the Hobbits).
- Dothraki (A Song of Ice and Fire – Games of Thrones)
The Dothraki language is an artificial language created for the indigenous Dothraki people in the novels A Song of Ice and Fire by writer George R. R. Martin, and in its television adaptation Games of Thrones.
A small part of the lexicon is the work of Martin, but the development of grammar and most of the vocabulary – which today has more than 2,500 words – is the work of David J. Peterson, member of the Society for the Creation of Languages. Peterson was hired by HBO to provide the series’ Dothraki dialogue; However, this language was designed according to the original conception of the author, that is, based on the phrases and words already existing in his novels.
- Minion Gibberish (Despicable Me)
In the movie Despicable Me, the Minions speak in the artistic language known as Gibberish or “Minionese” which simply means “incomprehensible”. However, thanks to the expressiveness of these nice characters it is always possible to understand what they are referring to.
The film’s directors, Pierre Coffin and Chris Renaud, explained that to create this artificial language they made a selection of words that they found funny due to their sound and meaning. Therefore, its development was considerably less complex than in the cases mentioned above.