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Made Up Languages Invented For Literature and Film

Updated on January 21, 2018
Captain Kirk, Star Treck (1966)
Captain Kirk, Star Treck (1966) | Source

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Language Geeks

J.R.R. Tolkien's works are influential in so many ways it would take hundreds of articles to cover them all. One of the most vital influences it has had upon our entertainment culture is in the importance of creating languages to go along with the fantastical stories we read and watch on the silver screen. From the Na'vi language in James Cameron's 2009 film, Avatar, to the Gelfling language in The Dark Crystal, we are constantly provided with made up languages to help us further immerse ourselves in stories of peoples in worlds that are created to be as real as possible, while at the same time completely distinguishable from our own.

Of these many made up languages for literature and film, I have provided a brief overview of only three major ones that most of you sci-fi/fantasy nerds out there are probably already oh too familiar with. Perhaps you, like myself when it comes to Tolkien's Sindarin language, attempted to learn the language as a way of immersing yourself further into the story. Even better, maybe you can speak any one of them fluently. For those who are unfamiliar, here is a basic understanding of these languages and their origins.

Sample of Sindarin Read by Tolkien

Tolkien Languages: Elvish

The history of Tolkien's elves is as intricate as the language itself. Sindarin is the language that is primarily spoken within his novels and used the cirth alphabet, followed by tengwar. Quenya is another elvish tongue that is similar to Sindarin but is much less changeable, which is why Sindarin is much more commonly studied and used. Sindarin is also what is primarily spoken in the Lord of the Rings movies (2001-2003).

Tolkien was interested in language early on in his life and began creating his own languages in his early teens. His first language, Gnomish, set the stage for the very beginnings of Sindarin as it was spoken by the Noldoli elves in the Book of Lost Tales. The second stage toward his infamous trilogy's infamous elvish language was Noldorin, which evolved when the Noldor elves went into exile in Beliariand.

Finally, in 1944, he began developing Sindarin, which was a process that he struggled with, as he tried to make the language sound natural and give it life while he began to put together a universe it fit into.Even today, fans of his work continue to piece together the language with the use of Tolkien's unpublished linguistic papers.

Hamlet in Klingon

Klingon

Klingons are the villains in the Star Trek universe who later become allies to the United Federation of Planets and the Romulans to defeat the Dominion. Since their first appearance on the 1960s television show, Klingongs have undergone many changes, including their appearance, honor code and, most importantly, the development of a full language by Mark Okrand.

According to the Guinness World Records, it is the most spoken of all fictional languages ever created. It is surprising, then, to note that the majority of the vocabulary is centered on Star Trek concepts such as battle so that it is actually not very practical for everyday use. There are Bible translations, Shakespeare, and even dictionaries, a book of sayings, and a cultural guide have been published. You can even select Klingon as your language of choice on Google.

Explanation of Esperanto and How Easy it is to Learn

Esperanto

Spoken in about 115 different countries and by thousands of people, by active/fluent as well as native speakers, Esperanto is a fascinating language that was made up but not for entertainment. Esperanto was created by L.L. Zamenhof to bridge gaps between countries who do not speak the same language. It is easy to learn, politically neutral, and transcends nationality. Zamenhof published his first book detailing the language called, Unua Libro, in 1887.

Some evidence shows that learning Esperanto may help one to learn other languages much more efficiently. This is why, in some primary schools it is taught in preparation for learning other tongues. There is also a World Congress of Esperanto, which was established in France in 1905. Other than the years during the world wars, it has met every year since its creation with 60 countries represented and thousands of participants.

Even though it wasn't created for entertainment, Esperanto has been used in movies that have a futuristic setting. Examples include Gattaca (1997) and Blade: Trinity (2004).

© 2012 Lisa

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    • spartucusjones profile image

      CJ Baker 4 years ago from Parts Unknown

      Awesome hub! I always had the desire to learn Klingon but still haven't got around to it. I got a kick out of the Klingon Hamlet video. Way cool! (or I guess way geek, but whatever).

    • PDXKaraokeGuy profile image

      Justin W Price 5 years ago from Juneau, Alaska

      INteresting hub, Lisa. The question is, what makes a language made up? if people start using a language in every day life, is it still made up???

    • Bill Chapman profile image

      Bill Chapman 5 years ago

      It’s a shame that all the time and energy invested in these fictional languages is not dedicated to Esperanto which has demonstrated its usefulness over many years.

      You probabl;y know that Esperanto is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.

    • Yuan Tian profile image

      Yuan Tian 5 years ago from Australia

      Cool article :) I always did think learning Elvish would be cool but never had the time :D

    • dmhenderson profile image

      Dave Henderson 5 years ago from Missouri, USA

      Interesting hub! I know Tolkien mostly as a student of Old English, which was a significant source of inspiration for his language-creation activities.

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