Fictional Languages We Wish We Knew

10 Fictional Languages We All Wish We Knew

Great post I found on Buzz Feed about languages made up for film, TV and books. I knew “Simlish” would be featured! I was once reading Chuck Klosterman’s Sex, Drugs and Cocoa Puffs, and it features an analysis of the game, The Sims, and why people like it. Klosterman eventually is able to interview the creator, who told him that EA Games actually got people calling up from all over the world, saying that they’d accidentally been sent the Japanese version or Spanish version, etc, after listening to the Sims speak! Seems pretty obvious to me that it’s gibberish, but I do remember straining my ear at first.

The next TV show I will be getting into will be The Game of Thrones. I’m not usually into sci-fi nonsense, but this show looks pretty cool. Since I’m not a Trekkie, nor have I ever picked up or watched Lord of the Rings (just don’t care!), maybe I could earn some linguistic street cred and pick up Dothraki.

Klingon was the first language to be created for television, with websites and manuals dedicated to its teaching. In 2007, David Peterson, an American linguist, founded the Language Creation Society and was chosen to create the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones.

“As a language creator, you must start with the culture, you have to start with the people. You piece together what their life is, and little by little you build up vocabulary that kind of reflects their worldview and their world. What might their values be like? What do they see the world as? What’s important, what’s not important?”

He chose sounds that he liked, and read up on Dothraki culture–this is what I think is coolest. Dothraki actually means “the riders”, as they are nomadic and horses are central to their being. He has woven the importance of riding into the language:

Anha dothrak adakhataan. “I’m about to eat.” (Lit. “I ride to eating.”)
Anha dothrak adakhatoon. “I just ate.” (Lit. “I ride from eating.”)

Peterson describes that “Unlike English, terms for distance in Dothraki are derived directly from horse gait terminology. Using karlinat as a base, the Dothraki have an approximation for how far a horse in good health can gallop before having to stop to rest. That distance (let’s call it a mile to make conversion easy) is referred to as a karlina. Using the other gait types, the same derivation model is applied and stands for how far a horse would move at that speed in the time it would take the horse to gallop a karlina. ”

karlina = one mile
chetira = half mile
irvosa = quarter mile
onqotha = eighth mile

A harsh, gutteral-sounding language, some of the actors compare it to “German and Arabic”. Dothraki grammar is inspired by the 18 noun classes in Swahili and the negative verb forms of Estonian. All in all, Peterson was able to create a language with set rules for grammar and pronunciation, finishing at around 10,00o words. While the language lacks a word for toilet, it makes up with 14 for “horse”. Not too shabby!

Klingon, Dothraki and the Na’vi language from Avatar (also never saw that, just didn’t feel like throwing down 20 bucks to see it in IMax and I think it would be lame to see it at home on a small TV screen, so I guess I’ll have to wait 10 or 20 years for them to have some sort of anniversary special where they’ll put it back on the big screen for a few weeks, like they just did with TITANIC 3D) all have their own slew of fans dedicated to learning and transmitting the language. So if picking up Spanish seems dull, you now know that there are much more interesting choices out there…

Here’s a behind the scenes of the creation of Dothraki: 

Coming up with Dothraki

About alicestockwellegan

Language and culture enthusiast from New York living in San Francisco.
This entry was posted in Just for Fun, Language and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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