Tag Archives: Quenya

Are Constructed Languages Legitimate?

I’m sure you’ve heard of Esperanto, since I’ve talked about it and have done a test drive of the language. It’s a constructed language, one that did not evolve over time, but was created by a linguist for a purpose. It was to be the international language, easily learned, and easy to understand. This is a legitimate language, and there are actual native speakers of the language, having grown up using it as a main language.

But there are other languages that are real languages that people can learn and use. Probably the most famous ones are:

  • Klingon, created by Marc Okrand for Star Trek movies and subsequent TV series.
  • Quenya, created by J. R. R. Tolkien, and spoken by the elves in The Lord of the Rings novels.
  • Sindarin, created by J. R. R. Tolkien, and spoken by the immortal elves of The Lord of the Rings.
  • Na’vi, created by Paul Frommer, and is spoken by the Na’vi in the Avatar movie.

Both Klingon and Na’vi are functional languages that can be learned and spoken in conversation. Quenya and Sindarin were never intended to be used by people, and only a few hundred words were created. Not enough for advanced conversation. However, they have been further developed by fans, and Sindarin apparently now has twenty-five thousand words published.

Do you think these are legitimate languages? Do you think people should try to learn them? Personally, I want to learn Klingon. I have the dictionary. If you could learn any of these languages, which would you like to learn?

Creating Languages for Speculative Fiction

Quenya_Example.svgAnyone who reads or writes speculative fiction understands that English isn’t always the language that’s spoken by the characters.  What is generally spoken by characters in fantasy is often called the Common Tongue.  This is written in English.  In science fiction, English is more likely to be used, since it’s usually based in our future reality.  However, far in the future, the language is likely to be very different than today’s English.  I’ve often seen it called Standard, but not always.

But what about other languages?  In fantasy, it’s important to create different languages for different cultures.  Some languages may be linked, evolving from a common root language.  On Earth, there are many different language groups. For example, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian all have a common root in Latin.  The master of language creation in fantasy was J. R. R. Tolkien.  He created several languages, including the example at the top of this post.  That’s Quenya, one of the Elvish languages.  He developed the languages so well that you can even learn to speak them.

In science fiction, languages have likely drifted from what they are now, and I’ve often seen new words being used, especially slang and expletives.  And then there are alien languages.  These would be so completely different from anything we have on Earth, so they need to be very creative.  One such example is Klingon, created by Marc Okrand and James Doohan (Scotty), which was later expanded into a complete language by Okrand.  You can learn to speak this language, too.  You can read Hamlet in Klingon and learn to understand what “taH pagh taHbe'” means.

Anyone who wants to create a language for either fantasy or science fiction can probably make up a few words, not the entire language.  However, it’s best to set up some rules, particularly for pronunciation, spelling, and basic grammar.  That way, when you need more, you can expand using the rules you created.  It’s particularly useful for place names, names of characters, and so on.

How useful do you think it is to create a language?  Have you tried before?  Share your experiences in the comments.