Books, movies and TV series are the virtual places where artificial languages are very often used. These are totally “invented” languages, just to be spoken by our favourite fantasy characters.
Daenerys Targaryen in Game of Thrones express herself in a perfect Dothraki or in High Valyrian, Harry Potter chills us to the bone with Parseltongue, Jake Sully learns Na’Vi to converse with Pandora’s population in Avatar; in The Lord of the Rings Aragorn and Arwen talk to each other in Sindarin and words resemble sweet water sounds. Not at all musical is, on the contrary, the language spoken by Klingon people in Star Trek!
Intriguing and melodious or not, artificial languages aren’t a joke. To invent a language that really makes sense, grammatical, phonetical and linguistic skills are required. Behind the birth of each one of these languages, there are the effort and brilliance of one or more persons called “applied linguists”, creators of artificial languages! The result often goes way beyond the screen or the book becoming a real cultural phenomenon, confirming how much language – whatever language it is – and culture go hand in hand.
Let’s see more closely some of these languages spoken in our favourite books or movies:
Quenya and Sindarin, The Lord of the Rings
J.R.R. Tolkien creates his first language, the Animalic, in 1905, followed by the Nevbosh (made by mingled English, Latin and French plain and inverted words) and the Naffarin, entirely invented by Tolkien.
However his most known language is the Elvish language of The Lord of the Rings, that he continues to enrich with rules and idioms until his death.
The main Elvish languages designed by Tolkien are: the Quenya, the ancient language spoken by a few of his characters, from which the Sindarin and some dialects derive. Sindarin is the language extensively spoken in the books and movies.
There aren’t only the Elvish languages in the Middle Earth, but also other languages, such as the Entish, used by Ents, the great “warrior” trees, and the Black Speech, spoken by Sauron.
A nice example of Sindarin are the magic words spoken by Arwen summoning water horses on river Bruinen to get rid of the Ringwraiths: “Waters of the Misty Mountains, hear the word of power, rush, waters of Bruinen, against the Ringwraiths!” – “Nîn o Chithaeglir lasto beth daer; Rimmo nîn Bruinen dan in Ulaer!“
The most famous sentence in Black Speech?: “Ash nazg durbatulûk, ash nazg gimbatul, ash nazg thrakatulûk agh burzum-ishi krimpatul.” – “One Ring to rule them all, one Ring to find them, one Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.” (Source: Wikipedia)
Klingon, Star Trek
The Klingon language is created by Marc Okrand in 1980 and it’s the language spoken by the worst enemies of the United Federation of Planets, the Klingon people. There are real enthusiasts of Klingon language, who can speak it fluently and even literary works, like the Amlet by Shakespeare, were translated in this language.
In the well-known tv series “The Big Bang Theory”, the main characters, Sheldon Cooper and Leonard Hofstader, use the Klingon language when they don’t want to be understood by those who are around them.
Klingon people are a warrior race, so here is this proverb, typical of the Klingon culture: “DabuQlu’DI’ yISuv” – “When threathened, fight”.
Do you need a Klingon translation? You can visit this page on the official Klingon Language Institute website!
Parseltongue, Harry Potter
The Parseltongue, formed by an ensemble of hissing sounds, is invented by Francis Nolan, who creates and puts together a series of sound, a simple synthax and some grammatical rules, necessary to be able to articulate it.
Even in this case, the invented language goes beyond the screen and it is expanded by fans, who even created an unofficial Parseltongue translator, adding in-depth linguistic rules and new words to the initial language.
You want to jog your memory with some citations in Parseltongue from Harry Potter movies? You can do it here. Be careful! It’s a treacheroussssss language!
Paul Frammer is the creator of the Na’vi language, spoken by Pandora’s people. The first day of shooting in 2007, this language is already structured and more than 1.000 words, grammatical and syntactic rules are available. Na’vi is not a written idiom, it is only spoken.
While waiting for the second chapter of Avatar, if you’d like to learn something, you can check the Learn Navi page.
Dothraki and Valyrian, Game of Thrones
No need to remind you where these language are spoken, we are talking about the blockbuster series Games of Thrones. David J. Peterson starts working on these languages in 2009, on the basis of what already existing in the books of George R. R. Martin, the author of the well-known saga.
The Dothraki is the native language of the namesake population, of which Daenerys Targaryen will become queen, or khaleesi. Daenerys express herself also in High Valyrian, an ancient language of the Valyrian empire, spoken in the restricted cicles of society.
In an interview Emilia Clarke, the actress who plays Daenerys, revealed that she speaks Dothraki very fluently, so well that sometimes she sings the texts of some songs translating them simultaneously in Dothraki.
The impact of the Dothraki language on the world’s culture was enormous. There are lots of translators, apps and dedicated websites in the net. This cultural phenomenon goes way beyond: only after the first season, 146 little girls in the USA were baptized with Khaleesi as a name. An invented name for real girls!
Would like to ask someone “how are you” in Dothraki? There you are: you can say “Hash yer dothrae chek?”.
While waiting for someone to invent the next artificial languages, if you’re attracted to the idea of studying one, you only have to choose: there are numerous structured courses of Elvish, Dothraki, Klingon and Parseltongue. What are you waiting for?
Note: the image at the beginning of the article is taken by a Forbes article dedicated to the tv series.