Movie Languages

Made for movies: Languages created for thematic effect

In the entertainment world, languages are used to capture an audience. From time to time, producers and linguists take the extra step to create an entire language with grammar and syntax rules.  Here are a few movie languages that have been created specifically for their big-screen (and small-screen) debuts.

Lord of the Rings – Elvish

This language was constructed by J.R.R Tolkien himself as the foundation of his Lord of the Rings novels. Elvish was the first language of middle earth and is where all other languages stem from. There are fifteen different dialects of the Elvish language that Tolkien constructed, complete with vocabulary and grammar before his death in 1973. Elvish names, places, poems and songs have been used throughout the Lord of the Rings movie trilogy and The Hobbit. Elvish is one of many languages that Tolkien created throughout his life.

Game of Thrones – Dothraki

One of the most popular shows on television right now is Game of Thrones. Among others, Dothraki is one of the languages used throughout the known world. Linguist David J. Peterson specifically developed Dothraki for HBOs television series. Peterson developed the language, taking inspiration of George R.R Martin’s description of Dothraki in his novel Song of Fire and Ice. He also drew from languages like Russian, Turkish, Swahili and Estonian. Dothraki is comprised of over 3 163 words and is largely a language based on vocal inflections.

Fans can even go so far as to learn the Dothraki language themselves! Check it out here:

Star Trek – Klingon

This fictional language was developed specifically for Star Trek. It was spoken by the alien Klingon race and made popular throughout Star Treks long-running televisions series and movies. This language is heavily centered on Star Trek concepts such as spacecraft or warfare. The language consists of approximately 3000 words, but is often used by Star Trek fans and it is believed that up to 15 people can speak this language fluently across the world. Klingon was created to sound ‘alien’ to listeners and is written in a form of the Latin alphabet.

Avatar – Na’vi

The Na’vi language was developed for James Cameron’s 2009 film Avatar, spoken by the inhabitants of the moon Pandora. Together with James Cameron who offered insight to what he wanted Na’vi to speak and sound like, Paul Frommer, a linguist assisted Cameron. Together they created a language that was learnable by the fictional characters, pronounceable by the actors and did not resemble any single human language. Today there are over 1500 Na’vi words with complete structural and grammatical rules.

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