Have you heard about a teacher who invented a language and taught it as real Mandarin Chinese for several years? One of my friends who studies Chinese told once me this story. Till nowadays I don’t know for sure whether it’s worth believing. But the fact remains that it was widely posted across the Internet both as a piece of real news and as a student joke.
That’s what I like about some online sources. You can only guess whether they lie to you or not. Nevertheless, I hope the truth was revealed and linguistic justice was done.
Still, the very idea of an invented language seems quite interesting to me. What is more, any real language spoken by any modern representative of humanity can be considered as invented. Indeed, our mother tongues have evolved for so many hundreds of years, that today we can hardly imagine where they really take their roots from.
Actually, there might have been a couple of geniuses who once came up with the first sensible combinations of sounds and then shared the inventions with their mates. Many centuries passed, enriching and polishing every language of the today’s world. So, we should be thankful and proud to possess the most sophisticated and ubiquitous tool to think, speak, write, and…to create new languages!
Let’s check what I managed to find out about seven most popular invented or constructed, as Wikipedia calls them, languages and why on earth they do deserve so much attention!
Dothraki from Game of Thrones
Initially, this fictional language was created for the fantasy series of novels A Song of Ice and Fire by George Raymond Martin. Even if at first sight the title doesn’t seem familiar to you, you have definitely watched the TV adaptation of this series – Game of Thrones, launched since 2011.
Inspired by Martin’s descriptions as well as by Turkish, Estonian, Russian, Swahili, and Eastern Canadian Inuktitut (yes, this is a really spoken language), the American linguist David J. Peterson constructed Dothraki specially for the films. In 2011 its vocabulary had 3163 words. Generally, the language features 23 consonants and 4 vowels, real parts of speech with their all grammatical characteristics, and very logical sentence structure.
Klingon from Star Trek
The very first sounds and even phrases in this language were invented by the actor James Doohan in 1979. Five years later, in 1984, the series director Leonard Nimoy offered Marc Okrand, who is an American linguist either, to develop Klingon language for the Star Trek universe.
Marc Okrand was definitely one of the best specialist to assign such task to. He seriously studied the tongues of American Indians, which became the rich source of his inspiration. His linguistic brainchild can be considered the easiest invented language to learn due to its well-thought vocabulary, grammar and sentence structure.
By the way, you can easily join the members of the Klingon Language Institute in Pennsylvania, the US, to do that. It was founded in 1992 and successfully published the magazine of fictional Klingon poetry. These days its members are working on the translations of Shakespeare’s works and even Bible. Here is the cherry for the cake: Google Search has a setting for Klingon language.
Parseltongue from the Harry Potter Books
Although you can actually hear it only in three Harry Potter films (The Chamber of Secrets, The Goblet of Fire, and the 1st part of The Deathly Hallows), it is not the random combination of sibilants. Parseltongue was devised by the Cambridge professor Francis Nolan, who is now President of British Association of Academic Phoneticians. Quite a serious figure, isn’t he?
Still, being a parselmouth is considered a dark gift in the world of wizards. But if we come back to our reality and ask almighty Google to tell us something about the fictional language, we will definitely be surprised to find a real Parseltongue guide. So, why not learn it if you have a few free hours on weekends?
George Orwell’s Newspeak
This is the right language for Orwell’s anti-utopian world in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Besides, the idea of Newspeak demonstrates what a significant role our mother tongue can play in our life and what a powerful weapon against ourselves we can turn it into.
Newspeak leaves no place for your own thought. It features certain simplified vocabulary and grammar patterns you must stick to. Otherwise, you might be accused of a thoughtcrime very speedwise (meaning “quickly”).
Of course, the prospect that you will not have to learn all those irregular verbs, superlatives or scientific terms can be very tempting. But the cost of this is to forget such words as love, forgiveness, freedom, happiness, and even science. The cost of this is to believe such frightening but sensible nonsense as “war is peace” and “ignorance is strength”.
You see, if you want to control people, all you need is to control the language they speak and the way they do it.
Languages from JRR Tolkien
It is said that for his world-famous fantasy books JRR Tolkien constructed about 10-12 languages. But neither linguists, researchers, critics, nor hobbyists can tell the exact number. The creator of the entire world of Middle-Earth proved how deep knowledge could be combined with inexhaustible creativity and inspiration.
Specializing in Anglo-Saxon and Germanic, Tolkien was also inspired by Finnish, which actually can be viewed as a parent of one of his Elvish languages. By the way, the full-fledged Elvin tongue is rightfully considered his brightest achievement. He worked on it for almost 40 years, until he left for a better, probably even his own fantastic world in 1973.
So, if you really like the idea, Santa Cruz University of California is offering an experimental course in constructed languages! The instructor Nick Kalivoda is going to explain how inventing a language can help you understand the inner mechanisms and outer uses of a real tongue. Besides, Nick promises to teach enthusiasts to make up new languages and apply them either in your books, movies, whatever, or even in everyday communication.