5 Popular Made-Up Languages

3 min read

All languages are made up. But out of the countless languages created over the millennia, some have stuck, becoming the languages of choice for major civilizations, and others have faded away.

Then we have another category of languages. These languages didn’t naturally evolve as people needed to communicate, but were made as an expression of creativity. Some made-up languages stayed between siblings who wanted to have secret conversations their parents couldn’t understand, while others have been created as elements of entertainment and pop culture.

Let’s take a look at five of the most popular made-up languages.

Pig Latin

Pig Latin is arguably the easiest language on this list — and definitely the oldest. It’s thought to have been invented by American school children in the 1800s, but it was brought to the public consciousness with the 1919 song “Pig Latin Love” by Arthur Fields.

The beauty of Pig Latin is that any English speaker can speak it. All you have to do is take a word, move the starting consonant sound to the end, and add "-ay." When a word starts with a vowel, simply add "-yay" to the end. Easy-yay easy-pay!

Elvish

This one will be familiar to all Lord of the Rings fans. The language of the Elves features prominently throughout J. R. R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy series.

Tolkien was a keen linguist who created Elvish in an attempt to devise the most beautiful language. Supposedly, one reason he wrote the Lord of the Rings series was simply to give his made-up language a rich history.

He went as far as creating two main forms: High and Low Elvish. High Elvish, known as Quenya, is based on Finnish and Latin, languages he perceived to be beautiful. Low Elvish, Sindarin, is based on Welsh, which is decidedly less beautiful, in Tolkien’s opinion.

Dothraki

Another contribution from the world of fantasy: Game of Thrones’ own Dothraki. George R. R. Martin made up only a few words of this language while writing the books. However, when HBO commissioned the show, they brought in linguist David J. Peterson to take it to the next level and design an entire language.

As with most languages, Dothraki reflects the speaker’s culture. The Dothraki are horse lords (vezhak), and their lives revolve around their hooved companions. As a result, there are many words describing horse riding and other equestrian activities.

A horse is a hrazef, but there are specific words assigned to mare (lame), foal (nerro), pony (jedda), steed (sajo), and stallion (vezh). When riding (dothralat) a hrazef, one takes the reins (javrath) and can canter (chetirat), charge (gorat), gallop (karlinat), and even trample (nokittat).

And of course, we know the words for king and queen: khal and khaleesi.

Na’vi

James Cameron’s 2009 box office hit Avatar was in production for 10 years, and at least six months of that time was spent by linguist Paul Frommer on crafting the language of the Na’vi, the indigenous people of the moon Pandora.

Frommer was tasked with designing a language that was both learnable by humans, yet distinctly non-human. He developed a comprehensive vocabulary and set of grammatical rules, but the Na'vi language is not yet complete. As there are four Avatar sequels in the works, Frommer continues to release updates to the language on his blog. He writes entire blog posts in Na'vi, along with providing new vocabulary words. The last update included some legal terms: koren ayll is "law, societal rule," leykek means "to enforce," fmong means "to steal, rob," and fmongyu is "thief." Might these additional words provide clues for the plot of the upcoming Avatar sequel?

Klingon

While not as old as Pig Latin, Klingon is probably the most studied made-up language in entertainment history.

Klingons are aliens from the Star Trek universe. They were introduced on the TV show, but it wasn’t until the movie Star Trek III: The Search for Spock that director Leonard Nimoy (Spock himself) commissioned linguist Marc Okrand to create a language for the warrior species.

Klingon was deliberately created with complex grammatical rules that are not found in human languages. However, that did not deter the huge Trekkie fanbase. It is estimated that a few thousand people speak at least some Klingon. The Klingon Dictionary, written by Okrand, has sold more than 300,000 copies. Even some works of Shakespeare have been translated into Klingon.

You'll have to buy the book (or befriend a "Trekkie") to learn the nuances of Klingon, but there are, of course, some Starfleet-specific terms. Starship is 'ejDo' (including the punctuation), Starfleet is 'ejyo', and So'wI' is a cloaking device.

Ich-whay anguage-lay ill-way you-yay art-stay earning-lay ext-nay?

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