Throughout human history, there have been thousands and thousands of languages created and lost. Some were confined to small indigenous tribes, others spread across empires, and a few took over the world. All of these languages grew out of the necessity for people to communicate with one another, and they evolved alongside their cultures.
Then, we have another category of languages. These languages didn’t naturally occur as vehicles for discussion, but they 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 used to translate the works of Shakespeare.
Let’s take a look at five of the most popular made-up languages.
Pig Latin is arguably the most famous 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. Easyay easypay!
This one will be familiar to all Lord of the Rings fans. The language of the Elves features prominently throughout J. R. R. Tolkein’s epic fantasy series.
Tolkein was a keen linguist and created Elvish in an attempt to devise the most beautiful language. Supposedly, the main 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.
Another contribution from the world of fantasy, we have Game of Thrones’ own Dothraki. While writing the books, George R. R. Martin only made up a few words of this language. 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, and their lives revolve around their hooved companions. As a result, there are many words describing horse riding and other equestrian activities.
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 crafting the language of the natives of the fictional moon, Pandora: the Na’vi.
Frommer was tasked with designing a language that was both learnable by humans and distinctly non-human. He developed a comprehensive vocabulary and set of grammatical rules.
Cameron has spent the last decade cooking up four sequels to Avatar, set for release in alternating Decembers, between 2021 and 2027. It seems Frommer’s time was worthwhile, as there are plenty more conversations still to be had in Na’vi.
If Pig Latin isn’t the most famous made-up language, then that title is certainly owned by Klingon. It is without a doubt the most studied made-up language in history.
Klingons are aliens from Star Trek. It wasn’t until the movie "Star Trek 3" when director Leonard Nimoy commissioned linguist Marc Okrand to create a language for the species.
It was deliberately made with difficult 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” has sold over 300,000 copies. Even some works of Shakespeare have been translated into Klingon!
Ich-Way anguage-lay ill-way you-yay art-stay earning-lay ext-nay?