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The Top Five Fantasy Languages

Constructed languages, more informally known as “conlangs,” make fantasy and science fiction more realistic. They also provide a hobby for both amateur and professional linguists across the globe, and a paying job for a select few.

Sometimes, people make up languages “just because.” But in general, there are two main types of constructed languages: languages made for real-world use, like Esperanto, and languages created for fictional worlds. Today, we’ll focus on the second category. Here are the top five constructed languages from fantasy and science fiction:

Quenya

tolkienIt shouldn’t come as a surprise that the top two spots in this list are taken by languages created by Tolkien.  He was by no means the first author to create fictional languages for his books, but he did put an extraordinary amount of effort into the languages he created and helped to (somewhat) popularize creating languages as a hobby.

In Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Quenya is the language of the “high Elves”, the elves who left Middle Earth after its creation to live in the Elven homeland. A large group of high elves later returned to Middle Earth, and spoke Quenya as a second ritual language or in poetry.

Main real-world influences: Finnish, but also Latin, Greek and other languages.

Sample Phrases:

Elen síla lúmenn’ omentielvo.  A star shines on the hour of our meeting.  (A fancy way of saying “Hello.”)

Namárië: Farewell.

Istan quet’ Eldarin.  I can speak Elvish.

Sindarin

MoerbinIn Tolkien’s Middle-Earth, Sindarin was the language of the “grey elves,” a group that decided not to leave Middle-Earth to live on the Elven homeland after the world was created.

Main real-world influences: Welsh, Old English, and Icelandic, though it’s also clearly related to Quenya.

Sample Phrases:

Êl síla erin lû e-govaned vîn. A star shines on the hour of our meeting. 

Novaer. Farewell. 

Pedin edhellen. I speak Elvish. 

Klingon

KilngonsThe Klingon Language was created for Star Trek in the 80’s by Marc Okrand. It is definitely the most widely spoken fantasy language. One fan even tried to raise his son as a bilingual Klingon native speaker! Alas, the experiment was unsuccessful.

Main real-world influences: Klingon was deliberately devised to sound “alien,” it has some features of Native American and southeast Asian languages.

Sample phrases:

NuqneH. Hello

Hab SoSlI’ Quch! Your mother has a smooth forehead! (Don’t say this to a Klingon who is bigger than you!)

Qapla’! Goodbye!

Dothraki

DothrakiThe most well-developed of the languages constructed for the Game of Thrones series, Dothraki is spoken by the nomadic horse lords of The Dothraki Sea.

Main real-world influences:  Turkish, Russian, Estonian, Inuktitut and Swahili.

Sample phrases:

M’athchomaroon! Hello, or more literally, “With respect!” 

Hajas! Goodbye. 

Me nem nesa. It is known.

Na’vi

I see youNa’vi was created for the natives of Pandora in the 2009 movie Avatar by linguist Paul Frommer.

Real-world influences: Like Klingon, Na’vi was specifically designed to sound alien, but has a vaguely Polynesian flavor.

Sample phrases:

Kaltxì. “Hello” 

Hayalovay. Goodbye or  “Until next time.” 

Nga yawne lu oer.  “I love you”

Want to Learn Dothraki?

You can give a toast in Klingon. You can read poetry in Sindarin. What fantasy language should you learn next? Dothraki, of course! Thanks to a new online course, Game of Thrones fans can now follow in Daenerys’ footsteps by learning to speak the language of the Dothraki horse lords.

 The Dothraki course is being offered by Living Language, a language learning company that offers written and online courses “using techniques originally developed for the U.S. State Department.” The Dothraki course was developed with the help of David J. Peterson, co-founder of the Language Creation Society, who developed the language for the Game of Thrones TV series and works as a language creator and “alien culture consultant” for other fantasy/scifi shows. Basically, he has one of the coolest jobs on the planet.

You can choose from two different course options, depending on your desired level of proficiency. The Basic course costs $19.99, and will teach you how to pronounce words in Dothraki, how to construct sentences and how to say 200 different vocabulary words. The “expanded” online course costs $30.00 and gives you 500 vocabulary words, as well as more detailed guides to grammar and pronunciation, more ways to practice and more information about Dothraki culture. Finally, students in the either course have the option to buy a companion app for their smart phone, though there’s no word yet on which operating systems will be supported.

In a press release, Peterson said,

“I’m thrilled to be working with Living Language to produce the first official Dothraki text,” says Peterson. “This book will take you from arakh to zhavvorsa in no time, and the audio samples will help you perfect your pronunciation. I often get the question, ‘When will there be a Dothraki guide I can buy?’ The answer is now, thanks to Living Language. Me nem nesa!”

If you want to learn Dothraki but you don’t necessarily want to pay for it, you can always head over to Dothraki.org, which has a full Dothraki dictionary, a wiki and forums available.

Photo Credit: Attribution Some rights reserved by PatLoika