Ever since the trailer for Arrival dropped, featuring Amy Adams attempting to translate an alien language, we’ve been thinking about our favourite fictional languages created for TV, film and games.
When mysterious spacecrafts touch down across the globe, an elite team – led by expert linguist Louise Banks (Amy Adams) – is brought together to investigate.
As mankind teeters on the verge of global war, Banks and the team race against time for answers – and to find them, she will take a chance that could threaten her life, and quite possibly humanity.
Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Forest Whitaker.
As we get ready for Arrival to open in cinemas this Thursday, 10th November, here’s a list of some of the most developed fictional languages from popular culture.
Na’vi – Avatar
Na’vi is a constructed language spoken by the Na’vi people on Pandora in James Cameron’s film, Avatar.
This language was created by Dr. Paul Frommer, a professor with a doctorate in linguistics. Frommer began work on constructing the Na’vi language in 2005 and it totals over 1,000 words. He designed the language in line with ideas that James Cameron had about how the language should sound and also with consideration to the fact that it had to be pronounceable by the voice actors.
If you want to learn Na’vi, Frommer has an entire catalogue of guides to speaking the language on his soundcloud.
Dovahzul – The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Also known as “The Dragon Language”, Dovahzul is the primary, non-English language spoken in the game of Skyrim, as any western fantasy fan well knows! It was spoken by dragons and ancient Nords, who learned to harness its power against their dragon masters. In the time that Skyrim takes place, the dragon language is known and spoken by a rare few, including the remaining dragons and the Greybeards who follow the Way of the Voice.
Most people will recognise a few choice phrases peppered in the, now iconic, Skyrim theme.
Dothraki – Game Of Thrones
The Dothraki language first appeared in George R. R. Martin’s series of books, ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’, but was really brought to life for the TV show Game Of Thrones.
The show producers approached the Language Creation Society to help them find the perfect person to construct the language and, through them, they found David Peterson. He was awarded the job after he submitted a 180 page proposal (plus audio files!). The Dothraki language now consists of over 3,000 words.
Al-Bhed – Final Fantasy X
From one of our personal favourite games here at Bone-idle, the Al-Bhed is a language used by the Al-Bhed tribe in the land of Spira. When our hero, Tidus, first crash-lands in Spira, he is ‘rescued’ by a group of Al-Bhed mercenaries. Unable to properly communicate with them, they aren’t exactly friendly. Luckily he befriends the spirited Rikku, who also speaks English and eventually joins your team.
While the language itself is simply English with the letters swapped around (which you discover as you slowly learn it throughout the game), it still adds a little depth to the fantastic world you find yourself.
Klingon – Star Trek
Klingon is the constructed language spoken by the fictional Klingons in the Star Trek universe.
First described in the 1985 book ‘The Klingon Dictionary’ by Marc Okrand and deliberately designed to sound “alien”, it has a number of typologically uncommon features.
The language’s basic sound, along with a few words, was first devised by actor James Doohan (Scotty) and producer Jon Povill for Star Trek: The Motion Picture released in 1979. After this, Orkrand went on the develop Klingon. It is believed that there are 20-30 people wholly fluent in the language.
Hylian – The Legend of Zelda
The Legend of Zelda franchise is notable for spanning multiple generations and, what makes that interesting, is that language evolves with each game in the series. This is largely due to stylistic input (the Hylian language is notably seen rather than heard in the Zelda series), but it makes perfect sense for a language to adapt over long periods of time.
The most notable use of the Hylian language occurred in The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past on the Super Nintendo. A number of puzzles had to be solved using an ancient Hylian phrase-book and ancient ruins that were dotted around the kingdom of Hyrule.
Elvish – The Lord of the Rings
J. R. R. Tolkien created numerous languages for his fictional universes, but by far the most advanced of these was the family of Elvish languages, which he began developing whilst in school in 1910 and continued to work on until his death in 1973. The Elvish family of languages consists of at least 15 separate Elvish languages of different dialects and variants.
The best known of the languages are Quenya and Sindarin, which are spoken in The Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Check out this fascinating Ted-Ed talk which analyses whether Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na’vi can actually be considered real languages:
Did we miss any epic fictional languages? Let us know in the comments.
From Denis Villeneuve, the Director of Sicario and Prisoners, Arrival (cert 12a) opens in cinemas on November 10th!