Fictional language

Fictional languages are constructed languages created as part of a fictional setting, for example in books, movies, television shows, and video games. Fictional languages are intended to be the languages of a fictional world and are often designed with the intent of giving more depth and an appearance of plausibility to the fictional worlds with which they are associated, and to have their characters communicate in a fashion which is both alien and dislocated.[1]

Some of these languages, e.g., in worlds of fantasy fiction, alternate universes, Earth's future, or alternate history, are presented as distorted versions or dialects of modern English or other natural language, while others are independently designed conlangs.

While most fictional languages are just gibberish, a few are fully functioning and comprehensive languages that can be learned.[2]


Fictional languages are separated from artistic languages by both purpose and relative completion: a fictional language often has the least amount of grammar and vocabulary possible, and rarely extends beyond the absolutely necessary. At the same time, some others have developed languages in detail for their own sake, such as J. R. R. Tolkien's Quenya and Sindarin (two Elvish languages), Star Trek's Klingon language and Avatar's Na'vi language which exist as functioning, usable languages. Here "fictional" can be a misnomer.

By analogy with the word "conlang," the term conworld is used to describe these fictional worlds, inhabited by fictional constructed cultures. The conworld influences vocabulary (what words the language will have for flora and fauna, articles of clothing, objects of technology, religious concepts, names of places and tribes, etc.), as well as influencing other factors such as pronouns, or how their cultures view the break-off points between colors or the gender and age of family members.

Professional fictional languages

Professional fictional languages are those languages created for use in books, movies, television shows, video games, comics, toys, and musical albums (prominent examples of works featuring fictional languages include the Middle-Earth and Star Trek universes and the game Myst).

Alien languages

A notable subgenre of fictional languages are alien languages, the ones that are used or might be used by putative extraterrestrial life forms. Alien languages are subject of both science fiction and scientific research.

Perhaps the most fully developed fictional alien language is the Klingon language of the Star Trek universe - a fully developed constructed language.

The problem of alien language has confronted generations of science fiction writers; some have created fictional languages for their characters to use, while others have circumvented the problem through translation devices or other fantastic technology.

Although this field remains largely confined to science fiction, the possibility of intelligent extraterrestrial life makes the question of alien language a credible topic for scientific and philosophical speculation.

While in many cases an alien language is but an element of a fictional reality, in a number of science fiction works the core of the plot involves linguistic and psychological problems of communication between various alien species.

Internet-based fictional languages

Internet-based fictional languages are hosted along with their "conworlds" on the internet, and based at these sites, becoming known to the world through the visitors to these sites; Verdurian, the language of Mark Rosenfelder's Verduria on the planet of Almea, is a flagship Internet-based fictional language. Many other fictional languages and their associated conworlds are created privately by their inventor, known only to the inventor and perhaps a few friends. In this context the term "professional" (used for the first category) as opposed to "amateur" (used for the second and third) refers only to the professionalism of the used medium, and not to the professionalism of the language itself or its creator. In fact, most professional languages are the work of non-linguists, while many amateur languages were in fact created by linguists, and in general the latter are better developed.

See also


  1. Conley & Cain 2006, pp. "Foreword", p. XIX ff.
  2. Eldridge, Alison. 6 Fictional Languages You Can Really Learn. Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved September 27, 2016.
General references
  • Conley, Tim; Cain, Stephen (2006). Encyclopedia of Fictional and Fantastic Languages. Westport, Connecticut: Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0-313-33188-6. 
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