A Con Lang
(or just "conlang") is short for "constructed language", i.e. a language the writer, their friend, or some other associate has made up for the purpose of using in a book or show.
No, they did not just say
that the Alien
speak a different language, they actually made up
an exact vocabulary and grammar, one that can be translated into English (or equivalent). This is where Translator Microbes
are abandoned and a dictionary given to the reader. Gibberish
does not count as a language, regardless of whether or not the other characters say they can understand it, and using a mere handful of alien words
, even if you give them a translation, does not count either.
In Real Life
, an auxiliary language or "auxlang" is a conlang intended for use by real-world groups. Esperanto
is the best known.
Since virtually any fictional language could theoretically be part of a larger language, this trope only applies to those fictional works that actually give us enough to say some things of our own.
The more dedicated Fandoms will often design languages — or at least large vocabulary lists — of otherwise unorganized languages (See Fictionary
There are four types of conlang:
- Argot or Direct Translation. The author just substituted made-up words for the words of their native language, and to translate it back you just substitute them word-for-word back (even if this would produce a "Blind Idiot" Translation in any real language). Realistically, this may be a secret language used solely to exclude others from the conversation. Results in Conveniently Precise Translations. In linguistics, this is called a relex or a relexification. It is a type of Indo-European Alien Language.
- Foreign conversion. The language is closely based on a language foreign to the audience, but only differing slightly (in either words or structure) from its derivative. May include special letters and phonemes that are not found in the native language, and require a special pronunciation guide to be spoken properly. Not the same as foreign-sounding gibberish.
- Complete original. Very rare; words, grammar, and pronunciation are made up entirely by the author. More likely to include a unique alphabet and special pronunciations. May be loosely based on a foreign language, sometimes a dead language, but even then a hard translation.
- Newspeak. A language derived from our own with limited change in the actual words, usually as an advanced form of Future Slang. Overlaps with Strange Syntax Speaker. For the 1984 version, see Newspeak.
are a subtrope of this, and many forms of Black Speech
fall here as well. Contrast with Wing Dinglish
where a supposedly alien or original language is just regular English in a strange font
Interestingly, an alternative title interpretation
is that these languages tend to be spoken by die-hard fans at Cons...
Our own conlang can be found here.
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Anime & Manga
- Crest of the Stars uses Baronh, based on an ancient Japanese, and complete with its own alphabet.
- Super Dimension Fortress Macross and its sequels include Zentradi. It was originally based on Japanese syntax, and drifted away as more was added to it.
- Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind has a very detailed Dorok writing system (in which Dorok dialogue is rendered, in addition to appearing on signs and buildings), but leaves out the actual language under it.
- Tintin has Syldavian and Bordurian; a conlang enthusiast attempted to analyse Syldavian into something coherent, although it turns out it's basically the Brussels dialect of Dutch/Flemish with extra letters spewed all over it.
- There was also the earlier Arumbayan language, also based on the Brussels dialect in the original French version, but altered to phonetically-spelt Cockney (though it's heavily disguised so as not to be obvious) in the English version.
- ElfQuest has Elvish. There's a small official dictionary in one of the encylopedias, but for the first twenty-or-so years of the series, the only way to know what the words meant was to deconstruct some of the characters' names. (Ex. "Leetah" - "healing light", "Tyleet" - "healer's gift": so "leet" apparently means "heal-".)
- The DCU has not one, but two alphabet ciphers that translate to one of 26 Roman Alphabet Letters: Kryptonian and Interlac. It's explicitly stated that English sounds different than Kryptonian (which has been hinted as vaguely Swedish sounding), which sounds different from Interlac, despite having the same amount of symbols to depict those sounds, and that each symbol matches a Roman symbol as well. Makes some sense in Interlac's case, since it could be descended from our alphabet. Some of the symbols might've been repurposed for new sounds, too; the Greek vowel letters were consonants in Phoenician.
- They have one non-cipher language: the language of the Indigo Lanterns.
- The Nazzadi language in Aeon Natum Engel And Aeon Entelechy Evangelion which is often left untranslated when it's not announced by public speakers, but makes sense depending on the situation.
- C'hovite, the language of C'hou, in With Strings Attached. Mostly used for difficult-to-translate concepts, though the four don't always understand what the C'hovites are saying even when they're using plain English, thanks to their slang. Entirely a construction of the author, and has internal consistency.
- Hivefled created it's own version of Alternian; most of the words we've seen thus far have been slurs (such as mutevir, meaning slut) or proper nouns (the trolls' ship is Naelenurenna, or Mindscar). There is also Piltara, the sacred language of the Dyelus.
Films — Animation
Films — Live Action
- The Star Trek films gave us a functional Klingon language, developed by linguist Marc Okrand, who's also responsible for the Atlantean language of Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Okrand was brought in to develop a full-fledged Klingon language for Star Trek III: The Search for Spock, which was based on the Klingon phrases that appeared in the previous films.
- In fact, there are two competing Klingon languages (see also Diane Duane's Vulcan language in Literature, above). Okrand's is much more functionally extensive, but "Klingonaase", created by author John M Ford for his novel The Final Reflection, has its fans.
- So functional indeed, that they
translated found the original Klingon Hamlet.
- Which is now being produced as a play by at least one theater, in the Washington DC area.
- All the Klingon spoken in every Star Trek film - from Star Trek: The Motion Picture through to the 2009 reboot - is "tlhIngan Hol", and often Okrand coached the actors himself. Unfortunately most writers in the TV series (Star Trek: Voyager and Star Trek: Deep Space Nine) just looked up the words in the Klingon dictionary rather than using them properly, presumably due to time/money constraints.
- Linguist d'Armond Speers tried raising his child to speak Klingon as a bilingual speaker but abandoned the effort after several years, finding that the vocabulary was not extensive enough and the child abandoned speaking the language when he found only his father spoke it.
- An attempt was made to translate the Bible into Klingon, but it fell apart because the translators couldn't agree on whether to translate the peace-and-love passages of the New Testament literally, or to instead tailor them for Klingon culture.
- The Na'vi language from Avatar, developed for the film by linguist Paul Frommer.
- The Lord of the Rings movies make much use of conlangs in conversations and background chorus lyrics, and while the languages were created by J. R. R. Tolkien, often they weren't developed enough, or the linguistic material published about them was lacking. The two Elvish languages used (Quenya and Sindarin) are fairly complete, and the only additions needed were in vocabulary, which was entirely based on existing roots. For Dwarvish, Black Speech and Orkish, however, linguist David Salo had to develop those languages nearly from scratchnote . Indeed, Salo's version of Dwarvish is known as "Neo-Khuzdûl"* to distinguish it from Tolkien's.
- For Thor: The Dark World, a language for the Dark Elves was developed by linguist David J. Peterson (see the Live-Action TV folder for more of his work).
- In The Dark Crystal, the Pod People speak a language of the "foreign conversion" variety. It mostly uses Serbian words (or Croatian, or Bosnian - they're very similar languages), but is pronounced with an accent more akin to Russian.
- For the Lone Wolf series of gamebooks, Joe Dever developed the Giak language used by the Darklord armies, with a vocabulary of about 400 words, and rules of grammar for agreement of adjectives and adverbs. It was described in the source book The Magnamund Companion, and readers found that the words spoken by the Giaks in the previous gamebooks were actually translatable.
Live Action TV
- Kamen Rider Kuuga has the Grongi Language, which is a cipher of Japanese with some words that don't change ("Kuuga" and "Linto") and some grammatical flipping just to screw with the audience.
- Sid and Marty Krofft hired a Ph.D. linguist to create a language for the proto-human Pakuni in Land of the Lost, with a grammar, syntax, and two hundred word vocabulary. The full language is included as an extra on the Season One DVD.
- Linguist David J. Peterson reified the Dothraki language for the 1st season of HBO's Game of Thrones. For the 3rd season he also reified High Valyrian, including several rules to transform it into different dialects of Low Valyrian.
- Peterson has also created languages for the Castithans and Irathients in Defiance.
- And he also created the Sondiv language for the Atrians in Star Crossed.
- For a comment on Klingon in the Star Trek TV series, see the Films — Live Action folder above.
- The French progressive rock band Magma invented a language called "Kobaïan" for their albums because they felt French wasn't expressive enough. The constructed language also enabled their albums to sound more alien and prevented people from over-scrutinising the lyrics (although unofficial Kobaïan-French and Kobaïan-English lexicons were constructed by fans, and band leader Christian Vander eventually revealed the meanings of some words). Does it even have to be said that most of the band's albums constitute an extended Rock Opera based around the human race settling another planet? No? Didn't think so. TOW has details on the language here.
- On Enya's album Amarantine, about a quarter of the songs are in the Con Lang "Loxian", said to be from a distant planet.
- In 2005, one of the entries in the Swedish version of the Eurovision Song Contest was Cameron Cartio's Roma. Word of God is he came up with the language himself.
- Kajiura Yuki's Kajiurago. Nobody besides her knows the meaning of the language. It can be heard in the Madlax theme Nowhere and the Puella Magi Madoka Magica song Credens Justitiam (Mami's Theme).
- Susumu Hirasawa's Hirasawanese, a language mostly created for a few Berserk songs (Sign, Sign 2, Aria), a mix of elements of German, Thai and Latin. The meaning is unknown to anyone but Hirasawa himself.
- S.K. Thoth prayforms in a language of his own creation.
- Following the example of Magma, their disciples in Ruins and Koenjihyakkei (the two of which share some of the same musicians) utilise what appears to be another constructed language for their songs, although unlike the case of Kobaïan (where some of the words have been officially translated to French) it's not known what any of the words mean or indeed whether they mean anything at all. (It's also possible that more than one Con Lang is involved, since as TOW notes, orthography has been known to vary between albums and songs).
- Akiko Shikata sometimes uses the conlang of whatever video game's theme she's singing, the most famous example being the Hymmnos lyrics used for several songs in Ar tonelico.
- The Kafer Sourcebook for 2300 AD includes a brief overview of Kafer language and writing.
- The language of the Drow in Dungeons & Dragons has been given a fairly extensive vocabulary and sophisticated grammar. Several in-universe proverbs exist which illustrate the character of the drow, such as, "All trust is foolish."
- Empire Of The Petal Throne, set on the world of Tekumel, has a serious and early case of Complete Original, including Tsolyani and many other languages designed by an academic linguist, M. A. R. Barker, complete with a hard core non-Roman written form. They are notably unlike European languages.
- Magic the Gathering has very harsh and alien-sounding Phyrexian language created by a professional linguist. Unfortunately now it exists only in two promo videos and a preview version of Elesh Norn card. Probably Wizards have big plans for the next Phyrexian block.
- Traveller has enough languages and sublanguages to cover thousands of worlds. To handle this a system is provided for random generation of words as well as sample words and details about linguistic style from various culture. However "Ganglic"(evolved English) is the common speech of trade and travel.
- Warhammer have Khazalid, the language of the dwarfs wonderfully described with grammar and pronounciation. The elfs and chaos tongues get some of this but not as much.
- In Warhammer 40,000, both the the Tau and Eldar have their own lexicon described.
- Werewolf: The Forsaken uses many examples of the First Tongue, the language of the Spirit World. The creators have pretty much said it's generated by going back as far back into Proto-Indo-European language tree as possible and making a few detours on the way.
- Outcast has the Talan language, with the growing dictionary provided to the player. Talans will use some words from it when talking to the hero, and there's also a whole song in it, written in the hero's honor.
- The Elder Scrolls series has a modest number of languages which are referenced and occasionally shown in script (like the Falmer language), but the most notable ones would include the Daedric alphabet (just a cypher for Roman), Ayleid Elvish in Oblivion, and, introduced with the fifth installment, Skyrim, the dragon language. Several words of the Dragon language are learned by the PC during the game (they're the language all the Shouts are in), and the language is even spoken by a few characters, mainly dragons.
- The main theme song for Skyrim, Dovahkiin, is sung in it.
- The creators also invented a Dragon alphabet, consisting of 34 letters of pseudo-cuneiform, apparently based on scratches with dragon-claws.
- Final Fantasy X features Al Bhed, which is made up of a simple cypher of English/Japanese (depending on which localization of the game you play obviously) but is spoken in the game by the Al Bhed as a real language. As an added feature, the player can pick up 'primers' throughout their visit to Spira and slowly translate the language, letter by letter. This is part of a small New Game+ bonus: The next time a player decides to play through the game, if they had collected most/all of the primers before, they can load up their completed 'dictionary' and understand what various characters/signs are saying right from the beginning!
- Myst — D'ni.
- The Ar tonelico series has Hymmnos, a language based on English, Japanese, Sanskrit and German. In the setting of the games, it is an obsolete language, used to interface with ancient technology in the form of songs. Though Hymmnos is the one that gets the most attention, the series also has the Carmena Foreluna and Ar Ciela languages. A detailed insight into all three of these can be found here.
- And its prequel, the Surge Concerto series, follows suit with two conlangs: Emotional Song Pact and REON-4213.
- World of Warcraft has a whole host of these, with Common (humans), Orcish (orcs), Darnassian (night elves), Gutterspeak (undead), Dwarven (dwarves), Gnomish (gnomes), Zandali (trolls), Draenei (draenei), and Thalassian (blood elves) barely scratching the surface. An interesting note with the Undead: During the beta for World of Warcraft (a.k.a. "Vanilla"), the Undead (being formerly living humans) could speak Common, acting as a Translator between the rival factions. However the player-base's tendency to be... juvenile led directly to the creation of Gutterspeak, and is the primary reason you can never learn additional languages, despite some characters knowing 1-2 languages (Faction and Racial).
- In a note of ingenuity and perhaps an example of metagaming, Players have over-time, made simple translations for some of the more commonly spoken enemy chatter as perhaps a way to quickly denote if the enemy player is going to be combative or not. (For example, an Alliance player who says "lol", would be heard by a Horde player as "Bur", and going in the other direction, it would read "Kek", to an Alliance player who encounters a laughing member of the Horde).
- While most people who encounter these languages might cross them off as just made up chatter, there even exists a degree of similar word structure between the Night and Blood Elf languages, given their in-game distant shared ancestry (Darnassian and Thalassian respectively), which shows that the Blizzard creative team probably Showed Their Work in conlanging. Since in-game NPCs often speak these constructed languages from time to time (battle cries & so forth), any player will inevitably come across some words multiple times, but a complete translation of these languages is unavailable, and only a select number of phrases and words have been given official translations by Blizzard.
- More information can be found here: World of Warcraft Languages
- It should be noted that since these languages appear when the game "translates" player communication into an unintelligible from for those whose character doesn't know said language, a translation back into English is impossible for anything remotely complicated said. The "translation" is intentionally lossy, with many different English letter combinations resulting in the same "translated" words (e.g. both "you" and "lol" are rendered in Orcish as "bur"). This is done on purpose, to prevent players from being able to understand what their opponents are saying even if they have translation software on their side. (This not only prevents the Alliance from getting wind of what the Horde is up to and vice-versa, it also prevents rival teams from hurling insults or death threats at one another; the hot-tempered environment of a Battleground would make this a real danger otherwise.)
- Klonoa has Phantomile. The second game actually has a song sung entirely in the language.
- The Legend of Zelda series features Hylian, which usually comes in two flavors: Ancient and Modern. While ancient Hylian may detail the "legend" on which the game is based, it's the modern Hylian that has a consistent and (to a degree, see below) translatable written version (which is seen in the more recent games — Ocarina of Time and onward mainly). Either way, Spoken Hylian in the games is almost completely unheard of, as the hero is mute and practically everyone else speaks in gibberish. Twilight Princess's written script departs from the other games and can be directly translated into English and back. Sadly, the mysterious language the character Midna is heard spouting off on occasion in TP is randomly selected and doesn't match up to whatever she might be telling you in the text box.
- In Skyward Sword, Ancient Hylian is the language used, given that it is the prequel. In addition, we get to hear it actually spoken when Zelda sings in one of the first cutscenes.
- More info here: Hylian Language
- All the songs in NieR (except for one) are in languages made up by the vocalist herself, who may or may not know what the lyrics mean.
- Although details didn't really start coming out until later in the Wing Commander series, there is a good bit of detail about the Kilrathi language beyond occasional "color" words.
- Star Fox introduced the Dino language (also called Saurian) in Star Fox Adventures which is used on Dinosaur Planet (Sauria in Star Fox Asssault). Like Al Bhed in Final Fantasy X it is a cipher language. More info here: Saurian Translator
- Jade Empire has some NPCs speak "the Old Tongue" (Tho Fan), a mixture of Asian languages specially invented for the game by a Canadian linguist.
- Phantasy Star uses its own lingo for spells, otherwise known as techniques, which are augmented with specific prefixes, complete with 'language drift' across games (though this is very likely a happy accident caused by translation difficulties). In the fourth game, the prefixes used seem to indicate numerical magnitude: Gi- for times three, and Na- for times ten, based on the spellcasting animations. And this is, of course, never referenced anywhere.
- The Phantasy Star Online sub-series has a Foreign Conversion conlang in the form of Coralian, which is English with a new, distinct alphabet.
- The Phantasy Star Universe sub-series continues the use of Foreign Conversion conlangs:
- The language used on Parum is most similar to what was used for Coralian in PSO, being a simple (if sometimes Engrish-y) instance of English with a new alphabet.
- The language of the Wutai planet Neudaiz uses the English alphabet, but with letters that look more like distorted kanji. Neudaiz script is also used as an Argot to write in Romaji (Japanese transliterated into the English alphabet), just to further confuse the native Japanese player base (and confuse foreign players even more)!
- The Moatoob language also uses its own alphabet for English writing. Moatoob also has its own language (as evidenced by Photon Arts and weapons originating from the planet), but it's not been made clear if this is an Argot or something more.
- Phantasy Star Online 2 will continue the post-millennial tradition of Foreign Conversion conlangs, featuring a new distinct alphabet for Star Fleet Oracle.
- The Sims's simlish, of all things, has aspects of this. Some of it is gibberish, and it's really hard to catch, but if you listen hard enough there are actually a good few constant words.
- The demon language of Ozkavosh created for the remake of Defense Of The Ancients is almost entirely symbolic, full of synonyms and essentially requires context to be understood. It also does not conjugate, and due to the demons' nature, the word for "self" (Ozh) is both capitalized and emphasized in speech, or in case of another object of emphasis, emphasized more.
- Urban Dead users developed several English cyphers to work with and around the limited speech options of zombies, but a few have tried to construct actual grammars. Zamgrh/kiZombie is the most ambitious and zam arrh zambahz gab zam but most know only a few of the most important words.
- Dead Space has Unitology, which is often found scrawled on the walls in blood. It is an Argot language consisting of the ten numbers and 26 letters of the English Alphabet, as well as a few additional symbols◊. It can be translated to reveal several hidden messages◊, including a few easter eggs. This even includes the seemingly random symbols that pop up during hallucinations.
- Aquapunk: Sennan. The dominant language spoken through the story world, and has been in development since 2006. Currently it's used for names, obscenities, euphemisms, difficult-to-translate slang, and some sound effects.
- Yes, it's very fleshed out, and while it bears some similarity to English, it is almost completely original. A "Sennan 101" PDF is currently in the works.
- Juathuur has juathuuvei. It's used mainly for consistency in character and place names; a full sentence has yet to be heard in it.
- Even Dahm created a few different languages, complete with unique alphabets, for his Overside comics (Rice Boy, Order of Tales, Vattu). The Overside wiki has an article about them.
- The Interstellar Tea House has Sierk D, one of the languages of the Sierk species, which falls into the "completely original" category. The author will sometimes, in lieu of a comic for the day, provide a Tolkien-esque discussion of Sierk syntax and grammar, or ask the readers to offer phrases for translation. (It's Sierk D because there is also a Sierk A, B, and C, and possibly an E and so forth; Sierk D happens to be the language local to the setting of the story.)
- Outsider has Ikkukhak, the language of the insectoid Umiak. Its details are given a full page on the site. There's also a page for Trade Language.
- NationStates has many user-created languages in varying levels of refinement.
- Centaurians in The Pentagon War speak their own language, but it's intentionally not fleshed out. The author didn't want to spend years developing a real, working language for an alien species that speaks out of 4 mouths simultaneously (!).
- The first wide-spread artificial language was Volapük, which meant "World speak." The language's author was attempting to build a universal language that everybody worldwide could use to communicate. It wound up fizzling due to, among other things, bizarre pronunciation, and it was displaced by easier languages such as Esperanto and Interlingua.
- Stanley Unwin built a career out of his invented language "Unwinese" also known as "Basic Engly Twentyfido". Deep Joy!
- Esperanto, the Universal Language counts so much so.
- Loglan was developed in the 1950s to test the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. Lojban: A realization of loglan (short for logji bangu or "logic language") is a derivation intended to be used as an actual language.
- The Other Wiki mentions Helene Smith, a medium who spoke in the Martian language while in a trance.
- A Northern California argot called Boontling, one of Cracked's 5 secret languages that stuck it to the man. It uses English grammar but replaces many of the content words.
- Bizarrely enough, artificial language was part of the first SAT exam for college entry in the United States. The exact purpose of this is unclear.
- The entirety of the /r/conlangs subreddit.
- Zompist.com is the home of the online version of The Language Construction Kit, which is an excellent resource for getting into conlanging. The site's home page also includes a link for purchasing the printed version, which expands upon the online version, including several chapters exclusive to the printed version. In addition, the author has also created another book on conlanging (Advanced Language Construction) which goes into the finer aspects like logic, pidgins/creoles, and logographic systems.
- Also, the creator of the kit has come up with quite a few constructed languages for his own conworld.
- In The Land Of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent is a wonderful introduction to the history of constructed languages. It focuses primarily on interlanguages, those like Esperanto, Volapuk, aUI and Blissymbolics which were invented to help humanity understand one another, but she doesn't neglect art-languages like Elvish. The author describes attending a Klingon Language Institute conference and learning to speak basic Klingon.