aka: Fictive Language
"Don't go putting any bits of your 'Eressëan', or 'Elf-latin', or whatever you call it, into your verses at Oxford. It might scan, but it wouldn't pass."
A Fictionary language is based on English, or another well-known language with a replacement vocabulary but no deep changes: the grammatical structure remains the same. Compare with Conlang
, where a full-blown language has been created from scratch for a work of fiction.
Note that not all fictional "languages" belong on this page — in fact, if they're speaking a fully-fleshed-out language, complete with syntax and grammar rules, it's a Constructed Language
. If only the alphabet is fictional and the alien-looking text is actually hidden messages in English (or some other real language), it's a Cypher Language
. If the characters' dialog is total gobbledygook that sounds foreign but has no structure or translatable vocabulary, they're Speaking Simlish
. On the other hand, if the characters are using a well-defined — but alien — structure, then they're Strange Syntax Speakers
. A new dialect of a real language probably falls under Future Slang
or Unusual Euphemism
When this is done by a character, it's Personal Dictionary
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Anime and Manga
- The language spoken by Leeloo in The Fifth Element was invented by director Luc Besson and actress Milla Jovovich (who played Leeloo). It was so thoroughly worked out that reportedly by the end of filming, Besson and Jovovich were regularly holding entire conversations in it.
- The vampires in the film adaption of 30DaysOfNight speak most of their lines in a fictional language. Subtitles are used so viewers can tell what they're saying.
- In Quest for Fire, the Neanderthal tribe speaks a language invented by Anthony Burgess for the film.
- The Vulcan language as used in the first and second Star Trek movies seems to show signs of this — for instance, when the subtitles show frequent use of the word "logic" while the dialogue repeatedly employs the word "olgica".
- The Vulcan dialogue was created by linguist Marc Okrand (who went on to invent the Klingon language for the third film) — but only after the scenes had already been shot in English. For both films, Okrand had to select phonetic constructions which would plausibly lip-synch to the existing footage, hence why Vulcan sounds somewhat like inside-out English. If either Vulcan-language exchange is muted, it is quite obvious that the subtitles are only slightly altered from what the actors are actually saying. In fact, the director's cut of the first film alters the Vulcan priestess's subtitles even further to make it less obvious.
- The cast of the movie Caveman (except for one Asian guy, who speaks English for some reason) communicate in a made-up language that has maybe two dozen words in it, not counting personal names. There is no real grammatical structure, as there are no sentences spoken with more than three words in them, and these sentences can mean different things depending on context. For example, 'Nya ool' (literally: 'No food') can mean things like 'There is no food', 'I do not have food', or 'This is not food'.
- In the 2144 subplot of Cloud Atlas, many spellings are truncated (particularly, "gh" seems to have been dropped entirely, resulting in "lite" and "thoro", etc.; additionally, "exactly" has become "xactly", etc.) and brand names have substituted several everyday terms ("disney" versus "film"). Both spelling and grammar have changed a good deal after the Fall, although Meronym speaks it in a more twentieth century form in her communication with her ship's captain.
- As the page quote indicates, J. R. R. Tolkien's fictional languages started out this way, with Quenya based on Finnish and Sindarin based on Welsh. However, by the time he was done with them, they were full-blown Constructed Languages with their own unique vocabulary and grammar rules.
- Christopher Paolini invented three languages for the Inheritance Cycle: the Ancient Language (spoken by elves and magic users, based on Old Norse), Dwarvish (mostly made up by Paolini), and the Urgal language (as of Brisingr, still limited to mainly a few words). There also exists another language spoken by the nomads, but it hasn't been given any detail yet, except for clarification that adding "-no" to the end of a person's name is an honorific. The Ancient Language is similar to English but not entirely the same, so partly crossing over into conlang (although full rules of grammar have yet to be provided), while the dwarven language is far less similar to any pre-existing ones.
- A common criticism of the Inheritance Cycle is that the Ancient Language and the Dwarven Language are simply encoded English with a few archaic word orders thrown in to spice it up. This is improved upon slightly in later books. He also drops a huge clanger when Oromis talks about Eragon's screw-up with Elva, where he applies idiosyncratic rules of English, wrongly, to his fictional language. (Just for the record, "May you be shielded," is not in the past tense).
- The Animorphs series has "Galard", which functions as that universe's common alien language, though most alien converse in English on Earth, presumably to practise being undercover. There are also snippets of the Andalites' language, used when an Andalite word is untranslatable. There's also the Hork-Bajir language, of which there are at least twenty known words.
- Galard was the language used by the Hawjabrans, and the Yeerks adopted it for use with Gedd hosts, since they couldn't communicate with ultrasonic squeaks like they did in the Yeerk Pool. Most Andalites wear universal translators in their heads.
- The Old Tongue in Robert Jordan's The Wheel of Time novels is an example of the more fragmentary style.
- The Old Tongue is interesting from a philological standpoint. Almost all formal names and many place names are in it, yet almost all Old Tongue words are actually obvious variations on or mutations of real words from the real world, often very unrelated to what they are describing in the book. For example, the name for the gypsy-like, pacifistic Traveling People, Tuatha'an, is suspiciously like "Tuatha Dé Danann", an Irish mythological group which are known for their skill in battle.
- This is somewhat justified, since it is slightly implied throughout the series that the world is actually our world from the future, as part of the Wheel of Time that spins through seven ages.
- The Discworld novels have mentioned a few words from the languages of trolls and dwarfs. Most of these are humorously concise, such as the Troll word "aagragaah" (which means "forebodings", but more literally translates as "the moment you see the little pebbles that indicate an avalanche is coming, and realize it's too late to run away") and the Dwarf word "drudak'ak" (a word for more traditional dwarfs that literally means "those who do not get out in the fresh air much", possibly idiomatically "homebodies").
- It's mentioned that for a human to speak the dwarven language you should preferably have a severe throat infection.
- Rincewind, a wizard who isn't particularly good at being one, is an expert on languages, and says that he can speak Black Oroogu, a language with no nouns and only one adjective, which is obscene.
- Edgar Rice Burroughs made up numerous languages for his different novel series, often accompanying them with alphabets which were little more than artistic substitution ciphers.
- The Lapine language from Watership Down.
- H.P. Lovecraft would often sprinkle his narratives with non-human languages: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn", and such. Fans have developed a rudimentary language based on it.
- Diane Duane's Star Trek novels feature a Romulan language ("Rihannsu") that is clearly difficult if not impossible for humans to speak, mainly because — as Duane admitted once — it was generated entirely at random by a program she wrote for her computer.
- Contrasting this is the other Klingon language, "klingonaase", from John M Ford's novel The Final Reflection, and subsequently used in the Klingon supplement for the FASA Star Trek roleplaying game. Predating the language created for the movies ("tlhIngan Hol"), klingonaase was meticulously thought out and structured as part of a masterful creation of Klingon culture from the ground up, the first attempt at such for Trek. Klingonaase was designed to be consistent with what little snippets of Klingon language — personal names, mainly — were heard in Star Trek: The Original Series. tlhIngan Hol was also designed to be consistent with the TOS heard in the original series, but to avoid sounding like english he had to make the phonemic inventory seen alien enough to be beleivable as a foreign language. The names in TOS were retconned to be anglicisations of the original Klingon names.
- Diane Duane's Feline Wizards books feature Ailurin, the language of cats. It is also slightly unpronounceable, but justifiably so, since the words are intended to sound like the meows and hisses of cats.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress, the narrator (along with most other Lunar inhabitants) speaks "Loonie" (although he can also speak standard English quite well when it suits him to do so). Like "Nadsat" from Burgess's A Clockwork Orange before it, "Loonie" appears to be a mixture of English, Russian, tech-ese, and probably words from several other Earth languages.
- Karen Traviss took the rhythmic chanting over the Star Wars: Republic Commando game menu and developed (indeed, is still developing) it into Mando'a, the Mandalorian language, for use in her Republic Commando novels. Close attention is being paid to etymologies and the connections between words... on the other hand, grammar has been quite deliberately tossed out the window, under the reasoning that the Mando'ade are soldiers and don't give an osik how you speak as long as you get it across.
- This is basically Language Equals Thought crossed with an unreflective use of the Dumb Muscle stereotype (albeit given some anti-intellectual Noble Savage spin). For example, Chinese grammar is "isolating and analytical", which basically means that its sentences translated literally sound like You No Take Candle. Apache, on the other hand, has 11 noun-classes (like grammatical genders, basically), and a verb system so complex it can express "he used to go around with the two long stiff thin objects" as one word. Chinese culture has regarded statecraft and scholarship as the highest goods, and war as at best a necessary evil, for all their recorded history; 40% of the 19th-century Apache economy was goods taken by force from their neighbors, and an Apache's private name, used only in religious contexts was called his warrior-name.
- Author J.R. Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood series includes a short dictionary of the Old Language (vampire-speak) in the front of each book. However, most of the words are just an English word with an 'h' added in somewhere.
- Dune has a lot of Fremen words, most of which are derived from Arabic. Justified, since they are descended from Bedouin tribes.
- The Simon Necronomicon is a hoax masquerading as the true source of H.P. Lovecraft's fictional Necronomicon. It includes many spells and incantations in what is allegedly ancient Sumerian, but really mostly gibberish.
- Jennifer Roberson's Chronicles of the Cheysuli series relies on the Cheysuli language for multiple cultural terms, and usually has a glossary in the back of the books.
- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King uses the Low Speech and High Speech of Gilead, which the "America-side" characters can understand as English but which uses a slightly different alphabet and pseudo Ancient Egyptian words such as Khef the water of life, and "Ka" the ancient Egyptian word for the life force of the soul which takes on its own complex meaning in the story.
- The Encyclopedia Exposita in Harry Harrison's West of Eden has glossaries of the book's various fictional languages.
- In Barry B. Longyear's Enemy Mine, two main characters learning the other's language is a major theme - so the readers learn some Dracon along with the protagonist. The vocabulary is also used in a couple other stories set in the same universe.
- C. J. Cherryh's Foreigner novels introduce the reader to a good amount of Ragi, a language spoken by the atevi species. Not surprising as the protagonist is a translator by profession.
- In Dragonlance the language used by mages has the grammar of Malay or Indonesian; most of the actual words are gibberish. They don't have the same sounds as Malay, either, e.g. most Malay dialects can't end a word with "-st", but the first word of Raistlin's sleep spell is "ast".
- One of the iconic-character novellas for 3rd edition Dungeons & Dragons featured a goblin as one of its protagonists, who frequently thinks about things by their Goblin names. His language is rendered by simply stripping all the vowels and some of the consonants from ordinary words ("krenshar", a type of monster, becomes "kshr").
- Tad Williams' Tailchaser's Song has a sizable glossary in the back for both the Common Language and the cats' Higher Singing that is used throughout the book.
- Newspeak from 1984. Heavily derived from English, but almost totally incomprehensible to a regular English speaker.
- In the Legacy of Tril series by Heather Brewer (writer of The Chronicles of Vladimir Tod and The Slayer Chronicles), the Trillians speak mostly English, but with the swear-words being merely re-spelled from their English equivalents ("fak," "dek," "terked off," etc.) Also counts as extremely blatant Getting Crap Past the Radar.
Live Action TV
- Stargate SG-1 came up with several words in Goa'uld over the course of the show. No official dictionary, but there is a fan-collected site of words, matched with what they were explicitly established to mean or extrapolated from context.
- Not to mention the language of the Unas. It's surprisingly well-developed for only being spoken in three episodes.
- Also Ancient, based on Latin (so they say.)
- Twins Emily and Katie in Skins have their own personal language, although it's said that they stopped using it when they were younger (until Katie uses it again to try and defuse an argument, not entirely successfully — even the tiny snippets of Twin we get in the show speak volumes about the dynamics of their relationship). Kathryn and Megan Prescott have this in real life, too — Kathryn says something in untranslated Twin in one of the behind-the-scenes thingies.
- Drummer/composer/singer Christian Vander created the language Kobaïan for his band, Magma. The lyrics deal primarily with an interplanetary war between Earth (Ïtah, in Kobaïan) and Kobaïa.
- Various Zeuhl bands, most notably Ruins, have created further iterations on Kobaïan.
- Enya employs a fictional language called Loxian, created for the purpose, in several of the songs on her 2005 CD Amarantine.
- Yoko Kanno uses an invented French-like language for some of her songs, with the backup of a philosophy that Everything Sounds Sexier in French.
- Ditto Yuki Kajiura, whose language has been dubbed "Kajiuran" by her fans.
- The recent relaxation of the language restrictions in the Eurovision Song Contest has led to several entries in fictional languages, including "Sanomi" by Urban Trad (Belgium 2003) and "Amambanda" by Treble (Netherlands 2005). Belgium tried it again in 2008 with 'O Julissi'(by Ishtar). The first finished in second place, just two points behind the winner, while the other two didn't get past the semifinal.
- Icelandic band Sigur Rós sing in 'Vonlenska' (normally translated as 'Hopelandic') on many of their songs. Rather than having any specific meaning, it is meant to mean whatever the listener thinks it should.
- The Argentine comedy band Les Luthiers has Cardoso En Gulevandia; a bilingual opera spoken in Spanish and the Romance-based fictional language Gulevache.
- The music of many Cirque du Soleil soundtracks use made-up language, often sounding French, Italian, or based on another Romance language. The sound of the language used seems to differ between each show.
- Occasionally songs have straightforward foreign-language lyrics; "Alegria" is probably the best-known example. The 1993 retrospective book explains the made-up language this way: "Gibberish is universal. Gibberish is direct. Gibberish cuts through cultural divides." Fans call this "Cirquish," and it has no literal meaning. (Mystère lampshades this when the emcee tries to announce the theatre rules in Cirquish and his puppet warns him "They don't understand you, stupid!")
- Extreme metal band Bal-Sagoth have many lyric lines in mystic languages. Some of it is taken from H.P. Lovecraft or other sources, while the rest is incomprehensible and presumably just evil-sounding gibberish.
- What are they singing on the Coraline soundtrack? Not sure, but it sounds pretty.
- Presumably, it's supposed to represent the rats singing, like they did in the book.
- Songs by Caramba. If you think Hubba Hubba Zoot Zoot is a Spanish song about the Vietnam War, Charlies and Mecha, you're sadly mistaken.
- BIONICLE uses a substitution cipher for its in-universe texts, named Matoran.
- Dogg, in Tom Stoppard's Dogg's Hamlet, Cahoot's Macbeth is a Fictionary comprising English words that don't mean what they mean in English, based on a thought experiement by Wittenstein. Hilarity Ensues, since for example, "Cretinous pig-faced git" means "What's the time, sir?" in Dogg, but "Afternoon, squire" means "Get stuffed, you bastard". The purpose of Dogg's Hamlet is to gradually get the audience to grips with understanding Dogg, at which point they're ready to watch Cahoot's Macbeth, in which characters who speak both languages can use it for hidden meanings.
- D'ni in Myst.
- Daedric script in The Elder Scrolls games is a substitution cipher for English, but Oblivion's Ayleid language, and its parent language Aldmeris, involve actual non-english words. Translating Ayleid is part of one of the quests for the Mages Guild, and similar words in parent languages translate the Morrowind city of Balmora to "stone forest" (which is a stylistic way of saying "city"), the assassins' guild Morag Tong as the "foresters guild" (most assuredly a metaphor which may or may not involve hacking with an axe), and one of the Daedra, Molag Bal, being translated as ...fire... ...stone... Probably the least appropriate title, seeing as Mehrunes Dagon is the destructive god with all the fire, and Molag Bal is more for general unpleasantness (attributed to creating vampires, and is sometimes called the "king of rape"...).
- Perhaps the fire bit means he has and/or passes on STDs.
- Skyrim has the language of dragons, all of which have (variable) meanings in English, and even has it's own sort-of dictionary in the official guide for the game. It rather follows the basic structure of old Scandinavian.
- The entirety of the dialogue in the Panzer Dragoon games is in a fictional language that is, apparently, somewhat based off of Latin. It has no official name and so is known solely as Panzerese among the fandom.
- A few games in the Tales series feature invented languages.
- Tales of Eternia features Melnics, the language of Celestia, which is based on a substitution cipher that replaces letters in English words — good English, too! — with Japanese or Japanese-ish sounds; it also has its own alphabet in which Melnics words and phrases are always written in-game.
- Tales of Legendia features Relares, which is based on ideographs, and whose words are composed of a base representing a general idea or concept (i.e. "ke-" for "fire/red/hot", or "ire-" for "ice/white/cold"), followed by either "-s" for a noun related to the concept ("kes" = "fire/flame"), "-n" for a verb related to the concept ("ken" = "to burn"), and "-l" for an adjective related to the concept ("kel" = "red/hot/blazing").
- Tales of the Abyss features Ancient Ispanian, in which, for instance, Yulia's fonic hymns are written and sung. (Abyss also uses "fonic script" in some places, but that's apparently just the alphabet that the people of Auldrant use.)
- The Fonic Language, which the Fonic Script is the alphabet for, is the modern tongue in Auldrant, and pretty much just English in pretty symbols. However, as Ispania is taken to be another word for Spain, a theory exists that Ancient Ispanian is Spanish, Latin, or some Latin derived language. Of course, since you don't... actually see or hear Ancient Ispanian...
- In Tales of Symphonia, "angelic language" and "elvish" are both mentioned, but neither of the languages actually appear or are used in-game.
- Some fans suspect that the lyrics to the OVA theme song "Almateria," which have so far not been matched to any real language, are supposed to be in the "angelic language."
- Tho Fan in Jade Empire.
- Incidentally, the designer wrote up the actual language in full, then realized it would be counterintuitive to record the dialogue in full, since it was supposed to reduce the number of spoken lines necessary in the files. So most of the lines are about cows.
- The Sims games have Simlish, a completely nonsense language with no actual meanings. However, for The Sims 2: University, they had a number of bands compose Simlish versions of existing songs for the new College Rock in-game radio station. Some of the bands simply came up with gibberish, others somehow laboriously 'translated' their songs into Simlish. Simlish is one of the most euphonious languages for music, and some of the songs are arguably improvments over the original.
- In Star Fox Adventures, we have the Saurian language which is a simple letter-substitution language used on Sauria. See here: http://starfox.wikia.com/wiki/Saurian
- The language spoken in Shadow of the Colossus is said to be composed by some amalgam of Japanese, English and Latin... quite a unique mix.
- Its spiritual prequel, ICO, has two spoken languages: Ico speaks some form of scrambled Japanese, while Yorda speaks the same language as featured in Colossus. Subtitles are only provided for Ico's speech until the New Game+.
- In the Ar tonelico series, the usually-sung Hymmnos language is a strange mix of English, German, and Sanskrit — and a little binary.
- Hymmnos has grammar and syntax rules, so by the rules given above, it does not belong on this page.
- Outcast has the Talan language. The manual has a partial lexicon and the in-game lexicon updates everytime a player hears a new word.
- Every character in Klonoa: Door to Phantomile and the sequels speaks in a (subtitled) language based on Japanese, but with its own vocabulary and syntax, to a certain extent (for example, the words "Rupuru" for "to go", "Rakuru" for "to help", etc. and the ending -du which means "I" or "me" - "Rakurudu" means "Help me", for instance). The song that plays in the Mts. Of Mira-Mira level in Klonoa 2: Lunatea's Veil (Wahoo Stomp in English, Stepping Wind in Japanese) is entirely in that language, but the lyrics have an actual translation. There's also "beruyo" for "bell", "rengu" for "ring" and maybe one or two other words.
- Volition did this with Freespace's Vasudans and their language, but it was abandoned and never made it into the actual game. The fans, naturally, have dug up as much of it as they could.
- Dwarf Fortress has a massive glossary of words in at least four languages (Human, Dwarven, Elvish, and Goblin). However, there's very few defined grammar mechanics, so it's nigh-impossible to use it for any but the simplest phrases.
- And in a weird glitch almost everyone is named after their respective languages word for dagger (Olith, Urist, Acita, Ulpsa respectively)
- In Killzone, Scolar Visari attempts to invent a language for the Helghast, but he stops when he realises that it will take more time and resources than he has available. He does succeed in inventing an alphabet, however.
- Dead Space has marker symbols which feature in bloody graffiti and Unitology art work.
- Dragon Age gives us a couple that are actually used in-game, as well as several others that are mentioned only in passing:
- Qunlat, the Qunari language, is probably the most developed (or at least has the largest known dictionary). It's heavily based on English, with a subject-verb-object word order (though it seems to lack articles like a, an, or the). The pronunciation and actual vocabulary seem closer to Japanese, in that words are "modular" and can be snapped together to create new words.
- Elvish, which is notable in that even the elves don't remember much of it outside of a few words. It, too, has an English-like word order, though it contains apostrophes to mark register tone rather than mark possession or contractions.
- Tevene, the language of Tevinter, which bears similarities to Latin in vocabulary but again with an English word order. Fenris swears in it when he gets angry.
- The speech in Gravity Rush is voiced by Japanese actors speaking gibberish that attempts to sound like something between French and Latin.
- xkcd, in this strip, illustrates the varied effectiveness of this trope with a chart.
- Uryuomoco is basically English with individual letters replaced. In case you're curious, the name of the language literally means "Alienese".
- Snow By Night has a good number of unique words that have a vague resemblance to French, as well as normal English words that have been redefined to correspond to a different concept.
- Futurama parodied the trope with the "Becktionary", a dictionary of words made up by singer-songwriter BECK Hansen and appearing in his music.
Bender: Hey, yeah! I could write a song! But with real words — I won't use fake words like "odelay."
Beck: "Odelay" is a word; just look it up in the Becktionary.
- "From Bizooty to Whiskeyclone".
- Hold on, I'll try the Universal Greeting: "Bah-weep-Graaaaagnah wheep ni ni bong!"
- The Amazing Adrenalini Brothers has Rendoosian, the language spoken by the title characters. While it's possible to figure out some of what they say through context, the only actual lexicon appears on the series' website.
- While Lilo & Stitch contains plenty of Aliens Speaking English, it also has a fairly well developed language of its own. Though only a few phrases have been fully translated, on the series' website, there have been a few rather detailed online dictionaries made based on its usage in the series.
- The neighbouring fictional countries of Syldavia and Borduria in Tintin come with snippets of their languages, which appear to be Germanic languages heavily influenced by Slavic languages (most roots are Germanic, but inflections Slavic, and Syldavian uses the Cyrillic alphabet).
- There are entire websites devoted to making your own language. Some are for roleplaying games, some are for novels, some are for coded use between friends, and some are just for fun. It's called "conlanging" (from "constructed language").
- Not just individual websites. Zompist, linked above, runs a forum with a fairly lively community of conlangers.
- Twins are also known to invent languages, or at least dialects, for themselves.
- For that matter, so are other close siblings, or any other groups growing up and learning a language together, from pidgins to teenaged slang.
- In fact, some times ago, a lot of peoples created new languages (Tolkien was just one of them). Some were so good at it some of these languages were even taught in schools as real languages.
- Esperanto could fall under this, since it was made for the purpose of being a language easy to understand for most Europeans.
- Actually Esperanto subverts this. There are now (or at least back in 2000 when the last survey took place) at least 2,000 native speakers of Esperanto — which is an order of magnitude more than the number of speakers for many of the smaller "natural" languages.