Fictional Languages Get a Real World Breakdown

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In film and television, language is almost always an important component for the audience. However, the sci-fi and fantasy genres have taken that basic communication several steps further by inventing their own fully formed languages. These newly constructed languages not only add another layer of heightened realism, they also have their roots in several linguistic traditions from the real world.

Earlier this month, Wired posted a video in which dialect coach Erik Singer offered a unique breakdown of several of the most popular languages that were specifically created for their respective stories. Naturally, Game of Thrones was represented by both the Dothraki language and High Valyrian, while Star Trek‘s Klingon language was also prominently featured. Singer also examined the literary constructed languages of Sindarin from Lord of the Rings, as well as Parseltongue from the Harry Potter novels, as well as the language of the Na’vi from Avatar.

As relayed by Singer, one of the more unusual aspects of Klingon is the way that it places the object of a sentence in front of the verb and the subject. It’s not the easiest language to learn, but there are actually a small handful of fans who are fluent in Klingon, and many more who can at least partially speak the language. Among most of the constructed languages presented here, Klingon appears to be the most deeply developed, and there’s even a humorous clip of Shakespeare “in the original Klingon,” as Star Trek VI‘s General Chang might say.

Singer spends a good portion of the video identifying the sounds and vocal movements from each constructed language and explaining where they can be found in languages in the real world. Singer specifically singled out former Game of Thrones star Jason Mamoa for his ability to seem like he was a native speaker of Dothraki. Singer also praised the way that language was used to show the development of Emilia Clarke’s Daenerys. In the early seasons of the show, Daenerys struggled with her command of the Dothraki tongue, but she has come to master it by the events of the sixth season.

The entire video is worth watching for additional insights from Singer. Most of these details would escape the average viewer, but it’s good to know that there’s a certain level of reality behind all of these fantasy languages. We may not always realize the linguistic rules behind them, but they only serve to strengthen the stories for which they were created.

What did you think about Singer’s breakdown of fictional languages? Let us know in the comment section below! And bonus points if you can do it in one of the constructed languages from the video!

Image Credit: HBO

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