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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

question of the day: What is your favorite language invented for film, TV, or books?

Klingon signage

J.R.R. Tolkien may be the godfather of inventing languages for entertainment’s sake, with the multiple languages he invented for his novels The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, but it took the Star Trek films’ creation of the Klingon language (which was never heard in the original 1960s TV series) to jumpstart the idea that science fiction and fantasy visual storytelling demands the realism of alien speech that actually holds up as a true medium for communication, and just not as weird-sounding nonsense.

So today we have Na’vi (from Avatar), Dothraki (from Game of Thrones), Thark (from John Carter), Goa’uld (from Stargate SG-1), Tenctonese (from the Alien Nation TV series), and many others.

What is your favorite language invented for film, TV, or books?
Goa’uld is definitely one of mine, partly because I actually started to think in it, at least for a few basic vocabulary words, while watching to show: eventually I didn’t need to translate words like chappa’ai and Tau’ri in my head; they simply meant what they say in themselves.

I also love the language that Russell Hoban’s genius SF novel Riddley Walker [Amazon U.S.] [Amazon Canada] [Amazon U.K.] is written in, a sort of demotic that English has devolved into several thousand of years after a global nuclear war.


(The photo is from 2010 San Diego Comic-Con, which negotiated temporary replacement of some mass-transit signage with new ones in Klingon.)

(If you have a suggestion for a QOTD, feel free to email me. Responses to this QOTD sent by email will be ignored; please post your responses here.)

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