The Complex Process Behind Invented Languages

Dr. Erica Brozovsky, PhD of the PBS series Otherwords looked at the complex etymological process behind constructed languages, deliberately designed lexicons made up of invented words. These types of “conlangs” are seen mostly in fictional literature, films, and television, but there are also a few real-world examples.

Conlang is short for constructed language, and it refers to languages that don’t evolve from the organic forces of culture, but rather, were deliberately designed by one or more individuals.

Brozovsky cites such popular works as Lord of the Rings (Elvish, Valarin, Sindaran), Star Trek (Klingon, Vulcan, Ferengi), Game of Thrones (Dothraki, Valerian), and Avatar (Na’vi) as using constructed languages that had a complex process behind them.

Clearly, it takes a lot of work to make a fictional language sound real. But does anyone actually speak them? Not really. Of all the fictional languages, Klingon has the greatest number of truly conversant speaker a… Fictional languages like Klingon, Quenya, and Na’vi were invented mainly for artistic and aesthetic purposes.

Invented Language

Brozovsky also looks at engineered languages such as Esperanto, The Whorf Hypothesis, and Loglan, each seeking real-world solutions to fully-rounded communication.

Today, Esperanto is the biggest real-world success story of all invented languages.  …In the early 20th century, a linguist named Benjamin Whorf hypothesized that the language you speak limits your perceptions and cognition, like maybe having more words for colors would actually enable you to see more colors… Sociologist James Cooke Brown wanted to test the Whorf hypothesis by inventing a language that could empower its speakers to shed all their preconceptions and think with perfect logic. Loglan, short for logical language, is an example of an engineered language, one designed for theoretical or experimental purposes.

Lori Dorn
Lori Dorn

Lori is a Laughing Squid Contributing Editor based in New York City who has been writing blog posts for over a decade. She also enjoys making jewelry, playing guitar, taking photos and mixing craft cocktails.