Saturday, March 08, 2014

Developing Alien Languages

I've not tried to make up alien words for my science fiction. I'm a fan of the Star Trek universal translator notion. I know somebody who not only tosses in a word or two, but develops extensive languages for her stories of an alien species of giant termites. I've read several of Lorinda J. Taylor's books and enjoyed them a lot for their uniqueness.

What I really admire her for is the richness of the language of the termites (and for an alien bird species as well). Called 'conlangs', constructed languages have a surprisingly large number of human adherents. Not satisfied with an occasional mix-up of consonants with an apostrophe or two, writers like Lorinda build complex vocabulary and grammar.

I mentioned Star Trek earlier. As you might know, Klingon is one of the conlangs the Star Trek fanbase developed from the seeds planted early on. Why Klingon? I think because everybody just can't resist saying Gagh! with gusto when dining. (If you'd like to see a fun list of Star Trek foods, click on this link.

Read Lorinda's informative blog post on constructed language building for beginners. Don't just toss in some odd punctuation for your alien beings. Be brave. Build the entire language. Or at least build a consistent base for a language as the writers of Star Trek did for Klingon. Then let it loose on the fan world to fill in the blanks. The Klingon Language Institute fills in the blanks, including an alphabet! Read this article for the interesting background that brought Klingon to life.

Conlanging for Beginners by Lorinda J. Taylor

Try out Lorinda's Writing with this FREE Book on Smashwords: The Blessing of Krozem

An Article on Alien Language (xenolinguistics) with some good links

Reddit Articles on Conlangs


  1. Thanks, Marva! What a terrific shout-out! There are also some great conlanging groups on Facebook and then there is the Language Creation Society (LCS) David Peterson, who was the President of the LCS until just this year, writes the language for Game of Thrones. Their website has a reference to a language construction kit. I never used that - I wrote my conlangs before I even knew the LCS existed - but I've heard it's quite useful.

  2. Though fairly fluent in Earth English, and able to stumble along in French & German (provided the topics of conversation don't get too complex), I don't think I could take on the daunting task of creating a whole new language. Do admire those who can, though.