Short video on origins of Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na’vi


Sola lingua bona est lingua mortua.


Conlang definition 2: Languages likely to be heard at a con.


Unless I misunderstood his definition, basically a “real language” is one with grammar. Having a history and being subject to change are characteristics of the conlangs he discusses, but aren’t required.

To me that doesn’t make them “real languages” since they’re not the everyday language of any community, but maybe I’m being too nitpicky with my definition. Maybe Klingon, Na’avi, et al should instead be considered, like Latin or Navajo, to be “dead” languages, since they’re only used and spoken by specialists. Except in the case of Klingon, Na’avi, et al they’re really DOA languages, since they didn’t originate as the spoken language of a community, but are more like Esperanto. Except spoken by more people.


The Esperanto people were quite sad when Klingon became the world’s most spoken artificial language. People died in the struggle to spread Esperanto! I think Klingon surpassed their invention because Esperanto, like Vulcan, is kind of boring. Not enough fricatives or explosive pops.



Describing Quenya, Sindarin, etc. as “Elvish” seems about as ridiculous as describing Aduniac, English, Aymara, etc. as “Humanish.”


i’m not an expert on the elven languages of middle-earth by any means, but i’ve listened to enough of the tolkien professor’s podcasts to know that this guy’s pronunciation is terrible.

Just an aside, but Navajo’s the most spoken American indigenous language north of the Mexican border; Wikipedia puts it at 120,000 to 170,000 speakers. My impression’s that most Navajo are proud of that and would not be happy to have their language described as in a similar state to Latin.


AArrghh. A Penguin at the north pole.

Sorry. It’s the sort of thing I notice.

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Allow me to retract that. I could edit it out, but (a) I’m too honest, and (b) your comment would look odd, and I don’t want you to put you in that position. I didn’t think Navajo was still spoken regularly, but I still probably would have been safer with my first instinct, which was Hopi. I’m pretty sure Hopi, unfortunately, has joined the ranks of “dead” languages.

I really doubt more people speak Klingon than Esperanto – yes, I know I heard that factoid, but I suspect it was based on the idea that everybody who bought a copy of the “Klingon Dictionary” went on to learn Klingon rather than getting bored after page 3. The language is so (intentionally) convoluted that I suspect that no more than a handful of people really know the language rather than just being able use it to say “nuqneH”.

Plus, take a look at what’s been published in Klingon – a couple of translations of Shakespeare’s plays and one of Gilgamesh, and a stalled translation of the Bible. Esperanto has thousands of translated books and plays, the entire Bible and Koran, plus hundreds of original novels. That kind of suggests that there are a lot more fluent/near fluent Esperantists out there than Klingonists.

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You have a point, but that stopped neither Tolkien nor his characters.


Agreed. A language that is not used by anybody, anywhere can’t really be described as “real” in any sense except “dude, I totally wrote my name in Klingon!”

Since they were never born, even DOA is too generous. These languages are just pretty fictions, and argue as they might, everybody knows it’s true.

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I don’t know about you kids, but when the singularity comes and I can get a memory upgrade that lets me learn a language in a few seconds, it is going to be nothing but Klingon for this guy. 'IwlIj jachjaj! (“cheers!”, or more literally translated, “may your blood scream”)

It’s describing a group of related languages using their common ancestry.

To use the example from the video, it’s more like calling French, Spanish and Italian “Romanish” languages. Or, you know, “Romance” languages. In that case, they both sprouted from the language of the first elves as various groups of said people separated and evolved their own linguistic style from the language their ancestors originally spoke (haven’t read the whole Silmarillion but I’m pretty sure that’s the idea)

This is very interesting. I live/work in Mordor (Birmingham) and The Shire (Malvern Hills), so it’s a topic close to my heart.

Us ‘Brummies’ face “Accentism”, whereby the language of Shakespeare’s Sister and heirs is traduced for ‘inappropriate’ diction, vocab, grammar and inflection by the cogno-lingua-normative Norman Tory Whores the South-East who congregate on Grammarly and in the boiler room of Rupert Murdoch’s “The Times of London” to diss 'Peaky Blinders". Much to our amusement. We here in Mercia, erm, don’t give a damn about that and just turn up the bostin sounds of Black Sabbath to 11.

Anyroads, serious gaps in this presentation with regard to mutant language morphs in rap and online (that 4chan code my son uses, etc). I see no reason to accept Language Police of any description. Esperanto was an EpicFAIL! unlike patois and rap. Still, an interesting, albeit rather middle-class take on the whole ‘is language a virus from outer space’ stuff? Maybe it is/was and Chomsky was wrong, it’s not memetic, it’s genetic. I read the amusing hoax that “scientists from Yorkshire” had discovered alien life miles above Sheffield, which had it been true might have helped explain their equally exotic version of “English”.

The Elvish, Klingon, Dothraki and Na’vi stuff is fun, but not half as much fun as the PC language wars of Accentism in the Disunited Kingdom of these Isles of Wonder. Language is always explicitly political, especially the cogno-lingua-normative attempts by grammar police to dictate what is / isn’t proper language, innit. Oh, dear, now I’m going all Mockney. I’ll start talking like Madonna in a minute. LOL!. Etc. [yawns]

I have vision and ADD issues from mTBI. It’s giving me a new take on cognative and linguistic flexibility, where I give scant regard to any ‘feedback’ on my evolving stylistic innovations. I doubt Joyce would have cared what grammar worry-worts thought of Ulysses.

Our world is rapidly morphing, merging cultures, conventions Those languages which have remained outside the Norman Linguistic Imperialism of the last few centuries will be absorbed, but not by PC Grammarly tropes, rather by txt msg techno-lingua-francas as the whole world of homo-stupid sapiens gets jiggy with Opposable Thumbs on iDevices to further the Carnist catastrophe of Speciesism.

We need a new language beyond Elvish and Eminem to provide an explanatory framework for the decades of simultaneous Singularities and Collapse ahead. Hopefully, someone is working on that right now. I would, but I’m too busy.

With every good wish.
Yours, in Jubilo!


Well, I don’t think that number of translations has much to do with the number of speakers but rather the amount of time the languages have been around: Esperanto for over 100 years and Klingon less than 25 and I suspect that Esperanto’s glory days are behind it.

Nevertheless, after looking into it, I think that you’re right about the relative numbers of speakers. There aren’t really any good surveys but the rough consensus is that there are about 10,000 fluent Esperanto speakers with about 100,000 who can stumble along it rather like people who took French in High School and still have their text books but never really used it. Klingon is an order of magnitude below that: about 1,000 fluent speakers with 10,000 who can stumble along. In comparison, one of the aboriginal languages of Peru has about 4 million fluent speakers. I wonder how Latin compares?

I don’t think Klingon is doing too badly, considering it’s newness, but it has a lot against it. The vocabulary is really small and mostly deals with things from the future that don’t exist yet. It’s also probably copyrighted whereas Zamenhof was a pioneer of open-source with Esperanto as he renounced his copyright from the beginning.

That’s fascinating. Can you point me to a source to learn more about this?

Also, are we counting Modern Hebrew as a constructed language? Because there’s several million speakers of that, plus a whole living body of literature.

There is also the Anglish Moot, what some think English would be like if old Will hadn’t conquered England.

Well, the classic book about the persecution of Esperanto is Ulrich Lin’s “La Danĝera Lingvo” (The Dangerous Language), but it is in Esperanto as the majority of people interested in the subject are Esperantists (there is a German translation by the author, a German himself). Basically, both Fascist and Communist regimes jailed and executed Esperantists, because the “one world” pacifist philosophy and establishing contacts with Esperantists from other countries as is common to the movement didn’t sit well with governments that promoted cultural or ethnic superiority over other lands.

As for Modern Hebrew being a conlang, it is certainly at least in part so – Eliezer Ben-Yehuda created much of its vocabulary (and even some of its grammar) directly. But natural and artificial languages are really more of a spectrum than a real dividing line. When people make “rules” for English like “you shouldn’t split infinitives” or “don’t end a sentence with a preposition”, they are really proposing a sort of conlang based on English, as people do both all the time in natural English.