To be taught Klingon or Esperanto: What invented languages can educate us

Enlarge / Actor J.G. Hertzler, dressed as his character Martok from the Star Trek tv franchise speaks in the course of the “STLV19 Klingon Kick-Off” panel on the 18th annual Official Star Trek Conference on the Rio Resort & On line casino on July 31, 2019 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Gabe Ginsburg | Getty Photos

Most languages develop via centuries of use amongst teams of individuals. However some have a special origin: They’re invented, from scratch, from one particular person’s thoughts. Acquainted examples embrace the worldwide language Esperanto, the Klingon language from Star Trek and the Elvish tongues from The Lord of the Rings.

The exercise isn’t new—the earliest recorded invented language was by medieval nun Hildegard von Bingen—however the Web now permits a lot wider sharing of such languages among the many small communities of people that communicate and create them.

Christine Schreyer, a linguistic anthropologist on the College of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus in Kelowna, Canada, has studied invented languages and the individuals who communicate them, a subject she writes about within the 2021 Annual Evaluation of Anthropology. However Schreyer brings one other talent to the desk: She’s a language creator herself and has invented a number of languages for the film trade: the Kryptonian language for Man of Metal, Eltarian for Energy Rangers, Beama (Cro-Magnon) for Alpha, and Atlantean for Zack Snyder’s Justice League.

Schreyer spoke with Knowable Journal about her expertise on this uncommon world, and the sensible classes that it gives for folks making an attempt to revitalize endangered pure languages. This interview has been edited for size and readability.

How did you come to review one thing as esoteric as invented languages?

I educate a course on linguistic anthropology, by which I give my college students the duty of making new languages as they be taught concerning the components of languages. Across the time I began doing that, Avatar got here out. The Na’vi language from that film was very talked-about on the time and had made its method into many information tales about folks studying the language—and doing it shortly.

My different educational analysis is on language revitalization, with indigenous or minority communities. One of many challenges we have now is it takes folks a very long time to be taught a language. I used to be to know what endangered-language communities might be taught from these created-language fan communities, to be taught languages sooner. I needed to find who the audio system of Na’vi have been, and why and the way they have been studying this explicit created language.

On this five-minute video, a linguist explains how invented languages present the traits of actual languages.

Lesson by John McWhorter, Animation by EnjoyAnimation


Once I surveyed Na’vi audio system, many stated they joined as a result of they have been followers of the movie they usually stayed for the neighborhood. They’re very welcoming and inclusive communities. It doesn’t matter what your race is or what your gender is, although many of those fandoms are typically extra male.

But additionally, one of many issues I noticed within the Na’vi case was that people joined the fan neighborhood as a result of Avatar was very tied to environmental rights and indigenous rights. These beliefs of environmentalism are a part of the language, they usually picked up on that. That’s a part of the rationale that a few of them have been studying the language.

What about different invented languages?

Those which are discovered most generally are these meant as a global auxiliary language, like Esperanto, meant to be shared by folks all over the world to advertise unity and world peace. It’s presupposed to be a impartial language, and it’s simplified and really straightforward to be taught. It’s been discovered by tens of millions of individuals all over the world. You possibly can be taught it on Duolingo!

The opposite ones are fan languages: Na’vi, Klingon from Star Trek and Dothraki from Recreation of Thrones are very talked-about. There have been 300 Na’vi audio system once I surveyed them in 2011, everybody from newbies to very superior—however all of them thought of themselves a part of the neighborhood. Dothraki audio system have been a lot fewer on the time, perhaps 20. And research have proven there are about 20 superior Klingon audio system on this planet as nicely. It is dependent upon the recognition of the present on the time. If one other season of Star Trek: Discovery comes out, you’ll have extra folks studying Klingon.

We positively see that with Na’vi. It was very talked-about early on, and there are nonetheless these core members who’re studying Na’vi. And with Avatar 2, which is meant to be coming subsequent yr, we are going to possible see a rise in audio system.

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