n Language Matters : Studies in the Languages of Southern Africa - Virtual languages in science fiction and fantasy literature

Volume 37, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-5986



The languages created for use in science fiction and fantasy literature constitute an interesting subcategory of artificial language. This article explores the nature of these languages by examining three fictional languages: The Old Tongue, Quenya, a dialect of Elvish, and Klingon. Crystal (1997a, 29) identifies four categories of artificial languages in terms of the purposes they serve: international languages, programming languages, artificial intelligence (AI) languages and simplified languages. This article proposes a fifth category for fictional languages on the grounds of their pluridimensional function. Their primary function is to help to create a fictional world. On the one hand, they function as devices which aid the creation of a fictional world of which they form an integral part. On the other hand they function within that imaginary world, forming a sociolinguistic context within which group and individual identities can be created.

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