There are a large number of invented languages or, more technically speaking, constructed languages. Esperanto, Volapük, Klingon, Interlingua… All of them were created artificially, and not naturally, like our mother tongues. Today we ask ourselves what motivates the creation of invented languages. Why don’t people who create them have enough with natural languages? Let’s see.
Knocking down the tower of Babel
The main historical motivation for the creation of invented languages has been to establish a common language for humanity. Over the centuries, many language theorists have thought that a language resulting from the combination of many others would serve to establish a universal language. You’re surely thinking we already have one, English, of course (and maybe others in the future). But the determination of these theorists was to have a new language that was not imposed or belonged to any social group, country, etc. It was the dream of a universal language which belonged to everyone that led to the emergence of invented languages such as the following:
- Esperanto, invented by L.L. Zamenhoff around 1887 (quite recently), is the most famous of all. It’s based on the search for simplicity, and it was created by combining different aspects of Indo-European languages. And it even has a flag (the one in this post’s image).
- Volapük. Menefe bal, püki bal (“a language for humanity”) is the motto of this constructed language. It was developed in 1879 by a German priest, Johann Martin Schleyer, combining traits of western European languages, but it didn’t succeed due to the greater acceptance of Esperanto.
- Interlingua is the most modern of languages invented for the purpose of creating a universal language. It was constructed by a group of linguists in 1951, but has not managed to unseat Esperanto. It took most of its features from Romance languages, as well as from English, German and Russian.
Languages invented for a fantasy world
The imagination of some people knows no limits. There are those who have the ability to create fantasy worlds in which others can submerge and experience them as if they were real. Some authors, in their effort to set the scene for their work as much as possible, have developed invented languages that everyone, or nearly everyone, has probably heard of at some point:
- The Elvish languages in The Lord of the Rings have their own grammar and rules. Because Tolkien, in addition to one of the best writers of the twentieth century, was a very patient linguist.
- The linguist Marc Okrand created Klingon for Star Trek, and he kept developing it as the show progressed. Many trekkies (fans of Star Trek) study this constructed language, which even has a study centre: the Klingon Language Institute.
- The most modern of this type of invented languages is Na’vi, constructed by Paul Frommer for the film Avatar, by James Cameron. It’s still being developed, as fans of the blue universe keep creating vocabulary that its creator reviews and accepts.
Uniting people and creating fictional worlds: the raison d’être of invented languages
There are always reasons to construct new things. Human beings never stop in our efforts to progress and let our creativity run free to improve our world. Whether for understanding or enjoyment and fantasy, invented languages are constructed to try to improve our lives in some way. But remember! To invent a language you need linguistic knowledge, it can’t just be done by anyone. It’s a lot more difficult than it seems!