I've got Native Tongue on my shelf, which is notable for having a language embedded in the story that can be spoken. What else should I add to my reading list? I'm in particularly looking for books with developed languages, not just a few exotic place and character names added for flavor.

UPDATE: A language is well developed when it has a dictionary (or reasonably complete glossary) and reference grammar--or more likely--a few pages outlining how to string the words together.

(This question is copied verbatum from the Example Questions on Area 51)

This is now community wiki, I'm sure there will be more than one question that could be marked as the answer.

  • Do the languages have to be alien? Must they have been created for the Novel/Show or could they just be the only place ever actually used. Like Lojban in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress? – DampeS8N Jan 11 '11 at 21:38
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    StackExchange is not a recommendation service. Real questions have answers that are not items, ideas, opinions – Rebecca Chernoff Jan 20 '11 at 16:28
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    I could not disagree more with the closing of this question. It's perfectly valid in its current form -- he defined exactly what he meant by "well-developed" and there's nothing subjective or vague about it. Moreover, it's obviously interesting to quite a few people. Rebecca, can you expand on why you chose to close this question? – Adrian Petrescu Mar 22 '11 at 3:35
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    As I can't actually add it as answer yet: James Doohan's Flight Engineer series has an obviously worked out, but not given a lexicon in print, language for the one alien race. At least, no such appendix is in the eBooks. – aramis Aug 22 '11 at 7:27
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    This question is from the early days of the site. It's one of the many that made us decide that such list questions are not welcome on the site. For more information, see Are list questions allowed? and What questions are on-topic, and what questions are off-topic? – user56 Feb 1 '12 at 0:49

I guess that depends on your definition of well developed. These three are particularly well developed in my opinion:

Fremen, from Dune

Sindarin, from The Lord of the Rings (yes, I know, not sci-fi)

Klingon, from Star Trek

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    I see you marked LOTR as not SciFi, but on a side note I wonder who is going to edit out all the fantasy-genre questions that will inevitably crop up. Plus, what about mixed-genres, like the Shadowrun series? – Rodger Cooley Jan 11 '11 at 21:26
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    We will have to tolerate some chocolate in our peanut-butter. – DampeS8N Jan 11 '11 at 21:35
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    That's true - everyone loves Reese's! – divided Jan 12 '11 at 14:15
  • +1 for Reese's and Shadowrun, mmmmm – Anonymous Type Mar 17 '11 at 11:31

There's quite a vocabulary of R'lyehian built up in Lovecraft's Cthulu mythos.


Babel 17 by Samuel R. Delany, has a weird invented languages as a core plot device, that's designed to be used as a weapon. The Languages of Pao, by Jack Vance in which the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis is a central plot theme, where the language of the Pao people is manipulated to alter their perception.

The The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin also used the Sapir–Whorf hypothesis to investigate how language shapes society.


I'm not sure of a book specifically that's heavy in klingon, but the klingon language itself is pretty much a full fledged language which was designed by an actual linguist. I don't know of any star trek books that make a lot of use of it, other then the klingon dictionary.

  • There is another "Klingon" language, Klingonaase, from the John Ford Klingon-focused ST Novels. Diane Duane likewise creates Rihansu for her series of Romulan-focused novels. Vulcan is developed by Marc Ocrand, but not released, but is in the novelizations of several movies. – aramis Aug 22 '11 at 7:23

The Na'vi Language (that was used by AVATAR's aliens) which developed by Dr. Paul Frommera, The language has a vocabulary of about 1000 words, with some 30 having been invented by Cameron ..


I don't know if you could class it as an alien language, as it's a standalone society, in the far future, where most of the species have fled the planet for the stars, but in the book Feersum Endjinn by Iain M Banks, the main narrator Bascule writes phonetically, and the language is slang Scot's, for all intents and purposes, which makes for very hard reading, even for me, a Scot, but also very rewarding. Here is an example from Wikipedia.

`Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast. Spoke wif Ergates thi ant who sed itz juss been wurk wurk wurk 4 u lately master Bascule, Y dont u ½ a holiday? & I agreed & that woz how we decided we otter go 2 c Mr Zoliparia in thi I-ball ov thi gargoyle Rosbrith.

  • Love that book. At first reading Bascule's parts is tough, but by the end I was so used to it. It really helps shape his personality. – Martijn Heemels Dec 13 '11 at 23:51
  • Similar in nature - the language in Ridley Walker. Decayed over hundreds of years and filled with religious, mystical references to the pre-apocalyptic times. A most excellent read as well. – Strangeland Jan 12 '12 at 21:19

It's not a separate (or alien) language, but the slang used in A Clockwork Orange is very well developed.

UPDATE: The language building is not terribly surprising for Burgess who was, among other things, a linguist (who authored 2 linguistics books "Language Made Plain" and "A Mouthful of Air")

UPDATE: More details for "Nadsat" (Clockwork's slang language), including the language name origin, can be found in:

  • Nadsat Dictionary

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadsat

    Nadsat is basically English with some borrowed words from Russian. It also contains influences from Cockney rhyming slang and the King James Bible, the German language, some words of unclear origin, and some that Burgess invented. The word nadsat itself is the suffix of Russian numerals from 11 to 19 (-надцать).

  • http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clockwork_Orange#Use_of_slang

    The book, narrated by Alex, contains many words in a slang argot which Burgess invented for the book, called Nadsat. It is a mix of modified Slavic words, rhyming slang, derived Russian (like "baboochka"), and words invented by Burgess himself. For instance, these terms have the following meanings in Nadsat- 'droog' means 'friend' ; 'korova' means 'cow'; 'risp' is a shirt; 'golova' (gulliver) means 'head'; 'malchick' or 'malchickiwick' means 'boy'; 'soomka' means 'sack' or 'bag'; 'Bog' means 'God'; 'khorosho' (horrorshow) means 'good', 'prestoopnick' means 'criminal'; 'rooka' (rooker) is 'hand', 'cal' is 'crap', 'veck' ('chelloveck') is 'man' or 'guy'; 'litso' is 'face'; 'malenky' is 'little'; and so on. One of Alex's doctors explains the language to a colleague as "Odd bits of old rhyming slang; a bit of gypsy talk, too. But most of the roots are Slav propaganda. Subliminal penetration."

  • isn't a vast majority of the slang just bastardized russian words? At least that's my recollection - haven't re-read CO in a while. – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 19 '11 at 18:47
  • @DVK: Is it? I'd never heard that before. I haven't read it in 20 years, but I wouldn't recognize Russian if I saw it anyway. – Bill the Lizard Mar 20 '11 at 3:40
  • @Bill - I would. But don't take my word for it :) "Nadsat is basically English with some borrowed words from Russian" (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nadsat and en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Clockwork_Orange#Use_of_slang ) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 20 '11 at 12:52
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    @Bill - see updates to the answer (they may need approval due to my low rep here) - feel free to roll back if you disagree with them :) – DVK-on-Ahch-To Mar 20 '11 at 13:03
  • @DVK: Those are great additions! I'd upvote if I could. :) – Bill the Lizard Mar 20 '11 at 13:06

What about well-developed english-like languages? I'm thinking of Neal Stephensen's Anathem, which has a very well-developed language that is mostly english, but many of the names of objects are made up.

  • Newspeak from Nineteen Eighty-Four would also qualify. – Thomas Boxley Nov 13 '11 at 19:37

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