In Return of the Jedi, Leia Organa infiltrates the palace of Jabba the Hutt, disguised as a bounty hunter named Boushh who has "captured" Chewbacca. She speaks a rather unusual language, characterized by a raspy intonation (presumably produced by some sort of modulator) and words that all sound like "Yaté" and "Yotó".

C-3PO is able to translate it to Basic without difficulty. (At this point, he doesn't know it's Leia, so presumably he's really translating and not just putting on a show.)

Do we know anything further about this language?

For example: Does it have a name? Does its apparently limited vocabulary have subtle nuances inaudible to human ears?

  • This appears to be 3 questions, not one.
    – Mithical
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 8:21
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    @Mithrandir: I thought they were so closely related that it would be silly to post them separately. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 8:23
  • The first two, maybe. The last one should be a separate question, i think.
    – Mithical
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 8:25
  • @Mithrandir: I don't care so much about that one so I just took it out. You're welcome to post it as a new question if you like. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 8:26
  • "Apparently limited vocabulary" -- An Ubese might think of Galactic Basic as incredibly verbose, yaté yotó could break down into something like yat-é came-1ps.PAST, yo-tó bounty-DEM, where the é means the speaker did it in the past and combining yo and means "the bounty of this thing here," and the translation on-screen just added "Wookie." Commented Feb 5, 2016 at 2:10

1 Answer 1


Leia is speaking Ubese

Boushh is an Ubese and he (she when it is Leia disguised as Boushh) speaks Ubese

This is shown in the Return of the Jedi novelization by James Kahn:

"He bowed low and then spoke in Ubese.

"Greetings, Majestic One. I am Boushh." It was a metallic language, well-adapted to the rarefied atmosphere of the home planet from which this nomadic species arose.

Jabba spoke in the same tongue, although his Ubese was stilted and slow.

And in the Return of the Jedi film.

Although the language was not named on screen, it was identified as such in the subtitles of the 2006 Limited Edition version on both re-mastered and original cuts, which was released on 12th of September 2006.

Yatay yatoh

"I have come for the bounty on this Wookiee." - Boushh speaking Ubese

The script for the film also confirms this:

BOUSHH (In Ubese subtitled) I have come for the bounty on this Wookiee


To get further details of the language such as why they use an amplifier we have to go into Legends and the game Star Wars: Galactic Backgrounds:

Ubese vocal cords could not produce sound above raspy whispers, making them difficult to understand when their voices weren't amplified.

The Ubese also developed a sign language, Ubeninal, as an alternative to communicate with other Ubese. Ubeninal had no written form.

Most Ubese were fluent in Ubese language, Ubeninal and Basic, the common language of the galaxy, although they were only literate in their own language.

Ubese rarely chose to speak Basic.

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    @NateEldredge That would make for a good question, I think :) Mostly, yes, but they are exception in both ways, especially when you include "historical" (dead) languages. Though it should be noted that it's very much possible that in the scope of SW, Earth's languages might also be considered just one (or a couple) of languages - English may be very different from, say, German, to your ears and eyes, but they're actually very close (though mostly not mutually intelligible). A galactic civilization might lump it all in "Earthly" and be done with it :)
    – Luaan
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 9:20
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    @thegreatjedi Western Europeans maybe but Eastern European will be Germanic and Slavic based. With English being an amalgam of the two with some Celtic thrown in. Indo-European might be a better term, but then you have the Basque language which appears to be its own thing Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 11:24
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    Well you get the idea. Assuming we don't nuke ourselves back to the Stone Age, in a thousand years our descendants will identifying their first language as Earthese, Martian etc. and one of its derivative dialects ;) Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 11:27
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    @CearonO'Flynn Even the western languages are heavily germanic. French developed from Frankish (language of a germanic tribe), Spanish developed from Gothic (another germanic tribe)... If you're not used to finding the differences, they all sound very much alike. Very broadly, the west is mostly germanic+romanic, the east is more germanic+slavic. But it's still just various mixes of germanic, latin and slavic influences, with the outliers incorporating finno-ugric etc. Finnish sounds a lot "weirder" to a typical European than Spanish, for example.
    – Luaan
    Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 13:25
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    @Luaan French and Spanish both developed from Vulgar Latin; they were influenced, to varying degrees, by the (eventually extinct) Germanic languages spoken in the region, but they did not develop from them. Spanish was also, to a much greater degree, influenced by the Moors and their language, and French was also influenced, to a smaller degree, by Breton. Very broadly, the north and northwest is Germanic, the south and southwest is Romance, the east and northeast is Slavic, and the far southeast is Greek. And then there are the Finno-Ugric and Basque pockets strewn around here and there. Commented Feb 4, 2016 at 14:09

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