I need to settle this question in order to adjudicate acceptance of an answer to another question.

So, taking as a given that Galactic Basic has all these cultural influences from hundreds of alien languages, and that it is supposed to have evolved in The Galaxy, and so on and so forth... Does that language just happen to sound dramatically like 20th Century American English (broadly speaking), in the same spirit as most Star Wars characters just happen to look dramatically like humans?

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    if you grew up in say....<pick a random country - Italy for example>...and had only seen 'translated' versions of the films, would you still have the same question? All the characters would be speaking 20th Century Italian – NKCampbell Feb 13 at 1:08
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    @NKCampbell Good point. Though one could assume the Italian dub is not the original movie. I think the OP's question could be rephrased to "are the movies supposed to be dubbed from a fictional Galactic Basic, or is that what Galactic Basic actually sounds like". (The real answer is of course "this a space opera and you aren't supposed to think very hard about it" :P) – Andres F. Feb 13 at 1:13
  • See Translation Convention – Arcanist Lupus Feb 13 at 3:08
  • Both Wikipedia and Wookieepedia say that GalBasic is theoretically always dubbed into the audience's language. So it's not English, it's just translated into English for English theatrical release. But I don't have access to any of their original sources, so I can't post a proper answer. – DavidW Feb 13 at 4:36
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    The Force translates the Galactic Basic in your head. – Umbrella Corporation Feb 13 at 6:23

You are talking about a fictional language in a franchise which has gone through many hands, from canon to Legends. Back to basic:

  • If you consider that things happened "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away" it cannot be English as we know it unless you explain it with convergent evolution of languages.
  • The use of a fictional alphabet is a strong hint as well. There are many examples of different languages using the same alphabet, but few examples of the same language using different alphabets.
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  • +1 Though, confusing things even more, when aliens speak a clearly alien language such as Huttese, it's not translated to English. So why is Galactic Basic, unless it actually sounds like English? (The out of universe answer is, of course, because we want to understand the human characters better). – Andres F. Feb 13 at 15:10
  • @AndresF. For the same reason that Westron is rendered as English, but not Sindarin, Quenya, Khuzdul, etc. Galactic Basic is the lingua franca of the faraway galaxy, so it’s rendered as the corresponding lingua franca of the audience. Other languages are foreign to the protagonists who speak the lingua franca, so they’re rendered as foreign (in both cases as themselves, rather than, say, having Jabba the Hutt speak Malayalam or Chewie speak Greenlandic). – Janus Bahs Jacquet Feb 15 at 15:45
  • There actually was an old science fiction story where convergent evolution of languages was the explanation for English-speaking space aliens. – user14111 Feb 15 at 21:49
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    "We are actually speaking Rigellian. By an astonishing coincidence, both our languages are exactly the same." – Exal Feb 15 at 22:27

I think the following perspective is best: Don't think of the films as actual depictions of 'real' historical events; think of them rather as fictionalizations based on 'real' events, in which the actors speak the language of their audience. A good example is the film '300' - obviously the REAL Spartans must have spoken ancient Greek, but the actors in that film spoke English. Think of Star Wars as being like that.

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  • This is of course the real out-of-universe answer. But because this is a fictional language, there is more leeway than in the case of the Spartans. Is there a definitive reference that Galactic Basic does not sound like English? – Andres F. Feb 13 at 15:12
  • Another analogy you could have used, this time with a fictional language, is The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The hobbits speaking in Common Speak or Westron (itself an English word! Westron isn't called Westron in Westron-language) sound as if they were speaking in English, but the narrator in metacommentary/apendixes mentions he actually translated Westron to English for the benefit of English-speaking readers. Something similar could be the case for Star Wars and Galactic Basic. – Andres F. Feb 13 at 15:14

Short Answer:

Nobody knows if the Star Wars characters speak a language totally identical with Modern Twentieth Century (Fox) English, or if the Star Wars movies show actors speaking English translations of a very different Galactic Basic language. But I think that there are strong reasons that to deduce that Star Wars Galactic Basic is translated into English in the Star Wars movies and doesn't really sound like English.

Long Answer:

Decades and centuries ago, it was common for works of fiction to include frame stories for the purpose of, among other things, explaining how the writers learned of the events in the stories, explaining the transmission of the "historical" knowledge down to the readers.

That is no longer fashionable in fiction.

But when I read or watch fiction, I always more or less pretend while doing so that the events are real and nonfictional, and I assume that all other readers or viewers also do that.

If fictional events are nonfiction inside the fictional universes of their stories, that means there is a chain of transmission of the knowledge of those fictionally historic events down to the reader or viewer.

When you read a history book or watch the news on television, information about those (mostly) real events has passed through a chain of transmission to you, even if you don't know any details about that chain of transmission.

So while enjoying a work of fiction, I always assume that it has a frame story explaining the chain of transmission of the knowledge of the events to me, even though the frame story is not given and even the writers of the story probably never gave it any thought. Therefore I can only guess about the possible details of such a frame story.

In a fictional universe where Star Wars is true, the real world still exists for us, and our planet Earth is certainly not currently in open and public communication with the galactic society depicted in Star Wars.

So anyone who suspends disbelief in Star Wars has to imagine that there has been some more or less secret communication of some type between the Galactic society of Star Wars and our own society on Earth. And there is not much evidence for them to decide what form that communication took.

In Star Wars it is "possible" that some Force using observers observed and recorded all the events depicted in Star Wars movies (and maybe other media). And somehow George Lucas & various associates here on Earth gained access to those recordings and converted them directly to film using some mechanical or electronic or Force using method. In that case just about everything in Star Wars should be literally true and correct, including in the case of this question Galactic Standard sounding like 20th Century English.

But it is also "possible" that somehow a galactic history book from the Star Wars Galaxy arrived on Earth somehow, and that George Lucas found it and thought that there were a lot of good movie plots in it, and wrote scripts more or less faithful to the history book, got studio funding, higher actors, built sets and props, etc., etc., and filmed a bunch of movies that were more or less accurate in plot, visuals, and sounds, etc. Obviously in this case it would be possible for the movies to vary from the true events a lot more, including having the actors speak in English more or less translated from Galactic Standard instead of in the alien language of Galactic Standard. And probably also in hiring Human actors without any alien makeup to portray the main species in the Star Wars society, even though that species probably does not look identical to Earth humans.

And since a lot of people claim publicly that they worked on various aspects of Star Wars movies that second possible explanation of how knowledge of Star Wars reached Earth seems to have a lot more evidence in favor of it.

And it would seem that a similar explanation is necessary for Star Trek, but with some differences. For example, Star Wars happens in "a galaxy far away", which should be at least tens of times, and possibly many millions of times, farther away than most events in Star Trek happen. So the knowledge of Star Wars events has had to travel much farther to get to Earth than the knowledge of Star Trek events, and thus is somewhat harder to explain.

However, the time factor makes the knowledge of Star Wars events much easier to explain than the knowledge of Star Trek events. Star Wars happens "Long, Long Ago", so there is no time travel necessary to explain how Star Wars knowledge reached the here and now, merely space travel. But Star Trek is set in the future, and probably in the future of an alternate universe, so the explanation for knowledge of Star Trek events has to explain how the knowledge traveled back in time to our era, and probably also traveled sideways in time to our timeline.

So my preferred explanation for the relationship between the Star Wars society and our society involves knowledge of Star Wars events arriving on Earth somehow and being the basis of the scripts for the Star Wars movies which are filmed on Earth with Human actors, and thus the actors speak English translations of the Galactic Basic words the characters spoke. So in my opinion the words you hear in Star Wars are English translations of the Galactic Basic words and Galactic Basic is very different from English and other Earth languages. (and the main species in the Star Wars galaxy probably doesn't "really" look identical to Earth Humans.)

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    Let me get this straight the TL;DR of your answer is that SW is actually real and George Lucas found out about that and profited from it? – TheLethalCarrot Feb 13 at 16:58
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    @TheLethalCarrot Well, that's the central conceit of LotR and Tolkien. – Rand al'Thor Feb 13 at 17:00
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    @Randal'Thor Sure that's the established background lore for LotR, this just seems to be pulled out of thin air. – TheLethalCarrot Feb 13 at 17:01
  • @TheLethalCarrot I say what when someone is enjoying a work of fiction it seems sort of real to them. Therefore when you are enjoying Star Wars in particular you are imagining or pretending that the events are real and that knowledge of them has somehow come to the creators of Star Wars and then to audience members like yourself. And my answer discusses the possible method of that fictional transmission of knowledge in the case of Star Wars in particular. – M. A. Golding Feb 14 at 20:20
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    #TheLethalCarrot I have edited my answer to make it clearer. – M. A. Golding Feb 14 at 20:35

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