20

I read a question about what the language used in 1951's The Day the Earth Stood Still was based upon and I guessed, apparently rightly, that it was just made up. I also of course know that there is a Klingon-English dictionary for the language spoken in Star Trek flicks (I do not think STOS had any linguist-created language). So was one of the Star Trek flicks the first movie to bother with creating a "real" artificial language? Did anyone try, even short of a full vocabulary but maybe basic, 300 or 800 words of a language prior to Star Trek?

EDIT: I want to motivate the question. I am amazed that some movie or tv producer would go through the expense but I actually think it is worth it -- this is a detail that even a non-linguist can hear in a "real" language vs gibberish. I have not looked up star wars but my money is on a linguist having been involved.

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    You ask about TV and movies only, there was a 1950's radio adaptation of Lord of the Rings - for the books of which Tolkien created/enhanced Quenya..... – Alith Nov 22 '20 at 14:34
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    No TV show has had a complete language created for it. Even languages like Klingon and Tengwar/Quenya are, at best, partial. – Valorum Nov 22 '20 at 14:46
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    The Fifth Element includes the "Divine Language", which was worked out in enough detail (400 words) that actors could chat in it. But this dates back only to 1997. – Invisible Trihedron Nov 22 '20 at 15:15
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    @Valorum Maybe not all the languages in Star Wars are gibberish. Apparently The Return of the Jedi includes a terrestrial language. – Invisible Trihedron Nov 22 '20 at 15:43
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    Highly related: Was Tolkien the first to invent languages purely for fictional works? (cc @Alith) Not a duplicate though, since this question is purely about screen works. – Rand al'Thor Nov 23 '20 at 0:07
24

I'll propose Pakuni from 1974 Land of the Lost series. Since they were primitive apemen - a 300 word language on a technicality has the best chance of being "complete". See http://lotl.popapostle.com/html/pakuni.htm

Though obviously Star Trek III's Klingon dictionary and Tolkien's elf languages are more notable in other ways.

15

Ubbi Dubbi was created in 1972 for the PBS children's show Zoom.

Because it is derived from English, it is a matter of opinion whether it counts for this question (i.e. what constitutes "creating" a language). On one hand, it is not completely artificial like Klingon or Tolkien languages. On the other hand, Ubbi Dubbi is as "complete" as English, unlike the other languages.

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    And DrSheldon was not happy when Amy and Penny used it as their secret language. – DrSheldon Nov 22 '20 at 23:25
  • I remember learning that! It was a blast confusing friends and foes alike. – FreeMan Nov 23 '20 at 11:53
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    I would argue that this isn't really a new language, it's just English spoken with a speech impediment. – Barmar Nov 23 '20 at 15:09
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    I was going to suggest Pig Latin, which appears in films as early as 1913, but it apparently wasn't created expressly for film/TV and it is very doubtful that anyone would agree that it is a complete language; Wikipedia calls it an argot rather than a language. – Henry Nov 23 '20 at 16:10
  • This may arguably fit the letter of the question, but it doesn’t seem to fit the spirit of the question at all — it’s nothing to do with the creative detail of developing an actual new language. – PLL Nov 24 '20 at 8:25
7

Probably the 1974 children’s TV series Land of the Lost, with the language Pakuni, created by UCLA linguist Victoria Fromkin.

I take the question as asking about languages developed beyond isolated words or language games, into at least a rudimentary conlang (constructed language). Wikipedia has a handy list of conlangs in fiction. Digging into their examples, the earliest ones in film and television are:

  • 1974: Pakuni, Land of the Lost, created by Victoria Fromkin
  • 1982: Vulcan, Star Trek (isolated words appeared from 1966; first developed into a rudimentary conlang in 1982 for The Wrath of Khan, by Marc Okrand)
  • 1985: Klingon, Star Trek (isolated words appeared from 1979; developed into a basic conlang for The Search for Spock, again by Marc Okrand)

So Pakuni appears to be the first of these to be developed into a systematic, if rudimentary, conlang. Frath Wiki, a conlang wiki, supports the belief that this was the earliest:

Pakuni is of interest to the conlanging community primarily as a matter of historical fact. Later inventions, such as Klingon and Na'vi, are certainly more well known. […] Okrand [for Star Trek] and Frommer [for Avatar] and Peterson [Game of Thrones] have raised the bar immensely […] It is simply the case that Fromkin [creator of Pakuni] was showing them how to do it, way back in the 1970s.

There is a longer history of fictional conlangs in literature. Tolkien is widely credited for their first use, with the languages of Lord of the Rings (published 1954); this previous sff.se answer discusses and supports that claim. His languages of Middle-Earth were far more developed than the above early film/TV examples were when introduced.

(Note: Pakuni has already been named in @lucasbachmann’s answer, but I wanted to add some information and context to back up the claim that it’s the first.)

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    I remember being astonished when I learned that the widely respected linguist Victoria Fromkin was also a conlanger. – TRiG Nov 24 '20 at 16:07
  • @einpoklum: Absolutely, and I acknowledged that in my answer. I wanted to give some extra information and context, which I think is helpful for assessing how well Pakuni fits the question’s intent, and how likely it is to be the earliest such (and is also just interesting). I originally considered adding it as a comment on lucasbachmann’s answer, but it was much too long for a comment so I wrote as a new answer. So while the candidate conlang is the same, I think most of the substance of my answer adds value and doesn’t duplicate lucasbachmann’s? – PLL Nov 24 '20 at 19:59
  • I upvoted you thanks for your efforts – lucasbachmann Nov 27 '20 at 19:47

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