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I've come across numerous instances of the development of well-developed fictional language in fantasy stories. How common is it for well-developed fictional languages to be developed in science fiction writing?

I'm thinking specifically of written science fiction, not movies or television.

EDIT: By 'well-developed', I mean more than just names, but at least some vocabulary and structure.

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  • What about those that are in both written works and movie/tv, like Klingon? – Izkata Jan 14 '12 at 22:08
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    How about in music? Ar tonelico is a video game series with one full language (and a few more partial ones), and it's got a few dozen songs in the language + some fan-created ones. It's science fiction (albeit in a universe where emotions are quantizable waveforms which can be augmented to affect matter). – user1030 Jan 15 '12 at 21:52
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While researching what sci-fi conlangs there are, I think I discovered why there are so few in written novels - not enough space in the book for the dictionary. Riksprok took up half of this book.

They are rare if you look at the percentage of books that could have put together a complete fake language for their aliens. Most fake languages in fiction are character and place names.

The authors that go beyond that, don't always do a sophisticated job. Mando'a is pretty much a relex of English, i.e. English with all the words replaced.

New Speak was a rough sketch of a language that was never finished. Fremen was started by Frank Herbert, but was subsequently developed as Chakobsa in the "Dune Encyclopedia". [Lapine]3 is an example of a language that seems to have been developed more by the fans afterwards.

Yeah, they're movie languages, but Na'vi and Klingon are the current Xeno-languages with a fan base and users that are competent to read and write it.

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    My baseline for this is admittedly the languages of Middle Earth; Tolkien as a linguist certainly had an edge on that, and his languages were pretty well developed, even though there was no full dictionary or guide provided until afterwards. However, and this is merely an impression, it seems that it is more common for fantasy novels to have a somewhat well-developed language than it is for scifi novels. By well developed, I mean more than just names, but vocabulary and structure. – morganpdx Jan 14 '11 at 22:11
  • What are your other numerous instances of fantasy languages? Tolkien is obvious for a fantasy reader, but if you're a SF fan, then it feels like Na'vi and Klingon are the brighter stars. Just comparing the pages on conlang.org I'm seeing a few more SF books with conlangs as an element or as an appendix. library.conlang.org/books/fiction.html vs library.conlang.org/books/fiction2.html – MatthewMartin Jan 14 '11 at 22:31
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    Books other than Tolkien: Terry Goodkind:Sword of Truth, Ursula K LeGuin:Earthsea, Robert Jordan: Wheel of Time. Those are the ones I've read. I can't think of any conlangs that do NOT originate in a tv or film (which removes Na'vi and Klingon) from a scifi book. That may be, of course, due to the kinds of scifi books I prefer to read... – morganpdx Jan 14 '11 at 22:55
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    @morganpdx: I don't recall those books presenting anything resembling a language - e.g. as far as I know tavia.co.uk/earthsea/dictionary.asp is the entirety of Earthsea's language canon. – user1030 Jan 15 '12 at 21:45
  • CJ Cherryh's Foreigner series has an alien language with grammatical details, phrases, even some examples of conjugation. AFAIK it is not complete to the level of Klingon though. – HamHamJ Jun 22 '17 at 21:10
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From what I've seen, it's fairly uncommon for a well-developed language to be present.

Here's a list of some well-developed fictional languages.

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You're unlikely to find many well-developed languages in fiction, because an author's job is normally to tell a story, not to develop a language. Tolkien's Elvish is an exception to this, because Tolkien was a linguist who created a world to provide context for a language, rather than vice versa.

There are a number of SF works that are about language, such as Babel-17 by Samuel R Delany and Native Tongue by Suzette Haden Elgin.

  • This is the point - creating a properly developed language requires a lot of work - Tolkien spent a huge amount of time working on this,and it produced 4-5 books. His total output as an author was not high, and most authors do not have this sort of time - or sometimes the skills - to develop proparly structured language. – Schroedingers Cat Jan 14 '12 at 22:18

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