Belter Creole.

My pal Nick wrote me recommending a show called The Expanse, adding: “In particular, the Belter pidgin is delightful, even leaving aside the wonderful characters, acting, and surprisingly good VFX.” As I told him, “it sounds interesting but it’s on one of the many, many platforms (is that what the kids are calling them? we used to have channels) we don’t get.” But the language does look like fun, so herewith for your delectation, Belter Creole grammar:

This page deals with the grammar of Belter Creole, also known as lang Belta.

Typologically, Belter is an analytic language. Rather than inflections, it primarily uses separate words to build grammatical constructions, such as prepositions and auxiliary verbs, and the meaning of a sentence depends strongly on word order. However, it does use compounding and some suffixes for deriving new words. For example, the -lowda suffix is used to form plural pronouns (see below).



  1. Incidentally, I traced what is probably the first use of this science fiction sense of “Belter” last year.

  2. Im sheng, beratna! That wiki page is a bit out of date since I first set it up, though; the Expanse Discord is probably the best resource for current Belter resources and learning. They have both text and voice channels for chatting exclusively in lang Belta, as well as discussion about the language and links to reference documents with vocabulary and grammar. If nothing else it’s a great way to see people using the language in casual everyday conversation.

  3. Whoops, meant to include the link:

  4. Brett, that is great!

    I watched a few episodes of this show quite a while ago and felt the language reminded me of Tok Pisin-Cockney (plus a bit of Hindi, simply with the -wala sufix). Kinda cool. It occurs to me now to look back into the creole of Bladerunner and compare.

  5. I’m open to more reputable sources on the creole of Bladerunner, apparently called Cityspeak. Here’s what I found:

  6. I traced what is probably the first use of this science fiction sense of “Belter” last year.

    If you’re talking about the 1948 Sturgeon story, I find Miles’ objections pretty convincing.

  7. At the 2019 Dublin Worldcon there was a taster session in lang Belta run (according to the scheduke I’ve just found) by Kagan MacTane and Hanne-Madeleine (Iro) Gates Paine. It was my first introduction to the language and I think I was one of relatively few people there who’d been attracted by the linguistic premise without having watched the series (in which, now I have watched it, I notice that the language doesn’t have _that_ prominent a role, no doubt for reasons of accessibility – a lot of conversations which in-universe should probably be in lang Belta take place in English.) To quote from the schedule:
    “Far from the Earth’s gravity well, the brave and resourceful people of the Belt have developed their own creolelanguage. Lang Belta combines languages from all over Earth with the unique culture of the Belt. This course will give you hands-on practice, teaching you to understand spoken Lang Belta and to produce new, original Belta sentences of your own. No knowledge of the series is required, and there will be no plot spoilers.”

  8. Oh, thanks for this! I strongly second the recommendation – The Expanse is terrific, and should be easy to find on DVD. And although I’m not in a place to judge how credible the creole is from a linguistic standpoint, the actors do a great job with it, and I think the code-switching is very well handled.

  9. OK, I just ordered the first season on DVD (Amazon had it for $14.80). Thanks for the recommendation! (Is there much violence? I have to decide whether to watch it with my wife or alone.)

  10. A friend of mine began watching it, but stopped because of unmotivated cruelty (which happens to him systematically). I read books and appreciated the effort put into the creole. I did not appreciate the slime and zombies horror (I just do not like it).

  11. Ah, not for my wife then. Thanks!

  12. (1) “slime and zombies” was meant as a definition of a genre. The world is well developed, one of plot lines is so and it appears early in the novels, so it did not feel like a spoiler (but I do not know if the same is true for the series). Very different series can be made based on it.

    (2) my freind has accumulated A LOT of irritation at modern series because of this. In this case he was motivated not as much by abundance of violence, but by his irritation.

  13. As regards the TV show, there is little slime and no zombies as such, I’m not sure what drasvi means by “unmotivated cruelty”; there are some cruel characters but it’s mainly conveyed by acting rather than splatter. There are fights and battles perhaps slightly beyond network TV standards.

    Irish public libraries lend DVDs; do US ones?

  14. @mollymooly: Yes, naturally American libraries lend DVDs. However, their selection tends to be rather uneven, especially for more recent releases. Since watching DVDs has been more and more replaced by streaming, a lot of libraries have gotten less interested in keeping their DVD collections up to date.

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    It’s definitely one of the more plausible constructed future languages, not only in itself but also in being a creole, which makes good sense in the fictional context. I was impressed that the authors knew that and evidently also know what linguists actually mean by the term (which I don’t think is general knowledge at all.)

    I’ve watched all of it and enjoyed it, though as a bit of a guilty pleasure. It’s no Babylon 5 (but then, what is?)

    In the UK only the first three series are available on DVD; the rest only seems to be on Amazon Prime (though it says something about the series that when I accidentally triggered a trial subscription to that, I more or less immediately used it to watch the remainder of The Expanse.)

    It didn’t strike me as featuring gratuitous cruelty: in fact it does quite a good job of providing believable and by no means utterly dishonourable motivations for antagonist characters.

    The core good guys are a bit too noble for my taste, but then it is a TV series, not War and Peace. And there are plenty of interestingly ambivalent characters in there too.

  16. OK, maybe my wife will like it after all…

  17. wisnij: Sorry your comments were in moderation for so long!

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