Justin B Rye has a Primer In SF Xenolinguistics: after a rundown of the silly pseudo-alien names favored by the less serious-minded sf writers, he says:

If you’re the kind of person who read the Silmarillion just for the linguistic appendices (No? Oh, well, it’s only me then), you’d probably prefer your SF languages not to be quite like the ones lampooned above. So what’s the alternative? Well, I suppose you could use the Simpsons Manoeuvre – to quote Kang: “No, actually I’m speaking Rigellian. By an astonishing coincidence our two languages are exactly the same!” But to the best of my knowledge, only Star Trek has ever had the nerve to offer this excuse with a straight face (see eg “Bread and Circuses”)… so if that’s out, you’re left having to imagine a real alien language. What could that be like?

Well, there are plenty of ways in which alien languages could be extremely unearthly…

As you can see, the man has a sense of humor, but he knows his stuff. This becomes even clearer in his companion page on Futurese: The American Language in 3000 AD, in which he lovingly shepherds English through a thousand years worth of sound changes, coming up with the following set of versions of Aelfric:

1000 AD: Wé cildra biddaþ þé, éalá láréow, þæt þú tæ’ce ús sprecan rihte, forþám ungelæ’rede wé sindon, and gewæmmodlíce we sprecaþ…
2000 AD: We children beg you, teacher, that you should teach us to speak correctly, because we are ignorant and we speak corruptly…
3000 AD: ZA kiad w’-exùn ya tijuh, da ya-gAr’-eduketan zA da wa-tAgan lidla, kaz ‘ban iagnaran an wa-tAg kurrap…
Tremendous fun for anyone with the slightest degree of sf fandom.

I had run across this earlier but forgotten about it, so I was glad to be reminded today by Kattullus’s excellent MeFi post, which also links to a college course in “Extraterrestrial Language”!


  1. Is it just me, or does 3000ish look a lot like poorly typed Tagalog?

  2. Language Hat,
    Thanks for posting this web site. I have often wondered myself what the future developments of English, Spanish and Portuguese in this hemisphere will be like over the next 1,000 years. Justin B. Rye deserves some credit for at least trying with English.
    Most people I have talked to say they think that English will never again undergo the amount of change that it did between the time of Alfred the Great and Shakespeare but there are so many variables and unknowns involved in the future change of any language, who can tell for sure?

  3. My favorite solution is that of Douglas Adams, the one whose name has been expropriated by online purveyors of automatic translation.

  4. aldiboronti says

    Great site, lh. I’ve just posted it over at the Jack Vance board, where it will be much appreciated. (Vance’s Languages of Pao is a tour de force on the subject of tailored languages.)

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