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Etymology: abbreviation of constructed language


About the Production



Featuring an overview of the history of constructed languages up to and through the amazing creations and initiatives of those who actively invent new tongues today, this film tells the rich story that has expanded far beyond Tolkien’s “secret vice.” It’s being made by the people who know the craft intimately for language lovers and a general audience alike.


Press kit and high-res image downloads here »


From the Director

I’ve been aware of the existence of languages like Esperanto, and of course, Klingon since the mid-1980s. But in 2010 I became especially interested in the intersection of constructed languages and film when I managed to gain proficiency in Na’vi, which was created by Paul R. Frommer for the 2009 film, Avatar. That led in turn to my discovering an utterly vibrant community of people creating their own languages all over the world.


The history of the phenomenon and depth and breadth of conlanging in the 21st Century continue to amaze me as much as any other artistic human pursuit. Several people have already expertly tackled this subject matter in book format, but I wanted you to be able to spend 90 or so audio-visual minutes diving headlong into this fascinating and surprising world, hence we’re making a feature film about it.


Britton Watkins


Britton WatkinsCo-wrote and co-produced the 2014 indie sci-fi feature Senn with his husband, Josh Feldman. For that project he also invented the language, Siinyamda, which serves to augment the world-building in the film’s production design. He also consulted on the 2013 film Star Trek Into Darkness.

From the Producers

David-J-PetersonDavid J. Peterson


David began work on his first language in 2000 and has been creating languages ever since. He’s worked as a language creator on HBO’s Game of Thrones, Syfy’s Defiance and Dominion, the CW’s Star-Crossed and The 100, plus Marvel’s Thor: The Dark World. He’s also the author of two books: Living Language Dothraki (2014) and The Art of Language Invention (2015).


I created my first language as a freshman in college, and it was terrible. I imagine I would’ve kept muddling along with it if I hadn’t found the vast online community of language creators which taught me everything I know about creating languages today. Since the early 1990s, that growing online community has taken language creation from being a hobby few knew about to an artform the entire world is now taking notice of. I’m proud to be a part of the team producing the Conlanging documentary because we’re not just telling the stories of the most famous language creators, but also the many stories that comprise the entire world and rich history of language creation.


Christine Schreyer


Christine-SchreyerA language fangirl and associate professor of anthropology, she teaches at the University of British Columbia (Okanagan campus). Her research with Na’vi speakers looks at how created language communities can be models for endangered language communities. She also co-created the Kryptonian language for the recent Superman film, Man of Steel (2013).


As an anthropologist, I first became interested in conlangs for what they could teach my students about the relationship between language and culture, but also what they could teach us about learning language, particularly for those communities who are fighting to keep their languages alive. I’m delighted to be involved in this film, which will share these ideas, and so much more, with our audience.


David Salo


David-SaloDavid has been inventing languages and scripts since the age of eleven. His main interests are Indo-European historical linguistics and the internal and external history of Tolkien’s imaginary languages. He worked as a Tolkien language translator on the filmed versions of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, and is the author of A Gateway to Sindarin, a grammar of one of Tolkien’s elvish languages. He is also the owner of the Elfling mailing list, writes the Midgardsmal blog, and is one of the administrators of the Constructed Languages group on Facebook.


The community of language inventors contributes extraordinary talents to the world. With so many minds bursting with creativity, bringing new worlds to reality through the media of languages, writing, and other artifacts, these wonderful examples of art and engineering should not be hidden. I’m thrilled to participate in this pioneering effort to reveal to the public the incredible beauty of conlanging.


Paul R. Frommer


Paul FrommerPaul is a linguist and Professor Emeritus of Clinical Management Communication at the University of Southern California. In addition to creating the Na’vi language for James Cameron’s Avatar, he developed the Barsoomian language for the Disney film John Carter. Paul is co-author, with Edward Finegan, of Looking at Languages: A Workbook in Elementary Linguistics, now in its 6th edition.


When I began creating Na’vi for Avatar in 2005, I had little sense of how much that assignment would alter my future. The people I’ve met, the places I’ve been, the friends I’ve made—it’s all been extraordinary. And the interest I’ve encountered—not only among language enthusiasts and movie fans who formed a vibrant worldwide community, but also among journalists eager to give the public an engaging handle on how languages work, and even among the academics who now recognize the value of created languages—has been heartening. More and more, the art of language creation is getting the attention and respect it deserves. Conlanging changed my life, and Conlanging tells its story. I’m delighted to be part of this project.


Marc Okrand


Marc-OkrandMarc developed the Klingon language heard in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and later Star Trek films and TV shows.  He also devised Vulcan dialogue for several Star Trek films and television episodes and Romulan for 2009’s Star Trek.  In addition, he created the Atlantean language for Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire (2001).  He is the author of The Klingon Dictionary, The Klingon Way: A Warrior’s Guide, and Klingon for the Galactic Traveler.


When I meet people who’ve learned of my involvement with Klingon, not infrequently one or another of them will remark on how unusual it is for someone to have made up a language.  They’re generally familiar with some other languages created for films or literature, and they also usually know about Esperanto, but they’re often quite surprised – and quite interested — when I tell them that people all over the world have been making up languages for years and years, for all kinds of reasons, from practical to fanciful, and that the place I occupy in the world of constructed languages is just a small corner.  There’s a lot more out there, I tell them, and much of it is remarkable. This film will demonstrate that, and I’m excited to be part of the Conlanging producing team.



Additional team members


Josh-FeldmanJosh Feldman


Josh directed and shot the sci-fi feature film Senn and has recently written a novella called ableYoung. He has a degree from the Rhode Island School of Design was a creative director at the legendary firm frogdesign for seven years. He has been profiled in the New York Times and recognized by Wired Magazine for his filmmaking.



The Language Creation Society


The LCS is a non­profit organization dedicated to supporting the art and craft of language creation. If you’re interested in learning more about conlanging, please visit conlang.org