Inventing A New Language In Science Fiction

Thinkpol. Doubleplusgood. Chepooka. Govoreet. Skazat. IMG_2740

Some of you will recognise the words above the image. They come from two dystopian books. Nineteen-Eighty Four by George Orwell and A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess. Both of these books use an invented language to accentuate the idea of a future world. When I decided to write a Sci-fi/dystopian novel, I too chose to use experimental language. I knew I was taking a chance and that I would probably be turning off a lot of readers because of my choice of language. However, I knew in my gut and heart that the distinctive narrative style worked perfectly for my imagined futuristic world.

In his novel, Nineteen eighty-four, George Orwell introduced words and phrases that were not familiar to readers of that era, to create a futuristic realm where language is used as a weapon to subjugate the masses: duckspeak, thoughtcrime, bellyfeel, doublethink, and speakwrite. Would it have been such a powerful read if the author had not employed the use of such evocative words? Who can forget ‘Newspeak’, or ‘Big Brother’?

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In A Clockwork Orange, the use of slang is vital to the narrative to give credibility to this dystopian future. Alex speaks ‘nadsat’ a language that sets him and his friends apart from the rest of society.

“These grahzny sodding veshches that come out of my gulliver and my plott,” I said, “that’s what it is.”

“Quaint,” said Dr. Brodsky, like smiling, “the dialect of the tribe. “

So, bearing this in mind, when I came to write my Sci-Fi/Dystopian series The Song of Forgetfulness, I made sure that I used words that were appropriate for the world I was creating. Since it is written from the viewpoint of a seventeen- year -old, Adara, in the first person, it was imperative that her voice rang true in order for the characters to maintain credibility in this vision of the future. I created ‘Bubchat’.

“I showed respect and bowed, then turned toward the not-right teen. He gave me a tiny smile, and for reasons I know not, I took his hand and said, “Show me where you splosh.” His face went redder than a bub about to plop and everyone, including me, let out a merry guffaw. I hadn’t meant to use such a nursery word, but when I looked at his soft brown eyes and slender arms I went all mumsly. Not like me at all. I began to wonder if the ‘dults had palmed a soother into my stew.”

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Science fiction and fantasy are the ideal genres for authors to invent new languages and different ways of speaking. To shake off the confines of correct word usage and play around with narrative form. But not everyone warms to such experimentation, and critics often chastise authors for breaking the rules of grammar that ‘The Elements of Style’, by Strunk and White, have branded into the English language. There is a good anti Elements of Style essay by Geoffrey A Pullmen called, ‘50 Years of stupid Grammar’. It will make you think twice before reaching for the Spelling and grammar tool on your computer.