Building a new language sci-fi style

Alien languages are common to many science fiction and fantasy novels. Often, they are somewhat random gibberish with no real structure or linguistic background. One of the most famous of these is, of course, the original Klingon.

Apparently, the first few words of Klingon were invented by none other than James Doohan, who played Scotty, and producer Jon Povill while working on Star Trek: The Motion Picture. These were then taken by Marc Okrand, a linguist specializing in Native American languages, and used to create the Klingon Dictionary. Others have since added to this until Klingon is now as rich as a real language and entire works have been translated into it. There’s even a Klingon pop warrior, who I had the pleasure of meeting after a comicon a few years ago!

Klingon Pop Warrior

Although aliens haven’t featured very heavily in any of my books so far, they’re definitely coming, which made me wonder how I’d handle their speech. J.R. Tolkien is famous for inventing several languages for different races in his Lord Of the Rings books, though he had the (very unfair :-)) advantage of being a linguist. Others have followed his example, but the workload and skills required must be immense.

Although as a writer my language skills are reasonable, I certainly don’t consider myself a linguist, so I began to research how to create my own alien language. It was a daunting task for sure, and the sheer difficulty soon made me doubt my sanity in even attempting such a thing.

Then, a stroke of luck: I found the website This amazing site is a fantasy language generator. Choose the type of language you want, then it’ll generate it for you and provide a whole dictionary and grammatical rules. The language itself is entirely customizable, plus you can add your own words to the dictionary. What a time saver!

Based on my previous research, I had several ideas for language features, and soon I had a good base for my new language – Ugan!

Although I typically like to do as much of the work as possible on my books, this is one instance where I’m happy to “cheat” a little. One issue I’ve noticed, however, is that the site generates words in an International Phonetic Alphabet (IPA) format, which can cause issues with ebook and print fonts. So sometimes I have to “massage” the translations to make them work, and I also have to come up with an alphabet.

And so, as a nod to the Klingon Pop Warrior, here is Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” in the original Ugan 🙂

If anyone feels like singing it, please send me a copy! And I hope Tolkien will forgive me 😉

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