Languages are communities; they embody the soul of the culture that spawned them, capturing a people’s history and dreams and none knew this better than Tolkien. In The Lord of the Rings, the Elves are disappearing from Middle-Earth, taking with them High and Common Elvish and thousands of years of Elvish culture.
Few writers have created a language quite as fully realised as Tolkien’s, but plenty have flavoured their fiction with invented tongues. Sometimes it’s to underscore a point. In Nineteen Eighty-Four, for instance, George Orwell introduces Newspeak to show just how totalitarian the state of Oceania is. Newspeak’s vocabulary is purposefully limited, there are no synonyms or antonyms, and nuance is eradicated. All undesirable words have been eliminated, others stripped of unorthodox secondary meanings. Most sinisterly of all, its staccato rhythms and ease of pronunciation are intended to keep thought at bay. ‘Unperson’, ‘crimethink’, ‘bellyfeel’ – such words are crucial to Orwell’s dystopian vision.
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