Language in Star Wars

Discussion in 'Star Wars Saga In-Depth' started by Pay_Attention, Mar 2, 2005.

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  1. Pay_Attention Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 2, 2005
    Hello, I'm new here, thought the saga would be the right place for this. I've searched but found nothing relevant. Please redirect me if I'm wrong.

    So here is my question/topic for discussion:

    What are the language(s) that are spoken in Star Wars like?

    Well, I know Harrison Ford, Natalie Portman etc all speak English in the films, but this is obviously just for our (the viewers') convenience - it would be the biggest coincidence ever if in that galaxy far far away their language had evolved so it was exactly the same as ours. Think of films like Schindler's List - everyone speaks English for the US audience's benefit but they spoke German in reality.

    Are we to assume that every time we hear English dialogue, this all represents one language, or with interplanetary travel etc is it common to speak several languages and switch between them?

    Why aren't Chewie's lines (for example) heard in English?

    Do accents mean anything? The baddies are almost all English.

    I'd be interested to hear any EU on this kinda thing, or just your opinions/deductions (maybe even evidence from the films that I've missed). And any other interesting issues raised. Please go easy on me, I'm not that used to internet message boards etc.

    Pay Attention
  2. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    All the lines that we understand (the ones in English) are a language called Basic. It is the dominant and most universal type of language in the galaxy. While we can understand it when spoken, the audience doesn't understand it when written. There are sometimes signs or other types of letters which appear in the films which are basic written.
    So all the English is one language.

    Then as can be expected there are billions of other languages that certain species still hold.

    -Seldon
  3. Pay_Attention Jedi Padawan

    Member Since:
    Mar 2, 2005
    Wow, I never heard of Basic, thanks for the info. I would have thought places like Tattooine would have their own language, a mix of different alien tongues, while Coruscant would have a very formal, mostly human language. I guess your reply is from EU novels, which I've never really got into. Is it a "proper" language - I mean do the symbols mean anything or just look pretty? And does anybody know what it actually sounds like?

    So is Chewbacca just a name Han invented for his friend? I've always wondered about this, as surely other Wookiees would just call him "Raaaaargh"...

    Pay Attention
  4. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    Chewbacca is the translation from their language.

    -Seldon
  5. Jedi_Master_Jogum Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 11, 2004
    star 2
    The reason why Tatooine does not have its own language is because it had been settled (like many other planets in the Galaxy) and had its culture intermixed with everyone else's. At some point, people that spoke basic brought it there and eventually it became the normal language. Native languages do exist though, for example, the sand people have their own language and they are indigenious to Tatoointe. I can't spell Tatooine, sorry.
  6. AlrikFassbauer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2003
    star 4
    Jabba also has his own language, and the Ewoks as well.

    The problem is, to gain an audience this movie had to incorporate the main plot spoken in English - with several accents, though. That's why we actually see only very few languages in the movies - there should've been more, imho.

  7. DarthJohnkenobi Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Aug 13, 2004
    star 4
    Don't forget Huttese, being 2nd most common after Basic.
  8. Darth-Seldon Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    May 17, 2003
    star 6
    I don't think it is unreasonable to view basic as the dominant language. The galaxy is an example of globalization gone wild along with colonization it seems only logical that while there are billions of languages, there is also one or two that really dominate.
    It is the only way they could all function together.

    -Seldon
  9. Plo_Koen Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    May 23, 2001
    star 4
    Do accents mean anything? The baddies are almost all English.

    I think the English accent represents the formal speech of the core worlds, while the American accent represents the outer rim territories.

    And does anybody know what it actually sounds like?

    Looking at the written text, I'd say like Japanese. ;)

    I wonder how the accent of the Neimodians should be interpreted. You'd think it means that Basic is not their native langauge (like with Watto), but they also speak it among each other. I guess Basic evolved to be their prime language with their history of trading, but they never got rid of the accent.
  10. Order66 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2004
    star 1
    I hate the concept of Basic, which is a throwback to early role playing games (and sci-fi books perhaps) to create a common language out of convenience. Anyone in linguistics 101 knows that language is a reflection of the culture that uses it. Language evolves, it has a history, and it continues to evolved despite appempts to lock spelling, usage, and grammar in dictionaries and language guides.

    It is in fact more interesting to assume that language in Star Wars reflects the SW universe, much like GL decided that Neimoidian, Huttese, and Chewie's language. It's silly to assume that any English in the movies must reflect Basic, some convemptional language which is never explained or detailed in the SW universe. (It's assumed in the EU).

    A better way to look at what language people might be speaking is to look at people's homeworlds, or to look at the power and influence of particular planets that may influence the SW universe. Coruscant, the home world of the Galactic Senate, therefore, seems to lend itself to a source intergalactic linguistic potential. In much the same way that English is the language of airline piloting, Corescanti might be a universal language for SW.

    Languages with a culture and history are easily forgotten or disused. Esperanto, an attempt to create a universal language with a simple grammar, failed because no one spoke it as a native language. It remains a linguistic curiosity. Latin is no longer needed among the intelligentsia of Europe, much less French in diplomatic circles (though it still has its cachet).

    English, on the other hand, is often used an a lingua franca because of the US's economic, political, and cultural influence. It is a very adaptable language which also has the largest vocabulary ever in human history because it reflects global influences and changes in culture and technology. People may not like English's imperialistic reign, but it's a practical alternative to many other languages.
  11. AlrikFassbauer Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Apr 2, 2003
    star 4
    And English is easier to learn because of its reducd set of grammar (compared to early English). Like CHinese, by the way, as far as I know it.

    Anyone in linguistics 101 knows that language is a reflection of the culture that uses it.

    Englsh - like Latin - is not an expression of a culture in the case when people of that culture begin speaking English and meanwhile stop speaking their own language. There are enough examples for that.

    There are too many languages dying out, imho.
  12. Order66 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Nov 7, 2004
    star 1
    Englsh - like Latin - is not an expression of a culture in the case when people of that culture begin speaking English and meanwhile stop speaking their own language.

    Any language is a reflection of the people who use it. Just because a person uses English doesn't mean an indiginous culture is swept away. The English language becomes part of the culture and begins to change according to the needs of the people.

    The supplanting of an indiginous language doesn't simply occur because a new language is spoken; it happens because of socio-economic and political reasons. Plenty of peoples can keep their native language and use (and adapt) English to their needs -- the Dutch, the Indians, the Chinese, et al.
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