Lit The Languages of the Star Wars galaxy

Discussion in 'Literature' started by Adrian the Cool, Nov 20, 2012.

  1. Adrian the Cool Jedi Master

    Member Since:
    Sep 3, 2012
    star 3
    Hi,

    this thread is about the different languages spoken within the Star Wars universe. So let's discuss.

    The common speech in the Skyriver galaxy is "Galactic Basic Standard". It appears in almost all Star Wars works. Basic sounds like American English, except a few words and phrases, it's not translated to Enlish like Westron in Tolkien's legendarium.

    What is "High Galactic"? I read somewhere in the internet it is like Latin, except a few words and phrases, too. Are their any novels or comics using it? I don't mean single words like Acclamator, Venator, Nihilus, Mortis etc., but for example entire phrases and sentences written in "High Galactic" and spoken by characters.

    Old Galactic Standard was the Republic's common speech prior to Basic. Nothing is known about it, no grammar or vocabulary, not even a single word.

    "Ancient Basic" appears in the poem "Dha Werda Verda" which has been sung by the Taung in 200,000 BBY during their war with the Zhell, the early Humans on Coruscant. Ancient Basic is a made-up language, but based on German and Dutch a lot.

    Besides them, there are many others, like Huttese, Mon Calamari, Shyriiwook, Rodese, Ewokese, Jawanese, Twi'leki and Rakatan. Few words and their meanings are known, but no grammar.

    In the SW galaxy, it's common to learn a lot of languages besides the native speech and Basic. During dialogs, often everyone uses his or her native speech while assuming the other ones are able to understand it. I don't think this makes any sense. Why learning so much languages if one would be enough?

    Made-up languages with full grammar and vocabulary like Quenya and Sindarin in Tolkien's legendarium don't exist in Star Wars. Mando'a has some grammar and vocabulary, but not enough to use it in a conversation or in an online message board.

    So far, Adrian the Cool
    Last edited by Adrian the Cool, Nov 20, 2012
  2. thesevegetables Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Nov 11, 2012
    star 4
    High Galactic is basically English with a British Accent. Upper-class cosmopolitan types.
    Leia switches between High Galactic and Basic in the movies, depending on who she is talking to, or what situation she's in.
    There's more on Wookieepedia.
  3. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Nov 28, 2000
    star 10
    Nope. High Galactic is a language, not an accent. It's an ancient tongue, akin to Latin in real life. In fact, the Latin alphabet is -- IU -- the High Galactic alphabet. High Galactic had an ecclesiastical variant (many Jedi lightsaber techniques are named in High Galactic) as well as a classical variant (the Imperial Court and other educated individuals in the Galactic Empire used it as a prestige tongue).
  4. thesevegetables Jedi Grand Master

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    Nov 11, 2012
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    Oh really? Cool. I read the Wookieepedia thing a long time ago.
  5. Mechalich Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Feb 2, 2010
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    This is a game mechanic, designed so that game worlds are not flooded with translation droids, and because it makes things sound more exotic and immersive. In reality, the overwhelming majority of the space-faring citizens of the Star Wars galaxy at least understanding Basic and/or Huttese and speak one of them if their mouthparts are capable of doing so.

    Learning a large number of languages is a diplomatic convience, for the most part, in galactic society, allowing a being to speak to various aliens in their native tongue as a sign of respect. It is something that Force users may make a habit of, but is otherwise probably uncommon (the empathic capacity of Force use would surely make it easier to carry on a conversation even with limited knowledge of a language).

    Languages are also a source of speciesm in the Star Wars galaxy, as many species that are unable to master Basic and/or Huttese are reduced to a lesser class of citizens despite their accomplishments, and many such species are unlikely to ever leave their homeworlds
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  6. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    Profession also lends to fluency in other languages. It would be in the best interest of a bounty hunter to be fluent in a number of commonly-spoken languages, so that they can negotiate contracts in various jurisdictions, without being bogged down by the language barrier.
  7. jSarek VIP

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    Feb 18, 2005
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    It's also conceivable that people learn so many languages because, of the ones we've seen, their grammars aren't as different as Earthly grammars generally are. (This is a side effect of most Star Wars languages being relexifications of English.)
  8. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    Yeah. Huge pet peeve of mine. Where are the synthetic languages? The agglutinative languages? The fusional languages? Bah, BAH!
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  9. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    TOR didn't check to see that the Gand language consists of drones and clicks. Shame on them. Shame, shame.
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  10. GrandAdmiralJello Moderator Communitatis Litterarumque

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    KOTOR2 did a good job with them though, no?
  11. TrakNar Force Ghost

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    Apr 4, 2011
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    Yes, KotOR 2 did it right. And then TOR goes and screws it all up. Not only are the sounds wrong, but the Gands are too tall. Make up your damn minds.
  12. Mechalich Force Ghost

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    Feb 2, 2010
    star 4
    Well...the most common languages in the galaxy should be languages that are either historically associated with powerful and widespread cultural groups - which applies to both Basic and Huttese - or those that are designed to be easily learned and spoken by large and highly varied groups - meaning the 'so-called' trade languages, such as Bocce. Also, if we consider the nature of Star Wars history, very few species achieved space travel independently in the universe. If Earth history is any guide, they would have no doubt possessed a great many different languages among each species prior to contact. It is possible that many of the 'native' species languages in the galaxy are actually wholy or partly constructs based on Basic that were designed to unify intraspecies communication following contact by Republic explorers.

    In fact, I certainly wouldn't have put it past the Hutts to have changed the primary dialect of Huttese into something that sounded much more like Basic just to lull the stupid humans into complacency.

    Technically, I believe KOTOR2 actually made the Gands too short. Unless they were all females. Average Gand male height is officially listed as 1.6 meters, or 5'3". That's shorter by 0.2 meters than humans, but it's the same as Bothans, Falleen, Rodians, and a bunch of other species.
    Last edited by Mechalich, Nov 20, 2012
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  13. jSarek VIP

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    Feb 18, 2005
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    Needless to say, mine too.

    Maybe. But usually, when a language is made to serve as a unifying force, it's based on the languages of the speakers involved, not an outside force. Bahasa Indonesia is a standardized register of Malay, and while it has many changes derived from Dutch, it's still more Malay than anything else.

    My impression is that Hutts are too proud to change their language to get one over on the stupid Humans; pretty much all of them but Ziro refuse to speak anything but that language. Still, though, the many cognates between Basic and Huttese point to a long history of loan words between the two languages. (I would someday really like to take a whack at an excerpt from Huttese Ain't What It Used To Be, a work cited at the end of The Written Word. I'd really like to see what a Hutt scholar makes of the two languages' relationship.)
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  14. TrakNar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 4, 2011
    star 5
    They did make them too short. Average Gand height, however, is 1.4 meters for females and 1.6 meters for males, though Zuckuss stands at 1.5 meters, in armor. A number of sources point out the fact that he is quite short.