“Don’t waste your time learning Klingon, it ain’t no use,” Luna sang way back in 1996, but clearly, they had never met Britton Watkins, a man who’s made a career out of learning, creating, and teaching made-up alien languages and is now working on Star Citizen.
In fact, that’s what this week’s Around the Verse is all about. The series is back, kicking off its first episode of the year with a special edition featuring veteran Hollywood conlang linguist Britton Watkins, who’s putting his fluency in Na’vi and Klingon to work creating the written and spoken languages of the Xi’An and Vanduul (the latter of which is portrayed by Andy Serkis above) in the Star Citizen universe.
“You’re doing motion capture with live actors, so they need to be able to pronounce everything, so the phonologies of these languages are pronounceable by human beings, 100%, and they will be pronounceable by talented game players and other people who want to learn to make those sounds,” Watkins explains.
“So we had to start with a normal human palette; we are not creating sounds in a computer that human beings can’t make and using those as consonants or vowels. […] We are taking these ideas of synthetic language or analytic language from human, natural languages and also incorporating that into what we’re doing in the intentional design of these languages for these cultures so that they a richer sense of authenticity. The tapestry of the way all the pieces and parts of the language is woven together [are] actually grammatical, and they will have vocabularies, and hopefully a certain segment of the fanbase and the players will take that and run with it and enjoy it and get a whole other level of linguistic exposure and depth out of the project.”
Time to geek out. The whole episode is embedded below.