In programming language design, there's a process called bootstrapping:

In computer science, bootstrapping is the process of writing a compiler (or assembler) in the source programming language that it intends to compile.

This is a significant milestone in the evolution of programming languages, as it signifies a certain level of maturity, a point where the language has passed its first non-trivial test.

While discussing the concept with colleagues, I started wondering if a parallel could be drawn with fictional languages in literature. Has a fictional language reached the level of maturity necessary for the work that created it to be translated in it?

I'm mostly interested in published translations, with some indication that the translation is on par with the original work. Examples of what I'm looking for would be George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four translated in Newspeak, or the works of J. R. R. Tolkien translated in Quenya. Perhaps even Star Trek novelizations in Klingon.


1 Answer 1


The closest I've seen is A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess, whose first-person narrator, Alex, narrates the entire novel in NadSat. Nadsat isn't a distinct fictional language, as you ask for, but it is a fictional argot invented by Burgess. Here's a representative quote from Goodreads, which is clearly readable but not fully comprehensible to an English speaker:

That's what it's going to be then, brothers, as I come to the like end of this tale. You have been everywhere with your little droog Alex, suffering with him, and you have viddied some of the most grahzny bratchnies old Bog ever made, all on to your old droog Alex. And all it was was that I was young. But now as I end this story, brothers, I am not young, not no longer, oh no. Alex like groweth up, oh yes.

But where I itty now, O my brothers, is all on my oddy knocky, where you cannot go. Tomorrow is all like sweet flowers and the turning young earth and the stars and the old Luna up there and your old droog Alex all on his oddy knocky seeking like a mate. And all that cal. A terrible grahzny vonny world, really, O my brothers. And so farewell from your little droog. And to all others in this story profound shooms of lipmusic brrrrrr. And they can kiss my sharries. But you, O my brothers, remember sometimes thy little Alex that was. Amen. And all that call.

In-universe, Nadsat is Russian-inflected cockney slang spoken amongst teenagers in the novel's dystropian future England. Out-of-universe, Wikipedia says that Burgess "knew that if he used modes of speech that were contemporarily in use, the novel would very quickly become dated. His use of Nadsat was essentially pragmatic; he needed his narrator to have a unique voice that would remain ageless while reinforcing Alex's indifference to his society's norms, and to suggest that youth subculture existed independently of the rest of society."

  • I'm afraid this isn't what I'm looking for. Nadsat is used in the original work. I'm looking for a complete translation of the original work in the fictional language.
    – user8
    Jan 27, 2017 at 8:47
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    Most of Heinlein's The Moon is a Harsh Mistress is also written in a custom Russian-influenced dialect of English that people in the Moon speak in universe. (There are some dialogs in the book not in that dialect, when they talk with people living on Earth.)
    – b_jonas
    Jan 28, 2017 at 19:59
  • @yannis Orange was also translated into for example Polish-Russian variant of its slang. And yeah, still not satisfied...
    – Mithoron
    Jun 28, 2017 at 22:49

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