A fascinating story in the New York Times (registration required) about a Ph.D. student in Canada who created the false, but Asian-inflected, language for Bioware’s new title, Jade Empire.

The language Tho Fan sounds ancient and distinctly Asian. Its “sh” sounds come from the back of the throat, as they do in Chinese. Its “r” sounds are made with a tap of the tongue, echoing Mongolian.

But Tho Fan comes from Canada and was invented only last year. Created in four months, for just over $2,000, it is a real language spoken by unreal people in the Xbox game Jade Empire, released this week. Perhaps it is a sign that, these days, languages are not so much discovered as invented.


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