Published: April 27, 2024

Name: G. Dalton Peck 
Advisor: Prof. James Andrew Cowell
Class: LING 1020: Languages of the World
Semester: Spring 2023
LURA 2024


While over 6000 identified languages have naturally evolved within human cultural groups, individual human imaginations have expanded that number further. While some have embarked to create a language in an attempt to speak to the divine, bridge cultural gaps, or communicate entirely logically, many of the invented languages that the general public could identify were created to help tell engaging stories in imagined worlds. The fictional settings of stories from The Lord of the Rings to Star Trek to Game of Thrones have all become known for introducing detailed new languages for fantastical cultures. For a series of science fiction novels that I, myself have been planning, I sought to include my own invented language for a unique and peculiar alien species: the Y’Tekriy.

First off, who are the Y’Tekriy? Who speaks this language? The Y’Tekriy hail from Kepler 186f, an exoplanet discovered in 2014 by Astronomer Elisa Quintana of NASA’s Kepler Space Telescope. While it may not be as scientifically rigorous as some other approaches, I used an animal already found on Earth as a starting point. Given the kind of planet I assessed Kepler 186f to be (one with a consistently colder climate, in which Primates wouldn’t likely evolve), I thought about what kind of Earth animal would most likely evolve enough intelligence to develop a civilization there. My answer was Beavers, whose language, I imagined, would heavily rely on dental consonants and ‘higher pitched’ vowels. I also thought it would be interesting to imagine an ecosystem without predator-prey dynamics, leading to a civilization that never resorts to violent conflict and instead uses diplomacy, persuasion and clever statecraft to shift the balance of power. All told, I imagined the Y’Tekriy as a peaceful civilization of skilled orators and musicians, unified long ago into a cohesive culture, but also one that has struggled to advance beyond a rigid social hierarchy.

So how does this all translate (pun semi-intended) into the structure of the Y’Tekriy language? To start, I imagined it as a highly organized and structured language. This can perhaps best be seen with Y’Tekriy nouns, which rigidly adhere to a system of classification by prefixes. For example:    

  • Feminine names, titles and pronouns all begin with the prefix /k’-/, admittedly something of a staple of science fiction languages. K’Thril is an example of a feminine proper name, while ‘k’thal,’ meaning mother, also functions as a political title in the Y’Tekriy’s family-based matriarchal society. The masculine equivalent prefix is /r’-/, and /y’-/ is used in the gender-neutral or collective case, often to describe a group.
  • Place names and types are denoted by /ik’-/, with Kepler 186f’s Y’Tekriy name being Ik’Thelas and ‘ik’lanth’ being the word for ‘city’.
  • Food items and other agricultural products are denoted by /ti’-/. Ti’reketh is a hot beverage, similar to tea but made with pine needles, while ti’thlet is a dessert made by layering a syrup-like glaze onto something analogous to a shortbread cookie.

Verbs are often characterized by long vowels, denoted in latin script by repetition, and related verbs will often bear a morphology similarity and use endings and suffixes to denote degree of intent and specific variation to the verb, for example:    

  • Riil = think
  • Riilta = speak
  • Riith = argue, reason, persuade

All told, a sentence in Y’Tekriy may look like:

  • K’nith riilta’ke atrith k’nith riil’sa.

“She does not say what she thinks.”

  • Re’nith liirk’sa ti’reketh ithas it ek’selna.

“He makes tea in the morning."

Another notable feature of the Y’Tekriy language is that, with the Y’Tekriy valuing music as much as they do, their language includes separate variations for regular speech and for musical lyrics. Lyrical Y’Tekriy changes the spellings and pronunciations of many words, allows for greater freedom in stressed vs. unstressed syllables, and includes a number of filler prefixes purely to aid with rhyming. Perhaps the largest difference is found in word order; prosaic Y’Tekriy, like English and many other languages, uses subject-verb-object word order, while lyrical Y’Tekriy structures sentences according to subject-object-verb order, strictly enforcing every poetic line ending with a verb so as to aid in rhyming. Interestingly, however, in direct contravention to an identified universal linguistic rule, lyrical Y’Tekriy preserves the prepositions found in its prosaic variant.

Overall, imagining the Y’Tekriy language has been a fascinating exercise in hypothetical language evolution, and I’m nowhere near done with it!


Title Image Credit 

Peck, Nan. "Y'Tekriy." 


  1. Quintana, Elisa et al. “An Earth-Sized Planet in the Habitable Zone of a Cool Star.” Science. 18 April 2014.