I've been thinking a lot about language in fiction. And--I know--we've talked about this before on this blog. So, I'm sorry if I'm repeating what's already been said, and I hope you'll bear with me! But I can't quit thinking about language and it's use in fiction--in particular, in the two genres tend to make up at least some elements of the language--fantasy and science fiction.
Sci fi, though, has a different, but related, reason for using its own language--to show the evolution of time in a realistic way. The first thing in language to change from generation to generation is slang and cursing. You can see this now even within the living generations--many of my students had no problem whatsoever using the "hard" curse words, while my grandmother blushed at the idea of saying anything worse than "darn."
In my own work, I used the changes in slang as a clue--language takes a long time to change, and the level of change in speech was a clue about how much time had actually passed. I've gotten some criticism for it--I've read more than one review where people have felt that if I wanted to cuss, I should have just done it. I didn't use alternate curse words because I was afraid of damaging the young minds (after all, a side character from the present curses in Chapter 1)--I was trying to show that language had shifted.
And I tried to be logical about it--curse words and slang had roots in every day words--with the exception of "frex," which grew organically from the FRX, a detail that I left for closer readers to discover on their own.
Alternating languages in science fiction has a long-standing tradition. I'll wave my standard fan-girl flag and bring up what I think does language the best--Firefly. If you listen to the commentary on the DVDs, you'll discover that Joss Whedon felt that the two power-house nations of the world in the future would be America and China--so the language of Firefly is a combo of the two. You'll notice a Chinese influence in a lot of writing in the background and, of course, when the characters curse.
In dystopian works, you'll also often see made-up language as a background to the world. From Blade Runners to Panem, sexteens to Baddies, Therapeutic Forgetting Clinics to Plagues, a key element of any dystopia is showing what's changed through the way people speak.
Of course, some people hate the made-up words that authors try to show in sci fi or fantasy. There's really no way to please everyone, but whenever someone brings up language and whether or not you should show the change in it, I think of Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet. Whatever you think of it, there's no denying the role language played in the story--traditional Shakespearean language surrounded by a modern-day setting. Would it have been better to update the language, along with the setting?
For my part, I'm happy as long as the author has put some sort of thought in the linguistics. Even if it's as simple as The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and the super-convenient Babblefish, as long as the author doesn't ignore the elephant in the room and actually addresses some sort of language shift, I'm happy.
How about you? Do you like authors to play with language or not? What work do you think deals with language very well?