- "Threepio was translating Artoo's beeps into a language we could understand—good old Basic."
- ―Han Solo
Following the shattering of the Infinite Empire, the Rakatan's former slaves exterminated them and started to build their own empires with their masters' technology. Once the Core Worlds were joined by renewed communication channels and trade, they united as the first Galactic Republic. To allow easy communication among the new government's members, a trade language later known as Old Galactic Standard was chosen as the new official language of government and commerce. While Old Galactic Standard was mostly derived from Old Coruscanti, the mother tongue of the Humans of Coruscant, its vocabulary incorporated many words from over a dozen other languages, including Durese and Bothese.
By the lifetime of Peshosloc, a holowright who lived between 15,762 BBY and 15,609 BBY, the language had evolved significantly enough to be considered a distinct historical division, which was latter dubbed Mid-Galactic Standard. Galactic Basic was further influenced by Dromnyr after the Vultans joined the Republic around 14,000 BBY, resulting ultimately in the modern Galactic Basic Standard.
Under the Galactic Empire, a version of the language was known as Imperial Basic. The language was adopted by the Rebel Alliance, and as such was spoken in the Alliance of Free Planets, the New Republic, the Imperial Remnant, the Galactic Alliance, and the Fel, Sith and True Empires.
Most sentient species that made galactic contact could and did speak Basic in addition to whatever native or regional language they might have used on a daily basis. Some beings normally did not possess the organs necessary to speak Basic, including Polis Massans, Ssi-ruuk, P'w'ecks, Wookiees, and a number of insectoid races. Most Gamorreans could not speak Basic, though there were exceptions (such as Governor Kugg). Whether or not a being could speak Basic, it was usually in their best interest to comprehend it, and most did.
- The Towanis taught the Ewoks a mysterious and undocumented language,[source?] which did not help them understand Leia Organa, Han Solo or Luke Skywalker, all of whom spoke Basic. The relation of that language to Basic is not known.
- High Galactic was a dialect intended for displaying reverence and honor to religious figures.
- Basic was most often written using the Aurebesh script, although it was also written in the High Galactic alphabet.
Known accents and dialects
Various cultures created different accents around the galaxy, each with its own unique set of pronunciations. Some also used distinct dialects, which could have vocabularies or grammatical structures that different from the standard.
- Barabel accent—as exemplified by Saba Sebatyne. The word "I" and any other word associated with it like "am" was not present in the language. The letter s was often pronounced as /z/.
- Cathar accent—as exemplified by Juhani.
- Corellian accent—exemplified by Han Solo and Wedge Antilles. It was distinct enough that a Corellian could instantly recognize another Corellian's speech.
- Concord Dawn inflection—as exemplified by members of the Fett family and the majority of clone troopers. This was the most common accent among Mandalorians (perhaps due to the influence of their native language, Mando'a), with the tendency to pronounce words that had an e with an /ɪ/, such as the word "delta[dɛltə]," pronounced "dilta[dɪltə]."
- Coruscanti accent—as exemplified by Obi-Wan Kenobi, Palpatine, and Dooku. Most inhabitants of the Core Worlds, such as Mon Mothma, also spoke in this manner, whereas those from farther reaches did not, such as Padmé Amidala (Naboo) and Luke Skywalker (Tatooine). In several instances, though, both Amidala and Organa spoke with a slight Coruscanti inflection when speaking to Nute Gunray and Wilhuff Tarkin, respectively. It was suggested that this was their "court" voice to adopt an imperious air or bluff, since they lost this accent when in casual or stressed situations.
- High Coruscanti—a more refined style of the Coruscanti accent. It was very posh and clipped and conveyed a sense of upper-class sensibility, sometimes described as sneering and using more pretentious words (sheen, emerald, and ruby instead of shine, green, and red). The accent may also be faked to sound more important much like Dannl Faytonni.
- Eriaduan accent—as exemplified by Grand Moff Tarkin. It might have simply been an artifact of the heavy influence of Coruscant, or "standard" language throughout the Core Worlds, and by implication, the elite of society, since people in the Colonies and Outer Rim spoke differently. The accent was described as "more Core than Core," reflecting Eriadu's late settlement compared to the Core Worlds.
- Gungan dialect—as exemplified by Jar Jar Binks and Roos Tarpals.
- Houk accents—exemplified by Carnus and Skadge
- Kaleesh accents—as exemplified by Grievous.
- Mandalorian language accents— such as Duchess Satine
- Neimoidian accent—exemplified by Nute Gunray and Rune Haako, and to a lesser extent the Imperial governor Merillion Tarko. The accent places particular emphasis on certain vowels in a deep pitch (particularly, "a," "e," and "o").
- Onderonian accent—exemplified by Tobin and Vaklu.
- Southeastern Naboo accent—as exemplified by Queen Jamillia. Her accent made the Queen enunciate the consonants powerfully.
- Yoda's dialect—an unusual form of Basic utilized by Jedi Grand Master Yoda and others of his tridactyl species, including Yaddle; it was characterized by an object-subject-verb format. However, another member of this species, Vandar Tokare, did not use this dialect.
- Chiss accent—as exemplified by Baldarek on Nar Shaddaa.
- Towani family dialect—this they taught to the Ewoks when they crashed on Endor. However, it was not enough for those creatures to understand standard Basic a year later, when they met Princess Leia, Han Solo, Luke Skywalker, C-3PO, R2-D2 and the rest of the Rebels.
- Selkath accent—as exemplified by Chata Hyoki
The Wookiee Ralrracheen spoke Shyriiwook with a speech impediment. Due to the differences in the vocal abilities of Ralrra, his dialect was more clearly understandable by non-Wookiees learning the language; it was further suggested that some Wookiees with this condition could speak Basic, at the loss of all forms of Shyriiwook.
Basic-speaking Rodians tended to suffer from speech impediments as well, most notably a lisp. Avaro Sookcool and Teeloo were two such Rodians; the phonemes [ɹ], [ɫ] and [s] proved to be the most problematic to vocalize.
Behind the scenes
Basic's relation to English
In Star Wars media, Basic is the same as English, with the exception of a few words and phrases devised by authors.
StarWars.com has suggested that languages of the Star Wars universe like Ewokese in the animated series and the language spoken by the Towanis in Caravan of Courage: An Ewok Adventure and Ewoks: The Battle for Endor have been translated to English.
In translations into non-English languages, Basic is assumed to be English but translated to the other language.
While the letters are different in Basic than English, there are multiple examples where Latin alphabet letters are mentioned, such as in Obi-Wan Kenobi's quote, "Do you have a plan B?," Mission Vao's habitual reference to Zaalbar as "Big Z," and most droid designations (in-universe, this is referred to as the High Galactic alphabet). Greek letters (Old Tionese letters in the Star Wars universe) are used at times, examples including Delta Squad.
Dialects in English correspond to different in-universe accents in the movies. Ewan McGregor's and Ian McDiarmid's faint upper-class Scottish accents are, for example, Coruscanti accents in the movies. As a general rule, Imperial characters speak with RP-like British accents while Rebels usually have American accents. However, this is perhaps a representation of social class, as stormtroopers and other low-ranking Imperials speak with American accents, while some Rebels (Mon Mothma, for instance) speak with British accents. There are several exceptions to the rule: several high-ranking Imperial officers, such as Admiral Motti and Siward Cass, clearly have American accents. (Indeed, in A New Hope, a slight majority of Imperial officer accents are American.)
Other accents are also heard, such as:
- Australian (the Serrocoans, as well as some Mandalorians in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords)
- Belgian (Vaarko Tiyai, Nok Drayen, Arak Drayen III)
- British (Dengar and Mon Mothma)
- Congolese (Xivhkalrainik, Yudrass)
- French (certain Twi'leks, such as Aayla Secura and Orn Free Taa)
- German (Nuvo Vindi)
- Indian (Zabraks, such as Eeth Koth and Queen Talia, Queen Apilana)
- Irish (Emon Azzameen, Fenn Shysa, an unnamed Czerka officer outside Anchorhead in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, Lurmen, and Sugi)
- Italian (Bannamu, Watto and Mee Deechi)
- Jamaican (Kit Fisto, Dunari)
- Japanese (Neimoidian and Mee Deechi)
- Kenyan (Halle Burtoni)
- Mexican (Hondo Ohnaka, Diago Hixan)
- New York/Brooklyn (the Chiss bartender Baldarek in Star Wars: Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast)
- New Zealander/Maori (the Fett family and clone troopers)
- Russian (General Grievous, Juhani and Even Piell).
- Scottish (Whorm Loathsom, Darth Sion, Jeelg, Cutup and Shoan Kilian)
- South African (Pantorans, such as Riyo Chuchi)
- Spanish (Zygerrian Slave Empire)
- Swedish (Shmi Skywalker Lars. Actress Pernilla August is Swedish)
- Thai (Nute Gunray)
- Welsh (Bryn, Sith, Chiss)
Star Wars authors have coined original English-like words derived from real English elements but which don't exist in the English language; they seem useful to a space-driven civilization of the Star Wars characters, but totally useless for our daily language. Some such words are "gentlebeing" (equivalent to "gentleman," but applicable to all species, including non-humanoid ones), "offworlder," "bird" (slang for spaceship, similar to how an aircraft is a "bird" in US military slang), "hyperspace," "homeworld," "spacer," "sentientologist," "youngling" ("young" plus suffix "-ling," meaning "person") and other technological terms like blaster, midi-chlorian, droid (from android), durasteel, astrogation, etc.
However, Basic vocabulary includes some totally original words, of unexplainable etymology, unrelated to English, like Moff, Jedi, Padawan, Darth, etc., or even compounds like Twi'lek ("twin lekku"). It is possible that such terms are loanwords or are derived from other languages.
Notes and references
- Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace
- The Written Word
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia, Vol. II, p. 40 ("High Coruscanti")
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Onslaught
- Star Wars (1977) 74
- The Written Word
- The University of Sanbra Guide to Intelligent Life: The Duros"—Star Wars Gamer 2 "
- Power of the Jedi Sourcebook
- Death Star
- The Essential Atlas
- Star Wars: Episode II Attack of the Clones novelization
- Shadows of the Empire Planets Guide
- Shadows of the Empire (novel)
- The Price of Business
- Star Wars: Episode III Revenge of the Sith
- Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic
- "Text & Graphics: An examination of written forms of language used in the Palpatine Era" by Curtis Saxton (Backup link)