In the movie adaptation of Dune, there is a specific scene where the Fremen encounter Paul Atreides for the first time. During this encounter, the Fremen characters speak a language that is not immediately recognizable to me.

I am curious to know what language the Fremen were speaking in this scene.


1 Answer 1


Chakobsa is an imaginary language of the Fremen people in the Dune universe by novelist Frank Herbert. This secret language, also practiced by the Bene Gesserit order, was initially used by hunter and nomadic peoples, not to be confused with with the original Chakobsa (below).

Chakobsa is a Northwest Caucasian language, possibly in the Circassian subgroup. According to John Colarusso, it is also known as shikwoshir or the 'hunting language' and was originally a secret language used only by the princes and nobles, and is still used by their descendants. wikipedia

The Fremen alphabet was created by John Quijada (who also created the Ithkuil language) in 1984 for "The Dune Encyclopedia". It is a very simplified version of the Arabic script. Fremen alphabet

In addition to Arabic, Dune derives words and names from multiple other languages, including Hebrew, Navajo, Latin, Chakobsa, the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs, Greek, Persian, East Indian, Russian, Turkish, Finnish, Dutch and Old English. Additional linguistic and historic influences

Glossary of Dune (franchise) terminology

Ther's an interesting discussion/study about De-orientalizing Dune: Storyworld-Building Between Frank Herbert's Novel and Denis Villeneuve's Film where the author "proposes to determine the extent to which Herbert’s SF orientalism survived in Villeneuve’s adaptation."

For all his storyworld-building efforts, Herbert’s representation of the desert planet Arrakis and his Arab/Muslim-inspired characterization of the Fremen have often been accused of romantic Orientalism at best andwhite-saviorism at worst. Recently, Denis Villeneuve released his film adaptation of (part of) the novel, Dune: Part One (2021), which has rekindled the debate on SF orientalism and stimulated new discussionson the interpretation of those problematical representational and thematic issues for a cinema-savvy andrace-conscious 21st century audience.

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    This is somewhat misleading, conflating two languages. In the movie, they are not speaking the Caucasian language Chakobsa, a real language used here on earth, but one we know very little about because it is/was used as a secret hunter-language by Circassian peoples and never taught to outsiders. What they are speaking is the constructed language Chakobsa made up by Frank Herbert, whose name and use as a secret hunter-language may be based on earth-Chakobsa, but which linguistically is quite unrelated, drawing rather on various other earth languages, like Romani, Serbo-Croatian and Arabic. Jan 9 at 12:29
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    And of course, Dune-Chakobsa is specifically the secret language of the Fremen, and as such, it is not likely that it was ever written down by them (secret languages often have a taboo against writing). The Fremen alphabet you mention, based on Arabic, was used to write Fremen, their main language, which was envisioned as a remote descendant of earth-Arabic. The list of languages in your quote is broader than just Fremen – those are languages drawn upon in the entire Duniverse (Kwisatz Haderach is based on Hebrew, etc.). Jan 9 at 12:33
  • the fremen "Chakobsa" is definitely not the earth "Chakobsa", that's for sure (I'll edit to reflect any possible misunderstanding). The original language (as well as many cultural background) was mainly based upon Arabic. In addition, the use of many words from other languages are mentioned in the 2nd quote.
    – OldPadawan
    Jan 9 at 13:00

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