In the book and TV series The Expanse inhabitants of the asteroid belt (Belters) speak a language called Belter Creole, a conlang designed by Nick Farmer which is intended to be the result of creolisation between most of the Earth's languages, including English, German, Chinese, Japanese, Romance languages, Hindi, Slavic, and Bantu. Although the dominant language of the series is English, Belters frequent mix in Belter Creole words, an example of code-switching.

I would like to know in which social situations Belters code-switch English and Belter Creole, or in order words, in which registers. (A register is "a variety of a language used for a particular purpose or in a particular social setting" (Wikipedia).) Do Belters code-switch productively in all registers, or only in non-formal registers?

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    Nick Farmer is pretty active on his twitter, you might be able to get a better answer from him than anyone here.
    – Hotkeys
    Feb 14, 2018 at 20:57
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    Agree with Hotkeys on this, at least for a quick answer. It strikes me that a longer and far better answer can be had by perhaps writing a thesis on the topic. There are something like 7 novels and 5 novellas already published, plus at least two seasons of tele. Plus all the scripts, transcripts, drafts & other ephemera. Looks like a good research project in the making!
    – elemtilas
    Feb 28, 2018 at 20:02

1 Answer 1


Nick has talked about how there is no “slang” per se in Belter. Languages like French are spoken both on the street and in high society, so there are multiple registers. It’s an introductory language for many people.

Slang is often used to exclude; if you’re not “one of us” but you still Speak the language, you still are on the outside because you can’t quite follow what’s being said.

A language like Quechua in South America (according to Nick) doesn’t develop slang because speaking it is already a marker for being low-status socially (vs Spanish speakers). Speaking Quechua already excludes those on the other end of the linguistic divide.

Belter is similar. Nobody but Belters speak it (maybe some inner intelligence officers do, the way UK troops would learn Irish during the troubles. Speaking Belter is a mark of low social status.

Nick has said that he would imagine belters “fluidly speaking belt Lish. One can code shift on the fly between the two languages quite easily. If there amongst a bunch a rock hopper’s, they’ll probably all speak pure LB. When they’re on the docks, when there are more inners around, probably shift more towards English.

Belters have to speak English to deal with the UN/MCRN tax Collectors. When they get boarded by Mickie Marines, you BETTER speak English. When they deal with the any government office, it’ll be in English.

In Haiti, the majority of the population are monolingual Kreyol speakers. But the language of Education and government forms is French. That leads to some fucked-up outcomes. I imagine Belter would be treated like Creole languages usually are; something broken & degenerate, not a real language.

The correspondence courses Naomi took were almost certainly in English. Nobody is translating engineering textbooks into a “degenerate” language like a Creole, and nobody is teaching this classs in LB. Hinikirii Brown’s tablet on Anderson Station was in English, although he father spoke to her mostly in LB.

Miller is a perfect example of code shifting. Watch his hands throughout the seasons; for a “welwala”, he is the most hand-gesturing Belter on Ceres. When interviewing Gia (who has just had a client murdered in her room), he interviews her in LB to set her at ease. But when talking to the Governor’s agent about the water thieves, he speaks perfect English.

Prax is an educated Belter. You don’t do botany classes in LB. and when he wakes up on the refugee ship, he first asks for Mei in English. When he realizes the crewman he’s speaking to is a Belter, Prax switches to LB. Prax spends so much time speaking English, shifting back into LB is something that takes a moment.

So yeah, my feeling is the code shift mainly comes from “am I speaking to a Belter, or an Inner?” The inner/Belter dichotomy is cooked into LB down to the level of pronouns the way social hierarchy is cooked into Japanese.

“Beltalowda” is the plural pronoun for “Belters” with the connotation of both “all Belters” as well as “us Belters” ( becaus again, almost nobody outside Belters speaks LB). “Inyalowda” is both “all inners” [No distinction between Earther or Martian], and “You inners”.

  • "When they get boarded by Mickie Marines, you BETTER speak English. When they deal with the any government office, it’ll be in English." I'm not sure how true that is. When one Belter captain speaks to a Martian captain in Jakulski's chapter in Babylon's Ashes, he seems to freely code switch: “Glad to have you here, Captain Montemayor,” Samuels said. “Esá es my department heads. Amash. Rindai. Jakulski." But maybe you're referring to just how Belter Creole is used in the show, not the books?
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 30, 2018 at 2:07
  • Also I really doubt there's absolute zero "slang" in Quechua. New ways of speaking are constantly being thought up. Slang in general isn't really related to this question either...
    – curiousdannii
    Apr 30, 2018 at 2:14

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