back to article Speak geek: The world of made-up language

The world of invented language is a difficult place to succeed and those who have the patience to create their own tend to have a hard time gathering followers. Klingon and Elvish are notable exceptions, thanks to the huge fan bases for Star Trek and Lord of The Rings. Society tends to regard people who learn these languages …

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Nice article

But what about Mandalorian?

SW game with Mandalorian music is out there, SW books with some Mandalorian text, etc. etc.

And it's a mighty fine language too!

For them who don't know Mandalorian (how dare you? :P ), here's one of my favourite SWRC soundtrack:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iiNyQD5Yq3E

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Joke

Sod Elvish

Sod Elvish, what about Hyrulian!!! :oD

Anyway, I always thought Elvish was a mega famous rock and roll singer from Cornwall ??!!!

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Imp y Celyn

Terry Pratchett's music-with-rocks-in Bard from Llamedos: as one character says about him "There's a bloke works down the chipshop looks quite Elvish"

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Excellent article

Not a subject that I'm knowledgable about (my linguistic skills are nonexistent) but a very interesting read nonetheless.

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Troll

don't forget Welsh

and Ulster Scots, two of the most popular invented languages.

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@ Anonymous Coward

Or English! (See my other post.)

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Funny you should mention Welsh....

....it reminds me of another made up language:

"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn"

And on a weekend night out in Cardiff, you could almost believe the Great Old Ones had returned.

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Esperanto

Say what you will about it -- you can't change the fact that it sounds like a drunk Italian trying to order lunch in Portuguese.

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Surely not...

"Sarehole Mill, a museum in Birmingham"

Oh *please* tell me thats a typo.

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Megaphone

common misconception

"non-speaking disorders such as cerebral palsy" - one does not imply the other. Our local pool manager has cerebral palsy. My son has CP. They speak to each other in a way perfectly understandable to any other english speaker. CP is primarily a motor cortex disorder so although speech can be affected it's by no means a given.

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Headmaster

Major languages too

It's worth reminding ourselves that the major European languages, such as English, French, German, Italian and Spanish, were all artificially constructed to some extent. In most cases, one particular writer (Luther and Tyndale spring to mind) set down the recommended form, drawing on existing languages, and in some cases those earlier languages still exist (English - Welsh, Friesian; German - Low German; Spanish [Castilian] - Italian). So studying these other "made-up" languages can tell us something about the major languages that most of us come into contact with.

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Coat

And they said Elvish was dead!

I'll get me goat

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"Scaramouche! Scaramouche!"

Jesus Christ on a winebarrel. You owe me a new keyboard and I'm not exaggerating either. I was merrily reading this article, when I happened to see the Klingonian Bohemian Rhapsody reference. My immediate reaction was to drop my cup - which was weak from years of use - which immediately cracked and spilled its contents as well as bits of tiny shards all over and inside my keyboard. I was, however, too busy choking on the liquids that I had accidentally sent down into my lungs as a result of the laugh that I attempted and so I realized the disaster a bit too late.

I have now borrowed a coworker's keyboard to type this message out. Said coworker will return from lunch soon and that will be the end of my day.

How exactly am I going to explain this to management?

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Anonymous Coward

One possibility...

Perhaps you could attempt to do it in Klingon?

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Coffee/keyboard

You forgot

the 'I need a new keyboard' icon. ;)

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Creoles are far more interesting

The world's interesting real spoken languages are Creoles. These are languages that were invented out of necessity, when history jammed two (or more) peoples speaking totally different languages together in the same society. The first generation speak a pidgin mish-mash plus their "own" language. Soon, in the second or third generation, the pidgin is refined into a creole, and both parent languages soon die out. Nobody plans any of this - it just happens.

English is (possibly) the grand-daddy of them all. It's been evolving for nearly a thousand years, since Norman and Saxon communities started to merge. Compare Chaucer to Shakespeare. Development has slowed in more recent centuries, but English is still a fast-moving language compared to some. In particular there's a trend towards jettisoning what fragments remain of formal grammar after the incompatibilities of Norman and Saxon destroyed much of it.

A much more recent arrival is Tok Pisin, the official language of New Guinea, that was once known as Pidgin English. (Tok Pisin = Talk Pidgin = Talk Business). The name of the language reflects its birth, out of the need of local traders to talk business with their colonial masters. But in a country fragmented by hundreds of native languages and dialects, it took deeper root and developed into a fully-fledged language that continues to evolve (and to diverge from its original English roots).

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Boffin

The zillion Spanish dialects

Spanish is another example, the fact that it is used in more than half of an entire continent (America) makes it a multi-language in a language, depending on which country you are in, there are loanwords from the original native dialects, incorporated sounds (like sh) and sometimes, words mean different things in different countries. That brings some things like "Xola" (shola), "Tlapaleria" (hardware store in Mexican Spanish), and a couple of Mayan loanwords in the Yucatan peninsula.

Spanish variations have deviated so much that some words have different writing rules, like membership (Membresia, Membrecia), pineapple (Piña over here, some weird word in South America), Apricot (Chabacano, again something else in South America). Also, America-side Spanish is less wary of incorporating English-based words into Spanish, hence computers actually being called "computadora" instead of "sorting machines" (ordenador), files called "archivos" instead of "index cards" (fichero) and such.

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Stop

Corrections

'Sh' isn't actually an imported sound, it's just one which has largely been lost. It used to be the sound represented by the letter 'x', as it still is in the other Iberian languages.

Also, what you observe with Spanish isn't (in general) a creole. It's straightforward dialectal variation over a wide geographic area. There may be some special cases which are actually creoles of Spanish with some other language, but it takes more than a few vocab changes to qualify.

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Re: Creoles are far more interesting

I agree, sometimes the root of the words are still understood, which makes for a fascinating history lesson.

Take various words for animals/meat in English for example. When it's a smelly farm animal, the word is the original old English/Saxon word. Cow, Pig, Sheep. When it's cooked and on the feast table of the Norman masters it becomes Beef, Pork, Mutton. Still recognisable as the French words today (although I'm sure they'd look at you blankly purely because of pronunciation).

Attempts to get people to learn a universal language such as Esperanto are always going to be an uphill battle. First you have no native speakers, so you can't go for a total immersion course in the country. Then you have to convince people it is required. If the person happens to speak English you could be in with a problem as no matter where you go you can always find someone who can translate English into the local tongue. Add that to the fact that they kept genders for inanimate objects in Esperanto and most English speakers are going to look at you like you're mad!

If you want odd languages you don't need to learn Klingon, there's a world or real ones out there, complete with countries full of people that can speak it back to you... Try Hungarian!

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Anonymous Coward

Toki Pona?

Nice article! You should have mentioned Toki Pona, though, which is in a category of its own, as is Esperanto, of course.

Esperanto is different because no other invented language (meaning a language that originated with a single person and wasn't just a variety of a previously existing language) comes anywhere near it in terms of usage. Esperanto has hundreds of thousands of speakers, tens of thousands of books, hundreds of native speakers, etc. Other invented languages tend to be at least a factor of 1000 behind that.

Toki Pona is quite different. It has only 120 words and isn't supposed to be a "complete" language. It's a toy language, and a way of embracing Taoism, or something like that. I find it very interesting to experiment and see how much you can and can't say with just 120 words.

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Lojban

Lojban? A language designed to be completely unambiguous. It's the language of choice for anyone who has ever tried to write a programme in C

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lojban

It's like a programming language for communicating with others, for instance...

.oiro'o bu'onai pei

[physical pain!] [end emotion] [?]

Are you no longer in pain?

le cukta be'u cu zvati ma

that-which-is-described-as book [need!] is-at what

I need the book! Where is it?

Give it a try, you'll love it, even if you can't be arsed learning it.

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Headmaster

The only reaction possible to this...

(Did I overlook this in the article?)

http://xkcd.com/191/

Man: If you learned to speak Lojban, your communication would be completely unambiguous and logical.

Black Hat Guy: Yeah, but it would all be with the kind of people that learn Lojban.

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Words for modern concepts

I well remember a quiz passed around by a lecturer at college to find the Latin words for various home appliances, IIRC: (a) dishwasher, (b) floor polisher, (c) food mixer, (d) lawn mower. The answer of course was just one word, slave (in translation.) The point being that a language from another culture (whether historic or made up) may not have exact words for modern technologies but equivalents may be found if the tasks involved can be compared. Abstract concepts such as those embodied in the US Constitution or the Scientific Method are very much harder to translate.

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Icelandic

Is another ancient language which has to accommodate new concepts. Unlike fellow Scandinavian langauges, Icelandic does not tend to import English words and change the spelling; it actually relies on a committee to come up with new words - some of which are brilliant:

Þota (thota) - jet - translates pretty much as 'whoosh';

sími - telephone - literally 'a thread'

farsími - mobile phone - literally 'travel phone'

tölva - computer - a combination of tala (number) and völva (sorceress) - which is awesome

my favourite though is their word for jackpot - hvalreki which literally means 'beached whale'.

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Meanwhile, in English...

We have a few interesting words.

We "fire" guns, even though we don't use a flaming torch to light a fuse any more.

When we get behind the wheel of a car, we lead a herd of livestock to market ("drive").

Emission of television and radio programmes is described as scattering seed ("broadcasting").

And of course "skiing" "skating" "gliding" "sliding" "sledging" "sledding" and "skidding" were probably originally all the same word.

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Coat

Driving

Driving doesn't have to involve a herd of livestock. Taking the Authorised Version of the Bible (~1610) as evidence, one can equally drive a chariot.

2 Kings, chapter 9: "So Jehu rode in a chariot, and went to Jezreel; for Joram lay there. ... And the watchman told, saying, He came even unto them, and cometh not again: and the driving is like the driving of Jehu the son of Nimshi; for he driveth furiously."

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Re:Driving

It still works. If you're in a chariot you're driving the horses forward.

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Happy

Programming languages

All artificial, with lone or committee inventors, devotees, confabs, debates, diatribes, etc., etc.. All operating in a world of fantasy, the mind of the programmer and the CPU.

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Joke

When the elvish conference ends..

..."Elves have left the building".

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Anonymous Coward

Esperanto vs English

The problem with Esperanto is that it is based on Spanish and not on English and modern English is already a constructed language that has demonstrated an ability to displace other languages. It was created at a time when the languages of the court were French and Latin.

They were inspired by the fact that the French language had a dictionary and set about creating what has become modern English. It includes most of the old English, which was already a bit of a mish-mash of Anglish,Kentish,Saxon and Germanic and added many common French words as well as many Latin words that had French equivalents.

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Happy

(This title intentionally left blank)

Ha dos bilvumora dumashai valun sheghim hon gerat. Ruvashu http://webspace.webring.com/people/tp/prai_jei om omeshu sil somada dale riolam Halan, noim dumashai gerat toja talion ha.

Translation:

I've been making up artificial languages since I was a kid. If anyone fancies trying Hallon, my main childhood fantasy language, take a look at http://webspace.webring.com/people/tp/prai_jei/.

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Me too

Ta sadi ghan, chak ta tan korinad anghan korinyanya, son ghalad la ji tikya shalayneth lianyan la ansharanya. Law taeli la tunai anlani anke ahyanadi faw korinya chak'kailan.

Translation:

"So have I, but I haven't published my language, preferring to restrict its use to a few friends. Thus we can talk to each other without police spying on us."

(The word order isn't necessarily one-for-one; the grammatical structure and syntax are very different to English. There are also several semantic nuances in my language above that would take several paragraphs to convey in English, but I'm not going into that here!)

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Coat

Shakespeare

Oh my. So someone actually translated Shakespeare to "the original Klingon"?

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Coat

Hm...

"He [Tolkien] believed Mythology touched us all at a very deep level and those that disagree simply don't understand the power it holds. Once, after attempts to get such feelings across to a fellow writer and friend CS Lewis, Tolkien came home, frustrated and wrote this poem."

So, irony, anyone? The Christian apologist who does not believe in the power of mythology, eh? The mind boggles.

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> irony

Umm, that depends on when the disagreement was. Tolkien knew Lewis before Lewis was a Christian. Lewis' views and attitudes at say 25 were very different to those at say 45.

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Pirate

Elvish?

I'd rather learn Borogravian, ta.

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Historically...

Languages don't cause wars. Religion and politics do.

So a duff founding premise there, and a lot of wasted effort.

Ironically, the newly invented languages were becoming popular as Latin was being phased out in English schools as not being terribly relevant.

Leet, being written rather than written and spoken, is interesting, not least because it developed largely through use rather than being consciously created by committee.

Brazil would be better off with Welsh than Esperanto. If only for the higher quality hymn singing.

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Megaphone

Watch it boyo

It's not so much that singing in Welsh gives higher quality, but that the singers are higher quality to start with.Welshmen singing in Esperanto would still sound better than your average Brazilian. Cymru am byth!

"La malnova patroland', kara al mi," etc.

(Jes mi parolas Esperanton kiel naciano.)

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no actually

Religion & politics are the excuse given - its economics that cause wars - even the Children;s Crusade.

And the religious & political leaders that use these excuses tend to be self serving liars that you shouldn't trust to even put the cat out. And they will lie about their political and religious beliefs just as they lie about everything else - their one and only policy being 'more power for me'

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@peter_dtm

I sort of agree. The underlying cause of wars is economics, but without religion or politics you wouldn't have the soldiers to do your bidding :) Whether it's a belief in a divine war or a belief in your country, people don't generally risk their lives purely because it's a job, most of them have an underlying belief that they're doing something worthy. With that sort of argument, of course, you can also say that you wouldn't have the weapons without science so science is to blame for almost all war.

While I'm an atheist, I'm not of the opinion that religion is necessarily evil, although I do think it creates an environment which makes it relatively simple to foster corruption.

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slovio

how about slovio.com ?

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Netspeak

TL;DR

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ESPERANTO - the inventor paid his dues

Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof (born Leyzer Leyvi Zamengov in 1859 in Bialystok, Poland) spoke Russian, Polish, and Yiddish as a child. He later learned a number of other languages. The languages of his childhood are highly inflected, and when he came to invent Esperanto, he could not stand to be without just one. So direct objects (accusative case) take a suffix "n". Aside from that, there is extensive use of suffixes and prefixes to carry all the other features of grammar in a quite regular way.

He felt that Italian was the most beautiful language to the ear, so the sound of Esperanto tends toward that sound.

Vocabulary was stolen/borrowed from various European languages, both Latin-based and English-based.

Back when I started programming, I also studied this language briefly, as an alternative form of code-talking. How very geeky!

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IT Angle

You Forgot

Stargate, and the "excellent" and well named Ancient.

Closely related to Latin.

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Could someone please

pass me a Babelfish?

Thanks

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Anonymous Coward

Lets step the geekery up a bit

Bal'a dash, malanore, Anu belore dela'na

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Lets step the geekery up a bit

Anar'alah belore. Doral ana'diel?

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Go

<yawn>

All languages are made up. At some point there was none, then there was some .... they were made up. BFD This is the same kind of uninformed chatter that leads the morons of the world to believe in "sea salt". All salt is sea salt. How the hell do you think it got into those vast deposits that get mined? It's not Manna ya know.

Idiots at the keyboard. "Chain a monkey to a typewriter and sooner or later he'll write a novel." For the younger among us you can safely substitute "word processor" for "typewriter".

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Not "made up", "evolved"

Most languages evolved over time, and have internal conflicts in consistency and logic. A constructed language is generally logically consistent, and lacking in some of the odder quirks of spelling that bedevil languages like English and French.

Constructed languages are extremely different from natural languages, even those that try to mimic natural language.

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Grenade

Some of us linguistic geeks

some of us geeks make up languages for fictitious linguistic communities we happen to be writing about - mostly to add a touch of authenticity. There's a certain pleasure in having a character insulting another character in words like this:

"Ya tshanyhusun ya hepetraisun ya kurrunia ya ayhe yhe E'avaturu!" It's cowardice it's drunkenness it's foolishness of course it's E'avaturu!"

(Substitute "Dubbya Bush" or "Tony Blare" for E'avaturu at your pleasure ... :)

Or singing some mournful song like:

"aie, shailyain ili, shailyain ili, shailyain ili ri ne rau!

"aie, waya wehi ri ne, waya wehi ri ne, ne wa shailyain!"

Alas, broken the walls, broken the walls, broken the walls of my heart!

Alas, gone my love from me, gone my love from me, I am broken!

(You just have to remember the back-beat, and the ornamentation on the "aie", the "ili" and the "ne" - and that the accompaniement is a small drum between the tasha and the nakkara in size ... ) Yes, linguistic geekishness creeps into all sorts of fiction ...

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