Archive for the ‘Invented languages’ Category

Expecting the moon on a stick

Posted on March 15th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Invented languages, Words | 2 Comments »

In January I wrote about the Business Sentence Generator, which spits out random sentences for use in corporate reports. Whilst the BSG was built for humour, a survey shows that it may not be far off the mark.

Office Angels compiled a list of office jargon from the last decade, and their top ten reads as follows:

‘We need the right pin numbers’ – ‘we need it to work’
‘A lighthouse on a cloudy night’ – coming up with a good/bright idea
‘I’m coming into this with an open kimono’ – throwing an idea out into the open but being open to criticism
‘Let’s touch base about this offline’ – ‘let’s meet up face-to-face’
‘Finger in the air figure’ – just an estimate
‘I think someone needs a bite of the realilty sandwich’ – someone needs to think a bit more practically
‘Let’s run that idea up the flagpole and see if it flies’ – simply trying out an idea
‘Let’s not try to build a chestnut fence to keep the sand-dunes in’ – face a problem head-on, rather than battling it unsuccessfully
‘Get all our ducks in a row’ – get everything in order
‘Expecting the moon on a stick’ – when clients have ridiculous expectations

These sentences seem fairly redundant – why not just say what you mean? Sporting metaphors seem increasingly common – one reason why I hate ‘touching base’. Let’s hope with the new decade we can ditch the jargon and communicate clearly with our coworkers – now that’s a lighthouse on a cloudy night!

Can you speak business?

Posted on January 19th, 2010by Michelle
In English, Invented languages, Technology, Words | 1 Comment »

BuzzwordsFollowing up on yesterday’s post about industry-specific terminology, I thought I’d share with you this fun application.

The Business Speak Generator uses standard sentence structures and combines them with the latest lingo to create sentences that sound genuine. Perfect for when you’re stuck and can’t think of anything to add to that almost-complete report, the Business Speak Generator will come up with something that makes you sound smart, without the need to put a lot of thought into it.

Here’s an example:

In an era of discontinuous change, a need to overcome the limitations operationalizes excessive use of previously established frameworks.

I’m not sure that ‘operationalizes’ is really a word, but it sounds great… and scarily like reading a corporate report.

Workplace lingo

Posted on January 18th, 2010by Michelle
In Culture, English, Invented languages, Words | Leave a Comment »

Last weekend, the blog Schott’s Vocab ran a competition to reveal workplace lingo.

Many professions have their own languages, with terminology that only the initiated can understand. The most obvious must be in medicine, where it can seem that doctors are speaking a foreign language with lots of long, strange word combinations.

Even if your job doesn’t have an entirely different vocabulary, you’re likely to use some work-specific language during your day that an outsider wouldn’t understand. It may be specific to your industry, company or even your particular workplace. Coming up with your own shorthand can be a good way of bonding with colleagues.

So, what interesting terms did the Schott’s readers come up with?

running heads: describes the content in the margins, but always makes me think of heads running. (Publishing)

tombstone: [...], we refer to that basic block of object information as the “tombstone”. You know, the Artist’s name, life dates, title of work, year of creation, materials, credit line. (Museums)

calendar: to schedule time on someone’s online corporate calendar program (”If you want to sit down and discuss the Pensky file, calendar me”). (Corporate/office)

Code18: for a computer user whose perceived problem isn’t due to a malfunction in the computer but with something in (or not in, more like) his/her own head, 18″ from the monitor. (IT)

I can’t imagine what non-native English speakers make of these! I’m sure other languages have their own workplace lingos also, anyone got any examples?

A new movie language

Posted on December 9th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Invented languages, Words | 1 Comment »

New words are generally formed out of necessity – the need to communicate a new object or idea.

Whole new languages are much rarer. So it’s interesting that a whole new language has been created for a movie.

A linguistics professor at the University of Southern California has done just that, for James Cameron’s forthcoming film, Avatar. Working from the basis of a few words provided by Cameron, Paul Frommer created the Na’vi language that now consists of over 1,000 words as well as its own rules , structure and sound system.

The language is spoken by aliens from the planet Pandora, although the professor was restrained by the human actors who had to voice his creation. As well as words, Frommer added ejectives, sounds that are made in languages around the world. The finished language apparently sounds to some like an African language, to others like Japanese – no one language is predominant but Cameron hopes it sounds musical, not harsh like the famous invented language Klingon.

The professor hopes Na’vi will catch on and followers will speak the language, much like Star Trek fans do with Klingon. How successful the language becomes I suppose rests on how much people like Avatar. We shall see.

Read the full article on Paul Frommer here.

Lego language

Posted on November 13th, 2009by Michelle
In English, Invented languages, Words | Leave a Comment »

Lego peopleA confession: I never played with Lego as a child. I believe it was only when my younger brother was born that it even entered our house.

And it seems that I missed out not just on building brightly coloured models, but a whole section of highly creative language.

This fun article explores the diverse nomenclature of Lego pieces:

This language of Lego isn’t just something our family has invented; every Lego-building family must have its own vocabulary. And the words they use (mostly invented by the children, not the adults) are likely to be different every time. But how different? And what sort of words? (Source: The Morning News)

The table at the end of the article is particularly awesome. What names have you heard for Lego pieces? There could be a rigorous academic study in this – linguists, it’s over to you!

Esperanto anniversary

Posted on July 28th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Esperanto, Events, Invented languages | Leave a Comment »

Dr Ludwig Lazar ZamenhofThe 150th anniversary of Dr Ludwig Lazar Zamenhof’s – the author of Esperanto – birth is just around the corner, to be marked by an Esperanto congress held in his birthplace of Bialystok, Poland.

I’ve briefly mentioned this conlag in previous posts, and I found an interesting BBC article about Esperanto being spoken in Israel.

Esperanto was designed to “foster harmony and coexistence” and is currently spoken by around one million people worldwide. The language appears to attract people who are both enthusiastic about the language and willing to meet and befriend others who speak it, fostering a community not unlike Zamenhof envisioned, if on a somewhat smaller scale – something that cannot be said for all languages. As an interviewee says:

“Let’s say you go to a little village in the south of France,” says Israeli Yehuda Miklaf. “You ask: Does anyone here speak English? And they say: Henri does. So you go and say to Henri: Hi, I speak English. And Henri says: That’s nice. “Then you ask: Who here speaks Esperanto? They say: Pierre does. So you come up to Pierre and say: Hi, I speak Esperanto. Pierre says: Have you had lunch? It really is like this.”

Read the full article here.


Posted on July 15th, 2009by Michelle
In Esperanto, Invented languages | Leave a Comment »

The conlag flagAfter writing about Klingon for a recent post, I was intruiged by the concept of invented languages – that is, languages that have been created by people from scratch.

Also known as constructed languages, or conlags, there seem to be a number of reasons for people creating their own languages – chief among them being “cool idea!” Others have more utopian views, such as the creator of Esperanto (probably the most famous of conlags) who envisioned his language being spoken as a second language by those all over the world as a means to promote understanding.

I’ve stumbled across a number of interesting conlags whilst searching the internet, including Toki Pona, “a minimal language that focuses on the good things in life” and Interlingua, “an international auxiliary language developed by the International Auxiliary Language Association with financing from the Rockfeller Foundation, The Carnegie Corporation, the Research Corporation and principally the family of the heiress Alice Vanderbilt Morris and her husband and children”, making it probably the most well-funded of the conlags.

Despite the dreams of their creators, however, conlags remain in the minority, as evidenced by another of their names – auxiliary languages. Whilst it’s unlikely that you will meet a fellow Toki Pona speaker on your summer holiday in Ibiza, wouldn’t it be great if you did? After all, the point of language is to enable communication.

So, you’re interested in creating your own language, check out this toolkit.

“T1hIngan maH!*” (Or: The Power of Television)

Posted on July 4th, 2009by Michelle
In Culture, Invented languages, Technology | 1 Comment »

KlingonI’m no sci-fi geek, but I’ll admit I did enjoy the recent Star Trek movie. Off the back of the movie comes something for uber sci-fi geeks and dedicated linguists: the Klingon dictionary for the iPhone.

Originally invented for the Star Trek TV series, the Klingon language is called
tlhIngan Hol, and even has its own language institute. It is one of the more successful invented languages, along with Esperanto and Elvish. It appears to be much more complex than either of those languages, however:

Marc Okrand is a student of various Native American languages, which are notoriously difficult for speakers of Indo-European languages to learn, and in creating Klingon he borrowed rare and unfamiliar grammatical and syntactical rules, along with tongue-twisting sound combinations, from those and other little-known world languages. Klingon verbs have 29 different prefixes to indicate subject and object agreement, Klingon sentences have a highly unorthodox word order (object-verb-subject), and Klingon vocabulary can be almost endlessly agglutinated, meaning that long phrases can be stuck together into single words. (The supposed Klingon proverb “If it is in your way, knock it down,” is expressed in just two words: “Dubotchugh yIpummoH.”) Okrent says her reaction to Klingon, as an accredited linguist, was that “it was completely believable as a language, but somehow very, very odd.”

Read the rest of the article on invented languages here. And if you’ve never heard Klingon being spoken, check out this young linguist.

(*That’s “we are Klingons!” for all you non-speakers.)