Sunday, July 21, 2013

Secret Languages

I love the idea of secret languages.  It started out as a fascination with foreign writing systems when I was a kid, which turned into a love of ciphers and codes.  Around age 10 or so, I decided I wanted to create a code you could speak, so I started with a simple cipher where consonants were shifted up the alphabet by one letter, and vowels likewise shifted up the list of vowels:
O jewi e tidsiv mephaehi 
I have a secret language
This kind of code was somewhat speakable, but I realized it was also creating strange and unusual consonant clusters (as in the word tvsuph for "strong").  I gradually started dividing the sounds of English into continuants and stops, then I discovered place of articulation, and manner of articulation. Eventually I had a fairly sophisticated, relatively speakable code that first required the English plaintext to be represented phonetically, then shifted around in terms of place of articulation:

el rɛɣ ə θutʃjɪp wɛndʒhʊdz 
I have a secret language
Then, one day, I realized you could solve the whole pronunciation problem by substituting morphemes, and my brother and I started to create an actual secret language.  It went through many revisions, but in the latest form that the language has in my mind, you can say:
tan kɪp tʃ tollani namrɪl 
I have a secret language
Though my brother's dialect is different from mine, so to him I would say:
tan kɪp tʃ namrɪl koji ekaj tol la 
I have a language that other people do not know
Over the years of playing with this, I have landed on a kind of formula for effective secret languages.  I have run out of time for the moment, but an upcoming post will be about the formula for an effective, easy secret language.

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