"who'd bother naming something as shortlived as a cat?"
March 6, 2005 3:29 PM   Subscribe

Xenolinguistics primer. The study of extraterrestrial languages is rather impractical in this day and age, but potentially useful in the future. That didn't stop Bowling Green State University from offering a course in it. The course website has many interesting links to sites discussing such invented tongues as ilish, fith, ro and kebreni. [Note: Some of the links on the course website are broken]
posted by Kattullus (17 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
[Note: This is a companion piece to the SF Chronophysics guide recently discussed in this MeFi thread.]
posted by Kattullus at 3:32 PM on March 6, 2005

Ah crap! I was also going to mention that the man responsible for the xenolinguistics primer, Justin B Rye, also has an excellent page on "Futurese", the American language of 3000 AD. Well, now I have.
posted by Kattullus at 3:53 PM on March 6, 2005

Great post. Ro looks really interesting.
posted by interrobang at 4:45 PM on March 6, 2005

posted by Faint of Butt at 4:56 PM on March 6, 2005

[gente h'av]
posted by nebulawindphone at 5:16 PM on March 6, 2005

Wow, "Futurese" is fucked up. If you actually pronounce the final example, though, it does seem plausible... I'm just glad I'll never have to deal with it.

I love the main link. This is great stuff. I like it even more than I liked the chronophysics. Thanks.

On preview:
[diz 'ban guad]
posted by blacklite at 6:33 PM on March 6, 2005

main link has been eaten by shai hulud: 404 redirect error
posted by moonbird at 8:09 PM on March 6, 2005

If you liked this, you should take a look at Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction. It's a great book that looks at science fiction languages with linguistics in mind. I found it especially interesting since it was published in 1980, and so its many, many examples come from older science fiction which led me to discover some great stories.
posted by Sangermaine at 8:10 PM on March 6, 2005

Still works for me, moonbird. Perhaps you do not know the weirding ways.
posted by blacklite at 8:55 PM on March 6, 2005

The main link's pretty sweet, but it's definitely "futurese" that caught my attention, since I've been fascinated by the differences between modern German and modern English, especially in terms of grammar.

So I'd like to see this guy do an article on future grammar as well, just to see if he agrees with me that we're moving back towards a latin-style stem/suffix arrangement for tense (though in our case, it's a prefix/stem arrangement: "I'll run" for future, "I've run" for the past and "I'd run" for the subjunctive. (I predict we'll start seeing "I's running" for "I was running" at some point in the next twenty-thirty years).

No, I haven't spent too much time thinking about this. I've just been driving too much lately.
posted by thecaddy at 9:18 PM on March 6, 2005

I'd like to see more on grammar, too, but we get a taste from the very brief sample at the end:
*wa-tAgan, pronounced "wuh-TSAWG'n"
"Talk"; pronominal prefix and nonfinite verb.

*wa-tAg, pronounced "wuh-TSAWG"
As in the previous clause, but this time in the positive-indicative form.
Great post!
posted by languagehat at 9:11 AM on March 7, 2005

thecaddy I predict we'll start seeing "I's running" for "I was running" at some point in the next twenty-thirty years

I've heard "I's" used "I's a bought a brand new..." didn't understand so asked for a clarifcation, and got a "I has..."
posted by PurplePorpoise at 1:10 PM on March 7, 2005

This seems like the best place to ask it (rather than in the green)

What is the pronunciation of `Primer'?

I would have thought it to be similar to `timer', but I've heard it pronounced as if it meant `more prim' - `Primmer'.

Being that a primer is something designed to prepare something else, say an undercoat of paint or a detonator for an explosive, I can see that they are related to a preparatory manual in this sense. I guess I'm wondering why a word meaning a similar thing ends up with quite different pronunciations.
posted by tomble at 5:21 PM on March 7, 2005

"Primer" rhymes with "timer," tomble. The general English rule is that when a vowel is followed by a double consonant, the vowel is short (i.e., "primmer") but when it is followed by a single consonant, the vowel is long. You are correct.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:14 PM on March 7, 2005

I keep hearing it pronounced (usually in American media, audio books, radio documentaries) as `primmer'.

Worse yet, dictionary.com also thinks that `primmer' is the correct pronunciation, but only when referring to an instructional book.
posted by tomble at 9:09 PM on March 7, 2005

I used primers a lot, doing PCR - it's primer as in timer (tymer) but since I did my undergrad in Iowa, I've heard a lot of primmer. Primer = something that primes, as in 1'. Ca't for cart also gits in ma craw.

goddamn Jodie Foster in Contact - it's also decal, not DEEKAAL
posted by PurplePorpoise at 10:40 PM on March 7, 2005

PRY-mer for the undercoat, PRIM-er for the book. They're two different words, like bow of a ship and bow and arrow. (The reason for the difference is that the former is from the verb prime, the latter is from the medieval Latin primarius.)
posted by languagehat at 6:43 AM on March 8, 2005

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