LINGUIST List 5.764

Wed 29 Jun 1994

Sum: Language games

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  • Trey Jones, Language Games

    Message 1: Language Games

    Date: Wed, 29 Jun 94 10:07:32 EDLanguage Games
    From: Trey Jones <treyBRS.Com>
    Subject: Language Games

    A very long time ago, in a place far far away..

    Over a year ago (March 1993) I posted a message to the Linguist list asking for information about and references to language games and secret languages. Well, the response was gratifyingly overwhelming. So overwhelming, in fact, that I was unable to post a summary before I left Houston and moved to Albany, losing my email access in the process. Now I have email again, here in New York, and have recently reattached myself to the Linguist list.

    Thanks to everyone who responded and lead me to various and sundry bits of information. Special thanks to all those who described various language games, and to those who sent me hard copies via snail mail.

    **Since it has been a year, I would also like to take this chance and ask **for any more information or references on language games, speech play **and secret languages not contained below. Also, any expansions/variations **on the descriptions below would be appreciated.

    So finally, and without further ado:

    A summary of Language Games, Secret Languages, and such: 12 months in the making, with a cast of 10s...

    References: Aufinger, Albert (1948) 'Secret Languages of the Small Islands Near Madang', South Pacific 3, 90-95, 113-20.

    Bachman, Christine & Luc Basier (1984) "Le verlan: argot d'ecole ou langue des keum?", Les Mots 8:169-187. (Thanks to Michael Picone.)

    Bagemihl, Bruce (1987) 'Tigrinya Speech Disguise and Constraints on Spreading Rules', in M. Crowhurst (ed), Proceedings of the West Coast Conference on Formal Linguistics 6, 1-15, Stanford Linguistics Association, Stanford.

    Bagemihl, Bruce (1988) 'The Morphology and Phonology of Katajjait (Inuit Throat Games)', The Canadian Journal of Linguistics 33, 1-58.

    Bagemihl, Bruce (1988) "Alternative Phonologies and Morphologies", University of British Columbia PhD dissertation (Thanks to David Gil.)

    Bagemihl, Bruce (1989) "The Crossing Constraint and 'Backward Languages'" NLLT 7:481-549. (Thanks to David Gil.)

    Bao, Z. (1990) "Fanqie Languages and Reduplication" Linguistic Inquiry, 27.3 307-350. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.)

    Barkovits, Rochele (1970) "Secret Languages of School Children" New York Folklore Quarterly 26:127-152. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Bertinetto, Pier Marco (1987) Lingue segrete, e segreti delle lingue. Alcuni probleme di fonologia italiana studiati attraverso un gioco linguistico. Annali della Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa, Classe di Lettere e Filosofia serie III vol XVII, 3 (1987). (Thanks to Pier Marco Bertinetto.)

    Bertinetto, Pier Marco (1992) Word games and syllable cohesion in italian. Paper presented at the Krems 1992 Phonologietagung. (Thanks to Pier Marco Bertinetto.)

    Campbell,L (1980) "The psychological and social reality of Finnish vowel harmony" in R.M. Vago (1980).

    Chao, Y. R. (1931) "Fanqie Yu Ba Zhong ("Eight Varieties of Secret Language Based on the Principles of Fanqie") Bulletin of the Institute of History and Philology, 2.3, 320-354. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.) (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Chen, T. E. (1990) Implications of the Taiwanese Secret Language, Masters thesis, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign, Illinois. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.)

    Conklin, Harold C. (1956) 'Tagalog Speech Disguise', Language 32, 136-39. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Conklin, Harold C. (1959) 'Language Play in its Cultural Context', Language 35, 136-39. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Cowan, Nelson, Marti D. S. Braine, and Lewis A. Leavitt (1985) 'The Phonological and Metaphonological Representation of Speech: Evidence from Fluent Backward Talkers', Journal of Memory and Language 24, 679-98.

    Cowan, Nelson, and Lewis A. Leavitt (1981) 'Juggling Acts with Linguistic Units', in C. S. Masek, R. A. Hendrick and M. F. Miller (eds), Papers from the Parasession on Language and Behavior, Chicago Linguistic Society, Chicago, pp 50-56.

    Cowan, Nelson, and Lewis A. Leavitt (1982) 'Talking Backward: Exceptional Speech Play in Late Childhood', Journal of Child Language 9, 481-95.

    Cowan, Nelson, Lewis A. Leavitt, Dominic Massaro and Raymond Kent (1982) 'A Fluent Backward Talker' Journal of Speech and Hearing Research 25, 48-53.

    Crystal, David (1987) The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language, p. 58-59. (Thanks to Ken Beesley.)

    Day,R.S. (1973) "On learning 'secret languages'". Haskins Laboratories Status Report on Speech research. SR-34.141-50. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Duanmu, S. (1990) A Formal Study of Syllable, Tone, Stress and Domain in Chinese Languages, PhD dissertation, MIT, Cambridge, Mass. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.)

    Evans-Pritchard, E.E. (1954) 'A Zande Slang language', Man 54, 185-86.

    Fudge, E. (1987) "Branching structure within the syllable". Journal of Linguistics 23.359-77. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Garcia, Mauro (1934) "Secret Dialects in Tagalog", Philippine Magazine 31:28-30.

    Geller, Linda Gibson (1985) Wordplay and language learning for children. Urbana Ill,: National Council of Teachers of English.

    Gil, David (1990) "Speaking Backwards in Tagalog", Paper presented at the 8th ASANAL International Conference.

    Guiraud, Pierre (1956) L'argot. Paris: Presses universitaires de France. (Thanks to Michael Picone.)

    Haas. Mary (1967) "A taxonomy of disguised speech". paper presented to the LSA. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Haas, Mary (1969) 'Burmese Disguised Speech', Bulletin of the Institue of History and Philology (Acaemia Sinica) 39:277-85. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Hesbois, Marie-Laure "Jeux de Langue" ??Presses de l'Universite de Montreal??. (Thanks to Thierry J. van Steenberghe.)

    Hombert. Jean-Marie (1973) 'Speaking Backwards in Bakwiri', Studies in African Linguistics 4, 227-86. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Hombert, Jean-Marie (1986) 'Word Games: Some Implications for Analysis of Tone and Other Phonological Constructs', in J.J. Ohala and J.J. Jaeger (eds), Experimental Phonology, Academic Press, Orlando, pp 175-86. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Hymes, D.H.(ed) (1964) Language in culture and society: a reader in linguistics and anthropology. New York: Harper & Row. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Jespersen, Otto (1922) Language: Its Nature, Development and Origin. pp 148-151. Jespersen also includes a footnote: "I have collected a bibliographical list of such 'secret languages' in _Nord. Tidsskrift f. Filologi_, 4r. vol. 5." (Thanks to Jane Edwards.)

    Katada, Fusa (1990) "On the Representaion of Moras: Evidence from a Language Game" LI 21.4:641-646.

    Kirshemblatt-Gimblett, Barbara (ed) (1976) Speech Play. Philadelphia: Univ. of Penn. Press. (Thanks to John Archibald.) (Thanks to Ken Beesley.) (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Laycock, Don (1969) 'Sublanguages in Buin: Play, Poetry, and Preservation', Pacific Linguistics A.22, 1-23.

    Laycock, Don (1972) 'Towards a Typology of Ludlings, or Play Languages', Linguistic Communications (Working Papers of the Linguistic Society of Australia) 6, 61-113. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Lefkowitz, Natalie J. (1987) Talking Backwards and Looking Forwards; The French Game Verlan, unpublished PhD dissertation, University of Washington.

    Lefkowitz, Natalie J. and Steven H. Weinberger (1987) 'The First Branch Principle and Parameter Setting in Language Games: The Case of Verlan', paper presented at the 63rd annual meeting of the LSA, San Francisco, California.

    Li, J.K. (1985) "A Secret Language in Taiwan", Journal of Chinese Linguistics 13, 91-127. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.)

    Lin, Y. H. (1989) Autosegmental Treatment of Segmental processes in Chinese Phonology, PhD dissertation, UT Austin. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.)

    Lehiste I. (1985) An Estonian word game and the phonematic status of long vowels. Linguistic Inquiry, XVI, 490-492.

    Macalister, R.A. Stewart (1937) The secret languages of Ireland. Cambridge University Press.

    Manila, Quijano de (1980) Language of the Street, And Other Essays, National Book Store, Manila.

    Mehotra, Raja Ram (1977) Sociology of secret languages. Simla: Indian Institute of Advanced Study.

    Merle, Pierre. (1986/1989) Dictionaire du francais branche / Guide du francais tic et toc (in one volume) Paris: Editions du seuil. (Thanks to Michael Picone.)

    McCabe, Allyssa (1992) Language games to play with your child. New York: Insight Books.

    McCarthy, John (1985) 'Speech Disguise and Phonological Representation in Amharic' in H. van der Hulst and N. Smith (eds), Advances in Non- Linear Phonology: Results of the Amsterdam Workshop on Non-Linear Phonology, 8th-12th August 1983, Foris, Dordrecht, pp 305-12.

    McCarthy, John and A. Prince (1986) Prosodic Morphology. Ms. UMass, Amherst and Brandeis Univ (forthcoming, MIT Press - perhaps published by now) pp 59, 74-79.

    Millard, E. (1954) "What does it mean? The love of secret languages". New York folklore Quarterly 10:103-10.

    Noye, Dominique (1975) 'Langages secret chez le Peul', African Languages 1, 81-95.

    Obler, Loraine K and Menn, Lisa (eds) (1982) Exceptional Language and Linguistics. Contains one article on language play by Joel Sherzer: "Play languages: with a note on ritual languages". This is very similar to Sherzer's article in Kirshemblatt-Gimblett. It also has a good bibliography. (Thanks to Georgia Green.)

    Poser (1990) Evidence for foot structure in Japanese. Language 66: 78-109. pp 95-97 describe the Japanese Entertainer's Secret Language.

    Reich, P. (1986?) Language Development. Has a section on language games. (Thanks to John Archibald.)

    Raum, Otto (1937) 'Language Perversions in East Africa', Africa 10:221-26

    Russian World, The (no more info available.) Describes fufajskij jazyk ('fufay language'). (Thanks to Jake Jacobson.)

    Sadtano, E. (1971) 'Language Games in Javanese', in J Sherzer, L Foley, Sister C. Johnson, N.A. Johnson, A Palakornkul, and E Sadtano, A Collection of Linguistic Games, Penn-Texas Working Papers in Sociolinguistics 2, University of Texas, Austin, pp32-38.

    Schwartz, A. (1982) The Cat's Elbow and other secret languages. Linguistically naive but fun. (Thanks to John Archibald.)

    Seppa"nen, Juoko (1982) Computing families of Natural Secret Languages: An Exercise in Functional Linguistics, Helsinki University of Technology Computing Centre, Helsinki.

    Sherzer, Joel (1970) 'Talking Backwards in Cuna: The Sociological Reality of Phonological Descriptions', Southwestern Journal of Anthropology 26, 343-53. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Stampe, D. (1968) "Yes, Virginia..." Paper presented at the 4th Regional Meeting of CLS. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Surintramont, Aporn (1973) 'Some Aspects of Underlying Syllable Structure in Thai: Evidence from Khampuan - A Thai Word Game', Studies in the Linguistic Sciences 3, 121-42. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Taylor, Shelley Kathleen (1992) "Bi/Multilingualism & Explicit Instruction in Language Play", paper presented at the Language Awareness Conferece in Bangor, Wales, April 1992. (Thanks to Mike Scott.)

    Trevor, J.C. and C.M.N. White (1955) 'Backward languages in Africa', Man 55:96.

    Vago, R. M. (1985) The treatment of long vowels in word games, Phonology Yearbook 2:329-342 (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Vago, R. M.(ed) (1980) Issues in vowel harmony. Amsterdam: Benjamins (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Walter, Henriette (1984) "Lexique" (prepared under her direction in) Hector Obalk, Alain Soral & Alexandre Pasch. Les mouvements de mode expliques aux parents. Paris: Robert Laffont. (Contains a short list preceded by three paragraphs of comment) (Thanks to Michael Picone.)

    Walter, Henriette (1988) Le francais dans tous les sens. Paris: Robert Laffont. (Contains three paragrahs of comment, including mention of other, older types of related French word play; for more on the latter see Pierre Guiraud's L'argot. (Thanks to Michael Picone.)

    Weinberger, Steven H. & Natalie Lefkowitz (1992) "Uncovering French syllable structure with verlan" in Christiane Laeufer & Terrell A Morgan (eds) Theoretical Analysis in Romance linguistics. Amsterdam: John Benjamins. (Thanks to Michael Picone.)

    Sobkowiak, Wlodzimierz (1991) a book on the metaphonology of English puns (no title given) Frankfurt:Peter Lang. (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Yip, M. (1982) "Reduplication and C-V Skelata in Chinese Secret Languages" Linguistic Inquiry, 13, 637-661. (Thanks to Feng-Lan Kuo.) (Thanks to Wlodzimierz Sobkowiak.)

    Zim, Herbert S. (?) Codes & Secret Writing. Has a few pages on play languages, and is not linguistically very sophisticated. Overly (and probably incorrectly) concerned with WRITTEN letters, not phonemes and onsets and the like. (Thanks to Ken Beesley.)

    Descriptions: ARABIC LANGUAGE PLAY: Othman Mohamed gives examples o switching root consonants: (9 = voiced pharyngeal fricative) /9alu 9ami/ for /9amu 9ali/ uncle Ali /shant tutu/ for /tant shushu/ aunt Shushu (a name) Othman also suggested we consider the (to me) related phenomenon of pun-riddles: Q:What's the difference between a fisherman and a lazy boy? A:The fisherman baits his hooks, the lazy boy hates his books.

    BENGALI PIG LATINS: Mimi Klaiman described a couple of Bengali "Pig Latin" games for me. The first is called "cibocisa": simply add a syllable /ci/ before each syllable in the word. In the second, syllables are pronounced in reverse order, and Mimi used this as an argument to show that conventional Bengali spelling accurately reflects the phonological syllables. For example: bisri 'ugly' --> sribi biskuT 'biscuit' --> kuTbis In the first word s and r are written as a conjunct character, and the Pig Latin shows they belong to the same syll. In the second word, s and k are neither written as a conjucnt character, nor are they in the same syllable, as the Pig Latin shows.

    BUSH TALK: Jim Swanson described for me a game he and his siblings played in Moorhead,Minnesota in the 1930's and eary 1940's called bush talk. Infix -/agn/- before the first vowel: Cagnan yagnou tagnalk bagnuh tagnalk? Can you talk bush talk?

    CAZARNY/CARNY TALK: A bunch of people wrote to me about this one, so thanks are in order for: Sherri Condon Lorna Feldman Dave Kathman Randy LaPolla Dwight Tuinstra

    ( = schwa, I = short i 'lick', E = short e 'bet', R = syllabic r) Cazarny seems to be a basic infixing system, but it also seems to be, like Pig Latin, sufficiently widespread to have some variation. The basic rule is to insert the group [iz] after the onset of a syllable. This can either be done to every syllable: carny -> [kizarni] interesting -> [iz.Int.iz.R.iz.Est.iz.Ing] (L.F.) or only to the first: apple -> [izapl] (R.L.)

    Randy said that the treatment of words that begin with a vowel seems to vary with number of syllables, accent, and the type of first consonant: accordian -> [akizordian] apple -> [izapl]

    Lorna pointed out that she has also heard Cazarny called 'Eaz' [iz], or 'Meazurry', so named by the 1960's NYC dj Murray the K, who often spoke it on his radio show.

    CoC: Sharon Cote wrote to me about a 'secret language' she read about in a book as a kid. In it, words are spelled out, but all consonants (C) are pronounced CoC. dog -> dod-o-gog She couldn't recall the name of the book (it might have been two) but she says it was something _like_ "The War of the Roses".

    FUFAJSKIJ JAZIK (FUFA LANGUAGE): Katya Zubritskaya described two Russian language games she has done a bit of work on. *The first is "fufajskij jazik" (fufa language), an infixation game. this game infixes invarient segmental material after every syllable of the base form. Usually the infix is an open syllable (ka- fu- fa-). Sometimes this infix is inserted before every syllable. *The second is a transposition game which essentially moves the last syllable of a word into the word initial position. *Katya notes: (a) neither transposition nor infixing are found as regular morphological operations in Russian. (b) Both games show sensitivity to morphological and phonological constituents (syllables, affixes (bisyllabic affixes are usually not split up)). Just like other infixation games, Russian infixation games treat each affixed syllable of the base form as a new Prosodic Word (it receives a stress).

    JERIGONZA/JERIGOZA: Rosa Montes described a Spanish "pig latin": it consists of adding a syllable "p+V" after every vowel, where V duplicates the original vowel: yopo nopo sepe napadapa. Yo no se nada. (I don't know anything.) Quipieperopo copomeper apalgopo. Quiero comer algo. (I want to eat something.) This is from Argentina. It is also found in Spain.

    LI/NGUA DO I (LANGUAGE OF I): Ken Beesley passed this along to me, as described to him by an acquaintance in Brazil. Simply substitute all vowels with /i/. He also forwarded a message from Prentiss Riddle, who mentions "ReetSpeak", which is the same thing in English, supposedly the tongue of a race of intelligent rat-like critters in some science fiction book.

    MADA'RNYELV (BIRD'S LANGUAGE): Anna Fenyvesi described a Hungarian language game she played with her father int he 30's and 40's. [note; the ' in Mada'rnyelv is a long diacritic over the preceeding vowel.] You insert a /v/ after every vowel, and repeat that vowel after the /v/: mavada'va'rnyevelv kivi vavagy teve? mavda'rnyelv ki vagy te? (who are you?)

    OPISH: Steve Schaufele describes a game called Opish he found in (of all places) Compton's Encyclopedia in the 60's: Follow every consonant with /op/.

    SPANISH LANGUAGE GAMES: Celso Alvarez-Caccamo described two language Spanish games: * add kVmV after each syllable (each syllable has only one V) hola -> homomo lakama adios -> akama dikimi oskomo stress always falls on the next t last syllable. * insert /pe/ before each syllable. Stress falls on the last syllable: hola -> peho pela * Celso also described the practice of reversing words or, more frequently, names: Marta Gonzales -> Atram Zelaznog

    VERLAN: Micheael Picone sent a description and many references (see above) of the French language game "Verlan", which is "l'envers" (from the phrase "a l'envers" - backwards/inverted) inverted. I'll give some of Michael's examples and refer interested parties to the references given elsewhere: ('=acute accent for +high -mid quality for Verlan. French words are in normal french orthography.) arabe -> beur bidon -> dombi pourri -> ripou mec -> keum laisse tomber -> laisse be'ton flic -> keuf me'tro -> trome' cafe' -> fe'ca

    Thanks also to the following for various leads and info: Peter Bakker Pier Marco Bertinetto Tucker Childs Matthew Dryer Elise Morse-Gagne

    And, on the off chance that ALL of THAT was not enough for you, you can look for the French journal _Langages_ (published by Larousse, which has a volume entitled "Les Javanais", (by Marc Ple'nat) which is devoted to Language Games. It contains the folowing articles:

    Marc Ple'nat, Pre'sentation des javanais 5 John McCarthy, L'infixation re'duplicative dans les langages secrets 11 Didier Demolin, L'analyse des segments, de la syllabe et des tons dans un jeu de langage mangbetu 30 Koichi Tateishi, Les implications the'oriques du langage des musiciens japonais 51 Vivienne Me'la, Le verlan ou le langage du miroir 73 Marc Ple'nat, Le javanais: concurrence et haplologie 95

    AND, as an EXTRA BONUS! it has an 8-PAGE BIBLIOGRAPHY with titles in English, French, & Spanish covering the whole world.

    (Extra Special thanks to Peter Bakker in Amsterdam for mailing me a copy of the bibliography.. unfortunately, it doesn't have the date/volume so I can't relay it on..)

    Okay.. that's it for now. Thanks again to everyone, sorry for the long long long wait..

    -Trey Jones