Tuesday, October 23, 2012

What's the Mystery Language - Background And Theories


"The person who requested the information has written to us and stated that:
He found the paper in a drawer with some other old papers in his mum’s condo after she died.
It was not her language.  She only spoke English.
He doesn’t know who wrote it, but it was probably written 30 or more years ago.
He’d really love to know what language it is and what is says."

"Dear colleagues,
There’s a query on the AUSIT E-bulletin you may be able to help with. I wonder whether you can identify the language below. It appears to have elements of Esperanto, but could be an artificially constructed language. It would be interesting to hear what you think. You are welcome to pass it on to anyone you think might know.
Regards and thanks,"

"I've done a quick frequency count to confirm my basic instinct, which is: this is not a natural language.
 For me the basic problem is that (a) there are no plausible function words (which you would expect to be short and, crucially, to have a reasonable frequency in a text of this length), and (b) there is little evidence of morphology doing the work of function words instead.
 Virtually all words appear only once. The only exceptions (all with 2 occurrences) are: inaini, inaova, nilo, osaisi and naski (the last reduplicated).
 Other things that make me suspicious are the very uniform length of the words, and the bizarre-looking mixture of spelling conventions from different European cultural areas (ie, mostly vaguely Romance-looking, but cf. anaitz, mack, cieunicek, clesch, shaich, trinov, etc).
 On the other hand, the very beginning makes me wonder if it wasn't someone trying to transcribe a language which they didn't know. Note how the first six 'words' are then immediately rewritten, but as three words... So of course that throws all the word-divisions in doubt.
 Secret, private language? Glossolalia? An inept attempt to transcribe Romanian?
 Not particularly helpful, I'm afraid. I'd be interested to hear if you get any more positive identification."

"Thanks  for doing the frequency count and for your suggestions, which agree with Andrew’s view that it is likely to be an artificial or secret language.
There has been one suggestion on the AUSIT website:
 “It seems that your language is paralingua, a computer-generated program which produces anagrams of English words. Ex in your text: Tiadelmpo= Diplomate. Pure nonsense.
 Apart from the misspelling of diplomat, I somehow doubt that the anagrams were computer-generated, as the document is hand-written and may predate computers. I haven’t tried to unscramble the words but also doubt that doing this would produce an English text.
Any more comments would be welcome."

"Plus, just to save anyone else the trouble of doing it, attached is the frequency list. Of course I might have misinterpreted some letters (eg not always clear what's a 'y' and what's a 'z')."

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