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Tarzan and His “Languages”

Posted on Monday, June 15, 2009 in Fiction

This article highlights a new exhibit on Tarzan in the Musée du Quai Branly, the museum near the base of the Eiffel Tower. Our conlang connection comes in with this paragraph:

Tarzan’s first spoken language, in the original novel of 1912, was ape-speak – long before scientists discovered that apes do have a language. The exhibition’s catalogue contains a fascinating linguistic study of the words used by Tarzan’s adoptive ape clan, “the Waziris”. They have 250 words, including several verbs, which are used only in the infinitive, rather like George Orwell’s Newspeak. It is worth noting that Tarzan’s second spoken language in the original novel was French, learned from a French officer rescued from cannibals.

This link gives a nice summary of the languages in Edgar Rice Burrough’s Tarzan series. Here is a nice online glossary of Mangani, the language of the apes.

Yel dan-do, yo!

UPDATE: National Public Radio did a news story on the Tarzan exhibit on Aug. 11, 2009.

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