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Dec 17

Fun with the Ngram Viewer

Posted on Friday, December 17, 2010 in Online Resources

I just found the new Ngram Viewer from Google Labs. This new tool allows for searches of specific words in Google Books and displays them as a graph. Playing around with some conlang-related terms, I found:

  • Poor conlang doesn’t even register.
  • Esperanto shows a peak around the 1930s.
  • Klingon peaks in 2001.
  • Volapuk (yes, sans umlaut) had it’s highest occurrence between 1880 and 2008 in 1898, with a steady decline since then.

One has to remember that two words typed in the search box without quotes can occur across sentence boundaries as well as in contexts other than the one intended. I tried the phrase constructed language and while it does have a number of occurrences pertaining to our favorite craft, it also has occurrences like “Certainly every science should seek for a well constructed language ; but it were to take the effect for the cause, to suppose that there are well established sciences, because there are well formed languages” (Elements of Psychology, 1834).

In any case, it’s an interesting tool and just plain fun to play around with.

Nov 21

An Article and a Link

Posted on Saturday, November 21, 2009 in Library Additions

Two new resources have been added to TCL:

The first is an article from the University of Minnesota’s Minnesota Daily newspaper posted in Newspaper Articles. It’s about the local Minnesota company that wrote the app for the Klingon Dictionary (but also include information about d’Armond Speers’ 3-year “experiment” in speaking Klingon to his son).

The other resource, posted in the Linguistics Online Resources page, is a handy online tool for converting IPA characters into HTML: θæŋk ju


Sep 12

Conlangers Extraordinaire #3: Marc Okrand

Posted on Saturday, September 12, 2009 in Conlangers

Marc Okrand

Marc Okrand

This third in the conlangers extraordinaire series highlights one of the best known “professional” conlangers. As a side note, having an email exchange with Dr. Okrand was one of the coolest things about creating the Esperanto, Elvish, and Beyond exhibit

Marc Okrand is Director of Live Captioning at the National Captioning Institute (NCI) in Vienna, Virginia, near Washington, DC. Celebrating his 25th year at NCI in 2005, Okrand is a pioneer in the use of closed-captioning for live television broadcasts. He has a Ph.D. in Linguistics from the University of California, Berkeley, where he specialized in Native American languages. His dissertation, a grammar of Mutsun, remains a seminal work in the study of Costanoan languages. He taught linguistics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was a post-doctoral fellow in the Anthropology Department of the Smithsonian Institute.

Dr. Okrand’s link to conlanging came about through a chance meeting in California while on assignment for NCI’s first major live captioning event, the 1982 Academy Awards. Okrand met a long-time friend for lunch who was working with Harve Bennett, Executive Director of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. The movie needed a linguist to create some dialogue in Vulcan to be dubbed over Leonard Nimoy and Kirstie Alley speaking English. Okrand was recruited for the job and remembers driving home from the set one day thinking, “Oh, my God, I just taught Mr. Spock how to speak Vulcan!” Those four lines in Vulcan were to be just the beginning.

Two years later, Bennett was working on Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and called upon Okrand’s expertise again. The assignment this time was to create a language for the alien warrior race of Klingons. James Doohan, who played Star Trek’s Scotty, had actually coined a few words of Klingon for the first Star Trek movie. Okrand took the sounds of those words as a starting point and created the language known today as Klingon. On set for the filming of Star Trek III, Okrand had veto power over takes (although he learned to use this power sparingly) if the actors mispronounced their Klingon lines. During this process, the language evolved into a “real” language. After the film, Klingon took on a life of its own. Okrand wrote three books about the language (including the essential Klingon Dictionary), recorded language learning audiotapes, and worked on a CD-ROM game related to learning Klingon. He also shows up from time to time at the Klingon Language Institute’s annual qep’a’

In addition to Vulcan and Klingon, Okrand also created the Atlantean language for the 2001 Disney animated feature Atlantis: The Lost Empire. Atlantean is based, in part, on Indo-European roots to give it an ancient quality. Okrand also got to work with Leonard Nimoy again on this project. It is rumored that the character of the linguist in the film, Milo Thatch (voiced by Michael J. Fox), is based on Marc Okrand because the filmmakers didn’t really know what a linguist should look like and decided to use Dr. Okrand as a model.

May 20

Conlanging Comes to the iPhone

Posted on Wednesday, May 20, 2009 in Uncategorized

Klingon iphone suite I had to include this iPhone app on the blog: The Klingon Language Suite for the iPhone is scheduled to be released by Ultralingua and Simon & Schuster. I tried to find it on the Apple Store, but it doesn’t appear available yet. Now, all we need are iPhone apps for Teonaht, Kamakawi, and Ithkuil.

For some online videos of Klingon, including a great piece by Steve Carrell, check out the Online Video page of The Conlanger’s Library.