Sunday, May 26, 2013

Geeky Linguistics, Part 2

In yesterday's post we introduced 1337 (pronounced "leet"), a convention whereby its users replace regular letters from the Latin alphabet for numerical characters in order to evade censorship and generally to be less n00b-like.

We didn't, however, cover some of the more interesting lexical elements of 1337. Adding the suffix -age to almost any word seems to make it a noun and -ness is used to convert adjectives into nouns.

Only a geek would do this to their car.
Of course, 1337 isn't the only way geeks can communicate. Many conlangs from television shows have become popular means for their fans to talk to one another. Klingon is very popular with fans of Star Trek, just as Elvish is with fans of Tolkien.

As with most conlangs, it's very difficult to measure and moderate speakers since there are no particular nations with native speakers of the language. This leaves conlangs with very low numbers of native and fluent speakers. Esperanto, the most successful conlang in the world, has fewer than 1,000 native speakers, so it follows that other conlangs from television, literature or cinema would have even fewer speakers.

Perhaps the nerdiest way to communicate would be via ASCII. The system is used to convert binary (the base-2 system that represents "on" and "off" in electronics) into our regular 26-character alphabet and beyond. Given that each letter is represented by seven bits, this would probably take far too long unless the data was transmitted at a very high speed, though it's essentially what we're doing right now.