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Query Details

Query Subject:   Pig Latin
Author:   Leena Kolehmainen
Submitter Email:  click here to access email

Query:   Dear Linguists,

we are doing research on the Finnish word


meaning ‘Pig Latin’ or ‘gibberish’.

The Finnish word is polysemous meaning (a) ‘a secret language/a language game’ and (b) ‘nonsense / a not understandable language / words that are impossible to understand ’.

In order to better understand the Finnish word and its semantics we thought that it might be useful and interesting to take into account other languages and similar expressions in other languages, too.

We are very grateful to you if you can spare some time for our questions and share your thoughts and expertise with us. Naturally, we will provide a summary.

We are primarily interested in following aspects (but please do not hesitate to suggest us other perspectives, too):

- Are there studies on the etymology of the English word ? What is the primary/original semantic motivation between the components of the expression?

- Words and expressions in other languages meaning ‘Pig Latin’ or ‘gibberish’: Are there other languages in which names of animals are used to refer to human communicative practise? Is it a common tendency in the languages of the world to use names of animals in similar expressions?

- Is it a broader trend in the languages of world to use names of foreign languages in similar expressions (cf. ‘German’ in the Finnish word , in English )?

- The previous linguistic study on the Finnish word ’Pig Latin’ (published 1916) seems to suggest that the meaning ‘secret language/language game’ is the original one and that the meaning ‘nonsense’ has developed on later stages.
Is this semantic development a common tendency that has occured in other languages, too, and can you perhaps give us examples from other languages?

It would be very helpful if you could provide your examples (from languages other than English) with glosses. Please reply to Leena’s address.

With best regards,

Leena Kolehmainen (e-mail:*
Eija Jokinen (e-mail:**

* Dept. of German, U of Helsinki, Finland
** Dept. of German, U of Tampere, Finland
LL Issue: 15.901
Date posted: 08-Mar-2004


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