It was no surprise to us that Frank Quipley chose a luxury food-and-wine Alaskan cruise for his third vacation of the summer. Like his expensive continental suits, Dr. Quipley was tailor-made for the cruising lifestyle. The only time we’ve ever seen him break into a sweat was the day the air conditioning was broken.
Dr. Quipley started his talk with a fifteen-minute introduction with pictures from his trip. We eagerly anticipated seeing breathtaking photographs of the stunning sea and majestic mountain views of the Pacific Northwest. Instead, nearly every picture was taken inside the cruise ship’s dining room. The food looked so mouthwatering we could smell it. Our noses did not deceive us; Dr. Quipley served us some small replicas of the dishes that he had had his personal chef make up. We were pretty sure we saw the name “Rothschild” on one of the wine bottles in his picture. The wine Dr. Quipley brought in for us wasn’t quite that fancy—he spoke somewhat disparagingly of it being “troisième cru”, whatever that means—but it was still a lot better than the wine they usually serve at talks (the one with a chicken on the label).
It turned out that Dr. Quipley was not merely a voyager on the trip. He had made an important discovery!
Dr. Quipley reports on an interesting phenomenon occurring in southeast Alaska. Faced with a declining number of speakers, the Tlingit people are attempting to revitalize their language. However, some Tlingit youth in remote communities are less interested in their historical roots and more interested in the science fiction shows on television. They have created a hybrid language called Tlingon that borrows liberally from the sci-fi conlang K******.1
Dr. Quipley interviewed Tlingit speakers on both sides of the divide. “We didn’t work this hard just so they could start wrecking the language,” said one stunned tribal leader. But those in the next generation are unfazed by the linguistic insurrection. “Native languages have always changed after first contact with other peoples,” said one Alaskan Tlingon speaker. “They shouldn’t view our enterprise as their nemesis. Anyway, we never use these words when speaking with our more conservative eastern neighbo[u]rs. They get pretty animated when we do. The last thing we want to do is invoke the wrath of Canada.”
In the second half of his talk, Dr. Quipley surveyed other natlang/conlang hybrids through the ages. Novialbanian is unusual for having a larger share of words derived from Old Albanian than either of its parent languages. Esperañol was an attempted genderless simplification of Spanish that never caught on because all of the nouns were perceived to be masculine and all of the adjectives feminine, and nobody could agree how to make that work. The one attempt at a natlang/engelang hybrid, Natural Loglan, topped out at a little under three speakers. Dr. Quipley then launched into a long overview of his conlang, which is specifically constructed to communicate from the viewpoint of male speakers...
There are a number of reasons why we stopped taking notes here; suffice it to say that by this point the food-and-wine coma had fully kicked in, and it was difficult to hear him above the sounds of contented snoring that echoed throughout the lecture hall. In any case, we’re skeptical of his story. His cruise may have passed close to the Tlingit-speaking area, but we doubt that he would have left the table long enough to do any actual work.
Our editors’ consensus is Don’t Believe It... Or Do?
1 The SpecGram legal department informs us that it is of paramount importance not to name this language.