A really simple but effective method to create an unintelligble language from a given language is applying a substitution cipher to the vocabulary. In order to be pronouncable, vowels should be substituted with vowels, and consonants with other consonant of comparable sonority.

It is of course a special case of a relexification, but is there a specific term for this?

  • 1
    "Substitution cipher" would be an appropriate term. – Oliver Mason Sep 20 '18 at 8:28

"code" or "coded language". Probably mostly used in conjunction with sign languages, where the signs replace the (spoken) words (e.g. Signing Exact English as opposed to "natural" signed languages), but also for "encoded" spoken languages (either by relexification or phoneme substitution).

  • There is no need to put scare quotes around "natural." Sign languages like ASL ARE natural languages. – James Grossmann Oct 7 '18 at 17:39

I think we could use some terms from physics here. Let's say a relex is isochor (alternative: isomek from Ancient Greek mêkos "length") if it preserves length of words, and isotonic (alternative: isoson/isosonor/isosonic, a Latin-Greek mix) if it preserves sonority patterns. Your substitution cipher would then be an isochor-isotonic relexification.

  • But is it really a relexification? It's an encoding, not a different language. – Oliver Mason Oct 10 '18 at 14:42
  • Relexification just means that the vocabulary of a language is changed to get a new language. And OP clearly wanted a new language, not only a cipher or encoding. ("method to create an unintelligble language", line 1) – Richard Oct 10 '18 at 15:36

I have never heard of a "substitution cypher language."

One might adduce Pig Latin or Double Dutch as examples of such a thing, but these are not conlangs. They are typically called "language games." A substitution cypher is not a language--it's a way of disguising one or more languages.

To qualify as a conlang, a constructed communication system has to have its own grammar and its own way of mapping meanings onto words.

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