Special language

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Special languages are forms of language that are only used by some of the members within a language community. They emerge when a particular group of speakers wants to meet special linguistic needs; Above all, this includes the need to distinguish themselves from other speakers of the language community or the fulfillment of professional / technical tasks using a technical language with its own linguistic requirements.

A broad term of special language relates to any language variety (age- or group-specific, job-specific and subject-specific) that differs from the standard language; narrow terms of special language make a different selection from this. “In the past, all group-specific languages ​​were considered special languages. Later, the class and technical languages ​​were separated out and the characteristic of the special languages ​​was seen in the concealing function of the language form of minorities who were ostracized (discriminated) by society and / or separated themselves (search for group identity). "

Features of special languages

The main feature of a special language is its own vocabulary, which can be used for terminological precision, but also to distinguish it from other groups of speakers. Other features can be added, such as special inflection or word formation patterns.

Examples of special languages

Depending on whether you are using a narrow or a broad concept of special language, a certain language variety may or may not be included. The different forms of rogue language can be cited as extreme cases , but also school or student language and professional jargons . In a broader sense, it also includes the many professional , technical and scientific languages as well as the sociolects .

Constructed special languages

Constructed special languages are characterized by the fact that they were created by an individual or a small group of such. While they can be used as secret languages and are sometimes called that, they are primarily only used to consolidate group identity. They are mostly religious or subcultural groups. Gender-linked special languages ​​also occur. The delimiting function of the special languages ​​is exactly the opposite of the bridging function sought by the international planned languages .

Medefaidrin can be mentioned as an example of a constructed special language . It is an a priori language with its own script, the vocabulary of which was revealed to the initiators "by the Holy Spirit". Medefaidrin has been used by the small neo-religious community of Oberi Okaime in southeastern Nigeria since the late 1920s . The grammar of the language is more similar to that of English than that of the local Ibibio language . Medefaidrin is now rarely in use.

Another example is the language of the Eskaya , a cultural minority on the Philippine island of Bohol . This language appears to have been created shortly after 1900 within a religious resistance group, after the Americans took possession of the island (like the rest of the Philippines) as a colony. This language also has a largely a priori vocabulary and its own syllabary . Their grammar mirrors that of the local Cebuano . The first written document is from 1908. The Eskaya language is still taught today and used by around 100 families in prayers, chants and formal speeches.

In terms of origin and structure, Medefaidrin and the Eskaya language are reminiscent of the medieval lingua ignota of Hildegard von Bingen , of which little more than a list of words and the alphabet have survived. The lingua ignota appears as an immature fetus of a constructed special language. The better developed Balaibalan , which was created in the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, was apparently intended as a special language of this kind, but in this case it is not known to what extent the language was practiced.

A constructed special language of a different kind is Damin , the former special language of adult men on the island of Mornington in the north of Australia. This language differs from the ones already mentioned not only in its differently defined speaker group, but also in its radical linguistic properties - an extravagant phoneme inventory and a minimalist store of morphemes . The language was taught as part of an initiation ceremony. This practice came to an end with the Christian mission that began there in 1914, and with it the continued existence of the Damin.

At least one of the fictional artificial languages, namely Klingon , has also come into use as a special language. It is practiced at their gatherings by a small but enthusiastic group of fans of the American science fiction television series Star Trek , for which the language was created in 1984.


  • Hadumod Bußmann (Ed.) With the collaboration of Hartmut Lauffer: Lexikon der Sprachwissenschaft. 4th, revised and bibliographically supplemented edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2008, ISBN 978-3-520-45204-7 .
  • Helmut Glück (Ed.): Metzler Lexicon Language . 4th edition; Verlag JB Metzler, Stuttgart and Weimar, 2010, ISBN 3-476-02335-4
  • Dieter Möhn: Special languages. In: Lexicon of German Linguistics. 2nd, completely revised and enlarged edition. Edited by Hans Peter Althaus, Helmut Henne, Herbert Ernst Wiegand. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1980, pp. 384-390; Quotation p. 384. ISBN 3-484-10389-2 .

Individual evidence

  1. ^ For example, the linguistic dictionaries by Bußmann and Lewandowski.
  2. Harro Gross: Introduction to German Linguistics. 3rd, revised and expanded edition, revised by Klaus Fischer. Iudicium, Munich 1998, p. 171. ISBN 3-89129-240-6 .
  3. ^ Theodor Lewandowski: Linguistic Dictionary. 4., rework. Aufl. Quelle & Meyer, Heidelberg 1984. ISBN 3-494-02020-5 . Article: "Special languages".
  4. See also Harro Gross, p. 171.
  5. so z. B. with Alessandro Bausani : secret and universal languages. Development and typology , Kohlhammer, Stuttgart 1970.
  6. Dafydd Gibbon, Moses Ekpenyong & Eno-Abasi Urua (2010) "Medefaidrin: Resources documenting the birth and death language life-cycle" in Proceedings of the Seventh conference on International Language Resources and Evaluation (LREC'10)} , {May19- 21, Valletta, Malta}, ISBN 2-9517408-6-7 . ( PDF , 2.34 MB).
  7. ^ Sarah L. Higley: Hildegard of Bingen's Unknown Language: An Edition, Translation and Discussion Palgrave Macmillan, 2007.
  8. Arika Okrent: In the Land of Invented Languages: Esperanto Rock Stars, Klingon Poets, Loglan Lovers, and the Mad Dreamers Who Tried to Build A Perfect Language. Spiegel & Grau, New York 2009.

Web links

Wiktionary: special language  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations