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Conlang SUPERL by US Coast Guard Linguists

From:Jay Bowks <jjbowks@...>
Date:Saturday, November 6, 1999, 14:46
Here's a blast from the past...
Conlang SUPERL an article from 1991
Amazing what a crew of US Coast Guard
Linguists can accoplish... be all that you
can be... oh, that's the Army isn't it? Oh well :-)))

Jay B.


Dat: Thu, 25 Jul 91 12:14 EDT
Fro: Ronald Hale-Evans (apple!!EVANS)

                            Charles E. Elliott

Your request for information [writes Lt. Comdr. Boethius C. Heminstitch,
the Public Relations Officer of the division of Unusual Languages of the
U.S. Coast Guard] about SUPERL has been forwarded to me. I hope that you
will not take offense because I have not used SUPERL in this letter; it has
been a long-standing policy of this office to answer all requests in the
language of the request.

As you probably already know, SUPERL is a language devised to replace all
of the so-called natural languages. It is streamlined and rationally
designed and has every advantage over the "natural" languages.

SUPERL was developed by a team of U.S. Coast Guard linguists on an
abandoned oil rig off Santa Barbara. The Coast Guard sponsored this
research and development project for obvious reasons having to do with
interservice funding. The project stretched over a period of six months and
resulted in Coast Guard handbooks in SUPERL Grammar, SUPERL Phonology, and
SUPERL Readers I and II. At present an exhaustive SUPERL Dictionary is
under preparation. Over five hundred centers for teaching SUPERL have been
established, and it is already the official language of several government

The advantages of SUPERL are many. Using it, speakers may talk directly in
mathematics, physics, chemistry, spherical trigonometry, and anthropology,
without the necessity of an intervening language. It of course makes direct
conversion of the foot-pound-Fahrenheit system to the metric-Celsius
system, thus relieving users of laborious and time-consuming computations.
In its binary mode, SUPERL may be used directly with computers, bypassing
any computer languages. With SUPERL a thesaurus is unnecessary: an
alphabetical listing *is* a thesaurus. The real relationships of concepts
are phonologically represented, and the unwholesome arbitrariness of
phonetic symbolization is done away with.

The articulation of SUPERL involves many facial muscles, so that it is
impossible to say something illogical in SUPERL without at least a weak
smile. Blatant absurdities result in broad grins and repeated winks.

However, while these are major advantages, they might be built into
"natural" languages. SUPERL has, in addition, two characteristics that no
"natural" language has: truth and compactness.

Grammatical utterances in SUPERL are always *true*. Thus, new truths about
the universe can be discovered by babbling. This has obvious advantages.
Speakers of SUPERL have at their tongue tip (so to speak) the combined
knowledge of mankind, and, what is more, all the facts about the universe
they will ever need. The Coast Guard is presently exploiting this
characteristic in a unique project. Thirty garrulous people have been
gathered in our laboratory in Peoria and instructed to talk about whatever
interests them. What they say is recorded and will be compiled into the
SUPERL Encyclopedia. We modestly hope that ultimately this will be the
Ultimate Compendium of All Knowledge. If it is ever declassified it may
prove of interest to scholars and teachers.

The grammar of SUPERL is equipped for many uses. For example, history can
be recounted using the past perfect. Count nouns are used for the nobility,
and there are mass nouns for the people. And not only does it have a
passive voice for the cautious, it even has a future tense for the anxious.

SUPERL is, in addition, amazingly compact. What may be a lengthy exegesis
in a "natural" language is often a simple sentence in SUPERL. A classic
example of this is B.A. Booper's refutation of stratificational analysis.
It was a single word! Whole novels have been written on the back of Howard
Johnson menus. SUPERL lends itself quite naturally to poetry. For example:


--which shows a height of lyricism not often attained in awkward "natural"
languages. The approximate English translation is "As the moon casts
silvery fingers (*or* greasy forks) over the spider's (*or* lampshade's
*or* fodder's) back, does he (*or* the moon) care, really care? I will
return (*or* become nauseous) to my beloved (*or* the general public). Is
there any other way? (*or* Do you have any oranges?)" The entire works of
Shakespeare are being translated into SUPERL; the result is expected to be
a single trilogy of plays. There may be some difficulties with actual
production, for, as one writer observed, "The cast is large, but the
soliloquies are short."

In spite of the many advantages of SUPERL, large numbers of people still
sullenly refuse to say anything in it. We guess that this may be the result
of half-baked rumors and spurious opinions about SUPERL. It would be well
to straighten out a few expressions of anti-SUPERL sentiment.

Some object because speakers seem to be unable to make jokes in SUPERL. This
seems to be a rather pointless objection. Jokes have their place, but there
are all sorts of practical jokes that don't require any use of language at
all. Let those who cite this as an objection stitch a friend's trouser legs
together, or pour olive oil into their wives' cocktail glasses. In any case,
to satisfy these spoilsports, we may point out that already a team of United
States Coast Guard Transmogrificational Grammarians is at work devising a
of standard jokes that may be recited in SUPERL.

That chimpanzees seem to be able to learn SUPERL faster and better than
human beings is not really an objection to the language, either. There is
simply a difference between the brains of chimps and the brains of human
beings. *Vive la diffe'rence!*

The rumor that a certain anthropological finding, an artifact, had no name
in SUPERL, and that proponents of SUPERL subsequently smashed and disposed
of the artifact, has no truth in it. Speakers of SUPERL have tested this
rumor by trying to repeat it in SUPERL. They were able to repeat this
rumor, but only with broad grins and guffaws. Thus, even if true, the rumor
had to be most illogical.

The most vicious rumor is that it is possible to say "The world is coming
to an end soon" in SUPERL without even the hint of a smile. This we must
simply discount. If the present trend of diversity in "natural" languages
continues to pollute our linguistic atmosphere, we really *are* in for
trouble. Let the anti-SUPERLites consider that, instead of carping at a
minor inconsistency in SUPERL.

I hope I have given you the information you require. You may be amused to
know that there *are* dirty words in SUPERL. In the interests of National
Security, however, these words have been classified and may be used only by
the highest echelons of the government and the military.

Please write me directly if you are in need of further information about
SUPERL. I would also be grateful if you would forward to me the names of
any you hear being critical of SUPERL. Please indicate in your report if
they are supported by any government moneys.


[The preceding "Non-Fact Article" appeared in the science fiction anthology
*Universe 10*, edited by Terry Carr, published in hardcover by Doubleday &
Co. and in paperback by Zebra Books.]