Pig Latin is a language game primarily used in English, although the rules can be easily modified to apply to most any language. Pig Latin is usually used by children, who will often use it to converse in (perceived) privacy from adults, or simply for amusement, although sometimes adults will use it around very young children to discuss topics they don't want the child to hear. The impact of Pig Latin on the English language proper is minimal, although certain Pig Latin translations, most notably ixnay and amscray, have been incorporated into English slang. The British name for Pig Latin is backslang. Pig Latin is also used by tourists in foreign countries where its inhabitants have an appreciation for the English language and one wishes that the general public are not privy to the conversation, for example, when dealing with Balinese street vendors.
The rules are roughly:
- For words that begin with consonant sounds, move all the consonant sounds to the end of the word and add "ay." Thus,ball becomes "all-bay"; button becomes "utton-bay"; star becomes "ar-stay"; three becomes "ee-thray"; question becomes "estion-quay"
- For words that begin with vowel sounds, simply add a syllable ending in "ay" to the end of the word. Variation of this rule make for many of the "dialects" of Pig Latin. The various syllables that are added after vowel-initial words are "way", "yay", "hay", and just plain "ay". Thus, a becomes "a-way", "a-yay", "a-hay", or "a-ay", depending on the dialect. Similarly, honest becomes "honest-way" etc. because even though it begins with the consonant letter h, the word begins with a vowel sound.
A Pig Latin example text follows:
- Is-thay is-way an-way example-way of-way Ig-pay Atin-lay. As-way ou-yay an-cay ee-say, its-way illy-say, ut-bay ots-lay of-way un-fay or-fay ildren-chay.
Actually this is a common misconception when using Pig Latin. The correct form is to rearrange ONLY the first letter, no matter what the word, and add the -ay suffix; however in some words it causes the word to sound wrong and/or be difficult to say, which is one reason why the misconception came about in the first place. The other 'dialects' of Pig were made to counter the difficulty of saying words rearranging the first letter only, and are now acceptable in common use; but originally Pig Latin consisted only of rearranging the first letter to the end, not syllable.
It should be noted that there is no "standard" for Pig Latin, although the principle of moving the initial consonants to the end of a word and adding "ay" is universal. Like most languages, there are many different forms, or "dialects" of Pig Latin. These tend to be semi-geographical in usage, as one would expect for any spoken language, although this is particularly true for Pig Latin because Pig Latin is rarely used in mass media. Different language games often have their own names, but are sometimes referred to as "Pig Latin" as a general descriptive. The widest dialectical variation in Pig Latin is in the treatment of vowel-initial words, as described in rule 2. However, some dialects have an alternate version of rule 1: move only the first consonant to the end of the word, retaining any other consonants in the initial consonant cluster at the beginning of the word. Using this rule, street becomes "treet-say" and truck becomes "ruck-tay". Another alternation of this rule is to move the non-sonorant portion of the initial consonant cluster, leaving behind "l" or "r". Thus, street becomes "reet-stay" rather than "eet-stray" or "treet-say". The variations in rule 1 are relatively rare, while the variations in rule 2 are widespread.
Pig Latin is not one to one; that is, there exist pairs of words in English such that they have the same "translation" into Pig Latin. For instance, with the "way" variation of rule 2, itch and witch both become "itch-way".
Language games, including Pig Latin, are sometimes the subject of serious academic research by linguists. The study of language games like Pig Latin can reveal information about how people internally represent phonetic information like syllable structure that is not easily discovered using other methods of language study. There is a plethora of information on the Web, including theses and articles by learned language academicians, researchers, lay-persons, hobbyists, and others.
- English to Pig Latin translator
- Google in Pig Latin
- Translater offering web-browsing in Pig Latin and other English variations