October 12, 2007

Berzerkistani phonology

In case you missed it earlier this week: when Duke is told in this Doonesbury strip that the name of the President-for-Life of Greater Berzerkistan is Trff Bmzklfrpz, he repeats the surname back in puzzlement: "Bmzklfrpz?" The Berzerkistani official who is escorting him to see the President-for-Life explains: "It's pronounced "Ptklm". Scholars of the Berzerkistanian language family of Central Asia will not be surprised (colloquial Berzerkistani is known to have a rather different phonology from the older Classical Berzerkistani that is still in ceremonial use), but I thought some Language Log readers might find the interchange interesting.

Later, when Duke actually gets beyond the Corridor of Broken Crystal into the presidential presence, he addresses the President as "Excellency", and is rebuked in this strip: "You are to address me as President-for-Life Trff Bmzklfrpz!"

Duke replies: "I wish I could, sir."

"No problem," says the President-for-Life; "We'll have your tongue surgically curled."

Further evidence for the specialists there regarding the exact pronunciation of the contemporary reflexes of the complex series of Classical Berzerkistani apico-coronals.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at October 12, 2007 04:41 AM