Simlish and Language

If you’ve ever played any of the Sims games, you know that the characters “speak” in a series of sounds including pitch, cadence and vocal tone to indicate emotion.

muscle_boy just asked me if I speak Simlish[1].  I thought about it and commented I didn’t think Simlish was really a language as we generally define it.  While it does convey a rather interesting nuance of emotion, there are neither nouns nor verbs, so one cannot describe objects nor one’s relationship to them in Simlish.

Language wonks?  I’m curious about your opinion of this.  Can a language be a language if it only conveys emotional state, but cannot describe the physical world?

[1] He knows I pick up languages pretty easily, even invented languages from movies.  Yes, I understand Huttese, Elvish and Klingon.  By the Return of the King, I did not have to read the subtitles to understand the Elvish.

One Reply to “Simlish and Language”

  1. If you want to see linguists coming to blows over a subject, ask “is this a language?” and step back.

    The problem is that “language” is not a well-defined term.

    Overall, it sounds like Simlish is a sort of a jargon, which my dictionary defines as “the language, esp. the vocabulary, peculiar to a particular trade, profession, or group.” My guess is that the grammar is primarily based on English, and a relexification of American English grammar with words more suitable for Simlife.

    In very general terms, what distinguishes one language from another is more the grammar than the vocabulary. Of course, some languages use primarily the vocabulary of one language and the grammar of another (I’m thinking of pidgins and creoles, here).

    As to how limited a thing can be and still be called a language: the first definition of language in my dictionary is “a body of words and the systems for their use common to a people who are of the same community or nation, the same geographical area, or the same cultural tradition” – and Sims are a community. So if he wants to call it a language, he has some claim to it. (Sort of. Only he should be careful about saying that in a community of linguists, who use the word “language” differently.)

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