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Inkling: The Language of Splatoon

Discussion in 'Regular Discussion' started by Mithical1, Apr 24, 2015.

  1. Zenith05

    Zenith05 Inkling

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    I have a theory:
    I've heard that the spoken language is backwards Japanese, but I don't know Japanese so I can't verify this. Someone who speaks Japanese should try playing an audio clip of the squid sisters' song backwards and see if they can make sense out of it.
    As for the written language, I think it depends between versions. The squid research lab poster is in english, and (at least for me) it's pretty easy to see where the characters come in to the Inkling from the English. However, some of the other text is probably based of Japanese in the English version, (however I can't verify this as I'm not a Japanese speaker.) even in the English copy of the game. Anyway, my guess is some of the text is distorted / combined characters of either English or Japanese. (Maybe some other languages too, they may have based different text off of different languages so everyone in the world might recognize some without them having to translate it.) This being said, It would be very difficult to tell which language the particular word of Inkling came from. "Inkling" might come from Japanese, English, Arabic, and tons of others depending on the text.
    What should be tested is: Is the "Inkling" text in the English version the same in the Japanese, and other versions?
    This would make progress in proving or disproving my theory.
    I haven't really looked very far into this, but feel free to give your thoughts on this.
     
  2. PiyozR

    PiyozR Senior Squid

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    Linguistics nerd reporting in.

    I joined this forum specifically to share my research in the languages of Splatoon. All my notes (meager so far) can be found here:

    As has basically been established in this thread, languages created in video games are not exactly languages. Octane's right in that they're merely ciphers for Japanese or English with different symbols. Hylian in its different forms is merely Japanese or English with under a fantasy-style disguise, not too different from what the major military powers or World War II or maybe Ancient Greece did. In terms of word structure and grammar, Hylian and Inkling are not languages. Which is what disappoints me.

    Over the next week or so, I'm going to be working on a proper language. I've been assembling all the characters I can find and noticed some trends:

    First, there are two alphabets seen in the world of Splatoon. All over Inkopolis on signs, logos and clothing we see Inkling. Inkling is very square and compact in a way that reminds me of Japanese, Chinese, and Korean. In the Sunken Scrolls and in some single player maps, we can see other distinct characters that are taller and skinnier, reminiscent of Western alphabets like in Romantic and Germanic writing systems. I've found most of these characters next to images tied to Octarian society, leading me to conclude that this is an Octarian alphabet.

    Second, the consistency of these alphabets is tough to grasp. With Hylian, the text is pretty uniform as it's all inscribed on stone or written by scribes or whatever. In Splatoon, it's a more developed, consumer-driven, modern world with adverts with all manner of spiffy graphic design. Thus, words are not drawn the same way all the time. There's serif and non-serif. There's round and loopy (Inkopolis) and some more formal and rectangle (Sunken Scrolls). It's not easy to tell which character is which all the time.

    Third, the variety of characters in Inkling is deceptively easy to understand. Refer to the bottom half of the second image on that linked page. Most Inkling characters are simply rotated variations of others. Aside from spinning and adding marks, there aren't even that many letters. I haven't seen specific characters being shown more than others, leading me to believe that this shouldn't be a phonetic alphabet. That's to say, in English, we see "e" and "i" and "a" much more than other letters because each letter represents one phone, or one sound. Inkling and Octarian, therefore, are more syllabic, which means that one symbol will represent one syllable of spoken words. One vowel + consonant, one consonant + vowel, or one consonant + vowel + consonant. It's like Chinese, in which one scribbly character is tied to one syllable like "lin" or "bao" or "zhong" or "qi" or "feng".

    Fourth, I haven't been able to put together much in terms of numbers or punctuation.

    Fifth, you're a kid now you're a squid now you're a kid now you're a squid now yo-

    I'm going to keep finding as many symbols as I can find before I write them all down and start assigning sounds to them. From there, we'll be able to write and speak a very unofficial Inkling! And Octarian! There will also be some basic grammar so you can write sentences, too.

    Please let me know what you think and please share any symbols of Inkling and Octarian that I missed.
     
  3. eli

    eli Senior Squid

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    Thanks for your great contribution PiyozR! I look forward to hearing more. :) I have a whole folder of screenshots (~100 images) I've taken in-game, from trailers/clips/streams, official artwork, etc. that shows the writing system – I haven't gotten it sorted out as to what you've already recorded and what you haven't, but I'd be happy to share it.

    While I'd love to look more into this and dedicate a ton of my time to it, I just got the game tonight…… and will be aching to play even more in the near future. :)

    _____

    Anyway, I noticed an image from the Splatoon Single Player Trailer is very reminiscent of exit signs found throughout Japan… assuming it says "EXIT" (which it really looks like it does, and which would make sense), and assuming the nametags plastered around Inkopolis say "HELLO" at the top (again, makes sense, and you see the character in the 'L' position indeed repeated, like in the word 'Hello'), if we take both to be correct readings, at least one character has multiple readings. See attached image. I'm beginning to think they just came up with a character set and arbitrarily put in characters in place of text in the Latin (English)/Japanese alphabets, especially where they looked similar, reminiscent of those "foreign-looking" typefaces and such…

    Supporting this (unfortunate) probably-realistic conclusion is that it doesn't appear that the picture of the amiibo box in three scripts I posted a while back have any sort of simple cipher that can lead us from from the Inkling to either the Japanese or English versions…
     

    Attached Files:

    #103 eli, Jun 9, 2015
    Last edited: Jun 9, 2015
    RadioactiveMoth likes this.
  4. eli

    eli Senior Squid

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    It's not. I tried it with this song from the Nintendo Direct just to confirm. You can generally tell when something sounds like a natural language, even backwards, but the Inkling spoken "language" has always just sounded like weird little squid noises. I'm sure we hear bits that sound like English (or Japanese, if you speak that) – sort of like "audio pareidolia" … as evidenced by missingno's post here and Dirty Duck's here.

    If the spoken language isn't just gibberish I'll probably scream for days on end.

    And yes, the Inkling writing system is the same in all localizations/versions of the game.
     
    RadioactiveMoth likes this.
  5. RadioactiveMoth

    RadioactiveMoth Squidibli

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    It's really looking like that. However, there's so many characters that maybe there's an alphabet for English, Hiragana, and Katakana. I'm not sure, though. I don't have much faith in it not being arbitrary characters made to look cool.
     
  6. Jet

    Jet Full Squid

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    I believe there are separate squid and octopi languages
     
  7. Joseph Staleknight

    Joseph Staleknight Inkling Fleet Admiral

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    Oh man, the language was one of the first reasons I was interested in the game!

    That said, I've also been racking my brain trying to decipher it, but so far it seems that it really is just a little detail to make the game look and feel more Inkling-like without much thought to any actual linguistic correspondence. However, that's not deterring me in the slightest; my first in-game post was my attempt at writing something in the characters and then "translating" it. So, now I'm doing my own research into the matter, likewise cataloging the number and appearance of the glyphs.

    There is one theory I've come up with while looking into the language a bit. Like PiyozR, I found that some of the characters appear in different orientations (like the "E" shaped character that shows up flipped backward at a few points). At this, I was immediately reminded of the Toys 'R' Us logo where the "R" is backwards. It's not truly a new character but simply an alteration, like how a child would write certain letters backwards when learning to write. Or better yet, like how kid-appeal companies and the like intentionally misspell words with cooler-looking letters. So, my theory is that characters that are flipped around are still the same characters but made "fresher". Given the 90s-esque vibe from the setting, I can guess that the Inklings would have institutionalized this trend to the point that it extends outside their reach and into the world of adult Inklings (whatever that may be).

    In any case, I'm also looking forward to making a fanon conlang from what little the game shows, though it may end up different from PiyozR's (unless we end up collaborating or something). For now, I'll keep my eye out for any more unique glyphs worth recording.
     
  8. IkkaRatto

    IkkaRatto Inkster Jr.

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    When a inkling dies they say call 911 well thats what it sounds like..
     
    Kinkling and Andy-the-Dandy like this.
  9. PiyozR

    PiyozR Senior Squid

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    Yeah, the language was one of the selling points for me, too. That and not having to hear children shouting swears at me online. Good choices all around.

    Sadly, "translating" isn't the word to use here. There's no actual grammar or semantics to any text in-game (unless Nintendo's really pulling a fast one on us, at which point I'd be speechless).

    I'm actually thinking otherwise about the altered letters. Here's my idea.

    In Inkling, there's a letter like E and one that's an Ǝ. Let's grant that E is spoken as [sad]. A flipped over Ǝ is then spoken [das]. Same goes for all the forms of the letter similar to e. That's e, ǝ, and all eight variations. I imagine that all eight of them would be simple sounds that just reverse its consonants and vowels, like [pe] to [ep], [ti] to [it], [θa] to [aθ], [ʃy] to [yʃ].

    Not for every single letter, mind you. Just the ones that are reversed often. Noticing again the difference between Inkpolis and Sunken Scrolls letters, I'm going to mark a lot of these letters I see down as "serif" and "non-serif". A lot of these letters are simply fancier-looking letters meant to be more formal (old history texts about Octarians and Turf Wars) and some are more casual and hip (clothing and shop signs). That cultural context is sorta what I'm working around here, and it's really made this whole process easier.

    I'd love to collaborate with you guys on this! If there are any characters that you see in Inkling or Octarian that aren't on the forum post here, please let me know. I'm listing every letter I can find before assigning sounds to them, so please let me know if there are some that I missed. And if some of you know how to use Photoshop or other editing software, we could make some of our very own Inkling banners and signs! We could put them on t-shirts! Stuff like that!
     
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  10. eli

    eli Senior Squid

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    same here!

    They're obviously altered letters – unfortunately it's not a language or even standalone writing system, but instead just modified/invented characters used (sometimes arbitrarily, sometimes because they look like they would fit) all over the place. Still super cool (& fresh)!

    For fun – the Cat & Dog Splatfest tees with the obvious words "cat" and "dog" on them:
    [​IMG] [​IMG]
     
    ReedRGale, DakotaBonez and spiffy like this.
  11. Jacoboco

    Jacoboco Inkling

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    If there seen anywhere else in the game then we could use those as a base.
     
  12. GhostPillow

    GhostPillow Inkling

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    Well Nintendo is kinda famous for making languages for their games, case in point the legend of Zelda series.
    The only reason why i can think of the inklings having so many different characters is that I believe that the inklings have more of a verbal language.
    Have you ever seen these weird characters in wordbooks that tell you how to pronounce a word ?
    I think that the inklings have a way of "writing" that more resembles their speech instead, and therefore there are way more characters than in a normal alphabet.
     
  13. eli

    eli Senior Squid

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    Hylian ultimately is a simple substitution cipher. This is not one of those.

    Pretty darn sure the "language" is not phonetic – just listen to their speech. It's completely arbitrary gibberish, and matches up with nothing even when written down/subtitled (e.g. in Callie and Marie's song in the Nintendo Direct).

    WOOMY

    We've tried using other "bases" or "rosetta stones," e.g. the nametag, the "ON AIR" sign, the amiibo case(?), the exit sign… they don't all work together to form a cohesive picture, and are conflicting with each other.
     
  14. PiyozR

    PiyozR Senior Squid

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    It is really cool. As far as invented languages for games go, Splatoon's looks so real and believable. It's some strange combination of Japanese, English, and Thai. I love it!

    And thanks for the "cat" and "dog" reference. I'm going to jot those down in my notes.

    Exactly. After even a little bit of looking into it, there's not much to this than some gibberish and some largely inconsistent text. Surely Nintendo has better ways to spend their time than to make all of this language stuff seem cohesive. I, however, don't.
     
  15. Zephy

    Zephy Inkling

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    I've noticed that the spoken Squiddish is very repetitive. The syllables could have different meanings depending on the way they are used. Like Bquao saa nii bii ne nah ba (very common) ka beru weh koh su wa sii meru beh don and reh.

    Same syllables used differently to pronounce different words, say different sentences, etc.

    Writing couldn't be that hard to decipher. A way to match the text to the sounds is the best way we learn how to speak a language. It's like how we all learned english: we learned the ABC's and the sounds they make.
     
  16. PiyozR

    PiyozR Senior Squid

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    It would be cool if we could, but it seems like Inkling as Nintendo has created it is entirely nonsense. Fortunately, it won't be for long.

    Attached are my best guesses of the Inkling alphabet, all 115 characters and 50 variations. Anyone who likes can take a look and see if I missed any. You wouldn't even believe how long it took me to search around every corner of Splatoon, collect these mid-game, and assemble them by shape and similarities. Days of my life.
     

    Attached Files:

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  17. TheMH

    TheMH Inkling Commander

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    Wow, that's some awesome work you've done here PiyozR. It's really great to see a full chart of all existing symbols.
    Did anyone try to figure out what the text above the entrance to the online lobby might say? It's not as straight forward as the "On Air" sign, but it's very likely that it's a transliteration.
     
  18. eli

    eli Senior Squid

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    I could digitize/vector these, if you'd like.

    I'd like to know this as well. Along with what it says on the respawn pads in lobbies...
     
  19. eli

    eli Senior Squid

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    I posted the Splatfest tees for cat and dog, so here's the ones for Japan, bread (pan) vs rice (gohan):

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    These clearly say the transliterated Japanese words "pan" and "gohan." But wait! There's another one for bread that I saw in the trailer!

    [​IMG]

    Older/newer version? or… what
     
  20. Joseph Staleknight

    Joseph Staleknight Inkling Fleet Admiral

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    Yeah, I'm pretty sure the tees with straight romaji are the old versions. It would be odd to see those stick out compared to the rest of the characters in the game.

    Anyway, awesome work PiyozR! I see you've even managed to start assigning sounds to letters. Maybe I can see what other sounds I can try to fit there. I'd guess that if it were a syllabary of some sort there'd be something like five vowel columns (the basic /a i u e o/) and 23-ish consonant rows. Of course, there could just as easily be some final consonants and special characters (like the small "tsu" that doubles the following consonant in Japanese).
     
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