Forget Codes: Using Constructed Languages for Secure Communication, by Snow Wolf

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Egyptologists tell us that the last hieroglyphic inscription was carved in 394 A.D., and within a few decades all memory of the ancient Egyptian language was lost. For the next fifteen hundred years the world's greatest scholars tried to translate hieroglyphics, but it was only when Jean-Francois Champollion had access to the Rosetta Stone in the 1820s that the dead language spoke once more. The Rosetta Stone, which had an identical inscription in three languages, was the key which allowed Champollion to begin translating the forgotten language.

You may be wondering what this has to do with preparedness. I believe it has a great deal, as indicated in the 9/11/12 article about using codes in emergency and survival situations. The ability to communicate privately is critical to our security as well as being a basic human right, and its importance is too often forgotten as we pursue beans, bullets, and Band-Aids.

When considering communication in the modern world, there are two unpleasant realities we must face: first, every transmission—text, email, phone call—can be intercepted. The second is that, as JWR pointed out, it's unlikely any code we make can withstand military and government decryption methods. This means that those of us who wish to communicate privately must adopt another strategy: instead of codes, we must use constructed languages for written and spoken communication.

A constructed language (CL) is simply a language which is not, and never has been, used by a natural population. The idea of constructing or making up a language may seem strange, but in fact several well-known CLs are already in existence. The oldest is Esperanto, which was created with the intention of providing the planet with a universal language. The next significant CL came from Star Trek. In one of the movies the creators decided to add spoken Klingon, which was created by a linguist and deliberately made to sound as alien as possible while still being pronounceable by human actors. A few phrases were repeated in the movie often enough to be learned by devoted Trekkers, and soon the Klingon language had its own alphabet, vocabulary, and grammar. Today there are online courses and Youtube videos about the language, and a few fans can actually use it to communicate. The movie Avatar followed this pattern, using a constructed language called Na'vi. And yes, there are some fans who speak it; information on the language and a Na'vi dictionary can be found online.

If you want privacy, you can't use Klingon or Na'vi; you must have a new language which has no connections to past or existing CL languages. This new language, if properly devised, will be as incomprehensible to anyone who sees or hears it as ancient Egyptian was to the scholar of 1700.

To create an effective CL, you must make several decisions. First, how many words are needed to communicate effectively? English has an overly abundant supply of synonyms (words with similar meaning), such as large, big, spacious. This duplication is unnecessary in a CL. You can probably function well with 300 words or less; you must decide what words are essential for your group.

Second, you must decide what methods of communication you wish to use with your CL. Will you signal it with Morse code? Use it in emails? Speak it aloud? Spell it with the manual alphabet? Signal with flags? If you intend to use your language only through such methods, all of which have a sign for each English letter, the CL should be based on the traditional Roman letters on your keyboard.

If you want a language which can be spoken aloud, it's wise to use sounds normally found in English; these will be easiest for your group to pronounce and remember (if you don't believe me, listen to Klingon). While it's possible to create a CL which uses such strategies as the tonal structure found in Chinese, this is a new concept for most Americans and would hinder the rapid acquisition of the CL as well as being impossible to indicate in Morse and all other letter-based communication systems.

The next decision is whether to create a grammatical syntax where meaning is determined by word position, as in English, or by inflectional endings such as those found in Latin and Greek.

A word position structure means that words must be arranged in a particular order for correct comprehension. “The horse sees the woman” doesn't mean the same as “The woman sees the horse”. Both sentences follow the common subject-verb-object pattern; the meaning is determined by which noun comes first and which comes second. In modern English, the position of words determines the meaning of the sentence.

In Latin, however, meaning depends not on position but on inflectional endings which distinguish subject from object. Here's a simple example using Latin words with familiar English cognates.

Equus means “horse”; (equine)

feminam means “woman”; (feminine)

videt means “sees” (video)

“The horse sees the woman” can be written in Latin without regard to word order:

Equus feminam videt.

Equus videt feminam.

Feminam equus videt.

“Equus” is in the nominative singular, indicating it is the subject of the sentence. “Feminam” is in the accusative singular, which means it's the object of the verb “videt”. The position of the words is irrelevant because their grammatical function is conveyed by their endings. Although the first sentence pattern was most commonly used by Romans, all three sentences would be equally comprehensible to Caesar and Cicero.

Using inflectional endings in your CL will make it more complicated to learn because, with few exceptions, English no longer uses such endings and most Americans are unfamiliar with them. Therefore, a positional CL is probably most practical.

Here's a simple example to show how a positional CL can function. Imagine a group which wishes to communicate by Morse code, email, texting, flag signals, or the manual alphabet. Here are some example words:


aok = watch out for (verb) cg=stranger (noun)

igy=shoot (verb) f=vehicle (noun)

wzn=come (verb) bx=gun (noun)

tf= in, into (preposition) urr=house (noun)

fh= with (preposition) puq= man (noun)

You now have the capacity to signal or text information:


puq tf urr (There's a man in the house.)

cg wzn (A stranger is coming.)

igy cg tf urr (Shoot the stranger in the house.)

aok cg tf f (Watch out for a stranger in a vehicle.)

puq fh bx tf urr (A man with a gun is in the house.)

The enemy can intercept these CL words, multiple them, count them, and turn them inside out, but they will not be able to understand the communication without the key, which ideally should exist only in the heads of those using the CL.

When creating a CL, you also make decisions about structure and grammar. You probably noticed the sample CL has no articles (a, an, the); these words are superfluous and can be eliminated. The present tense is also absent because it's not necessary for comprehension and, for this particular CL, I chose to omit it entirely. Decisions such as these can be made by the creators of a CL according to their own preferences.

For the first example I deliberately used regular keyboard letters. However, if you wish you can make words such as these:

&Knv )Yy

m% a!*

While this may look more complex, it isn't; it only gives you symbols for which there is no Morse or oral equivalent. Some may believe that the more symbols which are utilized, the less likely a communication can be decoded. This is incorrect; a CL cannot be decoded or deciphered because it is neither a code nor a cipher. It's a language, and therein lies its impenetrable strength. Remember ancient Egyptian; there were thousands of papyri and carved inscriptions to study, but without a key none could be translated.

Another secret to making your language incomprehensible to outsiders is to

frequently realign the words and meanings. This is done by randomly changing the meaning of the words, which is simple if you're communicating via computer. Aok becomes “gun”; cg becomes “under”, etc. Realignment is important because you don't want those intercepting your communications to associate your CL words with group activities. The ultimate security precaution would be to realign meanings after each communication.

Obviously, the ideal CL is one which can be used on a computer, texted, sent by Morse code, spelled with the manual alphabet, and spoken aloud. If you have this, you can communicate with absolute security under the eyes and ears of the enemy.

Below is a short, very simplified CL I prepared for SurvivalBlog readers who would like to try this method of ensuring their privacy. This CL differs from the example above because these words are in syllables found in English, which makes it easy to pronounce (tf would challenge even Henry Higgins). The CL words have been divided into syllables for easier pronunciation. Vowel sounds (short or long) can be determined by the group preference. No meaning has been assigned to any linguistic unit, which means even I, who created this CL, wouldn't be able to understand what you say, write, or signal.

Sample CL for SurvivalBlog Readers

Words

  1. sil'rah'me 14. tim'ba

  2. ru'hi 15. se'kot

  3. oh'bash'in 16. row'un

  4. ed'rek 17. ve'dok'ah

  5. pah'sas'din 18. tah'yis'vee

  6. in'tah'ba 19. yo'ee

  7. me'tick'suh 20. nu'me

  8. ir 21. it'ak'see

  9. ad'wit 22. dan'sis

  10. ha'kal'too 23. ma'ut'zo

  11. ak'tem 24. pes'hara

  12. yah'dah'sa 25. haf'den

  13. ka'ah 26. oh'ye'see

 

Grammatical Structure

  1. Plurals are formed by adding ne at the front of nouns; i.e., if you assign ma'ut'zo a noun meaning, the plural will be ne'ma'ut'zo.

  2. The present tense is indicated by the root form of the verb; if you assign ed'rek the verb meaning of “run”, no further initial or final letters/sounds are needed to use the verb in the present.

  3. The past tense is formed by adding a initial al to the verb; i.e., if oh'ye'see becomes the verb “listen”, al'oh'ye'see will mean “listened”.

  4. The future tense is created by adding an initial er; i.e., if row'un is given the meaning “come”, er'row'un means “will come”.

  5. Negatives are formed by adding pa before the verb. This prefix can also be used as a general negation, thus including the concepts of “no”, “none”, “nothing”, “not”, “don't”, etc. If dan'sis means “come”, “pa'dan'sis” means “don't come”.

  6. Questions are formed by adding kas to the beginning of the sentence.

 

To put these last two grammatical structures together, if you wish to communicate “Are you coming?” it would be kas'row'un. If the other person wishes to say “No”, the answer would be pa or pa'row'un.

IMPORTANT: Be very aware that speakers of a CL will almost certainly tend to use normal English vocal intonations when speaking. Our voices rise and fall in distinctive patterns as we ask questions, make statements, express surprise, fear, anger, urgency, etc. These vocal patterns are a clue to anyone listening. The solution to this security weakness is to learn to speak all words in a monotone voice, rather as if you were reading a list of unrelated words. You should also be careful that your voice doesn't indicate the end of a sentence.

I hope many of you will try using the CL I've provided. But before you begin communicating important information, you must pass a test. Here it is:

    You can't use this sample CL as written. Why not?

Answer: Because of the grammar section.

No one can know the meaning you assign to the CL words in the sample; however, if you follow the grammar, anyone aware of this CL will be able to say, “Ah-ha there's the prefix ne. That means the word following is a noun.” For this reason, ALL THE GRAMMATICAL RULES MUST BE ALTERED BEFORE YOU CAN SECURELY UTILIZE THIS CL.

To do this, just use your imagination: form plurals by adding om to the end of nouns—or to the middle, if the word has more than one syllable. Or don't form plurals at all; if you want to say, “I need eight bullets,” the word “eight” indicates plural; the noun “bullet” doesn't need to be changed at all. Form the future tense by adding the word wom at the end of the verb. Make questions by adding ra'hi at the end of the sentence. Remember: no one, including me, will know what meaning you assign to each linguistic unit; ak'tem can mean “wife”, “nuclear weapon”, or “move slowly”.

Learning a new language, especially one you've never heard, may seem daunting, but it's essential to group security and survival. We all know the government is listening to phone conversations, reading emails, and recording communications. If a national emergency ever arises, this spying will intensify and your group will be unable to communicate privately. The powers that be are determined to take every shred of privacy in America; let's use constructed languages to reclaim an inalienable human right.

JWR Adds: I can vouch that even an informally constructed language can baffle outsiders. Some members of my family still speak Boontling--the folk lingo of Boonville, California. (My ancestors settled there in the 1850s, after crossing the Plains by covered wagon.) We still pike to Boont or Uke by kimoshe for boshin', bahl tedricks, shattaquaws, gormin' matches, hobneelches and visits to the Rawles Dusties, but try to avoid nonch-harpin, Haines-Crispins, spilldukes and sharkin' matches.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jim Rawles published on November 3, 2012 12:13 AM.

Four Letters Re: Hurricane Sandy After Action Reports was the previous entry in this blog.

Note from JWR: is the next entry in this blog.

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