What it would take to finish Shyriiwook (aka the Wookie Language)

Here is one of the longer documents on Shyriiwook.

I’m in the mood the beat up on a middle of the pack conlang, one of the sort that seems like there is something there for a fan, but there isn’t on closer examination. Imagine you’ve read the Shyrriiwook article, you are now ready to study the language and organize the Shyriiwook conventions.

Dealing with a sound effect legacy.
1) The movie canon is sound effects. So some means of actually producing Shyriiwook would have to be devised that was compatible with the previous sounds and actually has words in it.

Its George Lucas’s et al’s property.
2) An organization that earns its bread through licensing intellectual property would have to loosen up their grip on the languages. Would they do it? They might, as seen by the toleration of fan films. Organizations like to deal with organizations. Klingon lucked out in that they chose the right fan to be the KLI. Even if Lucas et al assigned the management of Klingon to a fan, they could easily pick the wrong fan.

An IPA approximation would have to be devised.
3)The current documents use an orthography disconnected from any particular pronunciation. If I had to guess, I would guess the phonetic inventory here is English, the phonotactics are the same as English and the orthography is exoticized. A Shyriiwook faithful to the sound effects in the movie would be unpronouncable by
humans. So I suppose fans would have to be content with reading, writing and playing a machine synthesized version of Shyriiwook.

The language is largely undocumented/uncreated/unfinished
4) I still haven’t nailed down what constitutes “done” for a conlang, but Shyriiwook is not “done” in any sense of the word. There isn’t a dictionary with enough words to communicate arbitrary thoughts, there isn’t a formal grammar document to resolve the bulk of the possible grammar questions, there isn’t a interesting quantity of corpus material to illustrate the (non-existant) grammar and vocabulary in a way that doesn’t rely on the grammar description alone.*

* Sidenote
Why is a corpus important? Without a corpus, a language’s description is defined by the dictionary and grammar. But every few decades, the state of the art in dictionary making and grammar metalanguages changes. If a language has a corpus (and even a really bad dictionary and grammar description), then fifty years later, smarter people can update both with the state of the art grammar and lexicography.

Is anyone to blame?
I don’t blame the novel and comic bookwriters who wrote has been written about Shyriiwook. They were writing flavor text, not field linguistic documents. I blame the people who bandy about the phrase “the Shyriiwook language” as if it was a language a fan could learn and use.

Conclusion.
Shyrriwook in the real world, is an idea for a fan language. It is a “real language” in the fictional world of Star Wars. Let’s try not to confuse the two. If an analogy helps, this is like if someone wrote an article about the largest ocean going vessels and they added to the list paintings of fictional large ocean going vessels.

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One Response to What it would take to finish Shyriiwook (aka the Wookie Language)

  1. ZCSJ says:

    I think one of the more important and inspiring things for theorists and scholars to keep in mind is the basic principle: Shyriiwook is a language of roaring