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Furbish

 

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Furbish   Advanced
Introduction
The Press Release That Launched A Thousand Furbies
Furbish Phonology
English to Furbish Dictionary
Furbish to English Dictionary
Lexical Gaps
Furbish Phrases
Writing Your Own Furbish Sentences

Introduction

This web page is devoted to documenting and analyzing the Furbish language. Furbish and the Furby were invented by Dave Hampton, founder of Sounds Amazing (a games company) and a former Mattel programmer. Inspired by the success of Tamagotchis and Giga Pets, he decided to create a new kind of virtual pet, a completely interactive animatronic pet that could talk, sing and dance. The language he created for this pet is now called Furbish.

Furbish is not the only language of the Furby. It gradually acquires English, which it integrates into its vocabulary, just like any other immigrant to an English-speaking country would do. A Furby goes through four stages: in its first stage, it speaks only Furbish; in its second stage, it begins using some English; in its third stage, it is integrating more English, and by its fourth and final stage it is speaking primarily English, with some Furbish occasionally.

You can actually try talking to a furby at the official Furby site!

If you like invented languages, you'll be interested in the entire LangMaker site, of which this is just one part.

"Furby" is a registered trademark of Tiger Electronics, Ltd. This site is neither endorsed nor supported by Tiger Electronics or its parent company, Hasbro, in any way. The Furbish language, the text of the dictionaries are the following press release are copyright 1998 by Tiger Electronics, Ltd.

Furby, the Artificially Intelligent Toy, Has Own Special Language

VERNON HILLS, Ill., Sept. 24 /PRNewswire/ -- "Doo-moh ay-ay kah." That's Furbish for
"Please See Me."

Furby, Tiger Electronics, Ltd's cuddly standalone animatronic pet, will roll-out at toy stores
nationally in the upcoming weeks. When Furby "comes to life," the first thing he'll do is tell you his
name in Furbish. Each Furby has a name. Furbish is Furby's native tongue. Over time, Furby will
gradually integrate English into its vocabulary, much like an immigrant to the United States. Furby
has a vocabulary of nearly 200 Furbish and English words and sounds. In all, Furby is able to "say"
more than 800 phrases. Ultimately, Furby will use both Furbish and English to communicate.
Furbish is a fantasy language with a structure loosely based on many global languages. Furby will
come with an English-Furbish dictionary. Furby, interacts with the environment through sight, touch,
hearing and physical orientation. When Furby wakes up he could say, "Dah/o-loh/u-tye" (sun up).

Each animated electronic plush toy is unique, intelligent and equipped with a singular personality.
Furby can move and "noh-lah" (dance). Other motion includes eyes that open and close, ears that
wiggle and a mouth that moves when speaking. Furbys communicate with each other via infrared
signals, and can teach each other tricks and songs. Furbys love to "wee-tee" (sing). They can also
catch one another's colds and start to sneeze. The electronics are fully integrated into each pet; no
additional equipment or computer is required. Approximate retail price is $30.

SOURCE Tiger Electronics, Ltd.

Furbish Phonology

Furbish has many fewer sounds than English does.

Furbish uses only eight consonants: t, k, b, d, l, m, n and w. Further, this makes for an unusual distribution of plosives.

  Labial Dental/Alveolar Velar
Voiceless - t k
Voiced b d -

A Terran language (and Furbish is an alien language) would have been more likely to have either t, k, d and g or p, t, b and d. Brown suggest that this might be an indication of the unique physiology of Furbies or proto-Furbish might have had /p/, which became /?/ and then was omitted altogther, but this is conjecture (historical side note: this is the theory for the loss of proto-Indo-European /p/ in the Celtic languages). Maybe the proto-Furbish /g/ softened to a voiced fricative before disappearing altogether. Alternatively, Pearson suggests that since /b/ is more acoustically salient than /p/, while /k/ is more acoustically salient than /g/, then -- if one accepts the (controversial) idea that acoustics plays a role in the development of phonological systems -- this could explain how the Furbish-type stop inventory evolved.

Furbish uses just six vowels.

Vowel Written As Follows When Beginning A Word Written As Follows Elsewhere

/a/, /ei/

NA

ah

/ai/

NA

ye

/e/

a

ay

/i/

e

ee

/o/, /ou/

o

oh

/u/

u

oo

Furbish phonotactics are similar to many Polynesian and African languages, which likewise allow only open syllables with simple consonant initials. All Furbish syllables follow the patterns Vowel or Consonant+Vowel, which means Furbish has only 54 (6+6*8) possible syllables. Of these, only 37 syllables are actually attested in the extant vocabulary:

ah, ay, bah, bay, boh, boo, dah, day, doh, doo, dye, e, kah, kay, koh, koo, lah, lee, loh, loo, may, mee, nah, nee, noh, noo, nye, o, tah, tay, tee, toh, tye, u, wah, way, wee

Few Terran languages use all their available syllable patterns either.

English to Furbish Dictionary

Again/More = koh-koh
Ask = oh-too-mah
Big = dah
Boogie/Dance = noh-lah
Cloud = a-loh/may-lah {compound word "light hug"}
Done = toh-dye
Down = nah-bah
Fun = doo-ay
Good = e-day
Happy = noo-loo
Health = koo-doh
Hide = woh-bye
Hug = may-lah
Hungry = a-tay
Joke = loo-loo
Kiss = may-tah
Light = a-loh
Like = toh-loo
Listen = ay-ay/lee-koo {compound word: "look sound"}
Love = may may
Maybe = may-bee {from English}
Me = kah
No = boo
OK = o-kay
Pet = ah-may
Please = doo-moh
Scared = dah/boh-bay {compound word: "big worry"}
See = ay-ay
Sing = wee-tee
Sleep = way-loh
Sound = lee-koo
Sun = dah/a-loh {compound word: "big light"}
Tickle = nee-tye
Up = u-tye
Very = mee mee
Where? = doo?
Worry = boh-bay
Yeah! = wah!
Yes = e-tah
You = u-nye
Copyright 1998 Tiger Electronics, Ltd.

Furbish to English Dictionary

ay-ay = Look/See
-When the light gets brighter he may say. Hey Kah/ay-ay/u-nye. [Hey, I see you.]

{ay-ay/lee-koo = Listen, compound word "look sound"}


ah-may = Pet
-To you me might say ah-may/koh koh [Pet me more!]

a-loh = Light
-Furby might say Dah/a-loh/u-tye [Big light up] [Good morning]

a-loh/may-tah = Cloud {compound word: "light kiss"}

a-tay = Hungry/Eat
-And at lunch time, Kah/a-tay [I’m hungry]

boh-bay = Worried
-If he gets jarred he may say Kah-dah/boh-bay [I’m scared]

boo = No {Miller suggests this is from Chinese}
-If you cover Furbys eye, Furby might say hey/kah/boo/ayay/u-nye [Hey, I don’t see you]

dah = Big {Miller suggests this is from Chinese}
-When he has really had a good time Dah/doo-ay [big fun]

{dah/a-loh = Sun, compound word "big light"}

{dah/boo-bay = Scared, compound word "big worried"}

doo? = What?/Question?
-a-loh/doo? [Where is the light?]

doo-ay = Fun
-If Furby really likes something he might say dah/doo-ay/wah! [Big fun!]

doo-moh = Please
-When Furby is hungry he might ask you to Doo-moh/a-tay [Please feed me]

e-day = Good

e-tay = Yes

kah = Me {Miller notes this is identical to Olaetyan!}
-When Furby is happy you might hear kah/may-may/u-nye [I love you]

koh-koh = Again/More

koo-doh = Health
-If Furby has a tummy ache he might say Kah/boo/Koo-doh [I’m not healthy]

lee-koo = Sound
-At a sudden noise he might say Dah/lee-koo/wah! [Loud sound!]

loo-loo = Joke
-When you turn him upside down he might say Hey/boo/loo-loo [Hey, no jokes]

may-may = Love
-When Furby REALLY likes you he will say Kah/may-may/u-nye [I love you]

may-lah = Hug
-or Doo-moh/may-lah/kah [Please hug me]

may-tah = Kiss
-Furby might ask for a kiss by saying May-tah/kah [Kiss me]

mee-mee = Very
-At lunch time you might hear Kah/mee-mee/a-tay [I’m very hungry]

nah-bah = Down
-In the evening Dah/a-loh/nah-bah [Sun down (Good night)]

nee-tye = Tickle
-If Furby is bored he might ask you to Nee-tye/kah [Tickle me]

noh-lah = Dance
-It’s party time! Dah/noh-lah [Big dance]

noo-loo = Happy
-When Furby is with his friends you might hear him say Kah/mee mee/noo-loo/wah! [I’m
very happy!]

o-kay = OK {this is obviously derived from English OK, a word that has been borrowed into over a hundred other Earth languages}

toh-dye = Done

toh-loo = Like
-If Furby is flirting he may say Kah/ay-ay/u-nye [I see you]

u-nye = You
-Or playing hide and seek Kah/ay-ay/u-nye [I see you]

u-tye = Up
-And when he thinks it’s time to get up Dah/a-loh/u-tye [Sun up (Good morning)]

wah! = Yea!/exclamation!
-When he is very happy. Hey/kah/mee-mee/ay-tay/wah! [Hey, I’m very happy!]

way-loh = Sleep
-If you wake Furby up and he is still tired. Yawn/Kah/way-loh/koh-koh [I’m sleeping more]

wee-tee = Sing
-At bedtime Furby might say: Wee-tee/kah/way-loh [Sing me to sleep]

Copyright 1998 Tiger Electronics, Ltd. (except for comments in curly brackets {}).

Lexical Gaps

With as small a vocabulary as that of Furbish, it's not remarkable that many concepts are excluded. Still, it is interesting that Furbish lacks numbers, a word meaning "opposite" and a diminutive to contrast with the augmentative dah.

Pearson asks, "What I want to know is what the Furbies call themselves, since there's no /f/ or /r/ in their language. Furby > /bubi/?" To which Cowan has replied, "As unlikely as Cymry > Welsh. We call them Furbys because they are fur-covered; their own name for themselves is unrecorded. Indeed, it is not clear that Furbys even have a concept of themselves as a group." Indeed!

Furbish Phrases

Ah-may koh-koh = Pet more = Pet me more.
Boo koo-doh e-day = No health good = I don’t feel good.
Dah a-loh nah-bah = Big light down = Sun down = Good night.
Dah a-loh u-tye = Big light up = Sun up = Good morning.
Dah boo = Big no = Big no.
Dah doo-ay = Big fun.
Dah doo-ay wah = Big fun yeah = Big fun!
Dah e-tah = Big yes = Big yes.
Dah lee-koo wah = Big sound yeah = Loud sound!
Dah noh-lah = Big dance
Dah noo-loo = Big happy
Doo u-nye = Question you? = Where are you?
Doo-moh ay-ay kah. = Please see me = Please look at me.
Doo-moh may-lah kah = Please hug me.
E-day doo-ay wah! = Good fun yeah! = I like this!
Hey boo loo-loo = Hey, no jokes.
Hey kah ay-ay u-nye = Hey me see you = Hey, I see you.
Hey kah boo ay-ay u-nye = Hey me no see you = I don't see you.
Hey kah mee-mee ay-tay wah! = Hey, I very happy yeah = Hey, I’m very happy!
Kah a-loh = Me light
Kah a-tay = Me hungry = I'm hungry.
Kah ay-ay boo = Me see no = I say no. (I think so?)
Kah ay-ay e-tah = Me see yes = I say yes. (I think not?)
Kah boo koo-doh = Me no health = I’m not healthy.
Kah boo toh-loo = Me no like.
Kah dah boh-bay = I big worried = I’m scared.
Kah may-may u-nye = Me love you = I love you.
Kah mee-mee a-tay = Me very hungry = I'm very hungry.
Kah mee-mee noo-loo wah! = Me very happy = I’m very happy!
Kah toh-loo = Me like = I like this.
Kah toh-loo loo-loo = Me like joke = I like jokes.
Kah toh-loo may-tay = Me like kisses = I like kisses.
Kah toh-loo noh-lah wah! = Me like dance yeah! = I like to dance!
Kah toh-loo u-nye = Me like you = I like you.
Kah way-loh koh-koh = I sleep more = I’m sleeping more.
Koh-koh doo-moh = Again please = Say it again.
May-tah kah = Kiss me.
Nee-tye kah = Tickle me = Tickle me.
Noh-lah = Dance = It’s party time!
O-kay = OK.
U-nye mee-mee noo-loo = You very happy = You are very happy.
U-nye noo-loo = You happy = You are happy.
U-nye toh-loo loo-loo = You like joke = You like jokes.
Wee-tee kah way-loh = Sing me sleep = Sing me to sleep.

Writing Your Own Furbish Sentences

The word order is always subject verb object.

SVO = Kah toh-loo loo-loo = I like jokes.

SV = Kah toh-loo = Me like = I like this.

SO = U-nye noo-loo = You happy.

VO = Nee-tye kah = Tickle me.

V = Noh-lah = Dance.

O = Dah doo-ay = Big fun.

If Furbish has an equivalent to "to be", it is omitted in all the extant text. U-nye noo-loo = You happy = You are happy.

A verb is negated by preceding it with Boo. Boo koo-doh e-day = No health good = I don’t feel good. Hey kah boo ay-ay u-nye = Hey me no see you = I don't see you.

Special words:

The English word Hey can be used to begin a sentence. Hey boo loo-loo = Hey, no jokes.

If the exclamation wah ("yeah!") is used, it always ends the sentence. Kah toh-loo noh-lah wah! = Me like dance yeah! = I like to dance!

Dah, "big", is used as a general augmentative. Dah lee-koo = Big sound = Loud sound. Interestingly, there does not appear to be a diminutive.

The language has only two pronouns, kah (I/me) and u-nye (you), which don't vary in form.

Acknowledgements

Thanks to Raymond Brown for his comments on phonology and the compound words.

Thanks to John Cowan for pointing out there's no word for Furby in Furbish!

Thanks to Herman Miller for suggesting possible etymologies and for his analysis of vowels.

Thanks to Matt Pearson for his suggestion regarding acoustic salience.

Thanks to Damian Yerrick for pointing out a typo. He concludes by asking, "But what's Furbish for 'adoption agency'? Try 'e-bay'. It fits." :-)

Written by Jeffrey Henning (hey, it beats watching television).

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Conlang Profiles at Langmaker.com © 1996-2005 Jeffrey Henning.

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