What do Fairbanks, Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki have in common?

Richard Geoghegan.jpg

Dermot Cole, a friend and columnist for Alaska Dispatch News wrote this week about Richard Geoghegan who as a young man wrote the first English textbook for the invented language, called Esperanto.

I'm sharing the article because it stopped me in my tracks and made me smile. Cole writes that Geoghegan came to Alaska in 1903 and lived in a cabin in Fairbanks for 40 years.

The well known anthropologist Fredericka Martin considered him one of her greatest teachers and wrote in her 1944 introduction to his study of the Aleut language that the so-called smattering of languages he was known to speak, "consisted of an encyclopedic knowledge of over 200 languages and dialects ranging from his own native Gaelic, Greek, Latin, Hebrew, Egyptian, through the modern European tongues to obscure Oriental dialects."

Flash forward to today and Cole tells us that "The students in Robin Shoaps' University of Alaska Fairbanks linguistics course last spring, "Klingon, Elvish and Dothraki: The Art and Science of Language Creation," did more than study languages imagined through works of fiction.

They invented a language of their own called "Fosk," devising a vocabulary of 1,000 words. "Nix fadstälnaw r"idi chyai" means "Let's explore somewhere new."

I don't know whether Fosk will ever be as popular as Klingon, Elvish or Dothraki — languages put forward in "Star Trek," the works of J.R.R. Tolkien and "Game of Thrones" — but that its creation took place in Fairbanks is more fitting than the Fosk speakers may realize.

That's because the linguist who did more than anyone to introduce the world's most successful invented language to English-speaking people lived in Fairbanks for 40 years and wrote the first English textbook for the invented language, called Esperanto."

I'd like to think I have a few things in common with Richard Geoghegan; at the very least we both lived in small cabins in Fairbanks.

Like many other kids and adults of a certain age, I tried to teach myself Elvish when I was in Jr. High School, and I wrote long passages in runes and was already promising myself that someday I would write books as grand as Tolkien's. But though I was an early and avid Star Trek fan and picked up a few Klingon Dictionaries along the way, I never gave that language a serious try. As an anthropology undergrad at the University of Alaska Fairbanks I took courses in linguistics and even published poems I wrote in Egyptian hieroglyphics in the student newspaper. And of course, along with a great group of mostly UAF English department friends, I've been following Game of Thrones for seven seasons. I don't claim any knowledge of Dothraki but I have an unabiding admiration for their riding skills.

If I was a student at UAF today, you can bet your bottom dollar I'd enroll in that class and thanks for the article Dermot.

Read Dermot Cole's full article at Alaska Dispatch News: https://www.adn.com/opinions/2017/08/18/alaskan-who-knew-more-than-200-languages-could-find-the-right-word/