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Sky Talkers

Private Sector Crypto Linguisits
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I read during lunch how an Australian mining company had one of its high level salesmen accused of spying by China.
While that seems odd, the article I read indicated that this might have been a strong arm tactic used to seize the computers from his office in order to read the negotiating strategy so as to have the upper hand in the ongoing high level mining material negotiations.

Australian companies could employ Indigenous Australians to encode and decode their communications in Tiwi (or other language) so as not to have their messages intent intercepted by such strong arm techniques.

The Americans could use Numu Tekwapuha (or others), England could use Cymraeg, etc.

I figure it's not likely that another country would have very many people capable of speaking all or even any of the rare languages that can be used.

(I don't know if Cymraeg / Welsh is rare, but I've never heard it spoken and I am pretty sure I couldn't understand the most simple phrases of it after seeing how some things are spelled).

If businesses feel the need to spy on each other and break the crypto linguist information exchange, the positive thing might be that a language is kept living a little longer.

Zimmy, Jul 13 2009

Wikipedia: Code Talkers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Code_talker
Navaho and other languages. [jutta, Jul 13 2009]

Wikipedia: The Tiwi Language http://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Tiwi_language
Mhh, contrasting alveolar and postalveolar apical consonants! [jutta, Jul 13 2009]

Wikipedia: Cryptonomicon http://en.wikipedia.../wiki/Cryptonomicon
Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon has a number of elements in common with this idea - business people worried that their secrets will be captured by governmental parties with whom they are dealing, the usage of niche languages to make the transmission of messages more secure, although in this case, the language used, Qwghlmian, is a fictional one. [zen_tom, Jul 14 2009]


       Wasn't this a movie already? Based on the native American Indians (code talkers) and their use of native tongue in WWII...
4whom, Jul 13 2009

       Or just use elderly Dorset farmers. They speak English, but you'd never know.
wagster, Jul 13 2009

       I think it is commonly used by militaries, but not used in the private sector. I didn't see the movie, but I've read about it - I think it was a Navaho language they used.
Zimmy, Jul 13 2009

       Welsh is rare outside Wales, unless you're in Patagonia.
hippo, Jul 13 2009

       I do not think the code talker thing would work in 2009, especially not as written words. Radio broadcasts, maybe, since the Aborigines could mix it up with aborigine pig latin or ob talk or whatever.   

       But I think that given a printed block of text it would be a matter of a few minutes on the internet to get a reasonable idea of what language it was, and then a few days to find and hire a translator.
bungston, Jul 13 2009

       [bungston], I had thought of that, but figured it might be fairly difficult to get a translator of some of the more obscure languages.   

       Perhaps embedded in the text somewhere at the begining could be a line in that language that asks for no one to translate it but the named people so as to keep the language open for a source of crypto linguistics / contact Mr. x for a small bribe and possible future work. I don't know if it would work, though.
Zimmy, Jul 13 2009

       Wha err we spikking in franch, Bob?   

       Zo dat Aleece she cannot unnerstand us, n'est ce pas?   


       To be honest, I can think of few encryption schemes less secure than Using A Foreign Language. I think a company that's prepared to have a salesman arrested to get access to his computer will probably be sufficiently low, cunning and devious to buy a Welsh/Chinese dictionary. These people will clearly stop at dimm.   

       Bysgota ddiesgyrna chen.
MaxwellBuchanan, Jul 13 2009

       What about having the text in Tiwi, _then_ encrypted? Also all the U would be Umlaut Us, to throw them off the scent.
bungston, Jul 13 2009

       The answer, i think, would be to use a conlang which breaks linguistic universals and is also compressed, thus mucking up statistical analysis. Start off by making up a language which is something like zero-morpheme for plurals but marked for singulars, or which inflects verbs for objects but not subjects and is rigidly OVS, then use a compression algorithm which alters the relative distribution of morphemes, introducing spurious peaks in frequency.
Alternatively, just use glossolalia: Each party is construed as a faith by the negotiators, who are so passionately devoted to it that they just break into ecstasy when they think about it and they babble at each other until the other side sees the light and is converted to the One True Faith. Then the parties merge and there's no more need for negotiation.
nineteenthly, Jul 14 2009

       Just guessing here, but many indigenous languages never had to cope with the intricacies of modern diplomacy/techbabble - therefore they might not have the range of grammatical constructions/vocabulary to be applicable....
loonquawl, Jul 14 2009

       It's not just indigenous languages. On the whole, most modern languages coin words using Latin and Greek for technical terms, which are more an international vocabulary from which we all borrow than an integral part of the language. It doesn't have to be that way. For instance, Hebrew and Icelandic are both loth to use loanwords and come up with their own, and one Native American language ended up naming the parts of a car as if it was an animal called something like a "chidi", so "headlights" were the "eyes of the chidi" and so on. It may have been Choctaw or Cherokee, i don't remember. Chinese also has such a small vocabulary and is closed to loanwords, and it manages fine.
nineteenthly, Jul 14 2009

       The only reason this worked in WWII is because there was no knowledge of Navajo in Japan, but today with the internet giving people access to so much information any halfway decent linguist could break any language "code" fairly easily.
Hirudinea, Jul 15 2009

       Disinformation might be better than encryption in this case. If the chinese govt examined his computer and found emails saying "we don't really need this deal, only accept a good offer" then they could be fleeced.
Bad Jim, Jul 15 2009


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