Is Pig Latin a Real Language?

What makes something a language?

Neal Whitman, Writing for
5-minute read
Episode #567
Ammar-gray Irl-gay ere-hay.
Whoops! Sorry, I slipped into Pig Latin for a moment there. Today’s episode was inspired by a question that Jason sent me on Twitter, asking if Pig Latin is a real language.

What Is Pig Latin?

Before we return to the question of whether Pig Latin is a real language, I should explain what it is for the benefit of listeners who might have learned (or might be learning) English as adults and not have encountered Pig Latin as children. Pig Latin is a way of distorting English words for fun, or to prevent someone who doesn’t know Pig Latin from understanding what you’re saying. Here are the basic rules:

  1. If a word begins with a consonant or consonant cluster, remove them from the beginning of the word, and put them at the end of the word, followed by “ay.” For example, to turn the word “grammar” into Pig Latin, we remove the “gr” consonant cluster at the beginning and put it at the end, followed by “ay.” The result: “ammar-gray.” “Girl” is easier, because it starts with just one consonant, “g.” In Pig Latin, it’s “irl-gay.”

  2. If a word begins with a vowel, pronounce the word as you normally would, but put “ay” at the end of the word. For example, the word “is” would become “is-ay.” (Other versions of Pig Latin add the syllable “way” or “hay” instead.) 


About the Author

Neal Whitman, Writing for Grammar Girl

Neal Whitman PhD is an independent writer and consultant specializing in language and grammar and a member of the Reynoldsburg, Ohio, school board. You can search for him by name on Facebook, or find him on Twitter as @literalminded and on his blog at literalminded.wordpress.com.