American comedian Stephen Colbert’s late night alter ego is known for his ego…and his frequent campaigns to get everything from spiders to a piece of the International Space Station named for him.
So, the latest news from his alma mater, Northwestern University, should bring a smile to his face. Researchers there named an invented language used for an experiment “Colbertian,” after the comedian.
NBC Chicago quotes Communications Professor Viorica Marian, one of the authors of the study, explaining their reasoning:
“Stephen Colbert has brought new words like ‘truthiness’ and ‘Lincolnish’ into the lexicon. We had to invent a new language to do our research, and no one invents words as readily as Stephen Colbert. Naming our new language after Colbert was a no-brainer.”
Of course, the guaranteed extra publicity might have been another factor, as well.
What does “Colbertian” sound like? Well, basically like gibberish, but that’s to be expected in a language invented for a language learning experiment.
Incidentally, the experiment looked at how being bilingual affects your ability to learn additional languages. The results dovetailed nicely with this study by the University of Haifa, implying that being fluent in two languages makes it easier to learn a third (Colbertian, in this case).
During the experiment, both monolingual and bilingual individuals were asked to learn Colbertian, then given a quiz in which they were asked to match nouns from the language with the appropriate pictures. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, participants who were already bilingual ““experience less interference from their native language when listening to speech in a newly learned language.”
Study co-author James Bartolotti told the Chicago Sun-Times, ““We found that people who learned both English and Spanish at an early age and continued to speak them, better retained the words in Colbertian.”