I use the term ‘cipherlang’ to a refer to a “language” which is a systematic modification of another language, preferably one which can be spoken verbally. Along with relexes (one-to-one replacements of words in a language), they are generally not considered to be true conlangs.
Language games are simple methods of obscuring the spoken word, often by adding or moving sounds in words.
A popular example is Pig Latin, formed by moving all consonants before the first vowel to the end of the word and adding -ay, or simply adding -way if the word begins with a vowel. For example, “I speak Pig Latin” becomes ‘Iway eakspay Igpay Atinlay”.
That’s the variant I personally use, but there are many other variants of Pig Latin. Some use -ay, -yay, or -hay for vowel-initial words instead of -way. Some only take the first consonant instead of all the consonants before the first vowel, while others simply take the first letter, even if it’s a vowel.
Ferb Latin is just Pig Latin, but instead of -ay, it’s -erb. From an episode of Phineas and Ferb.
Language games can be grouped into “families” based on how they modify words. Language games in the Gibberish family simply insert a certain syllable (or multiple) before every spoken vowel. In Ubbi Dubbi, that syllable is ‘ub’. In Obenglobish, it’s ‘ob’. In Gibberish, ‘idig’ is used. (Appearantly, that variant of Gibberish was somewhat of a trend on TikTok in 2019.)
Another family of language game is the Frank family, where a certain syllable is inserted after each consonant letter, and vowels are pronounced as their names. Language games in this family include Ong and Ung; the syllables that they use are self-explainatory.
In the Double Dutch family, each vowel is repeated and a certain consonant is inserted between them. Not very common in English, but in Spanish there’s Jeringonza, where the consonant used is P. Other members of the Double Dutch family are found in many other languages.
Probably my first experience with cipherlangs was inventing my own language which was just writing English backwards with a few tweaks to make it more pronounceable. I remember calling it “Gip Nital”, because a teacher once told me that Pig Latin was just speaking backwards.
Of course, I’m far from the only one who’s come up with the idea of speaking/writing English backwards. But I think it’s a good idea for a secret spoken language (and maybe a written one too, if it’s obscured enough).
One variant of the backwards English idea is known as Backwards English Advanced, or Shilgne S’drawkab C’navdair. It not only reverses written English words and makes them easier to pronounce, but it also adds its own grammar modifications.
Various people have come up with a cipher that shifts each vowel to the one that comes after it in the alphabet, i.e. A becomes E, E becomes I, etc.
One variant on this idea is Uasi which, in addition to shfiting the vowels, adds further rules for modifying words and adds grammatical modifications.
My own cipherlang Viesa is based on Uasi, except it shifts each vowel to the one before it instead. Therefore, A becomes U, E becomes A, etc. Orginally it was just a vowel shift with a few extra rules, but I later added the grammar changes and, a few months after that, introduced the Cyrillic alphabet.
Relexes are what you get when you replace each word in a particular language with a new word, one-to-one and with little to no regard for grammar. I don’t consider them to be “true” cipherlangs because they don’t apply a systematic encoding to words; instead, they just replace the words all together. However, I would still like to talk about them here.
A relex could make for a good secret language if the people you’re teaching it to don’t know much about linguistics. However, the problem is that you still have to create and memorize a whole bunch of vocabulary. You don’t need to do this in a cipherlang, since all you need to do is memorize is the ciphering system, and boom, you know all the words you’ll ever need.
However, relexes have the advantage that it’s easy to control how the words sound. In a cipherlang, this is rather difficult to control; English’s phonotactics (that is, it’s rules for how sounds interact) are messy, so simply replacing each letter or sound will leave you with some difficult consonant clusters. You could simply replace each letter with a different syllable, but that would be very inefficient to speak. In a relex, you can easily control which sounds can go where, and how short or long the words are.