Anyone that's been playing Splatoon has likely noticed the symbols scattered around in the environment and collectable log files, while some characters talk in what many will assume is gibberish. Keen fans, however, have spent recent times attempting to decipher and translate this language, employing their commitment and skills as linguists to try and discern whether it's a structured 'language', or assorted nonsense.
This is over on Squidboards, a Splatoon equivalent of Smashboards, and the thread is an interesting read. Some of the theories in the early stages revolved around the language in the game being a form of backwards Japanese, but this seems to have fallen away, while some believe it's comprised of symbols that are distorted versions of real letters.
Our own Alex Olney - who produces daily videos on our YouTube channel - is a bit of a Splatoon fiend, and he weighed in with the following thoughts:
When it comes to Inkling for me the biggest hurdle is the sheer number of characters. You could argue that it's a syllable-based alphabet like Japanese which would make sense given the game's origin, but it doesn't answer why the logo for the in-game brand Forge has so many characters making up its name.
It's entirely possible that Inking uses a phonetic alphabet similar to IPA. This would allow a much greater number of potential characters which correlates well with what is seen in the game, but it still doesn't answer everything. It is also possible that Inkling has several alphabets for different situations, which is unlikely but not impossible (as well as impractical).
It is also worth pointing out that the Squid Sisters vid from the Direct is subbed in Inkling:
This not only shows that Inkling has word boundaries unlike many Asian languages, but also that the character strings range in length enormously. Some of what appear to be multiple words when sung are subbed as being single strings, suggesting that it's common for compound nouns to be presented as single words in a similar fashion to Modern German.
Another note to take from this video is that the first line of the song is nearly identical to the text that appears above 'Squid Sisters' just moments beforehand. The first two strings are identical, and considering the subs supposedly say 'Squid Sisters' in Inkling, it's possible that Inkling may use some form of reduplication for plurality, and that this word is 'squid' or 'sister'. If this is true it would also indicate that noun order is reversed compared to English (where the head of the compound noun occurs at the end), and would likely mean that Inkling is a largely post-modifying language as opposed to pre-modifying.
There's a line of thought, shared by Alex, that the Splatoon 'language' may ultimately be gobbledigook, thrown together loosely from established languages. Nevertheless, some on the boards have started attributing letters to different Inkling symbols, drawing on examples scattered throughout the game.
Whether the Inkling language will ever be as highly regarded as Hylian is anyone's guess, but some are keen to make sense of it.
With thanks to Rex for the heads up.
Image Credit: Squidboards user RadioactiveMoth