Introduction to Spoken Cat


Being the product of a species without Broca's Brain or similar neurolinguistic centers, Spoken Cat has a much simpler syntactic structure than human languages, with a simplified grammar. Spoken Cat is holophrasic, in that a single utterance can convey an entire spoken sentence in human-derived languages (particularly those of the Indo-European family). In addition, the radically different mouth morphology of cats means that vocalizations have a different quality, and it can be difficult for an untrained listener to differentiate specific morphemes or even phonemes from the apparent noise. In part, this is because cats lack the consonantal range found in even the most liquid of human languages, and have correspondingly much greater capacity to make vowel sounds.

Standard orthographic methods entirely fail for transliterating Spoken Cat into purely English letters; in addition to the unclear distinction between vowel types (one that clears up substantially if using International Phonetic Alphabet; but even this sophistication is geared toward possible human articulation), Spoken Cat makes considerable use of pitch (as in Chinese languages), real-world context (as in most languages with ostensibly "simple" grammar), idiom (as in any tongue with a restricted vocabulary) and syllable stress to convey additional layers of meaning. To further complicate matters for the would-be interpreter, Spoken Cat has a very narrow etymological range. Being less sentient on the whole than humans (see Sarasti et al for some reasons why this is not a terrible disadvantage), domestic felines have fewer overt reasons to refer to individuals. Feline social relationships are not as simple as often stereotyped, and indeed a great deal of individuality governs every possible interaction of pair or gestalt; however, as most of this can be conveyed adequately without language, there was never any need to develop a vocabulary for it.

Thus, the etymological roots of every word in Spoken Cat are recent and obvious, for they derive from the most pressing things in every cat's existence: mother, interesting things, hunting and killing, and the self. Being terribly fastidious and instinctively attentive to matters of etiquette, any overt reference to food or the elimination thereof is considered so gauche as to be utterly taboo. Similar rules hold for sexual conduct, the only exceptions being in the ritual dialect used by female cats experiencing oestrus (and otherwise ignored; it is considered the height of boorishness to even speak of it).

For a mostly- nonsentient species, this removes several rich sources of expression that human languages rely upon heavily for their most basic expressions of emotion, and any metaphors associated with them. What is left? It can in fact be shown that most feline words derive etymologically from "Mom!". Indeed, the basic morpheme is often entirely unaltered in sentences with quite different meanings (for instance, the word written that way in clumsy English letters could mean things as distinct as "I want some of what you have there" to "I am quite annoyed with the way you have picked me up and will surely flay the hide from your arms if you do not extricate me from my predicament, forthwith", depending of course upon tone, vocal stress, context and numerous other factors.

Grammar of Spoken Cat

As mentioned previously, Spoken Cat is holophrastic; however, the degree to which it expresses this attribute makes any comparable human language seem quite disunited in structure. The rule, basically unalterable, is that one vocal utterance equates to one whole thought, whether it be as simple as "I am sleepy" or as complex as "I do not quite wish to admit that I enjoy your affection, but nonetheless subtly indicate my approval so that you are moved to continue." Exceptions to this rule are not readily forthcoming; while the author admits to having no fluency in Spoken Cat herself, she does have considerable experience living with native, monolingual speakers. There is no need whatsoever for attention to word order, articles, positional modifiers, tense, case, inflection or grammatical gender of any sort.


A consistent orthographic system for Spoken Cat does not exist; in addition, numerous challenges await any putative creator of same. The presence distinct voice structures in the upper, lower and middle throat defies easy human placement into the "glottal" category; likewise, the presence of nasal vowels and unique trills and plosives, as well as the corresponding lack of labial or alvaeolar articulation, make easy transcription more or less impossible. There are at least eighteen distinct vocal tones of consistent manner, though this number is disputed by some, and the position of the tongue and any throat articulation points in a word further alters the resulting vocalization. To that end, the following dictionary will attempt to transcribe cat utterances according to literal meaning, followed by a translation into their loose semantic equivalent in English.


"Mom!" = "Hello!"

"Mom. Mom. Mom." = "Please give me some [of that thing you have, an oblique and childlike reference to food]."

"Moooom..." = "Please stop what you are doing."

"Mooom!" = "I am extraordinary pleased at the way you are scritching my ears."

"" = "Oh, what a surprise to be petted by you while I was sound asleep. I suppose I do not really mind."

"Moooom!" = "Put me down this instant or suffer the consequences."

"Mooooom...! Mooooom...!" = "How can you be so cruel as to shut me out of the room you are in? I will surely whither if you do not admit me passage this instant."

"Mooom...?" = "What are you doing? I wish to see."

"Mom. Mom. Mom!" = "Give me that toy you are dangling just out of reach. It is imperative you allow me to bite it at once."

"Mom?" = "Is anybody there?" / "I will now converse with you because you seem to be speaking a strange, unfeline language at me and I wish to be polite.

"Oooh." = "I see something that can surely be caught and tortured for several hours prior to killing it solely for my amusement."