The lanepi is a bright red, round fruit with leaves or a crown sprouting vigorously from its top. Is it large? Is it small? Is it tasty? Is it poisonous? Unless its creators made those decisions, there is even less to know about lanepi than there is to know about the odorra pod.

The lanepi is one of a number fruits invented for the purpose of studying how language evolves with use. It’s part of a small, invented language which is deals entirely with discussions of these fruits – lanepi, mola, neluka, and kapihu. The “alien language” project, run by the School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, Department of Linguistics and English Language, at the University of Edinburgh, is conceived with Darwinism as its model. Specifically, it addresses how language changes when passed from one user to another and so on.

The impetus to normalize unknown words and contextualize them in the known is demonstrated by a post on the project at The Lousy Linguist. Chris, the blogger there, in a post entitled “Martian Fruit“, imagines these fruits in use: “some yummy neluka pie, fresh kapihu, or baked lanepi with cinnamon” or a “a stiff vodka & mola juice cocktail .” I suspect he was predisposed to think of them as Martian thanks to that “alien” label on the language in the project.

Does lanepi even go with cinnamon? There’s no way of knowing – unless the inventors of the fruit and its language decide to tell us more about it.

My thanks to Steve of Glossographia for bringing the story (and thus the fruit) to my attention in the first place.

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*© S. Worthen 2009