Martian grammar: Activity 1

Aliens have landed on Earth, but don’t worry: they come in peace. Or at least, we think they do, but we can’t quite understand what they’re talking about.

Their language is not familiar and even highly trained experts are struggling to work out what they are saying. Your job is to work with the Martian examples that they have translated and work out some of the rules of their language. In doing so, you might even learn something about your own language.

The following are examples of English clauses translated into Martian.

Read the examples and then try to work out the answers to the questions asked at the end.

  English Martian
A. I am happy osaveb joffo
B. I was not happy onixsavex joffo
  1. What is the difference between the English examples in A and B?
  2. Can you see any parts of the Martian that are different between examples A and B?
  3. What might joffo mean, based on the differences you have seen between examples A and B of the English and Martian?

  English Martian
C. We are eating oomangixereb
D. He was eating umangixerex
E. He ate umangex
  1. What is the difference between the English examples in C and D?
  2. Can you see any parts of the Martian that are different between examples C and D?
  3. What might ixer mean, based on the differences between examples D and E of the English and Martian?

Looking at the five examples you now have, do you think you can start to see any ‘rules’ for constructing Martian language?

Do you think you could explain at least one of the rules?

What would help you explain more rules?

Now for the tricky part. Your challenge is to use this next set of translations, along with what you have already learned about Martian, to solve the puzzle on the next page:

English Martian
I am happy osaveb joffo
I will be eating omangixeret
He had a friend ukalex makky
They were not happy uunixsavex joffo
We have friends ookaleb makkyz
She will eat a meal umanget akky
You did not sleep (where you is one person) enixzizex

Here is your puzzle. These English sentences need to be translated into Martian:

English Martian
He is happy  
You ate a meal  
We will have friends  
They will not be sleeping  
You (plural) were not happy  
She was sleeping  

Now for a further challenge. Someone has recorded the following examples of Martian, and asked you to translate them into English:

Martian English
ukaleb makkyz  
eesavet joffo  
onixzizixereb  
uumangixerex akky  
oozizet  

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