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Spoiler Warning: Stephen King's Desperation

The "language of the dead" or "tongue of the unformed" is what the antagonist in Stephen King's Desperation uses to issue commands to animals and to express itself. The language is first referred to as the former name, by the book's protagonist, David (p. 333*), and the narrator refers to it as the latter when the antagonist uses it to speak to a cougar (394). In an almost retrospectively mocking style (quite characteristic of King), the book's antagonist also uses the word tak, as an interjection expressing amused surprise, causing the character to be referred to as Tak later in the book. (N.b.: T.A.K. also happens to be King's wife's initials.)

The language first appears very early on, at the bottom of page 15, when Entragian first pulls over Peter and Mary: "A year, hmmm? Between high school and college. Married. Tak!" No real notice is paid to the strange interjection, except briefly when Peter mimics the cop's voice in his head, and ends the thought with Tak!, making the reader believe its use by Entragian is simply a character quirk. The next time it is used is with the Carver family (54):

"Who's out there, sir?" David asked.

"A bad guy," the cop said. "That's all you need to know for now, son. A very bad guy. Tak!"


Tak? Ralph wondered. Was that the bad guy's name?

The language is not a "real" conlang because of the lack of a coherent grammar or a consistent vocabulary: it seems that King threw some scary-sounding syllables and a basic idea of what a few of them will mean together, and invented other phrases as he went. It's also been said that the language is based on Greek (perhaps because of the mention of pneuma, sarx and soma?) but after consulting dann, Gritchka and mirv, I don't think this is the case. The language is also used in The Regulators and I hear it's spoken by a character in the Dark Tower series, but as I haven't read those works, I won't be commenting on them.

Guide to Phrases:
The phrase or word is in italics. In "double quotes" is its meaning, if it's explicitly declared. In 'single quotes' is the meaning I've inferred, if I've done so. In (parentheses) is how it was used or the context it appears in, and/or a page it appears on.

ah lah
(Entragian telling coyote]to guard jail, 220)
(Ellen asks spiders for location of people, 381)
(Ellen tells cougar to attack, 431)
ah ten
(exclamation, 554)
an lah
(Tak to Johnny, 667)
an tak
a location, 'the ini chamber'? (541)
can ah wan me
(Ellen tells cougar to attack, 431)
can de lach
Entragian says there's no God in Desperation, only can de lach, 155)
(Entragian tells vulture to attack Johhny, 204)
"heart of the unformed" (449)
(Johnny to Audrey, 479)
(Ellen calls eagle, 614)
can fin
exclamation/expletive/derogatory form of address? (589)
can tah
'an animal under Tak's command'
can toi amulet (452)
can tak
'a creature possessed by Tak' (561)
(Audrey to Johhny, 480)
also used by Tak to refer to the spirit of God in David and Johnny
can toi
"children of the desert" / 'lesser animals' (95, 590, 635)
cay de mun
"open your mouth" (663)
'father' (626)
'son' (626)
en tow
(Ellen calls spiders, spiders leave, 362)
(spiders stop spelling "theater", 381)
(Ellen searches for a can tah to find Mary, 589)
(Tak screams at Johhny, 665)
him en tow
(Entragian telling coyote to guard jail, 220)
(Audrey to herself before attacking David, 455)
"well of the worlds"
the hole where Tak came from (381, 525)
mi him
(Ellen calls spiders, spiders leave, 362)
some border around something? (590)
(Ellen calls eagle, 614)
mi him en tow
"our God is strong/with us"
(Ellen sends wolf to attack Johnny, 587)
(Ellen searches for a can tah to find Mary, 589)
mi en tak
'infected with Tak' (527)
mi tow
(Audrey to Johhny, 480)
(exclamation, 479)
min en tow
(exclamation, 479)
(Ellen calls eagle, 614)
(Entragian tells vulture to attack Johhny, 204)
os pa
'person' / 'future body to house Tak'
(Entragian addressing Johhny, 205)
(Ellen, about Mary, 589, 591, 610)
os dam
form of address?
(eagle, about David, 627)
(exclamation, 667)
pirin moh
a building underground, near the ini (525)
(inside the an tak?, 541)
(spiders stop spelling "theater", 381)
si em, tow en can de lach
"we speak the language of the unformed" (497)
so cah set
(exclamation, 379)
so tah
(Audrey to Johhny, 480)
"the unformed one", a god of sorts; exclamation
tak ah lah
(Entragian tells coyote to leave, 90)
(Entragian tells vulture to attack Johhny, 204)
(Ellen calls spiders, 362)
(Tak's "purpose", 448)
(Ellen to ini, 544)
(Tak screams at Johhny, 664, 665)
(Tak in David's mind, 686)
tak ah ten
(Ellen tells cougar to attack, 432)
tak ah wan
(Ellen calls spiders, 362)
(Audrey attacks David, 460)
(Ellen to ini, 544)
(Ellen to self while chasing Mary, 611)
(Tak in David's mind, 686)
tak an lah
(Entragian runs over Billy, 197)
tak en tow ini
(Ellen to ini, 544)
ten ah
(Ellen to spiders, who form shape of ini, 381)
ten ah lak
(Ellen screams at Johhny, 665)
(Entragian tells vulture to attack Johhny, 204)
(Johhny to Audrey, 479)
timoh sen cah
"low animals" (525)

If you've any insights on the language, or have read the book and just wanna share your thoughts on it, please /msg me!

* I read the hardcover copy of this book, first publishing, 1996, and used that copy for all page references. More information on the book can be found in sauron's Desperation node.

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