LINGUIST List 6.533

Sun 09 Apr 1995

Disc: Linguistics in Science Fiction

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , SF
  2. , More Summary: Linguistics in Science Fiction
  3. , 6.525 Ling in Science Fiction

Message 1: SF

Date: Fri, 07 Apr 1995 16:08:44 SF
From: <criseydeIMAP2.ASU.EDU>
Subject: SF

In response to your current criticism of SF in the last ten years that
you posted on Linguist-- I agree with you wholeheartedly, though with
some reservations. How about that for courageous stance-taking? My
reservation is William Gibson--Great SF, but really great as literature.
I'm not sure about Sterling, et alia. I feel that the whole cyberpunk
thing has gone too far and I'd like to see a return to Dickensian
(Philip, that is) stuff.Can I use the word stuff for SF? Linguistic profs
seem to use it all the time--"that nouny kind of stuff over there". It's
great fun to think about Linguistics and SF--thanks!
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: More Summary: Linguistics in Science Fiction

Date: Fri, 07 Apr 1995 20:30 -05More Summary: Linguistics in Science Fiction
From: <>
Subject: More Summary: Linguistics in Science Fiction

I suppose it was inevitable. (Either that, or it was bound to happen.)
Shortly after I posted the summary of science fiction stories in which
linguistics played a large part, I got several more replies. Herewith an
condensed summary... but I'll omit the two or three replies that were sent
directly to Linguist List.

I should also mention that there's an on-line card catalog of science
fiction kept at MIT (appropriate, no?). The URL is It appears to allow lookups by author
or title, but not much else.

Thanks to Charles Ulrich (CULRICHPOMONA.EDU), Martha O'Kennon
(MOKENNONACAD.ALBION.EDU), Rickard Domeij (, Marion Kee
(Marion.KeeA.NL.CS.CMU.EDU), Chris J Gledhill (,
Jeff von Munkwitz-Smith (, and David

Philip Jose Farmer, The Lovers. (The protagonist is an astrolinguist. [I
think I'll submit my resume. Sounds like fun! MM]

)------------------, A Barnstormer in Oz (gives a pseudoscientific
explanation of many aspects of Baum's Oz stories, e.g. the inhabitants of
Oz speak an East Germanic language! An appendix gives etymologies)

TV. The episode called "Darmok" in the Star Trek: the Next Generation.
(Picard has to decipher the language of an alien people.)

van Vogt. "The World and Zero-A", and "The Player and Zero-A." (Titles
uncertain. "Zero-A" stands for "not Aristotelian thinking" and the book
involves logic, consciousness, suggestion, body-mind,

Heinlein, "I Will Fear No Evil" (explores sociolinguistic implications of
widespread illiteracy in a technologically-dependent society; contains
coined terms which describe features of the future society that Heinlein is
envisioning ("classic rock" "to flash" (="to nuke [food]"), "enclaves" (=
gated community)

Heinlein, "To Sail Beyond the Sunset" (use of a "family code"--a kind of
private language.)

M. A. Foster _Day of the Klesh_ (sequel to _The Gameplayers of Zan_; there
is also a prequel. All three novels feature the Ler, a race of genetically
engineered humans designed to be physically and mentally superior to us
garden-variety types. The language of the Ler is built largely on Slavic
roots and is highly regular in form, and has different "modes",
distinguished by vocabulary, inflection and phonetic manifestation, as well
as at the "psi" level. The different modes have different purposes; one to
be used at home with family, one public, one for lovers, and one that packs
a psychic compulsion to do whatever the speaker is demanding.)

Harry Harrison, Stainless Steel Rat series. (use of Esperanto as a truly
universal language).

Muhammad Abd Al Rahim (M.A.R.) Barker wrote some novels based on his
"Kingdom of the Petal Throne" game. (Barker was formerly the chair of the
South Asian Languages department at the University of Minnesota)

Milorad Pavic, Dictionary of the Khazars (a "lexicon novel" in exactly
100000 words. It's not SF, but it certainly isn't mainstream. It tells a
story from three perspectives, by presenting entries from Christian,
Islamic and Jewish lexicons about the event.)


If you've read this far, perhaps you'd like to volunteer to become the
keeper of the SF list? It's been suggested that some list of stories like
this one be kept somewhere (a science.lang FAQ, someone's home Web page,
etc.) I imagine it would require a lot more editing than what I've done,
and I've already spent more time at it than I should have. Any volunteers?
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: 6.525 Ling in Science Fiction

Date: Sat, 8 Apr 95 13:56:50 CDT6.525 Ling in Science Fiction
From: <>
Subject: 6.525 Ling in Science Fiction

Paul Werth writes:

 ) there's a story by Robert Silverberg which takes place in a
 ) society which has so suppressed the individual instinct that 1st
 ) person pronouns no longer exist. The hero is a born-again
 ) individualist who rediscovers the 1st person. (I seem to remember
 ) a short story by Ayn Rand founded on a similar premise).

The Ayn Rand work is "Anthem," and the description of the plot of the
Robert Silverberg story fits this one exactly as well. It may be a
short story, but it's also published as a (very short) novel, and I
enjoyed it very much.

 Dale Russell
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue