LINGUIST List 6.704

Sat 20 May 1995

Disc: Linguistics in Science Fiction

Editor for this issue: <>


Directory

  1. Martin Jacobsen, Linguistics in Sci-Fi
  2. Anna Livia Julian Brawn, Re: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction
  3. , RE: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction

Message 1: Linguistics in Sci-Fi

Date: Tue, 9 May 1995 20:47:51 -Linguistics in Sci-Fi
From: Martin Jacobsen <mmjns.ccsn.edu>
Subject: Linguistics in Sci-Fi

All,
 Another Sci-Fi story involving linguistics is found in the fifth
installment of editor Judy-Lynn del Ray's _Stellar_ series. The story
is entitled "Grimm's Law." The author, L. Neil Smith, tells a story
about a time-pilot who takes a philologist back to the point in time when
the stops in the classical languages shifted to the stops now used in the
Germanic tongues. The philologist, then, accidentally acquires the
classical stops into his modern English, as evidenced by the following
sentence from the professor to his time-pilot: "Prenie! You kotha ghelf us!
Somedhinh wenth wronh! We ghoth haughth in dhe shibhth!" ("Bernie! You
gotta help us! Something went wrong! We got caught in the shift").

Martin Jacobsen
mmjns.ccsn.edu
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 2: Re: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction

Date: Wed, 10 May 1995 01:08:09 Re: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction
From: Anna Livia Julian Brawn <liviauclink.berkeley.edu>
Subject: Re: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction


Actually, "per" is the direct object and third person singular personal
pronoun, replacing both him/her and his/her. "Person" is the subject
pronoun.

> I'm surprised no one has mentioned _Woman on the Edge of Time_ by
> Marge Piercy. In it, a woman travels to a future time in which there
> are no more gender-specific pronouns. They use "per" for he and she
> (and his and hers if I'm remembering correctly). It was confusing at
> first, but by the end of the book, I found myself wanting to use it in
> conversation. It was a good read.
>
> Ande Ciecierski
> ciecierskiroutledge.com
>
>
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue

Message 3: RE: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction

Date: Wed, 10 May 1995 16:05 +01RE: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction
From: <WERTHALF.LET.UVA.NL>
Subject: RE: 6.657, Linguistics in Science Fiction

I dimly remember long ago reading a science-fiction story (perhaps by
Theodore Sturgeon?) about a time when Earth has been captured by
apparently benevolent aliens, who seemingly can't do enough to make
the life of earthlings as comfortable and carefree as possible. They
speak an unpronounceable and extremely complex language, and have this
book which they're always consulting. The humans steal a copy, and
set a team of crack linguists on to it, to find out what it's
about. Meanwhile, people start disappearing, but the majority are so
contented, they're prepared to ignore it. Eventually, the team of
linguists manage to translate the title (as if that's how to decipher
a language - just begin at the beginning!) - it comes out as "How to
Serve Mankind". The collaborationists of course start screaming that
they said all along that the aliens were benevolent, why couldn't you
people leave things alone, we've never had it so good and so on. More
people disappear. Eventually, the linguists, with incredible
difficulty, and working all round the clock (doing whatever myster-
ious things that linguists do) discover that it's a cook book!

Incidentally, it was Theodore Sturgeon who promulgated "Sturgeon's Law":
"95% of science fiction is crap. Come to think of it, 95% of *everything* is
crap".

Paul Werth
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue