Science Fiction - How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial


An Old Friend
Me Human, You Alien: How to Talk to an Extraterrestrial
Jonathan Vos Post

(c) 1996 by Emerald City Publishing

We assume that the ET is not a super-linguist who already knows English,
or can learn it while you are still getting a grip on the situation. We
assume that he does not carry the equivalent of a Universal Translator (a
probably impossible gadget) or The Klingon Dictionary: The Official Guide
to Klingon Words and Phrases6 by Marc Okrand. No, we must think long and
hard about what Language is, and how our experience with human languages
might extend to ET languages (Xenolinguistics).
Francis P. Dineen, Georgetown University Institute of Languages and
Linguistics, says that there are 11 characteristics of language.7 He was
thinking of human languages, so we will need to make a few adjustments.
He lists:
(1) Language is Sound
(2) Language is Linear
(3) Language is Systematic
(4) Language is a System of Systems
(5) Language is Meaningful
(6) Language is Arbitrary
(7) Language is Conventional
(8) Language is a System of Contrasts
(9) Language is Creative
(10) Languages are Unique

Language is Sound. Or is it? Most humans speak and listen to language,
using the same fleshy articulatory equipment to produce speech sounds and
to hear them. The sounds may appear strange to you, but they may be
accurately described in terms of the movements of organs such as vocal
cords, tongue, lips, and teeth. But the primacy of speech is not
absolute, given the importance of writing, and the use of various sign
languages. We have no evidence yet that the ET uses sound, or writing, or
sign language, so we must immediately find out what MEDIUM is used for
language signals in the ET.
Your science team, since they arrived, has been observing the ET with
every scientific instrument imaginable. Ask them which medium the ET
seems to be emitting the most complex signals in:
(a) Light
(b) Sound
(c) Smell
(d) Taste
(e) Touch
(f) Posture
(g) Biomorphic Writing
(h) Biological Vectors
(i) Direct Nerve Contact
(j) Exotic Radiations
(k) Telepathy
(l) Combinations

Now scroll down to see each of these explained.
(11) Languages are Similar