[Ads-l] "We come in peace," or, how to talk to space aliens

Baron, Dennis E debaron at ILLINOIS.EDU
Mon Sep 5 19:20:52 EDT 2016

There’s a new post on the Web of Language:

With increasing frequency we’re seeing headlines trumpeting “earthlike planet discovered”—for example, this announcement from NASA<https://www.nasa.gov/ames/kepler/nasas-kepler-discovers-first-earth-size-planet-in-the-habitable-zone-of-another-star>, or this<http://www.union-bulletin.com/local_columnists/eye_to_the_sky/earth-like-planet-found-but-is-it-habitable/article_69ea5e7a-722d-11e6-962b-67e0b3c31397.html>, this<http://www.cnn.com/2016/05/02/health/three-habitable-planets-earth-dwarf-star/>, or this<http://www.wired.com/2014/11/exoplanets/>. These worlds may be inhabited by intelligent life forms, and that raises the question, “How on earth (as it were) are we going to talk to  them?”

SciFi makes the answer easy: there’s the Star Trek Universal Communicator©—pardon me, while I whip this thing out—or something off-the-shelf like Google translate, or the Rosetta Stone.
This month’s Scientific American suggests how linguists would talk to extraterrestrial<http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/alien-interpreters-how-linguists-would-talk-to-extraterrestrials/>s. The approach is one you’d expect from positivists, and it is based on assumptions that work well for human languages . . .
Read the full post here, on the Web of Language: http://bit.ly/2c35tAU

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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