Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Speak to me in many voices #2

"Do you remember how Act Like a Jack Vance Character Day was more fun," another Kiwi vouchsafed, "before it got so commercialised?" But Evangeline van Holsterin -- head barmaid at the Old Entomologist -- narrowed her eyes and pointedly ignored his empty glass until he said it again, this time in Old Paonese (in which a "sentence did not so much describe an act as it presented a picture of a situation. There were no verbs, no adjectives; no formal word word comparison such as good, better, best").

It was Evangeline's idea that ALaJVC Day would be more special if we actually spoke like Jack Vance characters for the day, in the sense of learning the Languages of Pao. "It's for the children!" she explained. As always, this seemed to translate into "It's for hiring costumes from her vile nephew Throgmorton".

Some of us were assigned to learn Valiant. In Palafax' description: "The syllabary will be rich in effort-producing gutturals and hard vowels. A number of key ideas will be synonymous, such as ‘pleasure’ and ‘overcoming a resistance’ – ‘relaxation’ and ‘shame’ – ‘outworlder’ and’ rival’. Even the clans of Batmarsh will seem mild compared to the future Paonese military."

Greenish Hugh had to learn Pastiche, a kind of interlingual creole merging aspects of all three synthetic Paonese tongues. As the leader of the Valiants, I got to wear a full-body wetsuit while tickling him with a green feather duster. This was not actually as much fun as we had been led to believe.

Technicant is optimised for commerce and negotiating: "a symmetrical language with emphatic number-parsing, elaborate honorifics to teach hypocrisy, a vocabulary rich in homophones to facilitate ambiguity, a syntax of reflection, reinforcement and alternation to emphasize the analogous interchange of human affairs." Technicant speakers like Space-Time Eddie are easily frightened e.g. by green feather dusters. Eddie seems to be present in multiple copies; I think he does that with CGI or something.

Tigris was supposed to learn Cognitant -- the language of intellect and invention ("The grammar will be extravagantly complicated but altogether consistent and logical. The vocables would be discrete but joined and fitted by elaborate rules of accordance…").
She reckoned that she knew the grammar perfectly and was spelling out the words in sign-language (because consonantal clusters make her throat hurt), and no-one accused her of cheating, since she was handing around a bottle of the Late-Ratted Parsnip Scrumpy.

Here there was to have been a detailed history of Linguistic Relativity [or the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis as it is known to its friends], as manifested in 1960s science fiction. Beginning with John Campbell's editorial fondness at Astounding for General Semantics and E-Prime, and moving on through Babel-17, and the role of Loglan in The Moon is a Harsh Mistress (Loglan is a language specifically designed to eliminate all possibility of poetry and low puns). But tl;dw. Also other people have already written it better.

"****!" said Swearing Bob; "******* * ****!" This appears to mean the same in Technicant, Cognitant, Valiant and Pastiche, so which language he was speaking is anyone's guess.


ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

Beware of bare arms bearing mysterious potions!

Bare Armed Snake Oil Salesman said...

Beware of bare arms bearing mysterious potions!

You sir, are trampling on my 2nd misrememberment rights!!!

Big Bad Bald Bastard said...

Be thankful Greenish Hugh didn't go all "Kokkor Hekkus" all over the place.