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From: Michael Straight <straight@email.unc.edu>
Subject: Re: (urth)Linguistics in science fiction
Date: Fri, 30 Oct 1998 14:49:46 

On Fri, 30 Oct 1998, mary whalen wrote:
> ---John Bishop <jbishop@blkbrd.zko.dec.com> wrote:
> > re _Snow_Crash_: it was fun, but the basic premise is just wrong;
> > Sumerian is _not_ the first language--it's maybe the oldest one we
> > have texts from, but that's different.  Plus it's not a "brain-stem
> > hacking" tool; I've looked at it in passing and it's just another
> > language.  As a BA in Linguistics, I've not yet seen SF which gets
> > Linguistics right at all; the tendancy is to go wild on the wildest
> > version of Whorf' hypothesis, or to get some basic concept wrong.
> > As an MSc in Computer Science, it's the same for computing.  This
> > is not to say that there couldn't be a tool for programming the mind
> > via language (indeed, advertising and so on show that there _is_),
> > but it's not going to be Sumerian.
> This post is interesting, because I recently saw a book by Jack Vance
> called _The Languages of Pao_, which said something like "The first
> science fiction book based on the science of linguistics" on the
> cover.  I have no idea what the story is about.  Since Wolfe says he
> was influenced by Vance, particularly the Dying Earth books, I
> wondered if there are any stories where someone has noticed any
> emphasis on linguistics.

What about C.S. Lewis's "Out of the Silent Planet"?  The main character is
a philologist and a significant portion of the book is about language
learning.  Does that count as "linguistics"?

There is Wolfe's whole "I'm just translating this old manuscript from the
future" conceit, which is fairly old hat (except maybe the "from the
future" part.  Have other authors done that before?  Wolfe seems to play
it pretty much as a joke.) 


*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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