Category Archives: Linguistics

Shaka, When the Walls Fell

culture, Linguistics, psychology 2 Replies

I have to admit, I’m a life-long fan of Star Trek. I grew up watching reruns of The Original Series, went through Secondary School (High School) with Picard in The Next Generation, thoroughly enjoyed the myth-building in Deep Space Nine, and wound down with Janeway in Voyager. We shall not speak of Enterprise here…

Now, The Next Generation had a number of woefully bad episodes. Some were just egregiously sexist and racist, many were just terribly written, and almost all were awfully costumed. But in *concept*, most of them were a fairly decent story idea. Most. One in particular stands out, and (perhaps because of this?) it seems to be the most quoted The Next Generation episode: Darmok.

A short synopsis is that the Enterprise crew attempt to communicate with another species who communicate entirely in metaphor. Thus the Universal Translator can convert what they’re saying into English (I’m assuming), but it fails to convey any meaning due to lack of context. An example would be me attempting to communicate something by saying “David, at the exam”. You have no idea if I mean success, or failure, or lateness, or elation, or whatever.

And this is, I think, the worst episode concept in the history of Star Trek. Bar none. Yes, really.

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Language as prejudice

culture, Linguistics, psychology Leave a reply

So let’s start with: I am neither a linguist, nor a sociologist, but I’d love to hear from anyone with experience in those fields. I did a quick search on Google Scholar and didn’t find anything related.

I think a large part of racism is borne implicitly, a collection of attitudes and behaviour adjustments that, in themselves, are neither conscious nor large, yet the aggregate effect of millions of people acting in this way is what tilts the whole system against various groups.

I was thinking about language recently. Language isn’t ever neutral. Sounds are processed, regardless of their origin. Our brain is constantly pattern matching everything we see and hear, and doing it’s best to provide itself with a working hypothesis of what’s going on in the world around it.

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