?

What language would you teach isolated, parentless people?

  1. English. This mongrel tongue got more than its fair due on Earth, why shouldn't it now?

    37.5%
  2. Spanish.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  3. German.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  4. French. We want cultured colonists!

    12.5%
  5. Latin.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  6. Russian.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  7. Another Slavic language.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  8. A dialect of Arabic.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  9. An Indo-Iranian language: Farsi, Hindi, Urdu, etc.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  10. An East Asian language: Korean, Mandarin, Japanese, Vietnamese, etc.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  11. A Celtic language.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  12. A Khoisan language.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  13. A less common regional language like Hebrew or Albanian.

    12.5%
  14. The language of some random tribe with 5 speakers left.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  15. An extinct language (e.g. Akkadian or Norse).

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  16. Esperanto.

    12.5%
  17. Another auxiliary language.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  18. Quenya/Sindarin.

    12.5%
  19. Klingon.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  20. Another fantasy conlang.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  21. Anglish.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  22. Another weird alteration of a real language.

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  23. None. This causes developmental disorders in 1st generation, but you get a totally pure language!

    12.5%
  24. Sign language or another visual language. Likely a similar result to 'none.'

    0 vote(s)
    0.0%
  1. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    What would you do in this scenario?

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by Mouthwash, Jul 11, 2017.

    You are in orbit around a mild Earth-like planet, the last human alive. You are cybernetically enhanced to survive for centuries on nutrient cubes. Aside from the lander itself, you have nothing but a few hundred embryos and a database containing every language ever known (but nothing else). Spreading humanity across the world is more important in the short term than building civilization, so you intend to seal yourself in the lander and observe after the initial generation is able to survive by themselves.

    What language do you teach them?

    My thoughts:

    English is boring.

    I don't know enough about real-world languages to judge them, so I'll have to pass on them all.

    Taking a dying language with a couple speakers left and making it the basis of a whole planet's speech appeals to my sense of irony very strongly. I could only imagine the looks on their faces!

    Resurrecting an extinct language seems like it would be really cool at first, but it would probably just wind up draining the eroticism out of it. They are supposed to represent great and noble civilizations. Watching the tongue of Norsemen or Babylonians slowly twist to the whims of hunter-gatherers as they migrate across the planet seems kind of disrespectful.

    Giving them an auxiliary language like Esperanto seems the most straightforward choice because it is extremely easy to learn. I've had enough experience with language learning to appreciate that. Still, other choices are too intriguing.

    An Elvish language would be incredibly cool but also pointless and impractical.

    Klingon is tempting for me because it's just so weird. It also apparently forces you to choose your phrasing very carefully because of its limited grammar and vocabulary, so there's a psychological aspect to it.

    Lesser-known conlangs don't interest me, and neither does language purism.

    I have to choose 'none.' It's spectacularly unethical, but I'm already hopelessly, irredeemably evil so that is no bother. It's also a priceless window into psycholinguistics that would probably never come again.

    Sign language was our evolutionary stepping-stone to spoken language, so it likely wouldn't give as much insight as them being totally incommunicado.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  2. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    What an interesting choice of languages you have chosen to illuminate yourself with!

    Teach them English. As you say, it's a mongrel. But mongrels are usually healthier than thoroughbreds. It's a robust language that has taken a Borg mentality (your cultural identity will be added to our own perfection) and is the second language of choice the world over. Although, by depriving your new settlers of any other language to interact with, you'll deny English the rubbing-stone that has made it the powerhouse it is today, and will stunt further growth.

    The idea that teaching them French will lead to more cultured colonists is, frankly, bizarre (and, given your insistence that spreading humanity is more important than civilization, nonsensical). Pretentious, moi?

    James VI of Scotland tried to teach some babies no language because he hoped to prove that they'd "instinctively" pick up the language of God, which he believed would turn out to be Gaelic. He planted them on an isolated island with only a mute nurse to care for them. The experiment failed when the children died in the rough weather of their first winter. As far as getting a "pure" language...it took generations of mankind, along with parallel genetic developments, for us to get from grunts to language; it wouldn't happen much more quickly in a parallel situation. And language is very much one of the key tools of survival for these new colonists; so much so that lack of language would probably sentence them to extinction.

    And the idea that your database contains only language, and nothing else, is something of an oxymoron. If a language contains a word, it also contains the thought that the word describes. Without biology, what meaning does "deoxyribonucleic acid" have?
     
  3. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    It's also very arbitrary, wasteful, and hard to learn. :whistle:

    That's just some humor on my part. However, I've heard that French is a very rationalistic language and that French intellectuals are quite proud of it.

    That would take thousands of generations to evolve (at least), but these colonists are genetically identical to modern humans.

    Okay, we'll say that you could choose to keep taking care of them until their descendants develop enough of a language to be self-sufficient. But for all we know, interaction between children could create one at the first generation.

    The database contains the information on those languages. This is semantic quibbling, sir.
     
    Last edited: Jul 11, 2017
  4. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    1/ Language developed slowly as man developed both the physical adeptness to form words with a flexible vocal tract and the mental adeptness to conceive of why he would need to name something. The noun. (The mammoth. The spear.) Then he needed to conceive of why he might want to do something with that noun. The verb. (Kill the mammoth. Throw the spear.) He needed to agree upon these words, to agree upon their meaning. If all he's got is the physical equipment to make words, he's going to have to do all the - more difficult - work of creating a language completely from scratch. Yes, he'll beat stone-age man in creating language by cutting out all that evolution, but not by that many millennia.

    2/ I'm not sure that I agree. If you contain the information in those languages, you contain the information...= you contain the knowledge.

    Besides, if you've got a database that's limited to, say, 1,000 Gb, why would you fill it full of languages with minority use only (Luxembourgish, I'm looking at you!) instead of also including a host of You-Tube videos of how to skin an elk and how to construct a birch-bark shelter using only recycled pallets?
     
  5. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I said thousands of generations, not years. Also, why on Earth would it? Language is hardwired into us.

    I have no idea what you're trying to argue and suspect it isn't very important. Just say that the database has a learning program for every single language, k?
     
  6. Shadowfax

    Shadowfax Contributor Contributor

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    No.

    If it were, why would you even ask the question about what language to TEACH the colonists?

    As far as the database is concerned, and its capacity for more information than just every language, living or dead, you're the one who inserted that rather arbitrary restriction.
     
  7. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I'm beginning to think I may not be able to have a productive conversation with you.

    "Hardwired" does not mean being able to speak a language. It means having the capacity to speak a language. Babies make noises and try to imitate the speech of their parents. Your objection is like saying that they wouldn't discover sex if they hadn't had their proper sex ed.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  8. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Or anyone else in the forum apparently.
     
  9. newjerseyrunner

    newjerseyrunner Contributor Contributor Contest Winner 2022

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    There is only one case of a truly new language being formed, so it's the only case study for it. Language also evolves very very rapidly, way faster than you would think. Take English as an example. If you took a ride over to Scotland, you'd find english that you would find it difficult to understand. If you go backwards 100 years, it'll be more or less the same. 200 years and things start sounding a little strange. 500 years and it barely even sounds like english. You'd get the gist of what is said, but won't understand it as deeply as you do ours (think Shakespear.) 700 years back, you're probably not going to be able to understand it at all. So whatever you teach them, you'll end up with a creole after one generation, and it'll only evolve naturally after that. I'd teach them whatever the most common language at the time is.
     
  10. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I think that many posters here are very intelligent, that is when they're not making snarky one-liners.

    There is no most common language seeing as everyone on Earth is dead... I want this to be selected by linguistic preference alone. Also, while the language obviously would not remain intact, it would be very interesting to hear the first dozen generations or so.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2017
  11. Alistair Black

    Alistair Black Member

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    I'd teach them modern Norwegian. It's just a fun, warm language with an interesting cadence and rhythm. That or Latin.
     
  12. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    I think that the point is that the underlying concepts of language and need for language are wired in to us. They can be implemented and fulfilled by all sorts of languages, including sign language, but they're in there. As I understand it.
     
  13. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I thought I made that exceedingly obvious... :nosleep:
     
  14. ChickenFreak

    ChickenFreak Contributor Contributor

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    So, you're posting to say that you disagree with my agreeing with you?
     
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  15. Mouthwash

    Mouthwash Senior Member

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    I just thought it wouldn't require explanation.
     
  16. Dr.Meow

    Dr.Meow Contributor Contributor

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    Unless I could speak all those languages as well somehow, with an enhancement maybe, then the choice would be difficult. If I only speak one, maybe two of them, then I'd just go with my native one, whichever that was, so I can communicate.

    As for choosing not to teach them, I think after years of being a grunt for one civilization, being the king/ruler or even "god" of the next one might be a welcome switch. XD Teach them all I know, set myself up as the leader. Why not? As long as I'm benevolent then no one will have a problem or try to overthrow me. Of course, power changes people sometimes...but I'd like to think that some of my more recent experiences would keep me "good". Then at the same time, would setting oneself up as the ruler be "good" at all?

    Hmmm...so conflicted.
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2017
  17. matwoolf

    matwoolf Banned Contributor

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    Latin & Greek would set them up nicely for comprehending 18/19/20c texts and their allusions. Also, in later life they might become the renowned poetry orphans.

    As you know all the greatest poets are brilliant when it comes to Augean stable/sword of Damocles/Herculean tasks and the like, a kind of a prerequisite for 'poet'/in my conspiracy theory.
     
  18. JPClyde

    JPClyde Senior Member

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    -cries-

    I'm the only one who voted French. Mainly because I speak French. And am partly French. But I am the minority.

    Mostly though I am teaching it out of practicality here, because its the one of two languages I know which is French, German, and then English.
     
  19. GuardianWynn

    GuardianWynn Contributor Contributor

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    I think shadowfax has presented some good arguments to your question. Though I think you were more interested in the response to the question rather than arguments to it's validity. So I can understand your frustrations.

    Yet it is hard to answer a question to which you cannot accept as valid.

    I mean like. If the idea is only the core basic information is held there such as language. Why is this the case? Lack of room for other information? Well then why did obscure language that wasn't likely to be chosen presented?

    Though. The real question sounds like. What language would be best? Like. If you could do this times. Once with German or english or french and so on, that one language will be a deciding factor on whether or not the nation survives. Is that right?

    To this I can't answer. Any modern day language I imagine is up to the task of being good enough for them. Thus I imagine there failure would be subject to different issues.
     
  20. Iain Aschendale

    Iain Aschendale Lying, dog-faced pony Marine Supporter Contributor

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    I didn't see the option for chucking the embryos into the vacuum and/or just setting the controls for the heart of the sun, but since you've given me the extinction button, I'm going to mash it as hard as I can.
     
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