(65b) Addendum to (65)

The Misha Campaign (055-1122 ff.)

Spoken Languages
and their representation in the campaign logs

Log 65 brings up the issue of myriad spoken languages between people in the same conversation.  It's no longer really enough to identify this with words in the text, so various notations are now being used when there are extended multi-lingual conversations.

Galanglic: "Spoken words here."

Everyone except Lap'da speaks galanglic fluently.  Almost all of the conversations between people in the log is in galanglic.  No special notation is necessary.

Native languages: He/she/sie said something in his/her/hir own language.

Many people have a native language other than galanglic.  Helia speaks larian, a high-pitched rapid chattering tongue that sounds like girlie-girls having a telephone conversation.  She has spoken it only to other larians, or to Lap'da who for some inexplicable reason also seems to speak it.  Misha speaks his own language, but has probably never used it beyond his homeworld.  Sagan speaks hiver, but through a translator so sie can be considered to be producing galanglic directly.  In the log, if a native language needs to be translated, it will be -- other than that, there's no special notation or reason to represent the actual words spoken.

Jannish: "Spoken words here."

This is the native language of the settlers on Digitis, and it has been discovered by our heroes that it is a child form of script language.  It's a normal linear concept language, unlike script, that is easily grasped by children and humans.  It's also directly and effectively translated to galanglic using the standard chip.  No special notation is necessary; the text will indicate if a particular person is speaking in jannish.

Lap'da Jannish: "Spoken words gobblie-ta."

Lap'da speaks jannish to everyone who's not a jann.  It's the same as Digitisian jannish, except that Lap'da does not permit mere language to restrict the concepts he's trying to convey.  As a result, he uses sounds that don't make up words in the settlers' language -- that can't in fact be represented in conventional jannish.

Lap'da's jannish is represented by the galanglic that comes out of the translators that everyone has.  It's therefore represented in the same way as galanglic.  If he actually uses a galanglic word while speaking jannish, that word is in italics and there's a mention of it the first time he does so.

Script Language: <<[continuous(future): ref.generality ref.representation ref.ref.location]>> == "Spoken words here."

No-one has yet coined a name that has seen consistent use for this language.  The most common name uses is script language; for concise reference here, I'll call it by Mike Greene's word scryptese.  It (not jannish) is the native language of the janns, and the native language used by the black ship Nightshade.  (Only in script language is it possible to express the concept that all black ships like Nightshade use script language, something that Robert has determined because it's part of the utterance that is referenced by <<reference>>.)

Scryptese is not a linear language.  Whereas all other known languages contain elements that the speaker can put together to express concepts, scryptese has no such conveniences.  A speaker in any other language can start to express a concept, and change their mind half way through and end up meaning something else.  Scryptese is more like a verbal description of a hieroglyphic symbol -- once you've described certain elements of the symbol, you can't really change what you're saying simply by using different words in the rest of the sentence.  You really have to know what you're going to say before you say it, and you have no way of changing your mind -- other than to throw your hands in the air, look frustrated, and start all over again.

Also, scryptese has no words as such.  Each sound, each carefully timed pause, each pitch of note and flick of tongue, means nothing in and of itself.  It only means something in the context of every other noise (and absence of noise) that has come before (and in some cases, is yet to come).  It's like writing a paragraph where each "word" (in galanglic, a sequence of letters) has a meaning depending completely on the words you've already put down.

No Imperial translator chip can -- or will -- be able to translate this spoken language.  Occasionally, jannish-galanglic translator chips will recognize a sound and try to make a word out of it, but usually the most productive thing they can do is hum quietly to themselves or make annoying screeching noises.

For the sole benefit of people who are reading scryptese in the log, an oversimplified galanglic translation is often provided after two equal signs ("==").  These are intended to provide enough context that the gentle reader can make sense out of the actual scryptese concept-literals.

To make any reasonable representation of scryptese, it is "phrased" in terms of "concept-literals", chunks of anglic that sort of convey what the script symbol might mean.

The scryptese is enclosed in french style quotations (or rather, << and >> which is a close enough international ASCII representation).  Each concept is enclosed in square brackets.  It usually has a context determining the extent of the concept, usually time, as a point and/or a direction which may apply to a tense or tenses (in parentheses).  The concept to which this extent applies follows a colon -- it might be a list of related instances or further square bracketed concepts.

Scryptese uses extensive references as shorthand.  These references may be to someone they've been talking about, a well known cultural event, a lifetime of experience, or a current pop culture icon.  Usually it's just <<reference>> without a qualifier, as it's obvious to scryptese speakers what is meant -- or will become obvious shortly, as future references are common too.  References are so endemic that an entire scryptese conversation can be carries out with each speaker saying nothing but <<reference>> -- or rather, not even saying that, but conveying each reference with a shrug or nod or appropriate non-verbal gesture.  References can be layered on top of each other as reference chains.  An orator using scryptese can make a passionate and moving speech consisting solely of <<reference-chain>>.

Usually, just to make the log readable, references are specialized a little by specifying sort of what they reference; for example, <<[continuous(generality): ref.[ship ref.janns] ref.ship]>> == "Lap'da's people came here on black ships like ours."  References are also represented where appropriate using a sort of Church's lambda calculus.

To add to the difficulty, there is a complete dichotomy between concept and background.  Concept is the pure thought, what's spoken, the actual communication.  Background is the totality of existence that gives context to the concept.  The background is separate from, but inseparable from, scryptese.  For example, Lap'da might say, "I have lived for 100 years."  Depending on the meaning of "year", that might mean he's 100 years old or 240,000 years old.  Or maybe he is using a definition of "live" as in having an exciting time, and he's actually 200 years old but has only been having fun for half of that.  Remembering that in jannish what he actually said was probably more like, "I am 100," everything Lap'da says can be interpreted completely differently depending on the background.  Two people can have a conversation with Lap'da and get totally different things out of it depending on what they believe about the background: about how the janns came to the forest, for example.

In summary, script language is a nightmare to represent.  It made sense when it was written down, but that doesn't mean it makes any sense to the reader.