Published: 12 August 2014 at 14:58
Linguistics expert to carry out live experiment into ‘alien speak’ at sci-fi event
Are you crazy for Klingon or do you prefer Tolkien’s Elvish tongues? Well, a linguistics expert is carrying out a live research experiment to discover the public’s reaction to different constructed languages, or “conlangs”.
Dr Bettina Beinhoff, Lecturer in Applied Linguistics at Anglia Ruskin University, will be surveying 100 members of the public during a special session at Loncon 3, the 72nd World Science Fiction and Fantasy Convention, at ExCeL London on Sunday, 17 August.
Figures in science fiction and fantasy do not always speak a human language, and unless there is a mode of translation involved, such as the Babel Fish in the Hitchhiker’s Guide series or the translation circuit in Doctor Who’s Tardis, the sounds of these languages have a crucial role in contributing to the alien’s characterisation.
The audience will be played short clips of 24 different languages – a combination of well-known and rare natural languages, and conlangs – and they will be asked whether they sound aggressive or friendly, familiar or unfamiliar, beautiful or ugly, human or alien!
Many of the audio clips have been specially recorded by their creators, including David J Peterson, who developed the language Dothraki for the Game of Thrones television series, and Grayson Richardson, who is reading his new conlang called Celestial.
Dr Beinhoff, who is currently learning the conlang Toki Pona, said:
Dr Beinhoff will also take part in a “Universal Language: Good or Bad?” panel debate at Loncon 3 on Thursday, 14 August. It will question whether a universal language is possible, whether it would be a good thing and whether achieving it would involve destroying our existing languages?Professor Farah Mendlesohn, Head of English, Communication, Film and Media at Anglia Ruskin University and a Hugo-winning author, is Project Manager of the Loncon 3 Exhibits Hall, which is sponsored by Anglia Ruskin.