What Could Alien Languages Look Like?

What Could Alien Languages Look Like?

What basic properties do all human languages have in common? How might languages from other worlds differ? In this week’s episode, we take a look at potential alien languages: how we can categorize them differently from how our languages work, how they could potentially make sounds and compose meanings, and how imaginative we may have to be to understand what other species might have to say to us.

This is Topic #81!

This week’s tag language: Na’Vi!

Last episode:
Nosing Around Phonetics: The Acoustics of Sonorant Consonants –

Our previous Halloween videos:
Braaaaaaains: The Basics of Neurolinguistics –
Future Tense: Predictions for the Future of Language –

Our website also has extra content about this week’s topic, discussing how complex alien languages might be, at:

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On semiochemicals:

On the number of languages in the world:

On bee dances:

On vervet monkey calls:

On one-word grammars and context:

On posture and alien language:

On metaphor and alien language:

Charles Hockett and language design features:
These initially come from Hockett’s books, The Origin of Speech (1960) and A Note on Design Features (1968). But for online sources, try:{f60a19ca4822ea5083709910a03c8f9e50ac3abaf19315a89f25f66a4b2e306d}27s_design_features

Chomsky’s digital infinity quote:

Mark Liberman and his speculation on the limits of alien language:

A discussion of novel quantifiers & the problems with schmevery:{f60a19ca4822ea5083709910a03c8f9e50ac3abaf19315a89f25f66a4b2e306d}20III.pdf

Looking forward to next week!

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