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An Alien Language

Imagine an intelligent race of creatures in another galaxy whose system of communication includes nothing at all analogous to a human phonological system. In particular, they have no culturally-specific combinatory system of meaningless elements out of which basic meaningful ones are made. If their communications system has an inventory of basic meaningful elements, it can be genetically given, or culturally variable, as you please, as long as it is not built on top of anything like a phonology.

Describe how this alien communications system works. Try to be specific and to avoid concepts like direct transfer of thoughts, unless you have a concrete and physically-plausible idea about how this might occur.

Why might a species evolve in the direction of your system? What would be the advantages and disadvantages compared to the human system of spoken language?

Mark Liberman
Fri Oct 3 14:10:16 EDT 1997