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Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction (South Atlantic Modern Language Association award study) Hardcover – April 1, 1980


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Product Details

  • Series: South Atlantic Modern Language Association award study
  • Hardcover: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Univ of Georgia Pr; First Edition edition (April 1980)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0820304875
  • ISBN-13: 978-0820304878
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,128,456 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By James K. Hoffman on April 21, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction by Walter Earl Meyers is a really good book and worth hunting up in the used book market. Published in 1980, it's a little out of date and very out of print, but still a good look at some of the way linguistics has been used, and abused, in science-fiction. Of course, there is also the prerequisite discussion of the most famous conlanger of all, J.R.R. Tolkien. But, mostly this book focuses on science-fiction.
A fair part of the book is spent criticizing the lack of good language use in science-fiction. Highlights include aliens that all speak our language. Or find it ridiculously easy to learn. But, also, the lack of language variation is hammered home as well as other similar errors. Another area of criticism is the lack of up-to-date use of theories and linguistic science in current, at the time, science-fiction. Linguistics, as well as the other so called "soft-sciences" were just getting their hooks into science-fiction at the time.
But, Meyers finds plenty to be happy about, as well. Sure, most writers took the Worf-Saphir theory way too far, but at least they were aware enough of it to use it. There are other good examples of linguistics in science-fiction as well.
Most interesting to me, was Meyers discussion of how aliens might approach language. First, there is every reason to believe that they will have language. It takes a lot of communication to get off a planet! Second, Meyers indicates that, while that language may be wildly different from our own, there's a good possibility that we can learn it, eventually. Meyers also explores alternate methods of using language, including how telepathy might work from a linguistic point of view.
In all, it was a great read.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 1997
Format: Hardcover
Anyone who wants a readable introduction to the subject of contemporary linguistic science should read this book instead of tackling the technical literature. The explanations of linguistics terms and concepts and methods are clear, and the use of science fiction as the source for illustrations and examples makes the material a great read. If I were teaching introductory linguistics today, I'd move heaven and earth to find copies of this book for my students
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Yoon Ha Lee on January 5, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I was lucky enough to find this book in a dim corner of Uris Library at Cornell U. As a sf enthusiast with some layman's knowledge of linguistics (mostly from the Cambridge Encyclopedia of Language), I found it fascinating.
I do wish that someone would write an updated version, since many of the sf stories that Meyers refers to can be hard to find. Also, I found his religious adherence to the Whorf-Sapir hypothesis amusing...but then, I don't know what the accepted viewpoint was in linguistics when he wrote this book.
Definitely worthwhile for people curious about linguistics or about language as portrayed in sf (usually poorly, I'm sorry to say).
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By George E. Sullivan on August 22, 2006
Format: Hardcover
Not only is this a work of great scholarship and research it is also valuable in that it will educate the reader on the history of SciFi. However its focus is not history, but research into the possibilities of language and communication that could exist among alien species. The history aspect comes into play because Mr. Meyers sites so many examples from so many books by a plethora of authors. Some of the authors are from the early days of SciFi and some are more recent...well recent when the book was written. If you can find this book, get it. If you get it dedicate yourself to reading it for it is a valuable tool for learning much about ourselves.
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