ENG 480/580; Extraterrestrial LanguageJuly 3 to August 9, 2001
Tuesday-Thursday: 6:15 to 9:25 PM
East Hall 406
Note: Even though the class is officially over, I will be adding lecture notes and additional references as time permits. Input welcome!--SBWJ.
Whenever (if ever) we make contact with an extraterrestrial intelligence, we'll want to know many things about them. We'll want to learn their science, find out about their biology, investigate their planet. But, most of all, we'll want to talk to them. We'll want to ask them questions; to tell them our stories and hear theirs. We'll want to learn from them and maybe see what we can teach them about what we ourselves have learned. Later, we'll want to experience their art and poetry, their religion, their philosophy, their humor.
Scholars from many disciplines including linguistics, philosophy, mathematics, astronomy, xenobiology, literature and physics have begun to ask themselves what the structure of an alien language might be like, and what chance we have of learning such a language. This field of enquiry is called 'xenolinguistics'.
This graduate/undergraduate seminar (English 480/580) will explore what linguistics, literature and the natural sciences have to tell us about the possible structure of a language of extraterrestrial origin and our hopes of being able to understand it.
Languages DiscussedFor a truly staggering list of invented languages that range from the triumphantly alien to the more-or-less-English-like to the enormously weird to the beautiful, please visit Langmaker.com. There, you will also find instructions for inventing your own language.
Paper TopicsHere are some of the topics used as term papers this semester.
Other Interesting Links
Looking for the Real ThingThe SETI Home page
The Search for extraterrestrial Intelligence Institute is an organization dedicated to, you guessed it, the search for extraterrestrial intelligence. Their home page contains a wealth of information on all aspects of such a search.
The Voyager Home page
Some people are thinking seriously about how to get ready. See Judge, Anthony. Communicating with Aliens: The Psychological Dimension of Dialogue
BGSU Dept. of Physics & Astronomy
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Ask the Astronomer
Tour of the Solar System
NASA home page
NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab
The Planetary Society
Astronomical Society of the Pacific
Other SF and XenolinguisticsMary Doria Russell's The Sparrow is hands down the best 'first contact' novel there is. It's got sound linguistics and fascinating anthropology... and lots more!
Justin B. Rye offers his insightful, hip Primer in SF Xenolinguistics. This is worth visiting just to see if you can catch all the allusions! I didn't!
Obligatory UFO Links
Do You Believe?
Center for UFO Studies
The UFO Skeptic's Page
If those don't satisfy you, and you have a conspiracy on your mind, try
Page Updated: August 20, 2001