On Wed, Sep 20, 2006 at 11:55:38AM -0700, David J. Peterson wrote:
> Leigh wrote:
> <<
> My reasoning there was that it isn't a language often used for
> chatting, but more for formal purposes. But you're right, there would
> be some insider knowledge which would influence the language.
> >>
> Regarding this, and idioms, I'm surprised no one has yet mentioned
> that Star Trek episode.  I can't remember the famous phrase, but
> it's something like "Darmok and Jelad at Tanagra", and that's
> supposed to mean something.  As far as I can tell, the language
> that this alien culture has *can* be translated by the Universal
> Translator, but the aliens choose to use mainly proper names, so
> what gets translated has no meaning.  (Of course, the UT should
> be able to get something out of this, but we can ignore that for
> now...)

I believe you're referring to the language of the "children of Tama".
Their speech is apparently filled with (or maybe even exclusively built
from) such expressions. See:

for some examples. Basically, their speech appears to be allusions to
specific events, people, place names, and actions made by said people.
The listener is supposed to infer the intended message based upon the
cultural understanding of what those events mean.

> Anyway, going along with what Teoh was saying, they can be purposely
> creating phrases that mean something completely different.  So, for
> example...
> Kosta eats with Teleno.
> So, "eats with" would be translated into the language, and it would
> fit all the rest of the language patterns, but it would mean the
> above.  This, then, could refer to an obscure historical event where,
> say, two philosophers that didn't like each other came to eat together
> one day, and got into an argument.  Saying "Kosta eats with Teleno",
> then, could mean something like, "I disagree with x (whoever the topic
> is), but I will put up with him for now".  And the language could be
> filled with a bunch of these.  And further, whenever someone
> undesirable figures out what one of them means, its meaning could be
> changed, or a new expression could be used to mean the same thing.

There would probably be many, many different expressions that say the
same thing with different nuances. Similar events could have occurred
historically so they could refer to the same thing and used
synonymously, but the details of the events would differ, so
deliberately referring to one versus the other could be used convey a
subtle nuance that would completely escape the uninitiated.


Without outlines, life would be pointless.