On 2/13/2014 12:42 AM, Adam Walker wrote:
> Some aliens might not be able to percieve or produce sound. I have one
> speciec that can hear. But has no physical structures capable of
> producing anything like speech sounds. Another of my species does
> talk, but with it's rigid, insectoid mouth parts, the sounds it can
> make are all accoustically similar to clicks.

In a galactic civilization, surely there's technology that can perceive 
speech sounds and present them in a form more understandable to aliens 
(perhaps a spectrogram of some sort). Even with our limited technology, 
we have speech recognition software. I imagine that much of the human 
and alien language would have to be preprocessed in some way by 
software. Or humans could learn to understand clicks and vice versa.

There's also the possibility that the pace of communication varies 
greatly. Aliens might speak too quickly for humans to process, or so 
slowly that it's like being at an Entmoot.

> On 2/12/14, Daniel Demski<[log in to unmask]>  wrote:
>> I'm designing a setting which involves a galactic civilization with
>> thousands of alien species, and taking the resulting biological and
>> cultural diversity fairly seriously. (That's the point of the undertaking.)
>> The conceit that I'm allowing myself is that a human empire, somehow
>> speaking something close to modern English, took over most of the Galaxy
>> and then collapsed, so that we are left with a form of English as the
>> common language in some situations.
>> Now naturally spacefaring alien species will vary in their ability to
>> acquire fairly flawless English. But I want to make sure that when I do
>> have a species fail at English, I'm pulling possible failings from an
>> interesting space. I could certainly decide some species don't understand
>> personal pronouns, or pronouns in general, or basic sentence structure.
>> It's always fun to try and think about a species which views everything as
>> dynamic, and thus misunderstanding essentially static nouns... and the
>> opposite of course.

You could always use the convention that English is just a 
representation of the common language they speak. That allows for the 
possibility that the common language has features that are absent from 
English, and some aliens use those strange grammatical structures that 
don't make sense to humans. It's hard to imagine that something close to 
modern English would still be recognizable by the time that humans are 
advanced enough to take over most of the galaxy.

>> Naturally it's best to try and decide what strategy the alien's native
>> language uses to replace these missing parts. But anyway this is certainly
>> one avenue.
>> Another, which would quickly get tiresome, would be to assume something
>> like a fixed word order of various roles; such aliens could learn
>> neo-English vocabulary and phrases, but absorb none or very little of the
>> syntax. Two such species would sure have trouble understanding each other!

I don't know, Yoda isn't that hard to understand. Misunderstandings can 
more easily come from semantic issues. English has a lot of words that 
can have a range of meanings, not directly corresponding with the 
meanings of words in any other language.

>> Besides these sorts of extremes, there's the whole range of simple problems
>> people on Earth have acquiring international English. So I guess with just
>> what I've thought of I'm not too bad off.
>> But certainly, there are bigger issues to consider. Are the Gricean Axioms
>> universal? Could there be an alien species biologically compelled to say
>> just about everything they think? Anyway I thought I'd ask for a few ideas
>> here to widen my pool of ideas. Keep in mind though, since I want to have
>> many species, and I'm already going to do a lot of biological
>> decision-making, anything requiring a longer design process isn't what I'm
>> looking for.

I'm not familiar with the Gricean Axioms ... Wikipedia suggested 
"Gricean maxims", which is close enough.

I can certainly imagine an alien culture where conversation is 
structured along different lines than these, and indeed in adversarial 
situations, there may be good reasons to violate any one of these 
conditions. But assuming that the speakers do want to be helpful and 
cooperative, there could be other ways to achieve the "handshaking" (to 
adopt a term from computer science). At least with "quality" and 
"quantity". Perhaps irony is so prevalent that "be truthful" can't be 
assumed. The maxim of relation (or relevance) does sound like one of 
those things that might be universal for cooperative language. If you 
say something that's not relevant, it's hard to see how that's being