Language and Linguistics

Authored by: Mark Bould

The Routledge Companion to Science Fiction

Print publication date:  January  2009
Online publication date:  March  2009

Print ISBN: 9780415453783
eBook ISBN: 9780203871317
Adobe ISBN: 9781135228361


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It is unsurprising that a genre concerned with imagining alternative societies and encounters with nonhuman others should frequently involve questions of language and communication: the “presentation of new worlds involves new words, new syntactic structures, new semantic connections and new methods of understanding” (Stockwell 2000: 113). However, sf tends to privilege other sciences and often neglects linguistics, resulting in a “striking contrast between the wealth of language problems in science fiction and the relative poverty of linguistic explanation” (Meyers 1980: 1; see also Barnes 1975; Conley and Cain 2006). This chapter will consider two recurring sf scenarios – human–alien communication, linguistic relativism – before turning to the ways in which sf has been theorized as using language in unique and specific ways.

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