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The Role of the Linguist-Ambassador in Metalinguistic Science Fiction

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Material Information

Title: The Role of the Linguist-Ambassador in Metalinguistic Science Fiction
Physical Description: 1 online resource (49 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Bertrand, Christine
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: alien, ambassador, babel17, delany, dickson, fiction, language, leguin, linguist, linguistic, metalinguistic, orwell, othering, pao, relativity, science, vance, whorf, whorfian, zelazny
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: In this thesis, I apply Benjamin Whorf's theory of linguistic relativity (the idea that language shapes thought and therefore perception) to the specialized genre of metalinguistic science fiction in order to examine the various manifestations of a rapidly evolving figure that I call the linguist-ambassador. Central to novels that use a fictitious language or languages to alienate characters from each other and readers from the text, the linguist-ambassador functions as the sole link between opposing cultures whose native speakers are automatically blinded to worldviews other than their own. However, just as fluency in multiple languages grants the linguist-ambassador a unique understanding of multiple social realities, it also deprives him or her of a cohesive identity, for true comprehension of the alien comes only with a literal translation of Self into Other, and thus language, as the author of reality, literally rewrites the linguist-ambassador within the context of alien cultures even as he or she works to bring the individual members of such cultures to mutual understanding. Because this resulting identity crisis can be resolved only when the character chooses to accept, reject, or transcend the 'revisions' to his or her identity, the majority of my analysis focuses upon three works whose complex intercultural and intrapersonal dynamics demonstrate the consequences of each of these choices: Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, Gordon R. Dickson's Way of the Pilgrim, and Samuel R. Delany's Babel-17, respectively.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Christine Bertrand.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Gordon, Andrew M.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021570:00001

Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UFE0021570/00001

Material Information

Title: The Role of the Linguist-Ambassador in Metalinguistic Science Fiction
Physical Description: 1 online resource (49 p.)
Language: english
Creator: Bertrand, Christine
Publisher: University of Florida
Place of Publication: Gainesville, Fla.
Publication Date: 2007

Subjects

Subjects / Keywords: alien, ambassador, babel17, delany, dickson, fiction, language, leguin, linguist, linguistic, metalinguistic, orwell, othering, pao, relativity, science, vance, whorf, whorfian, zelazny
English -- Dissertations, Academic -- UF
Genre: English thesis, M.A.
bibliography   ( marcgt )
theses   ( marcgt )
government publication (state, provincial, terriorial, dependent)   ( marcgt )
born-digital   ( sobekcm )
Electronic Thesis or Dissertation

Notes

Abstract: In this thesis, I apply Benjamin Whorf's theory of linguistic relativity (the idea that language shapes thought and therefore perception) to the specialized genre of metalinguistic science fiction in order to examine the various manifestations of a rapidly evolving figure that I call the linguist-ambassador. Central to novels that use a fictitious language or languages to alienate characters from each other and readers from the text, the linguist-ambassador functions as the sole link between opposing cultures whose native speakers are automatically blinded to worldviews other than their own. However, just as fluency in multiple languages grants the linguist-ambassador a unique understanding of multiple social realities, it also deprives him or her of a cohesive identity, for true comprehension of the alien comes only with a literal translation of Self into Other, and thus language, as the author of reality, literally rewrites the linguist-ambassador within the context of alien cultures even as he or she works to bring the individual members of such cultures to mutual understanding. Because this resulting identity crisis can be resolved only when the character chooses to accept, reject, or transcend the 'revisions' to his or her identity, the majority of my analysis focuses upon three works whose complex intercultural and intrapersonal dynamics demonstrate the consequences of each of these choices: Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand of Darkness, Gordon R. Dickson's Way of the Pilgrim, and Samuel R. Delany's Babel-17, respectively.
General Note: In the series University of Florida Digital Collections.
General Note: Includes vita.
Bibliography: Includes bibliographical references.
Source of Description: Description based on online resource; title from PDF title page.
Source of Description: This bibliographic record is available under the Creative Commons CC0 public domain dedication. The University of Florida Libraries, as creator of this bibliographic record, has waived all rights to it worldwide under copyright law, including all related and neighboring rights, to the extent allowed by law.
Statement of Responsibility: by Christine Bertrand.
Thesis: Thesis (M.A.)--University of Florida, 2007.
Local: Adviser: Gordon, Andrew M.

Record Information

Source Institution: UFRGP
Rights Management: Applicable rights reserved.
Classification: lcc - LD1780 2007
System ID: UFE0021570:00001


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THE ROLE OF THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR IN METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE
FICTION




















By

CHRISTINE BERTRAND


A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL
OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
MASTER OF ARTS

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA

2007

































2007 Christine Bertrand




























To my Dad, who kept me going,
my Mom, who kept me sane, and my brother, who kept it real.









ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

I thank the members of my committee, Dr. Andrew Gordon (chair) and Dr. Marsha Bryant,

for their guidance both in the classroom and on the page, and my family for their many years of

love and support.









TABLE OF CONTENTS



A CK N O W LED G M EN T S .................................................................. ........... ............. .....

A B S T R A C T ............. ................... .................. ......................................... .. 6

CHAPTER

1 LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY WITHIN SCIENCE FICTION .................................................8

2 METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE FICTION: WRITING SOCIAL REALITIES .................... 14

3 THE LIN GU IST-A M B A SSA D OR ......... ................. .......................................................23

4 THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR'S DILEMMA ...........................................................29

5 TRAN SCEN D IN G THE D ILEM M A ........................................................... ....................43

L IST O F R E F E R E N C E S ............................................................................... ...........................47

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ......................................... 49









Abstract of Thesis Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts

THE ROLE OF THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR IN METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE
FICTION

By

Christine Bertrand

December 2007

Chair: Andrew Gordon
Major: English

In this thesis, I apply Benjamin Whorf s theory of linguistic relativity (the idea that

language shapes thought and therefore perception) to the specialized genre of metalinguistic

science fiction in order to examine the various manifestations of a rapidly evolving figure that I

call the linguist-ambassador. Central to novels that use a fictitious language or languages to

alienate characters from each other and readers from the text, the linguist-ambassador functions

as the sole link between opposing cultures whose native speakers are automatically blinded to

worldviews other than their own. However, just as fluency in multiple languages grants the

linguist-ambassador a unique understanding of multiple social realities, it also deprives him or

her of a cohesive identity, for true comprehension of the alien comes only with a literal

translation of Self into Other, and thus language, as the author of reality, literally rewrites the

linguist-ambassador within the context of alien cultures even as he or she works to bring the

individual members of such cultures to mutual understanding.

Because this resulting identity crisis can be resolved only when the character chooses to

accept, reject, or transcend the "revisions" to his or her identity, the majority of my analysis

focuses upon three works whose complex intercultural and intrapersonal dynamics demonstrate









the consequences of each of these choices: Ursula K. Le Guin's The Left Hand ofDarkness,

Gordon R. Dickson's Way of the Pilgrim, and Samuel R. Delany's Babel-17, respectively.









CHAPTER 1
LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY WITHIN SCIENCE FICTION

The linguist Benjamin Whorf once commented, "We swim in language as fish swim in

water," and within this deceptively simple statement lies a startling realization: just as fish would

perish without water, so too would human cultures shrivel and die without the myriad languages

that define, reinscribe, and ultimately maintain their existence. We are only human because we

say we are; to declare it is to make it so, and we have become so accustomed to processing the

world around us with these enigmatic things called "words" that we often look right through

them to the reality beyond, never quite realizing that what we see depends entirely upon what we

say. And just as the words we choose instantly alter our perspective, so too does the language

we speak define our social reality and separate us psychologically from speakers of other

languages, thus rendering us alien to each other.

Nowhere is the interplay between language, thought, and reality so vividly expressed as in

the realm of science fiction, for just as multilingual individuals are privileged with the ability to

identify, comprehend, and overcome the differences inherent in conflicting linguistic systems, so

too must multilingual SF protagonists straddle the boundary between human and alien and

translate one into terms that the other can understand. And whether the "alien" is represented as

a person of an alternative culture or as someone literally not human, it is the SF author's

adherence to Whorf s ideas that ultimately allows the protagonist to bridge the linguistic gap

between mutually unintelligible realities. As Carl Malmgren astutely observes, "In a relatively

few science fictions, an invented language becomes the narrative dominant ... [and] these

fictions necessarily investigate the nature of language, the relation of language and reality, and

the possibilities of linguistic otherness" (4). Such stories typically fall into two groups: those

that deal with multilingual dynamics on a cultural scale and those that examine the effects of









such dynamics upon a multilingual protagonist whom I will call the "linguist-ambassador."

Following an overview of Benjamin Whorf s principle of linguistic relativity, I will examine the

intercultural focus of stories belonging to the first group ("A Martian Odyssey," 1984, and The

Languages ofPao) to lay the groundwork for the interpersonal focus of stories belonging to the

second group ("A Rose for Ecclesiastes," The Left Hand of Darkness, Way of the Pilgrim, and

Babel-17), and I will demonstrate the growing prominence of the linguist-ambassador as a

literary figure within science fiction and examine the ways in which various linguist-

ambassadors negotiate the conflicting linguistic realities that influence their conception of

themselves as human, alien, or something in between.

The idea that language shapes reality is central to the principle of linguistic relativity,

which reflects the work of several linguists but was primarily developed by Whorf in the late

1930s. Drawing upon the assertion of his mentor, Edward Sapir, that "no two languages are ever

sufficiently similar to be considered as representing the same social reality," Whorf uses his own

studies of Native American languages-and the Hopi language in particular-to elaborate

considerably upon this concept (qtd. in Foley 193). For example, he comments upon the

temporal differences inherent in Hopi grammar and speculates that because Hopi time "varies

with each observer, does not permit of simultaneity, and has zero dimensions," a physics based

upon this particular linguistic system would therefore have to function "without recourse to

dimensional time" and would lack such fundamental concepts (from an English-speaker's

perspective) as time, velocity, and acceleration (qtd. in Meyers 161-162). Using the conceptual

assumptions of Hopi to develop a more generalized principle, he comes to the conclusion that

"users of markedly different grammars are pointed... toward different types of observations...

and hence are not equivalent as observers but must arrive at somewhat different views of the









world" (qtd. in Foley 192). Deliberately mirroring the wording of Einstein's theory of relativity,

Whorfs statement asserts that reality is only as "real" as the language used to define it (i.e., the

"position" of the speaker doing the defining). Because each linguistic system contains automatic

assumptions about the nature of the world, a native speaker of a given language must

automatically adopt a corresponding worldview in order to make use of the language, and each

succeeding utterance only serves to reinscribe that particular "reality" upon the mind of the

speaker.

Despite its popularity, Whorf s principle of linguistic relativity has endured much criticism

since the late 1930s. The chief objection of many linguists revolves around the imprecision of

Whorf s wording, specifically regarding the concept of multiple "worlds" created via multiple

languages. As Michael Devitt and Kim Sterelny are at pains to point out, "It is plausible to claim

that our minds, concepts, and languages construct theories out of experience. It is wildly

implausible to claim that our minds, concepts, and languages construct the world out of

experience. Imposition on experience is one thing, imposition on the world is another" (249).

However, I am inclined to believe that these particular critics interpret Whorf s principle much

too literally and should instead read "worlds" to mean worldviewss" or "social realities." While

there may exist one objective (and perhaps unknowable) physical reality in which all cultures

reside, the Whorfian principle that different languages result in different perceptions of that

reality should not be dismissed because of a slight ambiguity on his part.

Whorf s most precisely worded explanation of the principle supports this interpretation

and can be found in the April 1940 issue of "Science and Linguistics," in which he states: "All

observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless

their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated" (qtd. in Meyers 161).









My argument focuses on this very "calibration," for given that speakers of different languages

live in distinctly different worlds-or at least operate with distinctly different understandings of

the same world-their very dependence upon their native language to articulate and even

generate thought renders them blind to the ways in which language controls what thoughts can

and cannot form. Thus, the average native speakers of any language are more aptly termed

"naive speakers," uncritical and indeed unknowing of the biases to which their linguistic system

disposes them, and it is only when such speakers come in contact with the fundamental

differences of another linguistic system that they can begin to identify and critique the cultural

biases inherent in their own. Such realizations occur quite frequently during the process of

second language acquisition, but without that stark contrast between languages, monolingual

speakers who persist in looking through language rather than at it will fail to perceive the

profound effect that language structure has upon the thoughts with which we construct our own

personal realities. As Penny Lee states, "Calibration [in the Whorfian sense] involves paying

close attention to language in use and also negotiating meanings... Although we cannot totally

escape the linguistic organization of our understanding of experience, we can certainly free

ourselves to an interesting degree from the constraints of a single, [un]examined native

language" (Putz 49).

Unfortunately, because the achievement of such freedom requires a conscious analysis of

different linguistic systems, the "constraints of a single, unexamined native language" tend to

remain unexamined by naive speakers whose belief in the transparency of language prevents

them from realizing the myriad cultural assumptions inherent in the structure of any language.

And given the absence of a second language with which to sensitize the monolingual speaker to

linguistic differences, the most accessible approach to metalinguistic criticism lies within the









realm of science fiction, for although most SF and fantasy writers stop short of creating actual

languages (J.R.R. Tolkien being a notable exception), their more sophisticated attempts to

employ the principle of linguistic relativity concentrate primarily upon bringing those

"transparent" aspects of language into focus and compelling the reader to consider language

itself rather than simply seeing through it to the story beyond. A prime example of this dynamic

can be found in Gerd Brantenberg's Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes (1977), for

although the novel's sole claim to the title of science fiction is in its elaborate portrayal of an

alternative human society rather than in the presence of little green men or bug-eyed monsters, it

provides an astute social commentary on the male-oriented conventions of language by literally

reversing a plethora of gender-specific labels to favor the female instead. Confronted with

strange words such as "wom" and "manwom" that replace the customary "woman" and "man,"

the reader must stumble to a halt and consider the reasoning behind such ostensibly awkward

terms, and thus the very wording of the story becomes a metalinguistic commentary upon the

biases in society, forcing the acknowledgment that Brantenberg's references to "sheroism" and

"mafeles" are no more arbitrary than the "real" words upon which they are based and merely

seek to strip the naivete from native speakers.

SF authors' singular preoccupation with creating unique conceptual universes renders the

principle of linguistic relativity a tool of their trade, and thus the true masters have been hailed

not only for the strangeness of their stories, but for the strangeness of their language: the

strategic juxtaposition of deceptively normal terms to create a decidedly abnormal effect. Robert

A. Heinlein's brief phrase, "the door dilated," has become the classic example of this literary

technique and has garnered admiration from a variety of prominent SF writers. Harlan Ellison's

effusive response to this neat trick of language not only identifies the scope of Heinlein's









linguistic skill but also encapsulates the spirit in which such subtle methods of worldbuilding

should be recognized and appreciated:

... Heinlein has always managed to indicate the greater strangeness of a culture with the
most casually dropped-in reference: the first time in a novel, I believe it was in Beyond
This Horizon, that a character came through a door that... dilated. And no discussion.
Just: "The door dilated." I read across it, and was two lines down before I realized what
the image had been, what the words had called forth. A dilating door. It didn't open, it
irised! Dear God, now I knew I was in a future world... (qtd. in Delany, Jewel-Hinged
Jaw 46)

Thus, as with Egalia's Daughters, the practiced reader must stop to consider language not just as

the means to create a narrative, but as an end in itself: a sly entity determined to interject its own

thoughts and opinions between every printed word. For a "word" is just one letter short of a

"world," and the most skilled of SF writers know that the realization of entire universes lies in

the space between one word and the next, where our culturally ingrained expectations clash with

the strategic linguistic rendering of the strange and the alien.









CHAPTER 2
METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE FICTION: WRITING SOCIAL REALITIES

The clever literary technique of alienating language in order to conjure a sense of the alien

appears in several notable science fiction stories, and although the majority of my analysis will

focus upon the ways in which the linguist-ambassador negotiates the shifting borders between

human and alien cultures, I will first engage in a broader examination of the complex linguistic

realities through which such characters must navigate. Instrumental to this initial discussion are

Stanley G. Weinbaum's "A Martian Odyssey," George Orwell's 1984, and Jack Vance's The

Languages ofPao, all of which provide a comprehensive illustration of the various ways in

which the principle of linguistic relativity can impact the dynamics of a fictional universe. And

whether these stories use individuals to represent larger social realities (as does Weinbaum's

story) or examine the psychological effects of language upon entire societies (as do the novels of

Orwell and Vance), it is clear that they represent an increasingly sophisticated use of Whorfian

concepts to bring multiple realities into being (and often into conflict) within the space of a few

well-chosen words.

"A Martian Odyssey" (1934) displays great linguistic sophistication for its time, for despite

the author's arrogant assumption that humans have an innate right to exploit alien (read

"foreign") cultures, Weinbaum demonstrates a remarkable sensitivity to the intricacies of

intercultural communication and conflicting linguistic perspectives. Outlining a human's first

encounter with the various aliens of Mars, Weinbaum speaks to his readers through the voice of

his main character, Dick Jarvis, who is in turn telling his companions of his adventures with the

benevolent alien named Tweel. Although Jarvis's narrative uses the typical adventure-story

format of early science fiction, Weinbaum's consistent focus upon language as a major plot

component renders this particular story a sophisticated exploration of communication for its









time, as well as an astute examination of the negotiations that take place on the border between

human and alien.

Indeed, the alien Tweel personifies that very border, for although he can never be

completely understood in human terms, he nonetheless seems infinitely more human to Jarvis

than the more predatory Martian inhabitants whose incomprehensible natures render them

immutably Other. This interplay between degrees of Otherness is directly addressed when

Jarvis, touched by Tweel's offer of defense against these incredibly alien aliens, blurts in relief,

"'Thanks, Tweel. You're a man! '" (82). And although Jarvis can never quite grasp the

fundamentals of Tweel's language, the ingenious alien can sometimes compensate for Jarvis's

difficulties by using his smattering of English to convey complex ideas in the space of a few

simple (and to him, alien) words, thus demonstrating that some communication is possible

between two such vastly different entities. For example, having learned the words to express

basic mathematical concepts ("one-one-two"), Tweel proceeds to use these same words to

convey a remarkable variety of abstract ideas. "One-one-two" thus becomes his standard term

for intelligence, and when used in combination with various English pronouns, the phrase allows

him to identify many of the creatures they encounter. As Jarvis later marvels, "'In a single

phrase he told me that one [alien] was a harmless automaton and the other a deadly hypnotist'"

(77).

But despite the characters' sudden flashes of understanding, Weinbaum tempers his

optimistic view of intercultural relations with the knowledge that just as some basic concepts

(e.g., survival and friendship) can be conveyed despite mutually unintelligible linguistic systems,

other ideas depend entirely upon the language in which they are conceived and thus remain

untranslatable. As Jarvis explains to his companions, "We just didn't think alike," and even his









friends' periodic interjections and requests for clarification indicate the distinct "alienness" that

exists between fellow humans who speak different languages:

"I was just about to turn in when I heard the wildest sort of shenanigans!" [said Jarvis].

"Vot iss shenanigans?" inquired Putz.

"He says, 'Je ne sais quoi,'" explained Leroy. "It is to say, 'I don't know what.'"

"That's right," agreed Jarvis. "I didn't know what, so I sneaked over to find out." (68)

Clearly, some mutual understanding is achieved, but only by fallacious means; Leroy's French

definition has nothing to do with the English word "shenanigans" but luckily conveys Jarvis's

fundamental meaning despite its inaccuracy. Weinbaum's strategic insertions of such exchanges

into the narrative allow him to demonstrate the difficulties of translation in purely human terms

and permit him to leave the majority of the miscommunications between Jarvis and Tweel

unclarified, thus emphasizing the two characters' mutual strangeness and forcing the reader to

experience the vacillation between frustration and satisfaction that always accompanies the

lengthy trial-and-error method of communication. In accordance with this dynamic, even the

relatively simple business of exchanging names becomes a source of confusing ambiguity, for as

Jarvis later complains to his comrades, "'I was always "Tick," but as for him-part of the time

he was "Tweel," and part of the time he was "P-p-p-proot," and part of the time he was sixteen

other noises! We just couldn't connect'" (69). Thus Weinbaum's scenario represents an

admirable exploration of rudimentary communication between cultures even as it emphasizes the

limitations inherent in a meeting of two such alien minds.

Insightful as "A Martian Odyssey" is for its time, it does not possess the sophisticated

understanding of linguistic principles demonstrated by George Orwell's famous 1984 (1949), for

his dystopian society functions according to a very sinister interpretation of linguistic relativity

and in fact takes Whorf s basic theory to its logical extreme, positing that if thought is bound by









the limitations of the language in which it is expressed, then the deliberate engineering of a

severely curtailed language will reduce its speakers' ability to think and thus render them more

easily controlled. As Walter E. Meyers elegantly states, "The Whorf hypothesis has a corollary:

if it is true that our language determines our perception of reality, then whoever controls

language controls the perception of reality as well" (163). Thus the truly insidious nature of

"Newspeak," Ingsoc's calculated butchery of the English language, resides in its steadily

shrinking vocabulary and its failure to provide the words necessary for the concepts of rebellion

and individual will. As a Newspeak lexicographer eagerly tells Winston, Orwell's initially

rebellious protagonist, "'Don't you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of

thought? ... Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little

smaller'" (46). In Orwell's world, as in our own, the language available dictates the thoughts

that its speakers can form, and therefore the greatest danger to the perpetuation of Ingsoc's

version of reality is its citizens' continued fluency in "Oldspeak," the original English.

Some critics perceive the troublesome presence of Oldspeak to indicate a flaw in the

reasoning behind Orwell's linguistic construction, contending (quite rightly) that no matter how

small the Newspeak dictionary might become, it cannot possibly "change the meaning of a word

or prevent a change in meaning that the mass of speakers have set in motion" (Meyers 164).

However, I would contend that despite Winston's final acceptance of Ingsoc Party doctrine,

Orwell's philosophical point is in fact in agreement with the convictions of such critics, since the

very existence of the English-speaking proles guarantees the perpetuation of their language and

consequently of their perception of reality. Indeed, Winston's desperate confession in the

forbidden pages of his journal, "If there is hope it lies in the proles," suggests that the use of

Oldspeak among the essentially apolitical lower classes indicates a linguistically-based trend of









separation within the Party-dominated society (60). Newspeak does "contain the weaknesses

that will lead to its eventual collapse," but this, I believe, betrays a hint of optimism in the midst

of Orwell's dystopian misery rather than a fundamental flaw in the creation of his world (Meyers

164). A society so linguistically conflicted could never achieve seamless unity beneath the

mindless reality perpetuated by Newspeak, and therefore, despite Winston's final defeat at the

hands of Big Brother and the continued existence of Ingsoc, even the seemingly problematic

functions of Oldspeak within the novel remain true to the principle of linguistic relativity.

Even as the intellectually crippling effects of Newspeak within Orwell's dystopia

demonstrate the author's shrewd application of linguistic principles to complex social structures,

the philosophical dichotomy represented by Newspeak and Oldspeak remains far too simplistic

to allow for any extensive experimentation with developing cultural values; and indeed, this was

not Orwell's primary intention. His linguistic commentary serves the sole purpose of facilitating

the realization of his society's political objectives and therefore does not extend to a detailed

examination of how a language like Newspeak might transform that same society.

For a more thorough extrapolation of the long-term social and psychological impact of

competing linguistic systems, it is best to turn to Jack Vance's novel The Languages ofPao

(1958), for in this particular story, the author eagerly embraces the principle of linguistic

relativity and makes it the foundation upon which the entire plot is based. Indeed, Vance

manages to sidestep even the theoretical problems that Orwell's critics observed with the

ubiquitous presence of Oldspeak, for Vance's novel successfully incorporates the influence of

his society's original language (Paonese) into the fundamental tenets of linguistic relativity while

simultaneously exploring the effects of four specifically engineered languages upon the largely

homogeneous society of Pao.









Hailed as "an exposition of dynamic linguistics," The Languages ofPao represents a

fascinating interpretation of linguistic relativity and a sincere attempt to explore the ramifications

of the principle's application on an invented society, for Vance's familiarity with the Whorfian

hypothesis manifests itself in the novel in the form of a megalomaniacal "wizard" named Palafox

who, in order to overthrow Pao's despotic ruler, proposes to divide the culture into speakers of

three artificially engineered languages (Cogitant, Technicant, and Valiant), thus transforming the

blandly passive Paonese into intellectuals, engineers, and soldiers, respectively, and creating a

multi-faceted culture desirous of regaining its own independence (Barnes 163). Thus the true

driving force of the novel is language itself; each specific linguistic system that Vance creates

becomes a character in its own right, reflecting a highly specialized worldview and dictating both

the philosophy and the behavior of its speakers.

Yet long before this "master plan" becomes clear, the author takes pains to establish the

close relationship between linguistic structure and cultural perspective and even goes so far as to

employ a variety of deliberately pedantic footnotes in order to lend his world a degree of

authenticity that cannot be achieved by narration alone. The most convincing example of this

faux-academic technique occurs during a meeting between Paonese royalty and the offworld

traders known as Mercantil, for Vance's simulated translation of the Paonese statement, "There

are two matters I wish to discuss with you," and of the Mercantil reply, "I am at your orders, sir,"

vividly demonstrates the psychological assumptions inherent in the way each language reflects a

specific cultural reality. As Vance notes for the reader's benefit:

The Paonese and Mercantil languages were as disparate as the two ways of living... [T]he
statement, "There are two matters I wish to discuss with you," used words which,
accurately rendered, would read: Statement of importance (a single word in Paonese)-in a
state of readiness-two; ear-of Mercantil-in a state of readiness; mouth-of this person
here-in a state of volition. The italicized words represent suffixes of condition....









The Mercantil express themselves in neat quanta of precise information. "I am at your
orders, sir." Literally translated this is: I-Ambassador-here-now gladly-obey the just-
spoken-orders of-you-Supreme-Royalty-here-now heard and understood. (10)

From this brief explanation, it is clear that the Paonese worldview of passivity and respect for the

status quo finds its roots in the grammatical structure of the Paonese language, which articulates

every concrete object and abstract idea as existing in a specific state of being. This contrasts

greatly with the Mercantil trader's briskly efficient and dynamic reply and provides an excellent

explanation for why the Paonese remain contentedly upon their home planet while the Mercantil

move aggressively between star systems. And it is the linguistic principle behind this

characterization of Paonese as "a passive, dispassionate language" with "docile, passive"

speakers that allows Palafox to implement his daring plan for social change; for whereas Paonese

renders "The farmer chops down a tree" as an unchanging relationship between states of being,

Palafox's new war-language of Valiant reconfigures the same concepts according to the basic

principles of conflict: "The farmer overcomes the inertia of the axe; the axe breaks asunder the

resistance of the tree... The farmer vanquishes the tree, using the weapon-instrument of the axe"

(Vance 77). Limited to such a bellicose manner of expression, native (naive) speakers of Valiant

have no choice but to adopt a correspondingly bellicose view of the world; in short, they become

a race of conquerors.

An identical rationale governs Palafox's creation of Technicant, the language of industry,

and of Cogitant, the language of intellectuals. The strategic introduction of the three languages

and the new worldviews they represent completely revolutionize the planet of Pao and

transforms its bland homogeneity into four separate societies: the engineers, the academics, the

warriors, and the now-traditional (and greatly outnumbered) Paonese. For unlike Orwell, Vance

actively develops the continuing influence of the Paonese "Oldspeak," as it were, even as he

works to incorporate the other three languages into the overall society; indeed, he deliberately









creates a rising tension between speakers of the original Paonese and those of Palafox's linguistic

inventions, thus acknowledging the fact that even with such a seamlessly executed plan for

linguistic change, the psychological influences of the original language cannot be entirely

eliminated. Only with the introduction of a fifth language, Pastiche, (a deliberate combination of

Paonese, Technicant, Cogitant, Valiant, and several offworld languages) can the newly divided

culture recover some measure of unity, for just as Pastiche utilizes the vocabulary and

grammatical conventions of multiple languages, so too does it incorporate multiple worldviews

and allow the people of Pao to understand each other once again.

Yet inherent in this cultural blending is the danger of losing the self as defined by

language: of literally translating the nature of the self into the nature of the Other and so losing

the fundamental distinctions between the two. On a macrocosmic scale, this process allows

disparate cultures to become one and proves beneficial to the people of Pao, but the ultimate

success of such a process requires a deliberate sacrifice of selfhood on the part of the individuals

belonging to each culture; for as Beran's first teacher advises the young linguist and ruler-to-be,

"If you can think as another man thinks, you cannot dislike him" (Vance 64).

And just as language transmits culture, so too does fluency in multiple languages dilute

Beran's identification with any one culture, granting him the blessing (and curse) of

understanding all peoples but belonging to none. Thus he returns to Pao without the fundamental

sense of that which made him Paonese, and his unique perspective on the world both empowers

him to effect the social changes meant to reunite the planet and distances him from any one

aspect of the culture into which he was born. Upon the bitter realization that he-as a linguist

and a speaker of all tongues-has become the only true Other on Pao, he laments, "'I am

changed ... I love Pao, but I am no longer Paonese. I am tainted with the flavor of [another









language]; I can never be truly and wholly a part of this world again-or of any other world. I

am dispossessed, eclectic; I am Pastiche"' (124). With the theoretical implications of this

statement, Vance demonstrates an admirable use of linguistic relativity to articulate the

individual conflicts inherent in shifting linguistic systems, consciously treating language as both

a character in a story and the means to tell one. In fact, it is Beran's literal and psychological

dispossession that paradoxically heals his divided culture and thus renders him the prototype of a

significant yet largely unexamined figure within SF literature: that of the linguist-ambassador.

However, because the motive force of Vance's plot deals with language on an intercultural level

and includes only a superficial examination of the individual characters most profoundly affected

by such drastic social change, Vance does not pursue the ramifications of the linguist-

ambassador's estrangement to any great degree.









CHAPTER 3
THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR

As groundbreaking a novel as The Languages ofPao has proven to be, a variety of

subsequent authors have far surpassed Vance's understanding of the linguist-ambassador's

myriad functions within a language-oriented plot structure and have effectively recast the

universal conflict between self and Other as a species-wide negotiation between the human and

the alien, using the complex social implications of language to question, conflate, and even

reverse the definitions of the two. Whether such blurring of boundaries is ultimately successful

or even desirable remains a function of the specific story using the linguist-ambassador as

protagonist. Authors have employed this character type to embody a startling variety of

philosophies both positive and negative; from the measured optimism of Le Guin's The Left

Hand ofDarkness to the astute cynicism of Dickson's Way of the Pilgrim, the convoluted roles

of the linguist-ambassador have been explored, expanded, and explained, and, in the case of

Delany's Babel-17, completely revolutionized. By analyzing the psychology of these authors'

various linguists, I will identify the methods by which opposing linguistic realities are negotiated

and identities redefined as each character attempts to discover just what separates the human

from the alien, and whether that separation is worth maintaining.

For by penning thoughtful critiques designed to complicate the binary opposition

between human and alien, these authors have created their own linguist-ambassadors as

intermediary characters whose physical similarities to one group and psychological identification

with the Other blur the distinctions between opposing constructs and challenge the reader to

discern where the boundaries should lie. To this end, the authors often go so far as to strand their

multilingual protagonists between opposing speech communities in a dramatic illustration of the

complexities involved in negotiating the language barriers between mutually alien cultures. And









not all such protagonists escape with their identities intact, for it is the extent of their

identification with the alien culture that determines the ultimate condition of their humanity; the

more fluently they speak the language of the Other, the more profoundly they comprehend its

essence, and the more rapidly they lose any sense of their own. Thus identity itself must be

inscribed and reinscribed through language; if the language changes, then so must the definition

of identity.

While I intend to focus my analysis primarily upon these three works, I will first use

Roger Zelazny's "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (1963) as a primer with which to demonstrate the

fundamental issues that each linguist-ambassador-regardless of his or her specific position

between mutually alien societies-must confront and resolve. To this end, I will first identify

and analyze the process of psychological development that each protagonist must undergo, for

regardless of the specific narrative, it is the linguist-ambassador's job to comprehend linguistic

realities separately and then redefine them together, literally reinscribing the self as Other and

vice versa in order to forge a new understanding between mutually unintelligible cultures. Thus

this development proceeds as a logical progression of the linguist-ambassador's: 1) initial

comprehension of the alien culture via language, 2) acute crisis of personal identity precipitated

by such comprehension, and 3) redefinition of personal identity and of the larger cultural

boundaries that the linguist is originally challenged to resolve.

Within the SF genre, of course, this psychological negotiation is presented as a literal

confrontation between human and alien, and such an overt manifestation of this philosophical

conflict only serves to heighten the intercultural and intrapersonal tensions that the character

must successfully negotiate. Highly representative of the challenges facing all such linguist-

ambassadors, Zelazny's "A Rose for Ecclesiastes" (1963) provides a powerful demonstration of









the complex interplay between language and identity, for the irascible linguist, Gallinger, not

only relies upon the principle of linguistic relativity to translate Earth culture into Martian terms

but also suffers an acute identity crisis due to his success; in short, his skills of interpretation and

translation render him alien to both worlds and constantly thwart his need for belonging.

Separated from humans by his genius and arrogance and from Martians by his physiology and

culture, he remains forever outside the societies that his actions unite and is ultimately doomed to

wallow in lonely bitterness. Yet even prior to the intercultural negotiations that serve as a

catalyst for his permanent isolation from both societies, Gallinger considers himself an outsider

and makes no effort to ingratiate himself with his fellow humans; indeed, the habitual arrogance

with which he treats his companions advertises his deliberate disassociation from the human race

even before the introduction of the Martian characters provides an overt manifestation of the

conceptual Other. In this way, Gallinger renders himself alien before the aliens appear: a

compulsion on the part of the protagonist, perhaps, but also a strategic move of Zelazny's

designed to place Gallinger firmly between the two opposing cultures and to render him the only

possible bridge before negotiations have even begun, thus initiating the identity crisis that

provides the main motivation for the progression of the plot.

In accordance with this dynamic, Zelazny often develops the theme of alienation without

the presence of any literal aliens to facilitate it. The extent of Gallinger's self-alienation

becomes most apparent in the observer's position that he takes within his own reflections, for

just as Zelazny's wry first-person narrative compels us to adopt Gallinger's constantly shifting

sense of his own identity, the linguist's own thoughts tend to estrange him from himself even in

the complete absence of any character to provide a point of opposition. Readers therefore

experience a first-person narrative of his life even as Gallinger detaches himself from his own









memories and consciously separates his present self from his former self in an act of

psychological alienation, demonstrating just how far outside of everything he perceives himself

to be:

On the day the boy graduated from high school, with the French, German, Spanish, and
Latin awards, Dad Gallinger had told his fourteen-year-old, six-foot scarecrow of a son
that he wanted him to enter the ministry. I remember how his son was evasive:

"Sir," he had said, "I'd sort of like to study on my own for a year or so..." (emphasis
mine) (Zelazny 312)

Ruminations such as these reveal a mindset predisposed to separation, and yet despite his self-

imposed psychological handicap, Gallinger must struggle to find common ground with the alien

culture of Mars, parsing out the philosophical themes inherent in the nuances of Martian

grammar and vocabulary in order to identify and translate an Earth equivalent and provide the

ideal bridge between two worlds.

Ironically, his self-inflicted estrangement from his human companions renders him a

rather dubious representative of his race and initially serves to hinder his attempts to connect

with Martian culture, for his first instinct in any relationship is to hold himself apart, to guard his

own personal boundaries and remain safely unchanged by his experiences. Motivated by these

psychological inhibitions, he first makes the fundamentally impossible resolution to "learn

another world but remain aloof' and dedicates his every moment to comprehending the Martian

culture via the High Tongue, thus conflating fluency with access and committing the naive

speaker's error of treating language as a vehicle for thought rather than its creator (Zelazny 313).

Indeed, it is only when he focuses on comprehending the cultural biases inherent in the language

itself that he transcends the alienness of Martian culture via an appropriate philosophical parallel

from human literature:

They wrote about concrete things: rocks, sand, water, winds; and the tenor couched within
these elemental symbols was fiercely pessimistic... It reminded me of the Book of









Ecclesiastes. That, then, would be it. The sentiment, as well as the vocabulary, was so
similar that it would be a perfect exercise.... I would show them that an Earthman had
once thought the same thoughts, felt similarly. (Zelazny 314)

And just as the tone and diction of the written High Tongue actively influence the course of his

linguistic endeavors, so too does his growing fluency in the language alter his worldview and

promote his sense of kinship with the Martians, allowing him to indulge in and act upon the

illusion of their humanity. Thus he conflates his fondness for the Martian language with love for

a Martian woman and misconstrues her duty to indulge him sexually as evidence of a mutual

attraction, complicating his own ambassadorial duties with personal issues and setting himself up

for a curious mix of success and failure in his dealings with this ancient and impassive race.

Gallinger's romantic relationship with Braxa accordingly serves as the catalyst that

reawakens his desire for belonging and compels him to use his skill with language to attain it, for

long before he manages to convert the Book of Ecclesiastes into the High Tongue, he translates

human poetry for Braxa's amusement and renders the grace of her dance into fine English

phrasing, indulging the hope that his words might rewrite social realities and make her at least as

human as he has become Martian. Yet despite his willful self-deception regarding the true nature

of his newfound relationship, he does succeed in his attempt to unite the two cultures, for both

his unborn child by Braxa and his daring translation constitute significant revisions of human

nature within the context of Martian culture; even his final showdown with the Matriarchs has

itself been written, in a manner of speaking, fulfilling as it does the ancient prophecy that the

"Sacred Scoffer" would one day "mock [the Martian god's] words as [he] read them" and save

the sterile Martian race from its demise (Zelazny 335). However, once he has served his purpose

as the bridge between the races, Gallinger must ultimately return to his former state of alienation

from Martians and humans alike-as even the strongest bridge between two lands belongs to

neither shore.









Zelazny's short story presents a sophisticated negotiation between distinct social realities

and provides an ideal introduction to the issues with which all linguist-ambassadors are

confronted, for regardless of the setting, the conflict, or even the outcome, these highly

specialized characters must willingly sacrifice a measure of their own identities in order to access

the Other through language. By consciously utilizing the principle of linguistic relativity, they

deliberately shift their own patterns of thought to alter both their understanding of reality and

their position within it, stepping easily across the boundary between self and Other-human and

alien-until that boundary becomes irrelevant, or, at the very least, indistinct. The philosophical

parameters of each story differ greatly, but in all instances, the linguist-ambassadors' facility

with multiple languages (and therefore with multiple cultural realities) automatically taints them

with a tinge of the Other; their profession compels them to tread the outer limits of accepted

normality (read "humanity") and renders them prime candidates for translating, interpreting, and

ultimately becoming the alien with which they are so fascinated. And if, as is often the case,

their ultimate goal is to serve as a linguistic bridge between two mutually alien cultures, then

they cannot help but relinquish a part of their humanity to accomplish that goal, becoming, in the

end, something paradoxically more and less than human.









CHAPTER 4
THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR'S DILEMMA

While the psychological development of each linguist-ambassador follows essentially the

same course (comprehension of the Other, crisis of personal identity, and redefinition of both),

the final resolution of his or her inner conflict (and the story's denouement) requires a specific

declaration of loyalty; the linguist must choose to accept or reject the identity shift that has taken

place as a result of such prolonged contact with the alien culture or cultures in question, and not

all linguist-ambassadors settle upon the same solution to this common dilemma. The

ramifications of accepting or rejecting the Other as part of the self are thoroughly explored in

The Left Hand of Darkness and Way of the Pilgrim, respectively, but perhaps it is not quite

sufficient to categorize the linguist-ambassador's evolution in terms of unequivocally

"accepting" or "rejecting" a specific perspective on reality; say rather that the linguist either

chooses to dilute the definition of humanity by embracing elements of the alien, or to intensify

his original definition of humanity by excluding all things alien from his conception of identity.

For acceptance of an alternative social reality-whatever it may be within the context of a given

story-implies the linguist's innate willingness to adopt aspects of the Other and name them part

of the self, thus diluting his understanding of his own humanity. And as Beran and Gallinger

have discovered, such a conceptual leap often results in an even greater sense of alienation as the

linguist in question no longer "feels" quite human, nor wants to.

If the development of the linguist-ambassador within SF is viewed as a linear

progression, then it is clear that Vance and Zelazny have laid a solid foundation for the profound

philosophical inquiries inherent in Le Guin's The Left Hand ofDarkness (1969), for just as the

protagonist, Genly Ai, undergoes the same three-stage process of shifting his own social identity,

he also makes the final decision to accept elements of the alien into his perception of himself and









thus dilute his definition of what it is to be truly human. Yet it is in this very transition that Le

Guin demonstrates her superior mastery of her craft, for unlike Vance's cursory

acknowledgement of Beran as "Pastiche" and Zelazny's limited evaluation of Gallinger as alien

to everyone, Le Guin pens an expansive and contemplative tale that encompasses the subtle

nuances of three separate cultural systems (one human and two alien) and explores one Terran

linguist's struggle to define himself as he straddles the boundaries that divide them all.

Given the initial complexity of Le Guin's story, the evidence of her narrative finesse lies in

her unique ability to employ the principle of linguistic relativity to demonstrate both the

differences inherent in her alien cultures and the cultural biases to which her readers are prone.

Whether in dialogue or narration, her choice of wording strategically reflects both the

assumptions built into each specific culture as well as the misunderstandings that develop when

those cultures meet. And as a human ambassador to the androgynous alien cultures of the planet

Gethen, Genly represents the reader; his perceptions are essentially our own, and because his

reactions to the strangeness around him mirror those we might have ourselves, his unreasoned

biases and frequent miscommunications are specifically designed to force us into a startled

examination of our own prejudices: to jar us from our linguistic and cultural naivete.

A prime example of this metalinguistic dynamic occurs during Genly's rather baffling

conversation with Lord Estraven of Karhide, for although the passage does not contain a single

unfamiliar word and follows the conventional rhythm of dialogue, it is next to impossible for the

protagonist (much less the reader) to discern the true meaning of the exchange:

"Did you hear what the king said to me at the ceremony today?" [asked Estraven].

"No." He said nothing more, so I amplified, "The king didn't speak to you in my
hearing."

"Nor in mine," said he.









I saw at last that I was missing another signal. Damning his effeminate deviousness, I
said, "Are you trying to tell me, Lord Estraven, that you're out of favor with the king?"

I think he was angry then, but he said nothing that showed it, only, "I'm not trying to
tell you anything, Mr. Ai."

"By God, I wish you would!" (14)

From a metalinguistic perspective, this exchange is doubly significant, for not only does Le Guin

establish the obvious difficulties in communication as an ongoing theme, but she also uses the

content of the discussion to make a profound comment on the very nature of conversational

subtext. Just as the king has said nothing to Estraven (thereby saying something important), so

too does Estraven wrap his very silences in significance and expect Genly to understand that, far

from "not trying to tell [him] anything," he is in fact telling him everything.

Thus, in her own way, Le Guin proves even more self-conscious of language than her

predecessors Vance and Zelazny, for just as she uses linguistic complexities to enrich the

narrative rather than to constitute the plot, she consistently bestows a wealth of significance upon

a single, well-placed word and expects her readers to discern her subtext, relying upon our

intimate knowledge of English just as Estraven assumes Genly's understanding of Karhidish

rhetoric. And contrary to the criticism that her sociological innovations remain "controlled by

language and the gender conventions of the reader's world," Le Guin often uses those very

conventions to manipulate the reader's assumptions within the framework of the novel

(Pennington 351). A prime example of this dynamic occurs with her strategic use of the word

"effeminate" in the previous exchange, for not only is there irony in attaching supposedly

feminine traits to a genderless character within the context of an androgynous culture, but the

word choice also highlights Genly's own cultural biases and reinforces the Whorfian principle

that social realities are continually defined and reinscribed through the nature of language itself.

Given the author's explorations of "the ways in which sex-role stereotyping pervades ordinary









contemporary language," it is clear that Genly's unthinking description of Estraven's behavior is

intended to reveal far more about the speaker than about the subject being described,

emphasizing as well Le Guin's profound mastery of her craft (Rabkin 88). Thus, with this highly

specialized technique, Le Guin uses language to critique language and creates alternative

cultures to question the conventions of our own, drawing attention not just to her story, but also

to the way in which she chooses to tell it. As the author herself admits, "To create... 'a

secondary universe' is to make a new world. A world where no voice has ever spoken before,

where the act of speech is the act of creation .... And every word counts" (Language of the

Night 95).

As with many of the "new worlds" envisioned by SF authors, the words that count the

most are those that "no voice has ever spoken before": those words whose meanings, however

complex, are not self-contained but are intended to imply the existence of entire languages and

the cultures that create and are created by them. Le Guin demonstrates an admirable use of this

particular technique by applying her neologisms sparingly but effectively and using them to

illustrate in a word cultural complexities that would take volumes to explain. Indeed, the curious

exchange between Genly and Lord Estraven-demonstrating as it does the inability of two aliens

to understand each other-is preceded by the strategic introduction of the Karhidish concept

known as '/hi.' eidl/r, "the untranslatable and all-important principle of social authority in

Karhide" which constitutes a vague mixture of "prestige, face, place, [and] the pride-

relationship" (Left Hand 14). By refusing to define ,h/i.i' e/h'r to any satisfactory degree, Le

Guin has placed us in the role of linguist-ambassador, and we-along with Genly-must struggle

to gain a deeper understanding of the word from context alone. Deprived of any explicit

definitions for this important concept, we must look critically at the specific language of the









novel and consciously reject the typical reader's passivity in favor of a more active role in

deciphering the structure of the story. Forced to consider the very nature of the "water" in which

we swim, we can no longer persist in looking beyond it and ignoring its profound effects upon

that which we see.

And just as the term \hitif ei'hr encapsulates the essence of the stoic Karhidish culture, a

similar technique is used to portray the excesses of Karhide's obsessively bureaucratic neighbor,

Orgoreyn, for the citizens of this particular nation engage in a manner of address decidedly more

verbose-but no less opaque to Genly's perceptions-than the Karhidish speech patterns.

Whereas a Karhidish individual will speak volumes with silence, a citizen of Orgoreyn will

indulge in a verbal maze of prevarication and posturing, and the Orgota language accordingly

imbues simple words with political definitions so convoluted as to cause them to lose all

meaning whatsoever:

[The usage of "commensality"] includes all national/governmental institutions of
Orgoreyn, from the State as a whole through its thirty-three component substates... to the
sub-substates, townships, communal farms, mines, factories, and so on.... As an adjective
it is applied to all of the above... but it may also mean the citizens, the people themselves.
In this curious lack of distinction between the general and specific applications of the
word, in the use of it for both the whole and the part... in this imprecision is its precisest
meaning. (109)

Thus the definition of "commensality" proves to be just as bureaucratically twisted as the culture

from which the word comes, and so Le Guin more effectively demonstrates the Orgoreyn

worldview-and Genly's relationship to it-by strategically failing to explain the culture

adequately. Limited to Genly's rudimentary understanding of the Orgota language, we are also

limited to an equally rudimentary understanding of the culture that it conveys and must once

again adopt the protagonist's role of linguist-ambassador to fully engage the profound

metalinguistic commentary inherent in the novel.









Just as Le Guin's neologisms can be interpreted as an abstract critique of language, they

also serve to demonstrate the linguist-ambassador's progression through the first of the three

crucial stages: comprehension of the alien culture. And this very comprehension, admirable

though it may be, serves as the catalyst for the personal identity crisis that constitutes the second

stage of development and encompasses the majority of the novel, for the closer Genly comes to

grasping the conceptual Other, the more deeply entrenched he becomes in the alien worldview

and the more keenly he feels his identity wavering between his original understanding of

humanity and his desire to bridge the gap between himself and his companions. This desire

manifests most clearly in his growing empathy with Estraven, for long after Genly's initial

failure to connect with the phlegmatic Karhidish noble, the two individuals finally forge a deep

friendship based upon an understanding of their differences and a mutual appreciation of their

similarities; indeed, it is only when he finally regards Estraven in the complex light of friendship,

brotherhood, and (unconsummated) love that he is truly able to bridge the gap represented by

their mutual alienness.

Yet paradoxically, the very strangeness of the two travelers serves to encourage their deep

personal connection, for as Genly muses, "it was from the difference between us, not from the

affinities and likenesses... that that love came: and it was itself the bridge, the only bridge,

across what divided us" (Left Hand 249). Thus by forging this connection between opposite

characters and representatives of opposite societies, Le Guin makes the assertion that, unlike the

dynamics at work in The Languages ofPao and "A Rose for Ecclesiastes," mutual understanding

and acceptance do not necessarily imply a complete loss of identity, for it is possible to

overcome boundaries without actually dissolving them. As Estraven astutely observes, "Duality

is an essential, isn't it? So long as there is myself and the other" (234).









Yet although Genly succeeds in forging lasting diplomatic relations between Gethen's

inhabitants and the cultural collective of the Ekumen, he never completely resolves the issues

precipitating his own identity crisis, for the tumultuous years of his linguistic and cultural

immersion among the various peoples of Gethen have rendered him acutely aware of his own

strangeness within the alternative normality of the world he inhabits, causing him to view his

biases and even his own biology as inherently alien. After years of living as the lone alien in a

world of androgynes, he cannot help but see his "fellow [human] Envoys" as "a troupe of great

strange animals... apes with intelligent eyes, all of them in rut," and he accordingly finds the

sight of an androgynous face "a relief... familiar, right" (296). Thus in bridging two cultures he

has lost a true sense of his own and has ultimately sacrificed his cultural identity so that the

societies he unites may simultaneously maintain and transcend the boundaries that make them

what they are. His resolution to the linguist-ambassador's dilemma is to accept the aliens'

perception of himself, but such a resolution comes with a heavy price, for he must forever

perceive himself as partly alien, regardless of the language in which he is situated.

Genly's final choice to accept the changes he has been compelled to make in his identity

mirrors that of his "colleagues" Gallinger and Beran, for all three of these linguist-ambassadors

opt to compromise themselves in order to reconcile the conceptual conflicts that arise between

the mutually alien cultures they have sworn to unite. Despite the vastly different details

presented in each story, the characters' progression through the three fundamental stages of

shifting identity remains the same: a pattern largely dependent upon the fact that each of these

linguist-ambassadors pursues his journey into the alien voluntarily. Even Beran, who begins his

linguistic studies under duress, ultimately chooses to fully immerse himself in each of the

artificial languages that transform the once-homogeneous Paonese culture into something









altogether different. In each case, it is the all-important element of personal decision that allows

the linguist-ambassador to reach a psychological and philosophical compromise between his

native culture and his alien environment. Present by choice, he conducts himself at all times as

an intellectual equal to those he seeks to understand, and at no point must he sublimate his

identity or surrender his own sense of himself to a dominant alien will. He must simply learn to

redefine himself within the broader context of his alien environment, even as the aliens he meets

must redefine themselves within the context of a world that includes this thing called humanity.

Whatever misunderstandings may arise, the entire encounter is characterized by mutual

adjustments and open communication and thus yields benefits for all parties concerned, an

outcome that would remain impossible if either humans or aliens insisted upon maintaining a

dominant position throughout the exchange.

However, when a linguist-ambassador is forced into a position of inferiority during his

dealings with the alien culture, he adopts aspects of the alien Other merely as a means to survive,

thus rendering his inevitable identity crisis a supremely bitter one, for any advances he makes in

comprehending the alien culture-along with any insecurities he may suffer as a result-arise

not from his efforts to bridge the gap between two equal societies but from his need to avoid the

dire consequences of acting contrary to alien expectations. And because those expectations place

him in a position of perpetual ignominy, any acceptance of such conditions results not in the

positive expansion of the definition of humanity but rather in the complete negation of humanity

in favor of something else entirely. Thus his sense of identity is compromised, and he is

ultimately unable to embrace acceptance as a tolerable means of solving the linguist-

ambassador's dilemma; the only true means of escape is therefore to consciously reject all things

alien.









Shane Evert, the tormented linguist of Gordon R. Dickson's Way of the Pilgrim (1987),

represents this dynamic of rejection and provides a sharp contrast to Beran, Gallinger, and

Genly, all of whom choose to accept the alien influences upon their identities. However, the

conditions resulting in Shane's identity crisis are significantly different than those faced by his

predecessors, for in Shane's world, acceptance of the alien (Aalaag) is tantamount to acceptance

of slavery, and when viewed in this light, his ultimate decision to reject the linguistic and cultural

forces with which he is surrounded represents the deep, driving need of humanity itself to rebel

against the alien culture that has so callously enslaved the Earth. Shane's position among the

Aalaag is particularly untenable, for just as the aliens treat human beings as "cattle" fit only to

serve, their language is structurally incapable of articulating humans in anything other than a role

of servitude and renders the goals of the linguist-ambassador ultimately impossible to achieve,

for the concept of mutual respect between human and Aalaag can hardly take root in a culture

ruled by a language that is simply unequipped to convey such a thought.

Thus Dickson manipulates language as artfully as Le Guin, but for an entirely different

purpose; his interpretation of the principle of linguistic relativity is specifically designed to

accentuate the unbridgeable differences between human and Aalaag and to impress upon both

characters and readers that there can be no true understanding-no sense of equality-in a world

dominated by a brutal alien tongue that deliberately redefines the nature of humanity. The

average Aalaag cannot even pronounce the word "human," much less understand its significance,

and thus Dickson employs a language-based deficiency to symbolize the aliens' psychological

inability to acknowledge humans as equals. Because the word cannot be spoken, the concept

cannot exist, and all humans must therefore cease to be human and must accept the only labels

possible within the limited linguistic construct that dominates and defines their new reality.









Only as "beasts" may they live to wait upon the pleasure of the "real persons" who speak the

"true tongue," and the greatest ambition permitted them is to one day become "small imitations

of the Aalaag," at least as far as the "beast-limitations of their natures" will allow (Dickson 446).

In this way, Dickson strategically alters the novel's linguistic reality in order to situate humans as

aliens within the Aalaag worldview, creating an immediate sense of the Aalaag as normal and

forcing readers to view the human characters within the context of Aalaag cultural biases.

To enhance this effect, he employs three distinct registers of English throughout the

complex dynamics of his dialogue to indicate both the language being spoken and the social

status of the speakers involved. Because casual speech is often associated with the lower classes,

Dickson employs colloquial English to represent all human-to-human interactions, while all

Aalaag-to-Aalaag conversations are characterized by a formal, stilted, and painfully precise

manner of speech designed to reflect the fanatical attention to duty at the core of the Aalaag

culture. Finally, to offset these two distinct modes of address and to account for the human-to-

Aalaag interactions, Dickson uses yet another register, a modified version of the third-person

submissive that emphasizes the inferior position of humans within Aalaag society by denying

them the grammatical constructions necessary to form assertive statements. A human must never

refer to an Aalaag as "you," but must always use the alien's title of "immaculate" or

"untarnished sir," and even the pronoun "I," impossible to avoid in English, is understood to take

an entirely different form when humans must refer to themselves directly in Aalaag. For a beast

to utter the first-person pronoun reserved for Aalaag use is an unforgivable offense, and thus by

denying humans access to the simple yet vital pronoun of selfhood, the Aalaag language makes it

impossible for the aliens even to conceive of their "cattle" as possessing the presence of mind or

individual will associated with "the untarnished race."









The rules governing the specific usage of these various registers are necessarily complex,

and as a world-class linguist, Shane can navigate them all. However, his abrupt shifts from one

register to another, while vital to maintaining his precarious position within the Aalaag-

dominated society, also signal his constantly changing identity in relation to human inferiors and

Aalaag superiors. As a courier-translator for First Captain Lyt Ahn, leader of the Aalaag

invasion, Shane holds the highest position allowed a beast within Aalaag society and therefore

enjoys privileges and benefits far beyond those of humans who do not directly facilitate the

Aalaag occupation, but as the following exchange between Shane and Laa Ehon, a colleague of

Lyt Ahn, demonstrates, the linguist must constantly rely upon his consummate skills of

manipulation and language and his innate understanding of Aalaag social customs in order to

negotiate even the most commonplace interactions:

"How long have you spoken the true language?"

"Two and a half years of this world, immaculate sir."

"You are a beast worth having," said [Laa Ehon] slowly. "I did not think one such as
you could be brought to speak so clearly. How are you valued?"

"To the best of my knowledge, immaculate sir"-he dared not hesitate in his
answer-"I am valued at half a possession of land... and the favor of my master Lyt Ahn,"
said Shane.

The thoughtfulness vanished from Laa Ehon's features... "Favor" was a term that
went beyond all price. It was a designation meaning that his master was personally
interested in keeping him, and that the price of any sale could include anything at all....
Such "favor," involved in a sale, could in effect constitute a blank check signed by the
buyer, cashable at any time in the future for goods or actions by the seller, guaranteed
under the unyielding obligation code of the Aalaag. (Dickson 38-9)

Contained within this brief exchange are the Whorfian principles upon which the entire novel is

based, for not only does Shane define himself within the ignominious boundaries of Aalaag

social biases, but he also demonstrates an acute understanding of how to manipulate those biases

to his benefit. Just as he proves himself to be "a beast worth having" by suppressing his human









identity beneath the verbal conventions of the "true language," he also utilizes his understanding

of the Aalaag word "favor" to discourage Laa Ehon from purchasing him. Yet the true delicacy

of Shane's maneuver lies in the fact that Lyt Ahn has never expressly included his "favor" as

being part of Shane's stated value. By taking a calculated risk that the First Captain might

indeed value him so highly, Shane seeks to prevent Laa Ehon from making any further inquiries

into his sale, an event which would deprive the linguist of the minimal stability that he has

managed to regain following the Aalaag invasion.

Yet as skilled as Shane has become at manipulating his masters via language alone, such

prevarication carries a heavy price. Because this particular linguist is an ambassador only under

duress, his intimate comprehension of the alien culture leads to an identity crisis so acute that it

threatens to alienate him from all that he cherishes in the human race. To survive in an Aalaag

world, he must twist himself into the closest approximation of an Aalaag that he can achieve,

sublimating his fear and hatred beneath a self-perpetuated delusion of respect and admiration for

the Aalaag culture. As Maria, his lover and his link to the human world, declares, "'You can

think like them, feel like them... it's almost as if you've become part Aalaag yourself" (Dickson

246). And while such a shift in identity proves an advantage to linguist-ambassadors like

Gallinger and Genly, it becomes pure torture for Shane; his cooperation with the Aalaag is

nothing less than the basest betrayal of humanity, and there can be no middle ground.

Given the particularly uncompromising nature of Dickson's version of the linguist-

ambassador's dilemma, Shane's only means of recovering his humanity is to reject the Aalaag

with thoughts, words, and deeds; and accordingly, his fantasies of becoming a rebel "pilgrim"

lead him to make contact with an international Resistance group and to organize increasingly

dramatic displays of defiance, all of which culminate in a single worldwide show of resistance









that finally convinces the Aalaag to abandon Earth to its original inhabitants. Dressed in the

robes of the Pilgrim, the humans march against every alien stronghold with nothing but wooden

staffs and stoic determination, proving by their mere presence that they will no longer serve as

beasts. And just as the symbol of the Pilgrim comes to represent the human race, Shane himself

becomes the Pilgrim in the eyes of humans and aliens alike as he steps forward to speak for the

world, and more importantly, to change the world through the act of speech:

"The Aalaag should understand that each individual of any people carries within him
or her a portion of what belongs to that people as a whole. There is no Aalaag who lacks
such a portion; and likewise there is no human without it," [said Shane].

Lyt Ahn tilted a thumb toward the crowd outside.

"We do not call those a people, but beasts and cattle," he said. "And we would not
use that word you use to describe them, even if it were pronounceable."

"Such refusals," said Shane, "mean nothing and change nothing." (413-14)

It is important to note that because this conversation takes place in the Aalaag language, the

word "human" is italicized not for emphasis, but rather to indicate its foreignness. Just as in the

majority of the novel, humans are cast as the Other, the not-normal, and the alien within the

reality defined and maintained by the Aalaag invaders, and not even in his final plea to the First

Captain can Shane overcome the biases inherent in the language he must use to communicate.

"We do not call those a people, but beasts and cattle," Lyt Ahn declares, and in the very labeling

of the beings that defy him, he refuses to recognize the bald fact of their defiance; people may

resist, it is true, but cattle are merely "sick" and must be summarily destroyed so that they cannot

infect the rest of the stock. And Shane, speaking Aalaag, must accordingly translate the essence

of his argument for freedom into the unequal power relationships of master and slave, ruler and

ruled. Shackled by the linguistic blindness of the Aalaag, he simply cannot say that humans must

live free: only that the cattle "do not tame" (Dickson 415). Thus there can be no mutual









understanding between the two races, and all Shane can hope to do is convince the Aalaag that

humans are not worth the effort involved in occupation and enslavement. As Lyt Ahn tells

Shane prior to abandoning the planet:

"You conceived the conceit that we were leaving because you had shown yourself too
brave and independent of nature for us to control. It is not so. We, who do as we wish,
build or destroy at our pleasure, choose to abandon you. Not because you have shown that
you prefer death to service, but for a far different reason."

"Because we will not be slaves," said Shane thickly.

"No," said Lyt Ahn. "Because you are unworthy." (447)

Thus Shane has indeed fulfilled his duties as linguist-ambassador, but in reverse; whereas Beran,

Gallinger, and Genly manipulate language to bridge the differences between cultures, Shane uses

his unique understanding of the Aalaag to prove that no bridge is possible: to ultimatelyfail to

communicate and to succeed because of that failure.









CHAPTER 5
TRANSCENDING THE DILEMMA

When Shane's performance is compared to that of his three "predecessors," it is clear that

these four protagonists illustrate the full spectrum of solutions to the linguist-ambassador's

dilemma, for whether the character in question chooses to integrate the human with the alien or

to deny the one in favor of the other, there remains the inescapable duality of the choice

involved: to accept or to reject the alien. However, what these novels do not reveal is that the

dilemma is in fact a false one, and so it is left to Rydra Wong, the heroine of Samuel R. Delany's

Babel- 7 (1966), to transcend the limitations of this either-or construct; and transcend them she

does, and brilliantly so, for Rydra Wong-navigator, captain, poet, and linguist extraordinaire-

is the bridge between all worlds. In a universe where the living can modify their bodies and the

dead can exist bodiless, where six known sentient species roam the stars and the definition of

humanity is already stretched to the breaking point, where traditions blend and cultures collide

and languages shift like kaleidoscopes, only Rydra can find a way to unite a motley starship crew

in the common purpose of comprehending the motivations of the strange (but ultimately human)

Invaders whose complex and highly analytical language, Babel-17, remains a mystery to

everyone but her.

Given her quest to decipher the language of the Invaders so as to understand their

psychology, Rydra Wong is perhaps the most blatantly Whorfian of all the linguist-ambassadors.

As she tells a trusted confidant, "'Most textbooks say language is a mechanism for expressing

thought. But language is thought. Thought is information given form. The form is language.

The form of [Babel-17] is amazing"' (B]7 23). And although we never learn a single word of

this mysterious language, we are treated to numerous examples of its power, for by switching

from English to Babel-17 at critical moments, Rydra is able to describe and therefore understand









the world around her in such a way that the very description presents her with the solution to

whatever problem she faces. An example of this phenomenon occurs when she and her crew are

captured by starship pirates. When Rydra uses Babel-17 to analyze the nature of the webbing

that imprisons her, she suddenly realizes that it is not webbing, "but rather a three-particle vowel

differential, each particle of which defined one stress of the three-way tie... By breaking the

threads at these points, the whole web would unravel. Had she flailed at it, and not named it in

this new language, it would have been more than secure enough to hold her" (113). And with

Rydra's newfound perceptions comes the dangerous conviction that she has finally discovered

the "right" way to articulate the world: that because the efficiency of Babel-17 far surpasses that

of any other language she knows, it must therefore describe things as they truly are. But "Truth"

is a slippery concept shaped purely by the assumptions inherent in language, and if a truth is only

as real as the words by which it is declared, then Babel-17 is not just a language but a weapon, a

linguistic invasion that does not require the presence of its creators in order to conquer.

Thus it is the insidious nature of Babel-17 that compels Rydra to sabotage her own quest

to thwart the Invaders, for whenever she abandons the thought patterns inherent in English and

begins to think in Babel-17, she becomes her own enemy and accepts the alien truth that her

mission must be stopped and her own government, the Alliance, destroyed. As she later tells her

psychiatrist, "the word for Alliance in Babel-17 translates literally into English as: one-who-has-

invaded ... While thinking in Babel-17 it becomes perfectly logical to try and destroy your own

ship and then blot out the fact with self-hypnosis so you won't ... try and stop yourself" (215).

And instrumental to the dynamics of this "perfectly logical" betrayal of self is the fact that the

structure of Babel-17 does not allow for the concept of selfhood. There is no "I" in Babel-17,

and consequently, no "you," which is simply a linguistic representation of the Other. When









faced with this critical handicap, a naive speaker of Babel-17 necessarily develops a monstrous

indifference to the value of individual life; for if there is no "I" then there is no reason for self-

preservation, and if there is no "you," then murder is hardly a crime. Indeed, when reality itself

is reduced to the status of data to be processed by the analytical system that is Babel-17, then

killing a sentient being is merely equivalent to deleting a specific piece of information. Without

the all-important pronouns of selfhood, Babel-17 proves to be a soulless language governed by

pure logic, and therein lies its flaw. For logic is only as sound as the premises upon which it is

based, and just as the Invaders can commandeer a mind by forcing it to reason in alien terms, so

too can Rydra unbalance such reasoning by bombarding that same mind with unsolvable

paradoxes. Confronted by a series of what can essentially be classified as programming loops,

the mind shuts down like a computer and "reboots" in its original language, thus restoring a

crucial sense of self to the individual.

Thus far, the novel has only demonstrated another version of the original either-or

dilemma facing every linguist-ambassador, for just like Beran, Gallinger, Genly, and Shane,

Rydra strives to comprehend the language of the Other and suffers a resulting identity crisis that

can only be corrected when she must choose whether to accept or reject the alien influences to

which she has been exposed. However, Delany's true innovation comes when Rydra transcends

the limitations of this three-stage pattern and manipulates the structure of language to overcome

the psychological damage inherent in the usage of Babel-17, for despite her previous assertion

that language is synonymous with thought, Rydra refuses to remain bound by it. Instead, she

systematically eliminates the treacherous logic inherent in Babel-17 so that the language can no

longer subvert her loyalties or undermine her personality. Thus, by recreating the language of

the Invaders and dubbing it Babel-18, Rydra effectively rejects the alien influences that resulted









in her own identity crisis while simultaneously using those same influences to bridge the gap

between Alliance and Invaders. Faced with the conventional dilemma of either accepting or

rejecting the Other, she completely transcends the choice. Like a more benevolent version of

Vance's Palafox, she deftly takes possession of the complex dynamics of linguistic relativity and

uses her new language to impress her own desire for peace upon the war-torn world around her,

and her parting message to both sides, "'This war will end within six months,"' therefore reflects

far more than wishful thinking, for by stating it, she literally wills it to be (219).

Thus Delany's novel represents the culmination of the linguist-ambassador's evolution as

well as the ultimate manifestation of Whorfian principles within SF, for not only does Rydra

solve the dilemma to which all other linguist-ambassadors eventually succumb, but she also

proves the philosophical point that language and reality are one and the same and must be treated

accordingly. And although such "proof" stems entirely from the realm of science fiction, it is

proof nonetheless; for if we as the myriad naive speakers in a world commonly referred to as

"real" would agree to treat our own perceptions with the same degree of skepticism commonly

accorded to fiction, we would find it much easier to bridge the cultural gaps that the average

linguist-ambassador is so sorely challenged to cross.









LIST OF REFERENCES

Barnes, Myra Edwards. Linguistics and Languages in Science Fiction-Fantasy. Diss. East
Texas State University, 1971.

Brantenberg, Gerd. Egalia's Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes. 3rd ed. Emeryville: Seal Press,
2004.

Delany, Samuel R. Babel-17. First Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 2001.

-. The Jewel-Hinged Jaw. New York: Dragon Press, 1977.

Devitt, Michael and Kim Sterelny. Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of
Language. 2nd ed. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1999.

Dickson, Gordon R. Way of the Pilgrim. New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1987.

Foley, William A. Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction. Malden: Blackwell Publishers,
1997.

Le Guin, Ursula K. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction. Wood,
Susan, ed. New York: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1979.

-. The Left Hand ofDarkness. New York: Ace Books, 1969.

Malmgren, Carl. "The Languages of Science Fiction: Samuel R. Delany's Babel-17." Ash of
Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany. Ed. James Sallis. Jackson: UP of
Mississippi, 1996.

Meyers, Walter E. Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction. Athens: UP of
Georgia, 1980.

Orwell, George. 1984. Commemorative ed. New York: Signet Classic, 1983.

Pennington, John. "Exorcising Gender: Resisting Readers in Ursula K. Le Guin's Left Hand of
Darkness." Extrapolation 41.4 (Winter 2000): 351. Academic OneFile. Gale.
University of Florida. 3 Sept. 2007
http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodld=AONE>.

Putz, Martin, ed. Explorations in Linguistic Relativity. Philadelphia: John Benjamins
Publishing, 2000.

Rabkin, Eric S. "Metalinguistics and Science Fiction." Critical Inquiry 6 (1979): 79-97.

Vance, Jack. The Languages ofPao. New York: books.









Warrick, Patricia S., ed. Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology.
New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 1988.

Weinbaum, Stanley G. A Martian Odyssey. Warrick 65-83.

Zelazny, Roger. A Rose for Ecclesiastes. Warrick 308-37.









BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

Christine Bertrand holds a B.A. in English and Classical Studies and anticipates graduation

from the University of Florida in December 2007 with an M.A. in American Literature and a

certificate to teach English as a second language. She currently teaches academic writing to

incoming freshmen, works as a part-time English and ESL tutor, and volunteers at the English

Language Institute. Her future plans include teaching ESL in Italy and South Korea and building

a long-term career as a fantasy novelist.





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THE ROLE OF THE LINGUIST-AMBASSA DOR IN METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE FICTION By CHRISTINE BERTRAND A THESIS PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE SCHOOL OF THE UNIVERSITY OF FLOR IDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF MASTER OF ARTS UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA 2007 1

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2007 Christine Bertrand 2

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To my Dad, who kept me going, my Mom, who kept me sane, and my brother, who kept it real. 3

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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS I thank the members of my committee, Dr. A ndrew Gordon (chair) and Dr. Marsha Bryant, for their guidance both in the classroom and on th e page, and my family for their many years of love and support. 4

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TABLE OF CONTENTS page ACKNOWLEDGMENTS...............................................................................................................4ABSTRACT.....................................................................................................................................6 CHAPTER 1 LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY WITHIN SCIENCE FICTION.................................................82 METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE FICTI ON: WRITING SOCIAL REALITIES....................143 THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR........................................................................................234 THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADORS DILEMMA................................................................295 TRANSCENDING THE DILEMMA....................................................................................43LIST OF REFERENCES...............................................................................................................47BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.........................................................................................................49 5

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Abstract of Thesis Presen ted to the Graduate School of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree of Master of Arts THE ROLE OF THE LINGUIST-AMBASSA DOR IN METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE FICTION By Christine Bertrand December 2007 Chair: Andrew Gordon Major: English In this thesis, I apply Benjam in Whorfs theory of linguistic relativity (the idea that language shapes thought and theref ore perception) to the specia lized genre of metalinguistic science fiction in order to examine the various ma nifestations of a rapidl y evolving figure that I call the linguist-ambassador. Central to novels th at use a fictitious language or languages to alienate characters from each other and readers from the text, the linguist-ambassador functions as the sole link between opposing cultures whose native speakers are automatically blinded to worldviews other than their own. However, just as fluency in multiple languages grants the linguist-ambassador a unique understanding of multiple social realities, it also deprives him or her of a cohesive identity, for true comprehe nsion of the alien comes only with a literal translation of Self into Other, and thus language, as the author of reality, literally rewrites the linguist-ambassador within the context of alien cu ltures even as he or she works to bring the individual members of such culture s to mutual unde rstanding. Because this resulting identity crisis can be resolved only when the character chooses to accept, reject, or transcend the revisions to hi s or her identity, the majority of my analysis focuses upon three works whose complex intercu ltural and intrapersonal dynamics demonstrate 6

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7 the consequences of each of these choices: Ursula K. Le Guins The Left Hand of Darkness Gordon R. Dicksons Way of the Pilgrim and Samuel R. Delanys Babel-17, respectively.

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CHAPTER 1 LINGUISTIC RELATIVITY WITHIN SCIENCE FICTION The linguist Benjamin Whorf once commented, We swim in language as fish swim in water, and within this deceptively simple statement lies a startling realizati on: just as fish would perish without water, so too would human cultures shrivel and die without the myriad languages that define, reinscribe, and ultimately maintain their existence. We are only human because we say we are; to declare it is to make it so, a nd we have become so accustomed to processing the world around us with these enigmatic things called words that we often look right through them to the reality beyond, never quite realizing th at what we see depends entirely upon what we say. And just as the words we choose instantly alter our perspective, so too does the language we speak define our social reality and separa te us psychologically from speakers of other languages, thus rendering us alien to each other. Nowhere is the interplay between language, thought, and reality so vividly expressed as in the realm of science fict ion, for just as multilingual individuals are privileged with the ability to identify, comprehend, and overcome the differences i nherent in conflicting linguistic systems, so too must multilingual SF protagonists stradd le the boundary between human and alien and translate one into terms that the other can unders tand. And whether the alie n is represented as a person of an alternative cultu re or as someone literally not human, it is the SF authors adherence to Whorfs ideas that ultimately allo ws the protagonist to br idge the linguistic gap between mutually unintelligible realities. As Ca rl Malmgren astutely observes, In a relatively few science fictions, an i nvented language becomes the narrative dominant [and] these fictions necessarily investigate the nature of language, the relation of language and reality, and the possibilities of linguistic otherness (4). Su ch stories typically fall into two groups: those that deal with multilingual dynamics on a cultura l scale and those that examine the effects of 8

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such dynamics upon a multilingual protagonist wh om I will call the linguist-ambassador. Following an overview of Benjamin Whorfs principle of linguistic relativity, I will examine the intercultural focus of stories belonging to th e first group (A Martian Odyssey, 1984 and The Languages of Pao ) to lay the groundwork for the interpersonal focus of stories belonging to the second group (A Rose for Ecclesiastes, The Left Hand of Darkness Way of the Pilgrim and Babel-17 ), and I will demonstrate th e growing prominence of the linguist-ambassador as a literary figure within science fiction and examine the ways in which various linguistambassadors negotiate the conflicting linguistic realities that influen ce their conception of themselves as human, alien, or something in between. The idea that language shapes reality is centr al to the principle of linguistic relativity, which reflects the work of several linguists bu t was primarily develope d by Whorf in the late 1930s. Drawing upon the assertion of his mentor, Edward Sapir, that no two languages are ever sufficiently similar to be consider ed as representing the same soci al reality, Whorf uses his own studies of Native American languagesand the Hopi language in particularto elaborate considerably upon this concept (qtd. in Foley 193). For example, he comments upon the temporal differences inherent in Hopi grammar and speculates that because Hopi time varies with each observer, does not permit of simultane ity, and has zero dimensions, a physics based upon this particular linguistic system would ther efore have to function without recourse to dimensional time and would lack such fundame ntal concepts (from an English-speakers perspective) as time, velocity, and acceleration (qtd. in Meyers 161-162). Using the conceptual assumptions of Hopi to develop a more generalized principle, he comes to the conclusion that users of markedly different grammars are poi nted toward different types of observations and hence are not equivalent as observers but mu st arrive at somewhat different views of the 9

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world (qtd. in Foley 192). Deliberately mirroring the wording of Einsteins theory of relativity, Whorfs statement asserts that rea lity is only as real as the langua ge used to define it (i.e., the position of the speaker doing the defining). Be cause each linguistic system contains automatic assumptions about the nature of the world, a native speaker of a given language must automatically adopt a corresponding worldview in order to make use of the language, and each succeeding utterance only serves to reinscribe that particular reality upon the mind of the speaker. Despite its popularity, Whorfs pr inciple of linguistic relativit y has endured much criticism since the late 1930s. The chief objection of ma ny linguists revolves around the imprecision of Whorfs wording, specifically regarding the conc ept of multiple worlds created via multiple languages. As Michael Devitt and Ki m Sterelny are at pains to point out, It is plausible to claim that our minds, concepts, and la nguages construct theories out of experience. It is wildly implausible to claim that our minds, concep ts, and languages construct the world out of experience. Imposition on experien ce is one thing, imposition on the world is another (249). However, I am inclined to believe that these pa rticular critics interpret Whorfs principle much too literally and should instead read worlds to mean worldviews or social realities. While there may exist one objective (and perhaps unknowable) physical reality in which all cultures reside, the Whorfian principle that di fferent languages result in different perceptions of that reality should not be dismissed because of a slight ambiguity on his part. Whorfs most precisely worded explanation of the principle supports this interpretation and can be found in the April 1940 issue of Science and Linguistics, in which he states: All observers are not led by the same physical evidence to the same picture of the universe, unless their linguistic backgrounds are similar, or can in some way be calibrated (qtd. in Meyers 161). 10

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My argument focuses on this very calibration, for given that speakers of different languages live in distinctly different worl dsor at least operate with dist inctly different understandings of the same worldtheir very dependence upon their na tive language to articulate and even generate thought renders them blind to the ways in which language controls what thoughts can and cannot form. Thus, the average native speak ers of any language are more aptly termed nave speakers, uncritical and indeed unknowing of the biases to which their linguistic system disposes them, and it is only when such speak ers come in contact with the fundamental differences of another linguistic system that they can begin to identify and critique the cultural biases inherent in their own. Such realizatio ns occur quite frequently during the process of second language acquisition, but without that st ark contrast between languages, monolingual speakers who persist in looking through language rather than at it will fail to perceive the profound effect that language st ructure has upon the t houghts with which we construct our own personal realities. As Penny L ee states, Calibration [in the W horfian sense] involves paying close attention to language in use and also ne gotiating meanings Although we cannot totally escape the linguistic organization of our unders tanding of experience, we can certainly free ourselves to an interesting degree from the constraints of a single, [un]examined native language (Putz 49). Unfortunately, because the achievement of such freedom requires a conscious analysis of different linguistic systems, th e constraints of a single, unex amined native language tend to remain unexamined by nave speakers whose belief in the transparency of language prevents them from realizing the myriad cultural assumpti ons inherent in the structure of any language. And given the absence of a second language with which to sensitize the monolingual speaker to linguistic differences, the most accessible approach to metalinguistic criticism lies within the 11

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realm of science fiction, for a lthough most SF and fantasy writer s stop short of creating actual languages (J.R.R. Tolkien being a notable exception), their more sophisticated attempts to employ the principle of linguistic relativity concentrate primar ily upon bringing those transparent aspects of language into focus a nd compelling the reader to consider language itself rather than simply seeing through it to the story beyond. A prime example of this dynamic can be found in Gerd Brantenbergs Egalias Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes (1977), for although the novels sole claim to th e title of science fiction is in its elaborate po rtrayal of an alternative human society rather than in the pres ence of little green men or bug-eyed monsters, it provides an astute social commentary on the male -oriented conventions of language by literally reversing a plethora of gender-sp ecific labels to favor the fema le instead. Confronted with strange words such as wom and manwom th at replace the customary woman and man, the reader must stumble to a halt and consider the reasoning behind such ostensibly awkward terms, and thus the very wording of the story becomes a metalinguistic commentary upon the biases in society, forcing the acknowledgment that Brantenbergs references to sheroism and mafeles are no more arbitrar y than the real words upon which they are based and merely seek to strip the navet from native speakers. SF authors singular preoccupa tion with creating unique concep tual universes renders the principle of linguistic relativity a tool of their trade, and thus th e true masters have been hailed not only for the strangeness of their stor ies, but for the strangeness of their language : the strategic juxtaposition of deceptively normal terms to create a de cidedly abnormal effect. Robert A. Heinleins brief phrase, the door dilated, has become the classic example of this literary technique and has garnered admiration from a variety of prominent SF writers. Harlan Ellisons effusive response to this neat trick of language not only identifies the scope of Heinleins 12

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13 linguistic skill but also encapsulates the spirit in which such subtle methods of worldbuilding should be recognized and appreciated: Heinlein has always managed to indicate the greater strang eness of a culture with the most casually dropped-in refe rence: the first time in a novel, I believe it was in Beyond This Horizon, that a character came through a door that dilated. And no discussion. Just: The door dilated. I r ead across it, and was two lines down before I realized what the image had been, what the words had called forth. A dilating door. It didnt open, it irised Dear God, now I knew I was in a future world (qtd. in Delany, Jewel-Hinged Jaw 46) Thus, as with Egalias Daughters the practiced reader must stop to consider language not just as the means to create a narrative, but as an end in itself: a sly entity determined to interject its own thoughts and opinions between every printed word. For a word is just one letter short of a world, and the most skilled of SF writers know th at the realization of en tire universes lies in the space between one word and th e next, where our culturally ingr ained expectations clash with the strategic linguistic rendering of the strange and the alien.

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CHAPTER 2 METALINGUISTIC SCIENCE FICTI ON: WRITING SOCIAL REALITIES The clever literary technique of alienating language in order to conjure a sense of the alien appears in several notable science fiction stories, and although the majority of my analysis will focus upon the ways in which the linguist-ambassador negotiates the shifting borders between human and alien cultures, I will first engage in a broader examination of the complex linguistic realities through which such characte rs must navigate. Instrumental to this initial discussion are Stanley G. Weinbaums A Mart ian Odyssey, George Orwells 1984, and Jack Vances The Languages of Pao all of which provide a comprehensive illustration of the various ways in which the principle of linguistic relativity can impact the dynamics of a fictional universe. And whether these stories use individu als to represent larger social realities (as does Weinbaums story) or examine the psychological effects of language upon entire societies (as do the novels of Orwell and Vance), it is clear th at they represent an increasingly sophisticat ed use of Whorfian concepts to bring multiple realities into being (a nd often into conflict) within the space of a few well-chosen words. A Martian Odyssey (1934) disp lays great linguistic sophistica tion for its time, for despite the authors arrogant assumpti on that humans have an innate right to expl oit alien (read foreign) cultures, Weinbaum demonstrates a re markable sensitivity to the intricacies of intercultural communication and conflicting linguis tic perspectives. Outlining a humans first encounter with the various aliens of Mars, Wei nbaum speaks to his readers through the voice of his main character, Dick Jarvis, who is in turn telling his companions of his adventures with the benevolent alien named Tweel. Although Jarviss narrative uses the typical adventure-story format of early science fiction, Weinbaums consistent focus upon language as a major plot component renders this particular story a sophisticated exploration of communication for its 14

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time, as well as an astute examination of the negotiations that take place on the border between human and alien. Indeed, the alien Tweel personifies that very border, for although he can never be completely understood in human terms, he nonethel ess seems infinitely more human to Jarvis than the more predatory Martian inhabitants whose incomprehensible natures render them immutably Other. This interplay between degr ees of Otherness is di rectly addressed when Jarvis, touched by Tweels offer of defense against these incredibly alien aliens, blurts in relief, Thanks, Tweel. Youre a man! (82). And although Jarvis can never quite grasp the fundamentals of Tweels language, the ingenious alien can sometimes compensate for Jarviss difficulties by using his smattering of English to convey complex ideas in the space of a few simple (and to him, alien ) words, thus demonstrating that some communication is possible between two such vastly different entities. Fo r example, having learned the words to express basic mathematical concepts (one-one-two), Tweel proceeds to use these same words to convey a remarkable variety of abstract ideas. One-one-two thus becomes his standard term for intelligence, and when used in combination with various English pronouns, the phrase allows him to identify many of the crea tures they encounter. As Jarv is later marvels, In a single phrase he told me that one [alien] was a harm less automaton and the other a deadly hypnotist (77). But despite the characters sudden flashe s of understanding, Weinbaum tempers his optimistic view of intercultural relations with the knowledge that just as some basic concepts (e.g., survival and friendship) can be conveyed despite mutually uni ntelligible linguistic systems, other ideas depend entirely upon the language in which they are conceived and thus remain untranslatable. As Jarvis explains to his companions, We just didnt think alike, and even his 15

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friends periodic interjections and requests for clarifica tion indicate the distinct alienness that exists between fellow humans who speak different languages: I was just about to turn in when I heard th e wildest sort of shenanigans! [said Jarvis]. Vot iss shenanigans? inquired Putz. He says, Je ne sais quoi, explained Leroy. It is to say, I dont know what. Thats right, agreed Jarvis. I didnt know what, so I sneaked over to find out. (68) Clearly, some mutual understanding is achieved, but only by fallacious m eans; Leroys French definition has nothing to do with the English word shenanigans but luckily conveys Jarviss fundamental meaning despite its in accuracy. Weinbaums strategic insertions of such exchanges into the narrative allow him to demonstrate the difficulties of translation in purely human terms and permit him to leave the majority of the miscommunications between Jarvis and Tweel unclarified, thus emphasizing the two characters mutual strangeness and forcing the reader to experience the vacillation between frustration an d satisfaction that always accompanies the lengthy trial-and-error method of communication. In accordance with this dynamic, even the relatively simple business of exchanging names b ecomes a source of confusing ambiguity, for as Jarvis later complains to his comrades, I was always Tick, but as for himpart of the time he was Tweel, and part of the time he was P-p-p-proot, and part of the time he was sixteen other noises! We just couldnt connect (69). Thus Weinba ums scenario represents an admirable exploration of rudimentary communicati on between cultures even as it emphasizes the limitations inherent in a mee ting of two such alien minds. Insightful as A Martian Odyssey is for its time, it does not possess the sophisticated understanding of linguistic principles demonstrated by George Orwells famous 1984 (1949), for his dystopian society functions according to a very sinister interpretation of linguistic relativity and in fact takes Whorfs basic theory to its logical extreme, positing that if thought is bound by 16

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the limitations of the language in which it is expressed, then the delib erate engineering of a severely curtailed language will reduce its speakers ability to think and thus render them more easily controlled. As Walter E. Meyers elegantly states, The Whorf hypoth esis has a corollary: if it is true that our language determines our perception of reality, then whoever controls language controls the perception of reality as we ll (163). Thus the trul y insidious nature of Newspeak, Ingsocs calculated butchery of the English language, resides in its steadily shrinking vocabulary and its failure to provide the words necessary for the concepts of rebellion and individual will. As a Ne wspeak lexicographer eagerly tells Winston, Orwells initially rebellious protagonist, Dont you see that the w hole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? ... Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller (46). In Orwells world, as in our own, the language availa ble dictates the thoughts that its speakers can form, and therefore the greatest danger to the pe rpetuation of Ingsocs version of reality is its citizen s continued fluency in Oldspea k, the original English. Some critics perceive the troublesome presen ce of Oldspeak to indicate a flaw in the reasoning behind Orwells linguisti c construction, contending (qui te rightly) that no matter how small the Newspeak dictionary might become, it cannot possibly change the meaning of a word or prevent a change in meaning that the mass of speakers have set in motion (Meyers 164). However, I would contend that despite Winst ons final acceptance of Ingsoc Party doctrine, Orwells philosophical point is in fact in agreement with the convictions of such critics, since the very existence of the English-sp eaking proles guarantees the perp etuation of their language and consequently of their perception of reality. Indeed, Winstons desperate confession in the forbidden pages of his journal, I f there is hope it lies in the pr oles, suggests that the use of Oldspeak among the essentially apo litical lower classes indicates a linguistically-b ased trend of 17

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separation within the Party-domin ated society (60). Newspeak does contain the weaknesses that will lead to its eventual collapse, but this, I believe, betrays a hint of optimism in the midst of Orwells dystopian misery rath er than a fundamental flaw in the creation of his world (Meyers 164). A society so linguistically conflicted co uld never achieve seamless unity beneath the mindless reality perpetuated by Newspeak, and therefore, despite Winstons final defeat at the hands of Big Brother and the continued existenc e of Ingsoc, even the seemingly problematic functions of Oldspeak within the novel remain true to the principle of linguistic relativity. Even as the intellectually crippling eff ects of Newspeak within Orwells dystopia demonstrate the authors shrewd a pplication of linguistic principles to complex social structures, the philosophical dichotomy represented by News peak and Oldspeak remains far too simplistic to allow for any extensive experimentation with developing cultural values; and indeed, this was not Orwells primary intention. His linguistic commentary serves the sole purpose of facilitating the realization of his societys political objectives and therefore does not extend to a detailed examination of how a language like Newspeak might transform that same society. For a more thorough extrapolation of the longterm social and psyc hological impact of competing linguistic systems, it is be st to turn to Jack Vances novel The Languages of Pao (1958), for in this particular story, the author eagerly embrac es the principle of linguistic relativity and makes it the foundation upon which the entire pl ot is based. Indeed, Vance manages to sidestep even the theoretical probl ems that Orwells critics observed with the ubiquitous presence of Oldspeak, for Vances novel successfully incorporates the influence of his societys original language (Pao nese) into the fundamental tenets of linguistic relativity while simultaneously exploring the effects of four specifically engineered la nguages upon the largely homogeneous society of Pao. 18

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Hailed as an exposition of dynamic linguistics, The Languages of Pao represents a fascinating interpretation of lingui stic relativity an d a sincere attempt to explore the ramifications of the principles application on an invented society, for Vances familiarity with the Whorfian hypothesis manifests itself in the novel in the form of a megalomaniacal wizard named Palafox who, in order to overthrow Paos de spotic ruler, proposes to divide the culture into speakers of three artificially engineered languages (Cogitant Technicant, and Valiant), thus transforming the blandly passive Paonese into inte llectuals, engineers, and soldie rs, respectively, and creating a multi-faceted culture desirous of regaining its own independence (Barnes 163). Thus the true driving force of the novel is language itself; each specific linguistic system that Vance creates becomes a character in its own right, reflecting a highly specializ ed worldview and dictating both the philosophy and the behavior of its speakers. Yet long before this master plan becomes cl ear, the author takes pains to establish the close relationship between linguisti c structure and cultural perspectiv e and even goes so far as to employ a variety of deliberately pedantic foot notes in order to lend his world a degree of authenticity that cannot be ach ieved by narration alone. The most convincing example of this faux-academic technique occurs during a meeti ng between Paonese royalty and the offworld traders known as Mercantil, for Vances simulated translation of the Paonese statement, There are two matters I wish to discuss with you, and of the Mercantil reply, I am at your orders, sir, vividly demonstrates the psychological assumptions inherent in the way each language reflects a specific cultural reality. As Vance notes for the readers benefit: The Paonese and Mercantil languages were as di sparate as the two ways of living [T]he statement, There are two matters I wish to discuss with you, used words which, accurately rendered, would read: Statement of importance (a single word in Paonese) in a state of readiness two; earof Mercantil in a state of readiness ; mouthof this person here in a state of volition The italicized words repr esent suffixes of condition. 19

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The Mercantil express themselves in neat qua nta of precise information. I am at your orders, sir. Literally translated this is: I-Ambassador-here-now gladly-obey the justspoken-orders of-you-Supreme-R oyalty-here-now heard and understood. (10) From this brief explanation, it is clear that the Paonese worldview of passivity and respect for the status quo finds its roots in the grammatical structur e of the Paonese langua ge, which articulates every concrete object and abstract idea as existing in a specific state of being This contrasts greatly with the Mercantil trader s briskly efficient and dynamic reply and provides an excellent explanation for why the Paonese remain conten tedly upon their home planet while the Mercantil move aggressively between star systems. And it is the li nguistic principle behind this characterization of Paonese as a passive, dispassionate language with docile, passive speakers that allows Palafox to implement his da ring plan for social change; for whereas Paonese renders The farmer chops down a tree as an un changing relationship between states of being, Palafoxs new war-language of Va liant reconfigures the same c oncepts according to the basic principles of conflict: The farmer overcomes th e inertia of the axe; the axe breaks asunder the resistance of the tree The farmer vanquishes the tree, using the weapon-instrument of the axe (Vance 77). Limited to such a bellicose manner of expression, native (na ve) speakers of Valiant have no choice but to adopt a correspondingly bellicose view of the world; in short, they become a race of conquerors. An identical rationale governs Palafoxs cr eation of Technicant, th e language of industry, and of Cogitant, the language of intellectuals. The strategic introducti on of the three languages and the new worldviews they represent comple tely revolutionize the planet of Pao and transforms its bland homogeneity into four separate societies: the engineers, the academics, the warriors, and the now-traditional (and greatly outnumbered) Paonese. For unlike Orwell, Vance actively develops the continuing influence of the Paonese Oldsp eak, as it were, even as he works to incorporate the other th ree languages into the overall soci ety; indeed, he deliberately 20

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creates a rising tension between sp eakers of the original Paonese and those of Palafoxs linguistic inventions, thus acknowledging the fact that ev en with such a seamlessly executed plan for linguistic change, the psychologica l influences of the original language cannot be entirely eliminated. Only with the introduction of a fift h language, Pastiche, (a deliberate combination of Paonese, Technicant, Cogitant, Valiant, and seve ral offworld languages) can the newly divided culture recover some measure of unity, for just as Pastiche utilizes the vocabulary and grammatical conventions of multiple languages, so too does it incorporate multiple worldviews and allow the people of Pao to unde rstand each other once again. Yet inherent in this cultural ble nding is the danger of losing the self as defined by language : of literally translating the nature of the se lf into the nature of the Other and so losing the fundamental distinctions between the two. On a macrocosmic scale, this process allows disparate cultures to become one and proves beneficial to the people of Pao, but the ultimate success of such a process requires a deliberate sacrifice of selfhood on the part of the individuals belonging to each culture; for as Berans first teacher advises the young linguist and ruler-to-be, If you can think as another man thinks, you cannot dislike him (Vance 64). And just as language transmits culture, so too does fluency in multiple languages dilute Berans identification with a ny one culture, granting him the blessing (and curse) of understanding all peoples but belonging to none. Thus he returns to Pao without the fundamental sense of that which made him Paonese, and hi s unique perspective on the world both empowers him to effect the social changes meant to reuni te the planet and distances him from any one aspect of the culture into which he was born. Upon the bitter realizati on that heas a linguist and a speaker of all tongueshas become the only true Other on Pao, he laments, I am changed I love Pao, but I am no longer Paonese I am tainted with the flavor of [another 21

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22 language]; I can never be truly and wholly a part of this world againor of any other world. I am dispossessed, eclectic; I am Pastiche (124). With the theoretical implications of this statement, Vance demonstrates an admirable us e of linguistic relativity to articulate the individual conflicts inherent in shifting linguistic systems, cons ciously treating language as both a character in a story and the means to tell one. In fact, it is Berans li teral and psychological dispossession that paradoxically heals his divided culture and thus renders him the prototype of a significant yet largely unexamined figure within SF literature: that of the linguist-ambassador. However, because the motive force of Vances plot deals with language on an intercultural level and includes only a superf icial examination of the individual characters most profoundly affected by such drastic social change, Vance does not pursue the ramifications of the linguistambassadors estrangement to any great degree.

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CHAPTER 3 THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADOR As groundbreaking a novel as The Languages of Pao has proven to be, a variety of subsequent authors have far surpassed Vance s understanding of th e linguist-ambassadors myriad functions within a langua ge-oriented plot structure and have effectively recast the universal conflict between self and Other as a species-wide ne gotiation between the human and the alien, using the complex social implications of language to question, conflate, and even reverse the definitions of the two. Whether su ch blurring of boundaries is ultimately successful or even desirable remains a function of the specific story using the linguist-ambassador as protagonist. Authors have employed this ch aracter type to embody a startling variety of philosophies both positive and negative; from the measured optimism of Le Guins The Left Hand of Darkness to the astute cynicism of Dicksons Way of the Pilgrim the convoluted roles of the linguist-ambassador have been explore d, expanded, and explained, and, in the case of Delanys Babel-17, completely revolutionized. By analyz ing the psychology of these authors various linguists, I will identify the methods by which opposing linguistic realities are negotiated and identities redefined as each character attempts to discover just what separates the human from the alien, and whether that separation is worth maintaining. For by penning thoughtful critiques designe d to complicate the binary opposition between human and alien, these authors have created their own linguist-ambassadors as intermediary characters whose physical similari ties to one group and psychological identification with the Other blur the distinctions between opposing constructs and challenge the reader to discern where the boundaries should lie To this end, the au thors often go so far as to strand their multilingual protagonists between opposing speech communities in a dramatic illustration of the complexities involved in negotiating the language ba rriers between mutually alien cultures. And 23

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not all such protagonists escape with their id entities intact, for it is the extent of their identification with the alien culture that determ ines the ultimate conditi on of their humanity; the more fluently they speak the language of the Other, the more profoundly they comprehend its essence, and the more rapidly they lose any sense of their own. Thus identity itself must be inscribed and reinscribed through language; if the language changes, then so must the definition of identity. While I intend to focus my analysis primar ily upon these three works, I will first use Roger Zelaznys A Rose for Ecclesiastes (1963 ) as a primer with which to demonstrate the fundamental issues that each linguist-ambassa dorregardless of his or her specific position between mutually alien societiesmust confront a nd resolve. To this end, I will first identify and analyze the process of psychological develo pment that each protagonist must undergo, for regardless of the specific narrativ e, it is the linguist-ambassado rs job to comprehend linguistic realities separately and then redefine them together, literally reinscribing the self as Other and vice versa in order to forge a new understanding be tween mutually unintellig ible cultures. Thus this development proceeds as a logical progre ssion of the linguist-ambassadors: 1) initial comprehension of the alien culture via language, 2) acute crisis of personal identity precipitated by such comprehension, and 3) redefinition of personal identity and of the larger cultural boundaries that the linguist is originally challenged to resolve. Within the SF genre, of course, this psychological negotiation is presented as a literal confrontation between human and alien, and such an overt manifestation of this philosophical conflict only serves to heighten the intercultura l and intrapersonal tensions that the character must successfully negotiate. Hi ghly representative of the cha llenges facing all such linguistambassadors, Zelaznys A Rose for Ecclesiastes (1963) provides a powerful demonstration of 24

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the complex interplay between language and identit y, for the irascible linguist, Gallinger, not only relies upon the principl e of linguistic relativ ity to translate Earth cu lture into Martian terms but also suffers an acute identity crisis due to his success; in short, his sk ills of interpretation and translation render him alien to both worlds a nd constantly thwart his need for belonging. Separated from humans by his genius and arro gance and from Martia ns by his physiology and culture, he remains forever outside the societies that his actions unite and is ultimately doomed to wallow in lonely bitterness. Yet even prior to the intercultural negotiations that serve as a catalyst for his permanent isolation from both soci eties, Gallinger considers himself an outsider and makes no effort to ingratiate himself with his fellow humans; indeed, the habitual arrogance with which he treats his companions advertises his deliberate disassociation from the human race even before the introduction of the Martian char acters provides an overt manifestation of the conceptual Other. In this way, Gallinger rend ers himself alien before the aliens appear: a compulsion on the part of the protagonist, perh aps, but also a strategic move of Zelaznys designed to place Gallinger firmly between the two opposing cultures and to render him the only possible bridge before negotiations have even begun, thus initiating the identity crisis that provides the main motivation for th e progression of the plot. In accordance with this dynamic, Zelazny ofte n develops the theme of alienation without the presence of any literal aliens to facilitate it. The extent of Gallingers self-alienation becomes most apparent in the observers position that he takes within his own reflections, for just as Zelaznys wry first-person narrative comp els us to adopt Gallingers constantly shifting sense of his own identity, the linguists own thoughts tend to estran ge him from himself even in the complete absence of any character to prov ide a point of opposition. Readers therefore experience a first-person narrative of his life even as Gallinger detaches himself from his own 25

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memories and consciously separates his present self from his former self in an act of psychological alienation, demonstrating just how fa r outside of everything he perceives himself to be: On the day the boy graduated from high school, with the French, German, Spanish, and Latin awards, Dad Gallinger had told his fourteen-year-old, sixfoot scarecrow of a son that he wanted him to enter the ministry. I remember how his son was evasive : Sir, he had said Id sort of like to study on my own for a year or so (emphasis mine) (Zelazny 312) Ruminations such as these reveal a mindset pred isposed to separation, and yet despite his selfimposed psychological handicap, Gallinger must struggle to find common ground with the alien culture of Mars, parsing out the philosophical themes inherent in the nuances of Martian grammar and vocabulary in order to identify and translate an Earth equivalent and provide the ideal bridge between two worlds. Ironically, his self-inflicted estrangement from his human companions renders him a rather dubious representative of his race and initia lly serves to hinder his attempts to connect with Martian culture, for his first instinct in any relationship is to hold himself apart, to guard his own personal boundaries and remain safely uncha nged by his experiences. Motivated by these psychological inhibitions, he first makes the fundamentally impossible resolution to learn another world but remain aloof and dedicates his every moment to comprehending the Martian culture via the High Tongue, thus conflating fluency with access and committing the nave speakers error of treating language as a vehicle for thought rather than its creator (Zelazny 313). Indeed, it is only when he focuses on comprehending the cultural biases i nherent in the language itself that he transcends the alienness of Martian culture via an appropriate philosophical parallel from human literature: They wrote about concrete things: rocks, sa nd, water, winds; and the tenor couched within these elemental symbols was fiercely pessimistic It reminded me of the Book of 26

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Ecclesiastes. That, then, would be it. The sentiment, as well as the vocabulary, was so similar that it would be a perfect exercise. I would show them that an Earthman had once thought the same thoughts, felt similarly. (Zelazny 314) And just as the tone and diction of the writte n High Tongue actively influence the course of his linguistic endeavors, so too doe s his growing fluency in the language alter his worldview and promote his sense of kinship with the Martians allowing him to indulge in and act upon the illusion of their humanity. Thus he conflates hi s fondness for the Martian language with love for a Martian woman and misconstrues her duty to i ndulge him sexually as evidence of a mutual attraction, complicating his own ambassadorial dutie s with personal issues and setting himself up for a curious mix of success and failure in his de alings with this ancient and impassive race. Gallingers romantic relationship with Brax a accordingly serves as the catalyst that reawakens his desire for belonging and compels him to use his skill with langua ge to attain it, for long before he manages to convert the Book of E cclesiastes into the High Tongue, he translates human poetry for Braxas amusement and renders the grace of her dance into fine English phrasing, indulging the hope that his words might rewrit e social realities and make her at least as human as he has become Martian. Yet despite hi s willful self-deception regarding the true nature of his newfound relationship, he does succeed in his attempt to un ite the two cultures, for both his unborn child by Braxa and his daring translati on constitute significant revisions of human nature within the context of Martian culture; ev en his final showdown with the Matriarchs has itself been written, in a manner of speaking, fulf illing as it does the ancient prophecy that the Sacred Scoffer would one day mock [the Mart ian gods] words as [he] read them and save the sterile Martian race from its demise (Zelazny 335). However, once he has served his purpose as the bridge between the races, Gallinger must ultimately return to his former state of alienation from Martians and humans alikeas even the st rongest bridge between two lands belongs to neither shore. 27

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28 Zelaznys short story presents a sophisticated negotiation between distinct social realities and provides an ideal introduction to the issu es with which all linguist-ambassadors are confronted, for regardless of the setting, th e conflict, or even the outcome, these highly specialized characters mu st willingly sacrifice a measure of their own identities in order to access the Other through language. By consciously utilizi ng the principle of lingui stic relativity, they deliberately shift their own pa tterns of thought to alter both their understanding of reality and their position within it, stepping easily acro ss the boundary between self and Otherhuman and alienuntil that boundary becomes irre levant, or, at the very least, indistinct. The philosophical parameters of each story differ greatly, but in all instances, the linguist-ambassadors facility with multiple languages (and therefore with multiple cultural realitie s) automatically taints them with a tinge of the Other; thei r profession compels them to trea d the outer limits of accepted normality (read humanity) and renders them pr ime candidates for translating, interpreting, and ultimately becoming the alien with which they are so fascinated. And if, as is often the case, their ultimate goal is to serve as a linguistic br idge between two mutually alien cultures, then they cannot help but relinquish a part of their humanity to accomplish that goal, becoming, in the end, something paradoxically more and less than human.

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CHAPTER 4 THE LINGUIST-AMBASSADORS DILEMMA While the psychological development of each linguist-ambassador follows essentially the same course (comprehension of the Other, crisis of personal identity, and redefinition of both), the final resolution of his or her inner conflict (and the storys denouement) requires a specific declaration of loyalty; the linguist must choose to accept or reject th e identity shift that has taken place as a result of such prolonged contact with th e alien culture or cultures in question, and not all linguist-ambassadors settle upon the same solution to this common dilemma. The ramifications of accepting or rejecting the Other as part of the self are thoroughly explored in The Left Hand of Darkness and Way of the Pilgrim respectively, but perh aps it is not quite sufficient to categorize the linguist-ambassado rs evolution in term s of unequivocally accepting or rejecting a specif ic perspective on reality; say ra ther that the linguist either chooses to dilute the definition of humanity by embracing elements of the alien, or to intensify his original definition of human ity by excluding all things alien from his conception of identity. For acceptance of an alternative social realitywh atever it may be within the context of a given storyimplies the linguists innate willingness to adopt aspects of the Other and name them part of the self, thus diluting his understanding of his own humanity. And as Beran and Gallinger have discovered, such a conceptual leap often results in an even greater sense of alienation as the linguist in question no longer feels quite human, nor wants to. If the development of the linguist-amba ssador within SF is viewed as a linear progression, then it is clear that Vance and Ze lazny have laid a solid foundation for the profound philosophical inquiries in herent in Le Guins The Left Hand of Darkness (1969), for just as the protagonist, Genly Ai, undergoes th e same three-stage process of shifting his own social identity, he also makes the final decision to accept elements of the alien into his perception of himself and 29

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thus dilute his definition of what it is to be truly human. Yet it is in this very transition that Le Guin demonstrates her superior mastery of her craft, for unlike Vances cursory acknowledgement of Beran as Pastiche and Zel aznys limited evaluation of Gallinger as alien to everyone, Le Guin pens an expansive and co ntemplative tale that encompasses the subtle nuances of three separate cultu ral systems (one human and two alien) and explores one Terran linguists struggle to define hims elf as he straddles the boundaries that divide them all. Given the initial complexity of Le Guins story, the evidence of her narrative finesse lies in her unique ability to employ the principle of linguistic relativity to demonstrate both the differences inherent in her alien cultures and the cultural biases to which her readers are prone. Whether in dialogue or narrati on, her choice of wording stra tegically reflects both the assumptions built into each specific culture as well as the misunderstandings that develop when those cultures meet. And as a human ambassador to the androgynous alien cultures of the planet Gethen, Genly represents the re ader; his perceptions are essen tially our own, and because his reactions to the strangeness around him mirror t hose we might have ourselves, his unreasoned biases and frequent miscommunications are specifi cally designed to force us into a startled examination of our own prejudi ces: to jar us from our lingui stic and cultural navet. A prime example of this metalinguistic dyna mic occurs during Genlys rather baffling conversation with Lord Estraven of Karhide, for although the passage doe s not contain a single unfamiliar word and follows the conventional rhythm of dialogue, it is next to impossible for the protagonist (much less the r eader) to discern the true meaning of the exchange: Did you hear what the king said to me at the ceremony today? [asked Estraven]. No. He said nothing more, so I amplified, The king didnt speak to you in my hearing. Nor in mine, said he. 30

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I saw at last that I was missing anothe r signal. Damning his effeminate deviousness, I said, Are you trying to tell me, Lord Estrav en, that youre out of favor with the king? I think he was angry then, but he said nothing that showed it, only, Im not trying to tell you anything, Mr. Ai. By God, I wish you would! (14) From a metalinguistic perspective, this exchange is doubly significant, for not only does Le Guin establish the obvious difficulties in communication as an ongoing theme, but she also uses the content of the discussion to make a profound comment on the very nature of conversational subtext. Just as the king has sa id nothing to Estraven (thereby saying something important), so too does Estraven wrap his very silences in si gnificance and expect Genly to understand that, far from not trying to tell [him] anything, he is in fact telli ng him everything. Thus, in her own way, Le Guin proves even more self-conscious of language than her predecessors Vance and Zelazny, for just as she uses linguistic complex ities to enrich the narrative rather than to constitute the plot, she consistently best ows a wealth of significance upon a single, well-placed word and expects her readers to discern her subtext, relying upon our intimate knowledge of English just as Estrav en assumes Genlys understanding of Karhidish rhetoric. And contrary to the criticism that her sociological innovations remain controlled by language and the gender conventions of the reade rs world, Le Guin often uses those very conventions to manipulate the readers assumptions within the framework of the novel (Pennington 351). A prime example of this dynami c occurs with her strategic use of the word effeminate in the previous exchange, for not only is there irony in attaching supposedly feminine traits to a genderless character within the context of an androgynous culture, but the word choice also highlights Genl ys own cultural biases and reinforces the Whorfian principle that social realities ar e continually defined and reinscribed through the nature of language itself. Given the authors explorations of the ways in which sex-role stereotyping perv ades ordinary 31

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contemporary language, it is clear that Genlys unthinking descripti on of Estravens behavior is intended to reveal far more about the speak er than about the su bject being described, emphasizing as well Le Guins profound mastery of he r craft (Rabkin 88). Thus, with this highly specialized technique, Le Guin uses language to critique language a nd creates alternative cultures to question the conventions of our own, drawing attention not just to her story, but also to the way in which she chooses to tell it. As the author herself admits, To create a secondary universe is to make a new world. A world where no voice has ever spoken before, where the act of speech is the act of creation And every word counts ( Language of the Night 95). As with many of the new worlds envisioned by SF authors, the words that count the most are those that no voice has ever spoken befo re: those words whose meanings, however complex, are not self-contained but are intended to imply the existence of entire languages and the cultures that create and are created by them. Le Guin demonstrates an admirable use of this particular technique by applying her neologisms sparingly but effectively and using them to illustrate in a word cultural comp lexities that would take volumes to explain. Indeed, the curious exchange between Genly and Lord Estravendemonstr ating as it does the in ability of two aliens to understand each otheris preceded by the st rategic introduction of the Karhidish concept known as shifgrethor the untranslatable and all-important principle of social authority in Karhide which constitutes a vague mixture of prestige, face, place, [and] the priderelationship ( Left Hand 14). By refusing to define shifgrethor to any satisfactory degree, Le Guin has placed us in the role of linguist-ambassador, a nd wealong with Genlymust struggle to gain a deeper understanding of the word fr om context alone. Deprived of any explicit definitions for this important concept, we must look critically at the specific language of the 32

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novel and consciously reject the typical readers passivity in favor of a more active role in deciphering the structure of the stor y. Forced to consider the very nature of the water in which we swim, we can no longer persist in l ooking beyond it and ignoring its profound effects upon that which we see. And just as the term shifgrethor encapsulates the essence of the stoic Karhidish culture, a similar technique is used to portray the excesse s of Karhides obsessively bureaucratic neighbor, Orgoreyn, for the citizens of this particular nati on engage in a manner of address decidedly more verbosebut no less opaque to Genlys percep tionsthan the Karhidish speech patterns. Whereas a Karhidish individual will speak volum es with silence, a citizen of Orgoreyn will indulge in a verbal maze of pr evarication and posturing, and th e Orgota language accordingly imbues simple words with political definitions so convoluted as to cause them to lose all meaning whatsoever: [The usage of commensality] includes all national/governmental institutions of Orgoreyn, from the State as a whole through its thirty-three component substates to the sub-substates, townships, communal farms, mine s, factories, and so on. As an adjective it is applied to all of the above but it may also mean the citizens, the people themselves. In this curious lack of distinction between the general and specific applications of the word, in the use of it for both the whole and th e part in this imprecision is its precisest meaning. (109) Thus the definition of commensality proves to be just as bureaucratically twisted as the culture from which the word comes, and so Le Guin more effectively demonstrates the Orgoreyn worldviewand Genlys relations hip to itby strategically failing to explain the culture adequately. Limited to Genlys rudimentary understanding of the Orgota language, we are also limited to an equally rudimentary understanding of the culture that it conveys and must once again adopt the protagonists role of linguist-ambassador to fully engage the profound metalinguistic commentary inherent in the novel. 33

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Just as Le Guins neologisms can be interpre ted as an abstract critique of language, they also serve to demonstrate the linguist-ambassado rs progression through th e first of the three crucial stages: comprehension of the alien cultu re. And this very comprehension, admirable though it may be, serves as the catalyst for the personal identity crisis that constitutes the second stage of development and encompasses the majority of the novel, for the closer Genly comes to grasping the conceptual Other, the more deeply entrenched he becomes in the alien worldview and the more keenly he feels his identity wa vering between his orig inal understanding of humanity and his desire to bri dge the gap between himself and his companions. This desire manifests most clearly in his growing empathy with Estraven, for long after Genlys initial failure to connect with the phlegmatic Karhidish noble, the two individuals finally forge a deep friendship based upon an understanding of their di fferences and a mutual appreciation of their similarities; indeed, it is only wh en he finally regards Estraven in the complex light of friendship, brotherhood, and (unconsummated) l ove that he is truly able to bridge the gap represented by their mutual alienness. Yet paradoxically, the very strangeness of the tw o travelers serves to encourage their deep personal connection, for as Genly muses, it was from the difference between us, not from the affinities and likenesses that that love came: and it was itself the bridge, the only bridge, across what divided us ( Left Hand 249). Thus by forging this connection between opposite characters and representatives of opposite societies, Le Guin make s the assertion that, unlike the dynamics at work in The Languages of Pao and A Rose for Ecclesiastes, mutual understanding and acceptance do not necessarily imply a comple te loss of identity, for it is possible to overcome boundaries without actually dissolving them. As Estraven astutely observes, Duality is an essential, isnt it? So long as there is myself and the other (234). 34

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Yet although Genly succeeds in forging las ting diplomatic relations between Gethens inhabitants and the cultural coll ective of the Ekumen, he never co mpletely resolves the issues precipitating his own identity crisis, for the tu multuous years of his linguistic and cultural immersion among the various peoples of Gethen have rendered him acutely aware of his own strangeness within the alternative normality of the world he inhabits, causing him to view his biases and even his own biology as inherently alien. After years of living as the lone alien in a world of androgynes, he cannot he lp but see his fellow [human] Envoys as a troupe of great strange animals apes with intelligent eyes, all of them in rut, and he accordingly finds the sight of an androgynous face a relie f familiar, right (296). Thus in bridging two cultures he has lost a true sense of his own and has ultimately sacrificed his cultural identity so that the societies he unites may simultaneously maintain and transcend the boundar ies that make them what they are. His resolution to the linguist-ambassadors dilemma is to accept the aliens perception of himself, but such a resolution co mes with a heavy price, for he must forever perceive himself as partly alien, regardless of the language in which he is situated. Genlys final choice to accept the changes he has been compelled to make in his identity mirrors that of his colleagues Gallinger and Beran, for all three of these linguist-ambassadors opt to compromise themselves in order to reconc ile the conceptual conflicts that arise between the mutually alien cultures they have sworn to unite. Despite the va stly different details presented in each story, the characters progre ssion through the three fundamental stages of shifting identity remains the same : a pattern largely dependent upon the fact that each of these linguist-ambassadors pursues his journey into the alien voluntarily Even Beran, who begins his linguistic studies under duress, ultimately chooses to fully immerse himself in each of the artificial languages that transform the oncehomogeneous Paonese culture into something 35

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altogether different. In each cas e, it is the all-important element of personal decision that allows the linguist-ambassador to reach a psychologica l and philosophical compromise between his native culture and his alien environment. Presen t by choice, he conducts himself at all times as an intellectual equal to those he seeks to understand, and at no point must he sublimate his identity or surrender his own sense of himself to a dominant alien will. He must simply learn to redefine himself within the broade r context of his alien environment, even as the aliens he meets must redefine themselves within the context of a world that includes this thing called humanity. Whatever misunderstandings may arise, the en tire encounter is ch aracterized by mutual adjustments and open communication and thus yiel ds benefits for all parties concerned, an outcome that would remain impossible if either humans or aliens insisted upon maintaining a dominant position throug hout the exchange. However, when a linguist-ambassador is for ced into a position of inferiority during his dealings with the alien culture, he adopts aspe cts of the alien Other merely as a means to survive thus rendering his inevitable identity crisis a su premely bitter one, for any advances he makes in comprehending the alien culturealong with any insecurities he may suffer as a resultarise not from his efforts to bridge the gap between tw o equal societies but from his need to avoid the dire consequences of acting contrary to alien expectations. And because those expectations place him in a position of perpetual ignominy, any acceptance of such conditions results not in the positive expansion of the definition of humanity but rather in the complete negation of humanity in favor of something else enti rely. Thus his sense of identity is compromised, and he is ultimately unable to embrace acceptance as a tolerable means of solving the linguistambassadors dilemma; the only true means of escape is therefore to consciously reject all things alien. 36

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Shane Evert, the tormented li nguist of Gordon R. Dicksons Way of the Pilgrim (1987), represents this dynamic of rejection and provide s a sharp contrast to Beran, Gallinger, and Genly, all of whom choose to accept the alien in fluences upon their iden tities. However, the conditions resulting in Shanes identity crisis are significantly different than those faced by his predecessors, for in Shanes world, acceptance of the alien (Aalaag) is tantamount to acceptance of slavery, and when viewed in this light, his ultim ate decision to reject the linguistic and cultural forces with which he is surrounded represents the deep, driving need of humanity itself to rebel against the alien cu lture that has so callously enslaved the Earth. Shanes position among the Aalaag is particularly untenable, for just as th e aliens treat human beings as cattle fit only to serve, their language is structurally incapable of articulating humans in a nything other than a role of servitude and renders the goals of the lingui st-ambassador ultimately impossible to achieve, for the concept of mutual respect between human and Aalaag can hardly ta ke root in a culture ruled by a language that is simply unequipped to convey such a thought. Thus Dickson manipulates language as artfully as Le Guin, but for an entirely different purpose; his interpretation of the principle of linguistic relativity is specifically designed to accentuate the unbridgeable differences between human and Aalaag and to impress upon both characters and readers that there can be no tr ue understandingno sense of equalityin a world dominated by a brutal alien tongue that deliberately redefines the nature of humanity. The average Aalaag cannot even pronounce the word human, much less understand its significance, and thus Dickson employs a language-based deficiency to symbolize the aliens psychological inability to acknowledge humans as equals. Because the word cannot be spoken, the concept cannot exist, and all humans must therefore cease to be human and must accept the only labels possible within the limited linguistic construct th at dominates and defines their new reality. 37

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Only as beasts may they live to wait upon th e pleasure of the real persons who speak the true tongue, and the greatest ambition permitted them is to one day become small imitations of the Aalaag, at least as far as the beast-limitations of their na tures will allow (Dickson 446). In this way, Dickson strategically alters the novels linguistic reality in order to situate humans as aliens within the Aalaag worldview, creating an immediate sense of the Aalaag as normal and forcing readers to view the human characters within the context of Aalaag cultural biases. To enhance this effect, he employs three di stinct registers of English throughout the complex dynamics of his dialogue to indicate both the language being spoken and the social status of the speakers involved. Because casual speech is often asso ciated with the lower classes, Dickson employs colloquial English to repres ent all human-to-human interactions, while all Aalaag-to-Aalaag conversations are characterized by a formal, stilted, and painfully precise manner of speech designed to reflect the fanatica l attention to duty at the core of the Aalaag culture. Finally, to offset these two distinct modes of address and to account for the human-toAalaag interactions, Dickson uses yet another re gister, a modified version of the third-person submissive that emphasizes the inferior positi on of humans within Aalaag society by denying them the grammatical constructions necessary to form assertive st atements. A human must never refer to an Aalaag as you, but must alwa ys use the aliens title of immaculate or untarnished sir, and even the pronoun I, impossible to avoid in English, is understood to take an entirely different form when humans must refe r to themselves directly in Aalaag. For a beast to utter the first-person pronoun reserved for Aalaag use is an unforgivable offense, and thus by denying humans access to the simple yet vital pronoun of selfhood, the Aalaag language makes it impossible for the aliens even to conceive of their cattle as possessing the presence of mind or individual will associated with the untarnished race. 38

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The rules governing the specifi c usage of these various registers are necessarily complex, and as a world-class linguist, Shan e can navigate them all. Howeve r, his abrupt shifts from one register to another, while vital to mainta ining his precarious position within the Aalaagdominated society, also signal his constantly changing id entity in relation to human inferiors and Aalaag superiors. As a courie r-translator for First Captain Lyt Ahn, leader of the Aalaag invasion, Shane holds the highest position allowed a beast within Aalaag society and therefore enjoys privileges and benefits far beyond those of humans who do not directly facilitate the Aalaag occupation, but as the following exchange between Shane and Laa Ehon, a colleague of Lyt Ahn, demonstrates, the linguist must constantly rely upon his consummate skills of manipulation and language and his innate understanding of Aalaag social customs in order to negotiate even the most commonplace interactions: How long have you spoken the true language? Two and a half years of this world, immaculate sir. You are a beast worth having, said [L aa Ehon] slowly. I did not think one such as you could be brought to speak so clearly. How are you valued? To the best of my knowledge, im maculate sirhe dared not hesitate in his answerI am valued at half a possession of land and the favor of my master Lyt Ahn, said Shane. The thoughtfulness vanished from L aa Ehons features Favor was a term that went beyond all price. It was a designati on meaning that his master was personally interested in keeping him, and that the price of any sale could incl ude anything at all. Such favor, involved in a sale, could in effect constitute a blank check signed by the buyer, cashable at any time in the future for goods or actions by the seller, guaranteed under the unyielding obligation code of the Aalaag. (Dickson 38-9) Contained within this brief exchange are the Whorfian principles upon which the entire novel is based, for not only does Shane define himself within the ignominious boundaries of Aalaag social biases, but he also demons trates an acute understanding of how to manipulate those biases to his benefit. Just as he proves himself to be a beast worth having by suppressing his human 39

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identity beneath the verbal convent ions of the true language, he also utilizes hi s understanding of the Aalaag word favor to discourage Laa E hon from purchasing him. Yet the true delicacy of Shanes maneuver lies in the fact that Lyt Ahn has never expressly included his favor as being part of Shanes stated value. By taking a calculated risk that the First Captain might indeed value him so highly, Shane seeks to preven t Laa Ehon from making any further inquiries into his sale, an event which would deprive the linguist of the minimal stability that he has managed to regain following the Aalaag invasion. Yet as skilled as Shane has become at ma nipulating his masters via language alone, such prevarication carries a heavy pri ce. Because this particular li nguist is an ambassador only under duress, his intimate comprehension of the alien culture leads to an identity crisis so acute that it threatens to alienate him from all that he cheris hes in the human race. To survive in an Aalaag world, he must twist himself into the closest ap proximation of an Aalaag that he can achieve, sublimating his fear and hatred beneath a self-p erpetuated delusion of respect and admiration for the Aalaag culture. As Maria, his lover and his link to the human wo rld, declares, You can think like them, feel like them its almost as if youve become part Aalaag yourself (Dickson 246). And while such a shift in identity pr oves an advantage to linguist-ambassadors like Gallinger and Genly, it becomes pure torture for Shane; his cooperation with the Aalaag is nothing less than the basest be trayal of humanity, and ther e can be no middle ground. Given the particularly uncompromising natu re of Dicksons vers ion of the linguistambassadors dilemma, Shanes only means of rec overing his humanity is to reject the Aalaag with thoughts, words, and deeds; and accordingly, his fantasies of becoming a rebel pilgrim lead him to make contact with an internati onal Resistance group and to organize increasingly dramatic displays of defiance, all of which culm inate in a single worldwide show of resistance 40

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that finally convinces the Aalaag to abandon Earth to its original inhabitants. Dressed in the robes of the Pilgrim, the humans march agai nst every alien stronghold with nothing but wooden staffs and stoic determination, proving by their me re presence that they will no longer serve as beasts. And just as the symbol of the Pilgrim comes to represent the human race, Shane himself becomes the Pilgrim in the eyes of humans and aliens alike as he steps forward to speak for the world, and more importantly, to change the world through the act of speech: The Aalaag should understand that each i ndividual of any people carries within him or her a portion of what belongs to that peopl e as a whole. There is no Aalaag who lacks such a portion; and likewise there is no human without it, [said Shane]. Lyt Ahn tilted a thumb toward the crowd outside. We do not call those a people, but b easts and cattle, he sa id. And we would not use that word you use to describe them, even if it were pronounceable. Such refusals, said Shane, mean nothing and change nothing. (413-14) It is important to note that because this c onversation takes place in the Aalaag language, the word human is italicized not for emphasis, but ra ther to indicate its foreignness. Just as in the majority of the novel, humans are cast as the Ot her, the not-normal, and the alien within the reality defined and maintained by the Aalaag invade rs, and not even in his final plea to the First Captain can Shane overcome the biases inherent in the language he must use to communicate. We do not call those a people, but beasts and cattle, Lyt Ahn decl ares, and in the very labeling of the beings that defy him, he refuses to recognize the bald fact of their defiance; people may resist, it is true, but cattle are merely sick and must be summ arily destroyed so that they cannot infect the rest of the stock. And Shane, speaking Aalaag, must accordingly translate the essence of his argument for freedom into the unequal power relationships of master and slave, ruler and ruled. Shackled by the lingui stic blindness of the Aalaag, he simply cannot say that humans must live free: only that the cattle do not tame (Dickson 415). T hus there can be no mutual 41

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42 understanding between the two races, and all Shan e can hope to do is convince the Aalaag that humans are not worth the effort involved in occupation and enslavement. As Lyt Ahn tells Shane prior to ab andoning the planet: You conceived the conceit that we were leaving because you had shown yourself too brave and independent of nature for us to control. It is no t so. We, who do as we wish, build or destroy at our pleasure, choose to abandon you. Not because you have shown that you prefer death to service, but for a far different reason. Because we will not be slaves, said Shane thickly. No, said Lyt Ahn. Because you are unworthy. (447) Thus Shane has indeed fulfilled his duties as ling uist-ambassador, but in reverse; whereas Beran, Gallinger, and Genly manipulate language to bridge the differences between cultures, Shane uses his unique understanding of the Aalaag to prove that no bridge is possible: to ultimately fail to communicate and to succeed because of that failure.

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CHAPTER 5 TRANSCENDING THE DILEMMA When Shanes performance is compared to that of his three predecessors it is clear that these four protagonists illustrate the full spectr um of solutions to the linguist-ambassadors dilemma, for whether the characte r in question chooses to integrat e the human with the alien or to deny the one in favor of the ot her, there remains the inescapable duality of the choice involved: to accept or to reject the alien. Howeve r, what these novels do not reveal is that the dilemma is in fact a false one, and so it is left to Rydra Wong, the heroine of Samuel R. Delanys Babel-17 (1966), to transcend the limita tions of this either-or constr uct; and transcend them she does, and brilliantly so, for Rydra Wongnavigator, captain, poet, and linguist extraordinaire is the bridge between all worlds. In a univers e where the living can modi fy their bodies and the dead can exist bodiless, where six known sentient species roam the star s and the definition of humanity is already stretched to the breaking point, where trad itions blend and cultures collide and languages shift like kaleidoscopes, only Rydra can find a way to unite a motley starship crew in the common purpose of comprehending the mo tivations of the strange (but ultimately human) Invaders whose complex and highly analytic al language, Babel-17, remains a mystery to everyone but her. Given her quest to decipher the language of the Invaders so as to understand their psychology, Rydra Wong is perhaps the most blatan tly Whorfian of all th e linguist-ambassadors. As she tells a trusted confidant, Most text books say language is a mechanism for expressing thought. But language is thought. Thought is information given form. The form is language. The form of [Babel-17] is amazing ( B17 23). And although we never learn a single word of this mysterious language, we are treated to numerous examples of its power, for by switching from English to Babel-17 at critical moments, Rydra is able to descri be and therefore understand 43

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the world around her in such a way that the very description presents her with the solution to whatever problem she faces. An example of this phenomenon occurs when she and her crew are captured by starship pirates. When Rydra uses Babel-17 to an alyze the nature of the webbing that imprisons her, she suddenly re alizes that it is not webbing, but rather a three-particle vowel differential, each partic le of which defined one stress of the three-way tie By breaking the threads at these points, the whol e web would unravel. Had she fla iled at it, and not named it in this new language, it would have been more than secure enough to hold he r (113). And with Rydras newfound perceptions comes the dangerous conviction that she has finally discovered the right way to articulate the world: that beca use the efficiency of Babel-17 far surpasses that of any other language she knows, it mu st therefore describe things as they truly are. But Truth is a slippery concept shaped purely by the assumpti ons inherent in language, and if a truth is only as real as the words by which it is declared, then Babel-17 is not just a language but a weapon, a linguistic invasion that does not require the presence of its cr eators in order to conquer. Thus it is the insidious nature of Babel-17 that compels Rydra to sabotage her own quest to thwart the Invaders, for whenever she aba ndons the thought patterns in herent in English and begins to think in Babel-17, she becomes her own enem y and accepts the alien truth that her mission must be stopped and her own government, the Alliance, destroyed. As she later tells her psychiatrist, the word for Alliance in Babel-17 translates literally into English as: one-who-hasinvaded While thinking in Babel-17 it becomes perfectly logical to tr y and destroy your own ship and then blot out the f act with self-hypnosis so you wont try and stop yourself (215). And instrumental to the dynamics of this perfectly logica l betrayal of self is the fact that the structure of Babel-17 does not allow for the concept of selfhood. There is no I in Babel-17, and consequently, no you, which is simply a li nguistic representation of the Other. When 44

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faced with this critical handicap, a nave speake r of Babel-17 necessarily develops a monstrous indifference to the value of indivi dual life; for if there is no I then there is no reason for selfpreservation, and if there is no you, then murder is hardly a crime. Indeed, when reality itself is reduced to the status of data to be processe d by the analytical system that is Babel-17, then killing a sentient being is merely equivalent to deleting a specific piece of information. Without the all-important pronouns of selfhood, Babel-17 proves to be a soulless language governed by pure logic, and therein lies its flaw. For logic is only as sound as the premises upon which it is based, and just as the Invaders can commandeer a mind by forcing it to reason in alien terms, so too can Rydra unbalance such reasoning by bom barding that same mind with unsolvable paradoxes. Confronted by a series of what can essentially be classifi ed as programming loops, the mind shuts down like a computer and reboots in its original langua ge, thus restoring a crucial sense of self to the individual. Thus far, the novel has only demonstrated another version of th e original either-or dilemma facing every linguist-ambassador, for ju st like Beran, Gallinger, Genly, and Shane, Rydra strives to comprehend the language of the Other and suffers a resulting identity crisis that can only be corrected when she must choose whether to accept or reject the alien influences to which she has been exposed. However, Delanys true innovation comes when Rydra transcends the limitations of this three-st age pattern and manipulates the st ructure of language to overcome the psychological damage inherent in the usage of Babel-17, for despite her previous assertion that language is synonymous with thought, Rydr a refuses to remain bound by it. Instead, she systematically eliminates the treacherous logic in herent in Babel-17 so that the language can no longer subvert her loyalties or undermine her personality. Thus, by recreating the language of the Invaders and dubbing it Babel-18, Rydra effectiv ely rejects the alien influences that resulted 45

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46 in her own identity crisis while simultaneously using those same influences to bridge the gap between Alliance and Invaders. Faced with the conventional dilemma of either accepting or rejecting the Other, she completely transcends the choice. Like a more benevolent version of Vances Palafox, she deftly takes possession of th e complex dynamics of linguistic relativity and uses her new language to impress her own desire for peace upon the war-torn world around her, and her parting message to both sides, This war will end within six months, therefore reflects far more than wishful thinking, for by stating it, she literally wills it to be (219). Thus Delanys novel represents the culminati on of the linguist-ambassadors evolution as well as the ultimate manifestation of Whorfian principles within SF, for not only does Rydra solve the dilemma to which al l other linguist-ambassadors even tually succumb, but she also proves the philosophical point that language and reality are one and the same and must be treated accordingly. And although such proof stems entirely from the realm of science fiction, it is proof nonetheless; for if we as the myriad nav e speakers in a world commonly referred to as real would agree to treat our own perceptions with the same degree of skepticism commonly accorded to fiction, we would find it much easier to bridge the cultural gaps that the average linguist-ambassador is so so rely challenged to cross.

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LIST OF REFERENCES Barnes, Myra Edwards. Linguistics and Languages in Sc ience Fiction-Fantasy Diss. East Texas State University, 1971. Brantenberg, Gerd. Egalias Daughters: A Satire of the Sexes 3rd ed. Emeryville: Seal Press, 2004. Delany, Samuel R. Babel-17 First Vintage Books ed. New York: Vintage Books, 2001. ---. The Jewel-Hinged Jaw New York: Dragon Press, 1977. Devitt, Michael and Kim Sterelny. Language and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Language 2nd ed. Cambridge: The MIT Press, 1999. Dickson, Gordon R. Way of the Pilgrim New York: Tom Doherty Associates, 1987. Foley, William A. Anthropological Linguistics: An Introduction. Malden: Blackw ell Publishers, 1997. Le Guin, Ursula K. The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction Wood, Susan, ed. New York: G. P. Putnams Sons, 1979. ---. The Left Hand of Darkness New York: Ace Books, 1969. Malmgren, Carl. The Languages of Sc ience Fiction: Samuel R. Delanys Babel-17. Ash of Stars: On the Writing of Samuel R. Delany Ed. James Sallis. Jackson: UP of Mississippi, 1996. Meyers, Walter E. Aliens and Linguists: Language Study and Science Fiction Athens: UP of Georgia, 1980. Orwell, George. 1984. Commemorative ed. Ne w York: Signet Classic, 1983. Pennington, John. Exorcising Gender: Resisting Readers in Ursula K. Le Guins Left Hand of Darkness. Extrapolation 41.4 (Winter 2000): 351. Academic OneFile Gale. University of Florida. 3 Sept. 2007 http://find.galegroup.com/itx/start.do?prodld=AONE >. Putz, Martin, ed. Explorations in Linguistic Relativity Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing, 2000. Rabkin, Eric S. Metalinguist ics and Science Fiction. Critical Inquiry 6 (1979): 79-97. Vance, Jack. The Languages of Pao New York: ibooks. 47

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48 Warrick, Patricia S., ed. Science Fiction: The Science Fiction Research Association Anthology New York: Addison-Wesley Educational Publishers, 1988. Weinbaum, Stanley G. A Martian Odyssey Warrick 65-83. Zelazny, Roger. A Rose for Ecclesiastes Warrick 308-37.

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BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH Christine Bertrand holds a B.A. in English and Classical Stud ies and anticipates graduation from the University of Florid a in December 2007 with an M.A. in American Literature and a certificate to teach English as a second language. She currently teaches academic writing to incoming freshmen, works as a part-time English and ESL tutor, and volunteers at the English Language Institute. Her future plans include t eaching ESL in Italy and South Korea and building a long-term career as a fantasy novelist. 49


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