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Friday, August 01, 2008


Polls closing!

My goodness, you're all well-informed people! Thanks to everyone who's taken the time and effort to make suggestions, and to share the treasures of their knowledge with me - my editor called me up to exclaim, she was so impressed with the quality of comments. So everyone take a moment to bask in the glory of your own intelligence and erudition.

As I'm now looking at a rapidly-approaching deadline, and nothing's more frustrating than either making or reading a point that it's too late to address, I'm going to close down the enquiry at midnight today - that's midnight my time, ie London. Any final thoughts, bung 'em my way; after that, we'll move on to other things.

No other thoughts; I just wanted to say, thanks for opening it up. It was a lot of fun to consider.
One final thought. Ecks is right that you're bound to have some pointing-and-pidgin communication going on between the two cultures if they're in any kind of contact at all. And that will suffice for trade and probably for some basic, er, "fraternization." But that kind of thing won't work for complex negotiations of the sort needed for treaties or much of anything else.

You may have already solved this problem, but just for fun.... We know that human languages can be syllable-timed. Japanese is such a case. We also know that a recurring feature of the underwater environment is wave frequency, which is necessarily variable. What if the DP languages--or at least the one the Venetians are in contact with--is syllable-timed based on wave frequency or something of the sort? (There's a wonderful youtube video of an octopus that hides from enemies by mimicking a rock. It manages to move in this state by timing its movements to the way the waves express the light on the sea floor. The result is that a predator sees nothing "moving" except the waves.)

If the DP language is based on that kind of timing, a landsperson would find it nearly impossible to learn, since it requires paying attention to an external stimulus the LP has evolved not to pay attention to. And the LP could never, with the technology of the period you refer to, remain submerged long enough even to learn to pay attention.

Actually, the timing thing isn't even necessary (although as a linguist, I had fun thinking about it): if the DP language is based on clicks and whistles--or any kind of careful sound distinctions--a landsperson might never be able to learn such a language simply by virtue of never being able to remain submerged long enough at any one time to do the actual learning.

I have no idea how long your DPs can remain out of water, but it sounds like they can stay out of water longer than a LP can stay submerged.

So the benefit the hybrid would convey is precisely the benefit of being able to operate in both environments long enough to learn the respective languages.

Just a couple of thoughts. I very much looking forward to reading the book, regardless of whether you get into the language issue or not.
Oh, fine! Big ol' linguist here: "I very much looking forward to reading the book...." Obviously, I don't spend enough time in the environment of proofreading-before-posting. "I AM very much looking forward...."
I've only caught this after you've closed your polls, alas, but I'm going to ask some questions anyway because the deepmen-landsmen-hybrid premise is so fascinating. Hope you don't mind!

Firstly, what sort of level of cultural interaction is there between sea and land? Beyond religion and politics, that is. After half a millenium of continuous contact the deepmen, or at least the hybrids, are going to be familiar figures in landsman literature (and presumably vice versa, if the deepmen have literature - it would be oral, I suppose, but it could still be very complex). Hybrids are royal. What other characteristics do they have? Are they (cautiously or ironically portrayed) villians or lauded heroes? Are they seen as wise, cunning, fierce, magnificent, subtle, delicate? Is there a whole genre of angst ridden high romance about doomed relationships between the species? Have they tended to stifle or inspire cultural developments? It strikes me that, if the hybrids are held in great regard and are (because of Angelica's DM upbringing, perhaps) inclined to prefer oral to written verse, you might have an entirely different history of literature. If oral verse became the fashion, what did that mean for the preservation of ancient texts? With the huge supremacy of the hybrids, what happened to the reputations of the Romans? Is Latin still the lingua franca?

Secondly, what happened to all the celtic hermits in their coracles and little rocky islands off the northern coasts of Europe? How far north did the DM power extend in Angelica's day? Has it expanded or shrunk? What happened to (say) the great democratic social experiment of Iceland which in our world had no kings for centuries but was entirely dependent on sea-borne trade?

I could probably babble on like this for ages, but as you're not even looking for more questions that would probably be a bad idea I'm definitely looking forward to the book, though! :)
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