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Admiral Biscuit


"This was quite well written, and the characters had a very natural feeling back and forth. Shame I didn't like it at all."

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Aug
5th
2020

Worldbuilding XIV: Communication · 1:47am August 5th

Recently, Present Perfect shared a link to Meadowmood’s art/blog about how deaf or mute ponies might communicate, and it reminded me to finish this blog on communication.


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We’re gonna talk about communication! How people--and by extension, ponies--talk to each other.


For most of us, the phrase “use your words” isn’t something that we’d ever wind up saying to another adult.

I’m not most of us, and while I haven’t personally used that phrase, some of my co-workers have. I work part-time at group homes for developmentally disabled adults.

Since I’m a big guy, I tend to work with higher-functioning people, at least when it comes to physical ability. For various reasons, that does not always extend to linguistic ability. Some of the residents I work with can’t speak for whatever reason; others can but don’t really understand the complexities of English. Some of them can read, some can’t. Some of them can hear, some can’t. And of course it’s not exactly black and white; one guy I work with is functionally illiterate but can recognize his name on a letter, for example.

And all of them need to communicate their wants and needs to us.


I’m going to start with a middle of the scale example, just so we have a baseline. Perhaps in writing, it would be a character who knows at least a bit of the language, but doesn’t really understand the nuances of it. Knows what specific words mean, and knows how to string them together into something understandable, at least.

For example, this statement from one of our residents:

“Me go you,” he said.

By itself, I don’t think any of my readers can parse this. Obviously, the ‘me’ is him, and in this case the ‘you’ is me. While I’m digging into the old memory files here, I don’t think he ever used the word ‘I’ to refer to himself. He knew his name; if he were to introduce himself he would have probably said “Me Mark*.”

And if I add in a bit more context: I asked him if he wanted to go on a van ride with me or the other staff. “Me go you,” he said--“I want to go with you.”

There were times that I had to ask him to repeat himself, but for the most part we were able to communicate effectively. If you imagine a stranger coming up to you and saying “Me hungry,” you might point them in the direction of a restaurant. Offer them a sandwich.

He was able to use time markers although not with proper tenses. So he might say, “Me go walk Dave yesterday,” or “Me see you tomorrow.”

Fairly un-nuanced speech, and certainly enough to make a grammatician gnash her teeth, but it got the point across, and that’s really what communication is about. Likewise, he could communicate mood, although in a similarly simple way--”Me happy,” or “Me sad.”
__________________________________
*all names changed


Another guy can speak more or less flawlessly (he has trouble with f and b), although he lacks some complexity in his speech. He can’t give directions worth a damn, although he can certainly provide turn-by-turn navigation . . . for example, he might want to go by the new pizza restaurant. He can’t tell me what city it’s in, or what street it’s on. But he’ll tell me to turn left or right or go straight at intersections, and gets us there every time. He’s also got a very good knowledge of Lansing, and things that used to be there, or what new things are being built. He has difficulty pointing it out in the abstract, but when he sees it, he can give its recent history.

He also can’t read. He has trouble with counting money (he does know the value of coins, but adding them up is beyond him). I’ve helped him with some of his workbooks, which are what you’d imagine kindergarten workbooks would be.


Another guy I worked with would parrot back questions in a way that you’d think he actually understood.

One of my responsibilities is the personal hygiene of the residents. That ranges from simple prompting (”you should take a shower”) to actually helping.

As an aside, I’ve had to shave residents before, and anybody who’s met me can correctly assume I’m bad at it. That’s worked out to my advantage before when it comes to hair care; we often perform haircuts, and I’ve said to residents ‘do I look like I know how to cut hair?’ and they generally then go and ask a different staff member to do it.


Actual file photo of Admiral Biscuit

So I got him up and helped him in the shower, and then when he was done, led him back to his room and got out his clothes for the day. “Can you get dressed?” I asked. Most of the residents I work with can, but not all of them.

“Get dressed.” he said with confidence. I took that to mean that he could, and I was wrong.

I went to take care of someone else’s morning needs, and when I came back, he was sitting on his bed, clothes next to him, still naked.

“You need help, don’t you?”

“Need help.” he said.

He’s not the only resident I’ve worked with who has some sort of parroting behavior. Another guy would always choose the second thing you mentioned if you gave him a choice. “Do you want steak or bread for dinner?”

“Bread.”


Symbols are a funny thing. We don’t think about them a lot, but they’re everywhere. Stickman having a bad day, familiar corporate logos, road signs with a picture of a fuel pump or a fire truck. One guy I worked with had a traumatic brain injury due to an automobile accident. Whenever we went on a van ride, he liked to ride shotgun, and since he’d in the past been a licensed driver, he still knew all the abbreviations on road signs that were around in his time. Whenever we’d pass a speed limit sign (in the US, they’re white rectangular signs with a number), he’d read it off then check the speedometer. And chide the driver if they were speeding.

Railroad crossing warning...


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...he’d read that as “railroad crossing.”

Couldn’t pronounce “Meijer,” though, since that was a word he hadn’t encountered before the accident. [it’s very close to MY-er (/ˈmaɪ.ər/)] YT link

At the same time, he was bilingual, and some staff would occasionally ask him how to say something in Spanish, and he’d happily tell them.

We had a TV in a lounge for all the residents (and sometimes staff) . . . TV programming was obviously generally supposed to be what the residents wanted to see. On occasion when he was in the lounge by himself, or when the other residents also watching TV were asleep, I’d change the channel over to a Spanish-language channel, and he’d perk up a little bit.


So far, we’ve focused on residents who can talk, which I think is a good place to start. I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent pre-reading something, or how many hours my editors have spend doing the same, how we’ve had discussions back and forth whether led or lead is the correct word to use, and just tried to nail it down into a nice, neat, grammatically-correct package. And most of us have a goal of speaking that way, as well . . . but at its most basic, speech is about communications, it’s about getting an idea across to a listener, and as long as it’s functional, it doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect or by-the-book.

I don’t remember exact details, ‘cause this was about 30 years ago, but when I was in France I bought my own toys in a toy store. Problem was that I didn’t speak a single word of French, and the cashier didn’t speak a single word of English . . . but, me bringing the toy to the counter, and placing it on the counter certainly communicated the idea that I wanted to buy it, and the cashier rang it up. I could see the total of course, and even though I couldn’t speak French, I could count Francs, so I gave him the appropriate amount, got my toy, and off I went.


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Remember back up top when I mentioned Meadowmood’s art blog? Well, now we’re going to come back to that. Some of our residents are deaf, mute, or both; some of them can’t or won’t speak for other reasons.

It’s no big secret among my long-term readers that I expect that ponies who are mute or who are communicating with the deaf use ‘ear language.’ Equine ears--and pony ears--are quite mobile and can move independently, giving access to a complete (potentially) alphabet just by ear motions:


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I can’t claim to have come up with that; two of the characters in The Rogue Wolf’s Misunderstandings used ear language.

That gives you enough letters (probably) to spell out anything . . . although of course, that’s not how sign language usually works. [As an aside, through their range, the ears are infinitely mobile AFAIK, but for using them to communicate would imply very clear stop-points, thus somewhat limiting the ideal number of stops; the option below would have the same limitation.]

Meadowmood didn’t go for ear language, instead suggesting tactile signing, where placement of the hoof indicates letters, a sort of variation on braille. That could be more precise, depending on how many letters the Equestrian alphabet has, but would be more difficult if not impossible to use while walking.

In fact, that’s kind of the elephant in the room--ear language is likely more useful when walking, but wouldn’t necessarily be as precise as a hoof-braille could be.

From what I know of sign language--and it’s very limited--a lot of the signs are similar to the action, which helps. “Shower” is a hand motion above the head, as if water were coming down. I also suspect, but don’t know, that it’s probably simplified, compared to the nuances of ‘normal’ speech--like, when a sign language interpreter is working, I don’t think she’s giving a word-for word translation of what’s being said; she’s relaying the important essence of the conversation.


As you would gather from above, some of our guys have difficulty with regular, spoken English. Those who don’t know it also have trouble with sign language.

I know a very limited number of signs, and it’s entirely possible that some of the ones I know are specific to some of the residents. The one guy we have who’s deaf-mute understands the sign for shower, for slow down, for wait, for yes, for no, and for toilet, and it’s possible he can understand a few others, when staff gives them. He does not sign back; in fact, if he wants something, he’ll take you by the hand and lead you to what he wants. He’s capable of doing many things on his own; he can usually get dressed on his own, or take a shower on his own, he can even cook on his own . . . but he can’t access the ingredients he might want, because most of them are kept locked or else all he’d do is cook and eat. He also has a very expressive face.


I thought they actually did a pretty good job with the Kirin

Another guy knows at least the ‘yes’ sign--he’s non-verbal but can hear. That’s making a fist in your right hand and ‘nodding’ it. I didn’t realize he was doing that, because he wouldn’t lift his hands up; he’d keep them down by his waist, and his motions weren’t very large.

A partially deaf guy I work with touches his nose with one finger for ‘funny’; according to the internet, you’re supposed to use two fingers (index and middle) and brush down your nose with them.

It’s also likely that a large number of deaf ponies would be able to read lips.


One of the other things that Meadowmood said in her givens and druthers was that language needed to have emotion put into it . . . I don’t know how that’s done in ASL, but I do think that for ponies it might be a bit easier. With ear language, at least, their faces are open to expression, and depending on their position, their tails as well.

Obviously, a caregiver in close contact with a deaf or mute person or pony is going to have to learn enough language to communicate, but it’s not a fair bet when out and about that the general public will. Writing things down is an option, or . . .

Back when I worked at Firestone, we had this one guy who was an idiot (well, more than one, but this guy was in his own class). He repaired a tire for a guy (I think that’s what it was), took off the weights, and didn’t put them back, so now the guy’s got an unbalanced tire.

He illustrated the problem to me by doing a perfect pantomime of breaking down a tire, then removing the wheel weight and tossing it over his shoulder, along with a little ‘who cares?’ shrug, and I got the message. Rebalanced his tire for him, and he was happy.


One of the ideas that Meadowmood had that I really like is a tap language. Ponies are generally considered quite musical, so the idea of a musical instrument that could speak for a mute pony would be really appealing. In its simplest form, it could be tapping out morse (horse) code on the drum, but I don’t think a musical species would be happy with that, and I think they would put all sorts of nuance into it.


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It’s also possible that they have some kind of meaning assigned to particular notes or note combinations, and that could be used as the basis of a musical language for a pony who can’t speak (there is a lot of cultural meaning in music, which is a topic that’s well beyond the scope of this blog or my expertise).


In the context of my stories, I have often mentioned that ponies in Equestria all speak the same language (Ponish or Equestrian; it’s been called both), however, when it comes to writing it, they have three different systems. One is unicorn, and uses all the phonetic sounds Ponish makes, so there’s no ambiguity about which word is which. My reasoning for that is that in spellwork it is essential to say the correct word, and not guess based on context.

English is weird:
Read and lead rhyme,
and read and lead rhyme.
But read and lead don’t rhyme
and neither do read and lead.

Without magic, though, writing out all those letters is time-consuming, especially if you’re doing it with a mouth-held pen, so the other two tribes would have come up with a better system with far fewer letters.


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Just over a dozen, in my headcanon (and vowel points added as required). Which is easily in the reach of what pony ears can unmistakably duplicate.

And then we come to the telegraph. Traditionally on Earth, there were two possible signals--dot and dash, or long and short. Every letter, number, and important punctuation mark was replaced with a series of dots and dashes, and to anybody who was fluent, it was understandable. Plus, it didn’t only have to be transmitted by sound; you could flash signals with an Aldis lamp, for example. In wartime especially, that gave you the advantage of not transmitting radio signals would could be picked up and triangulated by an enemy--the signal lamp was line of sight.

I personally think that pony typewriters don’t generally have a clever mechanism to convert the two keys (and spacebar) into traditional words; I think that they type in morse and that most ponies who know how to use them are fluent. Later on, the words would be ‘translated’ if they were typeset, or if the writing was meant to be an essay . . . or they wouldn’t be, if it was meant to be read that way.

Normally when typewriters strike the page, they deboss it slightly, and the smaller the letter the more obvious that is. All of a sudden, you’ve invented pony Braille. Now, those of you who are suddenly wondering why Earth Braille wasn’t done that way, it’s because it was invented roughly concurrently with the telegraph and Morse code, and predated the modern typewriter. My own opinion is that ponies would have modified whatever tactile language they had to be the same as Morse code, because that makes things easier . . . at the same time, I’m also proposing that ponies can typically read at least two and maybe three different forms of language, so I’m kind of on a shaky soapbox here.


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I would of course be remiss if I did not link you to Meadowmood’s page where they discuss their own ideas on what kind of deaf, mute, or blind communication systems the ponies might use, so here you go:

Equestrian Silent Languages and Tools



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Feel free to speculate wildly in the comments!

Comments ( 75 )

Happy Birthday!
(Yes, we do read the little notes at the bottom)

Happy Birthday Admiral!

Also, everybody feel free to speculate wildly in the comments!

COngratulations on completing another trip around teh sun.

Just, be careful of turning round to see who just sneezed behind you. :pinkiesick:

Happy birthday Admiral. I’m going to eat some Oreos to celebrate.

(thanks Georg for that ‘cause I don’t notice the blog tags often)

Happy Birthday, Biscuit!
I thought that was Silver Glow for a second.
EDIT: You're wearing a birthday hat! :yay:

Your blogs are always so insightful. Took an ASL class in college and all of this is really intriguing to me.

Going on to "How do languages change?" English is a VERY unusual language. Chalk it up to England being invaded by a wide variety of people over the last 2,000 years. MOST languages gradually drift around. After about 1,000 years, it is about 20% different. You can read it, but with difficulty. (Sort of like us with Shakespeare.)

Regions that are separated tend to develop regional accents & drift into different languages. Remember, 2,000 years ago Italian, French, and Spanish were all Latin. Supposedly, television is sort of flattening that out. IMO, in Equestria pegasi sort of do the same thing. By travelling about, they keep pony language connected.

On the other hand, words exist to describe what people talk about. Pegasi & unicorns probably have a bunch of words that earth ponies never use because they have neither horns nor magic. For example, unicorns probably have a word meaning "The spells you get from your cutie mark" (Like Rarity's gem finding spell) & pegasi have a word for an Immelmann turn (look it up).

Diamond Dogs & cows both have accents. This means that it's plausible that they have their own languages.

Dan

5329488
IMHO, English was totally ruined after 1066.
https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLV50II2XzmY-9GLZWAuieOp27mZUQfKnj

Anyway, my mother did ASL interpretation and taught special ed for hearing impaired kids before getting divorced and leaving the country. I was introduced to plenty of deaf or learning-impaired kids and adults as a kid. It was always uncomfortable. But then I ended up in special ed for the majority of my public schooling.

Anyway, I willfully keep personal interaction to a minimum, but working with computers grants a bigger appreciation for communication methods and encodings than a lot of people realize.

Happy Birthday, Biscuit!

Another orbit successfully navigated. Happy Birthday, Admiral!

Insightful as always. :twilightsmile: And, happy birthday! :pinkiehappy:

Yes, happy birthday! (and I had it on August, 3 - just day before .. Vl_Jst come to my home and give me gift in form of this gas-powered igniter for kitchen ..but I still use matches ..)>

On language ... well, this is still important something for me, it seems, but I mostly dropped a lot of studies I was reading on it (mostly about animal language - apes, Koko-gorilla, Alex-parrot ...and dolphins, of course. Akeakamai ... ). because I don't know ... I realized most of it was about humans pumping their own position along other humans, not about giving something useful to non-humans (animals).

Right now Julian hopes to meet Dony, and see if idea about main barrier between our speech and (bottlenose) dolphin speech being really about different frequencies actually true ..or there is something more about this barrier, too (I frame it as hypothesis because I tend to be quite pessimistic. There are pointers suggesting language barrier in this case not ONLY about frequencies we can hear and use ...)

I still think idea put forward by Ken LeVasseur (idea was invented before him, he just bring it up in this dolphin context) to use language teaching by example (when you have two language users doing simple speech//action in front of someone who is hoped to pick up even _idea_ about this specific language) is good one, but I'm not sure if I will ever able to play my role in it.. I only have dog (Grey) with whom I live ~11 years by now but STILL miss some of actions he hopes to see from me ... So, in my case theory about language communication and practice of it not quite align ....

So, while I hope some of those useful everyday languages ideas will found their ways into lives of real (non-imaginary) beings here on earth ... My hope in this outcome tend to be quickly hammered down by well-trained pessimism. And my pessimism well-trained by observation on how 'good idea' goes nowhere in real world again and again ....

Ooh, this was super interesting! :twilightsmile:

I’ve had to shave residents before, and anybody who’s met me can correctly assume I’m bad at it.

I'm just picturing a massive beard with an admiral's hat sitting atop it. :derpytongue2:

Also, happy birthday! :pinkiehappy: Hope you have/had a wonderful day!

5329497

1066 and All That: A Memorable History of England, comprising all the parts you can remember, including 103 Good Things, 5 Bad Kings and 2 Genuine Dates is a tongue-in-cheek reworking of the history of England. Written by W. C. Sellar and R. J. Yeatman and illustrated by John Reynolds, it first appeared serially in Punch magazine, and was published in book form by Methuen & Co. Ltd. in 1930.

I read it, once. They were talking about the Romans "The word decimate means 'kill every tenth person' " What kind of people need a word like that? Their conclusion "Not very nice ones"

Dan
Dan #18 · August 5th · · ·

5329673

As opposed to all the numpties who take "decimated" to mean "decisively?"
Sirrah, please!

Happy Birthday Admiral!
By the way, there are two worldbuilding blog posts that have been tagged incorrectly -- #wordlbuilding instead of #worldbuilding.
5329497

working with computers grants a bigger appreciation for communication methods and encodings than a lot of people realise.

Ikr, the beauty of computer languages -- algorithms -- is that they are unambiguous yet concise.

A belated Happy Birthday to ya!

Merry Biscuitmas!

Normally when typewriters strike the page, they emboss it slightly, and the smaller the letter the more obvious that is. All of a sudden, you’ve invented pony Braille.

Given how typewriters deboss the side of the paper they hit, wouldn't this mean you'd have to type each line backwards? (That or rig it so the typewriter strikes the page from the other side.)

In any case, some fascinating insights into language in both worlds. Thank you for them, especially the ear language.

Happy birthday nerd.

I also suspect, but don’t know, that it’s probably simplified, compared to the nuances of ‘normal’ speech

Yep. Sentence structure is super simple. Even more so than the first guy you mention- there's no tenses per se. Telling someone that you and I went to the store would be "me" then either gesturing to you, spelling your name, or using a name-sign, "go store". Most of the time "yesterday" is either Y or A sign, "today" is usually "now" sign etc. Most signs look like what you mean, as you say. "Spring" is right hand popping up through the cupped left like a plant sprouting, "cookie" is making a cookie cutter gesture with the right hand in the left palm, hungry is down from throat to stomach etc.

language needed to have emotion put into it . . . I don’t know how that’s done in ASL

Literally the exact way you think it would be and go on to mention in the next line. "I don't want that" and "get that the fuck away from me right now" are the same sign, "Don't want" (hilariously it's taking palms up and turning them over like dropping something).
The difference is facial expression and the emphasis of the sign. A lazy "nah" could be just flicking one hand over, the aforementioned "I'm going to stab you" version is literally throwing the imaginary object.

Interesting as usual; thanks. :)

And happy birthday! :)

Happy birthday!

This was an interesting read on a subject I don't usually consider.

Happy birthday dear friend. :twilightsmile:

First, happy belated birthday.
Second, what 5329720 said re: emotion/"intonation."
It's also worth noting that there are a great many different sign languages, most of which are not mutually intelligible. It seems likely that there'd be multiple pony sign languages, as well as a possible national standard one (which would probably be based on one or more earth pony sign language, given that it has to be possible for non-horned, non-winged ponies to sign).

One really interesting thing about sign languages is that their development tracks fairly well with what we know about the development of spoken languages.

5329472

COngratulations on completing another trip around teh sun.

Thank you!

Just, be careful of turning round to see who just sneezed behind you. :pinkiesick:

I know, right?

Ooh, idea--counteract the threat of people getting into my social distancing bubble by eating a lot of beans.

5329473

Happy birthday Admiral. I’m going to eat some Oreos to celebrate.

Huzzah! And thank you!

(thanks Georg for that ‘cause I don’t notice the blog tags often)

I do often put little easter eggs in ‘em, since I’m old and don’t know how hashtags are supposed to work.

5329480

Happy Birthday, Biscuit!

Thank you!

I thought that was Silver Glow for a second.

The pegasus with the quill? Yeah, I didn’t think about it when I found the image (based on cuteness), but I could see how at a passing glance you might think it was her.

EDIT: You're wearing a birthday hat! :yay:

I am! Somebody made that for me a couple years back, I can’t remember who (I demanded viewers give me a birthday-hatted version of my avatar and got two replies pretty quick).

5329483

Your blogs are always so insightful.

Thank you!

Took an ASL class in college and all of this is really intriguing to me.

I wish I knew more of it--that could be helpful. I know limited signs that some of the guys at work know, and I don’t even know if those are the right signs. Maybe I ought to take a class, too.

5329488

Going on to "How do languages change?" English is a VERY unusual language. Chalk it up to England being invaded by a wide variety of people over the last 2,000 years. MOST languages gradually drift around. After about 1,000 years, it is about 20% different. You can read it, but with difficulty. (Sort of like us with Shakespeare.)

English is special. We take other languages down dark alleys and beat them up and take what we want. It’s several languages in a trench coat, all standing on each other’s shoulders. Take your pick.

I can mostly read the Canterbury tales in the original language, once I’ve been at it a while, but there’s a lot I don’t know, or guess based on context. Go back older than that, and I’ve got nothing. Apparently Old English is pretty close to current Frisian, for what that’s worth.

Regions that are separated tend to develop regional accents & drift into different languages. Remember, 2,000 years ago Italian, French, and Spanish were all Latin. Supposedly, television is sort of flattening that out. IMO, in Equestria pegasi sort of do the same thing. By travelling about, they keep pony language connected.

I would assume that traditionally, it was the pegasi that brought changes to the Equestrian language (post-unification), since they would have been the ones covering the most territory, and picking up bits and pieces from other cultures. It’s possible that they tried to keep Ponish from drifting (like Hebrew), so that old spellbooks and whatnot would be still readable; however, I think that there’s references to ‘Old Ponish’ in the show which Twilight may or may not be able to read.

On the other hand, words exist to describe what people talk about. Pegasi & unicorns probably have a bunch of words that earth ponies never use because they have neither horns nor magic. For example, unicorns probably have a word meaning "The spells you get from your cutie mark" (Like Rarity's gem finding spell) & pegasi have a word for an Immelmann turn (look it up).

Yes, that’s true. And the same goes for any subset of language speakers; I mean, when I blog about medium-speed CAN buses or casually mention a TCCM, that’s out of most of my reader’s wheelhouse; depending on their interests and communities, some ponies would pick up and possible use (or adapt) out-tribe words; for example, earth ponies might use the unicorn word for ‘the spell you get from your cutie mark’ to describe ‘farming based on your cutie mark.’

Also, one of the out-tribe languages that I know a smattering of, due to my interests and communities, is aviation stuff, so I don’t have to look up an immelmann turn.

derpicdn.net/img/view/2013/11/3/463500.gif
Pretty damn close, I’d say

Diamond Dogs & cows both have accents. This means that it's plausible that they have their own languages.

Likely that they do, although it could also be a consequence of their vocal cords, palates, etc. Some ponies also have regional accents, and I think it’s canon that there are other languages (I think there are more references than just AB speaking ‘fancy’)--I certainly assume that they have multiple languages.

5329497

IMHO, English was totally ruined after 1066.

Well, if they hadn’t gone and made Harold Godwinson king, things might have turned out differently.

Anyway, my mother did ASL interpretation and taught special ed for hearing impaired kids before getting divorced and leaving the country. I was introduced to plenty of deaf or learning-impaired kids and adults as a kid. It was always uncomfortable. But then I ended up in special ed for the majority of my public schooling.

Aw, man, you missed out. I have a lot of fun working with developmentally disabled adults. (and a few really stressful days, too)

Anyway, I willfully keep personal interaction to a minimum, but working with computers grants a bigger appreciation for communication methods and encodings than a lot of people realize.

Yeah, the little bit of programming I did way back in the day taught me that you have to be clear and concise to get a computer to do what you want it to. And also always jump 10 between lines of code, in case you’ve got to go back and put something in later.

5329620

Insightful as always. :twilightsmile:

Thank you!

And, happy birthday! :pinkiehappy:

And, thank you! :heart:

5329649

Yes, happy birthday! (and I had it on August, 3 - just day before .. Vl_Jst come to my home and give me gift in form of this gas-powered igniter for kitchen ..but I still use matches ..)>

Ooh, happy belated birthday to you! And congrats on the igniter, even if matches are more fun.

On language ... well, this is still important something for me, it seems, but I mostly dropped a lot of studies I was reading on it (mostly about animal language - apes, Koko-gorilla, Alex-parrot ...and dolphins, of course. Akeakamai ... ). because I don't know ... I realized most of it was about humans pumping their own position along other humans, not about giving something useful to non-humans (animals).

That is a complicating factor. Social animals do have language of sort, obviously not as complex as human language, and meant to communicate with others of their species--some of the horse videos I watch, for example, the narrator is explaining from the horse perspective what it means. In terms of animals communicating with humans, well, that’s more complicated. Certainly some species can learn to do it, but it’s like with quantum mechanics--you change the animal by changing the behavior.

(one example of that I’ve seen referenced, domesticated dogs will look where you’re pointing with a finger, whereas wild canines won’t . . . I don’t know if that’s innate in domesticated dogs, though; I don’t know if a feral dog who had been raised away from humans would do that instinctively)

Right now Julian hopes to meet Dony, and see if idea about main barrier between our speech and (bottlenose) dolphin speech being really about different frequencies actually true ..or there is something more about this barrier, too (I frame it as hypothesis because I tend to be quite pessimistic. There are pointers suggesting language barrier in this case not ONLY about frequencies we can hear and use ...)

I would imagine that frequency is part of it, but to really understand it you’d also have to be able to think like a dolphin, and I don’t know if that’s something that a human can easily do.

I still think idea put forward by Ken LeVasseur (idea was invented before him, he just bring it up in this dolphin context) to use language teaching by example (when you have two language users doing simple speech//action in front of someone who is hoped to pick up even _idea_ about this specific language) is good one, but I'm not sure if I will ever able to play my role in it.. I only have dog (Grey) with whom I live ~11 years by now but STILL miss some of actions he hopes to see from me ... So, in my case theory about language communication and practice of it not quite align ....

It works in actions . . . I just recently heard about a group of primates in Japan where the little ones learned that their food tasted better if they soaked it in the ocean and made it more salty, and then the adults of the group picked up on the behavior, and now they all do it. As I recall, it was from a zFrank True Facts, so take it with a dose of skepticism . . . but supposedly that was how language developed in humans, too; the kids figured it out and the adults copied them, at least at first.

So, while I hope some of those useful everyday languages ideas will found their ways into lives of real (non-imaginary) beings here on earth ... My hope in this outcome tend to be quickly hammered down by well-trained pessimism. And my pessimism well-trained by observation on how 'good idea' goes nowhere in real world again and again ....

It is enormously complicated, and I suspect that we will be hard-pressed to get all the way. In the case of horses, for example, no matter how much we learn about horse psychology, we aren’t horses, and can’t fully grasp some of the nuances of their behavior, most likely. We certainly can’t take some of their communications (biting, kicking) without injury, either. The same would go with other species; ants communicate by rubbing antennas and transferring scent, as I recall, which would be hard for a human to duplicate. But I suppose even if we never can perfectly communicate with social animals, we can still learn a lot by studying how they do it and what they communicate.

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Ooh, this was super interesting! :twilightsmile:

Thank you!

I'm just picturing a massive beard with an admiral's hat sitting atop it. :derpytongue2:

You’re not far wrong, honestly.

Also, happy birthday! :pinkiehappy: Hope you have/had a wonderful day!

Thanks! I did! :heart:

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I read it, once. They were talking about the Romans "The word decimate means 'kill every tenth person' " What kind of people need a word like that? Their conclusion "Not very nice ones"

As opposed to all the numpties who take "decimated" to mean "decisively?"
Sirrah, please!

So, fun story time! I used to play Dungeons and Dragons, and we had a few . . . characters in our group. One guys--I’ll call him Carl--was sort of the class clown, you know the type.

Anyway! One time our party is coming into a small town that’s been raided or something, and the DM says that the town has been ‘decimated,’ and Carl looks up and says, “so every tenth building is destroyed?”

The DM blinked in confusion, and I just burst out laughing.

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Happy Birthday Admiral!

Thank you!

By the way, there are two worldbuilding blog posts that have been tagged incorrectly -- #wordlbuilding instead of #worldbuilding.

So I fixed it in this one; do you by chance know which other one(s) are tagged wrong? Because I don’t know how to quickly search through them, ‘cause I’m not exactly sure how the hashtags work.

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Merry Biscuitmas!

Thank you!

Given how typewriters deboss the side of the paper they hit, wouldn't this mean you'd have to type each line backwards? (That or rig it so the typewriter strikes the page from the other side.)

I knew there was a word for ‘emboss but the other way’ but couldn’t remember it and wasn’t smart enough to look it up. :derpytongue2:

Yeah, you’d either have to build the typewriter backwards, or type backwards for it to be readable (or the ponies using it could learn to read it ‘wrong’--as silly as that sounds, I played valve trombone in high school jazz band, which is in a different key than normal trombone, so I learned to read bass clef transposed). Either way, if the typewriter for Morse was invented first in Equestria, I think that they’d figure out they could adapt that into pony Braille. If it wasn’t, like on Earth, they’d do something different.

In any case, some fascinating insights into language in both worlds. Thank you for them, especially the ear language.

You’re welcome! Even if I can’t take credit for inventing ear language. :heart:

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Happy birthday nerd.

:heart:

Yep. Sentence structure is super simple. Even more so than the first guy you mention- there's no tenses per se. Telling someone that you and I went to the store would be "me" then either gesturing to you, spelling your name, or using a name-sign, "go store". Most of the time "yesterday" is either Y or A sign, "today" is usually "now" sign etc. Most signs look like what you mean, as you say. "Spring" is right hand popping up through the cupped left like a plant sprouting, "cookie" is making a cookie cutter gesture with the right hand in the left palm, hungry is down from throat to stomach etc.

That does make a lot of sense. Spelling out individual words would give you the most variety, but of course take forever, and even picking the most commonly-used words, along with all their tenses, would be a massive vocabulary and require an absurd number of signs. Probably not undoable; you could presumably base a sign language around syllables, for example, but it’d still be quite complex. And you don’t need all that to communicate effectively, anyway.

Literally the exact way you think it would be and go on to mention in the next line. "I don't want that" and "get that the fuck away from me right now" are the same sign, "Don't want" (hilariously it's taking palms up and turning them over like dropping something).
The difference is facial expression and the emphasis of the sign. A lazy "nah" could be just flicking one hand over, the aforementioned "I'm going to stab you" version is literally throwing the imaginary object.

So basically, “Yeet” in sign language is dropping something with emphasis. I can dig that. :rainbowlaugh:

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Interesting as usual; thanks. :)
And happy birthday! :)

Thank you and thank you! :heart:

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Happy birthday!

Thanks!

This was an interesting read on a subject I don't usually consider.

A lot of people don’t, until they wind up confronted with it one way or another.

I think it’s important for worldbuilding, because ideally there would be a system in place for differently-abled individuals, and if not, there would still be a system for people (or ponies) who are close. Flash Lock and Swanky Brook are probably easily able to understand what Meresy wants/needs, even if she doesn’t talk.

Plus, it’s very much worth considering in first-contact scenarios or language barrier stories which y’all know I love to write, because it’s something that has to be overcome.

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First, happy belated birthday.

Thank you!

Second, what Luna Aeterna Solutae said re: emotion/"intonation."

Luna knows all. :luna emote except there isn’t one:

It's also worth noting that there are a great many different sign languages, most of which are not mutually intelligible. It seems likely that there'd be multiple pony sign languages, as well as a possible national standard one (which would probably be based on one or more earth pony sign language, given that it has to be possible for non-horned, non-winged ponies to sign).

Yes, I did know that. It’s unfortunate that nobody thought to develop a universal one. (and I think I was going to make a point of that in the blog but forgot) I’d like to think that the ponies would invent a universal ear-language, but I honestly doubt that they would. Each school for the deaf/mute would develop their own, and maybe they would get standardized on a national level . . .

Meadowmood mentioned in the blog about unicorns using horn-cast pictures, sort of like Twilight did in the BBBFF song, and I think that that would actually be the default for many of them, which sadly isn’t inclusive. At the same time, I think that pony Morse would become somewhat ubiquitous, and that a super-simplified (but slow) version of ear-language might develop around that, sort of a last-resort communications method (right up there with just writing it out on paper) . . . in one of my stories, I mention the two symbols (dot and dash, or heart and horseshoe) being also taught as ‘left’ and ‘right’ (two-key typewriters), so it wouldn’t be a stretch for a pony to figure out left ear/right ear is morse code.

One really interesting thing about sign languages is that their development tracks fairly well with what we know about the development of spoken languages.

Really? I didn’t know that, but it makes sense.

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Words in common use also tend to get shortened. "Horseless carriage" got shortened to "car" and "automobile" got shortened to "auto", for instance.

IMO, there's a (short) word for "cutie mark" & a word for "blank flank" (possibly the word for "cutie mark" plus the prefix (or suffix) meaning "un" or "not"). By context, it is used as we would call someone a baby.

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Yes, I did know that. It’s unfortunate that nobody thought to develop a universal one. (and I think I was going to make a point of that in the blog but forgot) I’d like to think that the ponies would invent a universal ear-language, but I honestly doubt that they would. Each school for the deaf/mute would develop their own, and maybe they would get standardized on a national level

IMO, it depends. Was it developed independently in several places or did one pony develop it and spread it? Like Esperanto, Heraldry, or Morse code, if it's single source, it would be unified.

IRL, the Cherokee alphabet was developed by one person, so it's possible.

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