Sunday, March 10, 2019

The Prison-house of Language, by Elana Gomel

★★★☆☆ Average

(SF Adventure) Sophia has extraordinary language abilities, although speaking is acutely painful. She’s called in to investigate a group of people in an experiment who’ve started speaking an unknown language. (5,626 words; Time: 18m)

"," by (edited by Jason Sizemore), appeared in issue 118, published on .

Mini-Review (click to view--possible spoilers)

Review: 2019.169 (A Word for Authors)

Pro: The surface plot is about Sophia figuring out the mystery. What language are those people speaking and what are they saying?

I have a masters in linguistics, and I was delighted that most of the bits of linguistics described in the story were spot-on. In particular, it’s quite true that human language is so different from what other animals have that people have scratched their heads trying to figure out how it might have evolved.

Con: The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was discredited long ago. “Nothing is ineffable,” as one of my professors liked to say, so there actually is no “prison-house of language.”

It feels like a bit of a cheat that Sophia never tells us what the message was, nor does she come up with anything to help those people.

It’s also a little odd that so much is put into telling the story of her and her parents without it ever amounting to anything.

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Elana Gomel Info: Interviews, Websites, ISFDB, FreeSFOnline

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