Expert recommends making ‘Babelfish’ to translate alien tongues

April 19th, 2008 - 3:00 pm ICT by admin  

London, April 19 (ANI): An American linguist and anthropologist insists that a proper interaction with aliens may be possible only if the fictional Babel fish species in Douglas Adams book The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, which can translate all the languages in the universe, becomes a reality.

Terrence Deacon of the University of California, Berkeley says that scientists need to make a universal translator to communicate with any aliens, should they ever encounter them.

He says that communication with aliens would require a much more advanced understanding of language than scientists currently have, and that it should be ensured that all languages have a universal structure.

Deacon agrees that different processes of evolution might cause an alien race to speak a language indecipherable to humans, but insists that all languages arise from the common goal of describing the physical world.

He strongly believes that there must be underlying universal code that can be deciphered, as in mathematics.

“In Carl Sagans book Contact, aliens communicate to humans through prime numbers. Why? Nature doesn’t use prime numbers. But the numbers are intrinsic to the mathematical system, just as certain structures are intrinsic to language,” New Scientist magazine quoted him as saying.

Deacon says that one of the most basic forms of communication is pointing, which directly references a physical object. When a word is invented for the object pointed towards, he says, it becomes a symbol.

He further says that symbols can convey meaning about objects even when they are not present in the surrounding environment.

Deacon says that irrespective a symbols abstractness, it is still somehow grounded in physical reality that limits the number of relationships it can have with other symbol words.

This defines the grammatical structure that emerges from stringing words together, he said while making a presentation at the 2008 Astrobiology Science Conference in Santa Clara, California.

Denise Herzing of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton says that studies on dolphins may help test Deacons theory.

“Our work suggests that dolphins may be able to communicate using symbols. The word’s not definitively in yet, but its totally possible that we might show universality by understanding dolphin language,” Herzing said. (ANI)

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