Thursday, 21 May 2015


Poul Anderson, Starfarers (New York, 1999).

"...the vocabulary, both written and connotative." (p. 253)

I googled "connotative" but it turned out to be the adjective from the noun "connotation," which I do understand. The denotation of "Pope" is the present incumbent whereas the connotation is an entire institution and tradition in the Roman Church and that in turn has different connotations for each person who hears or reads the word. "Who or what is the Pope?" and "What does this phrase, 'the Pope' mean for you?" are entirely different questions.

It would surely be impossible, as Anderson's text suggests, to compile a dictionary not only of denotations but also of connotations? However, Anderson is to be commended because, in The Boat Of A Million Years and in Starfarers, he conveys the difficulty of establishing communication with alien intelligences. The Tahirians use body language so that, for them, vocable are mere signals, such as alarm cries, not words. A common language must be invented and articulated in symbols displayed on hand-held screens. The human explorers are with the Tahirians for over two years before we begin to be told some of the content of a halting conversation.

The Tahirians possibly see individual photons and think more naturally in quantum mechanics. Separate evolution and different kinds of experience generate qualitatively different minds.

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