It is in these linguistically credible interactions that “Avatar” may make its biggest contribution to science fiction. In her foreword to “The Encyclopedia of Fictional and Fantastic Languages,” Ursula K. Le Guin mocked the conventions of pulp sci-fi perpetuated by films like the “Star Wars” franchise: “the permanent hegemony of manly, English-speaking men, the risible grotesqueness of non-English languages and the inviolable rule that pretty women have musical names ending in ‘a.’ ” The linguist Harold F. Schiffman has similarly noted that alien languages in films are primarily designed to “confuse and amuse,” with little or no attention paid to the nuances of cross-linguistic communication. Our sci-fi heroes may still be buff English speakers, but a little sensitivity across the human-alien divide could help them seem less like skxawngs.

via On Language – Skxawng! – NYTimes.com.

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