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Why Do Alien Cultures Have Just One Language Each?

Illustration for article titled Why Do Alien Cultures Have Just One Language Each?

Here on Earth, we speak over 7,000 living languages. But in science fiction, alien species routinely turn out to have just one language, or a few major dialects at best. Over at Slate, they ask whether this is realistic — or whether we're just lumping alien languages together, based on shared characteristics.


The Slate article considers a few explanations for alien linguistic monocultures, including Noam Chomsky's theory that all Earth languages come from the same source, and another theory that languages are best grouped together by their surface features. But writer D.S. Bigham doesn't consider another possibility — that maybe a society that learns to travel to other star systems will evolve towards a single language to make communication among its far-flung members more feasible. [Slate]

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Earth has 7,000 living languages.

English is usually the international standard, even though more people speak Mandarin.

My head canon always assumed each civilization either picked one standard among many native choices, or had evolved to a point where the planet/society was governed by one overall model, with a world government and one universal language.

Even in Star Trek, different languages are hinted at by all the humans' accents (Scotty, Checkov, etc.) but we only hear English. In the 2009 reboot, Uhura indicated that she speaks "all three dialects" of Romulan.

They probably have a standard one for use with other civilizations.