melannen: Commander Valentine of Alpha Squad Seven, a red-haired female Nick Fury in space, smoking contemplatively (Default)
melannen ([personal profile] melannen) wrote2006-05-12 11:41 pm

More stupid language tricks!

I actually got a chance to sit down and watch Dr. Who on SciFiFri for the first time in several weeks.

And you know what I want to see? I want the Doctor and one of his companions to park the Tardis in a major city on the East Coast of the United States sometime in the 20th century. And just as they're about to head out, suddenly the door flies open and a really hot guy runs in, and then takes off all his clothes, and runs right back out. And the Doctor blinks, and says, "I've got to come here more often."

And meanwhile up in the sky, Superman is thinking, "hmm, I don't remember a phone booth being there before."

.... Also, Captain Jack owns my soul, but you probably could have guessed that already.

Time travel confuses me. In particular, the banana factory confuses me. As [livejournal.com profile] stellar_dust said, what does the Doctor mean when he says "Now", in reference to something several light years and thirty centuries away, while talking to another time traveller with an entirely different personal reference?

There was a post on [livejournal.com profile] languagelog today about a language, Pirahã, whose verbs have no temporal markers. Which is to say, assuming I'm understanding it right, there is no equivalent to past, present, future, or for that matter any of the other bits of language that consisently trip up time travellers. Instead, they have two equivalents to tenses which that article calls 'proximate' and 'remote' - 'proximate' referring to things or events in the speaker's direct control or experience, and 'remote' used otherwise. Beyond that there are very few time-descriptive adverbs, most of which refer to cyclic events in the speaker's direct experience - 'at mealtime', 'when the sun is high' - and that's it.

This seems to me a very practical sort of language for a time-traveller. In fact, it must be pretty close to how the Doctor and Captain Jack conceptualize time in general, given their completely matter-of-fact approaches to what I see as impenetrable tangles of paradox. Things on my personal timeline, and things not on my personal timeline. Simple, right? Unfortunately, *I* don't conceptualize time that way, and I'm far too sleepy right now to turn my head inside-out enough to try to understand. But it's still *fascinating*. After finals I'm going to have to read up on what I can about differently temporal languages and see if I can get the Doctor to make sense.

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