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Author Topic: David and the Engineers' Language  (Read 449 times)

Olde
Sep 14, 2017, 02:26:43 PM
Topic on: Sep 14, 2017, 02:26:43 PM
Q
David was brought along for the trip for, among other reasons, his services as a linguist, as a translator for the Engineers so Weyland could talk to them. But the only evidence of their existence is that group of stars with a dude pointing at it. Yet later, when they actually get the chance to talk to the Engineers, here's the exchange between Weyland and David.

Weyland: "Are you sure he's alive?"
David: "Absolutely."
Weyland: "And you can speak to him?
David: "I believe I can."

Am I missing something here? Why does he think he can talk to them? When did David EVER learn anything about the oral language of the engineers? It surely wasn't learned on Earth, because there was no record of their language, plus the only evidence of the Engineers even existing was a bunch of constellation drawings, which is flimsy evidence at best. Did he learn it on the planet? If so, where and when? Did he find an Engineer-to-English Dictionary and then just read it really fast? I'm aware that there may have been some speech in some of the hologram recordings that play throughout the ship periodically, but is that enough for him to learn an entire language? Or maybe it was his complete butchering of their language through absolute misunderstanding that caused the Engineer to rip David's head off?


Samhain13
Sep 14, 2017, 02:42:48 PM
Reply #1 on: Sep 14, 2017, 02:42:48 PM
Q
I'm aware that there may have been some speech in some of the hologram recordings that play throughout the ship periodically, but is that enough for him to learn an entire language?

I think that's pretty much the answer. Even if its not very believable.

Or maybe it was his complete butchering of their language through absolute misunderstanding that caused the Engineer to rip David's head off?

As funny as that would be... the deleted scene where the Engineer responds to David shows he didn't like it that a human would demand something like immortality.


Olde
Sep 14, 2017, 03:13:49 PM
Reply #2 on: Sep 14, 2017, 03:13:49 PM
Q
Possibly. I should say I missed something. Before touching down on the planet, Holloway asks David how his lessons are going. David says, "I spent two years deconstructing dozens of ancient languages to their roots. I'm confident I can communicate with them, provided your thesis is correct." Still not buying it.


The Eighth Passenger
Sep 14, 2017, 03:21:33 PM
Reply #3 on: Sep 14, 2017, 03:21:33 PM
Q
I think the idea was that the Engineers originally gave humans their language. That's why David was studying ancient forms of Proto-Indo-European languages on the way to LV-223.


Olde
Sep 14, 2017, 03:28:14 PM
Reply #4 on: Sep 14, 2017, 03:28:14 PM
Q
Unless language is genetic, but I'm pretty sure it isn't. So does that mean that the Engineers taught humans how to speak? None of that makes any sense and betrays Prometheus's prologue.

« Last Edit: Sep 14, 2017, 03:29:53 PM by Olde »

The Eighth Passenger
Sep 14, 2017, 03:40:06 PM
Reply #5 on: Sep 14, 2017, 03:40:06 PM
Q
I think the idea was supposed to be that the Engineers periodically "uplifted" humans over the millennia. Could be that they taught all the savages living in dirty little caves a slightly more eloquent form of communication above the usual grunts and growls.

But one shouldn't dig too deep when it comes to Prometheus. You'll fall right through the floor.


SM
Sep 14, 2017, 08:29:53 PM
Reply #6 on: Sep 14, 2017, 08:29:53 PM
Q
David spends 2 years deconstructing dozens of ancient languages to their roots.

The implication is human language originated with the Engineers during their visits.


Olde
Sep 14, 2017, 08:44:30 PM
Reply #7 on: Sep 14, 2017, 08:44:30 PM
Q
So they made regular contact with the humans? Very strange, very strange. I hope we get another prequel showing the background of how all that happened...

« Last Edit: Sep 14, 2017, 09:08:00 PM by Olde »

SM
Sep 14, 2017, 08:58:36 PM
Reply #8 on: Sep 14, 2017, 08:58:36 PM
Q
Charlie displays seven tablets showing people surrounding a giant pointing at the stars.  It was the whole reason for the trip.


Olde
Sep 14, 2017, 09:09:07 PM
Reply #9 on: Sep 14, 2017, 09:09:07 PM
Q
Yeah, I realized that the moment after I posted it. Derp moment. But it makes you wonder why they were going back there to destroy the planet. Why bother teaching humans language if you're just going to kill them? And why point them to a constellation so far away that they couldn't even see it with a telescope?

But more interesting to me are the following two conundrums.

1) If David spent two years deciphering ancient languages to their roots, does that mean he spent the two years on the ship during its travel to decipher the languages? Why wouldn't they have left after David was sure that he had deciphered their language? What if everyone awakens from hypersleep and David said, "I'm sorry, I just couldn't figure out their language. I can't say with any certainty that I can communicate with them. Given the records we have, I would have to say that I couldn't even derive their language in twenty years." Then what? They were all just hoping that he'd finish in time? To which you might say, "Well Olde, they never said which two years he spent decoding it. Maybe it was the two years before they started the journey, which they began once he was finished." Which leads me to my second point...

2) Just think about this for a minute. David decodes a primal, original language derived from commonalities between ancient languages. Just look at how problematic that is. Not only are many ancient languages completely different, but we don't even have an oral record of anything before about a century ago. How on Earth does David know what civilisations two, three, five, ten, twenty, or thirty or more centuries ago sounded like? How could he construct a language out of what is essentially an absent record? Sure there are some records here and there, but oftentimes we don't even know how certain written languages sounded. Yet David casually deconstructs their language, all while making time to play basketball while riding a bicycle, watching Lawrence of Arabia, and combing his hair. What is he, the world's greatest paleolinguistic supercomputer? Does he knock that task out in a week or something? And why would something with terrabytes of linguistic data, accomplishing one of humanity's greatest achievements, first of all be interested in anything other than language (I don't think he mentions any human language once during Prometheus) but also be tasked with regular maintenance work and just exist for servitude in getting people their vodka and robes? And why wouldn't he be interested in the Engineers' language in Covenant--why does he use them to experiment on creating organic life when he's clearly programmed with this ingenious linguistic supercomputer functionality?

« Last Edit: Sep 14, 2017, 09:12:15 PM by Olde »

SM
Sep 14, 2017, 10:10:32 PM
Reply #10 on: Sep 14, 2017, 10:10:32 PM
Q
What was casual about deconstructing dozens of ancient languages for two years? Since he doesn't need to sleep a few hours here and there watching movies or shooting hoops is hardly going to impact on anything.


Olde
Sep 15, 2017, 02:03:57 AM
Reply #11 on: Sep 15, 2017, 02:03:57 AM
Q
Developing an ur-language from records we don't even have, even if it were possible, is probably less realistically achievable than calculating the last digit of pi. But I guess it's a feat David can do given a couple of years. I'm surprised no one's done it already.


SM
Sep 15, 2017, 02:19:44 AM
Reply #12 on: Sep 15, 2017, 02:19:44 AM
Q
He's a machine being instructed by an expert on ancient languages.  He believed he could understand their language if Holloway's thesis was correct.  It was.


 

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