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Vasiliki Prestidge hosts Dr Jessica Coon, consultant linguist on sci-fi film Arrival, for CIOL BPG

The Linguistics of Arrival: aliens, fieldwork and universal grammar

If aliens arrived, could we communicate with them? How would we do it? What are the tools linguists use to decipher unknown languages? How different can human languages be from one another? Do these differences have bigger consequences for how we see the world?

The 2016 science-fiction film Arrival touches on these and other real questions in the field of linguistics. In Arrival, linguistics professor Dr Louise Banks (Amy Adams) is recruited by the military to translate the language of the newly-arrived Heptapods in order to answer the question everyone wants to know: why are they here?

Language, it turns out, is a crucial piece of the answer.

Linguistics professor Jessica Coon, scientific consultant for the linguistics in the film Arrival, has never worked with an alien, but will discuss her own fieldwork on Mayan languages, and what these languages can tell us about linguistic diversity and Universal Grammar––and how much any of this will help us at first contact.

Join the Business Professions and Government Division on this online event and learn about:

  • the goals of the field of linguistics, with a focus on syntax (sentence structure), and cross-linguistic variation,

  • the importance of global language diversity and the role of linguistics and linguistic fieldwork in language documentation

  • the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis in relation to the film Arrival.

Hosted by Vasiliki Prestidge for the Chartered Institute of Linguists Business Professions and Government Group (CIOL BPG).

Friday April 16, 2021 4:00 PM - 5:30 PM BST

Join us! Book your free place here

I can't wait!


Vasiliki is a translator, interpreter, transcreator, blogger, consultant and director of Greek to Me Translations Ltd. She works with English and Greek and specialises in legal, creative, and psychometrics. She is a Chartered Linguist, member of CIoL, ITI and PEM and she is registered with the Greek Consulate as a certified translator and interpreter. She holds a BA in English and Masters in Business Translation and Interpreting. She is a Steering Group Member of the CIOL Translating Division and CIOL Business, Professions and Government Division. She is an Associate Lecturer in Legal Translation at London Metropolitan University, a public speaker and writer for industry magazines. Her mission is to help you achieve your goals through the power of words. You can follow her on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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