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Scientist develops programme to understand alien languages

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posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 02:10 PM
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Thought this was interesting

www.telegraph.co.uk.../earth/2008/10/15/scialien115.xml


Scientist develops programme to understand alien languages

A computer programme which could help identify and even translate messages from aliens in outer space has been developed by a British scientist.

Even if there are extra terrestrials are one day discovered, scientists fear their alien tongue may make it impossible to understand them.

But John Elliott of Leeds Metropolitan University believes he has come up with software which at least will decipher the structure of their language - and be the first step in understanding what they are saying.

Dr Elliott's programme would compare an alien language to a database of 60 different languages in the world to search see if it has a similar structure.

He believes that even an alien language far removed from any on Earth is likely to have recognisable patterns that could help reveal how intelligent the life forms are.

"Language has to be structured in a certain way otherwise it will be inefficient and unwieldy," he told New Scientist magazine.

Previous research had shown that it is possible to determine whether a signal carries a language rather than an image or music.

Dr Elliott, from Leeds Metropolitan University, has gone a step further by devising a way to pick out what might be words and sentences.

All human languages have "functional terms" that bracket phrases - words like "if" and "but" in English.

According to Dr Elliott, such terms in any language, are separated by up to nine words or characters.

This limit on phrase length seems to correspond to the level of human cognition - how much information we are able to process at once.

In an alien language, analysing these phrases might make it possible to gauge how clever the authors of the message are.

If they are much smarter than us, there would a lot of words packed into the phrases.

The programme should also be able to break a language up into crucial words such as nouns and verbs, even though their meaning is unknown.

It can, for instance, locate adjectives from the fact that they are almost always next to nouns.

Because languages have different word orders, Dr Elliott is amassing a library of the syntaxes of 60 human tongues.

If a message is received from outer space, it could be compared against this database. Scientists would then be able to see if it resembled anything human, or a mix of Earthly languages.

Dr Elliott admits that in order to translate what the aliens are actually saying it may still be necessary to have a "code book" of some sort.

But US linguist Dr Sheri Wells-Jensen, from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, points out that "you have to start somewhere".

She added: "My money is on being able to understand aliens."




posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 05:49 PM
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wow. this is awesome. of course if aliens communicate with telepathy and send no signals intospace its useless. although I suspect that with all the life that might be out there some of them talk like us. s/f



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 07:33 PM
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This is all very well, I'd flag and star OK if there wasn't ONE little thing that would stop me doing it: excuse me but, what language?

THAT obvioulsly SHORTCUTS ANY REFERENCE we might have.

OK SOME people think that they heard 'Aliens' or their sounds etc, but FIRST tell me WHERE and HOW and WHAT were the sounds, sorry I 'm interested in languages, I studied 3 foreign ones , English, German and Italian, I'm quite familiar with Spanish and Portuguese, and Polish, I took interest in Finnish (Suomi) and Swahili, Swahili in the linguistic aspect and accentuation, sound to it. If you can't understand my post I'll say it all in French.

The problem I have with this IS that, where is the solid knowledge in this?

I mean, I for one, am all interested in helping an alien language to be discovered in structures and it would be my DREAM.

Bur please, don't stick to whatever 'NEWS' you find.

WE HAVE NEVER FOUND ANY SPEAKING ALIEN, NO !!! -->so how on Earth and Jupiter can we start to TRANSLATE???!

By the way I use this word but I HATE the word "Alien".

They ARE People just like us, different just as we are on just Earth (the "Blacks the Whites the Yellows" etc 'nazi'-names which were given in the past, NOT 'aliens' THANK YOU to any poster who still freaks at 'Aliens',
)

Mag



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 07:33 PM
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This is all very well, I'd flag and star OK if there wasn't ONE little thing that would stop me doing it: excuse me but, what language?

THAT obvioulsly SHORTCUTS ANY REFERENCE we might have.

OK SOME people think that they heard 'Aliens' or their sounds etc, but FIRST tell me WHERE and HOW and WHAT were the sounds, sorry I 'm interested in languages, I studied 3 foreign ones , English, German and Italian, I'm quite familiar with Spanish and Portuguese, and Polish, I took interest in Finnish (Suomi) and Swahili, Swahili in the linguistic aspect and accentuation, sound to it. If you can't understand my post I'll say it all in French.

The problem I have with this IS that, where is the solid knowledge in this?

I mean, I for one, am all interested in helping an alien language to be discovered in structures and it would be my DREAM.

Bur please, don't stick to whatever 'NEWS' you find.

WE HAVE NEVER FOUND ANY SPEAKING ALIEN, NO !!! -->so how on Earth and Jupiter can we start to TRANSLATE???!

By the way I use this word but I HATE the word "Alien".

They ARE People just like us, different just as we are on just Earth (the "Blacks the Whites the Yellows" etc 'nazi'-names which were given in the past, NOT 'aliens' THANK YOU to any poster who still freaks at 'Aliens',
)

Mag



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 07:49 PM
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You are confusing the nature of "translate", language as we know it in every sense is made up of stuctured componants and patterns.

This isnt about translating words its about translation based on the science of language. I doubt the end result would be a word for word translation into English but more probably the ability to identify language patterns in something which might otherwise just seem like noise bursts to us.

Its language translation from a far deeper level than just translation between languages. Theres plenty information to be had on the understanding of language in this sense id guess if you google it, the concept itself isnt new but this application if it is quite interesting.

If we ever had contact with Aliens you would then be able to attach significant meaning to the various sounds and patterns and at that point you could beging translating into known language.

If used for listening to signals it wont tell us whats being said, only that something appears to be being said that resembles the pattern formation of language. Hes right, due to the way intelligence and reason itself works, in roder to function effectively language has to adhere to certain rules of function otherwise it wouldnt be effctive in conveying meaning and wouldnt be language.



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 08:05 PM
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Anytime I have ever heard of someone being abducted and/or having communication with aliens it's always been telepathic.

Not saying that aliens can't speak but if they DO have the ability to communicate telepathically it seems it would save alot of confusion and effort trying to decifer their language.

Not to mention that they (the aliens) would probably have a much better way of translating than we would.

They are afterall, the more advanced of the two beings trying to communicate correct?

Think this poor guy will be kicking himself for not thinking of that one?


[edit on 17-10-2008 by ashamedamerican]



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 08:17 PM
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In theory telepathic language would have the same patterns, that might sound strange but its about how the mind interprets data.

What we use as words and sounds arent important to the brain, whats important are the semiotics and the significant meanings which are translated by the brain.

Telepathy if it existed would have to have some method of passing between people, if you could register and pick up that frequency with a receiver such a program would probably be able to etermine language pattern from those waves also.

Its all highly theoretical but his concept is based on very sound footing.



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 08:38 PM
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silly doctors and their inventions. we all know there's no such thing as aliens from other planets.


we have videos of objects making sharp turns in space, appearing out of nowhere, etc... when are they going to make a translator for that?

never! because it always ends up being space junk or ice.
so what makes you think a sound is going to be worth anything ?




posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 09:54 PM
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I think it's a good thing that this sort of thing is "okay" to think about now. 10 years ago they'd have him off to the loony bin for even bothering to spend time on this stuff.

In addition 5-10 years ago this would have been reported in a "oh isn't this wacky !?" kind of way. You know the type.

It's okay for people to think and talk about things like this now and that's a good thing.

[edit on 17-10-2008 by Geoff Capes]



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 10:18 PM
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Yeah, I read about this in the paper here in Australia on Thursday. Though the intentions are good, I think he's right off the mark. His theory makes a fatal presumption... That aliens are going to have language similar to ours. I wholeheartedly disagree!

The real work is being done in learning how to communicate with animals first, such as dolphins. Many believe that it's more than likely an alien language will be just as foreign to us as a dogs bark, a cats meow or even a dolphins squeaks, pops and whistles. I tend to agree.

Therefore we should assume that if this guy is on the right track, we should all be able to understand our animals very soon using his technology.

Realistically - Don't hold your breath! Another big waste of a government grant!

IRM


[edit on 17/10/08 by InfaRedMan]



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 10:33 PM
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reply to post by InfaRedMan
 



I was just think the same thing about the dolphins.

Just hope they keep the Babel fish in mind.


Meanwhile, the poor Babel fish, by effectively removing all barriers to communication between different races and cultures, has caused more and bloodier wars than anything else in the history of creation.
Douglas Adams, (1952 - 2001) Author
Hitch-Hikers Guide to the Galaxy



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 10:48 PM
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I doubt an alien language would be too different. Well, it would be very different, but it wouldn't be quite like a dog's bark. That would be too simple. (Not to say it's impossible, but it is kinda unlikely) It would have to be something complicated with a sort of pattern somewhere. A quote from the article....


He believes that even an alien language far removed from any on Earth is likely to have recognizable patterns that could help reveal how intelligent the life forms are.

"Language has to be structured in a certain way otherwise it will be inefficient and unwieldy," he told New Scientist magazine.


[edit on 17-10-2008 by GrayFox]



posted on Oct, 17 2008 @ 11:51 PM
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reply to post by GrayFox
 


Sure GrayFox... I understand what he is trying to achieve but what about context and emotion? Patterns are only one part of a multifaceted puzzle.
 


Originally posted by Pauligirl
Just hope they keep the Babel fish in mind.


LOL! The good old babel fish ehh! I P1$$3d myself laughing when I read your post. The original 'Hitchhikers' is such a classic! Might have to pull them out and watch them this afternoon. I'm all nostalgic now! I feel like quoting Vogon Poetry... but I shan't.




IRM



[edit on 17/10/08 by InfaRedMan]



posted on Oct, 18 2008 @ 02:57 AM
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Yep, you're right about that. That's why this isn't exactly the Universal Translator of Star Trek. It seems like this thing will only help to a certain degree. It's pretty cool though. They have to start somewhere. But what we need now is an actual alien signal. Hopefully soon.



posted on Oct, 18 2008 @ 06:02 AM
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Good find, and fairly interesting. I really think the scientist has gone wrong in marketing / getting word out about this device. I mean - isn't the best way to understand something as complicated as language is to retrace the evolution of it to it's very first step?

For example, all of our languages are created by air passing from our lungs, over our vocal chords and in turn making them vibrate. We then control how this air sounds with again filtering this air with our tongue, teeth and lips. Like someone else mentioned - what if aliens have no vocal chords whatsoever surely that's going to break this system. It's relying on a certain "way" of communicating which hugely limits this system - but then again, how will this ever be tested??? I think it's pretty absurd what this scientist has done - I mean why doesn't he develop this as a translator between different countries first?

How good would it be if you could visit another country, stick a listening device in your ear and a communication device around your neck and be able to communicate with people of different languages. Lazy I agree - but isn't that what most scientific inventions are for, to reduce the amount of things WE have to do and increase our dependence on autonomy.

Anyways S&F because it is an interesting, albeit flawed at the moment, concept. Thanks for the good read!

T



posted on Oct, 19 2008 @ 04:42 PM
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There is no way we will be able to understand alien language straight away! They will have different understandings of life.

Their bodies will function in different ways, and have different characteristics. This guy cleared doesn't have a deep understanding of life, but has his heart in the right place!

They will probably also use what we see as complicated movements and gestures, be it tenticles, arms, legs...



posted on Oct, 19 2008 @ 10:28 PM
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I think that the general concept is sound. I hope that he includes such languages as "Esperanto" into the mix. At the very least it should provide us with a basis for differentiating between Music and language. Although I could see a musical language giving it fits. In some languages, If I remember right, tone is important.

So I could see it as a "OK, their language uses a sentence structure of X"
That will at least give a boost as far as translation purposes.

Of course we could always hope that they've studied and can speak at least one of our languages.



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