Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id FAA21631 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Thu, 2 May 2002 05:19:57 +0100 Date: Wed, 01 May 2002 20:52:08 -0700 From: "Douglas P. Wilson" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: the New Athens Aircraft company To: email@example.com Cc: Robert Neville <firstname.lastname@example.org> Message-id: <email@example.com> X-MIMEOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.00.3018.1300 X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.3018.1300 Content-type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1 Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT X-Priority: 3 X-MSMail-priority: Normal References: <A08A3A42-5D22-11D6-8656-003065A0F24C@harvard.edu> Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
> Try using ancient Greek to tell someone how to build
> a 747 or a computer.
Pick any airplane component. The Greeks had a word for it. Well,
alright, maybe that's not exactly true for compressor blades or microchips,
but any ancient Greek sophist worth his salt could coin morphologically
transparent words for these things in a matter of seconds.
Let the science fiction fans among us imagine that a time travelling alien
culture grabs a bunch of Athenians from the time of Aristotle and places
them on a nice earth-like planet.
Suppose they also find a few 21st century Oxford-educated Classics wranglers
who got graduate or second undergraduate degrees from MIT, in a variety of
engineering and other disciplines, and sent them along to New Athens also,
with instructions to establish a fine university with a good engineering
faculty --specifying that no word of English or any other language but Attic
Greek is to be spoken at that university.
Wait a generation or two, and they would have computers, jet aircraft, and
probably technological wonders we can only fantasise about (see
http://www.TechnologicalFantasies.org if you're the kind of person who
fantasises about such things).
This would involve extending the Attic vocabulary in the same way the
Vatican has extended the vocabulary of Latin for modern use, but that would
not change the basic fact (linguistics dogma, really, but I do suppose it to
be a fact) that any natural language is just as good as any other for any
PS. I'd really like to try this experiment, so if any of you invent time
travel, please sign me up. I know only the most microscopic amount of
Greek, but I presume an "Attic Immersion School" will be established in 4th
century Athens almost immediately, and I'd most eagerly enrol in it.
If anyone with literary talents might be interested in actually writing that
SF story, please do, I'd love to read it, and would also like to put it up
on the Technological Fantasies website, with your permission. -- dpw
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