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Language as Story Prompt

Do words have arcs the same way characters in stories do?

Can you turn a mystery on a shibboleth?

What if language was a weapon? A way to hold secrets or contain code?

How does control of language enable colonialism and conquest?

What does it mean to be suspicious of a language?

Can you write a story without any metaphor or simile? What does this do to your ability to translate your senses and experience? Can you do the opposite, and write a story where everything means something else?

When communication is instantly accessible and constantly talking, how do we clear a space for our own inner dialogue and discovery?

Think about all the episodes of SF shows where the robot or alien is defeated by a flaw in logical thinking…how does this relate to language?

This month, language as story was a recurring theme in my internet travels. Here’s some of what I found:

I read Babel-17 by Samuel Delany. This plot revolves around a galactic war being fought by somewhat faceless entities, one side of which has developed a language that allows them to control people and see ways of doing things in a super-fast manner.

Roxana Quispe Collantes wrote and defended her thesis in Quechua, the first time that’s been done in the university’s almost 500-year history.

Peru is retraining their government employees to register Indigenous names.

“Phallcha is a sacred flower which grows in our hills and Wilkanina is the holder of the sacred fire,” she explains. A name like that “gives you power, a way to look at life”, she said.

On the Guardian’s Books Podcast, they interview two poets from a new collection titled, Poems from the Edge of Extinction. Two of the poets read in English, and in a language in danger of expiring.

“Poetry does not come from language, but rather from the unsayable…the untranslatable that we always fail to translate, and to say. It only, then, makes sense for me that I’m trying to say it in a language, in any language, in which I know I would fail ultimately, because it’s so imperfect.” – Valzhyna Mort

“People always say, when you learn another language, you learn a new way of thinking.” – Sian Cain

“Learning language is facing the past.” – Valzhyna Mort


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