What I want this system for:

  • Language wouldn't be 'the one cool thing' only intelligent creatures have and all cultures would be as far/as close from understanding each other as from understanding wild animals.

  • You wouldn't trust anybody you can't see.

  • You wouldn't believe somebody who doesn't use body language as well, because they might be speaking literally a completely different language.

  • Hunter and prey would lure or distract each other by speaking. They could randomly shout words at each other to check if or how the other species' culture uses them.
  • Think of all the intercultural word plays. There would be so many fun games based on language.

How my ideal 'word' behaves in a language:

  • It should have a clear start and a clear ending.
  • In each language, a word should have a reasonable amount of meaning on its own without context.
  • Pronunciation of a word shouldn't change its meaning in a sentence.
  • The overall 'meanings' in each language should be evenly distributed over as many words as possible. (If one culture or species would rely on a word like 'run' to describe every second activity they do, a lot of fun would be lost)

My Approach:

It's highly unlikely that physically completely different creatures would produce similarly sounding noises with similar strength. That's why I'd give them a pair of really, really bad ears that only hear a certain frequency. The species could only check if there is input or if there is no input with them - 'binary ears'. I thought, they might all have somewhat the same rythm of breathing. Their noise producing organ has time to make nine or ten 'noise units', before they have to breathe again. This would be the 'official length' of every word. Multiple sources of noise would be detected and differentiated by an additional sonar system... that's about it

The Problems:

The creatures have no reason not to breathe inbetween words, combine small enough words that both have empty 'noise-units' at the end within one breath or even completely wreck the system by not using audio-dependant languages at all.

Do you know any important factors I'm missing that could completely avoid or help solving the problems I'm left with?

A link to some article about multiple severly different species from earth using the same medium for language with shared expressions would help a lot.

Hope my english wasn't too bad. Thanks for your time.

  • 3
    $\begingroup$ A totalitarian regime on words and grammar. Love the concept, wish it applied to reality. Unfortunately, there's no way no actually enforce this, and since there's an incentive towards using a language your opponent / prey / enemy isn't using - yeah, this isn't practical. Also, non-intelligent creatures can't understand language, the ability to speak it wouldn't help them at all. Don't believe Disney propaganda. $\endgroup$
    – Halfthawed
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 14:43
  • $\begingroup$ Halfthawed is correct, but I'd add that; if you do go down MCU/Disney route, you can have some fun with languages like that of Groot. Groot can only speak three words "I", "Am" and "Groot"; so here; you have a language that is predominantly based from inflection (tone/spacing/pitch) and body language to covey concepts; which to the Average Joe (like Peter Quill) makes no sense, but it is canonically accurate that there are ways to understand the language (Rocket and Thor can...) $\endgroup$
    – Raisus
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 14:56
  • $\begingroup$ "a pair of really, really bad ears that only hear a certain frequency" - that's very tough from evolutionary standpoint. $\endgroup$
    – Alexander
    Commented Oct 23, 2019 at 17:20
  • $\begingroup$ @Raisus I meant a different kind of 'fun'. The fun where it's completely dark and you orient yourself by listening to animals speaking with each other. You'd have to decipher what they are saying to find water, food, routes, a way to survive. You wouldn't just have to recognize different species, but also their cultures and sometimes even single creatures within them, because they all use different languages. The most interesting part is, that you can't differentiate voices, tone spacing, pitch and body language. It's just code. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 24, 2019 at 8:40
  • $\begingroup$ @Alexander - It's no more difficult than simple light sensors for eyes. Evolution tends to survival of the species however it is not magically endowed to perfect every system. Some genes simply cannot mutate due to the DNA's natural repair mechanisms (think Homeobox genes). A mutation there is repaired in the next generation. This is why pentadactyly is so pervasive, even though polydactyl arctic hares are born routinely, and have an evolutionary advantage in the snow. 5 toes always returns next generation. $\endgroup$
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 0:57

1 Answer 1


When I read this description the first image that comes to mind is Pikmin who have only a few programmed sounds and each species has a slightly different tone, but the same sound. They can all communicate with each-other even though the voices are slightly different. Also, when Ollie wistles for them they all understand they have to gather around, however they have to be able to "see" you (which you specified). This correlates well with your desire to be able to "trick" them with a simple sound. Pikmin will respond to any whistle even if you are going to sacrifice them!


I personally recommend NOT giving them a voice box, and use their body for language like insects. Crickets and cicada have only a few specialized sounds they can make using legs or wings or other specially adapted organs. The reason you should not give them voices is because this is too easy to articulate into new words. If you had to rub your legs to say anything, it requires much more work and the language will naturally evolve to conserve energy. They will have few words which hold great meaning.

It would seem that to convey complex subjects the language will need to be very iterative. Repeating a word several times or alternating words will form new meanings. Although I am not sure you want this, it seemed like you did NOT want the ability to form new combining words.

Again, the best way to limit the vocabulary is to make communication a very high energy exercise. Every word costs calories, this will make the language naturally very concise.

Giving them very limited hearing is a great idea. Many animals - specifically among arthropods - cannot hear. Several have adapted ways to "feel vibrations" but being deaf is a natural consequence of their body design.

  • $\begingroup$ thanks for digging me out. Because I wanted them to use sonar, like whales or bats, I was stuck with the idea that they would have to use something like a voice. I didn't think about the fact that whales and bats barely have anything else to make noise. $\endgroup$ Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 15:46

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