Thirty Thousand

by Marco Smith ©2017

“Mamma mia!”

Franco, on the fifth floor of the linguistics building, was talking to himself. The abstract concept most people referred to as ‘time’ had once again ticked around to 3am and Doctor Lingo, as his colleagues had christened him, was always alone when he worked so late. He was obsessed with his work. He lived and breathed it. Even when not technically at work his mind would be working on the problems renting space in his cerebrum. He was the foremost professor of linguistic science in the world and just a moment ago he had a moment of pure clarity. For years Franco, along with the rest of the human race, had dreamt of understanding what it was that the other beings sharing our planet talked about. More specifically, dolphins. It had long been common knowledge that dolphins talked to each other using a series of clicks. The problem was that nobody had succeeded in translating their language…until 2:58 this very morning.

Effervescent with excitement, Franco had to tell someone! He grabbed his phone to call his partner who had rather sensibly left the office over eight hours ago. Steven would almost certainly be asleep at this ungodly hour but Franco dialled the number regardless. The heralding of this quantum leap forward was surely a sufficient excuse to prod the sleeping bear.

“Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Brrrrrrrr……Hi, you’re through to the voicemail of Professor Steven Bur…”

Doctor Lingo hung up. Evidently the bear was sleeping too soundly. Undeterred, Franco flipped open his laptop and began in earnest to pen an email to Steven. An email that would surely be marked in the annals of history.

To: Prof. S. Burton
From: Me
Subject: Don’t choke on your breakfast!

Hi Steve,

I have had the most eventful night since that night we don’t speak of. I don’t want to be too presumptuous but I think I’ve done it. I need you to look over my results, get here as soon as you can my friend.

I was reading an old book about language and the term ‘Pasigraphy’ popped off the page. It’s the principal of a universal language using symbolism to confer meaning instead of words. I had a eureka moment. It suddenly occurred to me that dolphins were not using words at all. I started thinking along the lines that maybe, just maybe, they use a dolphin sonar WiFi system to send each other symbolic gestures directly into the visual cortex. After all they use sonar to build a picture of their surroundings by reading their own echo, so it’s not beyond possible for them to send a definitive ‘echo’ to the whole pod or directly focus it to another individual.

I fed the data from recorded transmissions into an image processor instead of into the language processor we have been using. The output was just garbage at first, but with a few adjustments to the syntax, the software started to make real progress. A relatively short time later and there it was, the first sonogram translated from a dolphin call filled the screen in exquisite detail. It was impeccably precise in every dimension with a superb fidelity of resolution. My conclusion therefore is that dolphins indeed have an extensive vocabulary. Analysis of the sonogram library was done by the computer which has extrapolated fifteen symbols for verbs. The rest of the language it has approximated to be a very large number, perhaps as high as thirty thousand symbols, all of which the computer has individually classified but assigned to one single group definition. It reads as follows:


–noun, plural (especially collectively)

  1. any of various cold-blooded, aquatic vertebrates, having gills,
    commonly fins, and typically an elongated body covered with scales.

Franco Lingo
Professor of Linguistic Science


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