Jean Lorrah:

Gens master adult-Sime mode perfectly well. "Here" and "there" are not precise terms and do not rely on field gradients. Gens can also see where Simes are, and if they grew up around Simes are completely accustomed to keeping in mind where in his cycle each Sime is, etc.

I am so tired of this Sime supremacy argument. You can only believe it if you believe that a person blind or deaf or tone-deaf or color-blind from birth cannot master English or any other language. If you believe that is not true, then you must also believe the "Gens can never master Simelan" argument is equally untrue

Mary Lou Mendum:

Thank you, Jean, for pointing out that Simelan referents to field gradients would be perfectly understandable to native Gen speakers, at least to the same extent that most Simes would use them.

Field gradient referents would be useless when the objects being referred to had no fields--in other words, weren't adult Simes or Gens. They would be useless when the fields were changing rapidly--when the adults in question were moving around the room. They would even be useless to most Simes when the ambient nager was muddled because there were too many people moving around in the room to get a stable reading, like at a party or other gathering.

So that leaves the much-vaunted field gradient referents useful only when interactions between up to four or so adults are being described. Or in a classroom situation, where people remain seated for long periods of time. But in a classroom or banquet, the only important nagers which could serve as referents would be the teacher/speaker's, and perhaps that of one's closest neighbors.

Any Gen who grew up speaking Simelan could and would learn to estimate the proper field gradient referents in these situations, with at least as much accuracy as they would be used by a renSime in normal conversation. A channel might use more precision due to greater sensitivity, but that same difference would be seen between channels and renSimes. And channels aren't a big enough majority to influence daily conversational Simelan.

The people who wouldn't be able to use the field referents properly would be immigrants from out-Territory, both Sime and Gen, because they aren't used to thinking in terms of the fields. But the mistakes such people would make would be in using the field gradient referents in situations where a native speaker would use non-nageric referents, and vice versa.

I read a very enlightening book review not long ago (I can't remember if it was in the newspaper or in one of the back issues of SCIENCE I skimmed through when I was sick last weekend). It was an interview with a military historian who was just finishing a book on Custer's last stand. It focused on the reason why Custer didn't believe his Native American scouts when they reported seeing a large herd of horses.

Historians have assumed that Custer was just being stupid, but this author had actually visited the battlefield. Coincidentally, his group had passed a large herd of horses on their way to the hill in question. The horses were out in plain sight, but they couldn't be spotted even with modern binoculars.

What this historian concluded is that the scouts, with their long experience in the area, were able to correctly interpret the waving grasses as a herd of horses, while Custer thought it was the wind. It was a cultural difference in interpreting the same sensory data. When added to Custer's cultural contempt for Native Americans, it resulted in disaster.

Out-Territory raised Simes would have difficulty interpreting which field gradients were significant and which weren't, and thus their ability to zlin wouldn't help them much in speaking proper Simelan.

In-Territory Gens would use nageric referents at least as well as most renSimes, because in the situations where they are appropriate the field situation would be simple enough to calculate.

Much as the blind sibling of one of Custer's scouts would have heard him describing the moving grass and immediately known that there was a humongus herd of ponies thataway, because there wasn't any wind.

Jean Lorrah:

Thank you, Mary Lou! I do not know why this fight has to be refought on the average of once every three months, but it does. It appears to take about that long for the Sime Supremacists to forget the many, many logical explanations as to why in-T (earlier Householding) Gens master Simelan, and bring out the same old tired claims that only Simes "really" understand the language.

I could argue that Simes are the ones who never actually master Simelan. Gens who are accustomed to living among Simes use their nagers to express subtle nuances, to supplement vocal inflection and body language. Channels share this ability with all Gens. RenSimes don't.

Mary Lou Mendum:

Sorry, Jacqueline, I'm not going to buy that. It takes time to perceive something, process and correctly interpret that data, and then respond verbally. If the situation has changed during that time, then you can't use that referent accurately, because the person you're talking to won't know exactly WHEN your data was taken--and even if you tell them, it won't help if that person didn't happen to memorize what the surrounding fields were precisely 3.6 seconds ago.

Say a Sime is at a party, and wants to impart some particularly juicy gossip to a fellow Sime. She zlins the surrounding fields carefully, and says, "My next door neighbor is sleeping with the Sime halfway between us and the highest-field Gen."

Her friend eagerly zlins to spot the culprit, but in the intervening few seconds, the particular Gen she was referring to heads for the refreshment table, as Gens frequently do. Now a completely different Sime is halfway between that Gen and the gossip mongers. Or the Gen ducks out to the bathroom, and the highest field Gen is now on the other side of the room. Or the Sime who's having the affair is greeted by a Sime acquaintance, and in the process, the first Sime takes two steps to the side, leaving the acquaintance halfway between the gossip mongers and the highfield Gen.

A landmark or referent is ONLY useful if it stays put long enough for the people talking to agree on its location, and then use it to communicate the location of something else. Referents that last less than five minutes aren't generally useful in casual conversation.

That has nothing to do with the way you parse reality, and everything to do with the function of a referent. An object that won't cut anything doesn't serve the function of a knife, and no alternate parsing of reality can change that.

Mary Lou Mendum:

This is a textbook example of the basic mistake underlying Sime arrogance, which will always cause the Sime in question to fatally underestimate Gen abilities, linguistic and otherwise. It's why Gens have so little trouble twisting Simes around their little fingers.

You are confusing the PERCEPTION of information with the RESPONSE to that information.

Just an Ancients have little trouble perceiving the mood of a crowd through visual and oral cues, Gens would know the "ambient nager" of the room at least as well. In fact, the Gen would have it easier then Ancients, because the Simes surrounding him would be more under the influence of the "average" emotion in the crowd, and Simes don't generally know how to hide what they are communicating through their facial expressions and body language.

However, Simes have this weird idea that you can't know a person is angry unless you actually experience his or her anger by zlinning it. So if a Sime zlins a Gen standing next to an angry person, and the Gen isn't angry herself and happens to be a nondonor whose field doesn't respond much to the ambient nager, the Sime will conclude that that Gen doesn't know that the person standing next to her is angry. Nothing could be further from the truth.


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