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Describing Morphosyntax

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In Uhura's first year at the Academy, she wrote a paper on Adhine, a minority language of Vulcan. The speakers lived in a remote mountain range, much as their ancestors probably had done for centuries, and their language was an isolate, with no known relatives.

Only one linguist had done field work on Adhine, and his notes had never been translated from the Vulcan. His detail was tireless, and his cultural chauvinism palpable — the veil through which the urbanite and space-farer sees the rural farmer. She spent late nights on the top floor of the reference library studying his work, late not because she had to, but because she didn't want to leave. City lights fell from the tall windows across her table, and she heard these people speak:

 

And the summer crops will not survive if the soil is not sandy enough.

If you put the keystone just here, sister, the door will face east.

There are still places where, if one listens, one can hear it.

 

The Vulcan linguist recorded these to exemplify conditional formation, and yes, they did that. And they took her to another world — a world within a world, one that few Vulcans had seen. A few hundred wind-toughened farmers, doing what they had always done, and quietly ensuring that their doors faced east.

It was never known exactly how many under-documented languages were spoken on Vulcan. Descriptive linguistics was a marginal field for them, even more so than on Earth. But certainly they were there: In rugged terrain that was not worth terraforming, in mountains, on dry tundra. Vulcan people lived there, and kept their old words, and more often than not, no one ever came to write them down.