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https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

Finally played Dialect! (A game about language and how it dies.)

A few months ago, I finally got to play Dialect! (https://thornygames.com/pages/dialect) I had to wait a few years but it was so worth it. :D

So, first we had to choose a starting scenario. There were plenty to choose from. My friends and I choose to play The Red Planet. We are a group of scientists and architects (etc) who set out ahead of the planned colonies to get things set up. Only, something goes wrong. And we end up with with no way to get home or even communicate that we're still alive. But it's cool. We've got supplies to last us until the colony ships arrive. Time goes by, we get things set up and then... the colony ships don't arrive. As we find ways to sustain ourselves our language begins to diverge....

So, one of the cool things about this game is that periods of time are marked by a prevailing attitude or position. These things influence how we see ourselves, each others, and anyone else that we might discover. When we first arrived, this time period was characterized by optimism. Other times that arrived in the future were marked by suspicion, despair, nationalism, pluralism, and so on. (It can turn out differently each time the scenario is played, so, these aren't major spoilers or anything.) These epocs can impact the language people use to communicate.

As for my crew, we developed a fixation on, of all things, coffee beans. It could have been anything. However, coffee beans were one of the things we were unable to grow on mars. So, at first we rationed them, then we traded them, then they became currency that people didn't consume. As time stretched forward, coffee further became a colloquial connotation of "good".

As we only played for a few hours, the differences between our dialect and Earth A. English were mostly only noticeable in the use of metaphors. If we had played longer, the game introduces increasing opportunities for language to diverge.

Here are some of the game cards our session produced:

"Decaf" was used to describe things that were stupid "That joke is so decaf"; the state of death "Yeah, he's decaf. We weren't able to resuscitate him"; and the act of quitting something. "I decaffed that team 2 days ago."
My character only ever drank decaf. I made the mistake of offering a cup to the captain and forever cemented it's linguistic fate.

"French Roast" became another way of saying categorizing "the good stuff". If something was awesome, or considered one of the finer things in life on Mars, it was "French Roast". It also became a way of expressing the truthfulness of something. "It's French Roast, I swear."

"Coffee Break" became a general word for a celebration. "It's Jed's 12th Birthday. You coming down for the coffee break?"

"Barista", of course, became a sign of respect. "Saya's a real barista. Best zero-G mechanic on the crew!"

"Beans", short for "coffee beans" went from something nice to drink, to currency, within the span of 2 years. For a long while, the beans themselves were the currency and a nickname for tradeable goods. But, over time as the structure of the beans broke down, etc. a new currency was introduced. It's official designation was "Bean(s)".

The connection between references to coffee and anything treasured became so entrenched that babies eventually became affectionately called bean sprouts and further down the timeline, those good things we give to the future became known as "Sprouts". Sprouts referred to our children, languages, traditions, cultural values, etc.)

Image description: photo of some of the hand-written word cards we created, mentioned above.
Click for larger image

Have any of you played Dialect? If so, what scenario did you pick, how long did you play, and how did the language diverge?

November 4, 2019

23 Comments


https://www.duolingo.com/profile/ARCANA-MVSA

You have won my curiosity. I'll see if I can't try this thing out myself, now.

Thanks for this post. I didn't know that such a thing existed, but now that I do, I'm trying it! :D

Volgav vitsenanieff nivya kevach varatsach.

November 4, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

@ARCANA-MVSA, right? I was excited to find games that piqued my linguistic interests. Thorny Games has a few, including one Im super eager to try based on sign languages. It might just be called Sign, even.

Two other language-related games I enjoy that are through different companies are Bananagrams and Code Names. In fact, the first time I played Code Names I was at Duo HQ. It was a blast. I recommend at least 8 players. Though, it can be played with 4.

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SarahPalme266671

Merci for the Nombres and the names of the games.

November 6, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Little_Tatws

I need to play this game now!

November 4, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

You doooo!

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/zyxwvutsrqpo

But I thought beans gave bunnies digestion problems :O

November 4, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

Lol! xD

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Marie_Wolf

That looks like such a good game! Thanks for sharing :D

November 4, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/E.T.Gregor

Had never heard of this game, but I absolutely need to try it. I also know just the friend to play it with.

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

@E.T.Gregor, sweet! If you can, get a group together. It's an rpg style game. (Though, I don't recall the intense character sheets and rolling dice. I wasnt the GM though. So, it's possible that different campaigns off different options for approach. :)

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LaRanaPrincipe

You're so decaf. I'm the French roast at this coffee break.

November 7, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

YEEEEES! x'D

November 8, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Taylor__Beck

What language is dying in this scenario?

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

@Taylor__Beck,

I typed up a reply last night on my phone and it looks like it didn't arrive. :(

When any language begins to die is a bigger question than I can give a definitive answer for. And I dont know if Thorny Games offers parameters for that either.

I read a thing many years ago, asking people to consider when the boat they left shore with was no longer that same boat when arriving home. One board breaks and is replaced. Is it still the same boat? If not, then is it the same boat after the final original board has been replaced? And if Yes to it being a different boat after the first board is replaced, then what about after the first grain of wood is dislodged by a food and replaced by a falling grain of sand?

I only played Dialect for a couple of hours. During that time, it gave us language adjustment prompts. By comparison, the Victorian gothic horror rpg im playing with a group of friends had its 1 year anniversary on Sunday. If we'd played Dialect for an entire year, who knows where we'd be language-wise in that game.

In sum, you've asked a question that linguists have likely had many discussions and debates over, and I dont have an answer for it.

Thanks for commenting! :)

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/DJrossonwye

Hi, Uagiboy, "Is it the same boat?"

In the U.K. we have the phrase "like Trigger's brush" for that sort of thing. It comes from the comedy series "Only fools and horses". (Watch them all if you get a chance - very funny)

Trigger, a street-sweeper, says something like "I've had this same brush for thirty years...It's had seventeen new heads and five new handles" ;)

November 6, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/LearnThatNish24

I can't click the link because my ISP says the site is porn, but it sounds like an interesting game!

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Usagiboy7

@LearnThatNish24, I just clicked it and it took me to the intended site. I'll edit the post to reveal the full link. If your computer is trying to take you to strange places, it might have a virus. If you have a scan-detection program, it might be good to run it. The good news is though, that you can find the game through Google. The game company is called Thorny Games. The game itself is called Dialect. :)

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/cfriesicke

The word "thornygames" contains the substring "horny". I don't know which ISP would use such a simple (aka stupid) heuristic but I remember back when I was in high school (end-of-1990s ~ 2000) we had proxy servers filtering "sex" in the school's computer lab. You wouldn't be able to surf to a website having "physicsexperiments" in the URL, since that also contains the substring "sex"...

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/HyaSky

This thread reminds me of Zenon: Girl of the 21st Century - Vega omega, that class 5 solar flare was lunarious major! I'll give the game a try and see what happens. Enjoy the coffee break of your new dialect!

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/lasian1

Ooh, that sounds interesting!

November 5, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Frogloch14

This looks like such a fun game especially for people that are just fascinated with language in general. I'll have to check it out!

November 6, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/SarahPalme266671

love this post.Going on right now you have sparked my interest.

November 6, 2019

https://www.duolingo.com/profile/Aileme

For those learning German:

I just found an article about how language developed differently in Eastern Germany and Western Germany:
https://www.faz.net/aktuell/politik/geschichte/echter-bohnenkaffee-in-der-ddr-sprach-man-anders-16476042.html

Coffee is important...

November 9, 2019, 10:04 PM
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