Xenolinguistics brings together biologists, anthropologists, linguists, and other experts specializing in language and communication to explore what non-human, non-Earthbound language might look like. The 18 chapters examine what is known about human language and animal communication systems to provide reasonable hypotheses about what we may find if we encounter non-Earth intelligence.

Showcasing an interdisciplinary dialogue between a set of highly established scholars, this volume:

  • Clarifies what is and is not known about human language and animal communication systems
  • Presents speculative arguments as a philosophical exercise to help define the boundaries of what our current science can tell us about non-speculative areas of investigation
  • Provides readers with a clearer sense of how our knowledge about language is better informed through a cross-disciplinary investigation
  • Offers a better understanding of future avenues of research on language

This rich interdisciplinary collection, with chapter authors including Noam Chomsky, Derek Ball, Denise Herzing, and Irene Pepperberg, will be of interest to researchers and students studying non-human communication, astrobiology, and language invention.

chapter 1|2 pages

Goals of the Volume

chapter 2|12 pages

Many Ways to Say Things

What the Diversity of Animal Communication on Earth Can Tell Us About the Likely Nature of Alien Language

chapter 4|6 pages

Getting out of our skin

What Decoding Interspecies Communication and Nonhuman Intelligence Can Tell Us About Deciphering Alien Languages

chapter 5|12 pages

Communicative Resources beyond the Verbal tier

A View on Xenolinguistics From Interactional Linguistics

chapter 8|13 pages

Interstellar Competence

Applications of Linguistics and Communicative and Cultural Competencies to Extraterrestrial Communication

chapter 10|14 pages

Xenolinguistic Fieldwork

chapter 12|15 pages

A Linguistic Perspective on the Drake Equation

Knowns and Unknowns for Human Languages and Extraterrestrial Communication

chapter 13|14 pages

Cognition, Sensory Input, and Linguistics

A Possible Language for Blind Aliens

chapter 14|13 pages

The Design Features of Extraterrestrial Language

A Domain-General Approach

chapter 16|12 pages

Where does Universal Grammar Fit in the Universe?

Human Cognition and the Strong Minimalist Thesis

chapter 18|16 pages

Writing Systems and METI

Off-the-Shelf Encoding of Human Physiology, Language, Cognition, and Culture