It is not often that one can make such grand claims as the one I am about to make without significant reservations, but circumstances being what they are, I do so gladly: this monograph represents the single most important breakthrough in linguistic anthropology since the discipline’s inception over seven centuries ago. Contact-related language barriers are not a new phenomenon in human history—such was the norm in the days before air travel—but there was always the underlying similarity of auditory communication to give explorers a basis on which to learn indigenous languages and develop creoles for trade and government administration.
However, the case of the Ryosh was different: an entirely visual lexical system that had no use for audible sounds. With the unavailability of this common basis on which he had always relied, so too went our ability to analyze Ryosh communication according to our own human syntactic and phonemic paradigms. It would require great ingenuity and adaptability to apply our discipline’s theories and methods to a language that even the word “language” was not itself prepared to anticipate.
These traits are what Korae Hallin and Larisha Eren brought to linguistic anthropology’s greatest task thus far and with it, signalled the end of anthropology’s monopoly on the study of sentient communication. Could “the study of humankind” adequately account for and quantify a universe full of non-human intelligence? And if it could not, what should replace it? Surely, any paradigm, theory or even discipline that cannot predict or explain new evidence must be reexamined and ultimately discarded in place of something that can. In light of what we know now—that we are by no means alone in the universe and that we must adapt to this knowledge or dwindle into obscurity as a species—Hallin and Eren’s research lays a new foundation for this future debate. It is ultimately a debate we must have and survive. Should the future of our discipline share the same enthusiasm and drive as the present researchers, I am confident that we will survive it.
Professor Emeritus, Department of Anthropology