Was Uhura a linguist?

Discussion in 'Star Trek - The Original & Animated Series' started by King Daniel Beyond, May 5, 2010.

  1. Timo

    Timo Admiral Admiral

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    Note how in the new movie, Saldana deliberately fumbles the pronunciation of "aural" in this line to the mentor of her character:

    :devil:

    Timo Saloniemi
     
  2. od0_ital

    od0_ital Admiral Admiral

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    Took freakin' long enough, too...

    :guffaw:
     
  3. greenguy

    greenguy Commander Red Shirt

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    There is a huge difference between being a linguist and being a translator. Linguists formally study various elements of language, not necessarily foreign languages and translation. Like many linguists, I am a linguist but not a translator. Most linguists do not even venture into foreign languages unless they are doing comparative/historical linguistics or finding a unifying theme among syntax and phonology.

    From what I can tell, Hoshi Sato is a linguist since she developed the syntactic and phonetic algorithms for the Universal Translator, and apparently neo-Uhura studied xenolinguisitics. But Uhura [prime] didn't do any of this and merely works the Comm system. This doesn't make her a linguist and I have never seen any evidence to suggest that she has any formal linguistics training.
     
  4. Jonas Grumby

    Jonas Grumby Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Yeah, but you waited too long! I lost a bet that it would be within the first ten posts! :lol:

    Anyway, I don't think Uhura was any kind of linguist (there's no evidence for it anywhere in TOS) and I don't think there was any need for her to be. I've never quite understood this argument that if she's not some kind of language savant then she's just a glorified telephone operator. She's a communication specialist, an expert in communications procedures and systems (including the maintenance and repair of same). That's nothing to sneeze at.
     
  5. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    But if all Uhura did was run and repair the space radio, then why did they ever bring her on away missions? Take "City on the Edge of Forever" for example - what use would she be on that team? At all?
    Unless she's a xenolinguist or translator and can translate and decipher any writings found in the ancient ruins.

    (in other news: nuUhura did not blow her way onto the Enterprise!!)
     
  6. Mr. Laser Beam

    Mr. Laser Beam Fleet Admiral Admiral

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    Or maybe she was deliberately trying to sound bad, in order to play the part of a comical smuggler.

    (In the novelization, the reason they can't use the UT is different: Valeris erases all records of the Klingon language from it.)
     
  7. Captain Rob

    Captain Rob Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Darned. I wanted to do it. Had been holding my tongue since the first post.
    I've always wanted to see Prime Uhura announced as she enters the Bridge "Booty on the bridge!" and everyone stands to attention.
     
  8. Jonas Grumby

    Jonas Grumby Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't believe anyone ever specifically said why. Are we speculating? Well, then I could speculate any number of reasons, none of which need have anything to do with her being any kind of linquist.

    There is simply no evidence in TOS of her being any kind of language wizard - and at least one scene in the movies that shows she is not.
     
  9. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Or not such a huge difference. I studied English Language and Literature (which is a foreign language to me) which included studying general linguistics as well as phonetics, morphology, syntax and history of the English language, as well as translation, and a bunch of other things (including comparative analysis). I would say that I am a linguist since I studied a language at the University, and I am or have been a translator since I've worked as a translator. I fail to see how being a translator precludes one from being a linguist, or vice versa.
     
  10. T'Girl

    T'Girl Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I believe in addition to being a communications systems expert, she was also a mid rank general bridge officer. She was on the landing party during "Mirror Mirror." Kirk assigned her to navigation with out a pause and when we first saw her she was dressed in command gold-green so Kirk might have just move her to the comm station from somewhere else.

    Hows that for Fan~Wank~A~Doo.
     
  11. King Daniel Beyond

    King Daniel Beyond Admiral Admiral

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    Ah, so she's a command officer, a navigator, a generic role-unspecified away team member, a singer, a nude dancer...

    ...but not a linguist and/or translator? :lol:

    Revisionist thinking or not, I say TOS Uhura's job (and education) are the same as what STXI, loads of Star Trek novels and Nichelle Nichols herself says.
     
  12. Jonas Grumby

    Jonas Grumby Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Depends on how you define "command officer." As T'Girl pointed out, there is ample onscreen evidence that she is a bridge officer.

    We saw her man the navigator's station.

    *shrug* Landing parties (not "away teams," BTW) are comprised at the Captain's discretion. Kirk tends to prefer his most trusted officers (which includes Uhura) for the most part. Doesn't seem odd to me.

    We saw her sing.

    We saw that onscreen, too. In one of the movies. You know, the movies...where she was also a hopeless klutz at Klingonese?

    No onscreen evidence whatsoever of that.

    Don't get me wrong. You're free to build your own personal backstory for any character you want any way you want to. But novels, actor's inflated opinions of their own characters, or your own personal wishes aside, you can't prove any of it by what's onscreen.
     
  13. Anticitizen

    Anticitizen Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    We've also seen her effecting technical repairs to the communication console, as in, crawling up underneath it with space-pliers.

    I think her job is a technical/sciences one. Not so simple as 'run the radio', to be sure, but there's absolutely zilch about being a linguist, despite what Nichols says. Must I bring up the MLK story that always grew bigger in the retelling?

    I imagine Uhura knew a lot about subspace, information theory, encryption, etc.
     
  14. Delta1

    Delta1 Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    Linguist is military jargon for a member who is paid to maintain proficiency in and, occasionally, use a foreign language. It's not the same thing as an academic linguist. Both were probably present on the Enterprise. Uhura could have been either one, or neither.
     
  15. maryh

    maryh Commander Red Shirt

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    Lots of negativity about TOS Uhura being "just" a radio operator. I would think the perception of what she actually did would have changed since the boom in the communications field. I think of her now as more of the communication systems manager. If the internet is tough to manage now, can you imagine what it could be like a few centuries from now?

    Having worked in the computer field, the systems manager and/or internet manager is not a cakey job. It does require lots of knowledge, intelligence, creativity and resourcefulness. If TOS Uhura wasn't a "linguist" it doesn't mean her job was less important than the NuUhura IMO. Should have gone this route in NuTrek. Uhura should have been more the computer communications expert whereas Spock would have been the number cruncher and hardware computer expert.
     
  16. Anticitizen

    Anticitizen Fleet Captain Fleet Captain

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    ST09, in all its ridiculousness, had Chekov as the guy who gets on the comm system and announces stuff, taking away TOS Uhura's only actual role :-/
     
  17. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    But that was because she looked so unbelievably friggin' hot in that skimpy midriff-baring uniform!
    Yes, I have a bit of a bug up my ass about TOS landing parties being referred to as “away teams,” a phrase first used in TNG. “Landing party” is a nice, traditional naval term. “Away team” sounds like high school football.
     
  18. greenguy

    greenguy Commander Red Shirt

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    I never said that being one precludes being another. Obviously many linguists can perform translation and have proficiency in other languages, and many translators have a basic grasp of IPA and sentence structure and morphology. My main point is to attention to the fact that the terms are often merged and misused: people hear "linguist" and they assume that that person speak four languages, when that is not the reality of the situation or the field. I have seen little evidence that Star Trek has any sort of formal linguistic depth or merit beyond dropping the term "syntax subroutine;" Uhura does not qualify as a linguist to me. My upper-level phonology, language model, and psycholinguistics professors each are brilliant and Ivy-trained and do not speak more than a few words of any other foreign languages.

    You are a translator with basic linguistic training; I am a formal linguist with little to no translation training although I do speak two other languages. I wouldn't call myself a translator because I did not study literature and do any immersion beyond a few months in France. Conversely, I am sorry if you take offense, but I would not call you a professional or even trained linguist, per se, even if you have taken basic linguistics classes, because translation and literature don't have anything to do with formal linguistics or topics and models of language like generative grammar, Optimality Theory, connectionism vs. externalism, or government/binding theory, which are pretty much all you do past the intro classes.
     
  19. DevilEyes

    DevilEyes Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    How does any of this apply to Uhura being or not being a "linguist"? We don't know what the term means in the 23rd century, or exactly what kind of education and training it involves. It seems like you are insisting on one particular 20th/21st century idea of education as primarily providing specialization for everyone in just one narrow vocation. I'm not even sure that this is always really reflective of the present day realities of job market, and I really don't see why it would still be dominant in the Star Trek 23rd century, where people supposedly have a lot more time on their hands, no pressure of finding a paying job, and presumably a lot more opportunities to educate themselves. I don't see why it would be such an incredible idea that someone working in communications might speak the few major languages of the quadrant (such as Klingon) at least to the level that would enable them to communicate should the need arise (universal translators not working, for instance), while also being familiar with linguistic theories that might help while analyzing patterns of completely unfamiliar languages.

    I mean, they have a position called "science officer", for crying out loud! That's quite a broadly defined field of expertise!! :vulcan:
     
  20. Nerys Myk

    Nerys Myk The Real Me Premium Member

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    Did she ever do this in TOS? I dont recall. Seems mostly she flipped the switch that allowed Kirk to make announcements. My recollection is that she operated and repaired the comm systems for the ship. Which is why she wears red and is probably a qualified and highly skilled communications engineer or technician.