Here are some notes on a general-purpose language for sci-fi games. Obviously, to avoid tedium, translating texts into your real-world language of choice is wise, but it's an interesting thought experiment. What would a truly universal language look like, given a generic medium-soft sci-fi/space opera setting? A setting where all sorts of species exist, not just humans in rubber suits.
I'm not an expert in conlangs. It's a fascinating field, but for RPG purposes, it's mostly background information.
Galactistandard is a constructed language. It was designed to facilitate and standardize communication between vastly different species. Operating on the theory that language shapes thought to some degree, Galactistandard also promotes collaboration, formality, and patience.
Galactistandard consists of 100 characters, including numerals and punctuation. Each character corresponds to:
- A written character (grapheme) capable of being drawn in a 10x10 binary (black-and-white) grid. Light- or pattern-based signalling of Galactistandard can be thought of as an "unrolled" sequence of character grids, with gaps.
- A sound (phoneme) described as a waveform. Since not all species that make sounds can transmit or receive the same frequencies, the character set repeats in harmonic blocks. Radio transmissions of Galactistandard Basic use the same waveforms. Each character has one and only one waveform/sound, and does not modify preceding or following sounds (i.e. it has perfect phonemic orthography.) Humans have to whistle and click some characters, and have significant trouble vocalizing a few others.
- A unique small molecule. This variant is rarely used; few species can both synthesize and survive the required molecules. Releasing a mixture of benzene and peroxide is a Galactistandard distress signal.
- A series of programming hardware operations (a machine code). Most sensible programmers use a higher-level language interpreter that converts readable instructions into base-level Galactistandard code.
Galactistandard has a reference library of several million character strings (words) and grammatical structures. New species are encouraged to study it.
General NotesThe first 10 characters in Galactistandard are, if you follow the formal guide, 2x more common than the next 10, etc. Everyone agrees that you can probably get away with using the first 50 characters if you're willing to put in extra work.
Galactistandard is written linearly, but the direction (left to right, top to bottom) doesn't matter. It is always transmitted in grammatical order.
Names take the form [species] [individual designation] [secondary designation (if known or relevant)] [title(s)].
Galactistandard does not include gendered pronouns for obvious reasons. Formal Galactistandard requires all nouns to be declared in a sentence, but allows for individual, individual-abstract, collective-group, collective-abstract, and collective-hive/species pronouns. Most of the time, translating 3rd person Galactistandard pronouns as "they" works perfectly.
Nouns, verbs, etc. are usually followed by modifiers, adjectives, adverbs, etc.
Punctuation is extremely basic. Tone is indicated by a sentence prefix (Request, Question, Declaration, etc.) which can be modified (Request Polite, Question Imperative, etc.). End-of-statement characters are present and usually vocalized, to prevent interruptions. Sarcasm, a concept not easily translated to all species, has its own prefix, but informal Galactistandard also uses "sway from side to side while speaking" or "change harmonic tone" to indicate humour or sarcasm... sometimes with limited success.
Galactistandard does not include terms for colours (as photon perception varies enormously). Wavelengths (e.g. 600nm for orange, 510nm for turquoise) or invented words are sometimes used.
Galactistandard uses a base 10 numeral system (conveniently for humans) and has a series of units and related quantities similar to the SI system, but based entirely on universal values such as the speed of light and the Planck constant. It also has a timekeeping system. A Galactistandard "Week" is, coincidentally, close enough to an standard Earth hour.
Galactistandard also specifies details such as connector size, voltage, cable diameter, etc. for universal applications. In theory, if a species uses Galactistandard blueprints, the base level of their technology will be widely compatible. If machine-code operations are compatible, programs running on one system can be used on another. In practice, no species is perfect. Security concerns keep most critical systems proprietary. Prestige manufacturers also use proprietary designs, which can lead to serious maintenance issues. "One third of every ship is adapters" is a common phrase.
Informal GalactistandardOnly a handful of species (including the Kahl Velt) and some AI use pure Galactistandard for all interactions.
Dialects, slang, new words, abridgements, and adaptations are incredibly common. Every species has an accent. Every species has information they would like to communicate that Galactistandard cannot easily convey.
Both vocal music and poetry are difficult to convey in Galactistandard. Several workarounds, including melismas, are used.
- Formal: "Request: Speaker to Parthscob Milwinga Engineer, give wrench 9.8mm crescent to speaker."
- Informal: "Request: Speaker to Milwinga, give wrench to speaker."
- Very Informal: "Wrench" (accompanied by an extended limb retracting towards the speaker).
- Formal: "Question Imperative: Speaker to Human Andrew Maxwell Diplomat, time until detonation of tanks storage antimatter on station Ryza."
- Informal: "Question Imperative: Andrew, time until detonation."
- Very Informal: "Question: time until detonation."
- Formal: "Statement Sarcasm: Speaker to all present, Star-Empire of Horms consists of two worlds in one system."
- Very Informal: "...the Star-Empire of Horms..." (accompanied by swaying side to side).