“These are some very, through, observations you have taken of the humans’ language patterns,” First Sister said as she examined the data. “But I fail to comprehend the exact nature of your current research proposal.”
Twenty-seventh Cousin flicked her antenna in agreement the figure on the holo-display. She was all too aware how confusing the mass of data was.
“As you are well aware First Sister,” she said. “All known languages have two delineated meanings for each individual idea nodule.”
“At least two,” First Sister agreed.
“For humanity this manifests as the connotation or denotation of words,” Twenty-seventh Cousin went on, warming to her subject. “Each word has the assigned technical meaning, or the denotation, which can be expressed shortly and in writing, and a range of positive and negative associations which require a far greater range of expression to convey.”
First Sister spread her antenna in a request for an example.
“Devour and scarf, for instance, have identical denotation at the current point in time,” Twenty-seventh Cousin said. “They converged due to language drift fairly recently. They share the mildly negative connotation of being related to animalistic behavior, however the emotial resonance of devour is frightening and negative while the emotial resonance of scarf is humors and positive.”
First Sister flashed her neck frill in pleased acceptance of the explanation.
“That pair are fairly well understood,” Twenty-seventh Cousin went on, “but there is more study to be done in this area. I believe I have found a similarly matched set, but this one a complex phrase, where the denotations are identical, and the connotations are vastly different.”
“The far negative reaction being the one you are concerned about the Core University Institutional Review Board rejecting the study for,” First Sister said, one antenna bobbing slowly in understanding.
Twenty-seventh Cousin flared her frill in relief and confirmation.
“And you want me to aid you in formulating the study so it isn’t rejected,” First Sister went on thoughtfully.
Twenty-seventh Cousin tried to keep her antenna from twitching in excited anticipation like a newly emerged.
“I am afraid I can’t,” First Sister said with a very disappointed droop of her frill.
Twenty-seventh Cousin tried not to twitch in irritation. She well knew the first of her hive, and First Sister had no intention of disappointing her younger hivemate. However there was some mischief twitching at the end of her mandibles and Twenty-seventh Cousin knew better than to attempt to force the issue.
“I am disappointed,” she said tonelessly, playing along. “What am I to do?”
“Well,” First Sister brushed back her antenna dramatically. “The duties of a newly mated are so many but I suppose-“
“The duties of a what?” Twenty-seventh Cousin’s frill snapped out to full and washed green with blood flow, her antenna positively danced and she even lost professional control of her voice, letting it shoot out of the common range into the native trill of her species.
First Sister clicked in mock surprise and flicked her mandibles to the side like an old matron.
“Weren’t you told dear one?” She asked in a calm and professional tone.
Only the rapid fluttering of her frill behind her neck gave her excitement away.
Twenty-seventh Cousin laid her antenna back in an emphatic negative.
“Well,” First Sister shook herself and gestured off screen. “As I was saying, I cannot attend to this at the moment but Second Brother here.”
An absolutely gorgeous male stepped into frame with her. He was a smooth, creamy green all over with a brilliant red semi-frill around his neck coming to a point just over his thorax. His antenna were long and amazingly flexible, coming nearly to First Sister’s neck when alert with interest. His eyes were the color of amber, with facets so well defined that the Crystals of the Mother would have wept for envy. They were wide set as well. A human might have splayed out their hand full width to pat his head and not touched either eye with pinky or thumb. His mandibles positively gleamed with health when they moved. Which they were doing now.
Twenty-seventh Cousin started up and laid her antenna back in shame.
“Forgive me,” she said hurriedly. “I didn’t hear that. I was somewhat … surprised by the sudden-“
“So we saw,” First Sister said in a smug tone. “What my dear Second Brother was saying was that he would be glad to come personally and assist you with your study. He is a very proficient linguist and specializes in human, oh what is that strange organ term they use?”
“Tongues,” Second Brother offered with a shy flick of his supple antenna.
Twenty-seventh Cousin didn’t know if a frill could actually burst from pride but First Sister looked to be in severe danger of it.
“I would be glad to have his assistance,” Twenty-seventh Sister said with full sincerity.
Antenna paralyzing beauty aside, a University trained linguist would be just what she needed.
“But how can you spare him?” she asked.
“Given the cycle we won’t be stringing any lines in the garden for some time,” First Sister said with a dismissive flick of her antenna.
Second Brother ducked his head in embarrassment at the blunt statement, but his antenna were twitching with delight. First Sister nudged him pointedly with a foot joint.
“I really do think the time would be better spent getting to know the rest of the hive,” he said softly, “before I have too much responsibility to wander.”
Great Mother he has a voice like wind-chimes. Twenty-Seventh Cousin thought.
“That would be ideal,” she said.
She forcibly refocused her attention away from her new cousin and indicated the data. He leaned forward eagerly and read through it. He soon clicked in understanding.
“You will most likely want someone non-threatening to ask the questions,” he said. “I can do that.”
She clicked gratefully.
“That would be wonderful,” she said. “For some reason all the humans on this base are nervous around me.”
“Curious,” Second Brother said without taking his attention off of the data. “You have such a charming mandible set.”
“Be that as it may,” she replied. “I think you are will be a far better non-threatening questioner.”
“So the concept is,” he said as he finished the data, “is that I am to come up to individual humans while they are isolated, ask them one of two nearly identical questions, and record their emotive responses?”
Twenty-Seventh Cousin flicked her antenna in confirmation.
Second Brother clicked a few times as he prepared to us human speech. Then straitened and spoke.
“Human Friend, would you like to accompany me to my cottage in the forest?” He tried the first question. “Human Friend would you like to accompany me to my cabin in the woods?”
He had an excellent grasp of the human language and both sentences were smooth.
“And you say that the first one is met with general positivity and the second with general fear and hostility?” He asked.
“It is more than that,” Twenty-seventh Cousin explained. “I showed the question set and he assured me the connotation set was pleasant and vague for the first but very specifically being hacked to death by an insane human after a prolonged pursuit for the second.”
Second Brother curled his antenna in horror.
“That is very specific for connotation,” he observed. “What could have caused that?”