Rothera Research Station in Antarctica (Credit: British Antarctic Survey)
Various and Sundry

Beltalowda at the Bottom of the World

TL;DR? An Antarctic outpost has been shown to be developing its own English accent at what is, to my mind, a fast pace. You can read all about it in this BBC article by Richard Gray from last week.

Yes, for those of you who got the reference in the title, this is sadly not some continuation of The Expanse. And for those of you who have not seen The Expanse and like hard sci-fi and multi-layered world-building (and don’t mind some truly TV-MA moments), treat yourself!

No, I’m mentioning that because I got tipped off to the BBC article via a post by Mary Doria Russell, anthropologist-turned-novelist of one of my favorite tales of first contact, The Sparrow. I previously wrote about said novel during one of our Jabberwocky Audio giveaways, but if you like first contact tales and don’t mind getting deep into philosophy and linguistics, it might be for you. (And as I said before, don’t look it up on Wikipedia, because it spoils the reason it’s called The Sparrow.)

And Russell said the article made her think about one of her favorite parts of The Expanse, which was the Belter creole aka Belter aka Lang Belta: a mismash of about six different languages mentioned in the books and brought to life in the TV series — and who doesn’t like conlangs? (constructed languages).

I love both the world-building that’s inherent in Belter as well as how plausible it sounds. Narratively, some of my favorite moments are when we see characters like Naomi Nagata code-switch from Belter to English and back as that adds layers to the dynamics of the scene. If you want to learn more about Belter, you can check out the Wiki entry on it, learn some basic words and phrases, understand how it was created for TV, or go deep into the grammar.

Sadly I am not a space anthropologist and I don’t know how common this accent shift in the Antarctic is to know if scientific consensus would characterize the shift as “quick.” (I may be wrong thinking it’s “a fast pace”). But I remain interested in linguistics, so here we are. And an international group speaking English where the accent has the potential to shift to dialect over time definitely makes me think of those wacky Belters (Beltalowda).

(A note on sci-fi geek levels: I know more Belter than Klingon, but I can’t carry a conversation in either, so if you meet me IRL, please do not launch into either, sa-sa ke?)

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