Where are the Vampire Linguists?
F. Ang Bangah
Though many people have had trouble coming to terms with the truth about vampires since they “came out of the coffin” in the so-called Great Revelation—made possible by the creation of the Japanese synthetic blood substitute—their presence represents a unique and untapped opportunity for historians, linguists, and anthropologists. Non-supernaturals have had much opportunity to learn about vampires and others in the biographic works of Charlaine Harris, which have recently been dramatized in the HBO documentary television series True Blood. But one aspect of vampires’ existence has been largely ignored; since vampires are effectively immortal, and several are hundreds of years old—and a few thought to be even thousands of years old—the insight and data they can provide offer an unparalleled chance to pierce the mists of time and peer back into (non-vampire) human history.
Imagine the insights to be gained in historical linguistics, dialectology, and anthropology with access to native speakers of Middle French, Old English, Gothic or even—dare one hope?—early unnamed descendants of PIE? What languages thought dead live on in the minds and tongues of the living dead? Are there vampires of African or Native American origin who can give first hand accounts of the history and cultural practices of societies of which we have few or no written records? Even vampires only two hundred years old can give valuable insight into dialect shifts and cultural changes that have happened over the course of their lives and deaths.
Beyond simply providing linguistic data and first-hand accounts of history, vampires offer many opportunities for study of a kind unavailable with short-lived humans. There is currently no reason to assume that the language faculty of vampires differs from that of humans, except in the speaker’s lifespan. Are known human hyper-polyglots truly unique individuals, or can anyone with sufficient motivation and time (hundreds of years) to devote to the task learn dozens of languages fluently? Does the brain structure and linguistic organization of long-term hyper-polyglots who learn and perhaps use languages serially over lifetime-scale time spans differ from those who have had to learn their languages in a matter of mere decades? Do native languages abandoned for decades, centuries, or even millennia fade completely? Can one master the phonetic details of a second language learned as an adult given a hundred or more years to do so? What fascinating lessons are to be learned by studying the evolution of a particular idiolect over a hundred or even a thousand years?
Finally, though some may find the ethics of such propositions questionable, it is not impossible to imagine staving off language death, which so often coincides with the physical death of its speakers, by “turning” the willing among the last few speakers of a language to immortal vampires, giving them time and energy to teach the language to linguists and interested new generations of speakers.
In order to encourage the exploration and implementation of such ideas, I am proud to announce the formation of the Vampiric Linguistics Advancement Department (V.L.A.D.) at the University of Ultrasylvania at Erdő-elve. Interested parties, including scholars, speakers of endangered languages, and vampiric informants, are welcome to contact me there.