Of the speech by Tomas Nau, Trixia Bonsol (postdoc linguist) says:
"[...] I heard a dozen authoritarian turns of speech--and they didn't seem to be fossil usages. The Emergents are accustomed to owning people, Ezr."
Clarification: she wasn't talking specifically about Nau's speech, but about conversation throughout the evening, especially the people at her table. So I can't expect to see the "dozen" in Nau's speech - there mightn't even be any.
Trixia is a postdoc linguist, and selected above all the other candidates from an entire planet, so she's extremely sharp. We can expect a specific and reasoned technical analysis from her, not just intuition. (Though she says she has "an ear for languages" with a quick smile.) She is not Qeng Ho, but from Triland, a world of class divisions - virgin forest vs. urban slum, where only children of First Settlers may attend college - but they don't own people.
By "turns of speech," I think Trixia meant surface syntax, expressions, cliches, sayings, etc. Trixia says they aren't "fossil usages," which are maybe like dead metaphors that have lost their literal meaning; e.g. an expression like "flogging a dead horse" doesn't imply a sadistic society that debases animals. (Or does it? We have battery hens.)
Here's the speech itself, with chunks of non-dialog elided, and Nau's words bold to highlight them.
"Friends, we are all a long way from home." He swept his arm in a gesture that seemed to take in the spaces beyond the walls of the banquet room. "We've both made potentially serious mistakes. We knew this star system is bizarre." Imagine a star so drastically variable that it nearly turns itself off for 215 years out of every 250. "Over the millennia, astrophysicists of more than one civilization tried to convince their rulers to send an expedition here ways." He stopped, smiled. "Of course, till our era, tas expensively far beyond the Human Realm. Yet now it is the simultaneous object of two human expeditions." There were smiles all around, and the thought What wretched luck. "Of course, there is a reason that made the coincidence likely. Years aback there was no driving need for such an expedition. Now we all have a reason: The race you call the Spiders. Only the third non-human intelligence ever found." [...]
Nau gave a self-deprecating chuckle and glanced at Captain Park. "Till recently, I had not realized how perfectly our strengths and weaknesses, our mistakes and insights, complemented each other. You came from much farther away, but in very fast ships already built. We came from nearer, but took the time to bring much more. We both figured most things correctly." [...]
The Emergent boss gave a benign smile and continued: "There really is only one place in all the OnOff system where volatiles exist in any quantity--and that is on the Spider world itself." He looked back and forth across his audience, his gaze lingering on the visitors. "I know it's something that some of you had hoped to postpone till after the Spiders were active again...But there are limits to the value of lurking, and my fleet includes heavy lifters. Director Reynolt"--aha, that was the redhead's name!--"agrees with your scientists that the locals never did progress beyond their primitive radios. All the 'Spiders' are frozen deep underground and will remain so till the OnOff star relights." [...]
"It's time to begin working together," Nau continued. "I don't know how much you all have heard about our discussions of the last two days. Surely there have been rumors. You'll have details very soon, but Captain Park, your Trading Committee, and I thought that now is a good occasion to show our united purpose. We are planning a joint landing of considerable size. The main goal will be to raise at least a million tonnes of water and similar quantities of metallic ores. We have heavy lifters that can accomplish this with relative ease. As secondary goals, we'll leave some unobtrusive sensors and undertake a small amount of cultural sampling. These results and resources will be split equally between our two expeditions. In space, our two groups will use the local rocks to create a cover for our habitats, hopefully within a few light-seconds of the Spiders." Nau glanced again at Captain Park. So some things were still under discussion.
Nau raised his glass. "So a toast. To an end of mistakes, and to our common undertaking. May there be a greater focus in the future."
So my question is: Just what are these "dozen authoritarian turns of speech"? Are they really there?
Edit: "owning" people - slaves - is not that unusual in real historical civilizations on Earth. Fictionally, Pham Nuwen's father had slaves and concubines. So perhaps we should be looking for medieval or imperialistic "turns of speech," that relate not to technological levels but attitudes to human beings? Although it's tricky: the Romans had democracy and slaves. Which would their speech reflect?