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This is about Empire Of Silence (volume 1 of the Sun Eater series by Christopher Ruocchio).

In Hadrian Marlowe's formative years, his Scholiast, Tor Gibson, has taught him several languages, including the sparsely-known Cielcin language. Hadrian has some trouble with the vocabulary, but it's clear that he's pretty good at handling this complex language, which has different tones or modes of expression based on domination and other social cues.

Yet the story gives the impression that humans have never had normal interaction with the Cielcin, that they've been at war since they met (right?). Once he has finally met a group of Cielcin, Hadrian uncovers some aspects of their hierarchy and society that would have been obvious to any linguist able to interact with them long enough to document their language.

So, how was Hadrian's Scholiast able to teach him this language in the first place? Was knowledge of the Cielcin language and society acquired and documented centuries ago, in normal fashion, and then mostly erased from the books by the inquisitors of the Terran Chantry?

(I've only read Empire of Silence, but feel free to use subsequent novels if needed.)

2 Answers 2

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I thought this was a plot hole as well. But you could explain how they know about some of the language by the huge amounts of cameras recording everything in this galaxy. The Cielcin communicate to each other on the battlefield with words which the cameras would record. Linguists would certainly begin to figure out some of the language from these interactions.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. Can you provide any evidence that your theory is correct? Are there any textual hints that this is what happened? We prefer answers that are supported with evidence to personal theories.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 20:56
  • Your answer could be improved with additional supporting information. Please edit to add further details, such as citations or documentation, so that others can confirm that your answer is correct. You can find more information on how to write good answers in the help center.
    – Community Bot
    Commented Feb 13, 2023 at 21:02
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    @DavidW. I have no idea if my guess is correct. It's really just what I told myself so the fact that it, Marlowe is fluent in Cielcin AND the first to ever talk to them, would stop bothering me. But here are my thoughts: 1. In the Empire there are only two locations with no cameras: in Marlowe's quarters on his ship; and the Emperor's chambers. 2. Linguists exist. 3. The war with the Cielcin mostly occurred on Empire planets / ships and has lasted IIRC 300 years at the START of the series.
    – aldarrin
    Commented Feb 15, 2023 at 2:56
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In one of the later books (can't remember which one exactly) it's revealed that Lord Cressian Powers captured a Cielcin Worldship intact after the Second Battle of Cressgard, even in Marlowe's time this find accounts for 70% of Cielcin artifacts in the Empires possession.

This,combined with the fact captured Cielcin tend to be relatively docile (for reasons I won't spoil) would explain how the Empire was able to gain a solid grasp of the mechanisms of the language (if not the context), at least solid enough for a Scholast like Tor Gibson to pick up and pass on to his ward.

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  • Hi, welcome to SF&F. This does seem like a plausible explanation. You could still improve your answer, though, if you could chase down the reference for this.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 21, 2023 at 18:20

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