When I saw the O-shape of the alien language in the trailer for Arrival I thought "Ok, I already know the plot and how it ends". Today I discovered that the plot was instead taken from "Story of Your Life", which I have never read. At this point, finding the title of "my" novel has become a matter of principle. What I remember for sure is that:
- The protagonist is a linguist
- She is contacted (Government? Military?) and taken to the landing site of an alien spaceship (somewhere in the United States?) where a base camp has been set up.
- The graphic sign shown to her is a kind of O (that's why I thought it was this novel)
- Humanity has a certain amount of time to learn the new language. If not able, it will be wiped out.
It turns out that the whole language is based on absolute coherence between thoughts and words, that is, on complete sincerity. It is a language in which it is impossible to lie. Only if humanity is able to learn it will the aliens welcome it into the great federation (or whatever it is) that is out there. Otherwise it will be wiped out, except for some specimens that will be saved and used as a warning to show at the next encounter with new races and new planets. Like the two teachers, who (twist!) don't belong to the race running the game, but are actually two survivors of another race that failed.
Does this remind anyone of anything?