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dialector (/ˈdaɪˌə.lɛkt.ər/)

Unc. Nk--
Most of this article looks good enough to let stick, but I'm dubi on that play bit in the middle. Is that really how it went?
A dialector is a hand-held computer that converts speech from one language and dialect into any other.  They are usually publicly owned, and most commonly used to eliminate language barriers in official proceedings such as court cases and trade negotiations.  In order to keep up with gradual lingustic shift, a dialector's data banks must be updated at least once every five years.

Mechanics & Inner Workings

"Let me try." Nkeba reached impatiently for the box, then drew back with a hint of embarrassment. "Um, may I?"
"If you like." Alcendis turned the dialector to face him, smiling at his eagerness.
"Thank you. Er, this one, right?" He touched the plate she indicated. After a throat-clearing cough, and then a self-conscious chuckle, he bent his head to the bell and said "Hey. I'm Nkeba."
After a two-beat silence, the bell declared "Pardon me. My name is Nkeba," in the young man's own voice, only a shade distorted.
"That's amazing." He grinned. "Does it also work in the other direction?"
His own voice startled a flinch out of him. "Way nice. It works the way back, too?"
"As long as the bowl is pointed at you, yes, it will."
The bowl channels sound into the speech processor, which selects the target voice by filtering out sounds that contain diffraction artifacts. The language processor identifies the language and dialect by comparing the audio clip to the data bank, identifying which harmonics belong to the words and which are idiosyncratic to the speaker's voice, and determines the correct translation in the target language. The conversion processor applies algorithms to adjust the speech harmonics to the target language's accent, and the resulting speech is projected from the bowl.


The idea of automatic dialect conversion was first proposed in the 930s Vol, at the beginning of the Water Seekers' intervention in the Eihlarian blood feuds. The vast number of mutually unintelligible family dialects, unknown to any accredited Oceantongue translators, complicated their efforts. With the help of Zaiyev's school of linguistics they developed a set of dictionaries, but still wanted a system more immediately responsive and less cumbersome than consulting piles of glossaries. Although it was clear at the outset that such a system could not be completed soon enough to help the situation on Eihlari, the potential benefits of being able to translate into multiple languages without having to be fluent in all of them made it worth embarking on the ambitious project.   A greater hurdle than collecting spoken samples of all ocean languages was creating a calculation engine that could store and process several languages' worth of information. As a result, the first functioning dialector was not completed until 1382 Vol, and it was limited to translations between Formal Eihlari and Common Eihlari, but the fact that it could shift a spoken voice intelligibly from one language into another proved the concept was viable. With the biggest engineering hurdles out of the way, progress was swifter, and by 1450 Vol most Oceantongue dialects and major island languages were represented.   In 1890 Vol the first non-human language was added to the standard dialector database. An 1880s speculation voyage to a recently-discovered island used their dialector to record animal sounds, and the subsequent analysis indicated that the lizards now known as szageki had a system of vocalizations complex enough to be a language. Its inclusion is controversial, since it is not well enough documented to translate properly into Oceantongue, and serves mostly as an in-joke among those who know what settings and phrases will trigger the "talking lizards".


Beyond their immediate use in clarifying communication, dialectors are at the root of the greatest paradigm shift in recent human history.  The process of programming the devices to convert speech between languages led to the identification of several patterns of sound change and was the foundation for the new discipline of historical linguistics, which itself led to the discovery of three distinct language families.  Retracing the evolutionary paths in turn led to the expeditions in the early 1700s Vol that rediscovered the vastland as the oceandwellers' true origin.
Item type
The effort that goes into constructing and programming dialectors means that they can't be mass-produced, so there are only a few hundred in existence.

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