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Paola A.

Mndez de Jess

INGL 3017


Dr. Alicia Pousada

Assignment 2: Reaction to Darmok

On Star Trek Next Generation episode Darmok the Enterprise encounters with
the Tamarian culture. It is exposed by Data that there have been several attempts of
communication with The Children of Tama, but they were unsuccessful, because these
aliens were described as incomprehensible. Captain Picard expresses that he does not
believes Tamarians are incomprehensible. Picard states that communication is a
matter of patience and imagination, with this expression he believes that the crew and
himself have the necessary tools to decipher this language. He plans to create a mutual
non-aggressive pact to begin a cultural interchange with the Tamarian crew. However,
when the two crews try to interact they find each others language impossible to
understand. Even when the Enterprise counts with advanced technology, a universal
translator and a history of alien encounters, this task presented to be the hardest one. It
can be seen that Dathon as an intent to create this successful communication with the
Enterprise beams himself with Captain Picard to the surface of planet El-Adrel, to
recreate one of the myths of his planet Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra. Due to this myth
Dathon believed that two strangers who share an equal adversity will try their best to
communicate and to survive.
Trying to decipher the language Data and Troi use the universal translator to
search for the meaning of Tamarian words. The translator could successfully encounter
single words in its database but it was impossible to create a link between the words

and their meaning, Data and Troi concluded the following: Their ability to abstract is
highly unusual. They seem to communicate through narrative imagery by reference to
the individual and places which appear in their mytho-historical accounts.


metaphors are impossible to decipher without knowing the context behind each word.
In the same way, Captain Picard struggles to understand Dathon and yet he discovers
that Tamarians communicate citing examples (metaphors).
The possibility to communicate through metaphor results a little difficult to
believe, because without having awareness of the whole we cannot truly understand its
meaning. In fact, I believe that even using todays metaphors like My Holy Grail trip
(My desired trip) can be confusing if its said; unless the person knows the background
story behind the Holy Grail and its significance, it would be impossible to create a
successful communication starting with that phrase. Also using analogy as a base for
communication represents a big challenge since it lends itself to the misrepresentation
of what is trying to be expressed.

On the other hand, communication is such an

important tool that happens from the cooperation between the speaker and the listener
(Keysar and Glucksberg, 2003). This engagement can be seen in Darmok when Picard
is telling the story of Gilgamesh to Dathon, and as proposed by Chomsky the
understanding of language is not needed for the attempts of creating a successful
communication (Keysar and Glucksberg, 2003).
To create a system of education for children and non-native people, I assume
that the best strategy will be the establishment of a system in which each metaphor is
accompanied by the historical or mythological base from which it was derived.
However, this episode shows you that this alien culture is able to create new metaphors

from different events; therefore, the language is constantly changing. This constant
change represents a problem because people do not easily adapt or follow new
alternatives for example: Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra will possibly change to
Dathon and Picard at El-Adrel to represent the story of a successful first encounter
between strangers. Even on our daily lives we get confused when we use different
words or phrases that mean the same, so I believe that it will be difficult not only to a
non-native speaker but to the aliens speaking in Tamarian to use these new sporadic
metaphors as a part of their language.

As exposed in Keysar and Glucksberg a

metaphor is an abbreviated simile and that, because a simile is a comparison

statement, making the comparison explicit is the first riddle that a reader or listener
must solve.
Basing the understanding of language solely on analogies and metaphors can
be a difficult task, because you have to be able to clear your mind and analyze not only
what is being said but how it is being expressed. I think this episode is an excellent
example of how many international students feel when they try to create a successful
communication with Puerto Ricans, many of them understand what is being said, but do
not get the way is being expressed. As a conclusion I would like to cite my favorite
quote of the episode: Sokath, his eyes uncovered, as human being we enclose
ourselves in what is already established and we do not seek or try to decipher new
things, I believe that the perseverance that Dathon and Picard showed demonstrates
that everything can be achieved with effort and willingness.
1. Keysar, Boaz, and Sam Glucksberg. "Metaphor and Communication." Poetics
Today 13.4 (1992): 633-58. JSTOR, 30 Sept. 2003. Web. 28 Oct. 2014.