In the new trailer for the science-fiction movie "Arrival," Amy Adams stars as Dr. Louise Banks, some sort of mastermind in xenolinguistics. "You're at the top of everyone's list when it comes to translations," says Colonel Weber (Forrest Whitaker), before whisking her off to meet the newly arrived aliens she's tasked with interpreting. She seems to get on with them just fine, while acknowledging that "language is messy."
The film (which comes to theaters Nov. 11, 2016), is adapted from Ted Chiang's 1998 short story, "Story of Your Life." (Language Log readers may remember Chiang from his New Yorker piece on "uninventing" Chinese characters, discussed here, here, and here.) Chiang's story grapples thoughtfully with the idea of language contact — for a review, see the dearly departed linguablog Tenser, Said the Tensor, and Mark Liberman's followup here.
We'll have to wait and see how well Chiang's work translates — the trailer looks promising, if a bit hammy. Regardless of the verisimilitude, it's nice to have a new linguistic hero on the silver screen. (Now, Mel Gibson starring as Oxford English Dictionary editor James Murray? That's another matter entirely.)