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Jul 25, 2021 6:19 PM
a very small alien in anomaland
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Ari names each of the foods so that more of any of them can be requested later, and also demonstrates the words for "egg", "eggshell", and "petal" while she's at it.

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It takes her some practice ("egg! shell! egg shell!") but after a few minutes she can confidently associate each of these objects with its name. She also knows "Ari", for Ari, and "Friend", for Plasma, which labels she proudly volunteers with solemn gestures of a tiny hoof.

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Awww. "Yes, Plasma is a friend." 

"Friend can fly!" volunteers Plasma.

"That's right."

"Friend is very small."

"Yes, your friend is very small, so you be gentle. Like with Creampuff." (Creampuff is the neighbors' kitten.)

"Yes mooooom."

"Good." Ari checks on Plasma's food and water dishes and grabs herself some more of the fruit and nuts; she had been planning to make lentil soup tonight but nope, tonight is first contact with a baby alien. Does Petal want a shoebox lined with fluffy hand towels and the words for eating, drinking, and (by way of being shown a photograph) sleeping?

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She perches on the rim of the shoebox with a happy trill, but before she accepts any more vocabulary, this dialogue merits further investigation!

"Friend Plasma yes?" she says, pointing at Plasma. "Friend Ari yes?", pointing at Ari. "Friend yes?", tapping a forehoof gently against her own soft fluffy chest.

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"Yes. Friend Plasma," point, "friend Ari," point, "Friend . . ." point and hope this will be interpreted as a name request?

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"Friend Petal," she declares firmly, tapping herself again.

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"Petal! Yes!" What a good name.

Where are this baby's parents, she wonders for about the fiftieth time, and are they an advanced civilization, and are they going to be annoyed about their offspring learning Convergentlanguage instead of their own language? The egg and the relative independence at birth suggest against a technological civilization to the extent that one can generalize from Firstplanet life, but on Firstplanet those limits are set by the need for very large brains, and human brains are nowhere near the theoretical limit of what evolution could pack into a head. Also, while those structures on their head look like a deer's antlers, their presence at birth suggests a function more central to survival than a deer's mating display. Also there's the fact that the entity's head is small in absolute terms but enormous relative to the body, though that might change with later growth. And there's the range of phonemes the entity can produce, and the telekinesis which is a sophisticated manipulator if there ever was one, and the fact that a technological civilization could assume enough control over their own reproduction and development to render all her priors and heuristics so much candyfloss. 

She turns toward Plasma where he's swinging on his kotted rope toy and asks, "Where was Petal's egg before it was under the table?" Parrots aren't the most reliable witnesses, but they're better than a random generator and sometimes respond to 'No making up stories, now.'

"Don't know. Saw Petal first, egg second."

"That's okay." 

(She is not the sort of person to flinch away from the thought that she would learn a lot from vivisecting Petal. She is also not the sort of person who would ever do that, and she knows this about herself with a certainty that precludes worrying about it. She has taken classes on ethics and introspection, she has taken the surprisetests that everyone who signs up for them takes at randomly chosen times averaging out to once every fifteen years, and she knows herself well enough that she doesn't have to think about how well she knows herself--this whole sentence has been narration of reality only, and not of Ari's thoughts.)

Ari offers some more words: "up" and "down" and "high" and "low" and "move" with a bunch of hand-gesture examples, and watches carefully for how well Petal grasps the difference between a direction and a location.

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She seems to absorb "up" and "down" and "move" relatively straightforwardly.

When Ari gestures "high" and "low", she levitates to the height of the "high" gesture and says "High yes?", then to the height of the "low" gesture and says "low yes?", then to approximately twice the height of the "high" gesture and says "high high yes?"

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"High high is higher." Time to introduce "higher" and "lower" and possibly also "same height"!

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With easy access to many example elevation levels, Petal is soon able to clarify that 'high' and 'low' are relative descriptors and not approximate measurements. Then she gleefully goes around the room describing altitude relationships between named objects.

"Plasma higher Ari! Ari higher peanut!" A quick float downward to eye level. "Petal same height Ari! Petal higher eggshell!"

And with a mischievous gleam in her eye, "Friend Petal higher petal," pointing at the first petal she harvested which is on the floor far below her. "Petal higher friend Petal," attempting to point at her hat but being foiled by the shortness of her limbs.

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"Yes!" She crouches a bit so that Petal is above her head, then sticks her hand up so it's higher than Petal is. "Ari higher Petal and Petal higher Ari!" she says with a laugh.

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She looks back and forth between Ari's hand and Ari's head in amazement. "Ari higher Petal yes! Petal higher Ari yes! Ari higher Ari?? Ari lower Ari?? Ari same height Ari yes?!"

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"Yes! Ari hand" hand-wiggle "higher, Ari head" point at her head with the other hand "lower."

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"Hand...?"

She floats up to the named appendage and boops it ever so gently with her teeny tiny nose.

"Head...?"

She tilts her own head, then floats down and gently bonks Ari's forehead with an antler.

"...hand yes?" She floats down to Ari's other hand and antlerbonks it.

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"Yes!" More body part names, though inconveniently they're missing some correspondences between them. But they do both have ears and feet and noses, and if that gives Ari an excuse to boop Petal ever so gently on the nose, that's between the two of them.

She goes ahead and names the structures on Petal's head "antlers", because it's a decent name even if they're actually cooling fins or extra brain or something else totally unrelated to local organisms' antlers.

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Petal floats down to nibble her blueberries and peanuts while she considers this new information.

Then she says, thoughtfully, "Ari head yes, Petal head yes, Plasma head yes. Ari hand yes, Petal hand no. Plasma hand yes no?"

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"No. Plasma has wings and feet and a beak and a tail." And is a good birdie for holding still and being pointed at, yes he is.

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"Plasma wings yes! Wing, wing!" She points at each one in turn and incidentally confirms that she has picked up on plurals without being explicitly informed of them.

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Plurals! What a clever baby. Ari goes around pluralizing a bunch of things with regular plurals. Convergentlanguage doesn't have many irregular plurals that are also simple concrete nouns, and she doesn't go searching for any of them because it might be confusing.

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This eventually leads to Petal harvesting another petal from her favourite dried flower, setting it down on the floor next to the first one, and proudly announcing, "Petals!"

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"Yes! Friend Petal creates petals!" This naming convention makes her sound like a member of that one philosophical sect that believes in not violently deterring initiators of violence, but apart from representing a metastable equilibrium at best there's nothing wrong with those folks. 

Time for some more verbs! More concrete ones than "create".

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Verbs are neat!

However, within a couple of minutes of harvesting the third petal, Petal once again needs a nap. She yawns hugely in the middle of echoing a vocabulary item and drifts down to the floor to curl up in her shoebox nest.

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Yay, she likes the shoebox nest! Ari finally gets herself some actual dinner, and really hopes the twenty-minutes-on, twenty-minutes-off deal is in addition to sleeping for some large chunk of the night, because she hasn't needed to babyproof her apartment in years and never against a telekinetic baby.

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This time, Petal sleeps for twenty minutes, gets up, harvests a fourth petal, and immediately curls up in her nest for another twenty-minute nap. After setting the petal down next to the others. (The one she's wearing as a hat has fallen off into the shoebox nest and is looking a bit the worse for being slept on.)

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What is she doing with those. Can she conjure anything else. Hopefully she won't mind if Ari steals the slightly crushed one and cuts off a sliver to look at under her microscope and puts the rest of it back. Her microscope is mostly for her grandkids to mess around with and not as good as even the school's microscopes, but it should be enough to tell if the petals are made of cells the way you'd expect. Also are they the right size and shape for the undried form of that one plant?

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