Date: Mon, 21 Oct 1996 11:55:25 +0000

From: Grant Barrett gbarrett[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]JERRYNET.COM

Subject: RE science-fictional question

Dan Goodman said:

This is the general case: Given someone who claims his native dialect

is one previously unknown, how would you test this claim?

When did his history rejoin ours? The obvious problem is that he has since

had an opportunity to pick up any distinguishing phrases and words

that might differentiate the two histories.

I remember reading a story that has the solution to a similar problem, although

the solution probably is not usable in your case. Here's the story anway.

The story takes place in India, a land of many languages. There was a

particularly successful traveling showman who had a special trick among

all of his others: he could speak any language, and without an accent. He

had a standing offer: for a smal price you could guess his native language.

If you got it right, he would give you 100 pieces of gold, which was a lot of

money in that time and place.

The performer was so adept that every village thought that he must,

of course, speak *their* language as his first. He could recite poetry,

tell tales, present orations, just about anything. In village after village

people paid their money and in village after village they got it wrong.

Finally, in the the northern mountains, the performer met his match.

Late one night, as he was sleeping, the village headman snuck into the

showman's room and poured ice cold water on him.

"Aaaaaaugh! What in the name of the Gods?!" the showman cried out...

in his first and native language, of course!