New from the "Harmless If It Amuses You" department, today we have a story about a retired Chinese military man who has built what he calls an "alien research station" in his back yard. (Source)
Xiang Kuansong, 79, of Mayang, Hunan province, has worked 17 years on the project, which shows if nothing else amazing determination. He said he was told to build it by two aliens, who said, "Don't be afraid. We are not ghosts or god. We are people from another planet who want to help you." So Xiang decided to create a site that would memorialize the encounter. The aliens, he said, are from the planet "Dongsheng," are 1.95 meters tall, and wear clothing that makes them invisible to everyone else but him. They've been back to talk with him many times, and requested that he build this "way station" so they would have a place to rest on their intergalactic travels.
He has hung a sign over the door saying, "The Harmonious Way to a Foreign Planet," and has stones marking the places that the aliens have appeared. Otherwise, the place looks, according to the source, more like a temple than a research station; there is a model of a spaceship, presumably to make the aliens feel at home, but there is no scientific equipment. Xiang evidently doesn't need to rely on clunky radio telescopes for his extraterrestrial contact; they simply come to him, which I have to say is pretty convenient.
What immediately jumped out at me about this story, being of a linguistic bent, is that the planet has a Chinese name. Doesn't that strike Xiang as kind of unlikely? You'd think that whatever language an alien race might speak on their home planet, it wouldn't be Chinese (or English or Lithuanian or Swahili or any other language found on Earth). And just like when two human cultures have been in contact, the things that tend to retain their original morphology the longest are personal names and place names, you'd think that the name of the planet would be more... well, alien-sounding. Of course, the same thing happens with contactees from other cultures. I think it's a bit of a coincidence that when English speakers are contacted by aliens, they (and their planets) always seem to follow the Star Trek naming convention of ending in either -us or -a depending on whether the name in question is masculine or feminine, a morphological constraint adopted from Latin. (Without even trying hard, I found accounts online of contacts with aliens called Tibus, Mytria, Manus, Vertra, Boratus, Lorcus, and Bellatria.) Of course, there are exceptions. This website, which (sadly) does not appear to be a parody, tells of contact with aliens called Quetzal, Semiase, Sfath, and Ptaah, and then has pencil sketches of three very human men and one woman who supposedly are inhabitants of the Pleiades. (Yes, yes, I know. The Pleiades is a star cluster, and you can't inhabit a star cluster. Just play along, okay?)
So even though the names sound marginally less human (you have to wonder about Quetzal, however, given that it's the first half of the name of a Central American god), here the aliens themselves are clearly three middle-aged guys with beards, and a sexy young woman with a seriously come-hither expression. The whole thing seems pretty suspect to me.
Of course, your alien abduction devotee would probably object that the aliens, being superintelligent, converse with their human contacts in the language the contact speaks, and in a form that wouldn't immediately scare the contact into having a brain aneurysm. So this explains why people always hear the aliens speaking, and using names, clearly derived from human languages familiar to the speaker, and take (more-or-less) human form when appearing to us.
Me, I think if there are intelligent aliens out there, any languages they speak are much more likely to sound like the guy in my favorite clip from Men in Black (watch it here) in which Will Smith talks to an alien masquerading as a postal worker. (How they filmed that scene without laughing is beyond me.) Our languages evolved to be speakable, and comprehensible, based on our biology, and there's no reason to suppose that an intelligent species with a different biology will have languages at all analogous to ours -- or perhaps, even readily recognizable as language at all.
So, anyway, that's our story for today. I wish the retired Chinese soldier best of luck with his alien research station, and hope he gets lots of visits from "Dongsheng." As for me, I think I'm going to sit here and practice making the sounds that guy made in Men in Black. I'd like to be able to do that.