References as concept symbols: life meets art in a Star Trek episode....

Steven A. Morris samorri at OKSTATE.EDU
Thu Aug 4 16:07:43 EDT 2005

For bibliometricians that happen to be Star Trek fans, a double treat in
an old episode of The Next Generation:

Star Trek Episode 102

In "Darmok," a Star Trek episode from 1987, Captain Picard and his crew
meet the Tamarians, an alien race whose language consists entirely of
citations to literary references!  Unfortunately, the humans have  never
read the Tamarian  literature and don't know what concepts the
references represent. The ensuing miscommunication almost leads to
interstellar war....

This was one of the most popular episodes of Star Trek: The Next
Generation.  It is a very entertaining view of the idea of  "references
as concept symbols."  If you come across it on late night TV, don't miss

A synopsis of the episode is here

A Wikipedia entry on the episode, with a partial Tamarian dictionary, is
here <>.

S. Morris
Oklahoma State University

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