Ender's Game Linguistics

Ender Wiggin is the average American six year old. Well, not really, but he’s an American, fictional six year old. Ender Wiggin in the main protagonist in Orson Scott Card’s 1983 science fiction novel Ender’s Game (and all of all the other books, Speaker For The Dead, Xenocide, Children of the Mind, Ender’s Shadow, Shadow of Hegemon, Shadow Puppets, First Meetings, Shadow Of The Giant, A War of Gifts, Ender in Exile, Shadows in Flight, Earth Unaware, Earth Afire, and Shadow Alive).  He’s the third, he has an older brother Peter and an older sister Valentine. They live in a world where English in the “international standard” and every kid in the world is learning it. Except French kids, France kept tradition and gives kids 4 years to learn French before starting with the international standard. Earth is faced with a Bugger (or Formic, dependent on whether or not you intend to see the movie or read the wiki page) crisis, where they are being invaded with an alien species. Young Ender is sent to an international military school, where he is with kids from all over the world being trained to lead the International Fleet, better know as the I.F. While all of the boys speak English, they speak variants of English. The dialect and accent that the kids speak affects their hierarchy and education levels.

There is this boy in Ender’s launch group, named Bernard, from France. The story is narrated from a third person perspective, but from Ender’s thoughts, we see that he thinks that Bernard has a very exoctic, rare sounding accent.  Ender’s original perception of Bernard is that he is snobby and arrogant. He doesn’t have this idea about the other boys in his crew, but because Bernard is French, then Ender thinks that he’s arrogant. They use language and other things to turn the students against each other. The officers clearly establish who is from France and they single out Ender on the ride to Battle School. Colonel Graff thinks that isolation maintains creativity, and he clearly doesn’t believe in the core value of collaboration.

Then in the game room, Ender meets kids who are older than he is, but have this sort of uneducated, slow sounding English. Some of them sound slightly southern. but mostly the spoke with an improper sense of grammar. None of them were commanders or platoon leaders, all of them were just soldiers. All of the boys who lead in the top armies, such as Dragon or Rabbit, were all American, British, Australian, or French. They all spoke some sort of almost unaccented English.

Not only are all of the student commanders and platoon leaders from wealthier, well educated countries, the same also applies to all the leaders and officers from the I.F. that we see in the book. Colonel Graff, who is in charge of Ender’s training whilst he’s at Battle School is American, and always conducts himself with this great sense of propriety in his English. When Ender is at Command School, he has a teacher by the name of Mazer Rackham. He defeated the Buggers in the first invasion and is a great commander. Mazer’s English is average, he makes typical mistakes while speaking, but all in all, speaks standard, unaccented English. This is fairly typical of people who are high up in the I.F.

While Ender is at battle school, his two siblings at home decide they want to take over the web and start writing political commentary. Because Peter is only 12, and Valentine is only 10 at the time that they do this, the decide to take up the pseudonyms of  Demonthes and Locke. Peter plays Locke, who is a person who encourages communication between nations regarding the Warsaw Pact. This is strange because Peter is not at all like that in real life; Peter would skin squirrels alive and watch them suffer and die. Valentine is quiet and sensitive in real life, she baked cakes on Ender’s birthday even though he was at Battle School and no one baked anymore. She always stuck up for Ender when Peter would bully him. Valentine’s online persona, however, stirs up tension between governments and doesn’t encourage any communication between anyone. The online personas of the kids causes great political tension and they are both employed to be working full time writing columns for websites on the net. However, in order for them to have done so well, they had to present the front of a well-educated, wealthy men who are very politically inclined. Peter couldn’t present himself as a ruthless 12 year old boy who was jealous of a third who got to go to Battle School. Valentine couldn’t present herself as a 10 year old girl who was sensitive and fearful for her brother’s psychological and physical well being. Valentine had to present herself as a man, first and foremost, for anyone to take her seriously. Secondly, she had to not be kind-hearted or sensitive at all. She had to use such harsh language to not show herself and to make her opinion known and popular. Whereas, Peter on the other hand, had to phrase his thoughts in such as way that made him look very deep and thoughtful, while encouraging communications and world peace. Peter’s character had to be careful to not use strong or harsh language in order to get his thoughts and opinions well known.

As children running this column, it became so well known that they had to compare and contrast the views of Demonthes and Locke for school. Valentine almost got herself in trouble, writing such an eloquent analysis on comparing the views of the two, that the school wanted to publish it on the school website. The problem with that though, was that the writing style between Demonthes and Valentine was almost identical. After that, she quickly learned that she not only had to code switch while talking, but she almost had to have two separate writing styles and vocabularies. Peter was better at not revealing his character, because he had always code switched between talking to Ender and Valentine and talking to adults. Peter had created this facade that caused adults to see him as a sweet, intelligent, sensitive boy instead of the ruthless killer he was in his younger days.

Back at Battle School, Ender is in Salamander Army under the command of Bonzo Madrid, from Spain. Ender’s first mistake in the army was to pronounce the commander’s name wrong and to not speak to the commander properly. Despite Ender eventually being the most valuable soldier in the army, Bonzo has a bad impression of him because he has a Spanish name and Ender isn’t familiar with Spanish names. Although English is the international standard, most countries kept ethnic names with influences of past languages.

All in all, language is very powerful. As we see from Ender’s Game, language affects the boys’ ranks and how they were seen by other boys. Language also gave them a sense of individuality, and we always knew who was talking even when it was clearly spelled out. We see language, while key to communication, affects the hierarchy of society.

Works Cited

Card, Orson Scott. “Ender’s Game”