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"It is change ... that is the dominant factor in society today... the world as it will be. This means that ... every man must take on a science fictional way of thinking.""
- Isaac Asimov

Babel-17  
  An alien weapon in the form of a language.  

Babel-17 is a story that still reads well today; writers like Steven Pinker (among many others) write about language acquisition and the brain.

"Babel-17 as a language contains a pre-set programme for the Butcher to become a criminal and saboteur. If you turn somebody with no memory loose in a foreign country with only the word for tools and machine parts, don't be surprised if he ends up a mechanic. By manipulating his vocabulary properly you could just as easily make him a sailor or an artist. Also, Babel-17 is such and exact analytical language, it almost assures you technical mastery of any situation you look at. And the lack of an "I" blinds you to the fact that though it's a highly useful way of looking at things its [not] the only way." "But you mean that this language could even turn you against the alliance?" "Well," said Rydra "to start off with, the word for Alliance in Babel-17 translates literally into English as: one who has invaded. You take it from there. It has all sorts of little diabolisms programmed into it. While thinking in Babel-17 is becomes perfectly logical to try and destroy your own ship and then blot out the fact with self-hypnosis - It 'programmes' a self-contained schizoid personality into the mind of whoever learns it..."
From Babel-17, by Samuel R. Delany.
Published by Ace Books in 1966
Additional resources -

This unique perspective by Samuel R. Delany won the nebula award for best novel.

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