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Editor’s note: The following article has been edited from its original form. The original contained some suggestions which implied wrongdoing or deceit on behalf of prominent academics Rebecca Giblin and Kimberlee Weatherall. We have deleted some specific parts of this story which made those suggestions, and added further context and commentary from the academics involved to accurately report their position. Business Insider Australia retracts any implication that Associate Professor Giblin and Professor Weatherall are anything but academics of the highest integrity and honesty, and apologises for any distress or damage to their reputations caused by the publication of the original version of this article.

It's difficult for linguists to explain to people we meet what it is that we do, and why we are so fascinated with it. Finally, popular culture is giving us a reference point. Arrival doesn't assume we'll be able to communicate with aliens with some advanced technology that makes no sense. Instead, it explores how that kind of "universal translator" could come to be in the first place.