One of the most inventive parts of this book was the uplifted dolphins languages. The language the "civilized" dolphins was a whistling, poetic language called Trinary, which humans could use and understand with training. In the book was shown as lines of italicized text with asterisks.

* When one commands
One is envied by people-
But oh! the demands! *

The primitive language the uplifted dolphins eschewed (but were known to revert to when under stress) was called Primal. Brin would use hash marks instead of asterisks, and the text itself tended to be at a more primitive level, indicating more primitive urges.

Brin also used odd punctuation marks to indicate alien sounds or other cases where communication or language was not following human norms.