Munson, Rosaria Vignolo. 2005. Black Doves Speak: Herodotus and the Languages of Barbarians. Hellenic Studies Series 9. Washington, DC: Center for Hellenic Studies. http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:hul.ebook:CHS_MunsonR.Black_Doves_Speak.2005.
4. The Meaning of Language Difference
On misunderstanding language difference
Black, foreign, and a slave, the woman has been confined to the animal world, yet at the same time regarded as the bearer of a divine message. To the ancient Pelasgians of Dodona, “human voice” is the Greek language and barbarian speech is abnormal in either direction.  But how could anyone fathom a speaking dove? To the Pelasgians, no doubt, the Egyptian priestess is a “dove” in somewhat the same way as to the Scythians snow is “feathers” or to the narrator himself certain Ethiopians sound like bats. The process of transmission, however, has turned the woman into a literal dove just as—less innocently—Cyrus’ nurse Spako became a dog in the discourse of political propaganda. In the case of the Dog-woman the motivation of the initial name-givers is unimportant and unclear, but for the Dove-woman it is crucial and solves the riddle. When the present-day Dodonians say “black dove,” they unwittingly give a sign (sēmainousi) of the truth to Herodotus, who speaks their same “language,” but is also aware of many different languages and knows that common to all of them is the mythopoetic power of names. 
Language makes no difference
Just as sex replaces war, here the universal language of gestures overcomes the language barrier.  This first encounter leads to others, and at the end of the story they all get married, Scythians and Amazons, and the Sauromatian nation is born. The text brings up again the issue of language as part of the well-balanced distribution of powers and privileges between the two equal groups in the new society. The Amazons adopt the language of their Scythian husbands. This corresponds to their subordinate position in the sexual sphere but it is also, in Herodotus’ formulation, an index of superior intelligence: “the men were not able to learn (οὐκ ἐδυνέατο μαθεῖν) the language of the women, but the women picked up the language of the men” (4.114.1). Nevertheless, “the Amazons did not learn it perfectly”; as a result the Sauromatae basically speak Scythian, but they distort it (σολοικίζοντες, 4.117). While Herodotus employs the verb soloikizein ‘distort’ in this remark on a dialect which is not, alas, pure Scythian, in other texts the word is applied to bad Greek as a virtual synonym of barbarizein.  But by cheerfully assuming the Scythian viewpoint, the ethnographer once again scores a point for relativity on the language front.
Language difference as paradigm
Sends you to lovely-crowned Libya,
To rule over broad Cyrene and enjoy royal privilege.
There, when you set foot in Libya, skin-clad barbarian men
Will come against you; but you pray to the son of Cronus
And gray-eyed Pallas who rouses the battle and the son of Zeus,
The unshorn Phoebus, and you will hold victory in your hand.
And blessed over lovely-crowned Libya you shall rule,
Both you and your dynasty. Your guide is Phoebus Apollo.
Herodotus’ translation from the Libyan refashions the Therean and Cyrenaic tradition he himself reports.  It also reverses the pattern, testified in other sources, of “bilingual” oracles appropriating foreign phenomena to the Greek language. In one of the foundation stories, for example, Delphi prescribes that the Sicilian city be named “Gela” (a local name) after the “laughter” (gelas) of the future oikist.  With “Battus,” on the contrary, the histōr insists in his own voice that the name by which the Greek founder of Cyrene is most commonly known is a Libyan word because the god who elected him king in Libya “named” him “King” in the local tongue.