I read this collection of SF short stories from Analog magazine some time in the early 70s, and one of them, Something to Say, stuck in my memory. It's a First Contact scenario, and the hero is on a starship that's just discovered this primitive planet. I can't remember exactly why, but it's important that they become friendly with the natives. And they have to do it as quickly as possible, because a rival federation has also discovered the planet and is trying their damnedest to do the same thing.

So the hero is dropped on the planet, which I think has rather lighter gravity than Earth and a thicker atmosphere. Whatever the exact reasons, it's far, far easier to build an airplane than it was for us. The natives are at the technological stage when we'd have been fishing out of coracles using bronze spears, but they're cobbling together badly designed biplanes.

The hero, a typical square-jawed American engineer type, discovers that the rival federation have not been idle. In fact, they seem to be ahead! They've also dropped a contact agent, an annoyingly competent woman who's an expert field linguist. While he's been admiring the natives' ingenuity at building flying machines, she's been compiling vocabulary lists and learning their phonology and grammar. He's still pointing and using the twenty words he's laboriously picked up, and she can already put together simple sentences in a decent accent. She never misses an opportunity to make him feel like an idiot. It drives him nuts.

But, what the hell! He's got quite friendly with some of the native airplane builders. He has some experience with aeronautical engineering, and he starts making suggestions. Guys, there's this thing we call an aileron. No, I know you don't know what it is, but it'll make your kites much more manoeverable. Here, let me show you. He rolls up his sleeves and gets tinkering. They're impressed with his ideas and ask for more.

This continues for a few weeks. By the time the main expeditions from the two federations turn up, the linguist has pretty much mastered the language, but no one is paying her a blind bit of notice. They're only interested in picking the engineer's brains for more airplane know-how, even if he's still stuck at Me Speak Pretty One Day. Wow! say his appreciative superiors. How did you manage to beat the linguist? Easy, shrugs the hero modestly. Our rivals forgot something important. It's no use learning a language if you don't have something to say.

Perhaps the author was wittily contrasting Wittgenstein's early and late takes on linguistic philosophy in an imaginative setting, and demonstrating the relative unimportance of syntax compared to pragmatics? At least, that's the kind of explanation us linguists tend to like.