Re: Linguist's Of The Apocalypse, unite!

The Low Willow (
Tue, 28 Jan 1997 19:36:50 -0800 (PST)

On Jan 28, 1:43pm, "Lee Daniel Crocker" wrote:

} good reasons, especially the writing system. It is far more efficient
} than alphabetic systems: more words per page, fewer penstrokes per word,
} faster to read and comprehend.

Bloody hell to learn, though. Thing is, language for humans (and most
transhumans; I think you have to make rather drastic changes to avoid
this) is foremost spoken communication. Or gestural, for the deaf; the
relative ease of deaf children learning sign language vs. normal people
and spoken language is something I should read up on, I suppose.
Writing comes second. It therefore makes it easier to learn the writing
system if it corresponds well to the spoken language. Younger writing
systems -- esperanto, Finnish, Malaysian -- correspond very well.
English not so well, although part of that is enocoding historical
information -- 'ph' for /f/ means Greek -- and I've read an essay
arguing that English orthography is actually very good given the number
of dialects; a set of letters does not always have the same sound, but
it tends to have the same sound in one dialect, and another sound
_consistently_ in another dialect.

At any rate, Chinese ideograms have no relation to phonology. If all
languages were just different codes for a common set of concepts, this
wouldn't be a problem. People could speak whatever they wanted, and use
one common set of ideograms. Brin's Galactic languages possibly best
work that way. But this isn't the case for us.

}effective communication of objective concepts, and the storage and
}retrieval of objective information (and I for one will not surrender
}to subjectivism by denying that those things exist)

Erm. Objective data certainly exists. Mathematics works fine for this.
I'm not so sure about objective concepts; narrowly speaking, they'd
probably be handled by maths; as you get broader in scope more
subjective context gets swept in. Even a straightforward fact like
'father' can encode a lot of cultural information. Certainly one could
specify a set of scientific concepts common to all humans, but I'm not
sure it would be worth devoting a new language to them. Some might
argue that much scientific discourse is already another language, or
several, even if it condescends to use the English grammar.

} (2) Evolution of the language has been rapid, but is clearly slowing.
} Today's students may have difficulty with Shakespeare and downright
} consternation with Chaucer, but in 2030--even 2130--a 1930 recording of
} a Rudee Valee tune will sound as ordinary as it does today. Spelling

Hah. I've never heard of Rudee Valee. Is phonology really stabilizing?
I'd think that's best measured, not stated from personal perception.
Arguably linguistic change should speed up, because of more and more
exposure to other tongues. Wait for Spanish and Chinese to have major
impacts on world language by 2130. The Internet allows speakers of odd
languages to find each other around the world -- I think there are
Esperanto newsgroups. Certainly many Esperanto postings on sci.lang.

There's a lot of history in the phrase 'lingua franca'.

} particular, we can try to fix the well-known identifiable problems
} like sexism, unintentional ambiguity, poor adaptability to new
} concepts, cultural dependencies, and others. Whatever we create

Add more pronouns; add more prounouns or more words, or pay more
attention to linguistic history and etymology; how is English not
adaptable?[1]; English-ISV[1] doesn't suffer from cultural dependencies,
does it?

[1] One benefit of non-inflection is the ease with which we can turn
nouns into verbs and whatnot. Actually Indo-European had this as well
despite its heavy inflection, if my source is correct; concepts were
roots, which then took suffixes to indicate (type of!) noun or verb,
plus all the nitty details German and Greek remind us of.[3]

[2] International Scientific Vocabulary. Mostly Latin and Greek.

[3] The article (back of the American Heritage Dictionary) said that
English had lost almost all original inflection, but traces of the
primeval syntax could be seen in Ancient Greek, for example. Greek
makes Latin syntax look fairly simple, despite having one less case. I
hope the author was speaking in hyperbole then. Given the subsequent
hints of Indo-European grammar, I fear he may not have been.

Merry part,
-xx- Damien R. Sullivan X-) <*>

"Some would sooner die than think. In fact, they often do." -- B. Russell