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Redundancy + Ambiguity = What? (+ another question)

From:Veoler <veoler@...>
Date:Tuesday, September 2, 2008, 12:37
Redundancy + Ambiguity = What?

There have been some talking about redundancy, and sometimes about the
naturalness of ambiguity in a naturalistic conlang. But that got me thinking,
shouldn't they have "opposite effects", so to say?

Imagine language A, a hypothetical natlang:

Phoneme inventory: /g m s a u i/

1. "be in mental state focused on"
2. "not"
3. "other"

1. "say/speak/tell"
2. "time/place/moment"

1. "big/long/much/many"
2. "be located at/happen when"

1. "this/that"
2. "move"

Notice how it have ambiguity, since all words are polysemous. But the
language does also have redundancy, since it only uses four of nine possible
syllables. Is this a realistic picture of a natlang?

Imagine now language B, a hypothetical(?) engelang:

Phoneme inventory: /g m s a u i/


1. "be in mental state focused on"

1. "not"

1. "other"

1. "say/speak/tell"

1. "time/place/moment"

1. "big/long/much/many"

1. "be located at/happen when"

1. "this/that"

1. "move"

Notice how both the polysemy and the redundancy are removed.

Now, do the lack of redundancy makes B inferior to A, in actual use? They
both have nine concepts on nine possible words. The possible mishearing in
language B is compensated with the lack of polysemy.

I want my engelang to have the redundancy of a natural language, but,
considering the complete lack of polysemy (on morpheme level), do I need it?

So, if you take both the redundancy and the ambiguity of natural langauges in
the same calculation, what do you get? And how much redundancy do I need in
my engelang, to make it fit for practical use?

Another question is: do regularity increase the need for redundancy?

Imagine following hypothetical sentences in a purely hypothetical language:

a) he will eat = he will eat
b) he ate = he ate

Here's the gloss:
he = he
will = will (future)
eat = eat
ate = ate (eat + past)

Now, compare it to this engelang:

a) ma dola = he will eat
b) ma done = he ate

The gloss:
ma = he
do = eat
la = "will", future
ne = past

Now, it seems like the engelang have a greater need for redundancy, since it
doesn't distinguish syntactically between the two tenses, while the
irregularity of the hypothetical natlang makes the two sentences more
distinctive from each other.

Now, a natlang might have two words, "know" and "give": they are
distinguished in the argument structure: "know" takes two arguments and
"give" takes three. Now, in my engelang they are not, since the argument
structure is part of the inflection:

kenow "know"
konaw "inform"
gevoh "have"
govah "give"

so the roots "k-n-w" and "g-v-h" are more likely to be confused, since the
words will either be "kenow"~"gevoh" with the same argument structure or
"konaw"~"govah" with the same argument structure.

So maybe the lesser need for redundancy due to the lack of polysemy is
compensated with greater need for redundancy due to the regularity?

I want my engelang to have the same degree of redundancy as the average
natlang, and be fit for real use, but exactly how much redundancy is that?
There was talk about not having any minimal pairs in the language a while
back, but is that degree of redundancy really needed?

Your thoughts?



Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>