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Re: A non-identity, non-plundering language pt.1

From:Christopher Bates <chris.maths_student@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 14:01
> I seek help to construct a language or dialect (see note below) > that systematically distinguishes ‘name’ from ‘thing named.’ In such a > language, I would hope to present and teach an alternative way of > seeing the world, and the role of humans in it––a way that no longer > casts humans as all-powerful dominators and plunderers. >
I'm not exactly sure what you mean by this... English, afterall, encodes this distinction in its lexicon, otherwise the noun "name" would make no sense, nor would the questions "What is it?" and "What is it called?" mean different things (which they do). I think that most languages allow the distinction between the name of a thing and that thing itself to be made in some way. If you mean you want to grammaticalize it in some way, I'm still not entirely sure I understand.
> I believe that I can offer a grammar suitable for such a language. My > colleague, Andy Hilgartner, has derived a grammar, which he has so far > applied only to a notational way of representing dynamic doings or > happenings. He described it early on in Appendix V, pp. 24-40, of a > 1978 paper published in Eco-Logos, under the title ‘You Can’t Get > There From Here’, subtitled: ‘Every currently-available > ‘lnternational’ or ‘One-World’ language encodes a disqualifying flaw’. >
Is your project an auxlang? If so, then you should be aware of the rule on the conlang list that, while discussion of auxlangs is permitted, promoting them is not. This was introduced after a number of fairly violent flamewars I believe, although I don't believe I was here at the time.
> Only recently (Jan. 2006) have Andy and I gotten this 40-page paper > into electronically readable form. Since I don’t know how to send this > to the listserve in a manner that preserves essential formatting, and > we presently lack a webmaster, I offer instead to e-mail a copy (in > OpenOffice or MSWord format) as an attachment directly to anyone who > requests it. If asked, I could send it in PDF or in .rtf. You can also > see some early aspects of the grammar on his site: >, especially in the file > designated 067. I also suggest 093 and 060.
I tried to read 067, and after getting about 1/3 of the way through I gave up reading statements of the blindingly obvious and stopped. Perhaps, if you're proposing a particular grammar, you should set it forth yourself described in a more... linguistically orientated way, instead of forcing your potential audience to plow through large amounts of at best tenuously related philosophical material.
> > We live within––grew up and learned to language in––a culture that > values ‘objectivity’ over any expressing of a point-of-view. To many, > the standard for scientific writing requires that it remain > ‘uncontaminated’ by any self-reference. From this stance, subjective > writing or speaking gets construed as composed of nothing but > self-referential statements, and that amounts to a criterion for utter > unreliability. This clearly has to reflect a high degree of > self-hatred on the part of the evaluator. >
I don't agree with what you say here. I don't think that scientific writers or those who read scientific papers hate themselves... but the nature of the scientific discipline is to form hypotheses about the nature of existence, which is assumed to be objective, and this influences the writing style. Science has nothing against opinion pieces or having a point of view, but it does have something against scientific writers who fail to clearly separate their evidence from their opinions. I think your attack of objectivity is unjustified. It is clear that sometimes there is no objective truth... "good" vs "bad" is a case in point. But the human race operates on the assumption that what our senses tell us is broadly true, and that others experience reality in the same way we do... in other words, that there is an objective physical reality. It is unclear to me if you reject this notion, but if you do then I think it's a wonder that you're sane. How can you interact in society if you're constantly entertaining the notion that either: (1) your experiences are not real, or (2) other people you meet in your (real) experiences may be having a completely different experience of events to you? If you reject the notion of the existence of objective truth in all areas of experience, then you must reject the court system (how can you judge the guilty from the innocent?), all scientific disciplines, history (built, afterall, on the accounts of other people), all spheres of human intellect.
> But, as I see the matter, for anyone to demand absolute ‘objectivity’ > in my writing or speaking constitutes a rejection––a total > devaluing––of my own point-of-view. Such a style expects that I > eliminate entirely the speaker/writer (me), along with my > point-of-view. We might fairly view that as a call for a degree of > self-effacement approaching suicide, both for the author and for the > demander. >
It constitutes a rejection of the *relevance* of your point of view to a document written with a particular goal, not a rejection of your point of view per se. As I said, science is founded on the idea that reality is in some sense objective, and on the idea that experiments and calculations should be repeatable by others with the same results... science does not stop you writing an opinion piece or expressing a belief that the explanation for X is Y, it merely says that you should clearly distinguish between your opinions and your observations. I have certainly read mathematical papers that contained "I" in sentences expressing opinions of the author, and I'm sure I'm not alone.
> Now consider the obverse: Whoever claims to speak or write > ‘objectively’, thereby pretends to omniscience––to a deity-like > certainty. In that sense, such a writer pretends, implicitly, to see > with the eye of the deity, and equally outrageous, to speak with the > voice of that entity.
(1) This is not true. Of course the writer assumes that their senses tell them the truth, that objective reality exists, etc, but these same assumptions are made by all scientists, so do not need to be explicitly stated. (2) I'm not sure why "pretending to see with the eye of the deity" means one is pretending "to speak with the voice of that entity". I'm also not sure why you feel that scientists should let religious beliefs dictate how they write papers... indeed, the history of science has been in large part a struggle to remain free from being forced to write a particular thing by a political creed/religious belief system.
> As I see it, most of the world’s languages derive from the western > Indo-European (wIE) grammar, and rely on the assumptions encoded in, > and largely enforced by, that grammar. Wherever a language, grammar, > or dialect fails systematically to distinguish between two plainly > distinguishable items, it treats them as identical––as differing in no > detail. In treating noun1 as identical with noun1, it further treats > whatever noun1 designates or points at as static and unchanging over > time. Where noun1 designates (names) a person, the absurdity becomes > hard to deny. >
Not true. The vast majority of languages are non Indo-European. As for the problem you identify, it is inherent to all languages... languages have to talk about infinite variety with a finite number of words, so whatever language you choose there are some items that could be distinguished but aren't normally.
> What do I mean, and what do I wish a listener to take in––to > understand as my meaning–– when I assert that I regard some statement > as true or accurate? I want a language that facilitates acknowledging > that assertion as my position, held at this particular time in my > ever-changing learning process, and based on my present state of > theorizing (guessing), and on my present assessment of the accuracy of > the reports from others upon which I have based my theorizing. In > other words, I seek a language that, in all its declarations, calls > for acknowledging and conveying to a reader or listener that the > speaker speaks from a particular point-of-view, as of a particular > date. I further want such a language to call for veridicals, to give > notice to a listener or reader of the degree of trustworthiness the > speaker claims, or has relied upon or assumed in framing her/his > assertions.
Sounds like you want evidentials along with compulsory specification of the time of speaking/writing in some way. However, I'm not sure how exactly you want to achieve "facilitates acknowledging that assertion as my position, held at this particular time in my ever-changing learning process, and based on my present state of theorizing (guessing), and on my present assessment of the accuracy of the reports from others upon which I have based my theorizing.", since this is ALWAYS true. If you mark it by a word, affix, or otherwise, all you'll get is a redundant morpheme.
> > (Break here for the note promised in the first line): As a > long-confirmed anarchist, I explicitly don’t want what Benct quotes, > in his signature block, as distinguishing a language from a dialect: > > “Benct Philip Jonsson -- melroch at melroch dot se > > a shprakh iz a dialekt mit an armey un flot (end of note) > > I do find myself comfortable with a dialect, With Andy, I choose to > write in one devised by D. David Bourland, Jr., which he designated, > in his 1991 book; ‘To be or Not’ as E-prime. I have rarely had anyone > notice! That way of writing follows advice from Korzybski by > eliminating all variants of the verb ‘to be’. By preventing the > passive mode, it has the added advantage of requiring me to make > explicit the agent or doer.
Why is this an advantage? What if one doesn't know the agent or doer? ANd do you realize that all these things are relative? Reality is not neat enough to always have exactly one possible entity that can possibly be labelled the doer. Imagine the following situation: boy A pushes boy B against a window. Boy B is carrying a book which falls and breaks the glass. Which of these is true: Boy A broke the window Boy B broke the window The book broke the window All are true.
> > I hope and intend that someone or someones may build up, in response > to this post, a dialect or language. If, jointly, we should succeed at > that, I see the potential that such a way of speaking, writing, and > understanding may become a start––a trigger––for a ‘social chain > reaction’ that can support improvements in how we see and in how we > treat the world we occupy. IMHO, only that way might we return to > inhabiting it, rather than treating it in the uncaring way an > occupation force does. >
I'm unsure how your previous argument is linked to your environmentalism. There are certainly people who hold the belief that we should continue on as we currently do, so expressing that that point of view is subjective or the evidence which leads them to that conclusion will hardly make much difference.