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Nouns, verbs, adjectives... and why they're pointless

From:Joshua Shinavier <jshinavi@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 9, 1998, 11:49
> Most nouns are not easily definable. "Cat" can be defined as _felis > domesticus_, a quite precise term. Water can be defined as H2O, also a > precise term, but most cannot be so easily defined. What is "table", > for instance? How can you define it as opposed to "desk"? Both have > some sort of flat surface, suitable for various tasks, such as writing, > but what seperates them? On the other hand, verbs can usually be > defined quite precisely.
I disagree completely. In Danoven there is no distinction, but those words which correspond best to verbs in English are not any simpler than those th= at correspond to nouns. Both are defined "minimalistically" based on other elements of the language. Silm ("to drink"), for instance, means simply "to ingest a liquid (down the esophagus, of course -- accidental inhalation of liquids is not silm!)", and is a concept included in oev (o"v) -- "to ea= t" -- to ingest, intentionally or unintentionally, regardless of material or any other considerations. You would "oev" soup, not "silm" it, unless it i= s all liquid. You would "silm" water, poison, or anything else nutritional o= r non, with whatever intention -- these are the pure forms of the words, clear and unambiguous; additional information may be added by way of compou= nds or further explanation. The "desk-table" quandary is a typically natlang one; natlangs tend to avoi= d inclusions and hierarchial definitions -- there is a tendency to try to put every thing into just one categorical box, rather than taking nouns (since these are the natlang "things") to be simply descriptions, approximate or precise, of things, rather than mutually exclusive classifications. In a sensible language a desk is a table as well; there is no way in which the writing purpose of "a desk" compromises the table-ness of "a table". Now, if "table" were only an adjective, you wouldn't have even brought up this problem -- the seeming "boundary" between "table" and "desk" would disappear, and they might both be used to describe a given thing with no conflict, just as you might describe the table as both "wooden" and "black" without any conflict. I have yet to meet someone who could explain just what the distinction betw= een nouns, verbs, and adjectives is supposed to represent; the *evolution* of t= hese distinctions is clear, but their *purpose*, if there is one, is shrouded in mystery, at least for me. The distinction is absolutely fundamental to the grammar of any language which has it -- IMNSHO there must be some very simp= le, fundamental and important conceptual distinction it stands in for, otherwis= e it would not seem worth all the problems it causes, would it? To me, the PoS seem far more traditional than rational, and this is an opin= ion based not just on reasoning but also on experience; I fluently speak a lang= uage without PoS and have never felt *any* need for them -- from an "outsider's viewpoint", PoS distinctions are artificial, sloppy, and entirely unneccess= ary as well. Flame at will, it's the simple, verified truth ;-) Josh Shinavier _/_/ _/_/ _/_/_/_/ Joshua Shinavier =20 _/ _/ _/ Loorenstrasse 74, Zimmer B321=20 _/ _/ _/_/_/_/ CH-8053 Z=FCrich =20 _/ _/ _/ _/ _/ Switzerland =20 _/_/_/_/ _/_/_/_/ _/_/_/_/ Danoven/Aroven: