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On the design of an ideal language

From:And Rosta <and.rosta@...>
Date:Monday, May 1, 2006, 17:39
I was interested & delighted to come upon Sai's page called "On the design of an
ideal language" (, as my
primary conlanging goal has always been to create what is, by my lights, the
ideal language. I'd be interested to hear from other conlangers with the same
goal, and to find out what for them characterizes the ideal language.

Sai's goals are as follows [there is much explanatory elaboration on his page]:

0. Principle of Good Representation
"All forms of language use should be as representative as possible of the actual
thinking of the target population."

1. Principle of Least Effort
"[T]he language should *start* with simplicity in mind. This means that things should
be "regular" (linguistic term, meaning "hopefully the rules don't have many
exceptions") as much as possible, that vocabulary should be as dense as
possible (long words for oft-used concepts, especially when shorter words are
not "taken", *will* be broken down with natural use), etc."

2. Principle of Semantic Density
"Any medium used [...] should be used optimally." 'Optimally' means in accordance
with the other principles and such that "all available mediums are used to
their fullest potential".

3. Principle of Desired Clarity
Every 'sentence' should be no more or less semantically precise than the sender wishes.

4. Principle of Default Simplicity
"The more complex the idea, the more correspondingly complex its expression."

5. Principle of Iconicity
The form of the utterance should resemble the meaning.

6. Principle of Cross-Modality
"Anything should be expressable in any/all available means."

7. Principle of Semantic Conservation
"There should be no such thing as a "nonsense" or "incorrect" phrase."

My goals are as follows.

Goals not mentioned by Sai:

8. Principle of Concision.
The language should be as concise as possible *on average*. As a benchmark, it
should be able to achieve the average concision of the concisest natlang,
without compromising the Principle of Desired Clarity. The rationale for this
principle is twofold. (i) It is generally utilitarian, saving time, space,
effort. (ii) Without it, the Principle of Desired Clarity is fatally
undermined: the speaker should not be forced to opt for vagueness because the
desired level of precision is not worth the effort of the degree of verbosity
that expressing it would entail.

9. Principle of Expressiveness.
Everything expressible in a natlang should be expressible in the ideal lang, with (in the
main) no significant loss of concision.

10. Principle of Variegation
The language should be as textured, variegated and many-flavoured as a natlang
(benchmark: English).

Goals shared with Sai:
0. Principle of Good Representation
1. Principle of Least Effort
2. Principle of Semantic Density
3. Principle of Desired Clarity -- with caveats
5. Principle of Iconicity
6. Principle of Cross-Modality

The Principle of Default Simplicity, I subsume under the Principle of Iconicity,
but I also subordinate it to the Principle of Good Representation and the
Principle of Concision, in cases where a complex idea is of high frequency.

The Principle of Semantic Conservation, I subsume under the Principle of Concision
and a modified form of the Principle of Semantic Density.

The principle of Semantic Density, I hold to but with certain caveats.
(i) Speech and writing is primary, and the Principle of Cross Modality must be
respected. Therefore the expressive resources of, say, graphic and gestural
mediums are underutilized.
(ii) A high degree of robustness of contrast is required.



Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>