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NGL: Proposal: Regarding the Building of the Lexicon

From:Gerald Koenig <jlk@...>
Date:Monday, October 5, 1998, 6:32
This is a repost of an important new post from Stephen Degrace
regarding the possible structure of the NGL net democracy.

>1.0 Introduction > >This piece is written to address some of the practical issues as I see >them regarding the current debate on the best way to build the >lexicon. Further, I propose a mechanism for lexical building. I sort >of regret getting into this right now, because I did promise Jerry a >response to his piece regarding the spatial vector system, which I am >woefully behind on, and I am behind on a number of other replies as >well, to say nothing of any personal projects that are currently on >hold. Well, I can only do so much, and this issue is important. So, I >will here supplement my previously supplied two cents with a further >two bits, and let the other stuff wait a bit more :-). > >I will attempt to address this issue in an organised fashion; in >addition, I will attempt to be a bit comprehensive. > >In this proposal I will be making proposals for changes to the >functioning of the group, which is actually quite presumtuous of me. I >apologise for this, and hope I don't offend anyone too much. My hope >is to at least stimulate some discussion by this which will hopefully >lead to a harmonious, practical consensus on the issue of vocabulary >building. > >2.0 The Current State and Status of the Lexicon > >As I understand it, (and I freely admit, I'm confused about a lot of >stuff, so if I'm wrong about stuff, please correct me. We will all >benefit from having mis-conceptions cleared), what we have now is a >proposal from Jack for a module consisting of between six and seven >hundred morphemes based largely on a vocabulary list known as the >Ogden Set, with which Ogden claims you can talk your way around just >about any idea. A clever idea for a starting place, but clearly vastly >inadequate for our eventual needs. This raises the question, How shall >we grow the vocabulary? There are a number of ways ideas floating >around in this regard, and I will attempt to collect and characterise >them. A further issue, that I have not seen fully addressed, is what >is the ultimate status of Jack's vocabulary? I will tackle that one >first, and then finally propose what I think _should_ be its status. > >2.1 The Ogden Set > >The question here is, is this going to be a final part of the language >in some form? And if so, what is it's status within the language and >how do we go about proposing modifications? > >I'll address the legal issues first. It appears to me that anything >and everything you propose for NGL is part of a module. That just >seems to be the way things work. So, okay, Jack's Ogden Set is a >module. Since it is _his_ module and he will ultimately be the one to >place it before the electorate to vote on, that makes him the final >arbiter of what goes in it. So if, for example, I hate a certain >connotation on a certain word, like the fact that {dum}, "normal," has >the connotation of "zombie," there is absolutely nothing I can do >until the event that the Ogden Set is ratified and comes under the >powers of normal linguistic change, in which case I can simply refuse >to feed the connotation on {dum}, and if enough people follow suit it >will lose the connotation I happen not to like. > >But that's not quite true, that there's _nothing_ intralegal I can do, >because it seems to me one type of proposal that ought to be possible >is a proposal for an amendment. So I could theoretically propose >changes to the words of the Ogden Set or additions to the list. But >this creates somewhat of an adversarial atmosphere that I really want >no part of. > >What is the proposed status of the Ogden Set? Is it to be the true >core vocabulary of NGL upon which all else builds as part of a >separate module? If so, what are borrowings? Are they part of a module >too? Jack's words are for the most part perfectly fine, (although I >have quibbles), and I think it would be insane to create a complete >competing list. We have this resource that Jack has put enormous >energy into giving us, why not take advantage of it? I'm sure as hell >not going to go through all the work of creating a complete competing >vocabulary, especially considering I generally support Jack's >vocabulary, and I don't see anyone else volunteering to create a >competitor either. So I think we need to accept that Jack's vocabulary >is going to be part of the language in some form as a practical >matter, and work from there. > >2.2 > >I have a proposal with regards to the status of the Ogden Set and >methods for building the vocabulary, which I will deal with in section >2.3. Here I shall address what I see as the current options that have >been proposed, as well as the nature of the status quo. These things >are relevant because they had an impact on what I finally decided to >propose. > >2.2.1 The Status Quo > >The basic nature of the status quo is that the Ogden Set is the core >vocabulary and that Jack, as the proposer of the Ogden Set is the de >facto arbiter of what goes into the core vocabulary. I gather that >when you propose a module, you are the basic arbiter of its final >form, but if you propose a single morpheme or a single change to a >morpheme, basically you're working through Jack... New words are added >by a process of proposal followed by lengthy debate, and the status of >many "orphan" morphemes can remain obscure. I stress, though, that we >have a good, solid, useful starting vocabulary and it is growing, so >not all is bad, by any means. > >The problem here is that the vocabulary grows slowly (if you want to >consider this a problem), that IMO nothing's status is comfortably >clear, and that more responsibility for the entire lexicon is placed >on Jack's shoulders than is fair to him, creating an unfair workload >on him and ironically fuelling resentment at the de facto power over >the core lexicon that his position as proposer of the Ogden Set >affords him. There is some good in the current situation, but I do not >consider it stable over the long term. > >2.2.2 Massive Temporary Borrowing > >Jerry's idea. The concept is that if you need a morpheme borrow it >from somebody. Then as time goes on, gradually replace the borrowed >morphemes with native ones, optimised for syllable count and so on. > >This idea has some attractive aspects, but generally speaking I don't >like it. I think it will cause NGL to be far more massively >foreign-influenced in its early stages than it really ought to be. We >will be using words with meaning realms set in other languages, and it >seems to me that as these get replaced they will tend to get replaced >by words with the same meaning realm. Meaning _de facto_ a strong >English influence on the basic character of the language. Further, >exactly what langauges are we allowed to borrow from, anyway? We have >a couple of Spanish-speakers around here, and if NGL truly isn't >biased they should be able to borrow from Spanish when they do >space-filled translations... problem is, I don't speak a whole lot of >Spanish, and it would be just as easy for me for practical purposes if >they just made up words and included a vocabulary list. What I'm >trying to say here is that the borrowing idea wouldn't necessarily be >any easier, any better, or any fairer than what we already have. > >I believe that making new morphemes as-you-compose on the basis of >perceived need is an excellent way to add to the language, and it >seems to me that if a policy of massive borrowing were followed >instead, people would be discouraged from doing this kind of useful >work. > >Besides, we already have a mechanism in the language to allow impromtu >borrowing, the lazy marks. The advantage of this is that it explicitly >isolates and sets off the borrowings, and it tends by its very nature >to discourage its own use in compositions (as opposed to more >conversational, "chatty" pieces where you really can't coin in >mid-sentence). > >2.2.3 The Call to Arms > >The idea here is that we try and mobilise a massive force to build a >large vocabulary quickly. This is a good idea in principle, and I >think that there is no problem whatsoever with this idea being carried >out in some form. The big problem I see here, though, is organisation. >How do we make sure that these words get some kind of vetting, and how >do we make sure these words get duly recorded so we can access them? >The idea here is nice, but I want to see it proposed in conjuction >with some sort of proposal as to how recruitment, briefing on the >phonology and philosophy of the language, review of proposed >morphemes, and recording of the results, and so on, is to be actually >organised. I'm not at all saying that this isn't necessarily do-able >or desirable, but before I take a position on it, I'd like to see the >proponents of this plan come out with a proposal for implementation >that includes thought as to the practical logistic aspects of this >exercise, because it does matter, in my opinion. > >2.3 My Proposal For the Growth of the Lexicon > >This proposal is a shot at a practical mechanism. I fully realise that >this proposal is not fully-formed, and I welcome others fleshing it >out and modifying it, if the basic idea finds favour. My general >feeling is that the more people give some input, the better it will >be. > >First and foremost, I want to modify the way the modular system >relates to _vocabulary_. I want modularity abolished. I want it clear >that no word is modular or core, it's either part of the language or >not. Words can be slangy or jargony, but that's a different thing >altogether. For example, although {isopurrpanamin} comes origionally >from the Chemistry module, and is professional jargon most people >would not know, under this proposal it is nevertheless part of the >"core" language, not "modular." Modules may propose vocabulary items, >but these vocabulary items are specifically _not_ part of the module, >they are part of the main language as a whole, if they are accepted >with (or even without) the module. A module, then, is nothing more >than a way to organise proposals. If it is anything more, then it is a >_protocol_ regarding the _use_ of morphemes, not a set of morphemes >itself. For example, the vector module morphemes {fu}, {pa}, and {mu} >are a full part of the language meaning "future," "past," and >"present"; although they are proposed with the vector system, they are >made part of the main language and do not form the essence of the >proposal itself. The VTT proposal instead is a proposal for a protocol >for using these and other morphemes that are proposed concurrently >with the VTT proposal, as a system for rendering the tense of verbs. > >Words do not "belong" to a module, and the lexicon itself is not a >module, it is a distinct entity that transcends modules. My proposal >is that *each and every morpheme is a separate proposal*. So something >like Jack's Ogden set is not a single module but a collection of about >640 separate proposals. > >Words belong to only three categories, proposed, accepted, and >provisonal. Ratification is only required to settle disputes where the >parties arguing the particular morpheme cannot find a compromise. This >system requires that people be willing to be civil to one another and >be open to compromise. It requires a certain collective goodwill, in >order to keep down the number of ratification votes required so the >group doesn't get bogged down. Ratification is still _required_ for >_protocols_, like tense systems and rules of grammar, I'm not >proposing to change that. As some morphemes may have a function that >is basicaly grammatical, their fate may be tied up in these votes. >However, if we maintain a certain basic goodwill and mature attitude, >this grey area should not cause too many problems. > >A word may be proposed at any time, and it makes no difference if it >is proposed separately or with a module. It cannot be accepted until >somebody has seconded it. The word is considered accepted if no >further debate is forthcoming (and not considered accepted until >debate ceases amicably), and it is then added to the lexicon as the >equal member. > >Words may be proposed in large chunks, as with the Ogden Set. It is >acceptible to to accept provisionally (a grey category) the entire >chunk without debating every single word in it. However, it has to be >understood that later on, as people try to use this block of words, >they may feel free to re-open debate on any particular word, and the >accepted status of that word is gone until debate ceases again. > >Basic civility and maturity of participants is relied upon to make >sure that quibbling, (while quibbling is definitely acceptible) is not >frivolus or spiteful and does not bog down the group. I believe we >have the maturity to carry this off. > >The provisional category is to handle honest differences of opinion >that can't be solved right away. If the parties arguing the point >can't agree, a disputed morpheme can be made provisional (and gets >marked as such in the lexicon). "Provisional" basically means that the >morpheme's proponents will use the morpheme for a while to try and >demonstrate its value, but the morpheme is understood to have a more >precarious and less official status. An excellent example of this type >of morpheme is my {paon}, "on the surface of," which has never >achieved general acceptance, but which I still use occassionally to >try and make a case for it. Provisionals can be re-proposed by their >proponents, after which the disputing parties will either agree to >drop the morpheme, accept the morpheme, accept some compromise, or >agree to disagee. If the last, they put the morpheme on the >ratification list, and put the question to the voters. > >Words placed on the ratification list are treated as provisional until >there's a ratification vote to determine their fate. > >The lexicon is not carved in stone. The deletion or modification of >any existing word can be proposed at any time, and goes through the >process of acceptance in the same way as a new proposal for a >borrowing or a coining. > >As for how to get new morphemes: not by massive true-borrowing, not in >the early stages of the language, that much I think is generally >agreed. If some kind of massive mobilisation of effort for coining is >implemented and properly thought out with regards to organisation, >great. But as for me, I'm in no particular hurry. The way I currently >plan to approach vocabulary building is in the way I've been doing, by >working with the language and making proposals where this causes me to >see a need. I'm patient and don't mind if it takes a long while to >build up a large vocabulary. And I don't think it's disasterous if I >have to work with a more limited vocabulary early on. I say, leave the >question open, and if anybody thinks of a way we can speed it along >and propose a practical way to implement it, that's wonderful. > >I propose two phases of wordsmithing. We are currently in phase one, >Design. This proposal concerns the structure of the Design phase. >Phase two is Launching. The beginning of the launching phase would >take place by vote, and in my opinion, only Julian Morrison, as >project leader, should have the right to propose launching. During >Design, these rules I propose would be in effect. If Launching is >proposed, all outstanding morphemic ratifications have to be voted, >and if Launching itself is then ratified, all accepted morphemes are >then also automatically ratified. After this, the language can only >grow and change by usage. A group of users can agree to change some >facet of the way they do things, for example, to adopt a new coining, >but the only way it can be "accepted" is if other people voluntarily >start using it. There maybe ought to be some sort of "NGL council" >(the working of which is way beyond the scope of this proposal) which >can _suggest_ the course of the language, but as a living thing the >language will no longer be fully under its designers' control. > >The practical aspect of this is the recording of the lexicon. Somebody >has got to volunteer to maintain this thing (maybe we could rotate). >I'm not sure of the techincal details in keeping a Master Lexicon we >can all use, since not everyone can use Shoebox, so unfortunately my >plans have hole on this front. But it needs to be done... a Master >Lexicon needs to be kept, and posted periodically so everyone can >follow it's changes and so that it's always available as a reference. >On at least a monthly basis, a list of proposed changes that have >accumulated during that time (mostly additions, I should think), needs >to be published so that everyone can review it and help whoever's >maintaining the lexicon make sure the record is accurate. > >I don't want the job of keeper. I have a whole lot on my plate already >right now... but if no one else volunteers to do it, I will. This is a >job, not a privelege. Whoever does this is nothing more than record >keeper, his voice carries no extra weight as to what actually goes >_in_ the lexicon. So I expect we will trade it around periodically, so >that one person doesn't have to shoulder all the burden... > >3.0 Summary > >To summarise, here are the basic principles for vocabulary building I >propose: > >1. There are no vocabulary modules; every morpheme is a separate >proposal. > >2. Absolutely anyone can propose a morpheme. > >3. A morpheme is accepted if: > i. It is proposed > ii. Somebody seconds it > iii. After a reasonable time there is no further debate >about it. > >The usual sequence for words about which there proves some desire for >debate is 1. proposal 2. debate 3. seconding if some agreement is >reached among interested parties 4. wait a bit 5. record as accepted > >3a. Seconding has to be explicit. Jerry's pronouns, for example, >would not be considered accepted yet under this system, because even >though I have expressed a basic liking for the idea, that is not the >same as seconding, no-one has yet seconded the idea. > >4. Nothing is carved in stone; proposals to delete or modify >accepted morphemes can be made and are dealt with in the same basic >way as proposals for new morphemes. > >5. Chunks like the Ogden Set can be provisionally accepted to >save time; they are treated as accepted, but debate can be re-opened >on their members, removing their accepted status until debate is >resolved. > >6. If an agreement cannot be reached, we take a breather and call >the morpheme provisional. Its proponent(s) can make a further case for >it through use, and can eventually re-offer it for acceptance. > >7. A ratification list is maintained; if no agreement can be come >to on a morpheme after initial debate and a provisional period, the >mopheme goes on the ratification list. Items on the list have to be >voted on by the electorate to gain acceptance or be rejected, in the >meantime they remain provisional. There is no set time the list has to >be voted on, it can be done in batches, but the list has to be cleared >before the Launching stage. > >8. In order to launch the language as a living thing, as opposed >to an object under construction, Our Glorious Leader (Julian :-) has >to propose launching and it has to pass vote. Votes for items still on >the ratification list have to be held at this time. If the vote to >launch passes, the entire accepted lexicon is ratified. These rules >then cease to be in effect, as the behaviour of the living language is >beyond their scope. > >The most basic principle of the system is that it depends on >amicability to cut down on the amount of legalism necessary in order >to buld the vocabulary. The system depends on goodwill, civility and >maturity. It's okay to argue hard, but people have to always be open >to compromise, and considerate of the feelings and preferences of >others. I propose this believing in my heart of hearts that we are >capable of this kind of amicable, mature arrangement. If I am wrong, >my whole system will break down. This system is IMO fairly flexible >and easy, but people have to be willing to work to make it work. > >3.1 Conclusion > >I hope this proposal contains some useful ideas. I earnestly apologise >if I have offended anybody by anything I have said here or if the >ideas here are so obvious as to be a waste of people's time for me to >present them. I hope they will be considered seriously and represent a >positive contribution to the debate. > >Naesverig, > >Stephen DeGrace >1998, i'anasu 5.e > >