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Re: building from primitives (was Re: Language Contest)

From:David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Date:Friday, November 30, 2007, 21:10
Steve wrote:
While _nena mama_  *can* mean "woman's breasts" and _toki pona_ *can*
Toki Pona, they both still have their literal meanings, which are so
broad that
the specific English meanings can be/have been attached to them.
that can be described as 'parent bump' or 'good speak' is
appropriately called
_nena mama_ or _toki pona_, resp.  The literal meanings of the
individual words
are being used.  There is no lexicalization of phrases.  The only
'lexicalization' is in how to translate them into English, and that's
largely determined
by context.

This sounds more like fancy than fact.  "Blue bird" can also mean
"a bird that's blue" in English, the only difference being the stress
placement.  If Toki Pona was a language spoken by no one but
the creator, you could get away with saying that there is no
lexicalization of phrases.  I think the name of the language is
good enough to prove that there is--even if it shouldn't (and
even if it doesn't in the mind of the "ideal" speaker).  Just because
you can recover the meaning of the parts of the compound
doesn't mean the compound isn't a separate word, and the
same goes for being able to use the individual words of the
compound in novel circumstances.  Further, context is what
helps define all words.  If a word that can have different meanings
in different contexts is *not* a word, then you're going to
have a lot of non-compounds in every language that are not

Given the nature of the language, a newcomer could come and
start using novel compounds.  But what if the community doesn't
like them?  For example, nena jan ike "bad person bump" =
woman's breast.  In fact, let's say they decide that jan ike is
how they're going to say "woman".  If they do us, two things
could happen:

(1) The users aren't going to get it, and the compound won't
make sense.

(2) The compound will have to be explained, and then they'll
be able to recognize it as "this user we don't like's word for

Now here's the thing.  If a particular meaning is assigned to it,
then it becomes a lexical entry.  In this case, the meaning is more
than just the meaning--it includes the status assigned to it--the
status that allows a user to know that good user A using "jan
ike" in a context where they're talking about a thief, or something,
means something like "bad person", whereas bad user B insists
on using it as "woman" in contexts that would ordinarily call for
"meli".  This doesn't meaning that the meanings can't change,
or that one phonological form can be used in multiple contexts.
It does, however, mean there are things that can be latched
onto and used over and over again, which, in my opinion,
qualifies it for lexical entry-hood, at the very least.

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison