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Re: Comparison of philosophical languages

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Monday, January 20, 2003, 7:18
----- Original Message -----
From: "Andrew Nowicki" <andrew@...>

> "H. S. Teoh" wrote: > HST> Furthermore, in order to cope with speakers > HST> of some languages that only have 3 consonants > HST> (p, b, g), you'd have to *majorly* cut down the > HST> phonological inventory. Probably to the point > HST> you can't do very much with it. > > The same limitations apply to artlangs. If we use > this logic, no conlang should have more than 3 > consonants because some speakers cannot pronounce > other consonants.
These limitations do NOT apply to artlangs, Andrew. Odds bodkins! Artlangs are private languages, produced for the pleasure of the artist, for the invented speakers of said artist, and whoever else might wish to learn it, or read up on it. Artlangs are not meant for universal use. You seem to persist in talking on this list in such terms.
> HST> Frankly, compound words are the least of your > HST> worries. Generally, people don't have much > HST> trouble learning polysyllabic roots. Even in > HST> morpho-syllabic languages like the Chinese > HST> languages, where theoretically every syllable > HST> is a different "concept", as a native speaker > HST> I can testify that I don't think in terms of > HST> individual syllables but in combinations that > HST> correspond more closely to what I want to > HST> express. I may not even understand how the sum > HST> of each component in a compound adds up to the > HST> meaning I associate with it; but that doesn't > HST> stop me from learning the compound as a unit. > HST> The possibility of breakdown into individual > HST> syllables each with its own meaning is really > HST> only of philosophical value.
Ditto. See my recently posted remarks about the goals of the "philosophical" language makers. Wilkins expected that the best way you remembered his words were if you understood each element of the compound, not through some mysterious cerebral encryption that happens in our brains that we still don't quite understand. Some of what you say below is true to a certain extent, but it strikes me as not getting at the full nature of language.
> I disagree. The fluent speaker does not care about > the roots of compound words, > but someone who learns > the foreign language benefits a lot from the > sophistication and simplicity of compound words.
H.S. was talking about polysyllables.
> When you learn a new language, you do not walk > around with dictionaries,
Sure you do. Especially if you're living in a foreign country and have to get the plumber to fix your toilet quickly. :)
> but you try to guess > the meanings of new words. If you know that > "legal expert" means a lawyer, and you hear a new > word sounding like "medical expert," you may guess > that this means a physician. If you are learning > English language and hear the word physician for > the first time, you do not have the vaguest idea > if this means a physicist, a cuss word, or yet > something else.
But this system can only go so far. Let anyone stray from it by introducing a new word, or let it evolve as all languages do, and it will start developing idiosyncracies and irregularities and eventually maggelities. <G> Unless you try to "fix" it-- Jonathan Swift's mistake.
> AN> And women. On average, they see colors better than men.
> HST> I'm not so sure about that. I think women just > HST> associate colors with emotions more strongly > HST> than men, and so they tend to notice things men > HST> are completely oblivious to. > > I am sure. Approximately 5% of men and 0.5% of > women are color blind.
That's a different statistic. It has nothing to do with how non-color-blind men and women "see" colors.
> HST> One more thing that I notice here: it seems that > HST> many related words are distinguished only by vowel > HST> differences. Some of these differences may not > HST> be big enough for some people to notice. For > HST> example, using vowel prefixes alone to mark > HST> different grammatical functions is not good. > HST> It's too easy to confuse between y and i, and > HST> when you're speaking fast, between a and o. > HST> It's OK if words that differ only by vowel appear > HST> in very different contexts (eg. pear, pare, pair > HST> that somebody else has mentioned). But when they > HST> are very close or related in function (in this > HST> case, marking grammatical function of a noun), > HST> there should preferably be at least two degrees > HST> of difference (eg. change a consonant as well > HST> as vary the vowel, or maybe use totally different > HST> consonants altogether) so that it's less > HST> prone to ambiguity.
I agree. In the early middle ages, English adopted Scandinavian "their" and "them" because hire sounded too much like "her," and hem sounded too much like "him." I.e., difference was important.
> This could be done with accent. For example, stressed > first syllable would mean adjective, stressed > second syllable would mean noun, and stressed > last syllable would mean verb.
Interesting. But that requires words of three syllables in all cases, doesn't it?
> HST> Just think if, as a contrived example, English > HST> were to use "hond" for "wrist", "hind" for "finger", > HST> and "hein" for "palm". It would be utter chaos > HST> trying to teach a child the difference between > HST> "hand", "hond", "hind", and "hein". And if you're > HST> speaking over a staticky phone line or in a crowd, > HST> be sure that the other person is going to have NO > HST> idea what exactly you're referring to. (And notice > HST> that when you try to pronounce these words out > HST> loud, you naturally try to exaggerate the > HST> differences between the vowels? > That's your > HST> brain saying, man, these words are so similar, > HST> I better sound them as differently as possible > HST> so that the listener will be less likely to > HST> confuse one with the other.) > > Utter chaos? Probably not. Nonetheless you are right > about the pronunciation problems. I believe that all > children have tonal ability but they loose it if they > do not use it. It seems that tonal differences are > needed to make vowels more distinct. For example, > letters /a/, /e/, and /i/ should have high pitch and > letters /y/, /o/, and /u/ should have low pitch.
So syllable stress AND pitch? And words of three syllables? This is already taking your language out of the realm of the easy. Hey, do as I forget who suggested, and take a look at Eco's book. It's really very good. All best, Sally Caves Eskkoat ol ai sendran, rohsan nuehra celyil takrem bomai nakuo. "My shadow follows me, putting strange, new roses into the world." Ev Teonaht edrimaf ("Dream in Teonaht")


Andrew Nowicki <andrew@...>