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Re: Comparison of philosophical languages

From:H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Date:Wednesday, January 22, 2003, 2:20
On Wed, Jan 22, 2003 at 01:06:18AM +0100, Andrew Nowicki wrote:
> I have already admitted in this thread that my > names of vegetables are not good. Maybe you can > come up with better names?
[snip] I think it's not just vegetable names that are problematic. The rules of compound word formation are (at least in part) responsible for such difficulties. Whether it's cold vegetable or watery religious symbol, these names are basically arbitrary (as nouns in any language would be); however, because of the way they are formed, the (IMHO overly) regular constituents of it is overly suggestive to a listener -- the listener then tries to extrapolate the meaning, but because it is not precise, he/she is unlikely to hit upon the right definition. I'd suggest you seriously consider/adapt Joe Fatula's proposal. It addresses this problem right at the root, even if it is not a perfect solution yet. Sometimes it is good to have regularly analysed roots; such as a common suffix for vegetable, or for man (as in policeman, airman, etc.). But the arbitrary part of the word should be just that: arbitrary. It may seem counterintuitive, but it is in fact more memorable that way. For a concrete example, take Mandarin's vegetable names. You have /su1tsai4/ and /pao4tsai4/. The common suffix /tsai4/ just means "vegetable". The first syllable is, in fact, completely arbitrary, just as the name "potato" is arbitrary--you cannot analyse it into root forms. But after one encounter with a /su1tsai4/ and being told what its name was, you'd remember it very easily. Incidentally, there is a meaning behind the word; but I don't (and don't need to) know what it is to remember the name. The mind associates /su1tsai4/ with the shape, color, texture of the vegetable, and that's good enough. Now suppose Mandarin has a more "consistent" way of naming vegetables. So you might have names like /ching1su1tsai4/, /ching1pao4tsai4/, /ching1mu4tsai4/, etc.. After a while, all those /ching1/'s become quite tiresome and redundant, and people would have trouble remembering, did the recipe say /ching1su1tsai4/ or was it /ching1pao4tsai4/? The names are too similar to be easily distinguishable. It will take a lot more effort to remember the names, and to remember *instances* of the names, such as when they are mentioned in a recipe. Names like /su1tsai4/ and /pao4tsai4/ are much easier to distinguish, because they are prominently different. Yet you *still* have the advantage of the common suffix /tsai4/, which tells you immediately that this is a vegetable. In other words, regularize the suffix so that a learner can immediately tell what general category the noun belongs to. But don't regularize the first part of the word, which should be as unique as possible. It's similar to designing logos, as I've mentioned before. You want your logo to stand out from everybody else, so that it is *memorable*. That's the non-regularized part. But you don't want to make your logo so different that it is ambiguous what it stands for. That's the regularized suffix part. T -- 2+2=4. 2*2=4. 2^2=4. Therefore, +, *, and ^ are the same operation.