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Re: Comparison of philosophical languages

From:Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Date:Tuesday, January 21, 2003, 6:22
En réponse à Andrew Nowicki <andrew@...>:

Sorry Sally (and myself by the way :)) ). I didn't want to reply, but this goes
to far.

> I believe that any language is merely a tool that > should be discarded when a better tool is found.
If so, then you've understood nothing about languages and this list and should get the hell out of here!!!!! If there is one list where languages are considered more than tools, it's here. If that's all you can think about languages, then you better leave.
> Any tool can be compared to other tools.
Of course. Let's compare an axe with a saw. Basically the same purpose, but different implementations and uses, and thus uncomparable. Languages are like that. I would
> like to know what features of a general purpose > spoken language are desirable. >
Boy, if we knew that, the perfect language would have already existed for a long time! The thing is: all humanly possible linguistic features come with an advantage *and* a drawback. No feature is purely advantageous. A purely taxonomical system has the advantage of providing a nice basis to construct vocabulary, but it has the disadvantage of making words difficult or even impossible to distinguish from each other. A system based on more or less arbitrary roots makes for words easier to recognise, but loses the advantage of a productive system. Agreement features (like the verb agreeing with the subject in person and/or number, or the adjective agreeing in gender and/or number with the noun, like in French) are practical as they help to keep tract of what applies to what, but can be considered excessively redundant by other people. Every linguistic feature comes with its own trade-off, you cannot get something without losing something else. In the end, all languages are as efficient as each other, which has been proven by millenia of use. The only case a language ceases to be used is when its speakers are slaughtered are adopt a more "prestigious" language brought to them by an invader (a political and absolutely not linguistic reason). Or the language may evolve into another (or more than one). But then, the language actually never ceases to be used. It just changes name over the time, when it ceases to be recognisable to its former self. For some particular features, some languages are indeed more efficient than others. If you're interested in having a very precise politeness system, go to Japanese, not to English. But if you don't care about hierarchy, do the contrary. If you want an efficient compounding system, see German, not French. But if you want an extremely rich vocabulary of emotions, do the contrary (not saying that the German vocabulary of emotions is lacking, but the French one is certainly flourishing ;)) ). But when you take the global role of communication, i.e. all features taken together, no language is "better" than the other. They have different priorities, different ways to implement communication, but at the end whether people speak English, French, German, Japanese, Khmer, !Xu~, Swahili or Nahuatl, they manage to say the same things in approximately the same time, with the listener understanding as well in any case. All languages are *already* optimal tools, they've had tens of millenia of evolution to become this way. Whatever you'll try to add, you will have to substract something as well.
> Some programming languages are better than other > programming languages.
No. Some programming languages are better at doing a specific task than others, but less good at others. And anyway, programming languages have little to do with languages at all, so the comparison is moot. Some spoken languages are
> better than other spoken languages.
Nope. If that was so, the "less good" languages would have been abandoned long ago. We are not stupid people ready to lose time with an inefficient tool! Now you're insulting people! Some systems
> of measures are better than other systems of > measures.
Yep, but a language is much more than a system of measures. If we had been talking about systems of
> measures I would certainly say that the metric > system is superb to other systems. The flamers > in this thread imply that we cannot compare > languages. Just because *they* cannot compare > languages does not mean that languages cannot > be compared. >
First, languages *can* be compared, but not in terms of "better" or "worse". There are other things in the world than that. Things can be "different", without necessarily being "superior" or "inferior"! Here, we constantly compare languages. But we don't fall in the trap of considering one "superior" to the others in general. As I explained, some *features* may be superior than others for a specific goal, but they always fall short for another. And in the end, each language is as efficient as another, when it comes to actual communication. Any other opinion shows a complete lack of linguistic knowledge. Before trying to make a perfect language, learn your classes! (or at least look around you. It seems you are constantly revolving around your own belly-button and cannot see anything else. You are *not* always right you know). As for insulting us by calling us "flamers", should I remind you that the welcoming mail you receive when subscribing to this list *specifically* calls against auxlang propaganda, that we've all been repeating that to you, various times, and despite our calls there has been *no* mail from you which didn't contain a reference to your language as "better" than others for international communication? *YOU* are the flamer. *YOU* haven't broken the *only* rule of this list, that we've repetedly warned you of, from your very first post on. So please don't insult our intelligence by calling us "flamers". *YOU* are the only person making this thread a flamewar, by refusing to listen to sound advice, just because it doesn't fit your pre(mis-)conceptions about language. We have just been trying to bring you advice, to warn you of your misconceptions, and to defend ourselves against your insults. If you can't recognise this for what it is, I suggest you leave this list. Clearly you are *not* accepting the rules of the game, and thus have no right to play.
> Some spoken languages, for example Japanese, > resemble Ygyde and Ro in a sense that they build > compound words from short roots. Even the English > language has some of this ability: police-man, > fire-man, work-man, crafts-man, journey-man, > milk-man, gentle-man, noble-man, water-man, air-man, > horse-man, herds-man, boat-man, cave-man, sky-man, > country-man, woods-man, trades-man, yeo-man, > weather-man, gun-man, clergy-man, house-man... > Is it difficult to tell these words apart? >
In a noisy environment, yes. When a non-native pronounces them, yes. Japanese compounds are indeed great, but they are also difficult to remember and recognise. Japanese don't have the tendency to simplify them for nothing.
> On the other hand the English language has some > nasty near homonyms: She sells sea-shells. I had > a hot hat on my head. >
All languages have them. Philosophical languages make them a necessity by their very design!
> Another flaw of the English language is that a > novice listening to a fast speech cannot tell > where one word ends and another word begins. >
True of *any* language, except maybe Lojban. But even then, in constant fast speech even in Lojban you get problems. It's the very nature of speech itself that causes it.
> If the flamers are right, the English language is > impossible to learn, and the most random languages > are the best ones.
You've really *not* being listening to us. Stop acting like a child and open your eyes, and start reading *everything* we write. We never said that random languages are best. We just said that pure taxonomical languages are impossible to learn. That's something else. We've never been advocating the exact opposite! There are things in between you know? Like, languages for instance. There is a big difference
> between diversity and randomness.
Of course. Which is why you advocate a system nullifying diversity... Randomness can
> be described by a simple mathematical formula, and > therefore lacks complexity which is the foundation > of true diversity.
Of course. But this has nothing to do with what we've tried to tell you. Listen to us instead of putting words in our mouths (or on our posts) that we never even pronounced! (or wrote) My intuition tells me that
> the perfect language should resemble wild nature; > it should be diverse, but not random. >
Which is what it actually is already, and what your proposal certainly isn't. If nature is something, it's certainly *not* a taxonomical system. The evidence: no taxonomical system can account for everything natural. There are always things that are off the system. You really should apply your own advice to yourself sometime. Now, as we all told you already, it seems that you have misunderstood the goal of this list. Unless you change your attitude, you are advised to leave it. Clearly you are not ready to comply to the few rules that allow this group to be one of the friendliest discussion area of the web. Christophe. Take your life as a movie: do not let anybody else play the leading role.


And Rosta <a.rosta@...>on getting the hell out of here (was: RE: Comparison of philosophical languages