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Re: Parallel Languages

From:Jim G <jimg4732@...>
Date:Wednesday, July 27, 2005, 23:53

The short version:  What you're describing is balderdash, but suggests a fascinating idea.  

The long version: 

a.  The balderdash:   

If I understand your post correctly, you're saying that there is a langauge in
which one and the same set of symbols can concern one subject (e.g. physics)
according to one interlocutor and another subject ( according to
another interlocutor.

Unless you're talking about a word-game or computer program that manipulates very
limited numbers of symbols to generate very limited numbers of possible
sentences, I don't think that the "parallel language" you describe in your post
is possible.

First, there is no definitive list of conceptual primitives; that's one reason why no
one has come close to successfully constructing any "philosophical language,"
which is prerequistie to making a parallel language according to your post.

Second, the idea that everyone decides what every word means, but "guidelines" keep
the meanings of the words close across speakers and listeners, is
self-contradictory. To the extent that speakers must conform to guidelines
about the meanings of words, they are not deciding what each word means.

Third, there is no non-arbitrary way to map concepts and statements from one field of
endeavor onto another. For example, is there a concept in cooking that uniquely
corresponds to the physical concept of "force"? Or "mass"? Or "acceleration"?
What statement about cooking uniquely corresponds to "F=ma"? If there are no
such unique correspondences, "F=ma" could mean anything at all if interpreted
as a statement about cooking.

Fourth: If the correspondences are stipulated rather than non-arbitrary, what could
insure that a statement in parallel language X that the speaker uttered as a
statement about physics would *make sense* as a statement about cooking to the
listener? For example....

stipulated correspondences:  

speed = dough
distance = water
time = flour 
(multiplication) = separation
(division) = mixture 

A.   Here's the original mapping:  stipulated. 

"speed = distance over time" = "dough is water mixed with flour." 

B.   Here's a transformation:   Both statements make sense.   

"distance = speed times time" = "water is dough separated from flour."

C.   Here's another transformation:  The cooking statement makes no sense at all. 

"time = distance over speed" = "flour = water mixed with dough" 

b. The fascinating idea: The closest thing to "parallel languages" that I can
think of in real life is the extended metaphor. Things like discussing families
by discussing gardens. What would a language look like if it marked extended
metaphors morphologically and/or syntacticaly, and what cultural circumstances
would make such markings handy? (Does this tie into the use of subjunctive mood
in some languages?)

Jim G. 

Original message:   

Hi all,

My first introduction to a parallel language was Mua. A parallel language is one
where the meaning of words is created by each user of the language. This may
sound like chaos but no, there's more. There are guidlines that keep each
persons individual interpretation close to everyone else's

A persons interpretation of the vocabulary is called his set.

The way this was achieved in Mua was by starting with what we here call a
philosophical language. Instead of the creator of the language deciding what
each word meant it was left up to each individual to decide. Yes. You write to
me using your set and I translate back to english, or whatever, using my set.

Here's the thing. Each field of human endeavor can have its own set. This means that
one person can be talking about physics and the other person can be
understanding him as a cook. Dig? The physicist uses the physics set The cook
understands from the chefs set. Neither of them really have to know what
profession the other guy is coming from. In fact its better if they don't know.

What this does is give ideas and inspiration. Clearly the Cook thinks, "Wow what
kind of soup is this guy making?" Because all ideas expressed in the physicists
set have their corespondences in the Cook's set, but clearly some strange ideas
are going to come through.

I studied Mua for a while with the guy who created it and lost touch with him
before I realized the full implications of his language. There are several
aspects of Mua that I still don't understand.

Has anyone else ever studied or created a parallel language?

-Duke Keenan

The Keenans


David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>