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A Language built around a novel grammar

From:Weld Carter, Jr. <weldc@...>
Date:Saturday, November 11, 2006, 22:56
I joined this list a few weeks ago, and have ‘lurked’, watching to  
see if a thread already exists here that comes close to addressing my  
concern. Since I haven’t found one, let me attempt here to start one  

Has anyone here done or seen work on a language relying on a grammar  
that does not require the noun/verb distinction? Though this may  
sound preposterous, I know of at least a few Native-American tongues  
that function that way. One member of such a speech community got  
reported to my colleague, Andy as saying, “I can speak all day  
without using a single noun.”

Western Indo-European languages eliminate the observer (speaker) from  
consideration so completely that we native speakers of those  
languages don’t notice the absence, and can scarcely imagine the  
possibility of doing things in any other way. Our sentences allegedly  
express “what really happened”; our verb-forms use some infixes, but  
mainly suffixes, to line up these “happenings” in terms of  
“time” (separated from “space”). As I understand the matter, many  
Native American languages modify their “action-words” (I decline to  
call them verbs) in terms of the degree of validity with which the  
speaker speaks.

In this regard, I quote the Native American author Joseph Bruchac:

“ Whether speaking English or their native languages, Native  
Americans frequently differentiate what they know from personal  
experience, what is general knowledge, and what has been reported to  
them by someone else.  .  .  .
“The truth of memory is such an important element of discourse that a  
number of Native languages throughout the Americas make use of  
suffixes called evidentials Among the Aymara people of the Andes, for  
example, there are three different evidentials that may be added to a  
word to indicate either knowledge acquired through the senses, non- 
personal knowledge involving the remote past (including history,  
legends, and myths), and knowledge gained through written or spoken  
language. Andean Spanish in the Aymara region now makes those same  
I have as my objective here to build up a discursive language on a  
specific grammar derived from chosen premises, namely those set forth  
by Alfred Korzybski, as refined by my colleague, C. Andrew Hilgartner.

To quote Andy, from a note to one of his papers:

“For me, the non-aristotelian premises of Korzybski consist of three  
undefined terms, along with three postulates.
“My preferred languaging renders his undefined terms in verb-related  
forms: to structure, to relation, and to order; whereas he designated  
them merely as nouns: structure, order and relation.
“His three postulates (he labels them 'premises') he expressed in two  
wordings, the first of which reads:
1. The map is not the territory.
2. the map represents not all the territory.
3. The map is self-reflexive.”
“He then offered an alternate list:
1) A word is not the fact, feeling, situation, etc.
2) A word covers not all the characteristics of an object, fact,  
feeling, etc.
3) Languge is also self-reflexive, in the sense that in language we  
can speak about language.
“I find it convenient to abbreviate these as: 1) inaccurate, 2)  
incomplete, and 3) self-referential.”

Andy has already built up a grammar and a notation relying on these  
premises, but so far lacks a way to extend that to form a discursive  
means for presenting and discussing its potential advantages.  As he  
has written: “Mankind has not previously had a grammar derived from  
known––consciously chosen––premises to play or work with.”  He has  
found it difficult accurately to convey his constructs in a language  
the very grammar of which contradicts his chosen premises!

If you want to hear why anyone would want such a language, please  
ask. I regard the reasons as compelling. I expect some among you  
might find them so, as well.

If I address here the wrong list, does anyone have a suggestion as to  
where else I might usefully post this query?
Weld S Carter, Jr.


Eric Christopherson <rakko@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Kinetic <kinetic_wab@...>