Four things: Was: Comparison of philosophical languages
|From:||Sally Caves <scaves@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, January 22, 2003, 12:27|
1) And, please remind me what an Engelang is, how it differs from a
loglang, and what its assumptions are that we "artlangers" are "contentedly
blind" to. :)
And Rosta uarlo krespr:
> He is not so naive as to suppose his ideas are appropriate
> to a discussion of natural languages, and he is right to
> suppose that discussion of conlangs is the appropriate
> forum. But he doesn't realize that he is tacitly working
> under a set of engelangy assumptions and that he is
> addressing a body of artlangers who are contentedly blind
> to those assumptions.
2) This is the major criticism I have of the "descriptive" word, which is a
feature of the kind of philosophical language that Andrew is proposing.
I've already expressed my doubts about the efficacy of creating words for
root vegetables in this way. (Which is a little hypocritical because
Teonaht has root veggies based on the root word vro: vrolahs, vroky, etc.)
But when you do this:
>France = tocaty = "proper noun middle artistic country"
>Italy = nacaty = "proper noun religious artistic country"
>Argentina = panuty = "proper noun cold random country"
>Egypt = byfity = "proper noun dry old country"
>Iraq = fibyty = "proper noun old dry country"
>Christianity = ybonate = "noun wet religious organization"
>Islam = yminate = "noun political religious organization"
>Judaism = yfinate = "noun old religious organization"
>Mormonism = yfunate = "noun new religious organization"
>pope = ytenatu = "noun top religious manager"
>Poland = jytoty = "proper noun dirty middle country"
....you run into the obvious problem of ethnocentrism. The above is a
perfect example of why this system of description won't work as a "perfect"
language to be spoken by all (if universality is a goal behind Andrew's
project and his striving for perfection). Mike Ellis has already responded
with some lively remarks which I leave out, but I have to agree with him
that applying "middle artistic" to France and "religious artistic" to Italy
and "dirty middle" to Poland seems culturally biased. And vague ("wet
religious organization."). I'm just now teaching an article by Patrick
Simms-Williams on "ethnic preconceptions," such as the "effeminate
Frenchman," the "forthright Englishman," and the "visionary Celt" which so
inflect certain people's ideas of other people as to cloud all understanding
of them. (And some far worse stereotypes that Dr. Simms-Williams doesn't
mention out of politeness!). Why is Italy more religious than France? Or
France more artistic than Italy? Is it that stereotype of l'artist et son
beret? Why is Poland dirty? Far better just to take the name of the
country, as someone suggested, and adopt it into the language. Yes, some of
these names were originally descriptive. Austria, for instance (which is
East only to the West!) and many others. But the names have largely lost
that sense of orientation or description. On a lesser level, describing
root vegetables according to a personal or cultural bias based on a
description does the same thing. We are stuck with the notion that garlic
is smelly, instead of, say, savory. That's what gave me the most pause
about Wilkins' language. I get the impression from And, who keeps invoking
my description of the poor man's project as the "usual objections," :) that
he thinks I'm dismissing it. I have issues, that's all, about its efficacy.
Not about its value as an interesting and telling project in the seventeenth
century. But Wilkins' categories, which he kept claiming were "universal,"
were clearly upper-class British, and biased towards Christianity. They
became a stumbling block to his touted universality that he was either
contentedly or not contentedly "blind" to.
I'm not saying that natural languages are not without their cultural biases.
Far from it. But a perfect language (an impossibility), and especially a
universal one, should strive to correct those faults, at least in part. All
naming, all language, will reflect an ethnic vantage point. Not to know
that seems fatal to claims of perfection or universality.
3) On the issue of word boundaries in language: For me, understanding ANY
spoken foreign language, whether it be French or German (languages seen to
be fairly different in their use of word boundaries--witness the famous
liaison in French, or the infamous initial mutation of Irish and Welsh), is
initially difficult. When spoken quickly, even Spanish, which I've spent
most of my early years learning, runs together for me. I am much better at
reading and speaking foreign languages than I am in comprehending them,
especially on TV or worse, on the radio, where I can't see the person's lips
move. It takes far more constant practice for me to be able to understand a
foreign language, and it's not word boundaries that bother me so much as the
phrase boundaries. If I can get the phrases, the words will seem to fit
into them. This may simply be the way my brain is organized, and the lack
of opportunity (I was only one year in Wales, and only two years in
Switzerland, alas, before I was whisked back to the States). But I don't
see how any invented language can fix that failing of mine. In any new
language, I feel transparent, as though the words are arrows and flying
right through me instead of lodging in my comprehension.
4) I am tired of the recent crankiness and fisty-cuffs on this list. I
would like to see less heat and more meat, as of old.