Re: Naturalness, etc. (was: Re: LUNATIC again)
|From:||Logical Language Group <lojbab@...>|
|Date:||Thursday, November 5, 1998, 18:28|
>Also, with regard to "natural": What I should have said is that "natural"
>refers to "naturally evolved" rather than "naturally evolving". So
>languages which are dying out, and are thus not currently doing much
>evolving, might still count as "natural", if they originated as a result
>of natural evolution. I'm not so sure about constructed languages which
>are intended to evolve naturally but haven't yet begun to (like Lojban).
>My suspicion is that many linguists would exclude these from the definition
>of "natural human language" on the grounds that they did not *arise* (in
>their current form) by natural means. (Cf. pidgins and creoles. Pidgins
>are not "natural", but creoles are, according to this definition.)
So, since linguists find creoles interesting and relevant to linguistics,a
and pidgins significantly less so, the goal for a conlang like Lojban to be
used by linguists is to get it to that stage where linguists can consider it
a creole (or creole-like) rather than a pidgin, which is probably what it
is now more or less. Human invented languages HAVE become "natural",
Modern Hebrew being the most cited case, but probably Swahili as well. Many
third world countries have essentailly created a standardized national language
which is not quite the same as any local dialect (though usually close
to the dialect of the capital city). By your definitin, none of these
could be seen as languages by linguists, yet they are, and not always after
waiting many generations so the artificiality is presumably creolized out.
The reason of course is that a "language reform" labelled as such and based
on an already natural language, somehow seems like a more natural process
than apriori language invention. If the IALA had called Interlingua
"reformed Italian" and sold it to the Italian government, it would probably be
considered a natural language today %^).
>As far as I can see from having read the Lojban Reference Grammar,
>Lojban fits all three of these criteria.
>> A polite Chomskyan! What a pleasure %^).
>Are we really so rare as to be a pleasure? :-) In my experience it's
>the functionalists who are the rude ones, always referring to us formalists
>as if Generative Grammar were some sort of religion with Chomsky as supreme
>and infallible pontiff! :-)
Well, I have heard people attacking Chomskyan theories, and painting Chomskyans
with a broad brush as intellectually close-minded, but it always seemed more or
less an intellectual challenge rather than rudeness. Chomskyan linguists
have, however, been directly insulting to Loglanist/Lojbanists in the way that
they choose to label the language uninteresting, not merely in the fact that
they do so. It's kind of hard to explain, but for the longest time, my main
goal for Lojban was to get the project to be considered "respectable" to
linguists, which it once was. The Chomskyans I talked to not only saw
no reason to think that it was possible to have Loglan/Lojban be linguistically
respectable, but theyseemed to be insulting me for trying to gain this
respect. It was clear that I was being classed with the auxlangers who,
naive anbout linguistics, would bombard linguists with imperatives to solve
the "World Language Problem" by supporting their auxlang of choice. I was not
that sort of person, and resented being classed as that sort before I had even
tried to make my case.
I will note that the lingusitics establishment had some jsutification in
thinking poorly of the Loglan project after JCB formally challenged the
NSF when it rejected his grant proposals. He formally made some serious
charges impugning the professionalism of the linguists who had reviewed those
proposals, and I was told that hard feelings were still present when I started
Lojban almost 10 years later (through a 3rd party that knew one of the
As for the attacks on Chomskyism as a "religion", I think that there remains
a lot of bitterness in academia about the success that Chomsky and followers
had in cornering the market for both grants and publications for their school
for a couple of decades. A lot of academics had the careers destroyed,
and hard feelings are sure to result, especially when it comes to be seen
that some of the Chomskyan theories were less useful than originally claimed.
>> I use that term also, and would live to see it adiopted by conlangers in
>> place of the other term.
>Gotta be shorter, though. Modlang? Sounds too much like "modern language"
Well, I could present a Lojban term for it and see if it gets accepted as
standard jargon. People seemed to like "cmavo" as a short word for
"structure word", though the non-English "cm" would need to be changed to
"shm" ot have it accepted by linguists %^).
>> And Lojban differs from this in that we hope that, by having a significant
>> user community, that the language will not only be used for something in the
>> manner of a "real language" that it will acquire the complexity and complete
>> of such a "real language" in relatively short order, while preserving its
>> essential core in some way recognizable from the prescription (and presumabl
>> offering maximal chance to actually TEST some of the Chomskyan andbehavioris
>> theories of language by starting with something rather unlike the typical
>> natural human language and seeing if after undergoing natural human language
>> evolution it shows characteristics predicted by the various schools of
>Here's a question I've been curious about ever since I heard about
>this proposed experiment: Supposing the experiment ever gets carried out,
>how would you control for the influence of natlangs on your Lojban-speaking
>population, since presumably all of them will be bilingual?
There have been a few proposals in this regard. Most well known is the one
JCB wrote in the last edition of Loglan 1, which, while not perfect as described
indicates a general approach.
The essence of using Lojban as a test vehicle for linguistic research is to
a) hopefully because Lojban is so unlike natlangs create unquestionably
strong effects of whatever sort are being looked for, and b) show that these
effects are not explained by the bilingualism. The way JCB suggests for
the latter is to use speakers of very different languages who become
blingual in Loglan(/Lojban). It isn't necessarily the case that Lojban
will ever lose "all of its distinctive features" and we don't really hope
that it will. We hope instead to show that people learn and speak it in
ways that are "natural", and to then demonstrate that these fluent
natural-like speakers of Lojban tackle linguistic problems in ways that are
different from their native languages, and which are not necessarily
explainable by what is currently know about languages (including if
appropriate, pidgin theory. If Lojban is used effectively as a language and
does not fit pidgin theory, then pidgin theory is wrong, or Lojban is something
more than or other than apidgin).
In other words, the essence of using Lojban for lingusitic research is to
show that Lojban speakers DO violate existing theories, and then conduct
additional experiments to rule out explanations that depend on some perceived
unnaturalness of Lojban as a language.
>How would you know what
>aspects of that change were due to speakers adapting Lojban to suit the
>innate requirements of their 'mental grammars',
Well, if there is only one mental grammar, per Chomskyan theories, then all
speakers would more or less adapt Lojban in the same way to that grammar
(I am presuming some version of parameterization for this concept). If
Lojban is adapted differently by Chinese speakers than by English speakers, etc.
AND the adaptations made do not seem to match the native language, then we
have raised a serious question about themodel of the native languagwe or
about the model of language learning/adaptation. If the adaptation neither
match the native language nor patterns used when these speakers acquire other
languages, we gain more information. Exactly what we learn depends on the
>and what aspects were due
>to direct contact with natlangs?
If due to direct contact with natlangs, then one would expect a correlation
with the natlangs known by the speakers.
>I don't imagine you propose to isolate your community of Lojban speakers
>from the rest of the population, so... Not hardly. But LOjban speakers in different countries who do not have
conrtact with each other are controllable language communities. You can also
control against native speakers learning other languages in contrast to
These are my ideas - I am not the linguist who would do the research and I don't
pretend to be capable of designing The definitive Lojban experiment by myself without
professionally trained linguists %^). My job is to show that possibilities
exist in certain directions. I have been told that these directions are
not necessarily unreasonable, though of course we need the
speaker community AND the credibility with the linguistic community.
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273
Artificial language Loglan/Lojban: ftp.access.digex.net /pub/access/lojbab
or see Lojban WWW Server: href="http://xiron.pc.helsinki.fi/lojban/"
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