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The concept of "relative words", or "relative meanings"

From:Danny Wier <dawier@...>
Date:Monday, January 28, 2002, 2:51
One of the goals of my conlang is to enable a complex system of lexical
meanings that words subsume not only by themselves, but in contextual
relation to the other words in the phrase, clause or sentence.

The analogy to this is in music: a musical note on its own is just a note.
Take middle C for instance. But within a scale structure of C D E F G A B C,
the key is C major (Ionian). But if you lower E, A and B to E-flat, A-flat
and B-flat, the key is C minor (Aeolian), but in Western music B takes a
natural forming a harmonic minor, and A and B for melodic minor (ascending).
That doesn't even take into accounts the other modes: Lydian, Mixolydian,
Dorian, Phrygian and Locrian.

So it's no longer just in C, but in C major or minor. Also, C is the sixth
note in E-flat major, the relative major of C minor.

Or in chemistry. Oxygen by itself is the gas oxygen. When combined with
hydrogen, it makes water. When combined with iron, it makes rust. When
combined with carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen, and after long periods of
either evolution or creation (whichever view you hold), you get a living

So there's the meaning of a word by itself, as used in simple nominative
sentences, the X-is-Y format. And there are numerous contextual meanings
found in other situations. A good example is in "this is Adam", meaning the
indicated person name is Adam, but "I feel (like) Adam", meaning a deep
feeling or guilt and remorse as a result of an irrevocable mistake.

I'm thinking Chinese, Japanese and Korean work along these lines, or at
least Chinese. Or is this just an extended concept of idiomatic language?


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Danny Wier <dawier@...>