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Apologia pro meo responso (was: Two questions about Esperanto)

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Saturday, July 10, 2004, 6:47
On Friday, July 9, 2004, at 08:25 , Philippe Caquant wrote:

> Why do you take it personnally ?
What makes you think I took it personally? I said, I did not understand what you meant. If I didn't understand what you meant, it's rather difficult to take it personally or impersonally.
> What are the possible > meanings of the pronoun "we" ? It seems you suppose > that, by "we", > I mean conlangers, or users of this > list. But who said that ?
Hang on, please!!!! Who said I supposed that? I wrote: "- haven't a clue what you're getting at here by suggesting some of us aren't adults." It seems you supposed that by "us" I meant conlangers or users of this list. Or even, since you accuse me of taking it personally, that I meant "myself & others on this list".
> I might very well mean that > "we" is mankind in general.
I might also mean "some of us human beings are adults." I am a member of the human race. Also I may well have been - and actually was - using "us" in the sense that a parent might say to a child: "We've been a bit naughty, haven't we?" Parents are rarely, if ever, including themselves in the naughtiness; it's a way of showing empathy. As you mentioned Javascript & programming languages, I did in fact assume your remark wasn't aimed just at this list!
> This is a very good > example of ambiguity of natlangs.
Yes, it is. I meant: "I do not know the answer to your question. I have no idea what it is you are trying to say in this sentence which seems to imply that some of my fellow human beings (possibly including you and/or me) are not adult."
> I gave the example of Javascript because to me this is > somehow the same problem as for Esperanto. Nearly all > the functions existing in Javascript (that is, > concepts, or semantics) also exist in other computer > languages.
Umm - Javascript is a scripting language (with BTW little or nothing to do with Java). I fail to see how it could fulfill the purposes of a more general purpose software production language.
> But for every computer language, somebody > thought that it would be definitely nicer, or more > clever, if the syntax was just a little bit different > from the other languages. Is this an adult attitude ?
I doesn't reflect my experience of programming languages - but then I'm one of those sad forms of human life: a programmer. IME different programming languages have arisen for many, very good reason. Would it have really been adult to stay with FORTRAN to do all our file handling, all our string manipulation, all development in artificial intelligence & robotics, and all the stuff we put on the Internet? Are you really saying that it was just childish people, trying to be 'clever', that came up with COBOL, Pascal, LISP, C, Ada, C++, Delphi, Prolog, Java etc.? There was silly me thinking these had been developed for _different_ purposes, and because our understanding of programming concepts had changed since the 1970s and technology had advanced. No one AFAIK (but you may know better) has so far devised an all purpose programming language that fits all occasions, all circumstances & has built in it all the capabilities of exploiting future and - as yet - unknown technologies. In any case, Javascript is a scripting language (with BTW little or nothing to do with Java); it's not designed to be a general purpose software construction language (and I don't fancy using it for AI work). [snip]
> syntaxes ? If we (meaning mankind) had a standard > syntax for all usual functions, I guess we would be 50 > years further in general wisdom and civilization.
Sorry - I just don't buy this. If such a standard had been established, my guess is that we'd be 20 or more years _less_ advanced in general wisdom & civilization. IME it's precisely because our understanding _has developed_, our technologies have developed beyond what most of us imagined 2 or 3 decades ago, and our expectations of what that technology can do have expanded, that the different programming languages have developed & evolved. To me programming languages are _tools_ that allow me to tackle _different_ problems without having to worry about the niceties of how this is all going to be presented to my machine or, indeed, any other machine as a string of binary digits. To use an analogy, I can use a spanner to tightened nuts. I could use the same spanner to hammer nails into wood; I could even use the same spanner to hammer screws in without bothering to learn how to use a screwdriver. But is that an adult way of doing things? I expect a variety of tools and know that to get the best results, I must learn to use the tools I have available in as efficient a way that I can. Also, I welcome the development of power tools that will make tasks that little bit easier. So it is with programming languages. I expect a variety for different purposes and I expect to learn how to use as effectively as possible those available to me. I expect a major task will need the use of more than one tool (language). Also I expect in future new approaches to programming to be developed, new technologies to be developed & exploited; if this had not happened in the past, computers would probably still only be used for number-crunching.
> Well, just the same as for Esperanto, or whatever > international language.
So Zamenhof was being childish in thinking that it would be definitely nicer, or more clever, if his syntax was just a little bit different from Volapük (and other languages AIALs)? That, as far as I can understand, is the logic of your argument. Remember that in 1887, when Zamenhof published his "La lingvo internacia", Volapük was actively being used by more and more people. By 1889 it had some 200 000 adherents, two dozen publications, some 300 or so societies and clubs supporting it, with a following both in Europe and the USA. (I do *NOT* BTW share that view of Zamenhof.) But in any case, I do not see how programming languages and AIALs are comparable. Programming languages have been developed to make it easier for humans ultimately to produce binary code for machines to process. The high level languages - which I assume is what you are talking about - are problem specific or, maybe, general purpose in some particular domain; and, of course, the machines forces them to be free of ambiguity. AIALs are, as I understand it, meant to provide a universal way for any human to communicate on any matter with any other human who knows the AIAL. How humans manipulate & process such languages is still not fully understood (I guess not by manipulated streams of binary digits). I just do not see the analogy. If people find Esperanto a useful tool to communicate with other Esperantists throughout the world on any matter whatever, I have not the slightest problem with that. If other people wish to use Volapük for the same purpose (yes, there are still some enthusiasts who use it), likewise I have no problem whatever. Similarly, I have no problem with people using Interlingua, Glosa, Klingon, English, French or whatever for international communication. What I do not consider adult is the attitude I encountered on Auxlang that for some reason or other academic discussion of the linguistic merits or otherwise of Esperanto (or any other chosen AIAL) is wrong, illogical, immoral, childish etc. Indeed, when shall we be adults at last?
> --- Ray Brown <ray.brown@...> wrote: >> On Wednesday, July 7, 2004, at 09:40 , Philippe >> Caquant wrote:
>>> ............... My God, when shall we be >>> adults at last ? >> >> Dunno - haven't a clue what you're getting at here >> by suggesting some of >> us aren't adults.
Alas, it's fairly obvious why I didn't have a clue what you were getting at there - our perceptions of programming languages are so very different. Ray =============================================== (home) (work) =============================================== "A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760


Philippe Caquant <herodote92@...>