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Re: LUNATIC again

From:Logical Language Group <lojbab@...>
Date:Tuesday, November 10, 1998, 7:36
Shaul Verdi:
> It is indeed a value judgement on my part that copying English >> semantics is, umm, inelegant. (Is there a word I can use that conveys my >> personal disapproval of such an idea while admitting that others might not >> have the same opinion or even the same standards and priorities? How is it >> possible to comment on someone's conlang, wherein they have made what appear >> to be an inelegant Anglicism, without bringing offense of the sort you seem >> to be expressing? > > >What is the professional, objective, linguistic basis for an Anglicism >being seen as inelegant? The implication seems to be that a Malayalamism >or a Finnishism would be much more elegant.
Well, bearing in mind what I have spouted off at too great length about codes and semantic transfer, an English-native conlanger is quite prone to unconsciously transferring the semantics of English words and phrases to conlang words, even when inappropriate. Sometimes this means loan-translating idioms, sometimes it is just carelessness. To give an example, which my wife posed with regard to TLI Loglan way back in 1976 (so far as I know the word remains unchanged in the language). JCB, an avid boater, wanted a word for "to man a boat". TLI Loglan was supposed to have fairly analytical semantics for its compounds, so people looked at what he chose in that light. His compound translated as "man-do", where the word for "do" implied transitivity. IN other words, the Loglan word seemed to mean "to do as a man to ...". I am sure that you can think of many possible interpretations for this that are not consistent with whatever a person (who need not be a man) has in relationship with a boat that s/he is 'manning' and Nora was put off by the obvious sexism in the word as well as the careless semantic transfer. TLI Loglan still has the unfortunate practice of using the words for "make" madzo and "do" durzo to form words for things that in English are transitive verbs. This is even though madzo means "to make somthing from materials something". So a scientist being a "science-maker" is stretching the semantics quite a bit and there are worse examples that do not come to mind. This type of semantic transfer from English is what we started calling "malglico" (derogatively-English). The fact is that such compoundmaking was careless, and almost certainly done without consciously noticing the English semantics transfer. English natives have to be wary of this, so indeed, the choice of a Finnishism that is unlike English by an English speaker is a sign of at least an attempt to go beyond instinctive native language thinking. But the ideal in Lojban is to have "cultural naeutrality" whenever possible, which is to say that non0-cultural concepts should be formed analytically in ways that should be understandable by people of most any native language. Interestingly enough, my concept of malglico is NOT applied only to conlangs. In studying Russian, my wife and I often have come across words and structures that are quite similar to English in surprising ways, presumably because of the common Indo-European background of the two languages. Thus when we found that the Russian word(s) for "to find" consisted of a prefix meaning "upon" attached to a verb of motion, we laughed and called it "malglico" since "come upon" seems rather non-obvious to have been hit upon independently by two separate languages (there is a whol pattern of such matches for English phrasal verbs, though, so we know it is not independent). Note that the verb of motion means as easily "go" as "come" and indeed in isolation more often means "go". But finding a whole pattern of phrasal verbs that could be matched to English merely by choosing the matching preposition for the prefix and either come or go, was odd. Makes learning Russian a little easier, but it also makes it seem like English. YOu certainly do not always end up "on" something in order to find or discover it. Now if someone wants to use this type of pattern in a conlang, fine by me with no derogation intended or implied, provided they are aware of what they are doing. If not, then to me the Finnishism would be better, whether or not more "elegant" and indeed whether or not it was understood properly as a Finn would understand the usage.
> In Lojban, I guess I have gottenm used to being blunt - we >> use the term "malglico" which means more or less "$%&^# English (like)" for >> Lojban usages that copy English semantics inappropriately. >> > >You make that kind of comment often. I'm very impressed that you're so >deeply into your language that it's shaping your English usage.
It has been claimed that this is a sign of the kind of "Sapir-Whorf effect" that we are looking for, though it is at this point impossible to prove that anything Whorfish is going on - too many uncontrolled variables. But lots of people who have studied Loglan/Lojban in any version have reported such alterations in how they examine their own English speech, even though they never get "deeply into" the language. The classic example of this is again from old TLI Loglan. JCB's book on the language gives two examples of number+ordinal_suffix. (e,g, in English 9-th being made from the word for nine and the ordinal suffix. But Loglan/Lojban has some "numbers" that are not integers, such as "a few", "many", "all", and "enough". So JCB gives the example of the enough-th, a position in a movie line sufficient to be admitted to the theater before the show starts. The all-th ends up equivalent to English "last" but obviously has a different flavor in following this pattern. People not all that much into Loglan/Lojban have been struck by this non-Englishism, and remember it for years afterwards even if they remember little else. And sometimes they find indefinite number ordinals in places where English has no word.
>That's >happened to me in Israel after 12 years of using Hebrew and English side >by side; you must be pretty immersed in a Lojban community for a similar >process to be occuring.
What is syurprising is that I am not. Or at least the primary effects on my English usage and thinking took place long pbefore there could have been a Lojban community worth mentioning, since the language was not done. And I never knew TLI Loglan well enough to use it until after I had broken off with JCB.
>Even so, it's usually a good idea to try to >write clearly in the language you're using at the time - even if it's >inelegant old English.
I've been told by people that I write exceptionally clearly and well - except when I write about language %^). I am prone to wordiness, as everyone can see. but I seem to get ideas across very well. And this is not a skill I had back in college when I last did significant writing. Did learning Lglan/Lojban cause this? Who knows? lojbab ---- lojbab Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc. 2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273 Artificial language Loglan/Lojban: /pub/access/lojbab or see Lojban WWW Server: href="" Order _The Complete Lojban Language_ - see our Web pages or ask me.