Re: LUNATIC again
|From:||Logical Language Group <lojbab@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, November 8, 1998, 13:09|
>It also shows us that some kinds of definition are inherently bogus: like
>your definition of language. It's one thing to list features or examples
>for a fuzzy term, and then admit the use of judgement ind etermining how
>that term applies. It's another thing to claim a fixed meaning that can
>judge "this is a langauge" and this "isn't a language". There are many men
>and women in partial states of hair loss where it's not easy to tell if
>you'd call them bald or not -- or where you might even ask: "Do you mean
>_really_ bald, or just _mostly_ bald?" or something of the sort.
>I claim that language is like baldness, only more so, since it's
>multidimensional, over things like number of L1/L@ users, fluency of
>speakers, potential speakability (in terms of human grammatical
>capabilities), compositionality of semantics, richeness of vocabulary,
>applicability to daily life, etc.
Fine, but English language as used by most people supports binary thinking
and not fuzzy thinking. Either something is a duck or it is not. This
type of thinking has crossed into all avenues of life (especially politics).
If you want English terms to be understood fuzzily, you have to be very
wordy and careful.
Any conlangers working on conlangs that are primarily suited for fuzzy
rather than binary concepts? This takes among other things a more
sophisticated view of negation than exists in any natlang, since binary
thinking is enforced in language through the use of negation as well
as of affirmation. Lojban makes an attempt to improve this with distinctive
binary and scalar negation, but we have had debates about whether this is
>Just as we don't require a code to be
>used, to tell if it can encode the messages we intend to send, we already
>know enough to tell if a proposed system is _adequate_ to be spoken by
The proof is in the pudding, so to speak. We have claimed that Lojban is adequate,
but we have felt it necessary to prove it. And our credibility was
greatly enhanced when we did so. People want to SEE that a language is being used in
order to believe it CAN be used.
>That's exactly the question you had to answer in finalizing Lojban. You
>certainly didn't have to reach a critical mass of speakers to know that.
What a critical mass of speakers proves is that the language has a chance of
continuing beyond the inventor. (critical mass means of course that you have
a self-sustaining interaction). Given the tendency of conlangs to not
survive their inventors, and indeed usually to not be learned except by them,
I recognize legitimate skepticism in people who sayor imply "not another
> What I think is _very bogus,_ and leads
>to misunderstanding, is your using a binary language/not language
>distinction, where a multidimensional rating of characteristics is the
>_only_ appropriate thing to do.
I accept this criticism, recognizing that there is no way in English to
clearly dfo otherwise (except of course to refuse to categorize anything as
>>In most every scientific field there are the occasional person, typically
>>rejected by the mainstream, who comes up with an important new idea which
>>gets eventually accepted. Famous patron is one way this acceptance comes
>>about, but there are other ways. But mostly I think success is
>>determined by stubbornness coupled with learning to play the political game
>>that is peculiar to the field.
>It happens. As far as I can tell, _very_ rarely. What usually happens is
>that such people are ignored, but may be noticed decades later when
>external factors lead to the rediscovery of their ideas by others. Then
>someone remembers that it's not _really_ new. Continental drift is my
>canonical example here.
Things may be changing here. Discover magazine, for example, tends to focus
and promote scientists who in general are not of the mainstream of their
field, who make new discoveries. In part because their stories are more
interesting to the non-scientist. Now Doiscover magazine has little
weight in the scientific world, but it is read more widely by the general
public than any scientific journal, andthus has a chance of feeding the
political arena surrounding scientific funding.
>>To correct you, I specifically tried NOT to attack artlang projects.
>>If someone says that they invented 5 artlangs last year, I will not challenge
>>them or denigrate them in any way. If they say they invented 5 "languages"
>>last year, then I will presume that they are applying the word language in
>>a way that I do not accept, and which I think that most linguists would
>>not accept, even if the precisedefinition they would use can be argued about.
>I don't see you, or the semi-mythical close-minded linguist, as the arbiter
>of what the word language means.
We all can play Humpty Dumpty. %^) Language is luckily not very proprietary.
But most people rely either on dictionaries or experts for their definitions
and categorizations of phenomena.
>Seriously, in an artificial language discussion list, at least, I think the
>rough definition you want to apply is the marginal one.
Valid point. But seemy discussion of the implications of "invented" (which
Humpty Dumpty can redefine as easily as any other word. But not if he wants
to communicate with others who do not share his definition).
>The question "Is it a language?" is a red herring, luring us into extended
>argument to no purpose. For language constructors the definition of
>language needs to be very broad, but also differentiated in ways for which
>many linguists have little use.
>This isn't sci.lang.
True. I admit to often forgetting this, especially since the linguistic
sophistication on this list is sometimes higher than the newsgroup.
>And did his non-linguistic productions (written in Esperanto
>before its speaker base was large enough) suddenly become linguistic
>objects once it did reach that size? This seems bizarre. The same written
>text was not linguistic before some social event was complete, but it was
>linguistic after tha social event transpired. Furthermore, the meaning that
>any person with an Esperanto grammar would have produced from that text,
>did not in fact change. And this magic property of "language-hood" will
>remain for all future time, even if all knowledge of Esperanto were lost
>except that text.
It may seem bizarre, but binary thinking, which predominates in our society
will lead to such things. If you manage to reform English so that people do
not understand words as having binary meanings, I will be impressed (such reform
of course has to be USED to be successful, a project or proposal will not
be understood by the masses as a "solution".
>maybe most conlangers (including
>>do this work. But the posts of lexicons that I see on this list usually
>>don't give any clue to this work.
>This is true. My question is why assume that they _didn't_ do this. And, in
>any case, it's still a different language if the grammar is different, even
>if the word-concepts map one-to-one.
I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this. Lojban is Loglan, despite a
completely replaced lexicon and a redesigned grammar. JCB would take your
>At least I would say so, because even if the volcabulary is similar or
>identical in semantics, the meaning of complete utterances my be very
>different, depending on what is grammaticalized. These things compound as
>language forms become larger, as well.
That's plausible. Of course it requires that there exist text embodying such
longer forms to demonstrate that differences exist.
>Consider nonce-language "English-prime." It has 3 aspects
>(perfect/imperfect/repetitive), no tense, and no number distinctions. Most
>individual sentences will seem quite close in English and English-prime.
I would have to understand better what you mean by those aspects, since
English aspect is so unlike Russian aspect which is how I have finally come
to understand perfect/imperfect.
But you can look at "E-Prime", that variety of English that eschews the
semantics of identity. Is it a separate language from English? I would say
that it is only a code, and indeed from the articles I have read on the
subject, people who speak it have generally learned "recodings" of speech
in order to avoid the copula. The result is ofthen that noone realizes they are
speaking anythimng other than standard English. The grammar has changed, at
least by some definitions of grammar, by elimination of the copula. But in another
sense, only part of the lexicon, a very small part has been changed. I
don't think that whether you look upon the change as grammatical or lexical
makes any difference to the definition - E Prime is still a code, and I would
not call it a distinct "language" from English. This may merely be close-
minded prejudice on my part, just as my reaction to Glosa %^).
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273
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