Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: LUNATIC again

From:David G. Durand <dgd@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 11, 1998, 20:12
At 2:47 PM -0400 11/10/98, Logical Language Group wrote:
>David Durand: >>I feel that If I can get respectable grammar coverage relative to a book >>like Payne's describing Morphosyntax, or the Timothy Shopen volumes, then >>I'm probably defining an adequate system. These are books about descriptve >>linguistics, defining concepts and giving examples of constructions >>typically found in ntural languages. > >Ah, so you are prescribing a system that has the properties by definition. >Of course we then have to decide whether a language prescription is a >language %^). If you were to use the language that is prescribed as >having all >the properties that you think necessary, then you've got the walk and the >quack down, at least assumingt hat your usage matches your prescription.
Well, most artlangers of the "naturalistic" persuasion tend to do that. We value originality, but within the bounds that seem to fit real language. That's one reason that the Teonaht agent stuff is so cool... It's totally plausible, yet unique. It's based on universal distinctions that are actually found all natural languages in the world, but divides them up just a little differently.
>>I don't think that communicational adequacy is that hard, actually, because >>_people_ will solve whatever problems they find within a system, and make >>themselves understood, given even a little bit of ground to stand on. > >But if your prescription is incomplete, what they do to make themselves >understood may violate what linguists think are properties of natural >languages. For example, I might need to use non-linguistic means to >clarify intent (like pointing at the objects I am referring to).
Sure, but I was talking about grammatical completeness. And yes, to answer the previous question, I think the prescription _is_ a language. [[[If I was being precise, I would say that the bebaviors correctly enacted under that prescription are langauge-using behaviors. But I don't want to be precise because sometimes my philosophiacl anti-realism gets in the way of clear expression.]]] Pointing seems to be the epitome of how you resolve vocabulary problems, not grammatical ones, and I'm trying to separate vocabulary scope from the issue of language-hood -- as we've seen, this is a factor that varies so widely that it has no signficance outside of a particular goal-directed context.
>>I don't believe that language is a jargon term, and that's why I don't see >>this problem. > >Given the exclusion by (most) linguists of animal languages, and all manner of >other things termed "language" by the masses, it is clear that linguists do >not use the term in the breadth of meaning that is common. We can agree that >linguists probably don't have an ironclad deifintion of language that they all >accept, but there are things called "language" by some people that they DONT >accept as such.
I'm not sure that the reactions you've described reflect a definition of language. As I've said before, they are patching their implicit definition of language to exlcude your work -- not because it violates a definition, but because it violates the social definition of _what linguists do_. That doesn't include constructed languages, so one way to exlcude it is to say that they're not really languages. I think the logical ground for that is very shaky (why I bothered to pick your definition to tatters). Actually making a useful definition of language that excludes conlangs is going to be hard, and is not going to look reasonable when finished. Especially if we start getting into the area of prescriptive grammar, which adds an element of "construction" to even living languages. My understanding of literary Burmese (from the Comrie collection) includes that it uses essentially artificial syntax derived from Pali.
>>But applying that same technique with meatier changes is what I'm getting >>at. You seem to think that the vocabulary is the only repository of >>semantics in the language. Many features of morpohology and syntax amount >>to mandatory semantics. In English, you must decide whether something is >>singular or plural to talk about it, even if that notion is irrelevant. > >Actually you don't. You have to decide to treat it as if it were singular or >plural. "The lion is found in Africa." appreas to be singular but doesn't >actyually imply whether multiple lions exist or not. It is just a >connvention that this kuind of generic statement takes the singular. > >But I am quibbling.
Yes, it's really a distinct usage. In a simpler context you _must_ decide to say "pick up the cup" or "pick up the cups". Even if you don't care how many there are. Or you have to use a longer paraphrase "pick up whatever cup or cups you may find". It's not an issue of total expressive power (given enough time, perhaps the introduction of new terms, etc.) I think all _natural_ languages are equally expressive. There are issues of translation that I'm ignoring... And I'm not commenting on factors relating tot he form of expression, or connotation, but rather those relating to propositional content. -- David _________________________________________ David Durand \ Boston University Computer Science \ Sr. Analyst \ Dynamic Diagrams --------------------------------------------\ MAPA: mapping for the WWW \__________________________