Re: LUNATIC again
|From:||Logical Language Group <lojbab@...>|
|Date:||Friday, November 6, 1998, 21:23|
>I guess I have internalized the Lojban tense system too much. I did not
>>intend the present tense by using "is". Future and past tense also can
>>be taken (future being a fuzzy truth basedon the potential for it
>>to become reality). Latin was a language, so it is a language.
>So if anything was ever a language then it is one forever.
>So all I need to do is compose an email to someone in one of my langauges
>and have them understand it, and then it's a language?
No - it needs ot meet the other criteria. But I can live with Matt's
I have my own criteria for "success" in a conlang as a language (which I
stated here a long time ago) - this of course does not apply to artlangs.
Given a core set of language inventors/creators who are by that fact excluded,
a conlang is successful when two individuals who have never had contact in
any other language, and who were each trained in the conlang independently by
someone other than the inventors, are able to communicate with each other
effectively on a variety of topics. The key points here are the second
generation of non-inventors and the ability to communicate totally within
the confines of the language. Other criteria are optional, like
having the two people be of different native languages.
Lojban has not yet achieved this, though it is fairly close.
>Exactly. My point was that there are a host of problems in the notion of
>"being a langauge" The next tack to take is to say something about a line
>of transmission. There are several ways to attack that, by counterexamples
>to any definition of transmission that might be offered. Then once those
>are set straight, there is sure to be some "non-language" that slips in
>somehow, and that can be used to attach the definition again. These are all
>based on classic conundrums of Anglo-American analytic philosophy. I'm very
>sure that anyone attempting to defend such a definition can be worn down,
>since they're all _unsolved_ classic problems. The linguist at some point
>will give up, because she's a linguist and not a philosopher, throw up her
>hands and say "enough of this logic chopping -- it's just not a _real_
But the type of logic chopping that you are doing can be pretty much applied
to any word that does not refer to a specific concrete object (and maybe
even to them). There is a value to fairly precise definition without
logic chopping in that it helps you focus on what is important. that it is
sometimes used to exclude is unfortunate, but life isn't fair.
>>>The intent of this is obvious, but the issue of whether semantics is
>>>preserved between differing languages is a very open one.
>>Open to whom? Not to me. I know too many words in Russian that do
>>NOT mean what their counterparts mean in English, and too many that seem to
>>mean the same up to the point where they mean something entire different.
>Sorry. I was too brief. I meant the notion that there are concepts in one
>language that cannot be expressed in another language at all. Many make
>this claim, but several factors argue against it: the reality of effective
>translation, and the ability of humans to adapt and learn (and use the
>compositionality of their own language to extend it in any direction they
>find themselves needing).
Sounds like the strong version of the SWH.
I think, however, that there are concepts that cannot effectively be expressed
precisely because the sort of logic chopping you just did to me isn't
generally acceptable. Effective translation is usually possible, but sometimes
there are connotations and associations that are important and are not
necessarily obvious even to the speaker that uses them. A classic example
is the use of political terms like "democracy" and "freedom". There were
discussions either here or on Lojban List that pointed out to me that in
countries with traditions unlike those of the USA, these words even in English
have different meanings, and the corresponding word in a foreign language may
have a raft of unidentified assumptions behind it. If the translator doesn't
know or recognize these differing assumptions, the translation will be
misleading at best.
>Most linguists believe that the core semantics of human beings are
>universal (this is a core part of the disbelief of the S-W hypothesis), and
>thus the difference between a language and a code must be a matter of the
>complexity of the translation function.
>This is a classical problem of the continuum, and can be attacked by first
>establishing a precise definition of "complexity" and then arguing that
>process required to produce utterances in a language must have a specific
>computational complexity relative to the native language of a speaker. Then
>there's the question of what level constitutes enough to be a "language"
>instead of a code. The only way to keep the definition under such an attack
>makes it look too ridiculous to be credible...
Yet, I think most people can look at a conlang and decide whether it
constitutes "encoded English". I don't think that grammar changes such
as aspect matter that much, unless they are USED differently.
I continue to argyue that TLI LOglan and Lojban are really the same language
in spite of near total relexification, because in general, word substitution
will lead to simple equivalence of meaning. The same is not true replacing
Lojban words by any English equivalents.
>The classic linguistic problem of the continuum is mutual intelligibility
>of dialects. There simply _is_ no answer as to "how many" languages or
>dialects there are if the gradation is slow enough.
>The "intro to skepticism" version of the argument takes a man with a full
>head of hair and removes one hair. Is he bald? Of course not. But if you
>keep doing that, eventually he will be bald. When? Logically it seems that
>there must be some point, but we all know that it's not really a very
Yet it seems a perfectly sensible question to ask "Is he bald?" The definition
may not be worded in a way that tells the answer, but the person answering the
question can. All this shows us taht there are limits to definition-writing
and not that people don't know what "bald" or "language" mean.
>A recent project of mine has a "narrative" mood. English has no such thing.
Not in the sense of a gramamtical feature. But English does have a
"narrative style" that has a set of conventions. Lojban is indebted to
tense linguist/logician John parks-Clifford for pointing out the nature of
"story time" as a tense convention that occurs in many languages. See the
tense chapter of the reference grammar for details.
... slang discussion dropped
>I don't think these are synonyms for English words, but they were certainly
>a personal slang. I think slang refers to a social phenomenon surrouding a
>specialized lexicon, not to a fundamental feature or type of language.
I think that when people first use a slang expression, the wordsdo have close
association with a more standard equivalent, but then the metaphorical
extensions start growing. "Cool" does not mean what it did when I
was a kid, when it
could in most cases have been exactlyu replaced by a number of other words
with no change ion meaning, in the typical slang usage. If there were
subtleties of meaning in the various slang words of approval, they were lost
>>They hold all the water necessary IN ACADEMIA. THEY have the power, not you
>>and not me. Unlike artlangs, languages like Lojban need some sort of
>>acceptance in order to achieve their purpose. And the people who adjudicate
>>acceptance are the ones whose definitions are all-determining.
>I don't think so. I've never seen a definition of "language" that wasn't
>explicitly marked as incomplete and provisional. (Eh... maybe bloomfield or
>Gleason had one...). I think that they do hold the power, but the
>definitions aren't at issue.
This is fair. However I did not intend in my posting to make my definition
the issue. It was rather more a statement of the criteria that a linguist
might use to rule out relevance of a conlang. That these criteria might be arguied
against with hypothetical or evn real exceptions is not critical - the point is
that they are some of the types of things that will be used to challenge
a conlang seeking acceptance as an "interesting language".
>You don't have the credentials (and perhaps
>the background in Linguistics) that indicate that you're worth taking
>seriously. Even if you did, you are far enough from the mainstream in
>several areas, that you'd probably need a famous patron of you wanted to be
>taken seriously -- otherwise instead of being dismissed out of hand as a
>nut (_I'm not saying you are, just showing th reasoning_) -- you'd be
>dismissed as a nut with a PhD in Linguistics.
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.
>Right, but none of those "modern society" arguments has to do with the
>definition of a "language" -- only a language for intellectual
>conversations in modern society.
Or translated into two words, a "modern language".
>You set up a definition of
>language (with which you were unjustly attacked) and used it to attack
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.
>Now you're instead applying _your_ personal goals for
>your language to argue that artlangs aren't real languages.
each person has their own criteria for what constitutes "good art". If it is an
artlang, I will evaluate it as an artlang. If ity claims to be a language,
then I will evaluate it as a language. I am merely being honest in saying that
I evaluate things sifferently based on the label put on them or the claims
made about them. Calling something a language involkes a bunch of concepts
that I associate with languages based on my own experiences, and I respond
to what is called a language based on those. calling something a work of art
tells me to invoke artistic aesthetic principles first and other criteria as
a lower priority.
Like Matt and John discussing model airplanes, if you call your model an
"airplane" then a test pilot might be chagrined to find out that he cannot
pilot it. If you call it a "model" hemight nbe quite interested to see it.
If you tell me that you built 5 airplanes last year, and your name is not
Hughes, Boeing or Douglas (and this is not the 1930s), I will presume that
you are not plannning on having these planes carry either passengers, freight or
weaponry, and my interest might vary as a result.
I am NOT trying to exlcude artlangers from the set of people who invent
languages. Far from it. I am merely showing that more precise use of
English can prevent misunderstandings and misevaluations of your work.
People WILL respond differently to things that are called "art" than to
things that purport by their label to be the "real thing" that the art is
supposed to resemble or represent.
>One word-glosses are a characteristic of expediency of documentation, I
>think, not just of poverty of distinction.
But it is impossible to tell, unless you actually see usages where the one-word
glosses differ in meaning from the language they translate. Alltogther too
often, people have clearly failed to consider the problem of avoiding a
relexification of English semantics. It takes hard work to avoid distinctions
that in many cases are subconcious. maybe most conlangers (including artlangers)
do this work. But the posts of lexicons that I see on this list usually don't
give any clue to this work.
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273
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