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Re: Bootstrapping a cooperative conlang

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Friday, November 16, 2007, 19:38
--- Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...> wrote:


> > > People can then collaborate on building a conlang even if they do not share > a > > common natural language, by communicating in very the language they are > > building as they build it. > > To make a valid test of this hypothesis, we would want to simultaneously > publicize the new project with announcements in various languages > in various online fora; and start out with introductory pages that define > the core (NSM-based?) vocabulary in a number of different > languages. (Including Esperanto and Toki Pona -- the members > of those languages' communities are good target audiences for > projects like this.) >
I had something like that in mind. Someone with expertise in each of the target langauges would need to translate the introductory page into that language. Thinking of Toki Pona, it wouldn't be a good idea to borrow Toki Pona words because one of their principal idealogical tenants is the simplicity and purity of the language, and anything perceived as an extension of Toki Pona would probably be regarded with suspicion, if not hostility. :) <snip>
> We could use a modified version of the Kalusa engine, that maintains > a list of definitions and corpus sentences but without the English glosses > that were a fundamental part of defining new Kalusa words.
I'm not sure how useful the Kalusa engine would be. The database structure is quite different from what this project would require. But I'm not the least adverse to writing a new web site engine and database structure from scratch. <snip>
> As Michael Poxon pointed out, there are some potential problems > with the "universality" of your list, but it's a pretty good start. > My main criticism is that, for such a small list, the words are a > little too visually/phonologically similar to each other. In the > basic list, we should aim for maximum distinctness in sound > and appearance, even if we don't enforce that requirement for > words added later on.
Agreed. The list and the words in the list were just pulled off the top of my head as I composed the original post, and were in no way meant to be "the real thing". It's far too early in the thought process to cast anything in concrete. :)
> Another couple of collaborative-language ideas I've had in the > time since the Kalusa project ended include: > > - a pictorial project where we start with a handful of simple > line drawings with captions in the new conlang, and people > can add new pictures and alternate/additional captions > for existing pictures. >
That could be a lot of fun. Like the old "Learning _X_ Through Pictures" series of books from the 1960's.
> - a modification of the Kalusa engine, where glosses can be > in any number of other languages; and you can pick which > language or languages you want to see glosses in.
That would make it more universal. The problem is, who would create the translated glosses for my English glosses?
> - Or a combination of both, where the "gloss" on a conlang > corpus sentence could be a sentence in any of several > natlangs, or a picture you've uploaded or linked to elsewhere > on the web.
The picture idea is a good one, I think. Maybe even this new project idea could use pictures rather than explanations for simple concrete nouns like "rock" and "tree". If the experience of something can be tangibly shared then there is no need for "definition". If I walk into the foreign shop and point to a coconut, the proprietor and myself can come to an agreement about what common word we shall use for "coconut", even if we don't share any language in common. I'm reminded of Wierzbicka's NSM definition of "mouse" which runs 33 lines of text with 355 words*, covering such things as category, habitat, size, appearance, etc. etc., all to narrow down the concept until "mouse" is the only thing that fits the bill. While theoretically fascinating, for the purpose of building a practical language for everyday use, a simple picture of a mouse would have sufficed. A picture truely is worth 355 words in this instance. * pp 9-10 --gary
> -- > Jim Henry > >


Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>