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Re: Bootstrapping a cooperative conlang

From:Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Date:Sunday, November 18, 2007, 5:39
MorphemeAddict@WMCONNECT.COM wrote:
> You're talking about the word "mouse", as if that had an exact equivalent in > all other natlangs. Such is not the case. Without all those extra details, > many of the nuances of the word for mouse are going to be missing, and your > hosts in Nepal may be as confused by your request for a word for mouse as the > natives of Australia were when asked for the word for kangaroo (their answer was > "I don't know").
I've heard that said about the word for kangaroo, but that seems to be the linguistic equivalent of an urban legend. There actually is a word for a specific kind of kangaroo (gangurru) from which this word is derived. I read about this in one of R.M.W. Dixon's books, while the Wikipedia "kangaroo" article has a citation to Captain Cook's journal at Project Gutenberg.
> None of the information in Wierzbicka's explication of "mouse" belongs in an > encyclopedia. The information is inherent in the meaning of "mouse". > Virtually all modern dictionaries, though, do include lots of information > that properly belongs in an encyclopedia, while omitting a large part of the true > meaning of the words.
Well, one interpretation of the meaning of "mouse", at any rate. Which kinds of mouse does the definition include? The English word "mouse" refers somewhat vaguely to a whole range of small rodents, not all closely related, while implicitly excluding related animals such as voles, hamsters, and gerbils. (In older usage, you might also find "shrew mouse" referring to shrews, which aren't even rodents.) Then there's the mouse vs. rat distinction; at what size is the line drawn?