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Re: Bootstrapping a cooperative conlang

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Saturday, November 17, 2007, 21:41
--- MorphemeAddict@WMCONNECT.COM wrote:

> > A picture only shows what the animal looks like. It doesn't give any of the > rest of the meaning of the word, like how it moves, what sounds it makes, > what > kinds of food it eats, why it's a pest or pet. > The "convoluted definition built from a minimal vocabulary" gives a > comprehensive definition of the complex meaning of the word "mouse". The > minimal > vocabulary ensures that it can be understood by anyone who knows those > English > primitives. > This type of definition also allows one to compare the differences in > definition between synonyms and other related words. What part of the > definition of > "mouse" does not apply to "rat", e.g., and what parts are common to both? I > don't have a similar type of definition of "rat", so I won't try to answer > that > question, but these explications permit such fine discrimination. > > stevo
Let's back up one step and consider the unspoken assumptions: If I am a visitor from a distant planet and ask the definition of "mouse" then I have no idea what a mouse is and everything you say is perfectly valid. If I am a theoretical linguist interested in the nature of "definition", or a biologist interested in taxonomy, or a computer engineer interested in knowledge representation structures, then everything you say is perfectly valid. If I am a visitor to Nepal and I ask what the local word for mouse is, I don't need to be told what a mouse IS, I only need to be told what the WORD for mouse is. The kind of dictionary project I'm discussing here begins with the assumption that, in spite of not sharing a language in common, all users of the dictionary will have a certain level of shared world experience. Thus the conlang edition of the dictionary assumes I know what a mouse IS, and only needs to point to some symbol that evokes that knowledge and binds it to the given word. While reading Wierzbicka's definition of "mouse" at some point I gathered enough information to conclude which "thing-I-already-know" is being described. From that point on, the rest of the definition is irrelevant, and I can safely ignore it. The rest of the definition may, indeed, tell me things about what a mouse IS, but I already know those things. Anything beyond that should be looked for in the conlang edition of the encyclopedia, rather than the dictionary. --gary


Michael Poxon <mike@...>