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Re: Bootstrapping a cooperative conlang

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Monday, November 19, 2007, 5:11
--- Herman Miller <hmiller@...> wrote:

> > So is the intended purpose of this system a way of documenting the > various usages of a word in a particular variety of language? Or are > there various parts of the definition that explain how the meaning of > the word varies over time and in different dialects? >
If by "system" you mean NSM, then I suppose that is the purpose. If by "system" you mean the collaborative conlang system I'm trying to build then most emphatically NO. What I have in mind is "growing" a new conlang by a process that complete novices could participate in. After all natlangs were not invented by linguists, but by common folk talking about common things. I'd like to grow a conlang that way by letting linguistically naive people collaborate as well. <snip>
> If you've identified a group of potential collaborators who are all > familiar with Wierzbicka's work, and who have the time and level of > interest to write definitions in that style for all the words you're > going to need, that could be an interesting thing to try. I just think > that having to learn a technical set of words for basic meanings, and > how to use them, is likely to be intimidating to just about anyone who > might want to participate.
Heaven forbid that contributors would have to be familiar with something that esoteric!
> Say that you want to define a word "fur" to use in your definition of > "mouse". Looking at the semantic primitives, I don't really have much of > a clue where to start. Probably "fur" is too high a level and it needs > to be broken down into something like "dense hair", where "dense" could > ultimately be built from "near" and "touching" and "many/much" in some > way. There's still a big gap between the semantic primitives and > something as fundamental for animal definitions as "hair". >
"hair" and "fur" would probably end up being illustrated with a picture, or roughly described as "warm, fluffy animal covering", or "stuff that grows on top of people's heads", accompanied by a picture. <snip>
> An illustrated index of defined words would be useful, but if > you've got that, the illustrations alone might be a better place to > start with.
Absolutely! Pictures will play a big role in the process for every word that can possibly be defined by a picture. My preliminary dictionary database already has the ability to assign images to words.
> Say that someone wants a word for "guitar" -- you first need definitions > for words like "string", "fret", and various other parts of the > instrument, along with a description of the general shape and size. Or > you could just take a picture of a guitar and upload it. Then if there's > enough interest that it becomes important whether a ukulele or a banjo > falls under the definition of "guitar", there could be a discussion > which ends up producing a more detailed definition.
First of all, a picture of a guitar would all that is needed. Secondly, the last thing I want is an in-depth discussion of how to define "guitar". After all, the purpose of the project is to have all discussions IN the new conlang, not ABOUT the new conlang. All I want is for someone learning the language to know what "guitar" means. How they get to that knowing should be simple, straightforward and practical, and understandable at a glance by the linguistically naive. In other words, I don't need to tell anyone what a guitar IS, I assume they already know that. I just need them to learn the WORD for the THING they are already familiar with. --gary