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Re: Non-linear / full-2d writing systems?

From:tomhchappell <tomhchappell@...>
Date:Saturday, June 4, 2005, 3:59
Hello, and thanks for writing.

I am trying to "merge with the traffic" on this thread.

--- In, Schuyler <conlang-l@G...> wrote:
> [snip] > >> 2. With that, I'd like to propose a more general definition of > >> 2d-writing that turns some of the past debate in this > >> thread into a > >> variable of the writing system: The loops and branches can > >> be most > >> common in a writing system at either: > >> a. the word level (including iconographic languages, > >> like cuneiform and Chinese) > >> b. the phrase level (a la sentence diagramming) > >> OR > >> c. the sentence/multi-phrase level. > [snip] > (b) is in between and what I'm most interested in > (and probably what most > of us have understood as 2d throughout this thread). > [snip] > > Also, you're missing another thing that 2d brings: > > more positioning. > > Linear you only have "before" and "after", > > + distance (maybe); 2d you > > have 360 degrees + distance (less if broken down into something > > distinguishable, but at least 9 or so). > You've said it eloquently this way. That's _exactly_ what > it brings, by > definition. Mapping that extra degree of freedom to some > kind of meaning > is what makes a 2d writing system. > > > You also have potential orientational meaning - i.e. VX might be > > different from >X or <X (assume V/</> is the same character). > > This would be permuatative. > This seems like an intriguing idea. It should be noted that this > alone would not make something 2d--the characters would need > to connect in > at least one other way besides 'before' and 'after' > as you said above, > besides changing their orientation.
One (possibly simple-minded) way of using these directions has occured to me (maybe I'm not the first). The "direct" cases -- vocative, nominative, ergative, absolutive, accusative, dative, primary, secondary -- could come in at a right angle or a "straight" angle; the other cases (the "oblique" cases) could come in at other angles, for instance, at oblique angles. That would introduce lots of branching. By itself it won't introduce looping; you might get that from subordinate clauses with long-distance dependencies. Is that too simple-minded an idea for this discussion? For my own part I really have more need of your type (c) NLF2DWS. It is at the paragraph level and above that I need two dimensions or more. (To be frank, evern _three_ dimensions are not enough at the big- document or multi-document level; but that's why God made PF keys and hypertext.)
> [snip] > > One problem > > that I think will need to be dealt with > > is having too much being processed at once, and > > being overwhelming. > > You would need either something that is built to > > handle "spotlighting" - > > that is, being read in some particular order > > and intentionally ignoring the rest to do that focus - > > or to handle > > chunking (like a map), where you have a cognitive 'zoom', > > and any particular level of zoom/focus only has a graspable > > amount of information-chunks.
"Zoom" is probably the third, fourth, or fifth of the dimensions I had in mind in my comment above. "Backtrack" would be another. I think any particular investigation of a topic might have up to three or four of those intrinsic to the topic accessible to the focus of the investigation at any given time.
> [snip] > > order-of-presentation has been a pretty important part > > of writing for > > a while now - e.g. for presentations, arguments, > > stories, instruction,
Some of Borges's stories come to mind.
> > etc. Presumably a web could be made to be more > > easily traversable in > > particular ways, due to the arrangement - in fact, > > I suspect it would > > be rather difficult to *avoid* having bias on reading order - > > so we'd > > need a fairly different way to handle it.
A computer program *must* pick a systematic way (a "bias") to read a 2d structure. {A tree, for example, can be traversed either breadth- first or depth-first. If it is traversed depth-first, it can be traversed either in pre-order (each node is handled just before all of its descendants are handled) or in post-order (each node is handled just after all of its descendants are handled). In case the tree is binary, so that there are two types of child-nodes (say "left" and "right") and each node has at most one child of each type, one additional depth-first traversal order is available; in- order, where each node is handled just after its left sub-tree and just before its right sub-tree.} A person, on the other hand, needn't read any particular 2d text by any particular order. Nevertheless, as you say, certain orders are bound to become the routine, habitual default first-choices of many readers. Most readers will have one; and, as new readers are taught, they will tend to choose among those of their teachers, before investigating others. So the society will eventually have just a scant handful, at most, of preferred "biased" reading orders. Poets, especially, but also advertisers, short-story writers, and others, can take advantage of this by deliberately writing stuff which must be read with an order other than the most popular ones. Satirists can write stuff which seems to mean one thing read by the order that first comes to mind, but which means something entirely different when read by the less-obvious order which is the only one by which it is grammatical. And so on.
> [snip] > kinds of texts you list is _good_, > the non-linear text simply provides > a way to 'layer' these texts over > each other. Generally, you have a history > in linear, and details are in > footnotes or break the history. In mathematics, > you show the equations, > and then the arguments are linearly 'along side them.'
That would be one good use of a NLF2DWS. Right now, it is one good use of hypertext.
> Another solution, which requires an even closer mapping to a spoken > language is assuming a specific way of reading > (at least one!). If the > reader 'goes off the path'--the 2d makes the diversions > closer, and might > make returns more graceful, but the reader would > still know that they're > deviating from one path. I don't necessarily favor this. > I'd prefer > junctions be neutral, and readers could choose > one or the other paths > depending on what they want to read (more) about.
I find that hypertext lets me go off the path quite neutrally, and then does *not* make returns graceful. The trouble is that the path I want to be returned to is "the path I'm thinking about _now_"; and, oddly enough, the browser has absolutely no way to compute what that is from looking at the mark-up language of the document.
> [snip] > is sometimes you _want_ linearity (e.g. joke punchlines).
Example: Punchline: "Well, that takes care of the stagecoach; but, now, what *are* you going to do about that _dwarf_ stuck to your lower lip?" Joke: (to be determined later)
> [snip] > Somewhat related, one way I've worked on > my language is thinking of each > opportunity to branch as a possible > _placeholder_ for information. So a > text might start out completely linear, > but as people modify, or add > information to the text, the original > would not have to be 'corrupted.' > The idealistic side to me also wanted this aspect to call people's > attention to what the author was leaving > out (e.g. sources, definitions, > authors, etc.)...
Sounds interesting. I'd like to see it.
> [snip of stuff I thought was really good but was too deep] > [for me to comment on without sounding like a total boob] > > A simple example of intuitiveness: IMHO, ASL is *WAY* better than > > English at describing events that involve spatial movement. E.g. > > describing an automobile accident, or > > how someone was walking... it's > > denser and more eloquent than words, > > inherently.
Would a written form of xSL (where x= A or B or D or F or N), or of one of the other SLs, be a NL, F2D WS?
> [snip] > > And I'd assert that this is also a critical part of the intended > > communication, and as such the language > > should be designed to support > > it, rather than handwaving it away into "free use" or other such > > nonsense. "Body language" is a part > > of the in-person communication, > > and a grammatical one at that...
I couldn't pass up this opportunity to point out that "handwaving" is a part of "body language". ----- There is a lot more in this thread that I haven't read than that I have; and, even in what I have read, there is almost as much I haven't digested yet as there is I have absorbed. ----- Thanks to everyone for writing. Tom H.C. in OK