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

From:Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>
Date:Tuesday, May 24, 2005, 18:02
On Tuesday, May 24, 2005, at 12:42 , Schuyler wrote in response to me:

>> non-linear >> / \ >> / \ >> full-2d writing >> / >> / >> system >> >> tr( tr( nil, full-2d, nil), non-linear, tr( tr( nil, system, nil), >> writing, >> nil)) > > But another stringed version is "non-linear/full-2d writing systems" which > is as easy to read.
That depends on your definition of 'string', I guess. I was assuming by string we were talking about a 1-dimensional array of characters.
> I think most of the benefit of your binary tree > example is in the _potential_ to be a tree with multiple branches.
Indeed so - and that is even trickier to represent as a 1-dimensional array of characters. [snip]
>> When Sai wrote "not linearizable without loosing damn near everything in >> the process in a way that's cognitively irrecoverable" I did not >> understand him to mean that it could not be put into a string with >> appropriate parentheses & other symbols without those losses. I >> understood >> in the context of this thread to mean that it could not be put into a >> form >> suitable for 'ordinary' spoken language. > > I understand--I think your intuitive definition is a good one, but it > might be difficult to get much more precise (if that's desirable!).
Thanks - but "my intuitive" definition is nothing more or less than my interpretation of what Sai had in mind when he started this thread.
> Ordinary spoken language is very versatile--the symbols are linear, but > they use conjunctions, abstract words and pronouns to represent texts > which can be very non-linear.
Ah - I think we may be using 'linear' differently. That's the trouble with polysemantic natlang words. I have understood us to be using 'linear' in this context to mean a 'serial stream', i.e. words in a spoken language following one another. In the sense I believe you are using 'linear' Cicero's long periods of carefully crafted co-ordinate & subordinate clauses are not linear; but in the sense I have been using 'linear' they are linear in that the words must be declaimed serially. I agree spoken language is very versatile - but not apparently versatile enough for some. See my mail of 16th May & Sai's reply to it.
>> What I understand is this: >> - the linear writing of the past 5 millennia has been recording of spoken >> (or speakable) language; as the latter is obviously linear, therefore the >> representation of it has been so. >> - many people do not think in words or do not think entirely words and >> find that 'words get in the way'; they find there is inevitable loss when >> words have to be use. >> - Sai suggested that a non-linear and fully 2d writing system might be >> more appropriate for representing thoughts without 'words getting in the >> way'. > I'm going to keep thinking about this, because bringing this into 2d could > be beautiful,
> but so far, this is how I see it: If writing relies on > common signifiers between writer and reader, then the only thing that gets > in the way more than words is NOT having words.
Yet 'word' is one of those concepts that are tricky to pin down. "*word* A unit of expression which has universal intuitive recognition by native speakers, in both spoken and written language. However, there are several difficulties in arriving at a consistent use of the term in relation to other categories of linguistic description, and in the comparison of languages of different structural types....." [David Crystal] There are certainly some contexts where words (as ordinarily understood) would surely get in the way, for example, in the expression of complex mathematical formulae.
> There are ways to > increase the degree of freedom/ambiguity with words: prefixes, metaphors, > inventing new words, inventing new symbols (e.g. smileys, :-).
Smiley's are interesting in that they developed to fulfill a need to supply missing _non-verbal_ information. People using electronic mail, chat-rooms etc will normally use colloquial forms of language. Many of us have discovered that we are sometimes completely misunderstood on occasions in these media. The reason is that colloquial speech relies on other things such as tone of voice and, importantly, body & facial language - and these ain't there in the writing. Information is being lost. Smileys were developed to convey at least some of this lost information and hopefully avoid serious misunderstanding.
> All of these can be done in a linear writing system just as easily.
Indeed - tho smileys IMO are a poor substitute for facial expressions and body language.
> If anything, a 2d writing system will 'get in the way' more so than a 1d > writing system,
But our aim is surely to find a system which allows versatility and freedom within a defined schema.
> because implicitly a 2d writing system pre-defines the > axes in some way. That is, whether 2d writing is defined by axis (Remi's > example from May 8th), intersection (like mine), branch, loop or some > combination of these, definitions will make 'free' use of the 2d space > less possible, not more.
I have read through your ideas more carefully - but I need to go through them again - but they do seem to me to allow versatilty and, it seems to me, could form the basis of the type of non-linear fully 2d writing I have been talking about. [snip]
>> But this is not representing the 'thought behind the words'. > I don't think there's a way to get around discretely recognizable symbols > (using the term generally, so they can be stretched, or some 'symbols' > could be the relational placement of other symbols, etc.) in 'writing.' > > Before representing the 'thought behind the words' you need to know what > kind of structures (nouns, verbs, etc) 'pure thought' operates in.
This is absolutely true. But as I replied to Sai once, cognitive science is very largely terra_incognita_ to me. I do not know current thinking/ theories about the structures in which pure thought operates. It is often accepted as a truism in linguistics that all languages have a category we can call 'nouns' and one we can call 'verbs' (the other traditional 'parts of speech' seem to be more language specific). But the recent thread(s) on lexical categories & voice in Tagalog (and other Austonesian languages) has questioned even the noun~verb 'universal'. Maybe Sai could point us to current thinking on this in cognitive science :) [Referring to Sky's: b. the phrase level (a la sentence diagramming) OR c. the sentence/multi-phrase level. ]
>> OK - yes, I know you are wanting to broaden the scope of this thread. But >> (b) & (c) is significantly, I think, different from what I thought was >> the >> original intent of the thread. I could well come up with a scheme for >> (b) & (c) by the June 30th deadline - but not for what I understand was >> the sort of writing system Sai had in mind. That is rather more >> difficult. > Maybe I'm interpreting Sai's post more broadly, but this is from the > original post from May 3: > By "full-2d", what I mean is something akin to a thoughtweb - rather > than a serialized / linear sequence of characters, it would > interconnect concepts in 2d (or greater) space. For example, copular > forms - equation, adjectives, subset, etc. - could probably all be > written by connecting two (symbolic) ideas with a line of a particular > kind, representing their relation. > > I read Sai's "lines" as non-linear verbs ('is equal to', 'is in', 'is > like', etc.)
.. or at least the equivalents of such connectors/ verbs. My understanding of Sai's ideas depends not solely on his opening mail, but on other replies as well. I do not claim, of course, that my understanding is entirely correct and I may have overstated some aspects & perhaps understated others.
> By (b) & (c) I really mean to describe 2d writing systems' > 'resolution'--are the 'words' themselves created by 2d relations > (axes/branches/loops) or is the 2d-ness at the phrase level (e.g. > connecting adjectives and verbs to nouns;
The lexical category 'adjective' is found in many languages, it is true, but not in all languages as a category distinct from nouns and verbs. This is begging the question what exactly we mean by 'word'. In linguistics it is common to make a distinction between lexical, grammatical, semantic, orthographic, phonological words.In fact one of the things a system, such as the one you are developing, might well do is to get one thinking of new ways of looking at the connexions between lexical, semantic & grammatical categories.
> i.e. (b)), OR is the 2d-ness > connecting complete 'events' (e.g. axes represent time and space, > perhaps).
Too limiting IMO. [snip]
>> This is all very well, but it seems to me to be concerned with the >> _presentation_ of texts largely through computerized medium. I must admit >> that you examples are 'map-like' But the ways that texts are currently >> presented with hyperlinks, bookmarks, thumbnails etc achieve quite a lot >> of this. It could be enhanced possibly by improving our current linear >> systems. > Yes, but I think there's a limitation in linear additions because you're > still 'browsing blind'--you don't see where the hyperlink goes until you > click it; there's no standardized way to build up meta-information about > a > site or document.
Absolutely - we are clearly not exploiting the technology to its fullest extent.
> In any case, it's possible that linear solutions can be > just as good, but I'm working these into my system, so I'm partial :-)
Quite so - unless we experiment, we do not discover what is and is not possible. I think that what got me involved on this thread was when someone wrote: "You can do that, but it's rather unusual. Most would consider e.g. maths or formal logics a notational system, but not a writing system. Writing systems are usually considered the subgroup of notational systems that represent languages." To which Sai replied: "But we're in the business of *creative* linguistics, are we not? I for one am not interested in constraining what language can do merely because it hasn't been done before in a natural language." Sai's reply struck a chord with me. [snip]
>> Unfortunately, Yuen Ren Chao does not elaborate how a system of 170 to >> 200 >> basic symbols will work. I have asked if anyone on this list could >> imagine >> how such a system might work, but have not had any workable response. > OT, but wouldn't syllable lists be on that order?
There is tremendous variation in the number of different syllables a given language may have. Somaoan has only 50 while English, which permits initial and final consonant clusters has many hundreds. If Y.R. Chao is saying that the optimal writing system is one with 170 to 200 different syllabograms, then this surely implies an optimal language which permits 170 to 200 different syllables, i.e. he is proposing an International Auxiliary Language. Umm - now I read page 226 of his book again, yes it does seem that he is suggesting an IAL of about 200 monosyllables. Perhaps that is best left for the Auxlang list ;) In any case it is getting us away from the NLF2DWS topic. I am now waiting impatiently for your revisions :) Ray =============================================== =============================================== "A mind which thinks at its own expense will always interfere with language." J.G. Hamann, 1760