Re: Stack-based syntax (was: affixes)
|From:||Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, February 23, 2005, 18:40|
On Tuesday, February 22, 2005, at 08:54 , Jörg Rhiemeier wrote:
> On Tue, 22 Feb 2005 18:38:22 +0000,
> Ray Brown <ray.brown@...> wrote:[snip]
>> I am well acquainted with stacks and their various uses. Probably because
>> I associate 'stack-based syntax' or LIFO syntax with the evaluation of
>> 'Reverse Polish' expressions, I would prefer operators and lexical items
>> to be kept distinct.
> Comparisons between human languages (or languages of some other sort
> of sapient beings; we definitely go beyond *human* languages when
> discussing stack-based languages) and computer programming languages
> are always problematic.
I agree. IMO treating computer programming languages as mini-versions of
ordinary human languages is misleading. The use of 'language' in connexion
with these programming codes is a metaphor, as is much other computing
> I have heard of a grammar of Vietnamese
> which describes the language in terms of "classes" and "methods";
> obviously done by an object-oriented programmer on the rampage ;-)
I agree entirely!!
>> I agree entirely. My impression is that the Fithians, tho intelligent
>> marsupials, are not so very alien from us humans. IMO the language is too
>> dependent on western IE language structures. It is even necessary,
>> apparently, for the Fithians to use hand signals in conjunction with
>> speech to clarify parts of speech - "The exact part of speech is marked
>> a hand signal..."
> Yes. There is much "SAE" thinking involved in the grammar of Fith,
> which is misfortunate. And the hand gestures associated with the
> language are a device which strikes me as hackish and clumsy.
Agreed on both points.
> It seems as if we could do better. Nevertheless, Fith stands out
> as a language that breaks out of the corset of human language thinking
> at least in one regard.
I agree. It is always easy to spot weaknesses in some pioneering effort.
Fith is an attempt to produce a real alian, non-himan language.
> I have seen "alien" languages that don't
> look more alien than, say, Old Albic.
Indeed, so have I :)
>> and I didn't want to
>> be too discouraging to Max. But you are right - it ain't a SOV at all.
> Yes. The term "SOV" is part of a typology meant for the kind of
> languages humans use, but stack-based languages, even if they happen
> to have "nouns" and "verbs" like Fith, operate outside that frame,
> so a resemblance of a stack-based language to an SOV etc. language
> can only be superficial.
>> I agree entirely. Unfortunately IMO because Fith is described in terms of
>> the familiar Latinate 'parts of speech' one can get the impression that
>> the stack is merely another way of presenting a SOV human language.
> Well, I think that even in the concrete case of Fith, it is clear that
> it isn't.
I think you are correct - that was what I meant by "impression". A
comparison of a SOV natlang such a Turkish with Fith would, I think, soon
show up the difference.
>> fact, as you say, a true stack-based language will be utterly different
>> from any human language. But it is not easy for us to think in alien
> Right. And I expect languages of real alien intelligences to be much
> more bizarre than any science-fictional speculations that have been
> made so far.
I hope so - it will make linguistics much more interesting :)
> We know no non-human sapients and no non-human sapients'
> languages, so our models of alien languages are inevitably
Yes, try as hard as we can, it is extremely difficult to avoid all
On Tuesday, February 22, 2005, at 11:20 , Rodlox R wrote:
>> From: Ray Brown <>
>> Reply-To: Constructed Languages List <CONLANG@...>
>> To: CONLANG@LISTSERV.BROWN.EDU
>> Subject: Re: Stack-based syntax (was: affixes)
>> Date: Tue, 22 Feb 2005 18:38:22 +0000
>> On Monday, February 21, 2005, at 08:12 , Jˆrg Rhiemeier wrote:
> with curiosity, would Disambiguating Polysemy qualify as remotely
No. The only conlang I know where polysemy is deliberately in-built is R.
Srikanth's Lin. This language disambiguates by the use of what he calls
"cements" which are essentially infix operators. The language, tho the
language of alien beings who communicate by telepahy, is certainly not
Of course a method disambiguating polysemy could be implemented in a
stack-based syntax, but it does not have to be - indeed, in natural
languages it definitely is not.
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason." [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]