Friday, August 29, 2008

brain studies and an optimized language

"(fMRI) to see which parts of the brain were active when volunteers memorized pairs of words such as "motor/bear" or "liver/tree." In this experiment, the volunteers either learned the pairs as separate words that could be fitted into a sentence, or as a new compound word, for example "motorbear," defined as a motorized stuffed toy."

D: other studies:
D: you gotta explain the details of referent-objects and whatnot to kids.
I have 2 nieces, an infant and toddler, so follow this stuff for my sister.

"This research proves the existence of a universal neurological basis for dyslexia. It also highlights the impact that the complexity of orthography can have on reading proficiency of dyslexics and therefore the severity of the disease and the ease of diagnosis. This means that in the Italian population there may be hidden cases of dyslexia. On the other hand, otherwise mild cases of dyslexia may appear far worse in irregular orthographies like that of English or French."

In English, there are 1,120 ways of representing 40 sounds (phonemes) using different letter combinations (graphemes).
D: !!!
D: loud background noise impairs language acquisition.

The researchers discovered that the representations guide when and how the statistical computations are carried out by listeners. Specifically, the study shows that consonants serve mainly to distinguish among words, whereas vowels tend to carry grammatical information. According to researchers, listeners are sensitive to this difference.

D: a summary of brain studies might result in the following principles of design:
1) SOV word order.
2) vowels for grammar, but consonants for vocabulary
3) a simple and regular spelling orthography.

Is anyone aware of a language that uses 2)? It sounds complicated to design.

I gotta make a working sample of that Hioxian phonemic alphabet.
Every time I see the subdivided bike symbol in the bike lane spray-painted on, or the alphanumeric display on the vending machine at work, I think of it.
A result of a phonemic v.s. phonetic system, and by that I mean showing multiple ways to articulate the same sound, is there unfortunately will be multiple ways to show some phonemes. As a matter of convention, one could default to the most common one.
After all, does it matter if one place the tongue tip on the top teeth or the front palate?
(Neat website, pic is from it.)

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

UN year of the language

Here's the first chunk of the press release:

The General Assembly this afternoon, recognizing that genuine multilingualism promotes unity in diversity and international understanding, proclaimed 2008 the International Year of Languages. ...The Assembly, also recognizing that the United Nations pursues multilingualism as a means of promoting, protecting and preserving diversity of languages and cultures globally, emphasized the paramount importance of the equality of the Organization's six official languages (Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish).... Further, the Assembly emphasized the importance of making appropriate use of all the official languages in all the activities of the Department of Public Information, with the aim of eliminating the disparity between the use of English and the use of the five other official languages.

D: notice anything? Yep - designed languages have dropped off the radar.
This can summed up as a proposal to
1) learn more major languages
2) at least preserve minority ones.
The rhetoric is that of preserving species biodiversity.

My desire to discuss a 2045 world language for the UN is against the current trend.
Esperanto has been out of fashion for a century, at least in gov't circles.

My next 2 entries will be:
1) a review of Lojban
2) a critique of Ygyde.