Friday, January 30, 2009

as easy as 1-2-3. #s in English are a drag on economy

Author Malcolm Gladwell has a history of thought-provoking insight in his previous books,The Tipping Point and Blink. Now he's tackling another fascinating subject: success, in his latest work, Outliers.

D: my roomie mentioned this.

(Chapter one of author's book.)

D: Regarding memorizing a list of numbers.

Take a look at the following list of numbers: 4, 8, 5, 3, 9, 7, 6. Read them out loud. Now look away and spend twenty seconds memorizing that sequence before saying them out loud again. If you speak English, you have about a 50 percent chance of remembering that sequence perfectly. If you're Chinese, though, you're almost certain to get it right every time." The reason behind this, Gladwell writes, is because humans can store digits in a memory loop that last only about two seconds. In Chinese languages, numbers are shorter, allowing Chinese to both speak and remember those numbers in two seconds -- a fraction of the time it takes to remember those numbers in English.

D: regarding counting systems.

Moreover, Asian languages such as Chinese, Japanese and Korean have a more logical counting system compared to the irregular ways that numerals are spoken in English. As Gladwell writes: Eleven is ten-one (十一 in Chinese), twelve is ten-two (十二) and thirteen is ten-three (十三) and so on.

D: regarding fractions.

Even fractions are easier for Asian children because they are more easily understood and conceptual. For example one-half (fifty percent) is understood as 百分之五十 (bǎi fēn zhī shí) or literally, fifty parts out of 100 parts...

D: this is a common area of improvement for an IAL.

The #s 2-9 are expressed via C1to9+A. I.e. 2 ba, 3 da, 4, cha(or ca), 5 la, 6 ra, 7 tha(or ta), 8 va, and 9 wa.

D: that is from my Deafese first language attempt.

D: I love the saying "as easy as 1 2 3".
Cuz it's NOT.
Witness this.
1 2 3
Spelling: one, two, three
Consonant/vowel: VCV, CCV, CCCVV
Phonetically: wun, tu, TrE

D: that's right. Absolutely no rhyme or reason.

I suppose the number naming convention is the logical corollary of a letter naming convention.
See my very first entry on the huge benefits to the Finnish of a sensible alphabet and spelling system.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

comparison of VERSE and LangX. peek at first HIOXian character.

D: I really must use a proper font creation program.
Sorry about the sketchy diagrams. Nonetheless, I think it shows the gist of HIOXian.
This particular character is the "TH" sound in 'loathe' and not not 'loath'.

You can now see the stylized anatomical figure in cross section that HIOXian represents.
In this case, the consonant is a square in the bottom 2/3 of the character space.
An optional diacritic can be placed above it.
Vowels would occupy the TOP 2/3 square of the space. Or v.v..
I think Roman alphabet conventions would make placing the vowels low more intuitive.

I now think I will simply not indicate anatomical parts that are disengaged, thus freeing up those bar segments for additional miscellaneous meaning. Cursive will also be faster.
I indicated an example of cursive writing. I confess I was inspired by Octomatic's approach.

Try to say "think". You likely did not say th-i-n-k. You likely said th-i-NG-k, even though that is NOT what the letters are. Biomechanics. It is easier. Your tongue is lazy. This is no surprise. The nerves send signals along routes of various lengths. Musculature varies, as does mass at rest and inertia of various body parts. It is a wonder we can be understood at all!
At any rate, now imagine (yes wave hands here until I finish it) the symbols for N and K side-by-side. Recall again how Octomatics allows arithmetic visually and without understanding of conventional mathematics. Now imagine a simple comparison of two bars, one in each HIOXian character. Using a simple comparison chart, somebody unable to use the IPA system would be able to point out that N is likely to deform into NG.
And so on.

I need to pay money for a decent font creation program. That means I need a credit card...

A comparison of LangX and VERSE. Time lines.

Provisional IAL Name

Number of Consonants and Vowels

Inaugural Year as Official IAL

First Language or Mother Tongue

Second or Auxiliary Language


27 C 26 V

2726 AD




26 C 23 V

2623 AD




25 C 20 V

2520 AD




24 C 17 V

2417 AD




23 C 14 V

2314 AD




22 C 11 V

2211 AD




21 C 8 V

2108 AD




20 C 5 V

2005 AD



D: again, I'd be concerned about AI/transhumanism on that time scale.

For the purpose of my sci-fi story, the musical pitch system of VERSE (VERy Simplified English) will be as follows.

1 Pitch 2020 AD
3 Pitch 2040 AD (me, fa, so)
7 pitch 2060 AD (do re mi fa so la ti)
12 Pitch 2080 AD (also half notes, Western-style)
20+ Pitch 2100 AD (also quarter notes, Eastern-style)

See my first blog entry for VERSE.
Basically, the hypothetical future scenario for an English Pidgin is as follows:
1) We start with Standard English
2) a mixing-pot culture of non-academics has a need for a useful fast new interlang
3) Verb affixes are removed and all such functions will be handled by particles.
4) Optionally, the particles are replaced with pitch on the simple basic verb.
5) More and more verb aspects are absorbed by more and more pitches.
This process is optional. Just like we talk down to children with simpler speech, so too could a future society replace pitch with the older verb modifier particles.
Optionally, BOTH could be used simultaneously and redundantly. This would be used for when a message MUST be very clear. It would likely also be used in a patronizing fashion.
In an emergency situation, when time is critical, only pitch would be used.

The example I used on the VERSE page was the following sentence.
"Dog bite boy." That is not proper English. So this must be early pidgin.
We all know how to modify the verb bite.
So too a noun, subject or direct/indirect object.
Bite, bit, biting, will be biting, et al.
A dog, some dogs, the dog, the(s) dogs, those/these, this/that, yadda yadda.

Language X/ Language 53 proposes reintroducing synthetic language elements gradually. However, my VERSE sci-fi scenario is for a subculture of submariner sea-faring nomads.
They have different demands for a language.
I saw a show on a crisis in a jumbo jet. I think the engine had failed or some such. Human factors analysis indicated that for brief periods English transmitted meaning at about 1 unit of meaning per second. I pondered how all those articles and auxiliary verbs and whatnot slowed them down. Of course, those grammatical elements were necessary for clear meaning, so were still used.

Well, affixes/particles (for synthetic and analytic respectively) are both essentially, to use an analogy, two-dimensional. They need to fit in their own part of time for communication.
They cannot be superimposed on top of root/stem words in a "three dimensional" sort of way.
Pitch essentially introduces a Cartesian Z co-ordinate. It takes the 'square' of words and makes them cubic, with depth.

VERSE is highly compatible with the LangX early stages. In fact, it can be seen as an alternative future route for LangX, once the basic international creole-esque vocabulary has been established and synthetic words have all been broken up into separate word particles.

Let us revisit that one sentence for a moment.
Dog bite boy.
There are a number of Eastern music octaves. Typically they have about 20 pitches, at quarter pitch-note intervals.
Three words.
Noun (subject) Verb Noun (direct object).
20x20 is 400. 400x20 is 8000 permutations. In three words. In 3 syllables.
A language with optional agreement, with a simple mechanism to talk to early generations of speakers.
I need to hash out a similar system for prepositions. I am sure I can keep them down to one syllable also.

Aside: I was on a bus the other day. Looking at the 'next stop' sign, I was counting the pixels and studying the characters. They looked like Ygyde. OK, my objection about 45 degree angles was not valid. Those map just fine onto a low resolution monitor.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Old Persian symbol frequency. Busy today.

I'm busy so I'll be brief with this segue.
I taught myself Old Persian for kicks.
Actually, I never got past their writing system.
I only started since a friend that knows Akkadian said O.P. had phonemes that were easy for an English speaker.
However, he didn't say anything about all the affixes! OMG.
My brain hurt!

The shorter marks were called "dots", and the longer ones "dashes", and the letters most commonly used in the English language were assigned the shortest sequences.

I made these cute little children's book pictures to remember them. The various family members are portrayed in lieu of various cuneiform symbols. A little description of the scenario makes it memorable. I swear I could teach a kid cuneiform without mentioning Old Persian once.

I wondered why the symbols were selected for various sounds.
I wonder if, like Morse Code, the most commonly used symbols are also the simplest to make.
Sadly, to find this out requires typing in the various passages in cuneiform font so it can then be introduced into a parsing program.

Esperanto quirk of the day:

This is a response to the argument that Esperanto is spoken more quickly than English.
Well, it likely IS. I just wonder about how that is a boast, LOL!
Comparing any IAL to English, a natural language, is setting the bar pretty low. <: Heck, if we are willing to tolerate a speed of speaking that is merely "better than English", I imagine half of the existing natural languages would also qualify. Do you suppose a language that does not require an extra SYLLABLE to indicate part of speech (noun, verb, adjective, adverb) would be faster? For example, adding an "-O" to indicate a subject noun.
This means against modern IALs, Esperanto is likely to be slower. Against, for example, last syllable consonant -N, NG, and -M forms for example.
Back to my observation about classic cars and the people that love them. I am also so glad I managed to articulate sufficiently for you to understand me. Tee hee. Keep 'em coming! <: So is this to be our rallying cry? "Good enough"? Good lord. And let's look at some of those charming Esperanto words that veritably roll off the tongue. Why, saying them, it feels like SILK. As always, I use the "Ranto" file. It has analyzed Esperanto more thoroughly than I care to.

(Deleted. It is not displaying properly. BTW, try highlighting if you see inexplicable gaps that ought to contain text. Grr.)

The affectionate suffixes -ĉj- and -nj-, which retain remnants of the Slavic palatalized consonants, may very occasionally be used as words in their own right, as in mia ĉjanja popolo "my dear nation", in which case they may be word initial and not just syllable initial.

Although it does not occur initially, the sequence dz is pronounced as a cluster if not as an affricate, as in edzo [e.dzo]/[e.ʣo] "a husband" with an open first syllable [e], not as *[ed.zo].

In addition, initial pf- occurs in German-derived pfenigo "penny", kŝ- in Sanskrit kŝatrio "kshatriya", and several additional uncommon initial clusters occur in technical words of Greek origin, such as mn-, pn-, ks-, ps-, sf-, ft-, kt-, pt-, bd-, such as sfinktero "a sphincter" (which also has the coda nk). Quite a few more clusters turn up in sufficiently obscure words, such as tl in tlaspo "Thlaspi" (a genus of herb), and Aztec deities such as Tlaloko "Tlaloc". (The /l/ phonemes are presumably devoiced in these words.)

As this might suggest, greater phonotactic diversity and complexity is tolerated in learned than in quotidian words, almost as if "difficult" phonotactics were an iconic indication of "difficult" vocabulary. Diconsonantal codas, for example, generally only occur in technical terms, proper names, and in geographical and ethnic terms: konjunkcio "a conjunction", arkta "Arctic", istmo "isthmus".

D: and not just consonants.

sciigi                         let know, inform
sciigo advice, announcement, communication, message, notice, report
sciiĝi find out, hear, learn of

D: see a problem yet with CCV-V-CV construction words?
D: in fact, I wonder if this very scenario led me to ponder a HIOXian letter system that would anticipate and avoid such tongue twisters.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

hioxian phonemic alphabet can predict coarticulation

D: why these three apparently unrelated images?
Cuz they're not.
At least, they won't be.

D: this is ANOTHER beef of mine about Esperanto. Or, should I say, Espranto with an 'uh'.
My point is that colloquial speech does not use formal pronunciation.
We speed up the words. We don't leave discrete pauses between them.
They blur together, the syllables and words.
Some combinations of phonemes are more or less prone to this.

D: let's call this tendency a "mutation".
Here is an interesting piece of trivia. Sharks, being largely nigh-perfectly evolved to exist in a fairly changeless setting, would be made less fit by any new mutation. So they evolved more safeguards against mutations than other creatures.

Well, a well-designed language ought to be a shark. Each phoneme, each letter is lovingly crafted for meaning and significance. The loss (or even gain) of any one makes the language less fit. Just like a shark. The ocean, in this analogy, is the human physiology that supports speech and writing.
Unless we start talking about AIs or transhumanism, human nature is likely to remain precisely what it has been for quite some time.

Now back to Esperanto. The book I read on it advised me to carefully pronounce each word as instructed. That's right - an IAL that forbids speakers to use ... colloquial speech! <: Wow. Don't get me wrong. Esp-o is a century old! Great-grandpa's holding up pretty well for 100+. IT has an excuse. The latest crop of interlangs has NO such excuse.

I was looking over my Decimese prototype. PB TD SZ FV KG. LR WY. H. 5 vowels, long and short. My mechanistic approach to syllable construction has issues.
Vocabulary is made via CV(nasal consonant). CVCV...CV(nasal).
Limited options to make C-YV and C-WV... . Also, VC-L and VC-R(nasal).
I reread some articulation article recently. I realized that ending in an N would deform certain following words that begin with certain sounds.
Note: there are some language-specific trends. Do the vowels voice or devoice consonants? There are some near-universals though based in biomechanics.
I think French and English use opposing strategies.
I wanted ONLY voiced OR voiceless consonants to begin a word or to be in the middle of it.
Allowing for voiced/voiceless pairs, limited rules for acceptable word last-letters, syllable stress and recognizable vocabulary, I have an unprecedented FOUR ways to indicate word boundaries.
These are terrifically important, as a perusal of Eurekalert and Sciencedaily will indicate.

D: back now to my main point.
I need a simple way to predict how adjacent phonemes will interact.
Octomatics has a system where somebody innumerate can visually do arithmetic.
I can do the same with an alphabet (writing system, whatever. Pedant! <:). My Hioxian alphabet essentially maps the human articulation diagram onto a 16 segment alphanumeric character, plus diacritic.
By simply comparing any two phonemic letters, somebody unable to read at all could still predict what symbol would instead result due to coarticulation.
This is a labour-saving device for me.
I don't need to consider each pair of letters.
21 or 26, depending. That is many 100s of combinations!

Ever try to read the IPA definitions in a dictionary? It is not intuitive at all.
I still don't know half of those symbols myself.
The learning curve on Hioxian is steep!
Note: a steep learning curve would suggest rapid learning. I never understood why we use that turn of phrase! Leading to one of my favorite put-downs, "a learning curve like a horizontal line". <:
And there you have it.
The Future...

Monday, January 26, 2009

on pidgins. those wacky pirahas!

Poor Chomsky. The Pirahas have no word for colour and no numbers.
Worse yet, NO recursion.
I am not personally as upset as most seem to be.

Let me segue over to Inuit and words for snow.
D: as I understand it, the word Eskimo is now considered pejorative. I heard it means "eat of raw flesh". Oddly, that description of sushi does not seem to stigmatize the Japanese. Moving on...

Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf's hypothesis of linguistic relativism holds that the language we speak both affects and reflects our view of the world. This idea is also reflected in the concept behind General Semantics. In a popular 1940 article on the subject, Whorf referred to Eskimo languages having seven distinct words for snow. Later writers inflated the figure: by 1978, the number quoted had reached 50, and on February 9, 1984, an editorial in The New York Times gave the number as one hundred.[2]

D: it seems like a big deal. It's not.

Eskimo word synthesis

By some definitions of "word", the number of Eskimo words for snow is approximately as large as the number of English sentences that can contain the word "snow", because Eskimo languages (like many native North American languages) are polysynthetic. Polysynthetic languages allow noun incorporation, resulting in a single compound word that is the equivalent of a phrase in other languages (Spencer 1991). The Eskimo languages have systems of derivational suffixes for word formation to which speakers can recursively add snow-referring roots. As in English, there are a handful of these snow-referring roots, such as for "snowflake", "blizzard", "drift". What an English speaker would describe as "frosty sparkling snow" a speaker of an Eskimo language such as Inuinnaqtun would call "patuqun", and express "is covered in frosty sparkling snow" as "patuqutaujuq",[citation needed] much as an English speaker might use "sleet" and "sleet-covered". Arguably the concept is the same in both languages.

D: how is this pertinent to our discussion of the pirahas? (I didn't feel like looking up lil' squiggly accents for the 'a'. Deal with it.)
Well, it is recursion that allows a language to express an effectively infinite number of ideas.

We just happen to think recursion must necessarily mean complex sentences.

Not true. See LangX/Lang53 (you really should read this site- very well thought out!)

"As for noun case suffixes, we English-speakers may pride ourselves that word-order has rendered most of them unnecessary, and jib at the accusative ending and adjectival agreement in Esperanto - perhaps oblivious to the fact that creole users might regard our genitive or possessive inflection in a similar way. Thus a creole speaker might say:

    "this woman money stolen; that village corn ripe".

It might sound strange to us, but the context determines whether the meaning is possessive or descriptive. Is the genitive inflection essential? If not, we should consider losing it in the initial stages of LangX. In any case, analytic grammar would demand a preposition - if absolutely necessary - (as in French etc., but used only as required) rather than an inflection. Other languages also omit the genitive, e.g. Welsh:

    "llyfr John, llyfr coch" "John's book, red book".

The creoles also tend to drop the plural inflection, e.g.:

    "two house; them rabbit"

So does Chinese; also English - for items regarded as game rather than as individuals, e.g. "sheep, deer, cod, grouse, Portuguese, Swiss etc." However, most languages employ a plural inflection (often [-s]). It's not difficult to see why. The plural is a useful device. For example, 10 kg of stone, wood or oil is very different from 10 kg of stones, woods or oils. The numeral quantifies; the plural diversifies.

The analytic approach would employ auxiliary markers, such as Chinese "xie" ["some"] and the French singular and plural definite articles "le" or "la", and "les" (gender in the linguistic sense being banned in LangX, of course).

Some languages are more advanced than others in terms of economical expression or succinct syntax. Chinese grammar is exemplary in this regard, not least in its approach to word formation.

The creole approach to negation is likewise economical:

    "he no work today"

Old English used the same construction, with the prefix "ne-" for "no", exactly as in Scottish English, Russian and other languages. English uses "never" in a similar way.

Creoles tend to drop the copula between subject and predicate:

    "the sun hot; he old man; them hungry; why you bring this?"

This too is common - e.g. Russian "he engineer" - and might be adopted at least in the initial stages of LangX.

Creoles also tend to use serial verbs:

    "she go try find it; he start run escape"

The infinitive is understood. English often does the same, e.g. "Let my people go!; I heard you call; I watched her paint a picture; he felt a hand touch him" - cf. Shakespeare's old-fashioned "Tranio! I saw her coral lips to move." Another one for Lang29?

As for recursion, creoles tend to use discrete one-clause sentences and anaphora, rather than embedded clauses headed by correlatives. We used the following example in LANGO:

    "Man plough. He my brother." "The man (who is) ploughing is my brother."

The complex construction can, of course, be used outside the immediate context. It could be commentary on a video. However the simplest form of recursion is perfectly functional, and might well be the better alternative for Lang29."


D: a book review of "Pidgins and Creoles" by Loreto Todd.

I greatly enjoyed this book. It has tremendous applications to an IAL designer.

The Lang53 website is a brief summary.

The transition from pidgin to creole parallels the LangX switch from no to a minimal grammar.

Keep in mind that a pidgin is typically an interlang between colonizer and colonized people.

Some creoles remain even after an imperial power withdraws from their colony.

Sometimes, the creole continues to function as a useful interlang for the region.

Aside: a look at regional interlangs is useful when considering the design requirements of a global interlang. It may be more important to match the regional interlangs than every lil' spoken tongue. This may or may not correspond to sheer #s of first-language speakers.

There is ONE country in the world that adopted their creole as an official language.

"Seychellois (a creole of French) is an official language in the Seychelles, and Tok Pisin is despite its name a creole language (of English) rather than a pidgin, and is official in Papua New Guinea. Papiamentu (a creole of Portuguese) is official in Curacao. Jamaican creole is not official, although widely spoken. Hiri motu is officially recognized in Papua New Guines, but is a pidgin not a creole. Haitien has now, I think, official recognition in Haiti. It is, of course, a creole of French."

D: let us take a look at Tok Pisin.

Between 5 and 6 million people use Tok Pisin to some degree, although by no means all of these speak it well. Between 1 and 2 million are exposed to it as a first language, in particular the children of parents or grandparents originally speaking different vernaculars (say, a mother from Madang and a father from Rabaul). Urban families in particular, and those of police and defence force members, often communicate between themselves in Tok Pisin, either never gaining fluency in a vernacular ("tok ples"), or learning it as a second (or third) language, after Tok Pisin (and possibly English). Perhaps 1 million people now use Tok Pisin as a primary language.

D: note the modest amount of consonants. Also note the only-five vowel system. This is about as many vowels as an interlang can have. (Forcing me to revise Decimese...)
Note how few affixes remain. The pronoun system remains robust, however.
Reduplication addresses the fact that many words would have otherwise sounded the same, once only-shared phonemes are permitted.

"There were four phases in the development of Tok Pisin that were laid out by Loreto Todd.
  1. Casual contact between English speakers and local people developed a marginal pisin
  2. Pisin English was used between the local people. The language expanded from the users' mother tongue
  3. As the interracial contact increased the vocabulary expanded according to the dominant language.
  4. In areas where English was the official language a depidginization occurred (Todd, 1990)"
D: a well-designed IAL (as opposed to a new universal mother tongue) must resemble a creole in complexity.
Esperanto, for example, is woefully inadequate as a second-language IAL.
I was tickled by a comment I received about Esperanto. The commenter said it wasn't perfect but it was "good enough".
This is hugely amusing, since yesterday's Sapir essay targets this very sentiment about English as not being an adequate basis for a world language! <:

Tee hee.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sapir's Essay on IALs. EVERYONE will want to read it.

D: Sapir starts from the opposite position as Zamenhof.
Z's preface assumes a shared enthusiasm for aux-langs.
With that fatal assumption, he leaps into the gist of the language.
Sadly, that very assumption is the key sticking point.

Sapir tackles the job of selling an aux-lang to a skeptical reader head-on.
And does a brilliant job of doing so.
He exposes the hidden complexity of English (and French) that hides behind the apparent simplicity. He points out how for a native speaker it can be nearly impossible to step outside his bias and see for the first time just how HARD the language can truly be.
I suspect this is aggravated by academic settings. I work in a factory with laypeople that can sometimes be unsure whether to use these or they or them, don't understand strong/weak verbs, and so forth. I see that even after a lifetime of exposure, my many smart educated friends STILL have not mastered their native tongue in writing!

I think we Canucks have it worst. I was reading over a list of commonly misspelled words. To my surprise, some -ce/-se endings tripped me up, like practice and practise.
I am never sure if I am thinking of the British or American spelling conventions.

Is the medium the message? Well, if the medium is a big enough mess, the message must be delayed in favour of teaching a poor medium far longer than need be.
Every hour spent teaching erratic English spelling (medium) is an hour lost to educators for teaching CONTENT (history, geography, et al).

D: and now a brief summary of the essay...

It is not uncommon to hear it said by those who stand somewhat outside the international language question that some such regular system as Esperanto is theoretically desirable, but that it is of little use to work for it because English is already de facto the international language of modern times - if not altogether at the moment, then in the immediate future - that English is simple enough and regular enough to satisfy all practical requirements, and that the precise form of it as an international language may well be left to historical and psychological factors that one need not worry about in advance.
A firm, for instance, that does business in many countries of the world is driven to spend an enormous amount of time, labour, and money in providing for translation services
One speaks of a `necessary evil'.
Too much is not made, as a rule, of any specific difficulty in linguistic communication, but the cumulative effect of these difficulties is stupendous in magnitude. Sooner or later one chafes and begins to wonder whether the evil is as `necessary' as tradition would have it
Those who argue in this spirit invariably pride themselves on being `practical', and, like all `practical' people, they are apt to argue without their host.

I spoke before about the illusions that the average man has about the nature of his own language. It will help to clarify matters if we take a look at English from the standpoint of simplicity, regularity, logic, richness, and creativeness.
One of the glories of English simplicity is the possibility of using the same word as noun and verb.
At first blush this looks like a most engaging rule but a little examination convinces us that the supposed simplicity of word-building is a mirage.
Anyone who takes the trouble to examine these examples carefully will soon see that behind a superficial appearance of simplicity there is concealed a perfect hornet's nest of bizarre and arbitrary usages. To those of us who speak English from the earliest years of our childhood these difficulties do not readily appear. To one who comes to English from a language which possesses a totally different structure such facts as these. We can "give a person a shove" or "a push," but we cannot "give him a move" nor "a drop" (in the sense of causing him to drop). We can "give one help," but we "give obedience," not "obey are disconcerting.
A complete examination, in short, of all cases in which the verb functions as a noun would disclose two exceedingly cheerless facts: that there is a considerable number of distinct senses in which the verb may be so employed, though no rule can be given as to which of these possible senses is the proper one in any particular case or whether only one or more than one such meaning is possible; and that in many cases no such nouns may be formed at all, but that either nouns of an entirely different formation must be used or else that they are not possible at all.
Another example of apparent, but only apparent, simplicity in English is the use of such vague verbs as `to put' and `to get'. To us the verb `put' is a very simple matter, both in form and in use. Actually it is an amazingly difficult word to learn to use and no rules can be given either for its employment or for its avoidance.
These examples of the lack of simplicity in English and French, all appearances to the contrary, could be multiplied almost without limit and apply to all national languages. In fact, one may go so far as to say that it is precisely the apparent simplicity of structure which is suggested by the formal simplicity of many languages which is responsible for much slovenliness in thought, and even for the creation of imaginary problems in philosophy. What has been said of simplicity applies equally to regularity and logic, as some of our examples have already indicated. No important national language, at least in the Occidental world, has complete regularity of grammatical structure, nor is there a single logical category which is adequately and consistently handled in terms of linguistic symbolism.

More important is the question of creativeness. Here there are many illusions. All languages, even the most primitive, have very real powers of creating new words and combinations of words as they are needed, but the theoretical possibilities of creation are in most of those national languages which are of importance for the international language question thwarted by all sorts of irrelevant factors that would not apply in a constructed language.
English, for instance, has a great many formal resources at its disposal which it seems unable to use adequately; for instance, there is no reason why the suffix -ness should not be used to make up an unlimited number of words indicating quality, such as `smallness' and`opaqueness,' yet we know that only a limited number of such forms is possible. One says `width,' not `wideness'; `beauty,' not `beautifulness.'

***We see, then, that no national language really corresponds in spirit to the analytic and creative spirit of modern times.***

D: I was inspired by that line!
Our languages ought to capture the spirit of the times.
I'd say of modern times. By that I mean based soundly on concepts of space, time and math. Logic and ethics. The very essence of modern (and I hope future!) humanity.

QOTD: Sapir.
" ... an international language which is as rich as any now known to us, is far more creative in its possibilities, and is infinitely simpler, more regular, and more logical than any of them. "

Friday, January 23, 2009

Esperanto requires agreement but not where it matters

I downloaded Kurso de Esperanto training program. It is excellent, BTW.
It did remind me of why I stopped learning Esperanto.

Grand-a Vir-in-o. Big Woman.
Plural: Granaj virinoy. Big(s) Woman(s).
Always la article not le la les.
Well thank heaven for that.
But the article would be easier than the adjective!
As an Anglophone, my head hurts trying to form the adjective.

Wait- it gets better.
Mi lavas la novan tason. I wash the new cup.
That's right - you must overtly indicate the direct object too.
Cuz, don't you know, Latin is sooooo easy for most folks with all its infixes. Reaeeeaaallly...
Of course, SVO word order would ensure clear meaning.
Mi lavas la novo taso. I wash the new cup.
Of course, this means we cannot pick random work order.
La novo taso lavas mi. The new cup washes me.

Esperanto claims this is a benefit. We can mix up word order.
La novon tason lavas mi. The new cup wash I.
... ...
1) infixes are hard for many people
2) agreement between word parts is hard
3) 1) AND 2) is unbearable!
Not bad for a Latin-esque Euro interlang. (Still hard though.)
Disaster as an IAL for world usage!

Still, I do admire the standard CV combinations in noun word endings.
All nouns are -O. Plural -OY. Object -ON. Plural object -OYN.
Similar with adjective -A.

With Esperanto, you can see a bit of vision.
Too bad it was so sporadic and under-applied.

If agreement is desired, then French-style article agreement would be easier.
Le la, les. Preferably a neuter default. Optional gender. Optional plural.
Notably, man 'viro' to woman virino would be unnecessary with a female article.
La viro. The (feminine) man (so woman).
Better: persono, with optional masc. and fem.
Still, a language made a century ago should not be held to modern politically-correct notions.

I am more interested in the explicit detail than any P.C. notions.


English quirk of the day:

Fossil word

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Jump to: navigation, search
A fossil word is an obsolete word which remains in currency because it is contained within an idiom still in use.

English language examples

  • Ulterior, as in 'ulterior motives'
  • Fro, as in 'to and fro'
  • Sleight, as in 'sleight of hand'
  • Scantily, as in 'scantily clad'
  • Cranny, as in 'nook and cranny'
  • Yore, as in 'days of yore'
  • Coign, as in 'coign of vantage'
  • Craw, as in 'sticks in one's craw' [3]
  • Fettle, as in 'fine fettle'[4]
  • Kith, as in 'kith and kin' [5]
  • Spick, as in 'spick and span'
  • Loggerheads as in 'at loggerheads' [6]
  • Offing, as in 'in the offing' [7]
  • Shrift, as in 'short shrift'[8]

[edit] See also

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ygyde: how NOT to promote a language

D: he seems to have posted these challenges at various sites, including for Toki Pona. Oddly, he did so with languages that are NOT primarily intended as international aux-langs.
This seems to be a case of apples and oranges.
Yes, your orange certainly rates higher on the citrus scale compared to an apple... so?

Here is the gauntlet being thrown down:
>Ygyde conlang is easy to pronounce, easy to
>understand, extremely easy to learn, and has
>unique ability to define all meanings in short
>(7 letters or less) compound words. Last, but
>not least, Ygyde is fun to work with. Some
>compound words are unintentionally funny. If
>you do not believe me, think of an English
>word, define it in Ygyde, and compare it with my
>definition. Is your definition better than mine?

This does not make it "better" than Lojban.

D: he provoked a response from Lojban central.
It pretty much dissects his language.
He pretty much antagonized any groups that would have
otherwise been interested in his language.
Plus those languages all have a group that can speak it!

Ygyde is intended as an Auxiliary Language. Lojban is not.

D: same thing on the Esperanto site.

In one passage on a chat site, they pose a sample tract to
But Ygyde lacked the vocabulary for many common

I do think his choice of phonemes is more thoughtful than
the Lojban critique lets on. Lojban is no prize in that

I DO think a language must be designed as an IAL to be
a good one. The odds of a language fitting the
requirements for a good aux-lang by accident are not good.

I don't imagine Lojban or Ygyde are particularly brief,
given their rules for word formation.

D: Lojban has 6 vowels and 21 consonants. This is to use
a standard QWERTY keyboard and the Roman alphabet.
It also has rules for buffering consonant clusters.
It has penultimate stress, which seems artificial if
the language is not heavily prefixing.
The basic root of the language is always 2 syllables
of form either CVCCV or CCVCV.
This is highly compatible with existing speakers'
Only 1350 of these "gismu" exist. That is a bit more
than the original Esperanto, though much less now.

Ygyde: most nouns are 5-7 letters long. The CVCVCV...
form is very easy to say (there are optional consonant
clusters for brevity).
It has 6 vowels and 15 consonants, as befits a language
designed as an IAL.
In this respect, it IS superior to Lojban as an IAL.
Also compared to Esperanto.

D: on Esperanto - this was the first great IAL. Having
said that, it should be viewed as the Mark I prototype.
To expect it to hold up after 100 years is ridiculous.
And it doesn't.
We don't expect a Model T Ford car to keep up with a
modern sedan. And it doesn't.
However, there is a difference between an old car
enthusiast and one that is so deluded as to think it
can keep up with any modern sedan, let alone sports car!
Lo and behold Ygyde, a modern sedan, can indeed run
circles around Esperanto.
For that matter, in time and with improvement, it could
likely claim to be a muscle car.

I'd like to say that is IS unfair for me to criticize
ANY existing language since I have yet to release mine.
I'm sure those chickens will all come home to roost in

Problems with Ygyde, from my own unique and biased point
of view:
1) the colour system is bewildering and not optimized
(see the Lojban site critique)
2) the letters are not optimized for a computer display
(any diagonal other than 45 degrees)
3) wasting short syllables on universal constants is
pointless (talk about them much?)
4) the memory aids AREN'T much help (ebi is recalled
with abi for optical)
5) it puts a lot of demand on memory for vocabulary.
Let me explain. Big is aso. alo is small. Long is afo,
anu is short.
So we have 2 opposing pairs of qualities.
Afo-... anu. NOT something thematically related to the
above pair.

I do not plan to create much vocabulary. I plan to harness
the power of the online open source community.
If I lack enough basic concepts, I wish to invoke the
power of massively parallel computing (thinking).
So long as I set the design parameters, and focus on key
core concepts, I let others generate more words as they

Lojban threw down the gauntlet to translate one passage,
and Ygyde was not up to the task.
Don't get me wrong- it is an impressive start by one
fellow (with one assistant). I AM impressed.

But going on to language-specific sites to talk about how
great YOUR language is, Andrew, sounds like insecurity.
"Mine is better? " Or should I say bigger, Mr. No*icki?
C'mon - did your overcompensating win
you any friends, make any converts?
Why do it?
If I can contribute just a few insights into some
eventual world language then I will be
Yes, I'd really like if mine was selected (pending
I don't plan to alienate all my would-be supporters

Just so I am not too elusive a target, I will suggest
what I wish to do to express the opposing qualities
of big-small and long-short.
BTW, I could not find a wide/narrow opposing pair.
Azi is narrow but I could not find wide at all!

1) embed math and space/time in the core concepts
2) express big as dimensions (all or 3/inclusive) with
plus or more concept attached.
3) express small as per but with minus or less concept.
4) core syllable rules are C (maybe W or Y) V (diphthongs?)
(maybe L or R) (nasal consonant).
5) reserve some special word construction rules for common
concepts, essentially shorthand.
6) detailed concepts are expressed with CVCV...CV(nasal
consonant) construction.
7) Use the basic syllable for the concept of SIZE. Wideness,
length, et al.
8) Using size, a pair of optional consonant cluster
letters. SO Y/W or R/L.
9) For now, we'll borrow form my pilot project Decimese.
Google for it.
Syllable: CVC construction as a noun. Noun indicated
by 1 of 3 nasal consonant endings.
If we, say, have CVC as size, then the pair of adjectives
would be
i) CWVC and CYVC.
ii) Alternatively CVLC and CVRC.
iii) as an adjective, ending consonant nasal N1.
iv) as the property of size, or smallness or largeness,
nasal N2.
v) as a verb, N3.
The basic word, using the core vocabulary rules, for
three dimensions, would be
i) concept of three
ii) modifier of dimension
iii) indicator for inclusively so, to indicate all XYZ
Cartesian co-ordinates.
iv) length only would be indicated with exclusively the
third dimension
v) width only would be indicated via the 2nd dimension.
Voila. Size- big/small. Largeness. To enlarge. Sizable.
Et al.
All derived via Esperanto-esque rules (but within my
CcVvcN syllable construction rules).
If you know size, you know length and width. Short/long,
Other physical properties, such as weight/mass, density,
hardness, coldness et al can all
also be mapped in similar fashion.
So too sensory concepts. Bright/dim, loud/faint et al.
By nearly endlessly recycling core concepts, very few
root words must be learned.

Monday, January 19, 2009

applying studies to optimized language, ceqli.

D: thanks for that comment!

D: In summary, the features a language would need to match the primordial hardwiring of the brain would be
1) SOV word order. This is also optimized for a computer interlingua.
2) core CV syllable constructions, without too much deviation.
3) if it has stress, then either on the first syllable if suffixing, or penultimate if heavily prefixing.
4) vocabulary via consonants but grammatical meaning via vowels.
I compared this to my tentative Decimese.
I must confess I just tried to map my English biases onto Decimese. To make it easier for me to speak.

There IS a case for SVO word order, however. Both Chinese and English use it.

There is a commonality between English and Chinese word order, however. Both languages have the SVO order for the major sentence constituents, i.e., ... - 22k

China Will Surpass U.S. Economically by 2035, Double by Midcentury

July 8, 2008

WASHINGTON, July 8—China’s economy will surpass that of the United States by 2035 and be twice its size by midcentury, a new report by Albert Keidel concludes. China’s rapid growth is driven by domestic demand—not exports—and will sustain high single-digit growth rates well into this century.

In China’s Economic Rise—Fact and Fiction, Keidel examines China’s likely economic trajectory and its implications for global commercial, institutional, and military leadership.

D: In a nutshell, here is my motivation to pre-empt Chinese becoming the new lingua franca.

That very term shows that the title of 'honorary world language' has already changed hands quite a few times.
We should not just assume English will somehow always remain dominant.

Since Chinese tone is so difficult for Anglophones I say meet them in the middle.

Once China eclipses the US, then the collective English-speaking world, our time for negotiating will be finished. Instead of discussing terms of surrender, the surrender will be unconditional.

A Chinese economy 2x that of the USA will be an atomic bombing.

So I say we don't wait. We find a happy middle ground for before that happens.

Starting now.

Ceqli is a wonderful little Lojban/Chinese derived language.


For the purpose of determining word shape, 14 of the consonants are grouped and called ‘cwaba’ (leaders). Basically, they are the stops, fricatives, and affricates, plus the letter H. They do not include the semivowels, liquids and nasals.

Their names are beu, ceu, deu, etc. That is, the letter followed by eu.

(They are also sometimes used as pronouns. They refer back to the last word that begins with that letter.)

There are 12 faloba (followers). They include the vowels, semivowels, liquids, and nasals.

All Ceqli morphemes have the shape nCnF. This is the basis of Ceqli word-shape. Actually, morpheme-shape, because two or more morphemes can combine into a compound word.

That is, each morpheme consists of one or more cwaba followed by one or more faloba. Obviously, there's more to it than that. A morpheme can't begin with just any consonant cluster, and there are limits on possible liquid, nasal, and vowel clusters as well. But for the purpose of discerning the boundaries of a morpheme, the nCnF rule is all that's necessary.

D: his close adherence to Chinese syllable construction inspired me.

Look ma - no spaces!

Taking a random sentence:


First we encounter a cwaba, then a faloba, then another cwaba, so we know that the second cwaba begins a new morpheme. So we can go ahead and break it up this way:

go zi dan go zi sa dom ten du tcer.

We may not know what any of it means, but we know what the morphemes are, and where they begin and end.

D: I have also retained this.

D: I love his pronouns!

go - I [Latin ego]
zi - you [German Sie]

gozi - We (including you) This is the first
compound word you encounter.

Here are some examples:

ga - big, is big, a big thing [Spanish GrAnde]

D: not exactly a memory aid, unless you know every major world language.
More like a neutral grab-bag of sources to avoid imperialism or eurocloning. Plus allows shopping for ease of pronunciation.

So here are some contrasts between ajective-noun phrases and true compounds:

fawlgayr - Bird dog (a dog used to hunt birds)
fawl sa gayr - Bird dog (a dog somehow birdlike, or related to birds)

D: contrast with (a) white house and (the) White House (though the inflection varies).

can be past, present, or future.

And tense can certainly be left out if it's made clear by other words:

go ja padey. I went yesterday. [dey from English day]
go ja fudey. I`ll go tomorrow.

Ceqli follows the Spanish and Japanese patterns by having three position adverbs:

ci - here (near the speaker)

ca - there (near the person addressed)

cu - over there, yonder (remote from both the speaker and the person addressed) Derived from them with the addition of ba are the demonstrative pronouns:

D: I use in/out and near/far in tandem for this.

It is also used to generate pronouns, derived from terms for spatial qualities.

D: contrast this with the euroclone nature of Esperanto. It has no plural 'you'. Youz. Y'all.

Yup it's safe to say Ceqli is one of the most inspirational languages I've encountered.

Way to go, Rex!

Next stop: how to allow a dual analytic/synthetic language.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

esperanto flag, symbolism

Origin and symbolism of the flag

The Esperanto flag: green 2:3, white 1:1 canton with 0,35 radius green 5 pointed regular star pointing upwards centered on it.
António Martins, 04 Jun 1999

Esperanto organizations and individual esperantists use this flag as a general symbol of their language; variants defaced with organization names and slogans, written on the bottom half of the flag, are usual. Some organizations, especially those whose logo or emblem is based on the green star, put it on the canton of an otherwise unmodified esperanto flag (see particular variants).
António Martins, 14 May 2004

According to [rod97], both a star and the green color were associated to Esperanto quite early, following a call for it from B. G. Jonson, a Swedish Esperantist. Louis de Beaufront (who later become adept of Ido) proposed and initiated the usage of publishing books written in Esperanto with their covers green and with a star on it. The idea caught on and soon the green color and the star symbol were all over in Esperanto written books and periodicals. However nothing was fixed for the exact design of the star neither for its color — it was often golden, on the green background.

In 1893, were used the first lapel pins with a green star on a white background, by C. Rjabinis and P. Deullin, in a design used until today. The meaning of this symbol was, as usual, coined a posteriori — said to stand for the hope (green) of the five continents untited (5-pointed star) in common understanding and peace (white color)…

António Martins, 04 Jun 1999

The pentagon and the five-pointed stars were supposed to symbolize the five continents and the 'five races' of mankind. In a bow on top and at the bottom the flag got the names in English and French for the League of Nations.
Jarig Bakker, 10 October 1999

D: perhaps looking at the League of Nations flag will help.

Five continents, five RACES. I think we moderns squirm a bit at the mention of race.

Still, the League flag at least is not so demonstrably northern-hemisphere-centric as the UN flag.

I have pondered what a flag for a language I (knock on wood) will make might look like.

Any map will inevitably imply some sort of geographical superiority for one region.

But an abstract shape typically looks a bit like some ancient geometric occult symbol.

First of all, there are technically SEVEN continents.
D: Yup, an occult reference to alchemy exists.

I did like the olive wreath of the UN symbol though.
The blue color that appears in the background of the insignia was chosen to be "the opposite of red, the war color". The original color the group chose in 1945 was a gray blue that differs from the current United Nations flag.
The olive branches are a symbol for peace, and the world map represents all the people of the world.

The olive crown was a constant reminder that much was expected of its recipient. He was a symbol of the highest moral values of the time in which he lived, and it was incumbent on him to speak and act in the finest traditions of aidos.

D: more "arete" (excellence, sans accent) than peace, originally.

The earlier version had the globe 90 degrees turned eastward compared with the present flag. According to press statements, the change was made to move North America away from the centre of the emblem.[6]

D: LOL! Does that mean in 2035, when the Chinese economy is TWICE the size of the USA economy, we hafta put China dead centre? [=

I just read Brin's "Uplift War". Thoughts on vocabulary.

D: normally I look up any words in a dictionary as I read.
It doesn't happen often, since I have a pretty extensive vocabulary.
... I think I have repetitive-stress injury from reading Brin's book.

Sadly, there was no rhyme or reason to which characters were using the obscure words.
I was willing to accept it about the advanced space alien.
Not for the militia chimp, though.
Brin cannot write dialogue. Behind every character I can always see Brin peering out.
I cannot recall the TV show, but some writer had all his characters using "whom" properly- it shattered my suspension of disbelief.

Brin got me thinking, though. There were many words that my compact dictionary of ONLY 60,000 words lacked. To my way of thinking, it means Brin could not write at a level appropriate for his audience.
But how many words does a typical person know?
Nagy and Anderson (1984) estimated that an average high school senior knows 45,000 words, but other researchers have estimated that the number is much closer to 17,000 words (D'Anna, Zechmeister, & Hall, 1991) or 5,000 words (Hirsh & Nation, 1992). Surely these dramatically different estimates depend upon the three questions described above, namely, what does it mean to "know" a word, what counts as a "word," and who counts as "average?"

D: perhaps as important as having a large lexicon is knowing when NOT to use it.
In factory work, I have confused co-workers with such words as fallacy, necromancy, celibate and so on.

D: I want to write some sci-fi this year. Reading Hugo and Nebula award winners is research into this. I was looking at my Webster's Compact Dictionary.
It contains just under 400 pages of words to know.
That would require a year of reading 1 page per day, which is hardly an onerous burden!
I don't want to be able to use the truly fancy words, for fear of accidentally using them when inappropriate. I would like to, however, be able to express nuance more effectively.
I need to be able to summon the right word as an author where as a reader I need only recognize it.

One more thing, Mr. Brin. "Brumous" is not a word. "Brumal" would be.
Plus a word used for accolades serves double duty for eulogy. It didn't quite feel right.
Picking just the right word by definition is important.
Picking the word that fits in a sequence just right is even harder.
Big and large, in theory, mean the same thing.
But "big man" and " large man" each carry their own subtle implications.
The more an author wanders away from a core vocabulary, the more likely they are to mislead the reader in an attempt to impress.

Aside: Esperanto originally claimed it only needed c. 1000 word roots, but now has c. 10,000.
I'd really like to make modular Magnetic Poetry for it at the next Congress.
A large dictionary usually contains 40,000 characters.2 One must be able to recognize 2,000 to 3,000 characters to read a newspaper.

D: this resembles Ogden's Basic English.
If one were to take the 25,000 word Oxford Pocket English Dictionary and take away the redundancies of our rich language and eliminate the words that can be made by putting together simpler words, we find that 90% of the concepts in that dictionary can be achieved with 850 words.

D: I find some of these claims misleading. Any use of multiple word lexemes (MWLs) is more confusing than necessary. Learning more core words is preferable to generating meaning from a sequence of words that cannot be isolated to find the meaning.
For example, consider "put away", "put forth" and "put up (with)". Put is no help at all!
In fact, consider Ygyde's observation that
"The English language is not the best international auxiliary language because it is too ambiguous and too difficult to learn. For example, there are 56 meanings of the verb set, 11 meanings of the adjective set, and 47 meanings of the noun set, not counting subtle variations of these meanings. "
D: Let us assume that making chunked but manageable subsets of meaning with a new word for each is practical. That would leave about 11 words filling the void for the verb set.

I had toyed with the idea of using a tri-pitch system to capture 3 common meanings for Basic English words. I later incorporated pitch into VERSE instead to change other aspects.
D: this will be be incorporated into a tale of submarine future sea nomads I'm working on.