Friday, December 18, 2009

Entry 99 1/2. Sapir's essay, parallels of English and Esperanto. I give up on Esperanto...


We may begin with simplicity. It is true that English is not as complex in its formal structure as is German or Latin, but this does not dispose of the matter. The fact that a beginner in English has not many paradigms to learn gives him a feeling of absence of difficulty, but he soon learns to his cost that this is only a feeling, that in sober fact the very absence of explicit guide-posts to structure leads him into all sorts of quandaries
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 are disconcerting.
The precise disentanglement of all these relations and the obtaining of anything like assurance in the use of the words is a task of no small difficulty. Where, then, is the simplicity with which we started? It is obviously a phantom. The English-speaking person covers up the difficulty for himself by speaking vaguely of idioms. The real point is that behind the vagaries of idiomatic usage there are perfectly clear-cut logical relations which are only weakly brought out in the overt form of English. The simplicity of English in its formal aspect is, therefore, really a pseudo-simplicity or a masked complexity.
D: Does this look familiar? Claims of simplicity beyond what can be defended?

D: so the same arguments are used to similar effect by those who
1) like English as the standard
2) wish to reject English as the standard world language.
But do the advocates of 2) fare much better.

I consistently grind to a halt in the middle of my 'basic' Esp-o book.
I've realized it is just too hard for me.
See the entry on Turkish infixes- complexity is NOT the problem.
Multiple uses for the same trick have given me great trouble.
Vocabulary items have.
Endless infixes and forced agreement have.

English IS the superior choice for a world language, insofar as its basic grammar IS more simple.
AND it is. Cuz it doesn't have Latinate grammatical infixes.

Here is a random list of things that irked me the last time I attempted to learn Esperanto:
1) Collegio but pag*o. G and J respectively.
Now I'm sure my bias as an Anglophone will be here.
But the only word I know that sounds like the former is colleague. Not college, not others.
Yet pag*o retained the sound of 'page'... why?
2) Precipe is not related to precipice, but means principally. Why the loss of a critical N?
3) Akvo but lago. No rhyme or reason to voiced/voiceless consonant pairs mid-word.
4) no overt identification of whether verbs are transitive or not. Done to self, or other.
How is this different than Sapir's criticism of English?
5) coverto - false friend. Not covert. Cover, as in letter envelope. So much for natural language being 'easier'.
6) renkontas. Doesn't mean re-enknontas. The sloppy syllable rules mean endless spoofing.
Is that the core word? Is it an infix? Who the hell knows.
Likely this is true of many many others too.
7) mal- means opposite. BUT the word for opposite is - wait for - contrau. Didn't use the prefix as a word root.
8) there are 3 ways to say member-of-nation. Yeah, that's easy.

But the real nail in the coffin was -n.
It can mean object.
It can mean movement towards a position.
e.g. La katos saltas sur la tablon.
- the cat jumps on the table -to.
- the cat jump on-to the table.
So what did I hafta do there?
Keep the whole sentence in my head, in working memory.
Access WHICH meaning of -n it is. Complete. Wow, just wow.
Wait - it gets BETTER.
Adverbs showing place, movement towards, ditto.
Li iris hejmen.
He went home -to.
He went to home, or homewards.
For directional - supren.
... and this has what to do with direct object -n?
The funny thing is that using other nasals at the word's end could have cleared this up.
Hejmem. Hejmeng.

10) also, how do I say "lingvo"? Lin-g-vo. Well that is downright euponious!
Not sure why ng never made the cut.

Ultimately, the problem, IMHO, is a confusion over verbal versus written language.
So busy trying to make words look the same on paper that the pronunciation is lost.
A side effect of slavish adherence to the Roman Alphabet.
11) to review, even common words have diacritics. OK for a few rare of imported ones, but common ones?! leading to...
12) Kipf's Law. Common words should be short.
There - tie. Here - Near/there - C*i-tie (3 syllables!).
Multisyllable common words. Diacritics on common words.
Zamenhof just didn't do his homework!

It's funny that he was aiming at accessible.
To avoid accusations re: cultural neutrality, he didn't want to commit to any particular word order.
That meant latinate infixes to denote grammatical function, and fluid word order.
But THAT was as culturally loaded as word order!

On that note, we could have skipped all those diacritics if we had limited the phonemes to 26- the number of Roman Alphabet letters. Instead, we get this mess that much of the world cannot say.
Though Europe can.

It's a Euro-interlang posing as a world interlang.
Ultimately, it is just European bigotry in the guise of cultural neutrality.
A wolf in sheep's clothing.

I'm done learning Esperanto- or failing to. I am not finding it much easier than French, to be frank (though not Frank).
I couldn't learn French to save my life either.

As soon as we use the fireplace, I'm tossing the Esperanto book in it.
Before I waste any more of my life on the infernal thing!!!
Update- I've read over the list of the most common 1000 English words. There are relatively few repeating patterns and concepts. On track for end of year summary of core concepts for Decimese.
Oh yeah- my system has no more than 26 sounds, maps 1:1 on to the Roman Alphabet- and does so without diacritics!

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