Thursday, January 21, 2010

"bio-evolution" hypothesis challenges drift theory

The study argues that human languages may adapt more like biological organisms than previously thought and that the more common and popular the language, the simpler its construction to facilitate its survival.

Traditional thinking is that languages develop based upon random change and historical drift. For example, English and Turkish are very different languages based upon histories that separate them in space and time. For years, it has been the reigning assumption in the linguistic sciences.


The researchers found striking relationships between the demographic properties of a language — such as its population and global spread — and the grammatical complexity of those languages. Languages having the most speakers — and those that have spread around the world — were found to have far simpler grammars, specifically morphology, than languages spoken by few people and in circumscribed regions. For example, languages spoken by more than 100,000 people are almost six times more likely to have simple verb conjugations compared to languages spoken by fewer than 100,000 people.

Larger populations tend to have simpler pronoun and number systems and a smaller number of cases and genders and in general do not employ complex prefixing or suffixing rules in their grammars. A consequence is that languages with long histories of adult learners have become easier to learn over time. Although a number of researchers have predicted such relationships between social and language structure, this is the first large-scale statistical test of this idea.

D: Makes sense. We each have our own unique take on our native tongue. It even varies between family members.
That's called an "idiolect". ? Idiosyncratic dialect ?

The more numbers and geographical area that need to communicate, the more the mandatory complexities of a grammar would need to be 'dumbed down' to the lowest common denominator.
This does support the idea that any particular national language that gains international status faces such pressures.
In other words, if English were to become the "official world language", this would not be a victory for English as we know it.
It would gradually cease to resemble the cultural English that we know and understand. And sometimes even love.

Some nice primers on Dubitanto. Er, Esp-o. <:
We see the historical quandary. Until popular, one must NOT tinker with an aux-lang. We need 1 standard first.
BUT. How to get there.
I have an elegant though useless suggestion for Esp-o. Too little, too late.
Don't release a half-tested language to the public.

In software, we call that 'beta-testing'.

"Beta" is a nickname for software which has passed the alpha testing stage of development and has been released to users for software testing before its official release. It is the prototype of the software that is released to the public. Beta testing allows the software to undergo usability testing with users who provide feedback, so that any malfunctions these users find in the software can be reported to the developers and fixed. Beta software can be unstable and could cause crashes or data loss

The users of a beta version are called beta testers. They are usually customers or prospective customers of the organization that develops the software. They receive the software for free or for a reduced price, but act as free testers.
D: in video game software, the market supports premature release of buggy games.
Then along comes the patch to fix everything. And wham! Your character gets wiped out, along with all the levels and the time and energy you put in to it to get there.

D: aux-langs, however, do not share the insatiable demand of game consumers. The market is opposite.
Imagine, if you will, an public unwilling to purchase one of dozens of games on the shelf.
I'd feel confident to say that game companies would not be willing to give consumer access to a shoddy, undeveloped game.

Well, that's the aux-lang "market" for you.

After the core fan-boy group 'buys' your aux-lang, the more discerning consumers pick and choose. They read the reviews from early adopters. They base their 'purchase' decisions on those reviews.
Most aux-langs hit a ceiling of popularity. Well, all.
This ceiling - and how high it is- is based on how niche the ideological space of the aux-lang is.
In our analogy, is the 'game' (language) a first person shooter or a rarified whodunit?
Beyond that, the quality of the game ultimately dictates the game's popularity.
Many people will play a good game, though not all.
Take "Rock Band", for example. Even I play it - and I don't play games!
What we need in the aux-lang community is such a fresh rethink that non-gamers (linguist geeks) want to play (learn).
After all, Rock Bank is just a clever rethink of Kareoke, which has been around forever.
But it went mainstream - it got HUGE.
I suppose World of Warcraft qualifies too.

A quality product of the right subgenre is part of it. But the Kareoke or MMO aspect (social) is important too.

An aux-lang designer should consider these lessons from the very conception of the language.

I make this solemn promise: I'll never ask anybody to 'beta test' for me, unless my languague is clearly a pre-release test version.
I wouldn't even want many to learn that - it makes unlearning so difficult.

Later this week - the old order changes, yielding place to the new.
I'll compare the phonology, phonotactics and grammar of Mandarian to various IAL attempts.
I will focus solely on those designed as IALs.
Since the syllable rules (sans tone) for Mandarin are brutally limited, and the grammar superficially very simple, this is definitely a 'trial by fire' for any IAL. Even pidgin/creole-derived/based ones.
The rise of China is not something considered by any historical IAL attempt.
D: I suspect only Ceqli will fare very well at all.

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