Sunday, February 7, 2010

attempts -and success stories- in natural language reform

We bandy about the term 'spelling reform'. I'll add:
1) spelling REVOLT
2) speaking reform
3) speaking REVOLT.
D: only minor reforms are possible from within a culturally conservative group.
REVOLT - dramatic reforms - have only ever been possible when imposed from outside by a stronger force.
However, the syllabaries were not completely codified and alternate letterforms, or hentaigana, existed for many sounds until standardization in 1900. In addition, due to linguistic drift the pronunciation of many Japanese words changed, mostly in a systematic way, from the classical Japanese language as spoken when the kana syllabaries were invented. Despite this, words continued to be spelled in kana as they were in classical Japanese, reflecting the classic rather than the modern pronunciation, until a Cabinet order in 1946 officially adopted spelling reform, making the spelling of words purely phonetic (with only 3 sets of exceptions) and dropping characters that represented sounds no longer used in the language.

D: only possible with the USA imposing strong reform.
I wonder if an occupying power could effectively completely supplant a writing system.

Spanish orthography is such that every speaker can figure out the pronunciation of a word from its written form. These rules are similar to, but not the same as, those of other peninsular languages, such as Portuguese, Catalan and Galician.
A number of the writing system's rules lead to potential homophony. These include the silent ‹h›, the lack of distinction between ‹b› and ‹v›, or ‹c› and ‹z› before ‹e i›, as well as some dialectal mergers such as that between ‹y› and ‹ll›, and between ‹c z› and ‹s›. In this way, a number of spellings could represent the same pronunciation. Nevertheless, the orthography is far more transparent than, for example, English orthography.

D: natural languages will have homophones. A good aux-lang will not.
But many poor ones still have them.
E.g. Esperanto. Di- god. Di-o - god/thing. -et- infix- tiny. Diet - diet. Dieto. Diet-thing? Or demigod/godling? Who knows.

Finnish is written with the Swedish variant of the Latin alphabet that includes the distinct characters Ä and Ö, and also several characters not used in Finnish (including for example C, Q, Å). The Finnish orthography built upon the phoneme principle: each phoneme (meaningful sound) of the language is represented by exactly one grapheme (independent letter), and each grapheme represents almost exactly one phoneme. This makes the language easy for its speakers to spell, and facilitates learning to read and write. The rule of thumb for Finnish orthography is: write as you read, read as you write.

However, morphemes retain their spelling despite sandhi.

D: as good as it gets. At least for a natural language.
Again, a well-designed aux-lang can surpass even this.


On December 6th 1990 an unprecedented event took place in French spelling history: the government published, in an official document [1], a series of recommendations aimed at rationalizing certain aspects of the written language and giving guidelines for the spelling of neologisms.

These were:

1. use of the hyphen.
2. plurals of compound words.
3. the circumflex accent.
4. past participle agreement of pronominal verbs.
5. various "anomalies".

Many languages have undergone spelling reform, where a deliberate, often officially sanctioned or mandated, change to spelling takes place. Proposals for such reform are also common.
There are a number of reasons driving such reforms: easing the task of children or immigrants becoming literate, making the language more useful for international communications or aesthetic or political reasons.
Opposition to reforms is often based upon concern that old literature will become inaccessible, the presumed suppression of regional accents, or simple conservatism based upon concern over unforeseen consequences

Spoken reform. Controlled natural languages.

Though ACE appears perfectly natural – it can be read and understood by anybody – it is in fact a formal language.

Here are some simple examples:
(1) * Women are human.
(2) Every woman is a human.
(3) A man is a human.
(4) A man tries-on a new tie. If the tie pleases his wife then the man buys it.
ACE construction rules require that each noun be introduced by a determiner (a, every, no, some, at least 5, ...). This excludes (1) as indicated by the * preceding the sentenc

D: this is the more theoretical foundation behind this Loglan-esque reformed English.

Discourse representation theory (DRT) is a framework offering a representation language for the examination of contextually dependent meaning in discourse.

In one sense, DRT offers a variation of first-order predicate calculus -- its forms are pairs of first-order formulae and the free variables that occur in them.
Attempto Controlled English (ACE) is a controlled natural language, i.e. a subset of standard English with a restricted syntax and a restricted semantics described by a small set of construction and interpretation rules [1].

D: To my way of thinking, all this fuss just indicates how poorly designed natural languages are. They are not well suited to precision and are often quite ambiguous. An English sentence can have 2 identical deep structure semantic meanings, with no way to tell which was intended.
A decent aux-lang will address this during the design phase.
Do keep in mind that much human communication does not require disambiguation.
In fact, sometimes being vague is desirable or intended.

Syntactic Ambiguity: A syntactically ambiguous sentence has one surface structure and two deep structures. Below is a list of newspaper headlines. Using phrase structure trees, show how each illustrates syntactic ambiguity.
"Judge to rule on nude beach."
LOL! D: I know a great joke about kings and rulers. Er, never mind. <:

D: hmm, I wonder how few English reforms would be required to remove such ambiguity.

He liked exciting women.
Liked to excite. Women who are exciting?
The use of the same suffix in different grammatical roles does not help.

1 comment:

Dino Snider said...

A quick aside on lip-reading and HIOXian letters. I will be able to portray only those elements visible as visemes. It should be unprecedented in how clearly it illustrates what a deaf person - or hearing lip reader - can actually see. Should be illuminating.