Thursday, February 11, 2010

Chomsky. Propaganda. E-Prime. Newsspeak. Goodthinks.

I'm 38. Go back to age 18 and I was excitedly waiting to attend university.
When I took sociology at U o' Windsor, I used Chomsky's propaganda model regularly.
So too in poli-sci at U o' Waterloo.
In high school, I read Orwell's 1984. That is the scariest thing I ever read.
I became a civil liberatarian.

Anyway, fast forward 20 years.
Here I am, a aspiring (and hopefully budding) language designer, literacy tutor, and maybe tech writer one day.

I am re-reading his classic "Manufacturing Consent". It is amazingly topical. It speaks of Afghanistan, or Vietnam, of those Sandanistas in Nicaragua. It remains amazingly topical. There has been a game of musical chairs about what empire is where.
But the more things change, the more they stay the same.

It got me thinking. Recall E-prime's attempt to not allow 'to be' statements without backing up the facts.

E-Prime (short for English-Prime) is a modified form of the English language which lacks the concepts and forms of the verb to be: "be", "is", "am", "are", "was", "were", "been" and "being" (and their equivalent contractions "'m", "'s", and "'re"). Statements in E-Prime thus seldom contain the passive voice, which in turn may impel writers or speakers to envisage things differently than they might otherwise (compare the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis). By eliminating most uses of the passive voice, E-Prime encourages writers and speakers to make explicit the agent of a statement,[1] possibly making the written text easier to read and understand.

D: The movie was good. OR: I liked the movie.
Everybody else liked the 2 Transformers movies. I thought the plot was so weak, the characters so trite, that no amount of CGI could save it.
I considered the plot. I did not like the characters.
You see?

Roses are red.
Roses... LOOK red.
Roses ... seem red?

Nice touch - incorporating the sensory aspect.
I was trying to invert this with Decimese. "I heard about..."
No. If I read it, I saw a written passage about. I HEARD nothing.
I wanted a cerebral logical level of communication. I (was communicated to me - in written lingual form - so saw that)...

Anyway, back to Chomsky on agitprop.

In addition, words with opposite meanings were removed as redundant, so "bad" became "ungood". Words with comparative and superlative meanings were also simplified, so "better" became "gooder", and "best" likewise became "goodest". Intensifiers could be added, so "great" became "plusgood", and "excellent" and "splendid" likewise became "doubleplusgood". Adjectives were formed by adding the suffix "-ful" to a root word (e.g., "goodthinkful", orthodox in thought), and adverbs by adding "-wise" ("goodthinkwise", in an orthodox manner). In this manner, as many words as possible were removed from the language. The ultimate aim of Newspeak was to reduce even the dichotomies to a single word that was a "yes" of some sort: an obedient word with which everyone answered affirmatively to what was asked of them.
Some of the constructions in Newspeak, such as "ungood", are in fact characteristic of agglutinative languages, although foreign to English. It is possible that Orwell modeled aspects of Newspeak on Esperanto; for example "ungood" is constructed similarly to the Esperanto word malbona.

D: English lacks many of these features. I'd say the order of events requisite for media propaganda is as follows:
1) a private economic sector
2) large amounts of capital
3) immortalized in huge undying corporations
4) that become multinational in scope and operation.
1) advertising in media. For example, in newspaper.
2) papers and columns that do not curry favour with the private sector lose revenue
3) for example, union trade newsletters shut down - exactly what happened in UK.
4) the with-held advertising revenue, combined with the legal and PR stink that private money and companies can put up
5) shapes what can be discussed.
The key? Advertising. Recall when cable TV came along. No ads! Sweet. You paid for it, though. And then they introduced ads.
So long as a medium (newspaper/magazine/journal, television, radio et al) has no advertising then you, the reader are the consumer - the target market -for the product (the medium and content).
BUT. Once there is advertising -revenue to the medium business from rich corporations - you cease to be the consumer.
You become the consumed. The medium is sold to the advertising company - YOU are the product.
But you are left thinking that you are the consumer - not the consumEE. Creepy.

So where am I going with this?
Decimese - how could a language be constructed to resist agitprop?
Agitprop (IPA: /ˈædʒ.ɪtˌpɹɒp/; from Russian агитпроп, pronounced [əgɪtˈprop]) is a portmanteau of agitation and propaganda.[1]

The key seems to be a combination of E-Prime's idea and what follows.
1) remove the presence of umbrella very broad abstract idea nouns.
Democracy. Who is NOT for that, except fascists!
Freedom. Woot. But free... as in beer? As in free market? As in free to vote (but how and for whom to what effect). And so on.

Chomsky makes the point that the term democracy is never defined meaningfully in mass media. If it is, then the facts of a nation's elections are never discussed. If they are discussed, the truth will be completely inverted.

What I am talking about is abstract-concept metonyms.
The equivalent of 'thing' or 'action' or 'person'.
What if we did away with democracy. (The word.)
Well, we might need to nail down if we mean 'popular representation' by that.
This might lead to a discussion of whether credible elections were indeed held.
Such a language would be heavily compounding.
Alternatively, there could be general taxonomic categories - but only for vocabulary generation.
I.e. what is presently treated as a free morpheme in English would become a bound morpheme. We would need an additional preceding noun or adjectival concept prior to a high-level absract noun to compound it.
I.e. the high level broad term can ONLY be used as part of a more precise subset.
At the very least, a listener would be aware that a speaker is not using proper precision, opting instead to use a misleadingly vague catch-all term.
Unfortunately, this approach would not have BREVITY. The best i can suggest is this:
1) topicalize, but by each noun or verb.
2) then pronoun-ize it essentially.
A portmanteau - a truncation for the remainder of the discussion - could work.
Although this could happen prior to discussion. The definition of a word would, in effect, be the complete word itself. The short form would be the word used in discussion.
E.g. smoke plus fog. Definition of smoke and fog. SMoke. fOG. SM-OG. SMOG. In a Decimese format, closer to a word like ...
SOGAN. Or, if we mandate each root itself be a bound morpheme, 2x2 syllables so 4 syllables. Like I said, not short.
Possibly we can drop the first compounded noun -N ending. However, if so, then we must have a way to denote when we are using the uppacked and lengthy full definition of a word. For example, how is SOKEFAGU-N discrete versus SOKE-FAGU-N?
We can add a preposition mid-word that would incorporate the special HLRWY consonant syllable set.
SOKE-RO-FAGU-N. Like I said, not brief.
Once we introduce this word into conversation, a way to abbreviate it, essentially pronounize it is highly desirable.
First concept in discussion introduced. Smoke-fog = smog. Well, SO-FA-N. SOFAN. However, this is not discrete from a single-morpheme 2 syllable base. How is SO + FA-N discrete from SOFA-N?
If we add that prepositional 'relater' back in, it becomes clear but also more wordy.
SO-RO-FAN. Keep in mind that our rules to combine the _RO_ preceding word particle (pre-positional) into the body of the main word is strictly optional for intermediate-level speakers. It must remain so, since consonant clusters and vowel diphthongs are difficult for many speakers. I.e. Either SROo(gemination?)-FAN or SO-FRAON.
Note: I need to nail down diphthongs!
And how are sroofan and sofraon different? LOL I am not sure yet.
Endings would include sorofaNG (verb - 'to smog' - to become, make, be, go?).
Also sorofaM (adjective - smoggy and adverb- smoggily).

I have designed a single-character syllabary system that is based on options available on the most basic of text editors.
A related project is to reserve the qwerty keyboard #s (1,2,3...) to function somewhat as grammatical punctuation in writing.
I can do so since the syllabary system also incorporates numbers via the letter-based syllabary system.
Much like silent punctuation, the presence of #s in a written passage can then provide silent cues for semantic meaning without any necessary spoken phonetic or phonemic component.
I was thinking the #s zero to nine could express generative grammar grammatical aspects.
Is that subject passive, animated or animated and human with motivation? Zero to two.
Verbs, adjectives (stative?). And so on.

The alternative convention *could* just use the # related to express the consonant-vowel aspect of words.
I.e. If the consonant order HWLRY plus A is the # names for 0-4, then...
LA is 3. Put another way, if you see 3 you say LA.
OK I cannot get bold or italics or underline to work.

Inverted, small L - l - can be treated as LA.
Capital L - L - as LE.
Italic L as LI.
Bold L as LO.
And underlined L as LU.
Ergo, the word LAM could be written clearly as lm.
Or could be if English small/capital letters and numbers did not all resemble each other.
Worse, c and C, z and Z et al are the same character in a differnt font, essentially.
What an unplanned POS mess.
Obviously, we would need to expand this convention to include M, N, NG as well as AEIOU.
The English alphabet does not match up perfectly with the phonemes Decimese will use.
C, X and Q are all surplus. However, I expect to keep the consonant + H convention. It is no slower and is more clear to understand than recruiting these 3 letters.
CH - as in CHurch - *can* be C. Or CH.
SH. ZH (pleaSUre) and so on.

One of the reasons I wish to use HIOXian letter system is that the English Roman Alphabet is such an unholy mess.

Back to propaganda and Decimese word forms.

What would this look like, in our example?
1) no word (other than a category head) for democracy
2) 2 separate words for popular and representation respectively.
3) topicalize- introduction of the full term 'popular representation. My god- 8 vs 4 syllables!!!
4) once introduced, we truncate, perhaps even using a variant pronoun approach.
Henry, he... The white car, it...
Popular representation, ... pop-rep???
I had considered this early on for Decimese. I knew it would be wordy.
I had considered that a precise definition in a taxonomic approach would be incredibly long.
E.g. syllables 1 2 3 4 5 ... (nasal ending).
We could agree to use 2-5(end) only, once introduced.
Or even, abiding by Kipf's Law, have the language community use many terms in this fashion.
If 2-5 could cause confusion with another term being used the syllables 3-5 could be used instead.
If there are 2 comparable terms, once could be inverted to 5-3.

I had initially considered this for the term 'human'.
Science... biology .... taxonomy ... animal ... mammal... ape... home sapiens.
So biology-homo.
If we speak of chimps also, then biology-ape would cause a homophone.
So human: biology - homo. Chimp - biology -ape. Topicalize - DEFINE really - then truncate ('pronoun or portmanteau').
This was back when I had considered a purely Ro-like taxonmic approach.
Prohibitively wordy with a limited phonology and restricted syllable rules.

An elegant solution might be to make humanocentric concepts so central to Decimese that they are implicit.
English: perSON. huMAN. The male aspect is denoted in a way.
Esperanto: vir-IN-o. Viro is the default- to male. Feminine must be explicitly added to denote woman.

Decimese is based on the acronym MELTS. Well, ethics only exist in humans. One of the five vowels as well as its HV form are reserved for this default. That could denote human.
How about this - implied by default.
Pronouns. He/she/it. How about 'it' is human by default. If IT is not human, that must be indicated.
Generative grammar deep structure could express that as follows.
1) it- aspect/subject = human -possesses motivations, can precede verbs that require motivation.
2) it- add a part to denote not-human but animated. Can precede verbs that require an animated subject.
3) it - not human or animated? Explicitly indicate this.

Of all the uses for forced agreement between grammatical parts, THIS generative grammar is at least of use to the speaker!
English: I am, you are. NOT I are. NOT you am.
Subject: Grand- vir (big man sans grammatical ending).
Subject 'big man' - granda viro.
Big MEN? Big-ez man-ez. I.e. granday viroy.
You would never see that in any pidgin, making me think it is a bad idea in an aux-lang too.
Object (we'll call it suffix -ob in the English example) Big man. Big-ob man-ob. GrandaN viroN.
Object: big men. Big-ez-ob man-ez-ob. GrandaYN viroYN. Wowsers.
(Five minutes pass. D fetches tylenol from the bathroom.)
Sorry, back now. Splitting headache. <:

As I was saying, if a language feels some irrational pressing need to possess forced agreement between grammatical parts, perhaps deep structure is a more appropriate focus.
I.e. SVO - subject verb object.
Big man. big -stative adjective (a 'verbal'). Man - animated plus human subject.
Of course, as the object of a sentence, the object of man does not need to agree in same way.
Of course, an abstract noun object may not be an appropriate recipient of 'action verbs'.
The man used the gun to shoot the dog. The man shot the dog. The man shot... the liberty. Huh?
For that matter, the gun shot the dog. But clearly, since the gun is not animated, it was merely the means to shoot.
The man shot the dog. Obviously the man, not being the transformer called Megatron, did not turn into a large cannon. <:
Explicitly denoting generative grammar could be either mandatory or optional in an aux-lang.
Once verbs clearly indicate whether they are transitive, a new speaker is no longer constantly guessing how to use them, or forced to memorize each verb on a case-for-case basis without any hints to guide them.

Valency categories are a feature of classical European grammar so basic they're taken for granted; they regulate the number of noun phrases that can be associated as arguments with a given verb (or other wordclass, but never mind that for now).

One argument: "It¹ exists"
Two arguments: "I¹ seek the Holy Grail²!"
Three arguments: "Sam¹ lends people² money³"

Compared to the European standard model, English has notably relaxed valency rules, allowing many verbs to occur with any number of arguments ("give": "please give generously; I gave earlier; cows give milk; she gave me this"). The grammars warn that no such "illogical" behaviour is tolerated from Esperanto verbs - any valency change, no matter how obvious from the accompanying noun cases, must also be signalled with the suffixes (E1), like this:

"give birth to" - what mothers do to babies (marked in the dictionary as an inherently transitive verb)

the causative form - but rather than meaning "cause to give birth" (a midwife's job), this is used to mean "beget"; that is, what the father did nine months earlier (solo?)

lexicons translate this not as "give birth" (plain intransitive) but as "be born" - what babies do.
What was that about logic? Meanwhile, reflexives such as "he disguised himself" get no such valency-modifying suffix, being handled instead as normal transitives with a special pronoun.

D: OK I was wrong. Esperanto just is not consistent.

Esperanto shouldn't need the construction at all when it's (potentially) got:

Topicalising reshuffles -
Special vague pronouns -
Unspecific subjects -
Zero subjects - <(...) legis la libron>
Resultatives -

D: passive construction. Too many ways to skin a cat. One will suffice!

D: back to propaganda.

I have mocked the terms 'virtual reality' and 'cyber(netic) sex' in the past. I joke that they mean NOT.
But perhaps there are many more instances where a permutation would not be better replaced with a negation.

The other trick I find - and this has been twisted to mean declarations of war (Noriega, Panama) or threats to export global revolution (Nicaragua, not-contras) is as follows:
1) don't use 30 seconds of discussion for context
2) don't use a paragraph of quotations for context.
Who among us could survive with our meaning intact, taken out of context?
Often, purposefully so.

Do you read alternative media? From other nations, other regions? It is all online.
Surely you are not too slow to understand the news. Surely you are not so foolish as to trust only one source.
I want to be a Chomsky, not a Chimpsky or Chumpsky! <:
Perhaps Decimese, by avoiding high-level abstract nouns, can resist the worst excesses of media propaganda.

1 comment:

Dino Snider said...

Generative grammar deep structure can be used to good effect here, by preventing passive sentences.
The movie IS good. Nooo... you opine that it is.
If we nail down be/do verb types, then nail down the subject to be passive (not allowed) or active-animated or human (and human if motivation too), then this construction is impossible.
This could be as simple as only allowing certain word-initial (main noun) first consonants via careful planning. Neat!