Sunday, October 31, 2010

70% of web users don't speak English

D - one of the potential benefits of an IAL (international auxiliary language) is cost.
Advertisers can use a one-size-fits-all approach.
Government bodies,particularly international ones, can save a bundle on translations.

Then there are subtle costs.
New immigrants to Canada are offered language lessons. But often they wish to start working right away so they don't 'waste time'.
Which ultimately constrains their ability to work effectively.
Unless one has a job that involves sitting in an isolated cubicle, and even then does not involve reading, this is a mistake.

A few years ago, I participated in a YWCA-sponsored 'Coming to Canada' improv skit theatre project. I learned facts that made me sympathetic to newcomers. For example, sometimes Canada invites them here due to their educational qualifications- and then won't recognize this when the get here.
Conversely, I found they collectively engaged in a mental trap about discrimination.
They adamantly refused to admit that speaking English in a clear and concise manner is a job skill. Ergo, every time they fail to get a job it must be... DISCRIMINATION!
Yes, they actually believed that.
First of all, the ability to communicate (both ways) in a spoken and written form IS a job skill. The inability to do so is a valid and legitimate reason to not employ somebody.
Second, it may be that our language lessons are failing them.
I am of the opinion that addressing accent/dialect is MORE important than the usual 'nuts and bolts' approach of teaching grammar and syntax.
I for one have a mild auditory processing problem. Misplacing the stress and changing cadence on words I know is often enough to render them unintelligible to me.

NEWS: after only a YEAR, I have finally finished reading Chomsky's SPE. For most people, I suggest you just read a summary of his language rule results.
Even where these rules are summarized with page reference in SPE, those pages still are almost indecipherable as examples.
I am completely unable to think in 'notation'.
Meaning all the efficient short-hand expressions in the book might as well be greek to me. The section on phonology was worth its weight in gold, though.

Teaching simple example by large groups samples might be useful.
1) nail down English phonemes in one syllable words. Work up to diphthongs n' consonant clusters.
2) at 2 syllables, show the rules for noun and verb and adjective.
3) use lots and lots of examples.
4) gradually introduce examples of how derivatives change the stress.
5) gradually show how co-articulation changes the actually spoken word.
Notice that grammar and syntax are not even mentioned.
Knowing 1000 words in English with perfect grammar and syntax remains totally useless if one cannot say those 1000 words in a manner that is understood.
Yet ethnic accent is the very last thing to persist after learning English.
It should be the very FIRST thing to go.
I know this is very hard for an adult brain. But it is rewarding.

Aside: I am intrigued by the idea of a 3rd tier of pronunciation- the unspoken secret underlying representation.
I wonder if colour-coded stacking of hiox figures could capture narrow (IPA), wide (standard) and this underlying mode, all in one fell swoop?

An alternative aux-lang to English, or course, sacrifices the richness and quirkiness of a natural language for the stilted but accessible aux-lang.

I did find Q and X particularly to detract from C's claim of English 'optimal orthography'. Ending a syllable in X has a KS sound. This consonant cluster can often make a syllable strong, even with a weak vocalic nucleus.
X deprives the reader of the consonant-cluster cue necessary.
Such aux-langs as Ceqli sensibly recycle X and Q for other sounds.

The staggering difficulty of mastering English remains a point in favour of a world (or nation, or even province/group) aux-lang.
Saying 'learn English or go home', though terribly tempting when dealing with ethnic truck drivers (as I do at work), remains a superficial response to a complex issue.
Whether learning a simple aux-lang would amount to more work than teaching passable English to untalented adults on a large scale is open to debate.
I suspect it would be viewed as a sensible investment, paying huge and long-term dividends. At least after the fact.

An ideal aux-lang for this purpose faces the 2 constraints, opposed to each other of,
1) too complicated to learn for many backgrounds, and
2) LCD- lowest common denominator- leaving very few elements to communicate with.
Lacking nuance or brevity as a result.
These are issues each IAL designer must struggle with.
Espo has chosen problem 1).
I have chosen problem 2), but hope ot mitigate it through very careful early planning.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

just English irregular plural nouns

ox oxen (particularly when referring to a team of draft animals, sometimes oxes in nonstandard American English)
child children (actually earlier plural "cildra/cildru" plus -en suffix, forming a double plural)
brother brethren (archaic plural of brother; earlier "brether" plus -en suffix, forming a double plural; now used in fraternal order)
cow kine (archaic/regional; actually earlier plural "kye" [cf. Scots "kye" - "cows"] plus -en suffix, forming a double plural)

D: variants of -en.

No plural difference:


Ablaut plurals

The plural is sometimes formed by simply changing the vowel sound of the singular, in a process called ablaut (these are sometimes called mutated plurals):
foot feet
goose geese
louse lice
man men
mouse mice
tooth teeth
woman women

Greek and Latin derived:

* Final a becomes -ae (also -æ), or just adds -s:

alumna alumnae

* Final ex or ix becomes -ices (pronounced /ɨsiːz/), or just adds -es:

index indices /ˈɪndɨsiːz/ or indexes

* Final is becomes es (pronounced /iːz/):

axis axes /ˈæksiːz/

* Final ies remains unchanged:

series series

* Final on becomes -a:

automaton automata

* Final um becomes -a, or just adds -s:

addendum addenda

* Final us becomes -i (second declension, [aɪ]) or -era or -ora (third declension), or just adds -es (especially in fourth declension, where it would otherwise be the same as the singular):

alumnus alumni

* Final as in one case of a noun of Greek origin changes to -antes:

Atlas Atlantes (statues of the hero); but

* Some nouns of French origin add an -x, which may be silent or pronounced /z/:

beau beaux

* Nouns of Hebrew origin add -im or -ot (generally m/f) according to native rules, or just -s:

cherub cherubim/cherubs

Words better known in the plural

Some words of foreign origin are much better known in the plural; usage of the original singular may be considered pedantic or actually incorrect or worse[18] by some speakers. In common usage, the original plural is considered the singular form. In many cases, back-formation has produced a regularized plural.
Original singular Original plural/
common singular Common plural
agendum agenda9 agendas
alga algae algae
biscotto biscotti biscotti
candelabrum candelabra candelabras
datum10 data data (mass noun)
graffito graffiti graffiti (mass noun)
insigne insignia insignias
opus opera operas
panino panini paninis (currently gaining use)
paparazzo paparazzi paparazzi
spaghetto spaghetti spaghetti

D - having fun yet?

Chinese 'xie' for plural (some) seems nice.
But then they have special words for plurals of many many singular words.

In English, herd of cattle et al.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

letter font and material recall

Researchers at Princeton University employed volunteers to learn made-up information about different types of aliens - and found that those reading harder fonts recalled more when tested 15 minutes later.

They argue that schools could boost results by simply changing the font used in their basic teaching materials.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

12 is the loveliest number. # naming conventions.

Twelves appears in many places and many guises.
It flies in the face of our modern sensibilities.
We just assume that a 1-size-fits-all 10-base system is the way to go.

I will make my case for the need to name #s simply right up to 12.

In physics, the Planck length, denoted ℓP, is a unit of length, equal to 1.616252(81)×10−35 meters. It is a base unit in the system of Planck units.

D - metric-style prefixes to a power-multiple of 3x12 is desirable to easily encapsulate the Planck length. So instead of yocto at 10 -24, we could have something else at 10 -36- Planck length territory.

The imperial system is still widely used. I worked in construction, and can tell you we still do everything with the Imperial measuring system.
We all know inch-feet-yards-miles.
There are a few more but those are the important ones.
Once we reach lengths smaller than inches, we typically use a fraction-2-power system.
I.e. 1/2 ,1/4, 1/8, 1/16ths...
Here we see the importance of a to-the-power # naming convention.
That is also true of the metric-style prefix names, as well as the #s 1,10, and 100.
Really, 10 and 1000 with various powers are the basis for our modern decimal/metric system.

Twelve also appears in time, and has resisted every effort to displace it.

Behind this use of 12 is the backdrop of the sexagesimal system - 60 base.
Sexagesimal (base 60) is a numeral system with sixty as its base. It originated with the ancient Sumerians in the 3rd millennium BC, it was passed down to the ancient Babylonians, and it is still used — in a modified form — for measuring time, angles, and the geographic coordinates that are angles.

The number 60, a highly composite number, has twelve factors, namely { 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 10, 12, 15, 20, 30, 60 } of which two, three, and five are prime numbers. With so many factors, many fractions involving sexagesimal numbers are simplified. For example, one hour can be divided evenly into sections of 30 minutes, 20 minutes, 15 minutes, 12 minutes, 10 minutes, six minutes, five minutes, etc. Sixty is the smallest number that is divisible by every number from one to six. This is because 60 = 2 × 2 × 3 × 5 = 4 × 3 × 5.

D: take a circle with 360 degrees. Dividing progressively in half, we get 360,180,90, 45 .... 22.5.
Whereas a 100-base system would divide to 100, 50, 25, .... 12.5.
To avoid decimals/fractions for one more division, we'd hafta go up to a 1000 base system.

The importance of the 12-base system is apparent in our English # naming conventions.
We have eleven, twelve and only then the 13-19 "teen" ending.

Finally, we have our 360 (plus a bit) days of the year. Our calendar has 12 months.

Very few aux-langs think to make # names simple beyond 10.
We see above that there are many benefits to a # naming convention that is compact to 12 for brevity of speech.

As always, take Espo for example. ( I dare not utter utter this demonic language's true name - it attracts spammers! <:)
16 Dek ses (one ten and six)
Lojban, et al typically also fall into this trap.
Lojban cycles through the aeiou vowel set twice to reach names to 10.

One last thought. In time, we have the following naming conventions.
Second-minute-hour-day-week-month-year. Only day and year have any natural-world meaning.
We see a similar progression of names for Imperial distances.
The option of a measuring-unit system with a 1-7 or so scale for names, much like #s, may be desirable.
Alternatively, a day-less-1-scale (hour) system could be attractive.
Possibly, a naming convention that uses very brief terms for common multiples could work. E.g. Second is day /24 hours/ 60 minutes/ 60 seconds.

I vaguely entertained a notion to use a time unit convention for the day that reflects geometry. I.e. 360 degrees vs 12 hours. That is 30 degrees per hour. Each degree would be 2 minutes. From there, arc minutes and arc seconds.
It'd be interesting to show time on an old hand-based clock for the year.
The best argument I've heard for why our time-unit second is a second is the rate that the human heart beats at.