Sunday, February 20, 2011

a sample translation.thoughts on Espo learning

Sed ĉi tiu ne ĉiuj. La moderna menso emas esti pli kaj pli kritika kaj analiza spirite, tial devas elpensi por si motoro de esprimo kiu estas logike defendo ĉe ĉiu punkto kaj kiu emas respond ..on la rigora spirito de moderna scienco. Tio ne signifas ke konstru internacia lingvo oni atendas, ke ... ..osas havi la perfektecon de matematika simboleco, sed oni devas sentitan kiel laŭpaŝe moviĝ tiudirekten. Eble la ..lingvanoj nacia lingvo estas sub profunda iluzioj pri la logika karaktero de ĝia strukturo. Eble ili konfuzi la komforton de kutimo kun logika neceso. Se ĉi tiu estas tiel -- kaj mi ne vid kiel povas esti grave dub ke ĝi -- ĝi estas dev signif tio laŭ longatempa perspektivo la moderna spirito ne estos ripoz kontenta pri internacia lingvo tio nur etend la neperfektaĵoj kaj provincialisms de unu lingvo je la kosto de ĉiuj aliaj.

But this is not all. The modern mind tends to be more and more critical and analytical in spirit, hence it must devise for itself an engine of expression which is logically defensible at every point and which tends to correspond to the rigorous spirit of modern science. This does not mean that a constructed international language is expected to have the perfection of mathematical symbolism, but it must be felt as progressively moving in that direction. Perhaps the speakers of a national language are under profound illusions as to the logical character of its structure. Perhaps they confuse the comfort of habit with logical necessity. If this is so -- and I do not see how it can be seriously doubted that it is -- it must mean that in the long run the modern spirit will not rest satisfied with an international language that merely extends the imperfections and provincialisms of one language at the expense of all others.


D - from Sapir's essay on auxiliary languages.
It pretty much forms the principles of design for me.

Let's see how Espo stacks up with English.

Word Count 163
Syllable Count 254
Character Count (alphanumeric) 707
Mean syllables per word 1.56
Mean characters per word 4.34

Word Count 161
Syllable Count 235
Character Count (alphanumeric) 759
Mean syllables per word 1.46
Mean characters per word 4.71

D - about the same # of words, English has fewer syllables, Espo has fewer letters, English had less syllables per word, and Espo had fewer characters per word.
So Espo's 1:1 orthography initially suggests brevity, but this is offset by the syllable-heavy format of Espo.

I am halfway through the vocabulary list of the basic Espo tutorial book.

Oven - cuir-furno or bakulo
Meet - renkonta or konvena
granda or magnifika
although vs nevertheless
coat vs jacket
rondo vs cirkau
walk vs run
vera vs falso
mango vs fasteno (feast)
master vs chairman vs leader
robi - why not just 'violent theft'?
butiko vs magazeno
revuo vs gazeto
forget but remember - no link
dialecto vs lingvo
"hearty" translates to "cordial".

D: the key themes are as follows.
1) not using variations/opposites/compound nouns
2) a whole lotta redundancy that could have been handled by nuance instead.
3) the sporadic yet sometimes slavish adherence to spelling conventions.
The TS sound of C remains extremely difficult for me, and bewildering.
The consonant-cluster in a single letter is constantly spoofing me. The 1:1 orthography of Espo spectacularly backfires in this case.
I imagine English X and Q (ks and kw respectively) has a similar impact on ESL students.
4) the opacity of prefix/suffixes. I am unable to know certainly whether a syllable is part of the core word root/stem or whether it is something else. In fact, there is no way to tell. It makes introducing anything but the most simple words as vocabulary items fraught with peril.

The fixation on simple grammar ignores that Espo is not particularly simple in any other aspect, other than the arbitrary clockwork morphology, resulting extremely difficult pronunciations (nearly impossible for me as an Anglo) that admittedly has a 1:1 orthography.

The vort-listo layout in the Espo book is terrible.
I cannot hide the definition with a slip of paper, since I can see the next entry's definition peeking out on the left column.
Similarly, it is only useful for Espo-English, not the reverse.
Of course, this is of little use in translating on the go from English to spoken Espo.
I invent memory aids as best I can, but often any related one eludes me.
Again, the book is too big to fit in a pocket.
Par for course, the Espo book, like the Espo language, fails in the details.And the devil is in the details. The kingdom was lost for lack of a nail.

I think the top-1000 Espo words include words for turkey, ?starling? and um glenhen or something. I have never even heard of that one in English.
Oh wait- I stand corrected. The cuckoo bird is there too.
That they wasted the entries on the introductory vocabulary list on those, and did not invent some useful compounded names to reduce memorization demands, is beyond me.

There is that natural language bias in vocabulary. The idea that one can lazily sprawl definitions for core words across a nearly endless number of arbitrary and unrelated words.

In short, even though I plan to teach this lingvo this year, I pretty much need to toss out the self-teaching book.
Fortunately I am a fully qualified written English language instructor, so can do better.

Next stop: exploring a Lang53/langX type progressing phoneme list to the role of 'check sum value'. By that I mean reproducing the irregular/agreement function of natural language.
For example, I am - you are- he is. We have 2 clues about the pronoun-common verb combo, giving us multiple chances to suss out meaning when communication is unclear.
I optionally introduced this with VERSE. I.e. a sci-fi story language that assigns tone/pitch exclusively to various closed-class word meanings.
Like sign language (ASL), obvious context at times allows us to skip anything but subject-verb-object words. Sometimes, we wish to have data redundancy to ensure precise clarity of meaning, and reintroduce both these supporting words as well as the pitch 'toneme' on top of the SVO words in what amounts to agreement.


Dino Snider said...

I had intended to tranlate that passage into Lojban as well, but could find no online resource to do so. This lack of support for an aux-lang pretty much ensures that it remains marginal and unavailable.
Go team.

dino snider said...

Also, Espo has many words that are either bewilderingly too short, or conversely too long.
For example, "instruo" means instruction but could as easily mean instrument. Conversely, "universitato" is university. But why could "universito" not be used, with "universo" for universe?
Sometimes "Z" seemed to channel Volapuk, but only sporadically. Sorry- Espo is amateur hour. A model T-Ford that belongs in a museum.

dino snider said...

D - a more complex stress system would addrss one of my Espo objections, while admittedly adding to the prosody difficulty. Take 'dieto'. Tiny god? Then Di-et-o. Stress on DI. If diet then last root syllable - so diETo. But once again, the caveat renders this unacceptedly difficult. Without better thought-out core design principles, Espo is DOA.