Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review of top 1000 words. Espo.

D - I wrote out and analysed the top 1000 most common English words. Then translated all of them into Espo. Never say "Esper***o". It attracts the spamming zealots.
The top 100 words were very illuminating. It pretty much summed up everyday human concerns.
Words - verbs - say, think, know, like, make, take.
I -he - it. Which -when -what. Well- good - great. Time - man - thought - day - house- life. Hand and eye. Water and oil.

I thought word frequency followed Zipf's Law, but it follows another one even more closely.

"... in the Brown Corpus, the word "the" is the most frequently occurring word, and by itself accounts for nearly 7% of all word occurrences (69,971 out of slightly over 1 million). True to Zipf's Law, the second-place word "of" accounts for slightly over 3.5% of words... Zipf himself proposed that neither speakers nor hearers using a given language want to work any harder than necessary to reach understanding, and the process that results in approximately equal distribution of effort leads to the observed Zipf distribution."

D - there are many elements of natural language, spoken and written orthography, which are already optimized after a fashion.

D - but Benford's Law seems to come closer.

"Benford's law, also called the first-digit law, states that in lists of numbers from many (but not all) real-life sources of data, the leading digit is distributed in a specific, non-uniform way. According to this law, the first digit is 1 about 30% of the time, and larger digits occur as the leading digit with lower and lower frequency, to the point where 9 as a first digit occurs less than 5% of the time. (see image)"

D - translating the 1000 English words to Espo took roughly 12 hours. Early on, closed class function words are highly represented. Particularly prepositions, articles and conjunctions. Later on, most words are standard lexical entries.

D - observations: the evaluative words, particularly for comparative and superlative, are assigned special short forms. For example, good - better -best. Bad - worse -worst. These are closely followed by similar words for spatial size and their metaphorical equivalents for time.

D - here are a few pet peeves about Espo.
- This = tiu c*i (and these)
- Any = ajna, iu, tiu aux alia
- Better - pli bona (and best)
- Under - mal-supre de
- Except - escepte de (C is a tongue-twister)
- Worse is, well, worse (pli mal-bona)
- Otherwise- se ne
- Beside - flanke de
- Although - malgraux de.
Big Z was on to a good thing with modular construction. But a word used often also needs to be short. And only one word. It needed more effort.

D - thoughts. I think a very limited and basic Somali-style preposition system could benefit from optional detail from the MELTS acronym system - Math, Space-Time, Logic-ethics. This core approach also affords us the brevity to prevent excessive wordiness in basic concepts.

D - English is full of misleading cues to lead the unwary astray. Take "stranger", for example. One might initially assume that it is the comparative version of "strange" and that there may exist a verb "to strange". Nope.

I have much to think about. The only vocabulary I have any interest in developing would involve the concepts underlying these top 1000 English words. And to do so with more clarity and brevity than Espo has. Brevity for Espo was impossible, even with their systemic / derivational approach, once they settled on familiar Euro-derived roots. For example, "iras (to go)" never involves the IR part devoid of some vowel-cored suffix. Because of this, simply listing a single consonant in a taxonomic fashion was possible. Iras could have been the root 'r, so "to go" could be 'ri. Instead, we immediately have the onerous burden to use at least 2 syllables for even the most rudimentary of verbs. This is particularly disappointing regarding modal or primary verbs.
There are also multiple examples of largely redundant homonyms in Espo where there was no need of them. It was simply not designed with economy of lexical entries in mind.

S'ok. I'll do better.

Monday, February 27, 2012

math without number words?

According to University of Miami (UM) anthropological linguist Caleb Everett, the Piraha are surprisingly unable to represent exact amounts. Their language contains just three imprecise words for quantities: Hòi means "small size or amount," hoì, means "somewhat larger amount," and baàgiso indicates to "cause to come together, or many." Linguists refer to languages that do not have number specific words as anumeric...

The work was motivated by contradictory results on the numerical performance of the Piraha. An earlier article reported the people incapable of performing simple numeric tasks with quantities greater than three, while another other showed they were capable of accomplishing such tasks...

The people were not able to do the one-to-one correspondence, when the numbers were greater than two or three.

The findings support the idea that language is a key component in processes of the mind. "When they've been introduced to those words, their performance improved, so it's clearly a linguistic effect, rather than a generally cultural factor,"


D - better language... better mind? Reducing demands on both the short and long term memories. Hmm...

Thursday, February 23, 2012

French to remove married woman distinction

Forget what you learned in French class about “madame” and “mademoiselle.” The French government now says women’s marital status shouldn’t matter, at least when it comes to this country’s far-reaching bureaucracy.

A new circular from the prime minister’s office Tuesday orders officials to phase out the use of “mademoiselle” on administrative documents.

Until now, a woman has been required to identify herself as a married “madame” or an unmarried “mademoiselle” on everything from tax forms to insurance claims and voting cards. France offers no neutral option like the English “Ms.”

Men don’t face this issue: Their only option is “monsieur,” married or not.

It’s all the more strange given that French young people widely shun matrimony, and more than half of French children are born to unmarried parents.

Feminist groups have been pushing for the abolition of the “mademoiselle” option for years and hailed the circular.

“Everywhere we are asked to declare our marital status. This is not imposed on men, it’s not important whether they are married,” said Julie Muret of the group Osez le Feminisme.


D - yup, double standard. I caught some hell this week for using the term "spinster". She was correct- there is no male equivalent. I suggested we adopt spinster for male and spinstress for female.
Thinking about the terms some more, in contrast to "bachelor", spinster denotes a past and present continuing state. In this regard, it resembles my proposed construction for complex verb tense forms. A term for bachelor that denotes continuity to present (was and is) would suffice. This would involve incorporating the verb form into complex noun names.
A brief term for "spousal" or married would help in honorific titles.


Madamoiselle - Etymology - Contraction of ma demoiselle (my little lady).

Spinster - Etymology - From spin +‎ -ster, from an historical notion of unmarried women spinning thread for a living.

The word is from Old French bachelier, "knight bachelor", a young squire in training, ultimately from Latin baccalaris, a very low ranking vassal . The Old French term crossed into English around 1300, referring to one belonging to the lowest stage of knighthood. Knights bachelor were either poor vassals who could not afford to take the field under their own banner, or knights too young to support the responsibility and dignity of knights banneret. From the 14th century, the term was also used for a junior member of a guild (otherwise known as "yeomen") or university; hence, an ecclesiastic of an inferior grade, for example, a young monk or even recently appointed canon

Gb or GB? 10 or 2 base units?

This one has been burning the face off of copyeditors for years. GB stands for gigabyte, which as any computer user will tell you, one can never have enough of. Depending on the context it is being used in, gigabyte can mean a number of things. If you’re talking digital data storage which is measured in bytes, a gigabyte is 1, 000, 000, 000, bytes. That’s 729 3.5” floppy disks worth of data. The term is also used as a standard of measurement for RAM size and Depending on who you talk to, a gigabyte may also be the name applied to 1, 073,741,824 bytes. Go figure.

The term Gigabit is also a quantitative measurement for digital data—one gigabit is equivalent to 128 megabytes—but more commonly, it is used in reference to the transfer of information over the a Local Area Network (LAN). Gigabit internet is based on the Ethernet Frame format protocol, providing a scorching fast data transfer rate of one billion bits per second.


D - a # naming convention that allows either 2 or 10 to be inserted into the name would allow this.
1) a 10-base Giga - 1,000,000,000
2) a 2-base giga - 1,073,741,824


Examples of logarithmic units include common units of information and entropy, such as the bit [log 2] and the byte 8[log 2] = [log 256], also the nat [log e] and the ban [log 10]; units of relative signal strength magnitude such as the decibel 0.1[log 10] and bel [log 10], neper [log e], and other logarithmic-scale units such as the Richter scale point [log 10] or (more generally) the corresponding order-of-magnitude unit sometimes referred to as a factor of ten or decade (here meaning [log 10], not 10 years).


D - bit and bytes, and nats and bans are all ripe for a rational naming convention that hints at the unit type it measures.


The decibel (dB) is a logarithmic unit that indicates the ratio of a physical quantity (usually power or intensity) relative to a specified or implied reference level. A ratio in decibels is ten times the logarithm to base 10 of the ratio of two power quantities.[1] A decibel is one tenth of a bel, a seldom-used unit.

The definitions of the decibel and bel use base 10 logarithms. The neper, an alternative logarithmic ratio unit sometimes used, uses the natural logarithm (base e).[3]

A change in power ratio by a factor of 10 is a 10 dB change. A change in power ratio by a factor of two is approximately a 3 dB change.


For example, 8 hours at 85 dB causes as much damage as 4 hours at 88 dB, 2 hours at 91 dB, or just 15 minutes at 100 dB.


D - IMHO, switching to a 1 sound-unit = double power of sound seems sensible. From a safety point of view, this makes for easier measurements.


Richter magnitude scale refers to a number of ways to assign a single number to quantify the energy contained in an earthquake.

In all cases, the magnitude is a base-10 logarithmic scale obtained by calculating the logarithm of the amplitude of waves measured by a seismograph. An earthquake that measures 5.0 on the Richter scale has a shaking amplitude 10 times larger and corresponds to an energy release of √1000 ≈ 31.6 times greater than one that measures 4.0

the math of music

Daniel Levitin, a scientist who studies the human brain, did a computer analysis of music in many different styles composed over the past 400 years.

From Johann Sebastian Bach to Scott Joplin to Elvis, this pattern is not something we are conscious of as we listen, but seems to touch off a response in the human brain.

The research team, which included Vinod Menon of Stanford University, found that all the musical compositions are composed of repeating motifs that reflect the overall structure of the work itself. At the same time, each composer had his or her own highly individual rhythmic signature.


D - I found a link to some guy trying to quantify the emotional content of music based on pitch changes.
Maybe a little bit kooky - but promising.


These researchers conclude that other intervals aside from the generic major / minor third (scale degree 1 and 3) might play a role in the perception of emotional value. Thus, this study is important as it implies that perhaps a more universal cognitive process, one that is not exclusive to the major / minor third interval, but rather a generalized neural correlate, might administer musical emotion.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

the fluently bilingual brain

The subjects in Zhang’s experiments were all Chinese students at the University of Nottingham in the United Kingdom. For the study, each person was shown pairs of words. The first word flashed on the computer screen so quickly that the person didn’t realize they’d seen it. The second word appeared for longer; the person was supposed to hit a key indicating whether it was a real word as quickly as possible. This was just a test to see how quickly they were processing the word.
The trick was this: Although everything in the test was in English, in some cases, the two words actually had a connection – but only if you know how they’re written in Chinese. So, for example, the first word might be “thing,” which is written 东西in Chinese, and the second might be “west,” which is written 西in Chinese. The character for “west” appears in the word “thing,” but these two words are totally unrelated in English.
Zhang found that, when two words shared characters in Chinese, participants processed the second word faster – even though they had no conscious knowledge of having seen the first word in the pair. Even though these students are fluent in English, their brains still automatically translate what they see into Chinese. This suggests that knowledge of a first language automatically influences the processing of a second language, even when they are very different, unrelated languages.

All bilingual children – regardless of the languages they speak – show cognitive advantages over their English-only peers, although they may experience weakness in areas like vocabulary acquisition, finds a new study out of York University...

(D - I have mentioned before that very early second language acquisition can contribute to a stutter.)

The study reports that bilingual children differ from each other and from monolingual children in how they develop language and cognitive skills through the early school years. Children who grow up speaking two languages generally have slower language acquisition in each language than children raised speaking just one language. However, they have better “metalinguistic” development that gives them a deeper understanding of the structure of language, a skill that’s important for literacy. They also perform better on tests of non-verbal executive control, which measure the ability to focus attention where necessary without being distracted, and to shift attention when required.


D - executive control is a huge predictor of academic and workplace success! This trumps the other minor drawbacks of a bilingual upbringing. Bilingual are a bit slower to access unilingual-specific material.

hyperpolyglots revisited

But he says it is difficult to define hyperpolyglots and polyglots because essentially it has to be about speaking and knowing rather than reading and writing. In some cases literacy is not possible, or a language does not have an alphabet.

So what enables hyperpolyglots to seemingly pick up a new language at the push of a button?

Erard says it is hard to explain, but whatever an individual's biographical reasons are, he believes there is something that distinguishes hyperpolyglots neurologically.

"They have a neurological hardware that responds to the world, that's fed by the world, that is suited to a pattern that is recognition-heavy, sound-heavy and memory-heavy - that is very structured, and also very sociable.

Manuel probably spoke three languages - Basil Fawlty just the one
"They have an ability to switch between languages very easily, and that involves cognitive skills which are often heritable," he adds.


D - Withers thinks formal fluency in his first tongue is key.

" "Withers thinks that fluency in one language allows people to accumulate others more easily.

"Most monoglots in this country aren't really able to explain English in terms such as the perfect past tense and past tense. When you learn about cases and tenses and grammatical formations, I think the tool box is there for other languages," he says." "


D - England's botched attempt at second-language instructions resembles my own failed attempt to learn French in my youth.

"In the UK, where there has been a growing anxiety over the failure to learn additional languages, Gillon might seem to be a bit of an anomaly. More and more children have been giving up languages since the last government made learning foreign languages optional in England from the age of 14...

"Most people say it's easier to pick up languages when you're younger," says David Green, of University College London, who specialises in bilingualism.

"But people can learn languages at any point in their lives. Being immersed in a language is important. Personality is a contributing factor too - not being able to tolerate feeling foolish from making inevitable errors will make learning a new language a difficult process." "


D - two themes appear here:
1) a mother tongue that is rife with exceptions and irregulars which occupies much of primary school time to master, and
2) the related importance to learn a second language while still a child.
D - I did not encounter French until I moved in Grade 7. By then, I had entered puberty and lost much brain plasticity. That, combined with no mental aptitudes that would help with language would contribute my failure to achieve fluency. I took French from grade 7 to 13 (TWICE!). So in 14 years of sporadic teaching all I did was waste the taxpayer's coin. This is a very common story.

D - now, the aux-lang angle:
1) a good IAL learned second reduces anxiety about learning an additional natural language afterwards
2) the IAL can be bundled with good (and student-customized) language study habits - something I never had
3) there is no cultural group that will inform an IAL student that they are not saying something that is technically correct yet culturally incorrect. I mean a lack of inscrutable and unknowable idiom and jargon.
In the case of Interlingua (and to a degree, Espo), it has direct benefits to learn Romance-derived European languages afterwards. This makes it ideal for an Anglophone to pick those up.

D - one could promote my CVN as a 'gateway language' to Chinese if I tailor the grammar to be compatible.

D - contrast the England example with the Australian one.

The draft report, prepared for a national conference backed by the Federal Government later this month, highlights the difficulties confronting Mr Rudd's ambition for Australia "to be the most Asian-literate nation in the Western world".

The report attributes the drop-out rate to three factors. Students studying Chinese as a second language are "overwhelmed" in assessments by "strong numbers" of students who have Chinese as a first language.
Second, they don't develop sufficient proficiency because of the difficulty in learning Chinese and the inadequate time set aside for it.
Finally, they are trying to learn Chinese "in an often unsupportive environment at school, in their family, and in the community".
The report suggests Australia has strong reasons for improving its Chinese language skills, citing China's size, proximity, economic importance, cultural significance, and the fact it is a major source of migrants, students and tourists.


D - childhood immersion would make sense. Chinese is so different from English! But how are the Chinese doing at learning English?

Understanding The Mind-set of Chinese Students
The social pressure on Chinese children to perform well in school is overwhelming
: not only their futures, but the futures of their parents entirely depend on it. In fact, and particularly in light of China's 1979 single-child policy, excellent performance in school is typically the only expectation that parents in China have of their child—and it has proven to be a formidable one...
Suicide is the leading cause of death among China's young adults aged 18 to 35, with college students representing the fastest growing segment. In 2008, a record-breaking 63 students from 38 different universities ended their lives due to academic pressure, a sense of social isolation (common among students from the countryside who are studying in major cities), peer ridicule, and fear of future unemployment...
Students who do not become overtly suicidal may, in another attempt at escape, become addicted to technology. It is currently estimated by the China Youth Association for Network Development that one out of ten Chinese aged 13- to 30-years old is addicted to the Internet, especially online gaming.
For starters, and as a rule, your students will be physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted. Many will have difficulty even staying awake in your class, let alone attending to the material. Related, because they have such little discretionary time, they will typically attempt to use their required attendance in your oral English class as a "time-out" or break period.
Related and second, you may have noticed that foreign languages, or any other disciplines in the humanities for that matter, are not among the list of Zhou Enlai's Four Modernizations, the foundation that drives the educational system in China.
There are, of course, exceptions to this aforementioned rule. Some students are Western-bound (they plan to study or work abroad) or otherwise perceive a real need to acquire functional English language skills, and they will comprise your best and most motivated students—but they are in the minority
What all of this amounts to is that, for the most part, the majority of your students will be unmotivated to learn English and, usually, are poorly prepared to do so even if they are genuinely interested.

China has the highest English literacy rate in the world among non-English speaking countries. Chinese kids are required to have English language as a mandatory course from elementary school all the way to graduate school. That's over 10 years of English language study in a Chinese kid's life.

Monday, February 20, 2012

a virtual ' mouth apparatus' hand instrument

UBC researcher Sidney Fels says the gesture-to-voice-synthesizer technology mirrors processes that human use when they control their own vocal apparatus.
"It's like playing a musical instrument that plays voice. Applications could include new forms of musical expression and aids for people with speaking disabilities," says Fels, professor of electrical and computer engineering at the Faculty of Applied Science and director of the Media and Graphics Interdisciplinary Centre (MAGIC).
Fels and his team used special gloves equipped with 3-D position sensors that locate the hand in space. Certain glove postures are associated with certain areas in the audio spectrum.
The right-hand glove has sensors to detect bending so when a user closes her hand, it creates consonant sounds. Opening the right hand produces vowel sounds in the same fashion as a vocal tract does when the tongue moves. The left glove controls stop sounds -- like the consonant "B."
The researchers developed a set collection of gestures that are mapped to consonant sounds. The right glove controls vowels by its location in space horizontally and also controls pitch by its location in space vertically.

To date, there have been seven international performances with musicians playing a set of pieces written specifically for the expressive capacities of this particular instrument. "It takes about 100 hours for a performer to learn how to speak and use the system," says Fels.

D- video performance.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

braille tablet touchscreen interface

Imagine if smartphone and tablet users could text a note under the table during a meeting without anyone being the wiser. Mobile gadget users might also be enabled to text while walking, watching TV or socializing without taking their eyes off what they’re doing.


D - great for cheating during tests...

Friday, February 17, 2012

texts no substitute for reading lit

Students who reported texting more rejected more words instead of acknowledging them as possible words."
Lee suggests that reading traditional print media exposes people to variety and creativity in language that is not found in the colloquial peer-to-peer text messaging used among youth or 'generation text'. She says reading encourages flexibility in language use and tolerance of different words. It helps readers to develop skills that allow them to generate interpretable readings of new or unusual words.
"In contrast, texting is associated with rigid linguistic constraints which caused students to reject many of the words in the study," says Lee. "This was surprising because there are many unusual spellings or "textisms" such as "LOL" in text messaging language."
Lee says that for texters, word frequency is an important factor in the acceptability of words.
"Textisms represent real words which are commonly known among people who text," she says. "Many of the words presented in the study are not commonly known and were not acceptable to the participants in the study who texted more or read less traditional print media."


D - just a stray thought, but how about one of those laser-projection keyboards for phones? Then standard computer typing with a tiny portable phone is possible. Ditto a roll-up flexible keyboard, presumably with a wireless link.
Hmm, the act of pressing on the keys could be used to power it.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Email words show power hierarchy

However a new study by Georgia Tech's Eric Gilbert shows that certain words and phrases indeed are reliable indicators of whether workplace emails are sent to someone higher or lower in the corporate hierarchy ...

"Across a wide variety of messages and relationships, these phrases consistently stand out as signaling a power relationship between two people," Gilbert said. "The probability of it occurring due to chance alone is less than 1 in 1,000." ...

That person may not occupy a high box on the org chart, but he or she still has a large amount of influence."

Top 5 Upward Predictors

the ability to
I took
are available
thought you would

Top 5 Downward Predictors

have you been
you gave
we are in
need in

The project falls in the research field called "applied natural language processing," which has been an important subfield of artificial intelligence for the past 25 years.

6-9 month olds know many words

In research focused on 6-to-9-month-old babies, University of Pennsylvania psychologists Elika Bergelson and Daniel Swingley demonstrated that the infants learned the meanings of words for foods and body parts through their daily experience with language...

In fact, infants are often referred to as "pre-linguistic," according to Bergelson. But there have been few attempts to determine just when infants begin understanding what is meant by specific words. The belief that infants do not comprehend language for most of the first year is easy to understand, given that infants do not often speak in words, or even gesture meaningfully, before 10 or 11 months...

In both the two-picture and scene tests, the researchers found that the 6- to 9-month-old babies fixed their gaze more on the picture that was named than on the other image or images, indicating that they understood that the word was associated with the appropriate object.
This is the first demonstration that children of this age can understand such words.

blog on neologisms. on blog variants.

Schott’s Vocab is a repository of unconsidered lexicographical trifles — some serious, others frivolous, some neologized, others newly newsworthy.

To behave like Charlie Sheen – “partying, questionable decision making and public humiliation.”

The prolific production of (often not very good) songs.

Dubious description of glamorous fifty-year-olds.


D - fun. I was just looking for variations on "blog".

E.g. A spam blog, sometimes referred to by the neologism splog,[1] is a blog which the author uses to promote affiliated websites, to increase the search engine rankings of associated sites or to simply sell links/ads.


vlog 2
blending and clipping noun
a set of serially uploaded videos (usually on Youtube) that chronicle the daily events/life adventures of the vlogger. Similar to blogs, except not typed, but shot in video form.

Used only in reference to videos that are uploaded on the internet and for public viewing. If a movie were to be shot using the same style, it would not be referred to as a vlog.
Etymology : the compound ‘web’ + ‘log’ was clipped to ‘blog’ and then blended to make ‘video’ + ‘blog’ = ‘vlog’
Source : “This is my video blog. It’s my vlog!” (Youtube, 10-24-11)


10 Neologisms: A LIBATION for Blogger Almost every time I invent new words, or think I'm inventing new words, relatingto blogging, I sheepishly discover there are 140,000 uses of that word alreadycollected by Google....I guess they just suggest themselves naturally, words like"blogazine."Okay, I'm going to attempt to offer 10 new usable words for Blogger and will checkGoogle AFTER to see if these have all been launched elsewhere.

1. Blogophilia--obviously, love of blogs, and perhaps a pathological fetishizationof blogs...
2. Blogasthenia--weakness resulting from having overblogged, complete blog-relatedexhaustion (B.R.E.).
3. Blogorrhea--logorrhea of the blog; excessive posting or commenting on a blog.
4. Blogectomy--removal of your blog from the net; hitting that DELETE button.
5. Blogophrenia--inability to distinguish reality from blog; sufferingbloginations (blog-related hallucinations).
6. Blogocracy--the state wherein prevailing taste is determined by blogs; rule byblogs.
7. Blogoma--an annoying blog tumor; text that metastasizes from blog to blog.
8. Bloganescence--the process whereby a website evolves into a blog.
9. Blogback--unwanted or undesired responses to a posting made, either on your ownblog or elswhwere as a commenter. As awful as blowback usually.
10. Blogebrity--a blog celebrity; someone whose fame results largely from blogattention.


Was language born in Africa? Maybe not.

Atkinson based his claim on a comparative analysis of the numbers of phonemes found in about 500 present-day languages. Phonemes are the most basic sound units -- consonants, vowels and tones -- that form the basis of semantic differentiation in all languages. The number of phonemes used in natural languages varies widely. Atkinson, who is a biologist and psychologist by training, found that the highest levels of phoneme diversity occurred in languages spoken in southwestern Africa. Furthermore, according to his statistical analysis, the size of the phoneme inventory in a language tends to decrease with distance from this hotspot...

For example, he finds that if Atkinson's method is employed to examine other aspects of language, such as the construction of subordinate clauses or the use of the passive mood, the results "do not point in the same direction." Indeed, in their article in Science, Cysouw and his coauthors Steven Moran (LMU) and Dan Dediu of the Max Planck Institute for Psycholinguistics in Nijmegen show that, depending on the features considered, Atkinson's method places the site of origin of language in eastern Africa or the Caucasus or somewhere else entirely. As Cysouw points out, linguists have long sought to throw light on the origin of language by analyzing patterns of language distribution. The problem is that such relationships can be reliably traced only as far back as about 10,000 years before the present.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Turkish and neutral gender pronouns

D - I dislike using "they" and "their" in some cases.
It does not feel right. But then again, it is no more or less awkward than the existing conventions in English.
I - we
You - you... youz? yous?
He, She, It - all they.

D - an aux-lang IAL could allow for optional object/ human/ and gender aspects.
I (as a female). You (plural, as men). Or skip all detail.
Some languages get by just fine that way.

Turkish has no noun classes or grammatical gender.
They seem to get by just fine without it.

D - I really like their linked noun system.

Two nouns, or groups of nouns, may be joined in either of two ways:

definite (possessive) compound (belirtili tamlama). E.g. Türkiye'nin sesi "the voice of Turkey (radio station)": the voice belonging to Turkey. Here the relationship is shown by the genitive ending -in4 added to the first noun; the second noun has the third-person suffix of possession -(s)i4.
indefinite (qualifying) compound (belirtisiz tamlama). E.g. Türkiye Cumhuriyeti "Turkey-Republic[48] = the Republic of Turkey": not the republic belonging to Turkey, but the Republic that is Turkey. Here the first noun has no ending; but the second noun has the ending -(s)i4—the same as in definite compounds.

Simple Personal Pronouns
Singular Plural
ben - I biz - we
sen - you - [familiar] siz - you - [plural and formal singular]
o - He, she, it onlar - they

(Nice rant about the English use of "whom" here.)


D - I would not recommmend trying to remove gender from English pronouns without warning the listener first. I once made the mistake of referring to a baby as "it" once. ONCE. I mean, I had no idea what gender the kid was!

D - an obvious twist on English would be the use of pidgin-style reduplication. For example, he-he for they/masculine. You-you for you/plural.


D - some languages are even more demanding than English about masculine /feminine in pronouns.

In some languages — notably most Indo-European, Afro-Asiatic and a number of Niger–Congo languages — some personal pronouns intrinsically distinguish male from female; the selection of a pronoun necessarily specifies, at least to some extent, the gender of what is referred. Traditionally, the masculine form has been taken to be the markless form, that is the form to be used unless it is known to be inappropriate.

The Sapir–Whorf hypothesis is a common justification,[citation needed] in addition to humanist and pluralistic reasons,[citation needed] for applying gender-neutral pronouns to the English language.

In some languages, pronouns do not distinguish between genders, so gender equity of pronouns is not relevant. This category includes many East Asian languages (see below) as well as the Uralic languages.

D - gender-neutral prounouns were in Middle English but died out.

Middle EnglishHistorically, there were two gender neutral pronouns native to English dialects, "ou" and "a", but they have long since died out. According to Dennis Baron's Grammar and Gender:

In 1789, William H. Marshall records the existence of a dialectal English epicene pronoun, singular "ou": "'Ou will' expresses either he will, she will, or it will." Marshall traces "ou" to Middle English epicene "a", used by the 14th century English writer John of Trevisa, and both the OED and Wright's English Dialect Dictionary confirm the use of "a" for he, she, it, they, and even I. This "a" is a reduced form of the Anglo-Saxon he = "he" and heo = "she"
—Dennis Baron, Grammar and Gender[5]
Baron goes on to describe how relics of these sex-neutral terms survive in some British dialects of Modern English (for example "hoo" for "she", in Yorkshire), and sometimes a pronoun of one gender might be applied to a person or animal of the opposite gender.

D - which leads us to the modern and clunky reintroduction of gender-neutral pronouns to serve the needs of gender sensitivity (also known as political correctness).

The gender specificity of English pronouns may, arguably, create potential problems:

Gender bias can be interjected into language, and biased gender roles may be interjected into language. For example it is common to use the pronoun "he" if gender is unknown.
A speaker may wish to mask the gender of the person being discussed, e.g., to avoid indicating whether a romantic partner is male or female (see pronoun game).
A speaker may not know the referent's gender, and implying one may be misleading or otherwise inappropriate.
A speaker may be referring to any hypothetical individual. In casual speech, "they" is often used, but in written works this may not be acceptable, due to its plurality. "One" may be used instead (see below), but is often considered overly bombastic.
A speaker may be discussing someone who is arguably described poorly (or not at all) by the gender categories associated with "he" and "she," as in the case of a referent who identifies as genderqueer.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Harper seeking anglophone newcomers

D - and French.
Sorry, testing direct-from-web image upload. Handy, easier.

D - I ran down why this generation of immigrants are not reaching a typical Canadian income quickly compared to those in the 70's.
The gov't report suggested:
1) saturation in highly credentialed category
2) economic cycles.

D - I would suggest that nat-lang (natural language) inherent difficulty factors into this. It is ubiquitous in the background.
D - sorry, the search engines were poor today.

I looked at WHERE our immigrants now come from. ASIA. Then the MID- EAST. (image, sentiment towards immigration)

Skilled immigrants driving cabs or flipping burgers are costing the Canadian economy up to $15 billion, according to a recent study led by Prof. Jeffrey Reitz of sociology and industrial relations. “Canada is moving into the knowledge economy, yet there has been a ‘brain waste’ of immigrant professionals because we are not putting their skills into practice,” he says.


D - this hints at something. Somewhere, behind all this language and immigrant (and education system failures), there is a dollar amount.
That dollar total is the cost of an overly-complex language as the 'lingua france' of my society. Globally, there is a comparable concept.
So a good aux-lang pitch would describe how that IAL is an INVESTMENT, and how, like a good stock market purchase, it will pay dividends in perpetuity.
Gotta prep for work, so I'll run down those #s another time.
But that $# gives us a meaningful economic quantity to reference when we speak of the literal 'value' of a standard excellent IAL.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

steven pinker's "Blank Slate" on critics

D - listen to it at the 16 minute mark to the 18 minute mark.

Before that, he does note that poetry with lines of 3 seconds then a break are universal.
This matches an effortless lungful of air for a sentence.

"The move from a structuralist account in which capital is understood to structure social relations in relatively homologous ways to a view of hegemony in which power relations are subject to repetition, convergence, and rearticulation brought the question of temporality into the thinking of structure, and marked a shift from a form of Althusserian theory that takes structural totalities as theoretical objects to one in which the insights into the contingent possibility of structure inaugurate a renewed conception of hegemony is bound up with the contingent sites and strategies of the rearticulation of power."

D - one sentence!
By Judith Butler. Pinker gets flamed on sites for that one.

D - that sentence exceeds working memory. Even with 'chunking' shortcuts, there is no way for a human being to keep that single sentence in their mind in a meaningful fashion.
This is one of my criticisms about the importance of recursion in language, at least within a single sentence. I think harping about complex sentences and recursion merely results in the above "academic-speak", NOT better thinking.

D - this type of complex writing is best understood as insecurity, or perhaps a tactical move to avoid criticism. After all, no fellow academic would admit they don't understand what the heck another one is talking about! No understanding = no criticism.

Recursion in languageLinguist Noam Chomsky theorizes that unlimited extension of any natural language is possible using the recursive device of embedding phrases within sentences. Thus, a chatty person may say, "Dorothy, who met the wicked Witch of the West in Munchkin Land where her wicked Witch sister was killed, liquidated her with a pail of water." Clearly, two simple sentences—"Dorothy met the Wicked Witch of the West in Munchkin Land" and "Her sister was killed in Munchkin Land"—can be embedded in a third sentence, "Dorothy liquidated her with a pail of water," to obtain a very verbose sentence.

The idea that recursion is an essential property of human language (as Chomsky suggests) is challenged by linguist Daniel Everett...

D - intra-sentence recursion may not be necessary for human thought - only for our human academia as practised. I prefer simple English and complex ideas, not vice versa.


D - when an author feels a need to drop in a "ten buck word" early on, which I then need to look up in a full size (not even compact) dictionary, I don't admire their strength. I sense their weakness.

D - a co-worker bought me the 'gift' of that Wallace po-mo book called "Infinite Jest". I suspect he may secretly hate me. First of all, it does not hold a candle to that actual American po-mo classic "Gravity's Rainbow", and is TWICE as long! Anyway, by page 5, Wallace felt a need to use the word "wen" (look it up).
Every 50 pages or so I have caught him in some misuse of a fancy term. First was confusing pre- and post- living praising speech. Some German term for it. Then he confused "plosive" with "vocalic". At this point, I pretty much have contempt for Wallace. It is too bad he waited until after writing that piece of excrement to make certain important life decisions.
If anybody wants to buy me a book in the future, make sure it is less than 100 pages, and does not require reading (also) poorly organized end-notes to make a modicum of sense.

Monday, February 6, 2012

brain invokes sensory cues in textural metaphors

Hearing metaphors activates brain regions involved in sensory experience
New brain imaging research reveals that a region of the brain important for sensing texture through touch, the parietal operculum, is also activated when someone listens to a sentence with a textural metaphor. The same region is not activated when a similar sentence expressing the meaning of the metaphor is heard.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Ah, dang. On profanity and taboo words.

According to the book Forbidden Words: Taboo and the Censoring of Language, the first written texts 5,000 years ago included jokes about bodily functions, and surely there was something to swear about prior to that, in oral times (“She said oral!”). Shakespeare, friend of parent councils, made his point with a few well-placed blasphemes, like “zounds” (God’s wounds) and “sblood” (God’s blood).

Taboo words are those that violate social constraints, and their effect isn’t just poetic, but physical. Swearing can cause the heart to race and the hairs on the back of one’s arms to stand up. It’s a Type A trait: People who swear are more likely to be characterized by extroversion and dominance. Maybe this is why a woman who curses has a certain allure; she’s staking a claim in power.

I understand the double meaning of the word “swear” as an expression of sincerity and truth – a heartfelt oath – which a good curse session usually is. Swearing is also a function of comfort, best undertaken selectively in safe, secure situations, among (certain) friends, and rarely at work. It’s the impulse that must be liberated appropriately, and reined in usually, since it’s nestled so close to violence in the psyche.



Angier also notes that swearing is a widespread but perhaps underappreciated anger management technique; that "men generally curse more than women, unless said women are in a sorority, and that university provosts swear more than librarians or the staff members of the university day care center"; and that linguistic research has shown that the physiological reactions of individuals who are proud of their education are similar between exposure to obscene words and exposure to bad grammar.[7]

Keele University researchers Stephens, Atkins, and Kingston found that swearing relieves the effects of physical pain.[8] Stephens said "I would advise people, if they hurt themselves, to swear".[9] However, the overuse of swear words tends to diminish this effect.[9] The team earned themselves the Ig Nobel Peace Prize in 2010 for the research.


D - and a look at Tourette's Syndrome.

Tourette's was once considered a rare and bizarre syndrome, most often associated with the exclamation of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks (coprolalia), but this symptom is present in only a small minority of people with Tourette's.[1]

Coprolalia is involuntary swearing or the involuntary utterance of obscene words or socially inappropriate and derogatory remarks. Coprolalia comes from the Greek κόπρος (kopros) meaning "feces" and λαλιά (lalia) from lalein, "to talk".[1] The term is often used as a clinomorphism, with 'compulsive profanity' inaccurately referred to as being Tourette syndrome.

Related terms are copropraxia, performing obscene or forbidden gestures,[2] and coprographia, making obscene writings or drawings.[3]

D - is in "scat" I guess.

D - I don't want my site blocked by censor software. Basically, swear words can be blasphemous, reference unpleasant bodily functions or degrade an identifiable social group.
Again, a language needs to be able to encompass all these functions.
A decent aux-lang can do so with a minimal need to learn new vocabulary.
I grew up not knowing any ethnic or racial slurs. To this day I remain a bit unsure of the appropriate terms.

...ethnic slurs (ethnophaulisms) that are, or have been, used as insinuations or allegations about members of a given ethnicity or to refer to them in a derogatory (critical or disrespectful), pejorative (disapproving or contemptuous), or insulting manner in the English-speaking world

D - I AM annoyed that slurs against male WASPS are more acceptable than other ones.

According to the white etymology, honky is derived from “bohunk” and ... The Wolof term honky is alleged to derive from honq, which means “red or pink,” a term ...

D - thus 'honky tonk' I guess.

One theory is that slaver foremen in the antebellum South used bullwhips to discipline African slaves, with such use of the whip being described as 'cracking the whip'. The white foremen who cracked these whips were thus known as 'crackers'.

kid (n.)
c.1200, "the young of a goat," from a Scandinavian source (cf. O.N. kið "young goat"), from P.Gmc. *kiðjom (cf. O.H.G. kizzi, Ger. kitze, Dan., Swed. kid). Extended meaning of "child" first recorded as slang 1590s, established in informal usage by 1840s. Applied to skillful young thieves and pugilists since at least 1812. Kid stuff "something easy" is from 1913 (The phrase was in use about that time in reference to vaudeville acts or advertisements featuring children, and to children-oriented features in newspapers). Kid glove "a glove made of kidskin leather" is from 1680s; sense of "characterized by wearing kid gloves," therefore "dainty, delicate" is from 1856.

D - we don't think about this term being essentially disrespectful. Though I've been known to use the term 'rug-rat' sometimes too.

D - funny how we say 'atheist' and not 'atheistic person', but we say 'religious person'. We also say humanist. Perhaps we should also say religist.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

as Imperial to measure, English to language

D - this Monday, I went to visit my sister and her family. Like most (OK, all) people, he was curious about my interest in aux-langs, particularly in international world languages. Like most (OK, all) people, he was not sold by any of the arguments I had for an IAL.
We agreed to disagree about whether the economic decline of the English-speaking nations would lead to a decline in the prestige and use of English as the de-facto international business language. After all, India and China have both invested much training in their elite learning English. He also seemed to think that the low per-capita income of those nations would also impact on the language issue.
He asked how successful the transition from Imperial to Metric has been, as an example of how difficult changing a nation's habits can be. Well, OK, let's talk about measurement systems.
In the following discussion, look at the parallels between Imperial and English.
We have a clumsy, entangled, confusing measuring system! And it not only confuses the rest of the world - no, it perplexes Americans themselves!
Which is more, 2 quarts, 5 pints or 36 fl oz? How many pints are in a gallon? How many pounds are 200 ounces?
Then you have a problem - a problem called English Imperial system.

D - the site goes on about the arguments in USA for Imperial.
1) it works just fine
2) it's our heritage (no, it's British - you revolted against them!)
3) the rest of the world tries to make us use Metric
4) we aren't joiners like those Metric nations
5) Imperical MAKES the USA great
6) Imperial is natural where metric is arbitrary
Note: I've admitted for human anatomy that I prefer Imperial units.
Stones for weight. Feet for height. Inches for y'know... heh.
7) other nations who adopt Metric still use other systems
D - kinda - However, all of these units can be scaled to SI units by powers of 10, i.e. just by shifting the decimal point (1 bar = 100,000 pascal, 1 hectare = 10,000 m², 1 ton = 1,000 kg, 1 quintal = 100kg). Also, all non-metric units have been redefined to exact metric values, e.g. 1 pound = 500g, 1 pint = 500ml.
D - I confess to perpetual confusion about tons and tonnes.
8) Metric nations use Imperial measures
But — the so-called inch pipe names are nominal numbers that do not reflect an actual size. There is nothing 1/2 inch about a half-inch pipe. In fact there are different standards for pipe sizes depending on whether it is water pipe, gas pipe, or electrical conduit. Half-inch water pipe is really 16 mm inside diameter and 18 mm outside diameter. Neither of these comes close to 1/2 inch.
And after all even these are dying standards based on outdated traditions.
9) well USA has the highest standard of living
D - nope. Luxembourg does. EU. Metric.
10) we don't NEED Metric.
And, what's the main point, do you know what the exact, official U.S. definition of inch, pound and gallon is since 1959? Now listen:
1 inch = 25.4 millimeters - All the English Imperial units are actually defined by metric units! The English system is just a tumor on the metric system!


D - you get the idea. I read a review of factors that count against the USA economy. I think Imperial measures rated in the top 4.
D - for example, they lost a Mars mission that way.
The primary cause of this discrepancy was human error. Specifically, the flight system software on the Mars Climate Orbiter was written to calculate thruster performance using the metric unit Newtons (N), while the ground crew was entering course correction and thruster data using the Imperial measure Pound-force (lbf). This error has since been known as the metric mixup and has been carefully avoided in all missions since by NASA.

D - the obvious riposte here is that this was only a problem since most other nations use Metric. However, Metric and decimal concepts were adopted in single nations without this. Why: BETTER.

Metric Mil-dot formula
Users of the metric system, (which includes most of the world's military forces by whom this system was developed), can much more easily use a Mil-dot reticle since the mental arithmetic is much simpler. It is always decimal.
To determine the distance or range to a target of known size at an unknown distance this formula can be applied (easy 1).

Around the time of the start of World War I, France was experimenting with the use of milliemes (circle/6400) for use with artillery sights instead of decigrades (circle/4000). The United Kingdom was also trialling them to replace degrees and minutes. They were adopted by France although decigrades also remained in use throughout World War I. Other nations also used decigrades. The United States, which copied many French artillery practices, adopted mils (circle/6400). After the Bolshevik Revolution and the adoption of the metric system of measurement (e.g. artillery replaced 'units of base' with metres) the Red Army expanded the 600 unit circle into a 6000 mil one, hence the Russian mil has nothing to do with milliradians as its origin.

In the 1950s, NATO adopted metric units of measurement for land and general use. Mils, metres and kilograms became standard, although degrees remained in use for naval and air purposes, reflecting civil practices.


D - whence came Metric? France.

In 1790, in the midst of the French Revolution, the National Assembly of France requested the French Academy of Sciences to “deduce an invariable standard for all the measures and all the weights.” The Commission appointed by the Academy created a system that was, at once, simple and scientific. The unit of length was to be a portion of the Earth's circumference. Measures for capacity (volume) and mass were to be derived from the unit of length, thus relating the basic units of the system to each other and to nature. Furthermore, larger and smaller multiples of each unit were to be created by multiplying or dividing the basic units by 10 and its powers. This feature provided a great convenience to users of the system, by eliminating the need for such calculations as dividing by 16 (to convert ounces to pounds) or by 12 (to convert inches to feet).

D - reminds me of the ratios between cosmological constants.

Although the metric system was not accepted with enthusiasm at first, adoption by other nations occurred steadily after France made its use compulsory in 1840.

The standardized structure and decimal features of the metric system made it well suited for scientific and engineering work. Consequently, it is not surprising that the rapid spread of the system coincided with an age of rapid technological development. In the United States, by Act of Congress in 1866, it became “lawful throughout the United States of America to employ the weights and measures of the metric system in all contracts, dealings or court proceedings.”

D - this is not an early-adopter quandary. This is an an innovation, paying dividends to whoever commits first.

Metric system
Main articles: History of the metric system, Mesures usuelles, and Units of measurement in France
The official introduction of the metric system in September 1799 was unpopular in large sections of French society, and Napoleon's rule greatly aided adoption of the new standard across not only France but the French sphere of influence. Napoleon ultimately took a retrograde step in 1812 when he passed legislation to introduce the mesures usuelles (traditional units of measurement) for retail trade[89] – a system of measure that resembled the pre-revolutionary units but were based on the kilogram and the metre; for example the livre metrique (metric pound) was 500 g[90] instead of 489.5 g – the value of the livre du roi (the king's pound).[91] Other units of measure were rounded in a similar manner. This however laid the foundations for the definitive introduction of the metric system across Europe in the middle of the 19th century.[92]
D- the Brits still resist Metric as foreign also.


D - so what is my point? My point is that a reformed measurement unit provided significant advantages within a single nation (or national sphere of influence, including colonies) even without any other faction joining. The other factions were not pushed- they were PULLED. By the same factors that led France to adopt Metric in isolation in the first place.
(Aside- part of the reason the French people did not like it is cuz their week was changed to a 10-day 1 at 1 point, resulting in 1/10th of days being holy days of rest versus 1 in 7. Big surprise there. )

While growing up with Imperial presumably leads to a greater ability to perform complex arithmetic in 1's head, in the age of the calculator, that really amounts to being an idiot savant. Time is wasted on overly-complex calculations when the student could have instead progressed to grasping a more complex math formula. The MEDIUM of math obscures the MESSAGE of useful ways to apply math to real-life solutions.

Language is the same. The first faction (city, state, nation, regional faction, even corporation) that adopts a language that is as superior to English (or any other) as Metric is to Imperial has a competitive advantage.
Here in Canada, we waste huge resources with half-hearted efforts to teach French to Anglos in our officially bilingual nation. Other than a few annoying language-savvy academic pedants who are gifted, I know almost nobody who can speak French despite wasting 100s if not 1000s of hours of school time 'studying' it.

We know the advantage of
1) superior # naming conventions. It puts kids with the right linguistic background about a YEAR ahead of kids from other 1s.
2) superior orthography. The Finns start YEARS later yet end up YEARS ahead on spelling and reading.
3) at least for a childhood first language, complexity and nuance are not the problem (e.g. Turkish complex infixes), irregularity and exceptions are.

D - I find grammar and syntax and punctuation errors in ALL my national media! Globe&Mail, CBC, all of them. It's too hard for the professionals! What about the rest of us?

I keep hearing echoes of Sapir's aux-lang sentiments here. If somebody designs a language as superior to English as Metric is to Imperial, then any group adopting it has innovated and has a competitive edge.
For example, here in Canada we have a big push for trained immigrants. We just tell ourselves we'll pick those who already speak English - problem solved, right? Well we're pretty high on the hog right now, but aren't always. Plus define "speak English" for me. Basic literacy, sure. But fluent? And almost never like a native speaker. (I have a slight auditory processing problem, and get tripped up rapidly by accents.)
The first nation to adopt a supplemental aux-lang will be able to finally make rapid use of all those talented and trained foreign speaking immigrants in short order.
I suspect an inter-aux-lang (IAL - I am too lazy to type International Auxiliary Language every time) will result in the first time here in Canada that a citizen will be understood from coast to coast.
It would also provide the option to learn only 1 additional language. While childhood immersion does not require this, consider the profile of the typical adult immigrant. Not much of a polyglot. Not particularly academically inclined. Not particularly interested in learning language for its own sake. An adult brain changes the nature of language learning. Trapped on the outside of the national culture of their new home by the bizarre quirks of their natural language. Wanting to work, but finding doors shut since they cannot communicate fluently in this new tongue. Unable to blend in, even if they want to, always somewhat the outsider since their accent gives them away, as well as a poor grasp of any of a million little mistakes they'll make while over-regularizing, like a child initially acquiring their mother tongue.
We could have our pick of a world full of economic talent - if only we had some way to make communication accessible.

So that's the challenge. To design "the Metric of the language world" ... wish me luck.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Superbowl to test roman numeral grasp

D - first of all, I'd like to ruefully admit that I could not figure out how to read the Roman numerals either.

The use of Roman numerals to designate Super Bowls began with game V in 1971, won by the Baltimore Colts over the Dallas Cowboys 16-13 on Jim O’Brien’s 32-yard field goal with five seconds remaining. Numerals I through IV were added later for the first four Super Bowls.

“The NFL didn’t model after the Olympics,” said Dan Masonson, director of the league’s corporate communications. Instead, he said, the Roman system was adopted to avoid any confusion that might occur because of the way the Super Bowl is held in a different year from the one in which most of the regular season is played.

Bob Moore, historian for the Kansas City Chiefs, credits the idea of using Roman numerals to Lamar Hunt, the late Chiefs owner and one of the godfathers of the modern NFL. (History also credits Hunt with coming up with the name “Super Bowl” for the big game.)

“The Roman numerals made it much more important,” Moore said. “It’s much more magisterial.”

They may know what X means, or V and I, but Roman numerals beyond the basics have largely gone the way of cursive and penmanship as a subject in schools.

Students in high school and junior high get a taste of the Roman system during Latin classes (where Latin is still taught, anyway). And they learn a few Roman numerals in history class when they study the monarchs of Europe.

But in elementary school, “Roman numerals are a minor topic,” said Jeanine Brownell of the early mathematics development program at Erickson Institute, a child-development graduate school in Chicago.


D - Yup, I'm trying to link Superbowl buzz to linguistic stuff. <:

D - on Sunday, I will be preparing a lovely series of Scottish-themed food dishes for some close friends, while trying to speak with a poor Scottish accent. We will also read Burns poetry, and drink some fairly cheap but good booze.
In single malts, Glenkinchi 12yo was my 'first love', but I can afford the still decent Black Grouse.