Friday, May 25, 2012

kinship naming systems compared

In particular, they tested the idea that the world's kinship systems achieve a trade-off between the two competing principles of simplicity and informativeness.

If you look at the kinship systems in the languages of the world, you can't make them simpler without making them less useful, and you can't make them more useful without making them more complicated. There is a tradeoff between these two explanatory principles."
Kemp and Regier found that this trade-off explains why languages use only a handful of the vast number of logically possible kinship categories.
"The kinship systems that are used by languages lie along an optimal frontier, where systems achieve a near perfect trade-off between the competing factors of simplicity and usefulness," Kemp said.

"Interestingly, very similar principles explain cross-language variation in color categories and spatial categories, as well as kinship categories," said Regier, associate professor of linguistics and cognitive science at Berkeley, and an author on the earlier work on color and space. "It's rewarding to see similar principles operating across such different domains."


(D - about the author)

Personal statement

I study the relation of language and thought - exploring how universals of cognition shape languages, and to what extent speakers of different languages think differently.  Specific recent projects concern spatial language, color naming, word learning, and the “poverty of stimulus” argument in language learning.
D - gamers use terms for this optimal tradeoff between variables. A "munchkin" will "minimax" a game system.
Minimax (sometimes minmax) is a decision rule used in decision theorygame theorystatistics and philosophy for minimizing the possibleloss for a worst case (maximum loss) scenario. Alternatively, it can be thought of as maximizing the minimum gain (maximin). Originally formulated for two-player zero-sum game theory, covering both the cases where players take alternate moves and those where they make simultaneous moves, it has also been extended to more complex games and to general decision making in the presence of uncertainty.
D - sadly, real life lacks RPG game 'infinity effects' to exploit! <:
E.g. DND v3.0:
1) spell 'monstrous regeneration',
2) converts all damage into subdual (except from fire and acid, which remains lethal),
3) there are very minor healing spells that heal an infinite amount of subdual-only damage.
The result was extremely cheap healing of 100s of points of subdual damage!
D - too bad language is not quite that easy to finesse. Heck, most of the purported gains in designed languages are really just arbitrary tradeoffs. 
1) remove the need for 'agreement' between grammatical elements of a sentence
2) e.g. in English, "I am" yet "you ARE" - both are forms of "to be",
3) this provides a redundant datum which may allow a statement to be understood despite problems hearing every syllable. 
Of course, it also makes a language more difficult to learn. Most designed languages remove mandatory grammatical agreement due to this.
Espo is an exception.
1) (a) big dog is "grand-A hund-O" (I capitalized the grammatical indicator)
2) yet big dogs would be "grand-A-J hund-O-J".
Essentially this translates roughly to big-ez dog-ez (-ez meaning plural).
The qualities of a child-acquired first natural language are often at odds with the need for a designed language (a nominal 'world language' aux-lang) to be easy to learn for:
1) an adult
2) of no particular scholarly talent
3) possibly without a multilingual background
4) without much time and energy to expend
5) and is not highly motivated 
to learn.
D - Espo immediately places itself in the above respect as even MORE difficult than English, which also has some mandatory grammatical agreement. This makes it difficult for the 'ESL scenario' (adult / second language) to learn. This expanded range of grammatical agreement in Espo is IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) more appropriate to a First-Acquired-by-Child natural language than a designed world language.
D - this quandary of competing demands between a child/first and adult/second language has resulted in some novel solutions. Language X / Language 53 plans to increase the complexity of their language each generation, as a higher percentage of the world population learns it.
D - IMHO, the most elegant solution is the one I presently have reserved solely for fiction - VERSE (search for it). Of course, there is no reason I cannot add the pitch system from VERSE onto my CVN design to replace closed class function words (and affixes and particles) with pitch contained by the other grammatical elements. This would increase brevity. My VERSE proposal allows a flexible either/or system for indicating 'function world' elements either as pitch, or 'words' - or BOTH!

1 comment:

Dino Snider said...

Good lord, I HATE the new blog interface.