Linguistic mechanisms for less wrong cognition

post by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-29T02:40:08.976Z · score: 7 (8 votes) · LW · GW · Legacy · 131 comments

I'm working on a conlang (constructed language) and would like some input from the Less Wrong community.  One of the goals is to investigate the old Sapir-Whorf hypothesis regarding language affecting cognition.  Does anyone here have any ideas regarding linguistic mechanisms that would encourage more rational thinking, apart from those that are present in the oft-discussed conlangs e-prime, loglan, and its offshoot lojban?  Or perhaps mechanisms that are used in one of those conlangs, but might be buried too deeply for a person such as myself, who only has superficial knowledge about them, to have recognized?  Any input is welcomed, from other conlangs to crazy ideas.

 

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comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-29T08:00:00.800Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

Since other replies are drifting in this direction, I'll reply to my own post with a comment about Heinlein's fictional conlang Speedtalk, to which Ithkuil has been compared. Like a lot of people, it was one of the ideas that got me interested in conlangs. But after a bit of research I concluded that it wasn't a fruitful direction to head in. I ran into some research in which the rate of information transmission of various natural languages was compared. It turns out that in languages that are spoken faster, as measured in phonemes per second, the information carrying content, measured in bits per phoneme, is smaller. The result is that you really don't seem to get a lot of bang for your buck by monkeying around with your language design to try to increase the rate of information transmission. The bottleneck at the high end seems to be in the processing capacity of the brain, not the structure of the language.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T12:43:31.929Z · score: 6 (6 votes) · LW · GW

I think a core feature of a new conlang should be that it has a systematized way to express concepts. After making my first draft of a language I decided to dig deeper into modern applied ontology. I would recommend Barry Smith's and Katherine Munn's
Applied Ontology: An Introduction. The better you understand the ontological structure of the world the better you will be able to design a language that can precisely describe the ontological structure of the world.

The result is that you really don't seem to get a lot of bang for your buck by monkeying around with your language design to try to increase the rate of information transmission.

If you have a sentence like "Four plus five is nine" that's very hard to transmit in a language like Pirahã that doesn't have a word for four but has only "one, two and many". It might be able to say two-two for four and two-two-one for five but it's really hard to express the sentence.

I think English does have cases where it's a bit like Pirahã. We have four cardinal directions and if we want to go in a 45° angle we say north-east.

Base 10 is integrated into our language in a way that we can't simply switch to base 12 or base 16 when we want to do so on a whim.

Another quite horrible case is the English word of "feel". It mixes so many different cases together. You don't have a similar distinction as between "see" and "look" for feel. Feel get's used both to thing inside your own body and outside. Láadan has:

loláad = to perceive internally, to feel a mental state or emotion, perceive with the heart (metaphorically). Passive internal feeling. "I feel sad."
lowitheláad = to feel, as if directly, another's feelings (pain/joy/ anger/grief/surprise/ etc.); to be empathetic, without the separation implied in empathy
dama = to touch, to feel with the skin. Active touching, feeling. "I am feeling the texture of the yarn." (see láad oyanan, passive touch)
náril = to feel internally, to fix your internal attention actively upon something, to-continue-to-present-time. Active internal feeling. "I am feeling angry." (see loláad, passive internal feeling)
láad oyanan = to perceive with the skin, to feel something on your skin, touch. Passive feeling. "The silk feels good to me." (see dama, active touch)

When you say "Alice is afraid of Bob", the sentence doesn't transmit whether the author is speaking about a feeling or an emotion. Modern psychology has distinct notions of feeling and emotion but it's hard to express it, because the language hasn't really caught up with it. That's again a situation where it's important to familiarize yourself with the modern ontology instead of simply copying the ontology of the existing language. Having a richer language that can express more shades of meaning is a reason for people write literature in the language instead of writing in English. Literature that also can't be easily translated back into English.

comment by Viliam · 2015-11-30T13:18:25.872Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Having different words for different concepts is great, but creating a new vocabulary will not be enough. There needs to be some training to make people use the words correctly. Otherwise they will just use the new words incorrectly.

This usually happens when people learn a foreign language that maps one word from their native language to two or more words in the foreign language. For example native English speakers often have problems differentiating "ser", "estar" and "hay" in Spanish, which all get translated as "to be" in English.

Getting enough training will be especially important for a conlang, because you can't just expect it to happen "naturally", if all speakers of the language will keep making the same mistakes.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T14:56:29.923Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Having different words for different concepts is great, but creating a new vocabulary will not be enough. There needs to be some training to make people use the words correctly. Otherwise they will just use the new words incorrectly.

Yes, a language is more than just vocabulary.

Getting enough training will be especially important for a conlang

Duolingo style training could file that role well.

Apart from that the quality of the textbook for the a conlang is vitally important for it. It has to showcase the features of the new language.

comment by TheAncientGeek · 2015-11-29T17:30:26.463Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Applied Ontology: An Introduction. The better you understand the ontological structure of the word the better you will be able to design a language that can precisely describe the ontological structure of the world.

Understanding the true ontological structure of the world is very non trivial, and you might want an improved language to do it in before get finished.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T19:45:39.283Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Understanding the true ontological structure of the world is very non trivial, and you might want an improved language to do it in before get finished.

I don't think that you need to know the ultimate truth to learn useful things from applied ontology to design a better language than you would design if you ignorant of applied ontology.

I think this is one of those cases where philosophy is helpful and it makes sense to read people like Barry Smith. If you want to speak about obligations (may/should/must) it makes sense to not simply copy the existing words of the English language but first read serious philosophy on what kind of categories of obligations exist. Yes, the resulting language won't be perfect but it will be better than the language that you will be building when you simply copy English.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:22:12.291Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I've looked into the subject of ontologies (I did research on knowledge base design years ago). The problem wasn't finding ontologies, but finding non-arbitrary ontologies. That is, no matter how one ontology categorized entities, you could always find another that categorized them differently, and no non-arbitrary reason to select one over the other. And I didn't want to give in to the temptation to just choose one and use it regardless. I finally gave up and decided that treating each concept in isolation (for the purpose of dictionary building) was better than using an ontology that some users might find highly counter-intuitive.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T12:00:26.566Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I finally gave up and decided that treating each concept in isolation (for the purpose of dictionary building)

What do you mean with that sentence? That you want to use the ontology of naive English?

If we would have a name for 75 that's isolated from the name for other numbers it would be quite hard to do math.

Ordering enities into categories provides the possibility to systematize them instead of making everything a special case. If you look at Lojban's place system is a huge mess because it has specific rules for the places of every single gismu.

When it comes to feelings, I think the distinction of feelings/emotions/moods and physical sensations (pain/warmth etc) is highly useful. It makes a language more difficult to learn to have more distinctions but it makes the language more functional. A person gains something when they learn it.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:25:30.758Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Agreed. This was one of my more painful realizations, that I might have to do more than one iteration of the conlang before developing a finished product, because there will be no way to understand the flaws in the first version well enough to correct them until after learning to speak it fluently.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T15:59:14.896Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I ran into some research in which the rate of information transmission of various natural languages was compared.

I'm interested into that research. Can you link it?

comment by redding · 2015-11-29T16:46:46.041Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

Not sure if this is what KevinGrant was referring to, but this article discusses the same phenomenon

http://rosettaproject.org/blog/02012/mar/1/language-speed-vs-density/

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:27:49.280Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sorry, I don't have a link for it. The result is just something that I remember reading about many years ago. I looked at the link that redding posted and while it probably isn't the same paper (I think I read about this before 2011) the result seems to match what I remember. There's a possibility that if the linked paper could be retrieved, then whatever I read may be in the bibliography, although I don't know if I'd recognize it as such.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-12-01T02:48:08.347Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I ran into some research in which the rate of information transmission of various natural languages was compared. It turns out that in languages that are spoken faster, as measured in phonemes per second, the information carrying content, measured in bits per phoneme, is smaller.

This doesn't seem likely to generalize reliably to specialist constructed languages. I believe that it is true it when it comes down to average people talking about everyday things, but specialist subjects use specialized jargon and a shared bank of knowledge to communicate very complicated ideas very quickly. As a simple example, words like xor and nand, once they are fully understood and become automatic, do increase the rate of information transmission; likewise introducing the concepts behind 'bacteria', 'molecule', and 'atom' results in much quicker communication about a certain aspect of the world.

If you are constructing a language to hold rational debate, it does make sense to increase information transfer by expecting, and teaching, the language learners to match complex concepts with simple words. This should mean, in practice, more information per phoneme per second in the targeted areas.

While there will be a trade-off between time spent learning the framework and ability to communicate quickly, most rationalists are happy to spend time learning useful frameworks.

comment by Daniel_Burfoot · 2015-11-29T17:06:35.849Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

My biggest gripe about English is that there is no consistent relationship between morphology and part of speech. There is a muddy, approximate relationship which is inherited from French/Latin and German, so that for example you typically know that if you see an adjective X, and see a word Xity, then the latter word is a noun meaning "property of being X". Similarly, if you see an adjective Y, and another word Yen, the latter word is a verb meaning "to make Y". But this system is not used consistently. Ideally, a listener (reader) should be able to identify the part of speech of a word immediately by inspection of phonological (typographic) expression.

If you want to follow this rule, you will need to make it easy for people to do the sorts of colloquial grammar-jumping that come up in everyday speech. For example the word "hammer" is a noun but also a verb meaning "to hit with a hammer". "Ship" is a noun but also a verb meaning "to send by ship" and so on.

Another issue with English (and probably other languages) is that prepositions are overloaded, so that the same word can mean different things, as in "Galileo saw a man with a telescope". Since with can mean both by means of and carrying/holding, the sentence is ambiguous. It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask that every important case in which a preposition must be used should correspond to a distinct word.

comment by Viliam · 2015-11-30T13:28:23.712Z · score: 5 (5 votes) · LW · GW

For example the word "hammer" is a noun but also a verb meaning "to hit with a hammer". "Ship" is a noun but also a verb meaning "to send by ship" and so on.

I'd say this probably happens much more often than native English speakers even realize. You mostly notice it as a beginner, if your native language does not have strict rules for word order (because you differentiate different types of words by their suffixes or something like that) so you can move the words freely around in your first language. And then you read some English sentence where every single word has two or more possible meanings, and it's like a puzzle with an exponential difficulty. And you feel like: WTF, how can these people even get any meaning across in such ambiguous language?

Then you learn the rule that when you see "X Y Z", then "Z" is probably a noun, and "X" and "Y" are adjectives that modify it (unless "Y" is a verb, which means that the noun "X" is doing the "Y"-action to the noun "Z"), which reduces the search space. And after enough practice your brain starts doing it automatically, so the ambiguity becomes invisible.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:31:07.782Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

All good points, and among the strengths of conlangs in general. It still amazes me that past efforts at reforming English spelling, like President Roosevelt's, weren't accepted.

comment by gjm · 2015-11-30T12:01:13.858Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ideally, a listener (reader) should be able to identify the part of speech of a word immediately

I'm not so sure.

Knowing a word's part of speech is of limited use if you don't know its actual meaning. Learning a word's meaning generally tells you its part of speech too. If by some chance you have an idea of a word's meaning but not its part of speech (because of ambiguities as with "ship", or because you worked out what kind of thing it has to mean etymologically), that's often enough to work out what's going on anyway. What's the real benefit here of making the part of speech more visible? It sounds nice, but when does it actually help much?

It doesn't seem unreasonable to ask that every important case in which a preposition must be used should correspond to a distinct word.

I'm not so sure.

Inside view: there are really quite a lot of preposition-functions, and prepositions want to be short words, so if we insist on a separate preposition for every preposition-function we'll need to allocate a lot of short words for them. Short words are a scarce resource. The language will have to be clumsier in other ways.

Outside view: every language I know enough about (admittedly a small subset of the world's languages) overloads its prepositions. That's got to be some evidence that doing so isn't a terrible idea.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T22:43:18.999Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Outside view: every language I know enough about (admittedly a small subset of the world's languages) overloads its prepositions. That's got to be some evidence that doing so isn't a terrible idea.

I think it's evidence that it's not easy for prepositions to get added through natural language evolution. It much easier to add new verbs, adjectives and nouns.

Short words are a scarce resource.

While that's true when it comes to conlang design, if you look at English there's plenty of open space of short words. A lot of two letter combinations that are possible with English phonetics aren't valid English words.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-01T00:13:19.620Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

That doesn't necessarily mean there's spare space. You don't want every possible combination of letters to make a word, because then it becomes easier to mishear.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T10:36:08.708Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Someone in this thread mentioned that there are 37 different meanings in English for post. It's easy to mishear between those 37 meanings. You could easily move a third of those to pist and another third to pust. That would make it easier to get the right meaning.

To the extend that context allows you to choose the right of the 37 meanings of post, it should also help you prevent mishearing.

If you take the preposition of with with it's nine different meanings, move a third to wuth and a third to woth. People might make a mistake to mishear with when the other person says wuth but at least they have a change to hear the right meaning and don't have to guess based on context which of the many meanings is meant.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-12-01T15:03:29.673Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

This basically cannot happen in real life, because most people do not think clearly about which sense of a preposition they are using. So if you divide up those meanings of "with", all three words will start to take on all nine meanings, and you will just have uselessly multiplied words.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T16:14:22.111Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

This basically cannot happen in real life, because most people do not think clearly about which sense of a preposition they are using.

The fact that people don't reflect about the sense in which they use a preposition doesn't mean that they can't learn to use a specific preposition for a specific purpose. In reality people can say "on Monday" while saying "in July" and "at night" without getting confused.

If you have the sentence "Galileo saw a man with a telescope" people do mentally distinguish two cases of with that could be meant. There nothing natural about all the meanings that "with" has in English being bundled together via the same word. Other languages bundle things together in different ways.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-12-01T16:34:22.308Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

There's a very old and very silly debate in Spanish because some people refuse to acknowledge that "a glass of water" means what it intends to mean, instead of the ridiculously literal "a glass made of water", so they switch to the awkward "a glass with water", which in real life can mean a glass on a tray with a jar of water next to it.

So the result is that snobbish people insist on saying "a glass with water," and ordinary people plus meta-snobbish people keep saying "a glass of water", and both sides hate each other passionately.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-12-01T16:58:43.325Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So is it, basically, a status signal by now?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-12-01T18:03:04.423Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yes, but in a complicated way. "A glass with water" is hypercorrection, which gives the speaker the opposite status from the one he believes he's displaying.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T16:55:28.345Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In that case it seems that a short preposition for "containing" is missing.

Language isn't easy. If you just know the rules, it's hard to know that a teacup might not contain tea while a cup of tea does. It get's even more confusing because the same object that's a teacup when it's intended to store tea liquids suddenly becomes a bowl when it's intended to contain soup.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-12-01T17:01:05.200Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Strangely, the same people who object to "a glass of water" have no problem with "a bottle of soda," "a pot of potatoes" or "a truck of pigs".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-04T13:15:15.421Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

But is a bottle of soda still a bottle of soda if it's empty?

(I think it would also be nice, if you add the spanish translation for those terms you are speaking about)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-12-06T01:56:37.082Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Bottle of soda = botella de gaseosa

An empty bottle of soda would still be called a bottle of soda, which makes me suspect that the actual meaning is closer to "bottle for soda."

Glass of water = vaso de agua

Pot of potatoes = olla de papas

Truck of pigs = camión de cerdos

Some defenders of the "glass of water" team argue that the peculiarity that makes the phrase valid is not the preposition, but the noun vaso (glass), which must be understood as a unit of measure, just like "spoonful of sugar." But I don't agree that that's the reason why "glass of water" is the right form. Nobody thinks a "truck" is a unit of measure (though some regional forms of Spanish do have a word for truckload, "camionado").

comment by Lumifer · 2015-12-01T17:02:19.297Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the same object that's a teacup when it's intended to store tea liquids suddenly becomes a bowl when it's intended to contain soup.

Nope, it does not. Teacups have handles and bowls don't.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T17:09:49.759Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Nope, it does not. Teacups have handles and bowls don't.

It might very well be true that there are English dialects where teacup means a cup with a handle but that's not general usage. Wikipedia start by it's description of teacups by saying: "A teacup is a cup, with or without a handle".

I'm in the process of reading Anna Wierzbicka's Imprisoned in English where she makes the claim that the intent of usage is what distinguishes a cup from a bowl.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-12-01T18:10:43.167Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So, during the Japanese tea ceremony do they drink the tea out of teacups? I don't think so.

As to Wikipedia, it's funny how they provide two images, one with a handle and one without. The one with a handle is called a "teacup". The one without a handle is called a "tea bowl" :-P

I am not sure why should I grant any authority to Anna Wierzbicka's opinion.

By the way, Wiktionary defines a teacup as "A small cup, with a handle, used for drinking tea".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T19:44:04.464Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The main point is that English is quite diverse. Not every language user uses it the same way. The British used to put a lot of value into drinking tea. The Americans generally don't but these days physicalism is quite prominent so it's reasonable when the meaning changes. What used to be about the purpose of the item became a word about whehter or it has a handle.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-12-01T19:53:34.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

...used to put a lot of value into drinking tea ... but these days physicalism is quite prominent

Are you providing examples for this paper? X-)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T20:17:39.866Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

No, I reference a well-defined meaning. Physicalism does happen to be about not seeing the purpose of an object as part of its identity. It does happen to be a strong cultural force.

comment by Vaniver · 2015-12-01T18:44:00.050Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Teacups have handles and bowls don't.

Or... do they?

comment by Lumifer · 2015-12-01T18:52:09.447Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't believe I ever heard the expression "handled bowl" before. It sounds... clumsy.

I drink tea. Sometimes I drink it out of teacups, sometimes I drink it out of tea bowls. The difference between them is quite clear in my mind. Even if I decide to become (more) silly and start putting soup in them, it will not change the teacups into bowls.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-30T20:13:52.414Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

English sometimes relies too much on context to provide clues for meaning. The word "post" has 37 meanings as a noun, verb, or adverb. Poor context can't shoulder all the load.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-11-30T20:48:08.383Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Poor context can't shoulder all the load.

Since English is an, ahem, successful language, it clearly can :-P

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-30T20:54:32.443Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

True. Let me qualify: for the benefit of the student of languages, context shouldn't shoulder all the load.

comment by gjm · 2015-11-30T22:08:13.189Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Should languages be designed for language students?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-30T22:17:28.645Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

For natural languages it's a moot question, but conlangs are inescapably intended for the use of people who are already inclined to study languages.

comment by gjm · 2015-11-30T22:29:56.414Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Indeed they are, but the more serious kind of conlang is surely intended to be usable as an actual practical means of expression and communication. If some design decision makes things better for students one way and for actual users another way, it's surely better to choose the latter.

(Of course we don't know that the present situation is like that. It's entirely possible that the success of English hasn't been in any way helped by its heavy use of context for disambiguation, or by advantages that that somehow enables.)

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-30T22:41:30.120Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The success of English, you ask?

(cough) British Empire (cough)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-04T13:21:42.400Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Should languages be designed for language students?

Even in English a person who has a 50,000 word active vocabulary can express himself better than person who has a 10,000 word active vocabulary.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-04T15:01:27.836Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

True, but that's mostly a matter of having more things they can say in one word. Reducing ambiguity in a language by splitting the job of one word up among multiple words with fewer meanings increases the language's vocabulary size but doesn't increase the range of things there are words for. So the two aren't parallel.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-04T15:35:52.061Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Focusing on the numbers of words might miss my point. The average person who finishes speaks English on a higher level than the average person at high school. It takes effort to learn college level English.

If you make the language easier to learn than it will take less effort to learn college level English. People will reach the same level of proficiency in the language at an ealier age.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-04T16:52:08.531Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I am not convinced that a nontrivial fraction of the effort it takes a native anglophone to get from zero to college level English is caused by polysemies like that of "post". It certainly doesn't seem like that's the case for my daughter who's in some sense about half-way along that progression. Such things are (I think) more of an obstacle to people learning English as a foreign language. I am all in favour of making the lives of foreign language learners easier, but generally most people who speak a language speak it natively (English might actually be a counterexample, now I come to think of it) and, even more so, most use of a language is by native speakers (I bet English isn't a counterexample to that). So I think that in evaluating languages we should be considering how effective they are in actual use much more than how easy they are to learn for foreign learners.

Now, for sure, I have no very good reason to think that making prepositions less polysemic wouldn't be an improvement in actual use. But then I don't think you have any very good reason to think it would be an improvement for learners, either; it's just a guess, right?

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-12-05T19:28:49.106Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

most use of a language is by native speakers (I bet English isn't a counterexample to that)

It probably isn't if you only count spoken use, but it probably is if you also count written use.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-04T18:15:37.803Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It certainly doesn't seem like that's the case for my daughter who's in some sense about half-way along that progression.

How would you know if it would be the case? What do you think are the traits of the English language that prevents your daughter from learning it faster?

Now, for sure, I have no very good reason to think that making prepositions less polysemic wouldn't be an improvement in actual use. But then I don't think you have any very good reason to think it would be an improvement for learners, either; it's just a guess, right?

Let's take the example of the 'bottle of soda'. Without looking at the particular case it seems for me hard to tell if there such a thing as an "empty bottle of soda" or whether bottle of soda means that the bottle is actually filled with soda.

That is not a problem if you regularly speak about bottle's of soda that might not be a problem. There are empty soda bottles but no empty bottle's of soda. At the same time if I search for empty bottle of soda in Google I get 37,900 results while I get 110,000 results for empty soda bottle. Google Ngram is a bit stronger in favoring empty soda bottle but it still suggests that a sizable portion of people speak of empty bottle of soda.

In daily life you won't have much problems with that. Context will often be enough. If you however take a biochemistry book and try to understand what it's saying you often don't have the context to know sense of a preposition is meant. That means you need to spend cognitive resources to think through the possibilities that could be meant.

In English the polysemy of or produces problems when people get into mathmatical logic.

The Polish language has polysemy whereby ręka means both hand and arm. Can you imagine how that makes live harder any subject that speaks about the body whether it's biology or even massage?

The interesting thing is that the Polish culture had a lot of contact with languages that do have a proper word for hand that doesn't also mean arm. Why didn't they borrow Hand and Arm from German or English? I suspect the reason is that ręka is too deeply imbedded in the Polish language. You can't just burrow a new word like you can add a new word for ketchup when the concept enter into the language. I would suspect that basic prepositions are similar in the fact that it's very hard to borrow them from another language.

But then I don't think you have any very good reason to think it would be an improvement for learners, either; it's just a guess, right?

As a learner it's okay when there are a limited amount of prepositions. What you don't want as a learner is special rules. Saying "in January" while saying "on Monday" is an unnecessary special rule. You want to have reliable rules that tell you whether there's a empty bottle of soda.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-04T22:16:45.960Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

How would you know if it would be the case?

I don't know whether I would. All I know is that I don't recall ever seeing or hearing her have difficulty that seemed to relate in any way to such things. Perhaps I wouldn't expect to have done; I'm not claiming this as strong evidence; as I say, I think we're both basically guessing.

The rest of what you say still seems to me to be guessing that there "ought" to be a problem. I agree that you've presented some examples of ambiguity, and when something can mean X or Y and you want to say specifically X or specifically Y that can make your life more difficult. But when something can mean X or Y and you want to say "X or Y" the ambiguity is positively helpful (your hand really is part of your arm, and I bet there are cases where ręka is strictly better than either English word). And needing to learn fewer words is nice. And using less language-space means better robustness against errors. And ambiguity is often beneficial in poetry. Etc., etc., etc. Maybe these instances of ambiguity really do make English (and Polish) worse languages than they would be if they were patched up. But I don't think you're in a position to say that they do just on the basis that they are instances of ambiguity.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-12-05T20:13:58.350Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Sidenote:

How would you know if it would be the case?

You would know because she would make errors. Kids don't stop talking because they don't know the right word. You know that irregular past tense is hard(er) for kids to learn because they say things like 'runned' and 'eated'. In some cases it might be a circumlocution rather than an error ('I'm the big one' in place of 'I'm the biggest'), but it's not hard to know what a kid is having trouble learning if you are paying attention.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-05T21:18:06.807Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't noticed her making errors that obviously relate to polysemy like that of "post". But I'm not sure what such errors would look like; my best guess is that if such things are a problem their main impact is probably just extra cognitive load, hence slower learning generally.

comment by Tem42 · 2015-12-06T04:30:18.251Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Slower processing evidenced by slower response or stated confusion would be the most likely result. Polysemy is actually good for helping kids practice using context cues, so it is arguable that even if she was making errors, it would still be a good thing from an educational standpoint.

It is worth noting that when linguists complain about how bad English is, they do not complain about polysemy, but about deep orthography and some nasty grammatical rules. It is also worth noting that English is pretty much average as far as polysemy goes, at least in European languages -- although this may depend on whether you consider idiomatic phrasal verbs to be polysemies of the composite words.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-04T23:43:12.534Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps I wouldn't expect to have done; I'm not claiming this as strong evidence; as I say, I think we're both basically guessing.

I think it's fairly straightfoward to say that something that the child has some problems with the language that result in her not yet having college level language skills. If your position would be that you know what those problems are and those problems have nothing to do with polysemy, I would grant you that points in the direction that polysemy isn't a huge deal.

The rest of what you say still seems to me to be guessing that there "ought" to be a problem.

When it comes to the case of or (/the German oder that works the same way) I know that I had classmates who struggled to wrap their heads around the fact that the mathematical or means something different than the phrase as it's commonly used.

I think or is actually a big deal. A lot of other words aren't a big deal but there are a lot of words the effects add up.

And ambiguity is often beneficial in poetry.

I don't think that vagueness is the point of poetry. Having different prepositions allows a poet to create an effect by using a prepositions in a way that it isn't usually used to communicate a new meaning.

Has as poetry goes I would add that the relationship system I proposed is quite yielding. If you take an English word like lover you don't automatically get a word to describe the equivalent of the sibling relationship. Playing around with the equivalent of graph theory terms like graph, branch and root could also be fun for poets. The poet get's those language tool for every relationship. In the same way that the word lover would be an extension of a relationship/graph term + the emotion of love, any other emotion could also be used. Huge spaces for poetry open up because there a solid foundation.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-05T00:51:10.971Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

the child has some problems with the language that result in her not yet having college level language skills.

Well, sure. She's nine years old. Her vocabulary isn't college-level yet. Her writing style is pretty boring (by adult standards; for a nine-year-old she's doing just fine) and the best ways she currently has of mitigating that are mechanical and artificial (start sentences with one of this arbitrary list of More Interesting Ways To Start A Sentence, etc.). Her sense of the sound and rhythm of language isn't well developed (again, by adult standards). She makes spelling mistakes sometimes.

In short, she's a pretty typical bright nine-year-old. I have no way of telling whether she'd be further ahead in all those things if only she hadn't secretly spent weeks puzzling over the different meanings of "post"; all I can say is that I don't see any sign that that sort of thing is holding her up. But that's extremely weak evidence because, of course, I've no good reason to think there would be obvious signs if it were.

the mathematical or

I can very easily believe that speakers of German and English commonly have trouble with the mathematical use of "or" on account of the tendency for or/oder to be "exclusive". But, once again, that doesn't mean it's a bad thing overall that it's that way. Perhaps an exclusive "or" is actually more useful most of the time. After all, most of us most of the time are doing things other than mathematics. If I tell my daughter "You may have a slice of cake or a biscuit" I will likely be annoyed if she takes both[1]. I can get to work by driving or by cycling, but the results will not be good if I try to do both at once.

[1] But once I was with a friend who's a computer science researcher, and when I offered him some chocolate and he said "I'll have one or two pieces" I gave him three.

I don't think that vagueness is the point of poetry.

I said ambiguity, not vagueness; the two are not the same. And I didn't say the point, which would certainly be far too strong.

The idea that ambiguity is important in poetry is not an idiosyncrasy of mine, by the way.

I agree that a language with very different structure might open up very different opportunities for poets.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-05T09:34:04.873Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

After all, most of us most of the time are doing things other than mathematics. If I tell my daughter "You may have a slice of cake or a biscuit" I will likely be annoyed if she takes both[1].

The fact that you would get annoyed if she takes both suggests that it would be very useful to have a word that actually means that she can't have both. I don't think that the notion of there being an inclusive or and an exclusive or is inherently hard. If there would be one word for the exclusive or and one word for the inclusive or a child would learn naturally that both notions exist. With polysemy that's not something that a child learns automatically.

Finnish even seems to have three or's. The third one is equivalence.

While we are at it iff/if and only if probably should also be expressible in a single word.

I said ambiguity, not vagueness; the two are not the same.

If you increase the amount of prepositions than it's likely that some of them will sound ambiguous when used in nonstandard usage. Preventing people from making ambigious statements isn't my goal. I think language should allow people to be specific, not that it should force people to be specific.

I don't think poets will lose the ability to be ambigious through the proposals that I'm making.

comment by Jiro · 2015-12-05T18:48:34.737Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We can express this in two words (either/or) already. How do you avoid the trap of trying to optimize easy to measure things (like number of words) at the cost of harder to measure things?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-05T22:18:52.843Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

We can express this in two words (either/or) already.

The problem is that while there a way to specify the exclusive or, there not a way to specify the inclusive or.

How do you avoid the trap of trying to optimize easy to measure things (like number of words) at the cost of harder to measure things?

I'm not optimizing for number of words. The problem of English isn't that there aren't enough words. It's believed good style to know your thesaurus in English and not say four times beautiful in a row in a single paragraph, even if you mean the same thing. That produces a proliferation of words but not the kind of words I want. When I talk about polysemy I care about the ability to make finer distinctions for commonly used words, where the listener can actually know which distinction the speaker wants to communicate

comment by Good_Burning_Plastic · 2015-12-07T19:19:40.031Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

there not a way to specify the inclusive or.

"X or Y or both"

comment by Tem42 · 2015-12-08T23:08:16.290Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Also "and/or", although that works better in writing.

comment by Jiro · 2015-12-06T03:54:31.109Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

there not a way to specify the inclusive or.

"any of" or "at least one of", You can say it, it's just not one word.

comment by entirelyuseless · 2015-12-05T15:01:09.062Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Is there really any practical purpose of this discussion? How are you proposing to impose changes on an actually existing language, other than by making laws about language use and penalizing people with heavy fines if they make mistakes?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-05T16:46:35.377Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is there really any practical purpose of this discussion?

Given that we have discussion on LW about very theoretical issues, it's interesting that you choose to ask this question in this context. There likely some triggered ugg-field. Tribal political instincts that don't belong.

There are multiple practical aspects. It's very useful to understand that language is not perfect for rationality in general. Secondly KevinGrant opened this discussion because he designs a Conlang. In the context of Conlang design it's important to openly speak about the flaws of the existing languages.

How are you proposing to impose changes on an actually existing language, other than by making laws about language use and penalizing people with heavy fines if they make mistakes?

Given that both the German government and the French government actually do form their respective languages through government programs, the idea that you need to fine people is without basis.

Just because the US still works with inches and feets doesn't mean that change is impossible if the will exists.

But if I wanted to lead the road to reformed English, I wouldn't do it via the government. I would change the language in a way where it's possible to automatically translate the new reformed English into contemporary English. I would provide wordpress plugins that allow a person to write his post in reformed English and at the same time show a normal English version on his website. If done with charismatic leadership, using reformed English becomes the thing that cool people do.

On of the aspects of reformed English would be that it has less polysemy. That means it's possible to do better translations of reformed English into other languages. The UN switches from contemporary English to reformed English. India justifies making reformed English it's primary language because it's easier possible to translate it into it's 22 other official languages. Computer translation will be better at that point, but computer translation profits a lot if there's less polysemy.

The EU also would profit from making reformed English it's main language of business. Politically it might be easier to declare reformed English to be the main EU language than to declare contempory English the main EU language.

If the US wants to declare reformed English to be the main language it can simply choose to conduct it's government business in it and make standardized tests in reformed English.

Scientists in the humanities might change their journals in a way where new articles have to be submitted in reformed English and there's a translation in normal English available. Less polysemy might make some debates clearer.

Besides reducing polysemy one of the main tasks of reforming English would be to make it more phonetic.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-29T02:46:00.427Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

There are languages like Aymara that incorporate evidentiality, that is, you can't express a thought without also saying how you know it. This forces the speaker to be always aware of the degree of certainty of every statement.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-29T07:56:38.466Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

I have a number of evidential categories available for use, as well as some relating to certainty, which I view as a separate issue (source versus certainty). But I hadn't put any thought into making their use mandatory. There are certainly advantages to making it impossible to hide information by making the inclusion of some information carrying categories necessary. But it seems to me that not all possible information is going to be relevant to all possible statements or circumstances, and that forcing everyone to always include evidentials, even when they aren't relevant, will carry a high price. There are probably aspects of speech other than evidentials that it would be advantageous to include in some circumstances. If the grammar requires that they all be included in every statement, then every statement will be overcrowded with irrelevant add-ons. Also, there's the problem of enforcement. If, for example, you require that each statement end with an evidential, then what will stop irritated users from simply omitting it? If you create a system of grammar such that each of the add-ons must, unavoidably, be merged into the words, perhaps by some mechanism similar to verb conjugation, then how many people would volunteer to use such an inconveniently complex language? In order to be successful, a constructed language must be designed such that many people will want to use it. Only a few have reached that peak, such as Esperanto, and Klingon.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T13:02:49.214Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

Also, there's the problem of enforcement. If, for example, you require that each statement end with an evidential, then what will stop irritated users from simply omitting it?

In English every sentence ends in ".", "?" or "!". You can't simply omit those because otherwise a new sentence won't start. I think it's good for evidentials to end sentence's in the same way.

Recently I develed a bit into radical honesty. Radical honesty proclaims that you say what's on your mind. However instead of saying: "You are angry", you can say "I imagine you are angry". The usage of "I imagine" makes the conversation much nicer. It's part of what stops people practicing radical honesty from being assholes. At the same time "I imagine" costs four syllables. The direct translation into German is even more clumsy: "Ich stelle mir vor, dass". It would be much nicer if the language integrates evidentials by default.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:18:05.785Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

The problem that I see with this is that people are basically lazy-brained. Even if a language requires that you choose a final particle that indicates evidentiality, people will just not use it. For example, if the written form of a language requires that a sentence end with ".", "?" or "!", and each one is an evidential particle, then tomorrow someone on the internet will say "By the way everyone, I'm tired of doing all of this evidentiality stuff when I don't need to, so I'm just going to write '_' at the end of all of my sentences, and it doesn't mean anything but that the sentence is over." Within a week the convention will be adopted all over the world, and mandatory evidentiality will be a thing of the past. It might or might not be a good idea, but I just can't see a grammatical requirement overcoming human laziness.

Many years ago an acquaintance of mine in college said "A system without an application is a useless ornament." I believe that he was quoting someone, although I have no idea who (BTW, if anyone here knows where this quote might have come from I'd appreciate the reference). In the case of a conlang, part of the beauty comes from the fact of its widespread use. While I agree that mandatory evidentials are a tempting idea (I'd certainly like a language that has them), I don't believe that they'd hold up well in actual use.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T10:22:13.964Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

For example, if the written form of a language requires that a sentence end with ".", "?" or "!", and each one is an evidential particle, then tomorrow someone on the internet will say "By the way everyone, I'm tired of doing all of this evidentiality stuff when I don't need to, so I'm just going to write '_' at the end of all of my sentences, and it doesn't mean anything but that the sentence is over."

Actually ".", "?" and "!" are illoctutionary operators. Sentence have a different meaning if you use a different one in English. Yet we don't see anybody writing _ because he doesn't want to specify one of the three.

When it comes to the sentence "You are angry" I don't like the ugly copula. At the same time I still don't write "You angry" instead to have less effort because I'm lazy. After reading Science and Sanity I started to accidently drop the copula from time to time and write "there" instead of "there's" but the conventions of the English language still encourage me to not modify the language and write proper English.

In Chinese and Esperanto you can say "It rains" in one word. In English it would be easier to say "Rains" but that wouldn't be correct English and lazyness is not enough to get people to make that change. .

While I agree that mandatory evidentials are a tempting idea (I'd certainly like a language that has them), I don't believe that they'd hold up well in actual use.

I think you underrate the usefulness of evidentials because English doesn't have them.Via Saphir Worf it also will get easier to think in evidentials when you have a language that does them by default.

In the case of a conlang, part of the beauty comes from the fact of its widespread use.

I don't think you will get people to adopt a new language by focusing on the lowest common denominator. There's no reason to switch to another language that does roughly the same as English.

Esperanto get's part of it's charm from the fact that it's speakers treasure it. It's the most successful conlang despite the fact that it uses nonascii letters. While there are nonascii alternatives, Esperanto speaker still value using the original characters.

comment by Jiro · 2015-11-29T19:09:44.877Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Radical honesty proclaims that you say what's on your mind. However instead of saying: "You are angry", you can say "I imagine you are angry".

Is it consistent on this? For instance, does "you are my friend" work this way as well? And if you think your car is running out of gas, do you say "I conclude that my car is running out of gas"? (There's some nonzero probability that your gas gauge malfunctions, after all).

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T19:50:02.638Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Is it consistent on this?

When speaking about radical honesty I used "can say" because you nothing in radical honesty forces you to use evidentials.

As far as my wish for an ideal language goes I think it's good if the language requires evidentials. When it comes to "I conclude that my car is running out of gas" it's useful to distinguish the fact that you conclude based on reason, your intuition or because an authority told you so.

"You are my friend" can also mean many things. You can say it to mean: "I hereby declare that you are my friend". You can mean "my intuition tells me your my friend. You can mean "based on reasoning I conclude that you are my friend". You can mean "I hereby promise you that I will treat you as a friend in the future". The fact that English often leaves that unspecified can lead to a lot of misunderstandings.

comment by Jiro · 2015-11-29T19:54:44.520Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"You are my friend" can also mean many things. You can say it to mean...

"You are angry" can also mean similar things (based on reasoning I conclude that you are angry, I promise that I am treating you as though you are angry, etc.) So that doesn't really answer the question of whether the language is consistent on this between "you are angry" and "you are my friend".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T20:19:24.822Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So that doesn't really answer the question of whether the language is consistent on this between "you are angry" and "you are my friend".

You didn't specify which language you mean. I spoke about an example from Radical Honesty. That's not really a conlang but simply a way to use the English language and not even one that requires you to use certain phrases to express yourself. If you mean my conlang draft every sentence should end in a evidential and that goes for both of those sentences. Apart from that I don't think that "you are angry" is a good construction. I wouldn't want to have "to be" involved in that construction.

comment by Jiro · 2015-11-29T21:11:55.952Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I spoke about an example from Radical Honesty. That's not really a conlang but simply a way to use the English language

Sorry, I misunderstood. But I think the same question can be asked even if it isn't a language. "You are angry" must be expressed using words that recognize that you are making a conclusion about someone's anger. Must similar sentences about other conclusions be expressed that way? Or does this requirement apply only to "you are angry" while there is no requirement for "I conclude my car is out of gas" or "I deduce that you are motivated by friendship"?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T22:37:03.567Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I have read about radical honesty multiple times on the internet and didn't saw the point of it. I only saw the point when I meet a person who actually lives according to the philosophy, even when that means that it makes certain situations more challenging.

The core rule of radical honesty isn't: You have to say "I imagine", "I conclude" or "I deduce". The core rule is that you speak the truth and when you judge another person you don't hold the judgement back but speak it out. Empirically that's easier when the statement is softened by "I imagine".

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-29T20:23:07.734Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

If I remember correctly, Japanese allows "I want X" but not "You/He wants X," only "It seems that you/he wants X," the reasoning being that the speaker can't read other people's heads and can't know what they want, only the external signs that suggest so. Is that how you language handles "You are angry"?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T20:49:42.557Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

No, I have no problem with people saying that they know that someone else is angry.

I however would want to have a distinction between whether the claim is that the person has the feeling, the emotion or the moot of anger.

Serious psychology distinguishes those from each other and as a result I would want the language to reflect that distinction and not simply use "you are".

I think the information transmitted at minimum would be: "I have the knowledge that you have the feeling of anger." Currently that should take four sylables with 10 to 12 letters.

But it should be also possible with using an additional letter to instead say: "My intuition tells me that you have the feeling of anger."

My goal isn't that language forces people to use a phrase like "I imagine" but that it makes it easier. I think that makes it easier to communicate with Radical Honesty without people feeling insulted.

comment by jimrandomh · 2015-11-29T23:28:01.054Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

Phrases tend to take on meaning distinct from or supplementary to their constituents. In written English, you can highlight this with quotes or capitalization, both of which are disruptive and therefore under-used. In spoken English, marking a special phrase is very awkward, and is done extremely rarely.

It'd be nice to have a function word or pair of function words for this. It could probably double as a parenthesization mechanism.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:32:04.771Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Perhaps a special sort of quote symbol used to highlight metaphors?

comment by RichardKennaway · 2015-11-29T23:19:30.555Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

The works of Anna Wierzbicka on semantic primitives may be of interest (although they are mainly contained in expensive academic books and gated journal articles). She found a core of about 20 such primitives, although in later work she expanded them substantially. These are primitives discovered (by her methods) from the study of human languages, rather than constructed on a logical basis.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:33:10.802Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Sounds like a good addition to my reading list, although I just looked at her books on Amazon and the prices on most of them are outrageous (I couldn't sell a book for $28, let alone $280). But with luck it might be possible to dig up a list of the basic primitives, with commentary, on the internet somewhere.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-04T12:57:52.584Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

On this recomendation I read her latest book Imprisoned in English. I think it would make a lot of sense to write the core dictionary of a new language in what Anna Wierzbicka calls mini-english.

That definition for example has Ekman's anger described as:

it can be like this:
    someone thinks like this about someone else:
        “this someone is doing some things now
        this is bad
        I want something to happen, it can’t happen if this someone does things like this
        this someone knows this
        because of this, I want to do something (bad) to this someone”
    when this someone thinks like this, this someone feels something bad because of this,
    like people often do when they think like this

The german word Wut get's described as:

it can be like this:
    someone thinks like this:
         “something bad is happening here now
         I don’t want this
         I want to do something to something because of this now, I can’t not do something

Anna then shows how the words aren't completely interchangable even when the German Wut is the nearest word to the English anger. This mini-english has also the benefit of being automatically translateable into a variety of languages.

comment by jimrandomh · 2015-11-29T23:10:12.309Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

How about affixes for central vs noncentral usage of concepts? For example, you might make a rule that you can stick -cen on any content word to mean something is a central usage of the word and its meaning has not been stretched, or -sep to mean that it's figurative or the meaning has been stretched or there's a caveat.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-11-29T05:29:23.594Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You didn't mention ithkuil, but it basically has the same goal of incorporating every aspect of language that promotes clear thinking. Would look into it to see if it's what you're looking for.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T13:12:11.583Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think ithkuil has the goal. Forcing people to be extremly specific doesn't promote clear thinking. A language should allow people to be vague if they want to be vage.

I also think you would have problems when you take an abstract of a scientific paper and try to translate it into ithkuil.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-11-29T15:49:22.293Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Forcing people to be extremly specific doesn't promote clear thinking.

If the strong Sapir-Whorf hypothesis was true, it would.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T16:50:33.074Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

No. An inability to make be vague doesn't help with being clear.

In English I can say: "Dear readers," without specifying gender. In German I have to say: "Liebe Leserinnen und Leser,". German forces me to order those words. I have to say one of the two genders first. "Liebe Leserinnen und Leser," doesn't have exactly the same meaning as "Liebe Leser und Leserinnen,"

The fact that the German language forces me to specify whether I put more weight on my male or female audience is just distracting. It doesn't help me express more of what I want to say.

Another problem of "Liebe Leserinnen und Leser," is that intersex people in the audience aren't included and therefore people who highly value political correctness might object to the phrase and use a phrase that signals more political correctness.

Having to think about gender when I don't want to think about gender costs cognitive capacity. The unspecific "Dear readers," is much easier to use and therefore better. Ithkuil forces cognitive capacity to be used to be explicit about certain distinctions.

Take a sentence like: "The father of my mother feels (passively) that that my left ringfinger touches him 2 centimeters in inferior direction from his right earlobe" (At the present he lies on his back, so inferior is not the direction towards the center of the earth). How would you say that in ithkuil? I think you will run into trouble because the sentence makes a lot of distinctions that ithkuil isn't well equipped to handle while at the same time ithkuil forces you to specify all sorts of stuff that you don't care about.

comment by selylindi · 2015-11-30T02:48:55.689Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

"The father of my mother feels (passively) that that my left ringfinger touches him 2 centimeters in inferior direction from his right earlobe" (At the present he lies on his back, so inferior is not the direction towards the center of the earth).

tê ömmilek audyal íčawëla tê adlaisakenniňk qe oeksrâ’as oimřalik akpʰialîk êntô’alakuňk

There you go. :) It's a very literal translation but it's overly redundant. A hypothetical native speaker would probably drop the "audyal" verb, deframe "íčawëla", and rely more on Ithkuil's extensive case system.

Incidentally, "Dear readers" is "atpëkein".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T10:26:58.811Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Thanks, I update on it's capacity.

comment by corino · 2019-08-14T19:19:11.831Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

"Another problem of "Liebe Leserinnen und Leser," is that intersex people in the audience aren't included and therefore people who highly value political correctness might object to the phrase and use a phrase that signals more political correctness. "

Thats because words can have multiple meanings, and female and male, is one of them. One of the definitions of male is have Y cromosome, and the definition of female is not have Y chromosome.

This is the definition used at this case, and is not exclude ANY human being because they would either have Y chromosomes (be this definition of male) or dont have Y chromosome (be the previously cited definition of male).

Actually those previously cited definitions of female and male, man and woman..... where the definitions used by most people at the past and are still the definition most used by people. When someone said "this is a male bathroom" they are and were saying "this bathroom is for people that have the Y chromosome, if you have it, you can enter it", basically nowadays people are using equivocation fallacy to allow or ban people of do stuff. All the mess related to this subject can be summed at equivocation fallacy, something that would exist even if I or anyone pointing that this is a equivocation fallacy was never born.

comment by [deleted] · 2015-11-29T17:27:46.447Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

In English I can say: "Dear readers," without specifying gender.

"The father of my mother feels (passively) that that my left ringfinger touches him 2 centimeters in inferior direction from his right earlobe" (At the present he lies on his back, so inferior is not the direction towards the center of the earth). How would you say that in ithkuil?

I think one of us has misunderstood ithkuil (it may be me). I've only done a bit of looking into it, but my understanding is that it can do both of what you mentioned above. The difference is that you can't say "dear readers" of a non-specific gender without specificying that you mean a non-specific gender. Which means you only say "dear readers of a non-specific gender" if you know that's who you're addressing, if you're addressing only male readers it would be a completely different sentence. In other words, you can be general but you can't be ambiguous. If you're trying to get clearer in your thinking, this is a property you want.

Ithkuil also has all sorts of conujugations that get very specific with object placement and relation to one another. It's almost ideally suited for your second sentence.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T08:10:50.498Z · score: 2 (2 votes) · LW · GW

You're all getting into some really interesting material here, and I think that it has significance beyond the scope of conlangs. I didn't want it to get lost, or ignored by non-conlangers, here, so I started a new thread for it, called "The value of ambiguous speech". This isn't to say that it wouldn't be great to see more discussion of the application of ambiguity to Ithkuil, but I didn't want you to miss out on the wider thread if your attention was focused here.

Update: ChristianKl pointed out to me that I should put a forward link to the new discussion here (bear with me, I'm a newbie), so I'm going to try to edit one in after the fact.

Click here: http://lesswrong.com/r/discussion/lw/n0o/the_value_of_ambiguous_speech/

comment by selylindi · 2015-11-30T02:46:59.842Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

responded to wrong person

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T19:09:53.391Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Ithkuil also has all sorts of conujugations that get very specific with object placement and relation to one another. It's almost ideally suited for your second sentence.

So what would the second sentence be in Ithkuil?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-11-29T21:47:08.632Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I don't speak ithkuil, but I have perused the website, and saw the update where he added location based conjugations.

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-29T07:58:47.482Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I looked at the Wikipedia page for Ithkuil. It doesn't seem to be geared towards preventing cognitive errors, so much as packing as much information as possible into as few phonemes as possible. For most of them I can't see the point. In English I can say "Trees are green." in a few simple words. From the sound of it, in Ithkuil I'd have to pack in so much information about the trees that it would take me an hour to figure out how to write the sentence. Is the set of trees spatially contiguous, in a specific but unnamed forest? Or is this the set of all trees on earth, being denoted as members of an abstractly defined set? And how do I feel about the matter?

Also, the creator packed the phoneme set so tightly that I can't see how he's going to avoid a high rate of transmission errors. There comes a point where you've got so many vowel sounds that individual sounds are so close together in phonetic space that you can't reliably distinguish between them.

So far I've been going in the opposite direction. Rather than including multiple layers of meaning in each word by complicating the sounds and grammar, I've been planning to restrict meaning to one meaning per word, with each additional bit of information requiring more text to transmit, and no restrictions on what the user can leave out because it's irrelevant. It looks to me like Ithkuil goes in the opposite direction. Which isn't to say that there isn't some interesting material there. The creator seems to have broken down his informational overlays into unusual categories, such as "configuration", "affiliation", "perspective", and so forth. It would be interesting to read about why he selected the categories that he did. So there might be some interesting stuff there to borrow. But it seems that he gave up too much in the way of usability. What good is a language that decreases the frequency of common cognitive errors, if the only people who can use it are already so smart that they rarely make such errors?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T18:47:24.190Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

When it comes to pronouns English and also German has 'we' which can mean a lot of things.
Me+You
Me+Others (you not included)
Me+Others + Maybe you
Me+ Others and/or you (the default english you)
Me+You+Others

You can even further distinguish between how many others are included. Láadan has:
lazh = we: pronoun: 1st person: several: beloved
len = we: pronoun: 1st person: many: neutral
lezh = we: pronoun: 1st person, several, neutral
lin = we: pronoun, 1st person, many, honored
lhelezh = we: pronoun, 1st person, several, despised
lizh = we: pronoun, 1st person, several, honored
lhelen = we: pronoun, 1st person, many, despised
lan = we: pronoun: 1st person: many: beloved

I personally don't like the neutral/beloved/despised distinction but I think the several/many distinction could be useful and it's worth thinking about integrating it. Having those different shades of 'we' prevents confusion where the other person things you meant a different shade than they you did mean.

I think that a new language that provides a much better ability to express shades of meaning by being better at expressing many different things, can provide a real advantage over the existing language and that's then a reason for people to learn it.

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-29T19:40:35.079Z · score: 4 (4 votes) · LW · GW

I personally don't like the neutral/beloved/despised distinction

The feminist linguist who designed Láadan thought that "patriarchal" languages weren't sufficiently emotionally loaded. I'd like to see how she'd write a newspaper article using those pronouns.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T18:30:31.368Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Please forgive me a bit for mixing different ideas over multiple post in this thread with a bit of overlap. I consider the ability of a language to specify relationships very valuable and underdeveloped in English. Latin has a word for mother of father. English has only grandfather or grandmother. It has ugly constructions like great-grandfather.

In my draft I have the following root words:
ba = 0
ce = 1
di = 2
ma = female
ne
= male
caiq = parent

Out of those roots I can create: caiqma = mother
caiqne = father
caiqce = grandparent
caiqcemaba = grandparent (parent of the mother)
caiqceneba = grandparent (parent of the father)
caiqcemace = grandmother
caiqcenece = grandfather
caiqcemana = grandfather (father of the mother)
caiqdi = great-grandparent

This way of specifying relationships is quite efficient. In case you want to distinguish your parents not by gender but by which parent is older and which is younger, you can simply use the syllable for "younger" instead of the on for "female". That way the language can translate easily from languages that have different words for older and younger brothers, while not forcing lanugage users that don't want to make distictions based on gender or age.

Why four letters for caiq? Because it's based on cai with simply points to the parent node in any graph. Combing cai with the sylable for knowledge from authorities fwe, caifwe becomes teacher. It's easily extensible so that caifwece is the teacher of my teacher. English has no word for teacher of my teacher and my language can still do it in 8 letters. It can even do teacher of the teacher of my teacher in 8 letters a case where English feels like Pirahã.

Do other words for family relationships are:
fuiq = sibling
caiqfuiq = aunt/uncle (parent's sibling)

Out of that a person with the same teacher as me (classmate) becomes from the structure we already have fuifwe. We get a new word of caifuifwe with means a person with whom your teacher learned together under his teacher. We get that word without the language learner having to learn it explicetly.

There will be many cases where more complex relationships can be easily expressed with that system. Via Sapir-Whorf I would expect that this well structured system of relationships makes it easier to think about more complex relationships.

*ma/ne : Those are very provisional. Likely it's no good idea to have two nasal consonants at this place but instead use two consonants that differ more from each other to reduce the cognitive effort that's required to hear whether someone says one or the other.

comment by jimrandomh · 2015-11-29T23:23:36.141Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

This compounding system is mostly good, but there's a problem in the phonology:

caiqce = grandparent

My linguistics-trained but English-speaking brain refuses to accept "qc" as a valid mid-word consonant cluster, and insists on a phonology rule to put a vowel in between. (I realize there are several ways of mapping q and c into IPA, but none of them worked for me in this case.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T00:21:58.279Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I drafted the words with the phonology rules of http://selpahi.de/ToaqAlphaPrimer.html caiq is the first syllable of the word and ce the second.

But I grant you that at the moment I don't understand enough about phonology to publish a working draft of a language. My intent with this post was more to present the compounding system that I consider to be useful.

comment by jimrandomh · 2015-11-30T17:54:42.536Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Ohhhh, is pronounced /ŋ/. Knowing that, I can pronounce it now. (English usually spells /ŋ/ as .)

comment by Jiro · 2015-11-29T18:58:14.128Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

It's not possible to represent every possible set of relationships this way (you can't even say "adopted child of the gay spouse of my stepfather's brother", let alone variations on teacher and classmate). So what you're actually doing is creating a system that can easily represent some sort of relations, at the cost of making it more difficult to represent others.

I think you are confusing "easy to create a system for" and "most useful". It is easy to create a system which specifies "father of father of mother of father of..." It is hard to create a system which specifies things you would actually need to specify often. Your system is efficient in the first sense but not in the second sense.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T19:46:57.390Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

So what you're actually doing is creating a system that can easily represent some sort of relations, at the cost of making it more difficult to represent others.

I'm not making it more difficult to represent others. I don't lose anything that English can do.

comment by Jiro · 2015-11-29T19:51:25.677Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

You can't add extra features to the language without increasing the cognitive load in deciding when to use the extra features. You're still making everything else more difficult, it's just a distributed difficulty where everything is made more difficult by a miniscule amount, rather than one particular thing made difficult by a large amount.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T20:24:14.908Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I don't think that sentence would get added complexity. "adopted child" will likely be a 7-8 letter word using the same root as stepfather. Stepfather is a word that you can't derive from knowing "adoption" which make things harder for the language speaker. You can't derive spouse from knowing the word marriage.

comment by gjm · 2015-11-29T23:20:06.563Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Should "father" be "caiqne" rather than "caiqma" as your comment currently says?

I could count on one maimed hand the number of times I've needed to say "teacher of my teacher". That a language wastes short possible-words on such things is not obviously a recommendation.

[EDITED to add a missing space.]

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T10:06:49.412Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I could count on one maimed hand the number of times I've needed to say "teacher of my teacher". That a language wastes short possible-words on such things is not obviously a recommendation.

Teacher of my teacher might not be a good example to show usefulness. Boss of my boss is likely more useful. Even boss of the boss of my boss is a concept that's worthy of being expressed in big modern corporations.

But even a phrase like teacher of the teacher of my teacher can be useful when talking about martial arts lineages.

That a language wastes short possible-words on such things is not obviously a recommendation.

There's no waste. There only a limited number of possible one-sylable words. If I would give teacher a one sylable word I would spend one slot for it that I couldn't use otherwise. As it stands teacher is made up of two syllables cei and fwe which also get used elsewhere.

cei can for example be combined with the syllable for love to have a word for person I love. That automatically gives me also a word for person who loves me via the root that also makes up son/daughter. There also a relations root for bidirectional relations (all the basic categories of graph theory have a one syllable word). If you have a polyrelationship you get a word to describe a person who loves the same person as you do in 6-7 letters. In 8-9 letters you get "the person, that the person I love, loves".

comment by [deleted] · 2015-11-30T10:37:23.342Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

There is a saying, don't know by whom: 'To love one's beloved is to love one's beloved's friends, and one's beloved's dog, and one's beloved's children, and one's beloved's wife, and one's beloved's beloved one.'

comment by gjm · 2015-11-30T10:49:50.149Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

Yeah, but if I understand correctly ChristianKI's language has special provision for things like "my boss's boss" and "my beloved's beloved" but not for "my boss's husband" and "my beloved's friends". You pick a particular relationship and then you have efficient ways of describing complicated paths through the graph it defines, but there isn't special machinery for combining multiple relationships.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T14:10:47.640Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I haven't presented here a way to combine multiple relationships but the language certainly should have mechanisms to handle them. I'm not sure whether it makes sense to have all in one long word or not, but when it comes to language design, it's worth thinking about how those cases get handled.

When it comes to kinship relationships it's worth noting that not every language has a word for "brother". Pitjantjatjara for example has a no word for brother but one "younger sibling".

A language that allows both of those concepts to be expressed is more culturally neutral and doesn't force the speaker into categorising his relationships in the way our culture does.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-01T16:08:24.032Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Yup. But again there are tradeoffs: it could be that complete neutrality ends up making a less useful language than any of several different non-neutral options. (E.g., because you definitely want some words for siblings, but you don't want too many because there are other things to do with the possible-word-space they would occupy, and then every way of having not-too-many ends up not being "culturally neutral" because it inevitably favours some categorizations over others.)

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T16:31:39.855Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

you don't want too many because there are other things to do with the possible-word-space they would occupy

Possible word space is vast. None of the words I used even compete with words in the English language or are easily confused for English words.

comment by gjm · 2015-12-01T17:08:52.647Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Possible word space within a given language is not so vast, and shouldn't be filled too tightly.

Do you think it's just incompetence that has led to existing languages not using every possible short combination of sounds to make words?

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T19:39:35.539Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Do you think it's just incompetence that has led to existing languages not using every possible short combination of sounds to make words?

Incompetence would assume that the existing languages are designed to be the way they are.

English has 12 vowels (not counting diphthongs) and 24 consonants. Does that mean that English needs 296 different words with two sounds? No, but maybe 100?

Then everything is alright isn't it? The Oxford dictionary contains 100 two letters words. No, it isn't. It contains words such as aa which is Basaltic lava forming very rough, jagged masses with a light frothy texture. Often contrasted with pahoehoe. and a lot of other junk like ki which is a plant of the lily family.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-12-01T19:51:48.802Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

It contains words such as aa

It has been suggested that this kind of lava was named by the first Hawaiian who tried to walk across it barefoot :-)

In any case, this is a foreign borrowed word.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-12-01T20:20:04.362Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In any case, this is a foreign borrowed word.

Quite a lot of English is haphazardly borrowed together. But my main point was that a lot of the list of two letter words in the Oxford dictionary doesn't look like "real English words".

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T23:21:51.060Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Should"father" be "caiqne" rather than "caiqma" as your comment currently says?

You are correct. I removed the error.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-29T11:25:05.948Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

As continuation from http://lesswrong.com/lw/mij/welcome_to_less_wrong_8th_thread_july_2015/cxaz

a-priori conlang

Yes, just like Loglan/Lojban is a-priori. Apart from simply having more freedom is language design I think the Chinese are more likely to adopt a culturally neutral conlang than one based on European roots like Esperanto.

in which the meaning of any word could be determined from its spelling, because the spelling is sufficient to give the word exact coordinates on a concept graph of some sort.

Not exactly. I decided to copy the Toaq Alpha syllable structure "[C|CC](w|y)[V|VV ](q)" and expended it to "[C|CC](w|y)[V|VV](q/ß)".

I think that roughly all the CV, CCV, CVV space for possible base words should be filled. Afterwards you should be able to add (w|y) in the middle of syllable and (q/ß) at the end to go from caiq [parent] to caiß [boss].

I also have two changes between ce [1] and di [2]. If you simply mishear one phoneme you don't hear 1 instead of 2 but hear a completely different word that doesn't fit into the slot where you would expect a number. That reduces misunderstandings that would appear if I would say ce = [1] and ci = [2].

If you look at Lojban's numbers you see a similar way to use vowels but the consonants are all over the place: 0=no; 1=pa; 2=re; 3=ci; 4=vo; 5=mu; 6=xa; 7=ze; 8=bi; 9=so It would also make more sense if 0 would be 'nu' rather than 'no'.

The biggest problem that any conlang faces is getting people to use it, and anything that makes that more difficult, such as requiring changes to the standard American keyboard, needs to be avoided unless it's absolutely necessary.

I think it's okay to require a change to the US international keyboard and stay within AscII. Having more signs allows for shorter words

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:30:20.792Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I understand the temptation. From the beginning I wanted to scrap parts of the alphabet and start over. From the pedagogical perspective, accepting the fact that children have to learn 4 versions of the same alphabet (capital and non-capital, print and cursive), makes me feel like I'm condoning torture. The only common English uses for the capitals are to set off sentence beginnings and proper nouns, both of which could be handled differently. And now that we're beyond the days of manual typesetting, the only justification for print fonts is that they're easier to read than cursive fonts. I'd love to find or create a non-capital, cursive font that's just as easy to read as print fonts, and then scrap three of the four alphabets. but even separated and with serifs, cursive fonts just never seem to be as easy on the eyes as print fonts. So I decided to stay with contemporary English conventions to enhance ease of learning for English-speaking adults.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T10:08:23.827Z · score: 3 (3 votes) · LW · GW

From the pedagogical perspective, accepting the fact that children have to learn 4 versions of the same alphabet (capital and non-capital, print and cursive)

I don't think there a real reason why kids have to learn cursive these days. When I write notes I write print letters myself and my notes are much easier to read.

comment by Jiro · 2015-11-30T01:12:24.127Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I think the Chinese are more likely to adopt a culturally neutral conlang than one based on European roots like Esperanto.

What makes you think this? I've never heard of East Asian countries objecting to English on the grounds that it has European roots.

comment by DataPacRat · 2015-11-29T06:21:07.265Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

One aspect of Lojban that you may find useful is a sub-portion of it, which can be used as a bolt-on addition to other languages to improve their functionality: Cniglic, which I've compiled a handy reference to at http://www.datapacrat.com/cniglic/ .

comment by KevinGrant_duplicate0.2409764628391713 · 2015-11-30T07:20:18.159Z · score: 1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I took a look at Cniglic. It seems similar to an idea that I noted as a candidate for an eventual add-on, to use diacritic marks as emotion indicators. The problem that this was intended to solve is that it seems overly limiting to be restricted to the one emotion indicator "!", and to have to put it at the end of the sentence. I much prefer the idea of having many such indicators, and being able to apply them freely throughout sentences. Implementing them as optional diacritic marks above vowels seemed like the best bet. But I haven't gone anywhere with the basic idea, except that at one point I began looking for a "definitive" list of human emotional states. I don't remember ever finding a list that I thought was reliable.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T21:11:23.293Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

The problem that this was intended to solve is that it seems overly limiting to be restricted to the one emotion indicator "!", and to have to put it at the end of the sentence. I much prefer the idea of having many such indicators, and being able to apply them freely throughout sentences. Implementing them as optional diacritic marks above vowels seemed like the best bet.

The interesting thing with that proposal is that it's possible to apply it directly to english.

comment by ChristianKl · 2015-11-30T21:06:53.063Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

I much prefer the idea of having many such indicators, and being able to apply them freely throughout sentences. Implementing them as optional diacritic marks above vowels seemed like the best bet.

Then how do they get communicated verbally?

comment by polymathwannabe · 2015-11-30T20:30:12.802Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

In Korean, one way to mark emotion is to harden a consonant so the word sounds more emphatic.

comment by Lumifer · 2015-11-30T21:13:24.804Z · score: -1 (1 votes) · LW · GW

I much prefer the idea of having many such indicators, and being able to apply them freely throughout sentences.

These are called emoji

:-)

comment by fowlertm · 2015-12-06T16:22:28.964Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

So a semi-related thing I've been casually thinking about recently is how to develop what basically amounts to a hand-written programming language.

Like a lot of other people I make to-do lists and take detailed notes, and I'd like to develop a written notation that not only captures basic tasks, but maybe also simple representations of the knowledge/emotional states of other people (i.e. employees).

More advanced than that, I've also been trying to think of ways I can take notes in a physical book that will allow a third party to make Anki flashcards or evernote entries based on my script. It has to be extremely dense to fit in the margins of a book, and must capture distinct commands like "make a single cloze deletion card for this sentence" and "make four separate cards for this sentence, cloze deleting a different piece of information for each card but otherwise leaving everything intact" and so on.

Any thoughts?

comment by [deleted] · 2015-12-04T16:15:32.934Z · score: 0 (0 votes) · LW · GW

Why do you think that making the vocabulary more specialized would not only allow, but enforce more rational thinking? Were that so, it could be already realized with established structures - ugly though they would sound - and tested. However, such arificial messages would have to be translated, lossily, into 'human language' and maybe confuse people even more.

(On a sidenote, I used to want to write a story with aliens whose language required that if 'someone does something to someone/something', than the 'attitude' of the object of action must be stated: 'trigger-happy' would correspond to 'hair-trigger'...'never-going-off'. The aliens strove to maximize harmony, always asking themselves 'what can I do to have the object agree with me?', with serial taboos etc. Then they met StarFleet, and went to war with those pervs from Earth...)

comment by WhyAsk · 2015-11-29T22:55:02.790Z · score: 0 (2 votes) · LW · GW

If you're really ambitious, solve the problem of http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=complementary+schismogenesis&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8 so men and women (which is cross-cultural communication) can communicate unambiguously.

I've read both of D. Tannen's books on thIs and I still get sucked into traps but at least I know now that women are most likely not playing Bait and Switch with me.

Dunno' if women on this site have a problem with this since this site is not a random sample.

BTW, by reading some of my own posts, I'd think that I have or had a problem with women. :(

Know thyself, what else can I tell you?