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204130Re: Universal language for communicating with space aliens

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  • Patrik Austin
    Jul 25, 2014
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      Yeah, there are always going to be a number of possible ways to parse.

      'Forest LOC' looks like an adverbial, but it could definitely be a verb as well: I forest LOC you = I put you into a forest (or: I am like a place in a forest for you). You can't really make a parse tree without understanding the meaning.

      However, once you've made the parse tree you can call the constituents subject, object, verb, adverbial etc. and that goes even to the language in the link you sent me. The pdf even explains which words are nouns etc. and where you'll find the subject etc. so it's hardly a case of a language without the usual syntactic elements.

      You can add any new element to make a sentence look different, for instance:

      PRMTR a tree falls in a forest PRMTR

      and say it's not a sentence, it's a parameter. However, as a linguist I see it looks like a normal sentence. I'd proceed by analysing PRMTR as a conversation marker, expecting it to turn out to be a conjunction. You can have both a start and an end conjunction, same way as you could use both a preposition and a postposition for a noun phrase. It may seem redundant but actually does a lot to decrease ambiguity.

      So, to prove that the laws of human language are arbitrary, and that a fully expressive language can be made up in an infinite number of ways without using constituents that can (quite easily) be interpreted as being subject, object, verb and adverbial, we still need to find the very first piece of evidence.
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