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204147Re: Universal language for communicating with space aliens

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  • Patrik Austin
    Jul 27 3:17 AM
      [Logan:] > Real Linguists tend to
      be concerned just with studying human languages

      I know! That's why it's amazing I'll actually get to do my phd on this.

      [Logan:] > And I'd bet that few if any natural
      languages actually encode a minimal basis set.

      I believe no natural language does that. However, I also believe it will be impossible to prove that natural languages are not rooted in a common logic that could be formalized. If anyone wants to try prove me wrong, here's the challenge at this point:

      It seems that talking about verb – subject – object – adverbial etc. is too relative. But so far it also seems a fully functional language would have to be able to express an event and some kind of predicates, or whatever anyone will call them, around it to answer questions such as who? what? where? why? etc., and so far it also seems you'll have to do this with morphemes, to give further information about the event. That's still a pretty sturdy basis for a theory. And what makes such theory philosophically tenable is that this assumption can be proven wrong by a conlanger who creates a fully functional language that doesn't need any or some of this (which in turn would lead to another precision).

      I've found that when you start experimenting on the logic of language trying to create something completely out of this world, someone will always say: well, that's nothing new – it's in this or that natural language. It makes me think that as long as we keep it logical and relatively minimal, we might not be able to come up with anything special.

      Take Logan's weird syntax – due to my laziness I'm always trying to analyse it in a simpler way than you'd like me to. But that's probably because what makes it special are details that are not necessary to make the language functional. And that's probably true about each and every language we know. You can always build a system more and more complex, with no logical limit whatsoever, but making it simpler (with certain principles in mind), you can only get to a certain point.

      [Logan:] > But let's say you found a minimal basis set of morphosyntactic
      operations that could describe all of human language. Better, let's
      say you found a minimal basis set that could describe all possible
      logically lossless syntaxes. I would bet that you could not prove any
      such set to be unique. Actually, I've got an existence proof that it
      won't be unique- already, we have predicate logic and set semantics as
      mathematically equivalent but definitely different systems for
      describing the compositional operations that syntax encodes. I'm not
      willing to bet on this next one, but I'd at least be surprised if it
      could be proven that there was a finite, enumerable set of possible
      minimal basis sets.

      Exactly. No one knows. But it's doable, right? There could be a minimal set. And the gate to understanding it would be in finding the first minimal model. Bear in mind that before Lojban, anyone could have claimed that there is no logically possible set of rules to create an unambiguous/logically lossless language. That's not such a long time ago (cf. eg. Freudenthal's critique on Loglan).

      What's more, if we find at least one minimal set, there's a chance we'll find more specific criteria to choose one possibility over another. Mathematics has its conventions. That means establishing one optimal model might still be well grounded.
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