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Re: Hypothetical situation (RE: logical language VS not-so-logical language (was RE: Loglan[g] VS Natlang))

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  • Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets
    ... I agree, if all those learners are IE-language speakers. I m willing to bet the similarity would be thrown of if you included non-IE-language speakers as
    Message 1 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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      On 20 January 2013 23:43, Herman Miller <hmiller@...> wrote:

      >
      > I agree that familiarity is a major factor in languages being easy to
      > learn, but I do think there are other factors. I think if you pick a
      > selection of non-IE languages, say Burmese, Hawaiian, Navajo, Quechua,
      > Swahili, Telugu, and Yidiny, and try learning them, I think you'd find a
      > lot of similarity in how learners rank the difficulty of learning them.


      I agree, if all those learners are IE-language speakers. I'm willing to bet
      the similarity would be thrown of if you included non-IE-language speakers
      as learners.


      > Specifically I'd predict that Navajo would be near the "hard to learn" end
      > of the scale for most people, on account of the complex verb morphology.
      > (The tones, nasalized vowels, and unusual consonants would also make things
      > difficult, but that's more a matter of familiarity.) Hawaiian would
      > probably be closer to the easier end of the scale.
      >
      >
      I'm willing to bet Athabaskan-language speakers would *not* find Navajo
      that hard to learn, while they might be thrown off by Hawaiian. Familiarity
      really trumps all.
      --
      Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.

      http://christophoronomicon.blogspot.com/
      http://www.christophoronomicon.nl/
    • Alex Fink
      ... I think linearisation won t be the biggest part of the change, or at least isn t the most apt description. Even though a signer has more simultaneous
      Message 2 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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        On Sun, 20 Jan 2013 15:34:27 +0100, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <tsela.cg@...> wrote:

        >On 20 January 2013 14:06, Mathieu Roy <mathieu.roy.37@...> wrote:
        >
        >> Let's say there's only 1000 people that are alive, and we're all one of
        >> them. We are all in the same village and speak only American Sign Language.
        >> [...] What do you think the spoken language will
        >> look like in 30 days?
        >>
        >Probably like a spoken version of ASL (with the bits and pieces that
        >strictly depend on its spatial nature linearised, or more likely partly
        >ignored), [...]
        >Sign languages are
        >nothing *special*, besides being spoken using hands, face and body rather
        >than sounds. They are handled by the same language facility in our brains
        >as spoken languages are, and are subject to the same restrictions. They
        >appear on the surface different, but that's only because the medium is
        >different.

        I think linearisation won't be the biggest part of the change, or at least isn't the most apt description. Even though a signer has more simultaneous articulators available than a speaker, the receiver still has the same limits on attention and comprehension.

        I think the greatest part of the change would follow on from being deprived of the vast resources of iconicity and specialised human cognitive tools that are associated with _space_. A direct morpheme-for-morpheme conversion, as it were, of the sort of scene depiction ASL can use for say "the car swerved to avoid the deer and crashed into the tree" probably couldn't bear the load of all the opaque "morphemes" that would convey the speed and degree of skiddingness and whatnot which are entirely transparent in sign.
        As I was arguing on the last thread about this, I think spatiality is also essential to the "lots of pronouns of potentially arbitrary referent" system that ASL have, which functions on a spatial metaphor (we are imagining that Linda _is actually_ over there, to my left and behind a bit). That probably also wouldn't survive the transition to speech -- I don't think it's an accident that spoken natlangs don't do "the pronoun /fti/ is used for things which are to the speaker's left and behind a bit".

        Alex
      • Mathieu Roy
        Padraic: I don t know. What do you think most
        Message 3 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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          Padraic: <<Question: are all 1000 people in on the project, or is there just
          a small cadre of conlangers in on it?>>
          I don't know. What do you think most humans would prefer? What do you think
          would work best?

          Padraic: <<I get from Mathieu's scenario that everyone has the capacity to
          talk, but no one uses that modality to communicate. Most people will
          probably not even be aware that they can talk with their mouths and see with
          ears!>>
          Exactly. It's like a children (or anyone) that have never "heard" of a
          signing language and sees one for the first time.

          Christophe: << easy to learn" for languages boils down to one thing, and one
          thing only: *familiarity*>>
          I have read "Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard"
          (http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html) and I agree with this essay.
          My hypothesis is that it would be easier for Chineses to learn a language
          with an alphabet than another one with different symbols for each concept.
          Is their Chineses on the list that can approve or disapprove this? Anyway, I
          agree that familiarity has a lot to do with the easiness of learning, but I
          don't think it's the absolute only thing. Moreover, in creating a spoken
          language from a signing language, the phonology will have to be created
          based on no previous languages, so the concept of familiarity does apply for
          that, but I don't think that means that all possible phonology these people
          can chose will be equally learnable.

          Christophe: << There are plenty of things that are just not realistic in
          this thought experiment.>>
          I think my situation is extremely improbable, but not physically impossible.

          Christophe: <<And there is still merit to thought experiments>>
          I agree.

          -Mathieu
        • George Corley
          ... It would probably be easier to learn *to read* Chinese if it used an alphabetic script, but that doesn t affect how easy or hard it is to learn to speak.
          Message 4 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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            On Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 5:29 AM, Mathieu Roy <mathieu.roy.37@...>wrote:

            > Christophe: << easy to learn" for languages boils down to one thing, and
            > one
            > thing only: *familiarity*>>
            > I have read "Why Chinese Is So Damn Hard"
            > (http://pinyin.info/readings/texts/moser.html) and I agree with this
            > essay.
            > My hypothesis is that it would be easier for Chineses to learn a language
            > with an alphabet than another one with different symbols for each concept.
            > Is their Chineses on the list that can approve or disapprove this? Anyway,
            > I
            > agree that familiarity has a lot to do with the easiness of learning, but I
            > don't think it's the absolute only thing. Moreover, in creating a spoken
            > language from a signing language, the phonology will have to be created
            > based on no previous languages, so the concept of familiarity does apply
            > for
            > that, but I don't think that means that all possible phonology these people
            > can chose will be equally learnable.
            >

            It would probably be easier to learn *to read* Chinese if it used an
            alphabetic script, but that doesn't affect how easy or hard it is to learn
            to speak. Reading and writing are different skill from speaking and
            listening.

            I do see your point, however, on how switching modalities would cause some
            problems in learning a new language. Would these hypothetical ASL-only
            humans have difficulty with a spoken language? I don't know. To some
            extent, I think it may be a moot point -- hearing humans who only speak a
            sign language is highly unlikely. In fact, considering that I have only
            heard of sign languages arising where there are significant numbers of Deaf
            individuals, it may well be that humans default to using spoken languages
            when possible, probably because of the inherent advantages of auditory
            communication (you don't have to be facing the speaker, for example -- and
            it can be understood over longer distances).
          • Padraic Brown
            ... Well, I ask simply because the vast majority of the human population is not composed of conlangers. If the scenario takes a thousand random people, you
            Message 5 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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              --- On Mon, 1/21/13, Mathieu Roy <mathieu.roy.37@...> wrote:

              > > Question: are all 1000 people in on the project, or is there just a
              > > small cadre of conlangers in on it?
              >
              > I don't know. What do you think most humans would prefer? What do you
              > think would work best?

              Well, I ask simply because the vast majority of the human population is
              not composed of conlangers. If the scenario takes a thousand random
              people, you might end up with somewhere between 0 and 2 conlangers, and
              it is possible that somewhere between 0 and 2 of them will be closet
              conlangers (I think there are probably more conlangers in the world than
              subscribe to Conlang or ZBB or the other big groups.)

              If all 1000 of the people are conlangers, I could easily see the project
              degenerating into kitchen sinkery (where, by nature, we try to put too
              much stuff into the language); or else we take 25 days to sort out the
              phonology and then realise that we've got no time left to actually devise
              the language before we all go blind!

              I don't think there is a "best". I think that, for purposes of the
              experiment, you just pick one or the other and work from there.

              > > I get from Mathieu's scenario that everyone has the capacity to talk,
              > > but no one uses that modality to communicate. Most people will
              > > probably not even be aware that they can talk with their mouths and
              > > see with ears!
              >
              > Exactly. It's like a children (or anyone) that have never "heard" of a
              > signing language and sees one for the first time.

              Right. While I'm sure it's unlikely and even improbable, it's still an
              interesting idea.

              > > There are plenty of things that are just not realistic in this thought
              > > experiment.
              >
              > I think my situation is extremely improbable, but not physically
              > impossible.

              Right. It's not like crazy situations of this sort haven't been done in SF
              before. I think the point isn't so much to run a realistic model as to
              come up with a novel way of telling the old "how do people in common
              straits come together for survival and mutual aid" story.

              Plus you get to tinker with language and related issues!

              Padraic
            • Mathieu Roy
              Georges:
              Message 6 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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                Georges: <<It would probably be easier to learn *to read* Chinese if it used
                an alphabetic script, but that doesn't affect how easy or hard it is to
                learn to speak. Reading and writing are different skill from speaking and
                listening.>>
                But it is easier to learn how to pronounce words when you read phonological
                text, so your speaking is also improving faster by reading a phonological
                alphabet. But I understand what you're saying.

                Georges: <<I do see your point, however, on how switching modalities would
                cause some problems in learning a new language. Would these hypothetical
                ASL-only humans have difficulty with a spoken language? I don't know. To
                some extent, I think it may be a moot point -- hearing humans who only speak
                a sign language is highly unlikely. In fact, considering that I have only
                heard of sign languages arising where there are significant numbers of Deaf
                individuals, it may well be that humans default to using spoken languages
                when possible, probably because of the inherent advantages of auditory
                communication (you don't have to be facing the speaker, for example -- and
                it can be understood over longer distances).>>
                Can't sign language communicate over longer distance than spoken language?
                Well, maybe not in a dense forest. Anyway, I also wonder why we end up
                speaking with the mouth and not with the arms; maybe it's because we needed
                to use our arms more often than our mouth for non-language relating things.
                But that makes me think... (see point below)

                Another hypothetical situation could be the opposite. 1000 people that have
                a spoken language and that get a virus that will make all of them deaf in 30
                days, so they decide to create a sign language. How would that end up? We
                could actually do this experiment in real life with let's say 50 people
                (which might have results different than with 1000 people) and then after 30
                days we cover there ears so they cannot hear and let them start
                communicating only with signs (and consciously or unconsciously trying to
                improve the language) for another 30 days. However, we would need very
                committed people, and these would probably be people more interested in
                languages than the average person, so the results might be a little bit bias
                there, but that would still be interesting IMO. In fact, we could do that on
                an ever smaller scale for entertaining purpose: let's say 5 people (that
                don't know any signs language) meeting for 10 days (5 days to create a
                language and 5 days speaking it). Who wants to do that with me? :)

                -Mathieu
              • Mathieu Roy
                (in continuation to my previous email) Or the situation could be a planet with only a spoken language and no writing system. Then for some reason, one day
                Message 7 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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                  (in continuation to my previous email)

                  Or the situation could be a planet with only a spoken language and no
                  writing system. Then for some reason, one day everyone becomes deaf (without
                  warning; so they were not prepare). At first they would have to mime more
                  and make 'transparent' signs. Maybe they would start by meeting and pointing
                  or mimicking things and give them a word to start building a basic common
                  vocabulary. How long do you think it would take before they get to something
                  similar to our natural sign languages?

                  -Mathieu

                  -----Message d'origine-----
                  De : Mathieu Roy [mailto:mathieu.roy.37@...]
                  Envoyé : lundi 21 janvier 2013 18:43
                  À : 'Constructed Languages List'
                  Objet : RE: Hypothetical situation (RE: logical language VS not-so-logical
                  language (was RE: Loglan[g] VS Natlang))


                  Georges: <<It would probably be easier to learn *to read* Chinese if it
                  used an alphabetic script, but that doesn't affect how easy or hard it is
                  to learn to speak. Reading and writing are different skill from speaking
                  and listening.>>
                  But it is easier to learn how to pronounce words when you read
                  phonological text, so your speaking is also improving faster by reading a
                  phonological alphabet. But I understand what you're saying.

                  Georges: <<I do see your point, however, on how switching modalities would
                  cause some problems in learning a new language. Would these hypothetical
                  ASL-only humans have difficulty with a spoken language? I don't know. To
                  some extent, I think it may be a moot point -- hearing humans who only
                  speak a sign language is highly unlikely. In fact, considering that I
                  have only heard of sign languages arising where there are significant
                  numbers of Deaf individuals, it may well be that humans default to using
                  spoken languages when possible, probably because of the inherent
                  advantages of auditory communication (you don't have to be facing the
                  speaker, for example -- and it can be understood over longer distances).>>
                  Can't sign language communicate over longer distance than spoken language?
                  Well, maybe not in a dense forest. Anyway, I also wonder why we end up
                  speaking with the mouth and not with the arms; maybe it's because we
                  needed to use our arms more often than our mouth for non-language relating
                  things. But that makes me think... (see point below)

                  Another hypothetical situation could be the opposite. 1000 people that
                  have a spoken language and that get a virus that will make all of them
                  deaf in 30 days, so they decide to create a sign language. How would that
                  end up? We could actually do this experiment in real life with let's say
                  50 people (which might have results different than with 1000 people) and
                  then after 30 days we cover there ears so they cannot hear and let them
                  start communicating only with signs (and consciously or unconsciously
                  trying to improve the language) for another 30 days. However, we would
                  need very committed people, and these would probably be people more
                  interested in languages than the average person, so the results might be a
                  little bit bias there, but that would still be interesting IMO. In fact,
                  we could do that on an ever smaller scale for entertaining purpose: let's
                  say 5 people (that don't know any signs language) meeting for 10 days (5
                  days to create a language and 5 days speaking it). Who wants to do that
                  with me? :)

                  -Mathieu
                • Adam Walker
                  ... I think it would take them 1-2 generations (what ever time period that represents for their biology). The First Generation stricken by the disease would
                  Message 8 of 17 , Jan 21, 2013
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                    On Mon, Jan 21, 2013 at 12:13 PM, Mathieu Roy <mathieu.roy.37@...>wrote:

                    > (in continuation to my previous email)
                    >
                    > Or the situation could be a planet with only a spoken language and no
                    > writing system. Then for some reason, one day everyone becomes deaf
                    > (without
                    > warning; so they were not prepare). At first they would have to mime more
                    > and make 'transparent' signs. Maybe they would start by meeting and
                    > pointing
                    > or mimicking things and give them a word to start building a basic common
                    > vocabulary. How long do you think it would take before they get to
                    > something
                    > similar to our natural sign languages?
                    >
                    > -Mathieu
                    >
                    >
                    I think it would take them 1-2 generations (what ever time period that
                    represents for their biology). The First Generation stricken by the
                    disease would never achieve something like natural signed languages. The
                    Second Generation would have something very like a creole of the First's
                    pidgin-like language. The Third Generation would likely have a
                    fully-fledged language on par with any language they had used prior to the
                    disease.

                    Adam
                  • Nuno-Miguel Raposo
                    ... I m mostly a lurker and rarely comment, so pardon the extremely late entry to this discussion. I m surprised no one has mentioned the tactile versions of
                    Message 9 of 17 , Apr 4, 2013
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                      >
                      > Let's say there's only 1000 people that are alive, and we're all one of
                      > them. We are all in the same village and speak only American Sign Language.
                      > We have no written system. We are sedentary, but we are not technologically
                      > advanced. It now has come to our attention that we are all affected by a
                      > virus that will make us blind in 30 days. Therefore, we decide to create a
                      > language using sound and ears instead of body and eyes, but we have only 30
                      > days to create it, or at least to create the minimum (I took this number
                      > because of Gary's challenge ^^). What do you think the spoken language will
                      > look like in 30 days?


                      I'm mostly a lurker and rarely comment, so pardon the extremely late entry
                      to this discussion.

                      I'm surprised no one has mentioned the tactile versions of ASL that already
                      do exists. There is a population of Deaf ASL speakers who, for a variety of
                      reasons (see Usher's Syndrome), eventually lose their vision.

                      (Good tactile ASL example video:
                      http://youtu.be/yzDSYOyr8k4
                      Even if you don't understand ASL, it may be interesting to note how turn
                      taking, and back channeling are done.)

                      This isn't exactly your though experiment, but as many others have pointed
                      out, there may not be a logical reason for them to even consider sound and
                      ears as an option. However if you are just wondering what a spoken ASL
                      would sound like, it would probably end up sounding like many of the
                      intrusions ASL interpreters make in their English when speaking to other
                      interpreters. However ASL interpreters are only able to make these
                      intrusions because we often have English "gloss" for the ASL signs we are
                      speaking.

                      For example the sentences:

                      "Hey, tomorrow you do-do?"
                      "Did you call her cha-head? Fishhh don't!"

                      Which are some, maybe not natural, ASL intrusions into English. These only
                      work because we have the English gloss to begin with.

                      Not sure if this adds anything to the conversation, but just some info to
                      play with :-)

                      Nuno
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