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CONLANG  January 2005, Week 2

CONLANG January 2005, Week 2

Subject:

Re: Language comparison

From:

Ray Brown <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sat, 8 Jan 2005 07:56:06 +0000

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text/plain

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On Friday, January 7, 2005, at 08:55 , Sai Emrys wrote in reply to Shaul
Vardi:

>>> I meant "primitive" as in those used by modern-day African
>>> tribes, and as some people would treat e.g. "Black English
>>> Vernacular".
>>>
>>>
>> In what sense are the languages used by modern-day African "tribes"
>> "primitive", and which particular languages have you studied and/or are
>> you referring to?
>>
>> Who treats Black English Vernacular as primitive and are they the kind
>> of people we listen to on Conlang?

Certainly not the kind I would wish to listen to. I have seen far too much
bigotry in my time.

> I was using the term ironically, as an example of what the "all
> languages are equal" stance would be defending.

Sorry - I may be getting senile, but the irony is completely lost on me.

As I said in my mis-directed email, I have studied quite a few African
languages. I haven't found any primitive ones yet.  Which are these
primitive languages, and what is it about them that makes them primitive?

But if you are being ironical and mean something else, it really would
help if you gave specific examples of what you do mean.
==============================================
On Friday, January 7, 2005, at 03:17 , J. 'Mach' Wust wrote:

> On Thu, 6 Jan 2005 22:53:13 -0800, Sai Emrys <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> ...
>> I meant "primitive" as in those used by modern-day African tribes,
> ...
>
> This view is the one of the old European tradition of "linguistics", where
> Latin was considered to be the supreme language and heathen languages were
> assumed to be primitive babbling.

Yes - {sigh} - and I thought this view had died in the early years of the
20th century.

> When the Europeans colonialism began, the Europeans were amazed that the
> languages of less developed cultures could be
> even more complex than Latin.

Darn facts - they always get in the way of prejudice  ;)

>
> (I'm rearranging the criteria you suggest could distinguish the qualities
> of
> languages:)

I've snipped all Machs excellent replies here. I agree with his
observations and in the main any additions on my part would be superfluous.
  I will comment on only one because I think it does need stressing.

[snip]
>> * as clear/ambiguous as desired
>> * possible to carry multiple meanings (if desired)
>
> Unlike in computer "languages" (which is a misleading metaphora in this
> discussion) or Logics, meaning in natural languages is always flexible.

Yep - when we speak of Fortran, BASIC, COBOL, Pascal, C, Java etc as
"languages" we are, as Mach says, using a metaphor.

We talk of syntax errors, parsing, lexical analysis and so on; we talk
about a computer's memory. People even talk about computers 'thinking'. Of
course they don't. Computers no more contain brains than stereos contain
musical instruments. These are all metaphors and, as Ben Shneiderman
reminds us in his excellent "Designing the User Interface", we must
overcome the obstacle of animism.

I agree 100% with Mach when he says the metaphor of computer "language" is
misleading in this discussion. Computer languages and human languages are
quite different animals. I speak as one who has had an avid interest in
linguistics for more than half a century, and who has a master's degree in
computer science and has taught computer science to college students for
the last fourteen years.

Ray
===============================================
http://home.freeuk.com/ray.brown
[log in to unmask]
===============================================
Anything is possible in the fabulous Celtic twilight,
which is not so much a twilight of the gods
as of the reason."      [JRRT, "English and Welsh" ]

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