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CONLANG  September 2009, Week 2

CONLANG September 2009, Week 2

Subject:

Re: Bootstrapping a self-defining conlang dictionary

From:

Herman Miller <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 13 Sep 2009 16:19:26 -0400

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Jim Henry wrote:

> Maybe among natlangs you're unlikely to find a common term for small
> rodents that's much more specific than English "mouse" or much vaguer
> than Japanese "nezumi"; but that's still a reasonably wide range that
> requires you to show multiple pictures if you want to define the
> conlang word entirely in pictures.  And we're talking about learning a
> conlang -- Gary didn't specify "a naturalistic artlang", just "a
> conlang"; and as the "soweli" example shows, you can't necessariliy
> assume that a conlang's semantics will follow natlang universals, much
> less natlang statistical trends.

I think that regardless of how you define words like "mouse" or 
"nezumi", you'll need multiple examples. Pictures at least are 
relatively easy to compare. Biologists would use features such as the 
number and shape of teeth and so on, which might not be immediately 
obvious if you're looking at a mouse or rat. Still, if it's a vole or a 
shrew you're looking at, it won't be apparent from a picture of a mouse 
whether the differences or similarities are more important in the 
conlang definition (both have been called mice in English). So you'll 
need to include pictures of voles and shrews with the appropriate name 
(if they differ from the word for "mouse").

But the "cookie" example shows that this definition problem isn't 
limited to plants and animals. If you have an illustration of a 
chocolate chip cookie, are molasses cookies close enough to the 
illustration to be considered cookies? Ginger snaps? Shortbread? Or are 
some of them "biscuits" instead? I think you'll need to include lots of 
cross-references to similar words that could potentially be confused.

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