On Mon, Jan 20, 2003 at 06:47:26PM -0000, And Rosta wrote:
> Sally summarizes the usual & valid objections to philosophical
> languages:
> Yes, a language needs room for neologisms. Yes, a language that embodies
> a purely taxonomic map of meaning is unsatisfactory. But...
> Any language is partly a map of conceptual space, a kind of index to
> an encyclopedia of thought. It seems a virtue for the language to
> aspire to make its mapping visible to the inspection of the ordinary
> speaker and not just to the scholar.

I agree.

> Differences between things, such as carrots and potatoes, need to
> be reflected in wordshape by phonological differences that reflect
> the unconfusability of carrots and potatoes. But at the same time,
> there are reasons for wanting to have words with similar or related
> meaning have similar or related sound. One reason is that an iconic
> map of conceptual space is a better (more faithful) map. Another
> reason is that the iconicity makes the language easier to learn.

Absolutely. Which is why in one of my (less heated) replies, I indicated,
and even illustrated, that it is perfectly OK to build words made of a
more-or-less taxonomic part, *plus* an arbitrary part which ideally should
be unique and distinguished from everything else that might be related to

> Another reason is that there is a universal tendency in language to
> develop iconicity: we see it in compounding, in phonaesthemes, and
> in sets like {north, south}, {east, west}, {female, male}, {dog,
> hog, frog, polliwog (tadpole)}.

Definitely. We also have postman, policeman, milkman, etc. in English.
However, the naive approach that occurs to most people at this point would
be to represent an entire taxonomic hierarchy that would be represented,
piecemeal, in the structure of the word. This is what is flawed.

> So a modern philosophical language would have the following
> properties:
> * Words with similar/related meanings should in shape be half
> similar and half different. But the different half may be similar
> to other words related in a different way.

Definitely. Thanks for explaining so clearly what I've been trying to
explain. :-)

> For example, the shape of the word for carrot might have a tubery
> component in common with the word for potato, and an orangey component
> in common with copper, red hair, fire, etc., much as, say 'crunch' has
> elements of meaning in common with other cr- words and other -unch
> words.

Absolutely. However, the different part of the word must be *different*,
or even *unique*. The shape of the word should serve as a *mnemonic*, not
a *taxonomic definition*, of what it refers to. I like your term,
iconicity. The brain seems to like to associate icons with meanings; but
it is the uniqueness of the icon, what makes it stand out, that defines
its usefulness. Suppose there were 15 operating systems with logos
identical to MS Windows except with different colors on the four panes.
The mind would have great difficulty sorting them apart. However, as we
see today, each operating system carries a very different, unique logo,
which is memorable by the very fact that it is different from the rest.

Of course, we could go one step further, and say, hypothetically, that all
OS logos share some common characteristic, such as the letters "OS"
somewhere in the logo. This would correspond to the "similar" part of a
word, and the rest of the logo would correspond to the "different" part of
the word.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that one should not represent more than
one level of taxonomic hierarchy in a word. I'd even posit that the
"different" part of the word ought to constitute its bulk, and the
"similar" part constitute a minor addendum to hint at its possible
relations with other words having the same "similar" part. This is the
difference I'm trying to draw between OS icons that all derive from MS
Window's icon, and OS icons that have the letters "OS" in common but are
otherwise completely unique. I posit that the latter is much easier to
learn, and much more memorable than the former.

And in my own defense (and possibly other listmembers as well), I'd like
to state that I am not prejudiced against auxlangs per se. But I *do* have
an issue when an auxlang with obvious flaws is solicited for, particularly
on a list where it is off-topic, and then when polite advice is given to
the contrary, it is blatantly ignored, and the solicitor proceeds to
deride the people who actually took the time to *give* advice and not just
killfile'd the messages.


War doesn't prove who's right, just who's left. -- BSD Games' Fortune