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On 9/19/06, Leigh Richards <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On 9/19/06, Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > On 9/19/06, Leigh Richards <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > > Hi all, I'm Leigh.
> >
> > If I may ask - are you a female Leigh or a male Leigh? (and is it
> > pronounced "Lee"?)
>
> Female, and yes, though I have some clever friends who like to
> pronounce it like 'sleigh'. Why?

Because it seemed to me like a name that could be used for either
gender (like "Dana", for example) -- and I wanted to know the correct
pronoun to use to refer to you in the future --, and because the
pronunciation of English proper names is not always predictable.

> By the way, sorry for the HTML. I didn't realize gmail was set to do
> that (I think this fixed it? Let me know if it didn't).

This message was in plain text, yes. (When I replied to it, the reply
was HTML, but I think that's a known Gmail bug. I switched to plain
text before continuing.)



On 9/19/06, Henrik Theiling <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> The kind of thing I mean can be shown with prepositions taking
> different cases:
>
>     mit  den Jungen  =  with    the boys
>     ohne den Jungen  =  without the boy
>
> Note that 'den Jungen' is plural in the first phrase, but singular in
> the second.  And unambiguously so, since 'mit' takes dative case and
> 'ohne' takes accusative case.

Oooh... clever. And the singular/plural meaning was "obvious" to me
("how could it be anything else?"), even though the word form is
identical... this must be one of the things that makes foreigners tear
their hair out.

> Another weird example playing with this:
>
>     Der          Finne entspricht           der          Norm.
>     the.M.SG.NOM Finn  conforms/corresponds the.F.DAT.SG norm
>     'The Finn conforms to the norm.'
>
>     Der          Finne    entspricht           der          Schwanz.
>     the.F.SG.DAT back_fin conforms/corresponds the.M.NOM.SG tail
>     'The tail corresponds to the back fin.'

Ah yes. Also unambiguous :)

The second sentence takes a little longer to parse because of the
non-default word order, but it's understandable -- since I know which
genders the words have, and hence how to interpret "der" in each case.

Fiendish.

> Semantical correctness aside, the gender of 'Schwanz' or 'Norm'
> determines the meaning on 'Finne' here.

Ah -- true. Homophones, distinguished by gender.

Maybe even have words which can be various genders? IIRC, "mar" (sea)
in Spanish can be either feminine or masculine, with the distinction
depending on how poetical you want to be and where you live IIRC.



On 9/19/06, [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> li [Jim Henry] mi tulis la
>
> > On 9/19/06, Leigh Richards <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> > > 1. As unambiguous as possible, especially in full
> > sentences; it's easy to
> > > clarify any ambiguities.
> >
> > I would suggest studying some existing conlangs intended
> > to be unambiguous, such as Lojban.
>
> From what little I've learned of Lojban so far, it appears it can be as
> ambiguous or as precise as the speaker wants it to be.  Maybe someone
> who knows more than I do can clarify this better.

I don't know that much more, either, but I'd say you're right.

What Lojban aims for is complete _syntactic_ unambiguity; that is, a
given sequence of words can be parsed in exactly one way. (No
sentences like "Time flies like an arrow", where any of the first
three words can be the verb.) It _doesn't_ necessarily give you
_semantic_ unambiguity, and you're still free to be semantically vague
or precise.

(Though as someone noted, "the price of infinite precision is infinite
verbosity".)



On 9/20/06, H. S. Teoh <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> On Tue, Sep 19, 2006 at 05:32:04PM -0400, Leigh Richards wrote:
> [...]
> > On 9/19/06, H. S. Teoh <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> > >As for small changes having large impact on the meaning, maybe
> > >introduce a lot of idioms and idiosyncrasies which requires a lot of
> > >cultural background to correctly infer the meaning of?
> >
> > Hmm. That gives me an idea. It isn't a language likely to develop many
> > idioms, but it could very well have taken idioms from various
> > languages throughout the years and turned them to its own purposes. I
> > like that.
>
> OK. But based on what you wrote, it seems that the speakers of your
> language are out to deliberately obfuscate their speech (or at least
> raise the barrier to learning as much as they can). I think the idioms
> idea is still applicable: they can take advantage of experiences or
> knowledge privy to the "in-crowd", even if they don't have a rich
> cultural heritage as such---e.g., if they are being persecuted, there
> may be stories or rumors passed between them, with a mutual
> understanding on the "actual" significance of the events (as interpreted
> by one of their own), such that instead of describing something
> explicitly, they refer to said events in some way that seems meaningless
> or even completely the opposite to the outsider.

Also look up the concept of "kennings" (e.g.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenning ,
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_kennings ) where a phrase refers
to a concept not easily derivable from either word separately, as
"cannon fodder" for soldiers in modern English or "whale-way" for
"sea" in Old English.

This kind of substitution could even be recursive, apparently, as with
"slaughter dew worm dance" for "battle" ("slaughter dew worm dance" =>
"(slaughter dew) worm dance" => "(blood) worm dance" => "(blood worm)
dance" => "(sword) dance" => "(sword dance)" => "battle").

Again, a way of relying on shared knowledge of an "in-crowd".

Literary allusions can also be useful for this kind of thing (e.g.
"Midas touch", etc. etc.)

Cheers,
-- 
Philip Newton <[log in to unmask]>