Den 2006-09-30 05:50:49 skrev Todd Moody <[log in to unmask]>:

> On 9/29/06, Andrew Nowicki <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> Steve Rice wrote:
>> > Suma was one of the best.
>> Actually, it was one of the worst.
>> Here is a brief description:
> I don't know a thing about Suma, but I was struck by this statement that
> Rick Harrison quoted: "The use of one word for many meanings (principle  
> of
> multiplicity of meaning) is common to all natural languages. It is  
> easier to
> learn several meanings for one word than to learn a different word for  
> each
> meaning."
> I imagine it's true that all languages have homophones, but I've never
> before encountered the claim that this should be a design feature of a
> language, to make it easier to learn.  On the contrary, I have the
> impression that conlangers tend to prefer one meaning, or closely related
> cluster of meanings, per word.  Certainly, I've always had the idea that
> homophones make a language more difficult to learn, but I wonder if  
> that's
> only beyond some critical mass of them.  It would be difficult to test  
> this
> in any meaningful way, though.
> Zamenhof resorted to near-homophones in order to avoid exact homophones  
> that
> might actually have existed in the source languages.  The result is the
> so-called "paranyms" (paronimoj).  "post" and "posxt-"; "sxtelo" and
> "stelo", etc.  I have to say that this doesn't make Esperanto any easier  
> for
> me, and I think it would be easier to remember that "post" has two  
> distinct
> meanings than it is to remember which one has the hat...

For what it is worth natural languages tend to have one order of sounds or  
characters for two functions. In English one could cite "s" which is  
plural and marker for the 3d person singular in verbs: two heroes go, but  
anything goes, and in the same manner 's means is "He's not here" or marks  
a genitive s, the horse's mouth. In Swedish an -r is a plural marker:  
hjältar (heroes)  but at the same time it marks present tense in most  
verbs: går (goe(s).

I think one can find similar examples in other languages too.

Kjell R

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