John Crowe, On 17/07/2007 14:32:
> Efficiency (use less space/time to convey the same amount of info) in
> conlangs is one of my newer interests, and I don't know much about this
> idea. What is the formal name for this? 

In engelinguistics we call it 'concision'.

> What are the results of formal studies/works in this area? 

There aren't any, really. The closest thing would be compression algorithms such as Huffman encoding. 

> As far as I know, only a few conlangs strive to be 'efficient'. A few of the
> following are from Richard Kennaway's much linked to but outdated list,
> which is still useful because it has descriptions on the list, making it
> possible to search for specific things in conlangs.
> *Speedtalk [Heinlein]. of course, comes to mind.
> *Ithkuil (and Ilaksh) [Quijada] Relatively well known, if I'm not mistaken.
> Logical/Philosophical
> *Lin (or Ln) [Skrintha] A bunch of broken links. No attempt to be
> logical/philosophical.
> *Mindbrush [Gressett] "allow faster, more efficient thinking"
> *Earth Minimal "An Ultra-Compact Auxiliary Language" Seems to focus on
> things other than efficiency more.

IIRC, Speedtalk's concision was due to a large phoneme inventory. 

Ithkuil's central technique is, it seems to me, a kind of semantic template that is both rigid and rich. The rigidity makes it possible to assign to it a maximally concise encoding. The richness makes it sufficient for speakers' communicative needs. 

Concision was Lin's sole aim. One of its original techniques was systematic largescale homonymy without ambiguity -- which allows the same short forms to encode many different meanings.

I don't know owt about Mindbrush or Earth Minimal.

> I have read some essays concerning half-related topics, it seems that a lot
> of people that human language cannot be made more efficient. "Amiguity is
> necessary." 

Not clear what you mean. I reckon the design of natural language can be improved upon -- e.g. made less ambiguous without being less concise. But speech communities collectively evolve languages that meet their needs; so natlangs are all 'good enough', and speech communities will stick with their current language so long as it is good enough.

> Even after setting aside human read/parseability, it still seems hard to
> draw the line. Theoretically, if a language has maximum efficiency, then
> there must be no such thing as an incomplete utterance or an ungrammatical
> statement, i.e. every possible utterance (or combination of symbols) within
> the rules means something. 

Yes, every string of symbols would be meaningful, but it wouldn't necessarily be a complete sentence. 

Note that 'ungrammatical statement' is ambiguous. If it means 'string of symbols without meaning', then your maximally efficient lang would indeed lack ungrammatical statements. If it means 'pairing of form and meaning that is inconsistent with the form--meaning correspondence rules', then of course there would be ungrammatical statements aplenty.