On Mon, Nov 17, 2008 at 10:36 AM, Mark Allen <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

My understanding of english (which is my native language) comes almost entirely from osmosis, not an actual linguistic understanding of all the grammar rules.

I'll take a slightly different tack from other people. I think you are wrong about that. Everybody learns by "osmosis" primarily, and the way you write indicates to me that you have a very good "actual linguistic understanding" of all the grammar rules. What you mean to say is that you don't know the proper terms that linguists use to write grammar books. But who cares?

I'm good at technical subjects but back in school I always found a technical understanding of english to be too frustrating to attempt because of all the arbitrary rules and inconsistencies.  When diagramming sentences I would occasionally start to get excited thinking there was a logical order behind things, but such euphoric moments were always short lived as further study of grammar rules invariably deteriorated into pointless memorization of complex constructs and exceptions rather than a mathematically precise application of simple rules to attain complex results.

A very natural reaction since that is the nature of languages. But again, you clearly understand the rules of English. Maybe you are frustrated because you can't categorize them into a simple schematic. But again, I don't understand why you feel you need to. You communicate perfectly well without a schematic understanding. Of course, if your real interest is in studying linguistics, then by all means, you need to get an understanding of all this, and the proper terms.

So doing away with noun-adjective agreement in number (black cat vs blacks cats) I can heartily agree with.  As someone who had never considered the possibility of modifying an adjective to match the noun, that idea may amuse me for a moment, but it doesn't expand my horizons to any new and insightful idea I hadn't considered before, so I'm happy to not have that unnecessary complexity in the language.

How would you feel about eliminating the singular/plural distinction? There are many languages in the world that do not, and for those people, it seems like an unnecessary complexity. But for us, it seems very useful and perhaps necessary. But I think that's what makes language interesting to study. Perhaps the interesting thing about studying constructed languages is the question of "what is the limit of minimalism?" That's sort of what I'm testing (in the sense of taking up a challenge) in the language I'm designing, Neo Patwa. 

On the other hand I'm not so sure about doing away with the subjunctive case.  I still don't know what that is exactly, but if it expresses a legitimate concept then I'd hate to have it axed.

Well, not all languages have a subjunctive case, so it's a legitimate concept but clearly not a necessary one.  

So I believe I've actually listed two separate interests I have in artificial languages:
1. simplified and regular grammar that resembles english that I can learn to gain a better technical understanding of grammar rules which I otherwise only understand intuitively from osmosis
2. any philosophically interesting organization of concepts that show up as more of a hodge podge in natural languages

Obviously, as I wrote above, I'm not certain that (1) is really a good reason for studying a constructed language, or in particular for choosing one over another. And reason (2) sounds to me like a good reason for studying constructed languages in general, but not for one in particular. Participating on this list and asking people why they made certain choices may be a better choice. Essentially, it seems to me that the best reason for learning a constructed language is to use it to communicate with others, or to promote it as a good way for people to communicate.

I'm interested in the technical merits of the language, although I have to recognize that a discussion of such merits is likely to be largely beyond my comprehension.

I think you're being too modest, Your comments about subjunctive and adjective agreement show that you do have an understanding. Obviously there's a lot of technical jargon, but probably not as much as it seems at first.
Jens Wilkinson
Neo Patwa (patwa.pbwiki.com)