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On Sat, Oct 17, 2009 at 7:00 PM, Sai Emrys <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Notably what it is *not* is an explanation, prognosis, etc; it doesn't
> say anything at all about why this person has this set of correlated
> symptoms, what might change them, how it affects them, etc. The only

It seems to me that in a lot of cases this is necessary, or was
necessary historically; diseases are/were usually identified by a
consistent set of co-occurring symptoms long before the underlying
cause was discovered.  In many cases better and better treatments, or
even cures, were discovered for said co-occurrences of symptoms even
while the cause remained (or still remains) unknown.  And once the
cause is discovered, there's a lot of linguistic and cultural inertia
preventing the name of the disease being changed.

(Sometimes, though, discovery of the root causes leads to diseases
being renamed or reclassified because what was thought to be one
disease turns out to be two or more diseases with largely overlapping
symptoms.)

> I'll skip the rant to get to the conlang bit: have any of you tried
> addressing this in your conlangs? E.g. perhaps to make it impossible
> to make a description sound like an explanation? Or for that matter,
> to do the opposite, and have naming be more explicitly and frequently
> performative?

My gut feeling is that this is a quixotic goal, a kind of
philosophical-language fallacy similar to the idea of a language in
which it's impossible to tell a lie or exaggerate one's evidence for
something.

But I'm not sure it's not possible.  For instance, maybe the language
could have different verbal modes for description and explanation,
with the latter being triggered by any use of a causal conjunction (or
taking the place thereof?).  Maybe there is an isolated-fact mode, a
cause-mode, and an effect-mode; the markers for the latter two can be
stacked when you have a three-or-more-stage explanation (A because of
B because of C...), while the first is only used when you have a fact
whose causal relation to other facts you don't know or aren't ready to
make assertions about.   And then there would need to be ways to
compress sentences in those modes into terse names while still
preserving the distinction between causally related facts and isolated
facts whose relationship is unknown.

-- 
Jim Henry
http://www.pobox.com/~jimhenry/