Je 01:49 PM 9/29/97 -0700, Mark P. Line skribis:

>Ken Caviness wrote:
>> Respondante al plifrua mesag^o mia,
>> je 05:03 AM 9/29/97 -0700, Mark P. Line skribis:
>> >But my knowledge of conlang IAL candidates is hardly at
>> >issue here.
>> No, only to the extent that after recovering from my
>> surprise I wondered if you judged yourself to have a
>> sufficient basis for comparison of "simple" natlangs and
>> conlangs.
>In other words, you're exploring the possibilities of an ad hominem


>Do you really think that's a good idea?

You misunderstand completely.  Why should you interpret a request for=20
information as a personal attack, or perhaps gathering ammunition for=20

Well, I suppose enough personal attacks have been seen on auxlang and=20
the old conlang list that perhaps a certain degree of paranoia is=20
understandable.  ;-)

Let's back up.  You mention the relative non-complexity of Malay and=20
other natlangs.  I've heard similar things from time to time, but not=20
from anyone who has studied the language(s) in question.  I may or may=20
not get around to looking at the languages you mention, I certainly=20
will not be able to look at all languages somebody says are relatively=20

So what do I do?  I ask.  I don't demand anyone's credentials, but=20
I want to have an idea of how much they've looked at the particular=20
question.  It would be pretty foolish to listen to professional advice=20
without first determining whether one is talking to an expert.

I know that *I* am an amateur here, as are many others on the auxlang=20
list.  Until you tell me you're a linguist, I don't know it.  Until you=20
tell me you've studied Quechua, I can't know that.  All I assume is=20
that whoever is subscribed to auxlang is interested in auxlangs.

>> As I mentioned, I've heard so many opinions from people who
>> hadn't even looked at the question,

You see?  I explained *precisely* why I needed to ask!  But you respond:

>It might be wise of you not to make that kind of assumption in my case,
>unless you have reason to believe that I am in the habit of stating
>unconsidered opinions.

I made no assumption here.  Rather than making assumptions, I sought=20
information. =20

It might be wise of you not to make the assumption that I'm attacking=20
you personally unless you have reason to believe that I am in the habit=20
of making such personal attacks, unconsidered or otherwise.

>> But it interests me a great deal that you have experience
>> with Esperanto, yet feel that certain natlangs are
>> comparably uncomplicated, or even *less* complicated.
>I've said that for years, and I'm not alone. Maybe you just never take
>anybody with a differing opinion seriously until they rub your nose in

* And maybe you have a difficult time making simple statements without=20
being gratuitously insulting.  Who knows? =20

(Yes, I do consider several of your statements to have been insulting=20
and otherwise content-free.  For your convenience, only those of my=20
statements in this message which are prefaced by an asterisk do I=20
intend to be insulting.  But not content-free.  I do have a point.)

Mark, you have my thanks for the overview of your complexity comparison=20
of languages.  It's very interesting!  But I see no reason for you to be=20
so offensive in the process.

This is not my field.  I don't know you, I don't know what you've been=20
saying "for years", nor the degree of solitude you enjoy (whether you=20
are "not alone").  I'm glad for whatever pertinent information you care=20
to share, and I rate the informed opinion of someone who has training=20
in the field over the opinions of amateurs like myself.  (I am not a=20
linguist, I am a physicist, more specifically a physics teacher, even=20
more specifically chairman of the physics department at a small liberal=20
arts university.)  I have had an amateur interest in languages for many=20
years, and because I recognize my amateur status, I _hope_ professionals=20
will tell me when my statements are off-track. =20

* But I am willing to forego the pleasure and chance of learning something=
new from you at this time if you can't conform to a certain minimum level=20
of politeness.  There are other linguists whom I can ask my questions.

* Yes, I realize you don't care.  (You made that clear in another message.) =

>> >I hope that I have never said anything as stupid as "Malay
>> >is just as easy to learn as Esperanto".
>> I'm sure you didn't say it that baldly.  Please view my
>> comments as a sort of conceptual short-hand.
>Sorry, you'll have to say what you mean if you want to discuss these
>things with me (your choice, as always). "A sort of conceptual
>short-hand" is the stuff that flame-wars (or at best terminal
>misunderstanding) are made of.
>If there's anything along these lines that I've said that you think I
>shouldn't have (or that you think don't hold water), then you should
>point me to my exact words, not "a sort of conceptual shorthand".

This is quite a different view from mine.  It seems to me that very=20
little outside mathematics or theoretical physics is precisely defined,=20
and so a more appropriate modus operandi is to make an effort to see=20
that a statement is sufficiently clear to be understood, but then add=20
successive clarifications as needed.  Naturally I try to make even=20
my initial statement as precise as I feasibly can or as is needed=20
under the circumstances. =20

Apparently I fell so far short of the mark in this case that you felt=20
the following ridicule justified:

>Ken Caviness sucks eggs.
>[Please note that "sucks eggs" is a conceptual shorthand for "is not a
>native speaker of Kunimaipa".]

I see your smiley.  Please note the lack of any smiley on this line.

If you have found any of my statements even a fraction as irritating=20
as I find your responses to me, particularly in this message, then=20
please point them out to me. =20

Have you never before had occasion to talk to someone who is not an=20
expert in your field, but *is* interested?  Hint:  yes, you explain any=20
inaccuracies or imprecisions, no, you don't ridicule. =20

* Or rather, yes, *you* do ridicule, as we can see.

In any case, thanks for the interesting stuff about stratificational=20
grammar.  Yes, metrics do mean something to theoretical physicists. =20

By the way, one more layman's question (if you choose to answer it):

>it was possible to
>differentiate the complexity metric quite nicely into "complexity of
>phonetic realization (allophony)", "phonotactic complexity", ...,
>"complexity of morphosyntactic realization (e.g. suppletion)",
>"morphosyntactic complexity", ... etc.

Did you weight all these factors equally?  My guess is yes, since any=20
other weighting scheme would be non-absolute and perhaps highly=20
culturally dependent. =20

If the weights are equal, is the list exhaustive?  It would appear=20
that quite different numbers might be obtained if by adding a=20
previously unconsidered factor, breaking a complexity factor into=20
several which are separately considered, or combining concepts into=20
one. =20

I'm definitely *not* trying to denigrate your work.  I find it=20
fascinating.  I am seeking an explanation for how our conclusions can=20
be so different, and information to enable me to correct my views as=20
needed.  Since *you* don't know *me*, you have no idea of how much I=20
enjoy learning new things.

Perhaps my perception of Esperanto as being "relatively uncomplicated"=20
is based on only a subset of the factors you consider. =20

[ ! content-free: ]  Or perhaps it's because I'm just plain stoopid.

I'll make yet another assumption:  that much of what seemed insulting=20
to me in your responses was intended as humor.  I really have little or=20
no evidence in favor of this assumption, but I admit to hoping that it is=20

I do try to read messages for content rather than presentation, but I=20
really must learn to hit the delete key rather than responding to any=20
message which surpasses my tolerance level for "humor" and/or insults.

Salutojn kaj bondezirojn,


  | Ken CAVINESS           Physics at Southern Adventist University |
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