At 5:14 pm +0000 18/10/98, charles wrote:
>Raymond A. Brown wrote:
>> It reminds me of a similar exchange a year or so back where "primitive
>> Stone Age" language was being contrasted with the "developed modern
>> languages".  IIRC the exchange then was on Auxlang.  The "Stone Age"
>> language then was the typical comic-book type:   "Ug no like Ig. Ug kill
>> Ig."
>There was a popular view some years ago, Bodmer and Flesch
>and Hogben and Ogden are some I have read, that primitive
>language was extremely complex and grammaticalized
>(lots of bound morphemes, affixes, irregularities);
>and that modern advanced languages such as English
>and Chinese were simple, isolating, and so on.

Yep - that's so.  But you know what I think of the 'primitive language'
theory.  Trouble was these gentleman spent too much time looking at the
familiar IE languages.  When we've had debates like this before - and
they're certainly not new on these lists - contrary evidence has been
adduced from the FinnoUgric languages of a move from simplicity to
complexity.  I am no FinnoUgric expert, but I have reason to doubt the
arguments.  It seems the "drift of languages" is whole lot more complex
than these theorists would have had us believe.

>Now another line of thought says that pidgin/creole
>languages tend to be isolating with simple grammar.
>They are (almost by definition) easy to learn by adults.
>But over-idiomatic English is far from easy ...

Well, it's certainly true - but then most natlangs have their fair share of

>It may not be such a great idea to mix computer
>langs into this discussion, but it is so tempting.

Maybe it's tempting, but I agree it's not such a great idea.  Communicating
with a digital machine is somewhat different, I believe, than communicating
with rational human beings.

>I'll just say it is interesting to consider these
>ideas, without any need to decide anything.

Yeah - as long as there's some substance in the idea.