sat 12 jul 2003 12:00:00 osdorp / de aker
language is inadequate
i think language is inadequate.
i might like a language that was like english in the sense that the meaning survives incorrect pronunciation of vowels. but unlike english in that it would be more regular, easier to learn the rules.
language should be easy to learn. it should be designed to include rather than exclude. it should not have arcana or esoterica that can be used to filter the foreign.
the vowels and consonants should be few, simple, and of a kind that anybody can learn to pronounce. the meaning should not be so delicately in the balance of whether you pronounce a vowel short or long. for example, the difference between vak and vaak in dutch, the difference between shit and sheet in english. by requiring a precision of vowel pronunciation that is often lacking in "alien" speakers they make meaning more fragile, and misunderstanding more likely.
ideally a language should not use dipthongs and stuff like that. and should avoid homonyms, or words that are spelled the same but mean entirely different things.
also i wish it would not require so many different endings for declensions and conjugations.
the idea of having lots of silent letters, as in french, is right out. the language should strive to be expressible in fewest characters.
but i do think it should be alphabetical in some way, rather than pictographic -- that its written form should be about pronunciation. pictographic languages are cool but you need to know too much, the writing is not a key to the speaking.
also, a language should have clearer signs for logical structure within sentences. maybe punctuation should be regularly audible. and it should allow us to express complex propositions without requiring the reader or hearer to do a lot of re-scanning and decoding to understand how the ifs ands buts thens and ors work with reference to each other.
the conflict in this mandate i think is that i am asking for the same amount of meaning to be conveyed with a smaller kit of phonemes -- but at the same time i don't want the words to get too long.
in terms of the phoneme simplification, i guess what i mean is that those vowels and consonants that fall close enough together to be confused for one another reasonably often, should be amalgamated into a smaller set of more robust vowels and consonants.
so where d, t and th are consonants that people have trouble with, those different letters would become one letter. so it would matter less if you pronounced it wrong.
likewise, ee, i and eh should become one thing. the difference between ee and i and eh should become inconsequential to meaning. not that people have to stop pronouncing it longer, wider or shorter, but that doing so will not alter the meaning of the word.
perhaps long versions of vowels could express emotional emphasis instead of a different meaning. people are willing to invest more physical energy into pronunciation when they are feeling strongly about something.
but for the language to be resilient, the center of the phoneme needs to be in a lazy zone. meaning should easily survive the lazy pronunciation that is most likely -- i e, the pronunciation that demands the least muscle work. most people slur their speech anyway. ideal is that even somebody really drunk can seem erudite, at least phonetically.
totally academic exercise i'm sure. people are slaves to existing language and its whimsy, just as much as they are slaves to superstition and tradition.
but i wonder, what exactly DID happen to esperanto anyway?
well looking into that i found a bunch of interesting research on line. some stipulations for "auxlangs" or "conlangs" do in fact have similar wish-lists to mine. the thing i'm reading right now is very complicated, it's the lexical semantics of a machine-language interlingua.
meanwhile i had to redo the spanish version of the hicat film again, because there were spelling and other errors in the thematic key words that nobody caught until hg asked vicky to look at the final render. the correct spellings are sometimes at odds with what was given to us by the client. i just got home from delivering the revised render to hg. he leaves tomorrow for barcelona, having postponed his departure from this past thursday.