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response to jimc on indicators #2
- To: lojban-list
- Subject: response to jimc on indicators #2
- From: cbmvax!snark.thyrsus.com!lojbab
- Date: 5 Oct 90 22:43:17 EDT (Fri)
- Resent-date: Wed, 7 Aug 91 12:32:15 EDT
- Resent-from: cbmvax!uunet!PICA.ARMY.MIL!protin
- Resent-message-id: <9108071636.AA07914@relay1.UU.NET> 6 Oct 90 0:21 EDT
- Resent-to: John Cowan <firstname.lastname@example.org>
A response to Jim Carter in our continuing exchange on indicators:
in typical (Indo-european) natural languages you have special grammar
for timelike tenses, for gender, for number, for possessive, and so on
ad ridiculosum. In Loglan most of this deadwood was pruned out. But
meaning remained in a few areas, specifically, in attitudinal
I'm not sure I agree on this. Loglan did not eliminate these in the grammar
- it made the structurse optional. Lojban tries to continue the same
practice. You CAN express everything in simple predicates, but you NEED NOT.
I think I can summarize a lot of our agreement as being based on a different
understanding of language. jimc divides language into grammar and semantics,
and tries to put all 'meaning' into the semantics.
My understanding of language includes recognition of pragmatics and
supersegmentals, even though I don't know nearly enough about either to
speak authoritatively. The essence of what I feel Lojban needs that jimc
does not allow for derives from these areas. I DO NOT accept that the word
'Ouch' is identical semantically to 'I feel pain', or indeed to any other
predicatible expression. On the other hand, you can say of x, who says
"Ouch", that 'x indicates the emotion of pain', or, if you have no reason
to suspect emotive acting: 'x feels pain'. But if x IS acting, the first
is true and the second false. If indicators meant the same as the
corresponding predicates, acting would consist of making false statements.
I think our hangup here is simply that I will not accept that an indicator
is an 'abbreviation', a shortened but otherwise identical form. A bridi
that talks about one's emotions is not the same as the direct expression
either logically or semantically. There are many places in the language
where short forms are not the equivalent to longer forms. The one that
comes up most is "lo .urnicorni cu barda" (Some unicorn is big) which is not
identical to the more logically explicit "da poi .urnicorni cu barda"
(something which is a unicorn, is big.) The latter logically implies that there
exists a unicorn. The former is more like a conditional (If things
exist that are unicorns, some are big.) But the former is NOT an
>abbreviation< for a conditional, it is logically equivalent to one (I think).
JC>While -gua!spi has literal quotes, the normal form for dialog is unlike
English or any other natural language I am familiar with: the spoken
material is put at the top level as it would be in the script of a
play, and the speaker and listener are specified with -- what else? --
subordinate clauses, which can be positioned creatively.
I should note that we started with jimc's suggestion along this line when
we first started on Lojban, but it is flawed. You need some type of
metalinguistic indicator to distinguish citations in quotes. Else
"The lion (John said) ate the meat." works fine, but at the next level of
quote, you have problems. If George wants to say:
Mary said, "The lion (John said) ate the meat."
he would need two inserted clauses to show the hierarchical citation,
and I suspect that it is difficult to unambiguously isolate whether he was
claiming that Mary says that John says, from John says that Mary says.
Related to this, if subordinate clauses are embedded in a quote, you
cannot tell whether they are part of the quoted text, or the statement of
citation. You also run into the problem of distinguishing direct quotation
from indirect quotation.
I note by the way, that I don't consider it a virtue that a language to be
used by humans does things 'unlike any natural language'. The only 'unnatural
thing' in Lojban is the predicate grammar itself - we want the rest to be as
natural as possible.
JC>The same formalism is feasible in Loglan/Lojban;
instead of clauses, "tagged sumti" would be used. It gives a very
lively style to the dialog, I find, and is much easier to produce and
to analyse (particularly algorithmically) than the usual English scheme
with imbedded literal quotes.
Yes, and we have that structure. But for indirect quotes, not for direct
quotes. To indicate that something is a direct quote with an embedded
tagged sumti, you need to insert a metalinguistic 'unquote', and then mark
that this metalinguistic insertion is indeed metalinguistic, and not part
of the quote. This is done with the editorial insert marker sa'a.
There are examples of this in Athelstan's Saki translation. Even with sa'a
there is a paradox possible if someone wants to quote someone else using
sa'a in a sentence, and we had to come up with a convention for this -
namely that you have to double the sa'a if you want to actually quote it
similarly to how some editors require doubling a delimiter if it is
embedded in a text command.
jc>Since I pay a lot of attention to semantics, I have trouble with this
particular example; how does the listener know that "x likes (z more
than y)" means the same as "(x likes z) is more intense than (x likes
y)"? In other words, how do you create unambiguous rules that guide
the listener to backmap the sumti tcita "more than" to the related
selbri, and then (this is the hard part) jack that selbri up to
discourse level, replicate the original discourse bridi twice with z
and y in X2, and drop the results in X1 and X2 of the comparative
The easy answer is that you don't. We don't claim that Lojban has unambiguous
semantics, or that any two different grammatical constructs can be equated
semantically. Indeed, I suspect that in natural language, if two constructs
exist, they are never quite identical semantically if only because there is
a different emphasis.
On the other hand, if you attach a sumti tcita to a sumti as a relative
phrase, as in "x likes (z more than y)" [ko'a nelci ko'e ne semau ko'i]
the phrase can be expanded to a parallel clause which is logically
equivalent (if not semantically): [ko'a nelci ko'e noi ko'e zmadu ko'i zo'e]
"x likes y (and incidentally y is more than z in some property - which
context and convention will say is 'the amount of being liked by x'.
Each such sumti tcita will have its own semantic conventiosn of this sort,
which will probably be fairly systematic in most usages.
We thus DO consider each sumti tcita to be equivalent to a corresponding
bridi, but with only 1 place (the tagged sumti) explicitly specified, and
the others elliptically omitted.
JC>A logical language ought to have its
semantics specified just as well as the grammar is.
Perhaps, but I don't think that we understand the semantics of human
languages well enough to do this, since grammar too often gets in the way.
Studying users of Lojban, we may fianlly have a clear window on what
is actually going on semantically. Then, someone could possibly define
some rigid rules.