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Nick makes trouble in lojbanland

In item-about-lojban number <9103020352.AA08242@aurw31.local>, Jack Waugh says
in response to Jeanne Stapleton:

>(there was a great essay; was it by Twain?,
>written in a form English might take if it treated race
>the same way as it actually treats sex.  A black person's
>name would be preceded with a title "Niss" or "Nissus"
>(something like that) depending on whether the person
>had a job.  "Author" only described a white author; the
>term for a black one was "authoroon").  

It sounds like an article written by Doug Hofstadter (you know, the self-
conscious guy) and published in Metamagical Themas. It is a scary essay,
and made me realise how sexist language can be. But I still suspect it is
too simplistic an analysis, and while Miss is now finally an archaism, it'll
take a lot of social engineering for the terms Mr and Ms to coalesce into
one. Dismissing allegedly sexist forms in a language as garbage is no
answer to a deep-rooted problem.
Besides, if you're SapirWhorfist (not that this is a prerequisite for becoming
a lojbanist - or is it?), then the problem is so deep-rooted, that according
to you it may be insurmountable. I don't know much SapirWhorf (apart from
the fact that many people hate it), but does the gradual introduction of
non-sexist terms in English counter the theory at all?

>Well, cultural neutrality is a stated goal of Loglan (including
>Lojban).  One could argue that cultural bias is in the language
>prescription, perhaps, but at least there has been some
>attempt to keep it at bay.  In particular, the
>construction of the root words from existing languages
>occurred by a procedure that was independent of the culture
>of the people doing the work, but that instead depended on
>the number of speakers of the languages.

I still think the root selection was silly, but that's just me. I certainly
wouldn't suggest you change horses now. But I suspect this is a trivial
way of handling semantics. After all, there are many Esperantic stems with
Romance lexical form and Slavic semantics - a latinate lexicon would not
necessarily been a disaster; semantics has to be learnt anyway, and forcing
the student to learn the semantics by confronting him/her with unrecognisable
lexemes, while effective, seems to me overkill. Oh well.

>Loglan/Lojban seems to me much less dependent on
>culture than Esperanto, which by contrast, is blatently

Let's not dis Esp too casually, OK? There's a lot in it that is misjudged 
and there is a lot in it which parrots German stylistically. And in the
last half-century, there has been a lot of usage which has deliberately
aimed at asserting Esp's linguistic autonomy, and is thus not European.
As for dependence on culture, the proof of the pudding is in the cliche.
Until I can see with my own eyes (even on this very list) lojban *used*,
and used malglico by more than one person, I'll take the claims on
independence with a grain of salt. After all, lojban's community is so
anglo at the moment, that the term malglico can arise; there is a lot
of abuse in Esp to those who translate literally from their NLs, but
anglacxa is not one of them. Esp is in many ways European *in practice*,
but at least it's always been paneuropean. Lojban aspires for more, but
it's what people do in practice that will determine future stylistics,
and if y'all aren't very careful, you might make some serious mistakes.

(btw, I still haven't got my "Introductory package" yet, so I don't know
what I'm talking about. May those who know better correct me - preferably
in lojban, whether I speak it yet or not. How hard can that be, folks?!)

>Loglan has this kind of notation
>centrally included in its grammar.  I suspect Loglan has
>a semantic bias that set theory is the basic description
>of the world (I am not using "world" to mean "cosmos", but
>rather to mean a model, realized in the speaker's mind,
>reflecting the domain of discourse).

I don't think Jeanne meant to dis first-order logic, but it did come out
sounding like she's bored by it. Well, I myself thought the talk on
relativity was beside the point and didn't sound like it was on the right
mailing list (a list august enough to have kibo of the mile-long .sigs in
it!), but getting your logic in order definitely isn't. On the other hand,
how much talk had there been on quantification here recently? There may be
a subtle bias in lojban's selection of logical mechanism; but I suspect
that any selection introduces a bias (not just in logical mechanism, either),
and you might as well resign yourself to it, and get to the task of actually
trying out lojban prose for size and seeing what practical difficulties
arise. The theory codifies the way the practice proceeds; but Jeanne is
essentially justified when she says the practice is what she's waiting for:

>>  I'll pipe up again when we start working out
>> all the different types of words we need for what "love"
>> now covers in English, "amour" in French, whatever the
>> equivalent expression is in Chinese.

But don't stop at semantics. What's the story with syntax?

>I suspect that any subtle
>variants in the area of love will have to appear after
>Lojban leaves the prescription phase and enters the
>use phase (then, it'll be a language).  And then, only
>after 60 years or so of use.

Nah, you're being too pessimistic. Give it thirty.

And is lojban really so underspecified that you can't attempt to use it as
a language right now?

Nick S. Nicholas,			"Rode like foam on the river of pity
Depts. of CompSci & ElecEng,  		 Turned its tide to strength
University of Melbourne, Australia.	 Healed the hole that ripped in living"
nsn@{mullian.ee|mullauna.cs}.mu.oz.au 	     -	S. Vega, Book Of Dreams