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response to a protin on dates et.al. (corrected)

if yogot an earlier garbage version of this, sorry - seems a file
got messed up.

On Arthur Protin's message of 6 Aug 90 16:59:59 EDT
Subject:  times, dates, images, and S-W

> I hope you have names for the
> months because I will strongly resist all those silly colons.

1. The 'colons' correspond to the slashes in 08/30/1990.  As Dave Matuszek
mentions in another message, some separator is mandatory between the date
components, especially in speech, if we want to preserve unambiguity in
syntax.  There are, after all, three separate numbers there.  If you don't
believe this, try subtracting two dates to determine the number of days
between them.  Each of the separate numbers is in a different base.  The
number 'colon' "pi'e" is really a decimal point that says that the digits
on each side of the point are in different number bases.

2. The months have names - the number of the month + "-mast" from "masti"
e.g. pamast. remast. cimast.  So the abbreviation to digit representation
is natural.  Grammatically, though, if you want to express a date as
numbers plus month name, you have to turn ALL of the numbers into names
which is cumbersome to write (although some conventions have been used for
this such as:  "la 6d. 8m. 90n.")  There is NO special grammar set up for
dates; you must use the grammar for any other MEX or pseudo-MEX expression
to validly express dates (or times) in Lojban.

3. I used the colon because we DO you colons for time-of-day.  Why use a
different mark for dates when we use the same word for separators.  Of course,
just to be disconcerting, I sometimes use semicolons for both; but only if
I'm feeling ornery (and not when I'm trying to establish a convention).

> (I will avoid a long discussion of the nonsense of mm/dd/yy
> mentioning only that it is frequently indistinguishible from dd/mm/yy
> and both forms have very large followings.)

4. From what I've determined, mm/dd/yy is found ONLY in America, and not
universally here - the military uses Arthur's 1st version - dd MON yr where
the month is in text.  We also don't have gismu for the American (formerly
'English') measurement units, where the U.S. is out of step with the world.

5.  In addition to worldwide convention, we use dd;mm;yy for another reason
that is much more linguistic.  This order gives the most important and less
likely to be known information FIRST, allowing ellipsis of the rest.  If I say
I wrote this on the 3rd, you infer the month and the year the current ones.
If I say I wrote in on 3 Sept, you can guess the year is 1990.  But if year is
first, it can never be left out (except possibly with a null followed by the
'colon'), likewise year and month.
        Ease of writing sorting programs, or in fact any computer advantage
at the expense of human pragmatics takes the lowest priority in Lojban design.
We also try to avoid any argument based on aesthetics, since we have good
reason to suspect that American aesthetics in language is quite different from
other languages, and Lojban must preserve its cultural neutrality, especially
against American biases, if it is to be accepted.
        On the other hand Zipf's law is a valid linguistic argument.  It says
that most frequently used forms should be shorter, (and that if not, people
will tend to MAKE them shorter - which would destroy Lojban's unambiguity
if done haphazardly).  Thus we need a convention, and one that allows leaving
out unneeded information when this will shorten the form.

> Without a major reform of the calander, I see very little reason
> to do much with the representation.  The same goes even more so for the
> clocks and time representation.  The abbreviations "AM." and "PM." have
> served fine in the dual role of selecting which cycle of the clock
> together with identifying the context for interpreting the numbers
> (the numbers preceding are hour or hour:minutes or hours:minutes:seconds).
> I again have found for dealing with dumb programs that it is usually
> just fine to to extend the second form of date with a dot, ".", and
> a twenty four hour clock without the colons, eg.
>            900806.161632576
> being
>    4:16:32.576 PM 08 Aug 90

6. We are NOT trying for calendar reform.  Lojban is novel enough that we
don't need to reform the unreformable.  However, we do need a single convention
in a language to be used for communicating between cultures that do not share
a common convention.  The 12 vs. 24 hour clock is such an inconsistency.
Apparently in non-U.S. environments (as well as the U.S. military), 24-hour
clocks are more common than 12 hour clocks.  Most people in the U.S. use
digital clocks and watches as well.  So 'which cycle of the clock' is
inherently a biased statement towards preserving an obsolescent and declining
system.  We have to recognize that it exists, but we do not have to favor it.
We also need to be reasonably clear as to what our convention is, though.
If you see "900806.161632576" you have no way to even tell it is a date, much
less what the convention is for interpreting it.  We want to use the shortest
form that makes it clear that a convention is being used and whic possibly
suggests what that convention is to someone not used to using it.

7. In Arthur's final example, he adds a dot - this again is the Lojban
"pi'e" colon.  You wouldn't want someone to think it was a decimal point.
So don't use one.  On the other hand, he does use a decimal point in the
seconds of his time in the last line, using a colon for the other separators.