[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Book review (long)

I've been poking through the Linguistics section of the campus
library, and found a book which might interest other Loglanists:

 Trends in Linguistics
 Studies and Monographs 42:

 Aspects of the Science of Planned Languages

  Klaus Schubert (Ed.)

 Mouton de Gruyter 1989 ISBN 3-11-011910-2

The book is 350 pages, in print, and costs $45 in Seattle.

"This book ... is an invitation to all those interested in languages
and linguistics to make themselves acquainted with some recent streams
of scientific discussion in the field of planned languages."

The book is a collection of fifteen recent papers in interlinguistics.
For folks who (like me) haven't been following the field, the
bibliographies provide an up-to-date set of pointers into the
literature, plus some overviews of it.  I think the table of contents
gives an adequate idea of the scope and focus of the book:


Table of contents:

Part I: I Introductions

Andre Martinet: The proof of the pudding
Klaus Schubert: Interlinguistics - its aims, its achievements,
                and its place in language science.

Part II: Planned Languages in Linguistics
Aleksandr D Dulicenko: Ethnic language and planned language.
Detlev Blanke: Planned languages - a survey of some of the
               main problems.
Sergej N Kuznecov: Interlinguistics: a branch of applied linguistics?

Part III: Languages Design and Language Change

Dan Maxwell: Principles for constructing Planned Languages
Francois Lo Jacomo: Optimization in language planning
Claude Piron: A few notes on the evolution of Esperanto

Part IV: Sociolinguistics and Psycholinguistics

Jonathan Pool - Bernard Grofman: Linguistic artificiality
              and cognitive competence
Claude Piron: Who are the speekers of Esperanto
Tazio Carlevaro: Planned auxiliary language and communicative

Part V: The Language of Literature
Manuel Halvelik: Planning nonstandard language
Pierre Janton: If Shakespeare had written in Esperanto

Part VI: Grammar
Probal Dasgupta: Degree words in Esperanto and categories
                 in Universal Grammar
Klaus Schubert: An unplanned development in planned languages.

Part VII: Terminology and Computational Lexicography

Wera Blanke: Terminological standardization - its roots and
             fruits in planned languages
Rudiger Eichholz: Terminics in the interethnic language
Victor Sadler: Knowledge-driven terminography for machine translation



I'm not a linguist, and won't attempt to review the book from a
linguistics point of view, but I will highlight some points of
particular interest to Loglanists:

First, there is some mention of Loglan (and the thousand-odd other
artificial language projects to date), but the bulk of the focus is on
Esperanto, for the simple reason that 99.9% of fluent planned-language
users speak Esperanto, and a similar percentage of the written-text
corpus from the planned language community is in Esperanto.  (Any
Loglanists who cannot tolerate mention of That Language are invited to
stop reading at this point. :-)

Second, I (and perhaps most Loglanists) was unaware of the Distributed
Language Translation project, which seems to be of considerable
potential interest to Loglanists.  Quoting copyrighted material
without permission:

"Distributedd Language Translation is the name of a long-term research
and development project carried out by the BSO software house in
Utrecht with funding from the Netherlands Ministry of Economic
Affairs.  For the present seven year period (1985-1991) it has a
budget of 17 million guilders... Although much larger in size than
earlier attempts, DLT started off as just another project of the
second stage, using Esperanto as its intermediate language.  Esperanto
had been judged suitable for this purpose because of its highly
regular syntax and morphology and because its agglutinative nature
promised an especially efficient possibility of morpheme-based coding
of messages for network transmission.  During the course of the first
years of the large-scale practical development, however, the role of
Esperanto in the DLT system increased substantially.  the intermediate
language took over more and more processes originally designed to be
carried out either in the source or in the target languages of the
multilingual system.  When I consider the DLT system to be one step
more highly developed than the earlier implementations involving
Esperanto, it is because the increase in the role of Esperanto was due
to intrinsic qualities of Esperanto as a planned language.  In other
words, Esperanto is in DLT no longer treated as any other language
(which incidentally has a somewhat more computer-friendly grammar than
other languages), but it is now used in DLT for a large part of the
overall translation process _because of its special features as a
planned language_.  Some facets of this complex application are
discussed by Sadler (in this volume.)

"The functions fulfilled in DLT by means of Esperanto are numerous.
Generally speaking one can say that since the insight about the
usefulness of a planned language's particular features for
natural-language processing, the whole DLT system design has tended to
move into the Esperanto part of the system all functions that are not
specific for particular source or target languages.  These are all
semantic and pragmatic processes of meaning disambiguation, word
choice, detection of semantic deixis and reference relations, etc.
So-called knowledge of the world has been stored in a lexical
knowledge bank and is consulted by a word expert system.  All these
applications of Artificial Intelligence are in DLT carried out
entirely in Esperanto.  Let it be said explicitly: Esperanto does not
serve as a programming language (DLT is implemented in Prolog and C),
but as a human language which renders the full content of the source
text being translated with all its nuances, disambiguates it and
conveys it to the second translation step to a target language."

Obviously, the existence of significant amounts of fully
disambiguated, machine-processable Esperanto text in such a
translation system opens up the possibility of wholesale mechanical
translation into Loglan.  This would be, obviously, particularly easy
if the (currently poorly-defined) semantics of the Loglan affix system
were brought into line with the existing semantics of the Esperanto
affix system.  In this case, bidirectional mechanical translation
between the two languages might become quite easy, possible producing
sort of an "instant literature" for the Loglanist.  

Building a simple correspondence between Esperanto and Loglan affixes
is not as far-fetched an idea as it might first seem.  Esperanto, like
Loglan, uses a single root-stock of affixes which may be arbitrarily
concatenated to form compound words.  Where Loglan assigns *two* forms
to (most) concepts, a pred and an affix, Esperanto uniformly assigns
only a single affix (cutting the learning load in half!), but this
poses no particular intertranslation problem.  Loglan affixes are
designed to be uniquely resolvable, and Esperanto affixes are not, but
this problem has evidently already been solved, hence again poses no
particular problem to bidirectional translation.  Again, Loglan has a
(putatively) unambiguous grammar which Esperanto lacks, but this
problem has apparently already been satisfactorily resolved at the
Esperanto end.


Elsewhere on the affix front, Loglan has a set of affixes, but has
barely begun the enormous task of building the compound-word
vocabulary.  Loglan could learn from Esperanto on (at least) two

Most obviously, bringing the Loglan affix system into semantic
correspondence with the Esperanto affix system would open the door to
wholesale borrowing of Esperanto compound metaphors, capitalising on
the planned language community's multimegamanyear investment.  Unless
there are sound engineering concerns to the contrary (I see none),
there seems no reason to idly re-invent a wheel of this magnitude.
This ain't a DOD project, folks :-) There will be language bigots on
both sides opposed in principle to any cooperation, of course...

Less obviously, Loglan may be able to benefit from the design
knowledge gained from a century's experience with, and linguistic
study of, the Esperanto affix system.  Klaus Schubert's paper "An
unplanned development in planned languages: A study of word grammar"
is suggestive.  Zamenhof, like Jim Brown, paid no particular attention
to word formation in his original design, simply providing a uniform
stock of primitives which could be concatenated at will to create new

Despite this lack of conscious planning, linguistic study of word
formation in Esperanto (started by Rene de Saussure -- not to be
confused with Ferdinand Saussure -- and continued by Sergej Kuznecov
and others), this simple *syntactic* combination rule has supported
the development of a systematic set of *semantic* combination rules.
These (unwritten and unconscious but nevertheless universal) semantic
combination rules allow the Esperantist, when faced with an unfamiliar
compound word, to not only decompose it into (usually) familiar
primitives, but also to somewhat systematically deduce the meaning of
the word.  Recent decades have apparently seen increasingly free use
of these facilities.

I won't attempt a summary of these semantic rules here, but will try
to give the flavor.  Even though the primitive stock *syntactically*
forms a single neutral pool, it appears that prims are *semantically*
treated in word combination by Experantists as being divided into
noun, verb and modifier (combined adverb/adjective) classes, which
combine with distinctively different rules.  This distinction provides
one dimension for sorting prims.

A second, orthogonal dimension sorts prims into the categories
independent morpheme, declension morpheme, ending (these first three
correspond roughly to Loglan's "little words"), affixoid, affix and
root (these final three correspond to the Loglan affix set).  These
affix types combine according to a word-compounding grammar which
allows the listener to distinguish (among other things) those
compounds whose meaning is directly deducable from the meaning of the
component prims, from those compounds whose meaning is metaphorical
and must be learned.

If Loglan were to borrow the Esperanto compound vocabulary wholesale,
it would of course, willy nilly, inherit these semantic regularities
as well.  Otherwise, it might be well to study these regularities and
consciously incorporate them in the Loglan vocabulary.

 -- Jeff  jsp@milton.u.washington.edu