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- To: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Subject: Lojban Stability
- From: marob!uunet!marob.masa.com!cowan (John Cowan)
- Date: Wed, 28 Nov 90 14:13:47 EST
There is fear abroad in Lojbanistan, it seems. People are afraid to write
things in the language, to use the language, because what they write or
say may become "obsolete": it may change meaning, be judged ungrammatical
by a new revision of the machine grammar, or may be plain wrong. This
fear inhibits the genuine development of the language, which consists not
in tinkering with vocabulary lists or YACC descriptions, but in speaking,
reading, writing, and understanding generally. This is a Bad Thing.
I'll tell a story here. My father's philosophy professor, Edgar A. Singer
of the University of Pennsylvania, wrote an article almost seventy years
ago discussing what is called the "mind/body problem". This is the question
of how it is that the states of the mind correspond (if at all) to the
physical states of the nerves making up the brain. Singer decided he needed
two adjectives meaning "relating to the mind/soul/spirit" and "relating
to the nervous system/brain". He looked into his Greek Lexicon (for he was
a man of some education) and came up with the excellent words "psychotic"
and "neurotic" respectively. Unfortunately, the English language has
There is always a danger of obsolescence whenever we write or talk of
something new. The people who talked of "push-down lists" or (still earlier)
"tables" have become obsolete in computer-science lingo; all the world talks
of "stacks" today. That does not mean that the things those people discovered
about stacks are any the less true for their language which now seems quaint.
Likewise, in the field of international relations, we no longer hear of
"underdeveloped countries": this became "developing countries" or "less-developed
countries". There were reasons for making these terminological changes, but
those reasons do not render nugatory (what's a good tanru for "nugatory"?)
the work done in the past.
So let's try at least to make some stab at using our language, for only so
will it become truly ours.