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Re: Personal Apology
The features you like so much about Lojban all date back to JCB's design
(as well as the "flaw" you have been focussing on).
Yes I have contributed a great deal to Lojban, but not nearly enough to
displace JCB, or even claim that I deserve an equal share of the limelight
(I get it anyway). My biggest contribution is, in effect, as the political
leader who put together a successful challenge to JCB where others had
failed (actually had chosen to fail on principle) before me. My second
biggest contribution is as a sytems engineer. For the DoD I could analyze
a complex set of systems requirements and see where a weapons system was
and was not meeting those requirements, looking simultaneously at the forest
and the trees. I did the same with Loglan - saw where JCB was not meeting
his own design standards, and found solutions to fix them with minimal change.
But I did not create any new standards - merely enforced his own. And all
design ideas were already present in the language - I merely altered and
extended them. For example, my biggest improvement to the language, i feel,
is the expanded attitudinal set. I saw flaws and limitations in what JCB
did, and did a quick fix. Then in 1989 someone else saw that what I had done
was only a half-assed solution and suggested that we do a whole-assed
solution, and I went back to the drawing board. The result I consider to be
on a par with the other major ideas of the language, but neither the concept
of emoticon words, nor the idea for a complete revamping of the system, was
my own idea.
If I were interested in developing my own conlang, I would have almost no
idea where to start, and whatever I did would be derivative of JCB's because
I like so many of his ideas, and have few new ones of my own. I have things
that I would do over if it were back in 1987, (or better, if we were starting
over today, because remaking the gismu would take a fraction of the time today that it took then due to the increased computer power, and the algorith I would
like to use would be far more compute intensive). The problem you are
focussed on isn;t one of them, and doesn't even blip me as a problem. (I
would improve the rafsi assignments simply by being more discriminatory
about how we selected the gismu - by using more of the alphabet, we would have
had fewer collisions, and less need for kerfa->kre style rafsi and more of
tye mnemonic ones.
I was not even interested in linguistics before I met JCB, and it was a friend
of mine who dragged me along to see him while visiting me in 1980. I am still
not interested in conlangs as a genre, though I have expertise and opinions
about what is good and bad about them. If Lojban failed I doubt that I would
want to start another.
Your apology is certainly accepted. I have not been proud of my argumentation
style this time around either. Indeed, as I told Cowan yesterday, you have
been bringing out in me all the behviors I most dislike about JCB. Which
may in turn mean that you are in some ways too much like me.
I don't think that my argumentation style is too often this harsh. I rarely
feel that I have to invoke the "that's the way it is, so there!" argument.
But Lojban is alive, and Has gotten where it has, and still has momentum
because I have generall kept my focus on the final goal, which is a language
that is completed and documented and in use, with no fiddlers re-engineering things out from under the language users. Essentially only Esperanto and
Interlingua among the living conlangs are in that state, though Klingon may be
close largely through Okrand's disinterest. Loglan came VERY close to failing
at least twice because of JCB's cpontinued fiddling and refusing to let go.
I have no desire more strong than to let go myself, because that is when the
language will be "real". Until then I am a steward for all those who have
invested in the language so far - either time or money or creativity. And
I MUST fuflfill my commitment to them, which is to bring them a stable
Coupled with all this is the number of times new people have come in loaded
with new ideas and suggestions fro improvements, some more radical than
yours. In variably, after a year or two, they have come back and said either
that a) the understand why I stuck to my guns and agree with my decision on
technical grounds, or b) they understand why I had to stick to my guns to
keep the language moving forward, because they have seen the next wave of
newcomers bring yet additional proposals and come to see the threat of this.
Most conlangs have dies because the fiddlers kept changing them and improving
them out of existence. Esperanto survived Ido and othe clones,probably only by
luck, smart politics on Zamenhof's part, and perhaps World War I which brought
and end to the era that spawned the great Euroclone movement.
Lately I've been under high stress - not nearly enough Lojban time and
twice the commitments that I can fulfill, and too many of the other major
players out of action and unable to take up the load. Cowan has gotten back
on track, and things are finally jumping forward again after almost 2 years of
stagnation; I cannot allow things to falter now with even a minor design change
proposal back at the roots of the language, and yours wasn't minor. And
now really isn't even a good time to talk about it as a hypothetical, though
I seldom want to quash any Lojban List discussion. But we have spent the
last year largely dominating the list with an extremely technical logico-
semantics issue, reaching no resolution, and only prolonging the agony of
pre-publication. The recent light tone on the group, including Jorge's NON-
seroious alternate morphology, has been a real moral booster. I NEED THIS
right now, and I need more people showing me that the language is working in
usage - I believe in my heart that it is ready, but need constant reminders
on the list to keep me from being distracted. I also need to have the
discussions on the list be such that neither Cowan nor I has to actively
particpate more than incidentally, because publishing the reference grammar in
the next few months will take more time than we currently have budgeted even
I guess, I want to apologize to you then, for my harshness in tone. I like
someone who is interested enough to follow through an idea in depth, and
hate to squelch that type of commitment and energy. And I certainly don't
want to drive anyone off from the language or the project. I think you
can contribute a lot if you can focus your energies in helpful ways (even if I c
can't tell you what ways would be most helpful), and look forward to seeing
you continue to explore the lanaguage.
Thanks for writing.