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

Re: Some comments to mark,l

Subject:     Re: Some comments to mark,l
Sent:        11/17/95 8:17 AM

In responding to these new questions, I first wish to emphasize that I
have already withdrawn my "Rafsi Repair Proposal" & conceded defeat on
this issue.  That is, you-all have persuaded me that none but the
smallest reforms to Lojban at this stage would stand any chance of
acceptance, & that larger reforms would be unwise.  If, in my answers
now, I clarify or reiterate some points which I thought were in
contention when I originally made my argument, please realize that my
subsequent surrender still stands.

la goran spuda mi di'e
> > No one besides us wacky Americans would ever need succinct compounds
> > for math test (cmaci, mathematics, no short rafsi),
> English does not need a compound and does just fine.

Few of you understood what I meant by this -- a sure sign that I did not
express myself well.

The main point of this polemic was to argue that my critique of the
existing rafsi assignments (&/or the existing rafsi-lujvo system) was NOT
an artifact of Anglo-American cultural/linguistic bias.

When I gave examples of ideas for which Lojban & English are alike in
their lack of succinct compounds, that was meant to demonstrate that
North American English was _not_ the model for the reforms I was
perceiving as necessary or desirable.

I also intended for _some_ examples to suggest a secondary point, which I
was content to make only implicitly.  I'll make it explicitly now.  Seems
to me that rafsi serve, or can serve, two purposes.  Rafsi can be used to
convert a commonly used or otherwise valuable tanru into a form which
enjoys a standardized definition & a standardized place structure; that
is, into a lujvo.  But rafsi can also be used to convert a commonly used
or otherwise valuable tanru into a form which is short, but not
standardized; that is, into a nonce-lujvo.  Accordingly, some of my
examples were of ideas that I wanted to express in Lojban using fewer
than the four syllables minimally required for tanru.

You folks would probably have understood my comments better if I had not
tried to make two points, one of them unstated, with the same set of
examples.  My apologies.  The "math test" example was one of those by
which I was trying to illustrate both points.

However, I don't think the misunderstanding really affected the outcome
of the debate.  Seems to me now that, even if my comments had been well
understood, I still would not have prevailed on the rafsi repair issue.

> > flyswatter (sfani, fly, no short rafsi),
> Although considering myself to be rather proficient in English, and
> recalling a multitude of books I have read, I don't think I have seen
> this word more than three times, if at all.

It's a very common household item in some regions of the world, often
enough mentioned in conversation if not in literature.

> I asked several members of my family how is it called in Croatian, and
> none could answer me, and I don't even think we have the word for it,
> though we have it at home. We just never speak about it.

Surely this is one of the most puzzling comments I have ever read.  How
do you ask someone to hand you a flyswatter, if the flyswatter isn't in a
position where you can point to it?  Or are Croatians not allowed to ask
for help when insect pests must be destroyed?

> > hour-long (cacra, hour, no short rafsi),
> Croatian uses the adjective "jednosatni" (4 syllables), which
> translates directly to lojban as {pavcacra} (3), or, using the x2
> default, just {cacra} (2). I am satisfied.

The x2 default?  I thought all gismu defaulted to x1.  I've missed
something here, which may mean that my "hour-long" example is already
covered by an economical Lojban expression.

> > tin can (tinci, tin, no short rafsi; lante, can, no short rafsi),
> Is "tin can" an idiom in English, or is it really important to impart
> to your listeners that the can in question is made from tin?

Yes, "tin can" or even "tin" is an idiom, in English & perhaps in other
languages also, for a kind of can.  Specifically, any can which is not a
beverage can made of aluminum is generally called a "tin can."  Most, I
think, are made of steel.  Some "tins" have an inner lining made of tin,
but many "tins" have no tin content whatever.

> Most of them are, anyway, so it is not much of an information.

On the contrary, few cans today are made of tin.  Your impression that
most cans are made of tin may mean that the "tin can" idiom is used in
other languages as well as English, generating erroneous beliefs about
can composition wherever the idiom is encountered.  Which is probably a
good reason for Lojban to treat this question in a very different manner.

> I have never yet been in a situation where I would have to explicate
> the material of a can, and if I ever am I would gladly use tanru.

Yes, I'm sure tanru would suffice to describe the material of a can.  But
how would you succinctly refer to the idiomatic "tin cans," that is, to
all cans which are not aluminum beverage cans?

> > high tide (ctaru, tide, no short rafsi)
> Again, why bother with lujvo? English doesn't have one word, and English
> has the biggest vocabulary in the world, I think, or at least very close
> to that.

Again, the main point of this polemic was to prove that my critique was
NOT based on the behavior of English.

> Why in the world would you want one word for expressing high tide?

Again, I was concerned less with word count than with syllable count.  I
was also thinking of some comments made by Haruhiko Kindaichi (names
reversed) in his _The Japanese Language_.  This may have some Zipfian

# The Japanese, surrounded by water, have words such as {ofi} (the offing)
# and {nada} (the rough open sea where navigation is difficult), which
# have no counterparts in Chinese....  The {kami} (upstream) and {shimo}
# (downstream) of a river also have no equivalents in Chinese....  If
# Chinese characters had been invented in Japan, the basic index of a
# character dictionary would have been full of characters pertaining to
# seas and rivers....  Japanese words like {e} (an inlet), {se} shallows,
# {tsu} (a harbor), and {su} (a sand bank) are all represented by
# characters with one-syllable readings.

Earlier in his discussion of vocabulary, Kindaichi mentions the surprise
many Japanese people feel when they learn that English has many words
(bull, cow, ox, calf & so forth) for cattle, whereas Japanese has one
general word {ushi}.  He then points out that Japanese has many narrowly
differentiated words for fish of various sizes or at different stages of
development.  At that point, he is ready to present a classic insight:

# The reason why cattle are narrowly differentiated in England and other
# European countries [& in North America] is simply that these people
# have since early times raised cattle, drunk milk, eaten butter, and
# skinned the cattle to make shoes.  Therefore, even in Japan, when we go
# to districts where cattle raising prospers, we see people readily making
# distinctions of this sort.  In Hiroshima, for instance, a bull is called
# {kotoi}, a cow is called {oname}, and a calf is called {beko}.  Thus,
# people make detailed distinctions among things which have a great deal
# to do with their livelihood but only rough distinctions among things
# which do not.

So the answer to your question is that I will want economical expressions
for everything that has a great deal to do with my livelihood, & that
others will want economical expressions for everything intimately
involved with theirs.  What resources does Lojban have to offer for the
construction of such narrowly differentiated economical expressions?  The
rafsi, for one, & the le'avla or fu'ivla, for another.  From the le'avla
or fu'ivla, I frankly expect nothing but trouble (altho I agree that the
category is both useful & necessary, & I also doubt that Lojban's method
for handling that category can be seriously improved upon).  Such
considerations are what drove me to discuss rafsi repair.

> By the way, high tide is not something I would use ctaru for at all:
> {lo xamsi sefta cu galtu}. ctaru describes the process of rising and
> falling of the level of the water, and I am unable to see how to get to
> the individual parts of that process using that word.

On that basis, perhaps Lojban could have a fairly convenient lujvo for
high tide after all -- something like {galxasysfe}.  (Of course, such a
lujvo would fail to differentiate between tidal & non-tidal increases in
sea level.  But it might suffice anyway.)  Or we could use {galjimte
ctaru} as per Don Wiggins' suggestion.

Incidentally, English has monosyllabic words for the tidal rise in water
level (flow), the tidal fall in water level (ebb), the highest high tide
(spring) & the lowest high tide (neap or neaps).  Two of these terms
(spring & flow) are ambiguous, in that they also have other meanings.

One could argue that "flow" has a single meaning, of which "tidal flow" &
"river flow" are merely types, & then argue that the word "current"
represents river flow so well that, in a coastal context, the "tidal"
portion of "tidal flow" can simply be elided.  But, in practice, tidal
increase is generally described with the single syllable "flow," which
can also express non-tidal concepts.

English also has two-syllable expressions for high tide, low tide & storm
surge (the amplification of high tide created by a big storm).

Of course, maritime concepts are economically expressed in many
languages.  Malay has at least three two-syllable words -- {kolek},
{sagur} & {jalur} -- for canoe-type watercraft.  Chinese has short words
for helm {duo4}, mast {wei3gan1}, buoy {fu2biao1} & net {wang3}.  This
list could go on & on, in tongue after tongue.

> > salt pan (silna, salt, no short rafsi),
> That I don't even know what it means is a rather good assessment of the
> frequency of usage. I know that this sounds egocentrical, but I wouldn't
> be boasting to say that I read more English books than most
> English-speaking folk. I have never encountred 'salt pan'. Could you,
> please, tell me what it is?

First, this phrase is almost never used in English, but I don't take
English to be the criterion.  Second, many U.S. citizens rarely read
books, so I am inclined to believe you when you say that you have read
more English books than many English speakers.  Third, "salt pan" refers
to a type of lowland desert terrain, formed when a salt lake or shallow
inland sea evaporates, leaving a salt deposit on dry land.

English has an oceangoing history.  Other languages reflect greater
intimacy with arid desert.  I wanted to show that my rafsi critique was
inclusive of both environmental extremes, & of the cultures concerned
with them.  So I gave both "high tide" & "salt pan" as multicultural
examples of lexical needs unmet, or met only laboriously, by Lojban.

Today I suspect that Lojban may meet those needs better than I originally
thought it could.  Even if it doesn't meet them very well, I have been
persuaded that large-scale rafsi repair is unworkable at this stage in
the development of {le logji bangu}.  Lojban is surely the best & most
interesting conlang known to me, so I'll try to live with it the way it
is, or with the minor modifications currently in the works.

I'm snipping or skipping most of your other points, usually because you
were right & I was simply wrong.  In particular, several people have
quite rightly stated that "brow" still means eyebrow, even without the
"eye" morpheme attached.  I was barking up the wrong tree on that
example.  But I still can't resist clarifying the question of "eyebrow

la goran spuda mi di'e
> Now, I don't know exactly what you mean by "eyebrow raising", but it
> would come out as {nu mebykre galgau} (as a facial expression) or {nu
> mebri xulgau} (as a surgical operation).

The facial expression is what I had in mind.

la djan,kau,an spuda la goran di'e
> ROFL!  He means the former.  Idiomatically it suggests surprise, or
> sometimes a small indication that one is going to overlook improper
> behavior on the part of another person, but not without letting the
> other person know it.

That's a very good explanation of what is meant when someone says in
English that an event "raises eyebrows" or was "eyebrow raising."

la dn cusku di'e
> I would render "eyebrow raising" as "ranxi" (contrary to expectation/
> ironic).  Certainly there would be no use for the idiom involving
> eye-brows or raising....

I'm not convinced that verbal descriptions of "eyebrow raising" (like
"the jury's verdict really raised some eyebrows") are idiomatic in the
way that, say, "barking up the wrong tree" is idiomatic.  The _facial
gesture_ itself may be idiomatic.  But the _verbal expression_ is a very
literal description of the facial gesture.

Perhaps we need a taxonomy of idiom such that, for any given expression,
we can state where the "idiomicity" resides.

la dn cusku di'e
> A succinct tanru is as useful as a compacted lujvo, in fact I would say
> the tanru would be clearer in many circumstances.

If so, that's only because so many rafsi are dissimilar to their gismu

> I don't think that having compounds which are, say, 2 syllables instead
> of 4 is that significant to a language.

Then why do so many two-syllable compound words exist in various tongues?

co'o mi'e mark,l