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>John Cowan writes:
>>la stivn. cusku di'e
>>> Actually, this utterance would be impossible for an hypothermic human.
>>> Living in the midwest, and attending to the care of street people, I have
>>> had several patients with that degree of hypothermia. Physiologically, 5C
>>> is a *big* deficit. Enzyme reaction rates are nearly halved. Coma is an
>>> invariable consequence. So the <mi> of the statement could not be human,
>>> because comatose humans do not construct utterances.
>>I bow to your superior expertise.
>Of course, it could be that <do> is hyperthermic (and possibly comatose),
>rather than <mi> who is hypothermic (and presumably poikilothermic). It's
>a *relative* expression.
Interesting semantic and metaphysical point. The possibility Scott suggests
is certainly more likely than <mi> being an intelligent lizard! The issue
of relativity of an expression seems a bit sticky to me. An utterance,
whether in lojban or some other language is not fully context
independent-it occurs in a metalinguistic context of cultural, physical,
and logical precedents. When I hear someone say
<.i mi lekmau do lo kelvo be li mu>
"I am colder than you by 5 degrees kelvin."
there is an *implicit* standard, independent of the semantics of lojban
which I apply. I call this implicit standard, the "news-worthy" or
"man-bites-dog" standard. Suppose that the government announces that the
gross national product rose by 25% in 1995 compared with 1994. The headline
in the Chicago Tribune would be something like:
"GNP up by 25% in '95"
rather than the logically equivalent
"GNP 20% less in 94 than in 95"
In this case, the arrow of time dictates which is the "standard" Consider
"Eritreans found to be colder than Amazonians"
I parse this as follows:
For purposes of this comparison Amazonians are normative, the notable fact
conveyed is that Eritreans are colder than the proxy normative Amazonians.
Weak inference being Eritreans are colder than me.
If it was the Eritreans which were the intended proxy normative, then the
headline in the Chicago Tribune would be:
Amazonians found to be warmer than Eritreans
Note that I am not claiming that lojban, english or any other language
*requires* speakers/listeners to adopt the "news-worthy" standard. It is
just a convention in the metalinguistic environment in which American
Of course, some people might argue that such conventions are a property of
english & other natural languages, perhaps differing among natlangs.
Perhaps lojban will be free of these conventions/assumptions. This may
prove to be the case, but I suspect it is too early to say. It is my
opinion that these conventions are not properties of the language per se,
and will therefore be applied to lojban. Unless I am completely wrong, in
which case someone on the list will kindly point out to me the error of my
ways. An opposing point of view might be that English grammer actually
includes metarules like my "news-worthy" standard, and that lojban is free
of these metarules. Perhaps cultures which include prominent display of
pithy headlines have the "news-worthy" metarule in their languages.
A related point from AI is that if I say
"Bill's foot is in the canoe."
I moderately infer that Bill's foot is attached to Bill. This is certainly
not logically implicit in the statement. We "know" things about the
universe which are essential to discourse, but are independent of grammer.
As speakers of lojban with differing native languages may bring to lojban
different metarules, the possibility of misunderstanding remains for lojban
speakers/listeners, and this misunderstanding (I hypothesize) will not be
resolvable by lojban grammer alone.
If lojban proves to be good for nothing else, it sure has made me think
hard about semantics & meaning.
cohomihe la stivn
Steven M. Belknap, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Clinical Pharmacology and Medicine
University of Illinois College of Medicine at Peoria