Design a new language?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by livingin360, Feb 25, 2011.

  1. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Me neither. I don't have a TV. DVD is the only way to go.

    Ah, you say that because you're not IN the group. I'm not claiming that ALL such groups (or even their words/ usage) have depth/ meaning, but it's part of the bonding process and a way of maintaining that bond. It's a more or less deliberately enforced estrangement of anyone who's not.... cool? hip?* What's the word they use these days? But you know what I mean.

    * And of course, it's their kind of cool/ hip/ in. No-one else's.
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  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

    Like they say, one swallow doesn't make the summer, but you have to start somewhere.

    If one reads a lot, and various genres, one can quickly get a very visceral experience that it is possible to talk about things in very different ways.
    This way, the feeling that language is somehow limited dissipates.

    It is important than one learns to read. Not "read" as in 'recognizing the letters and being able to pronounce words' but as in 'knowing what you actually do when you read (listen)'.

    A very interesting, rich and yet approachable book is "A history of reading" by Alberto Manguel.
    I suggest this one.
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  5. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    Looks interesting. Thanks Signal*, I've added it to my Amazon Wish List, as a reminder to buy it when finances permit.

    * Even though it wasn't aimed at me.
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  7. livingin360 Registered Senior Member

    Yeah i understand where your coming from. I guess i was looking at it critically. I guess the real issue is the culture rather than the language itself.
    Thanks Signal, I'll give it a read. I am very aware of my thought processes when i read and how I'm reading. I try to look through a eye of unaltered perception of what the author is trying to present to the reader but sometimes its hard.
  8. Dywyddyr Penguinaciously duckalicious. Valued Senior Member

    And different cultures have different versions of "slang" (Yes Fraggle I know you'll pick me up on that usage!

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    Talk to a particle physicist, or a physician, or even a builder - they all have specialised terms which, intentionally or not, make outsiders aware that they're outsiders.
    Although in the case of professions the language isn't devised, or adopted, for that purpose.
  9. Mircea Registered Member

    That's true. I have a theory that some Asian groups, especially Koreans, Japanese and Chinese are more intelligent because they use character symbols instead of an alphabet and that affects the brain somehow as they learn their language.

    Anyway, I guess if one is to create a new language, I think you'd have to consider glyphs versus an alphabet.
  10. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    She's quite a modernist and appreciates the dynamics of living languages. I have a two- or three-page glossary of words she has made up.

    She wrote her master's thesis on One Hundred Years of Solitude. I wanted so much to be able to share that reading experience with her, but I got halfway through the book and had to admit that I had no idea what was happening. The same thing happened with Huckleberry Finn and The Magic Mountain. Actually I only got through about ten pages of that last one, and that was a university reading assignment, not a domestic one.

    She finally took pity on me and gave me one of Saul Bellow's less well-regarded works, Henderson the Rain King, and I both understood and enjoyed it. One of the best books I've ever read.

    I got the job as Moderator of Arts & Culture by my knowledge of music, not literature or painting.

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    I see. Like the line from "Zip-a-dee Doo-dah": "It's the truth, it's actual. Everything is satisfactual."

    Carry on. I love silliness.
    There are several forms of non-standard language variants.
    • Jargon is the specialized vocabulary of a profession, hobby group, etc. You probably won't understand it but it's because the words represent things, actions and concepts that you wouldn't understand either. It purpose is to be precise, not exclusive.
    • A cant, on the other hand, is deliberately crafted to be difficult or impossible for outsiders to understand. The most well-known cant in our culture is Pig Latin, Ig-pay Atin-lay. It only works among very young children, because by the time we reach puberty we've all learned it. The most elaborate cant we know of is Shelta, crafted by the Irish Travelers by combining English and Gaelic words, moving some of the sounds around, and superimposing it over English grammar and syntax. It's a complete artificial language that is utterly opaque to outsiders. "Moniker" is a Shelta word.
    • Slang is just whimsical language, generally crafted by the young for fun, as a respite from repetition of conventional words, and as a rejection of conventional dignity. It usually includes euphemisms for taboo subjects.
    • An argot is a bit of all of these, especially when developed by criminals.
    • To make this list more complete, a dialect is a language variant separated from the standard language by geography or social class. Cockney, Indian English and AAVE (African-American Vernacular English or "ebonics") are all dialects.
    • An accent is separated from the standard language by the same forces as a dialect, but it differs in pronunciation only; the vocabulary and grammar are identical. Both accents and dialects must be intercomprehensible, at least at adjacent points on a dialect continuum. Otherwise we would call Cantonese a dialect of Mandarin (as many people incorrectly do), when in fact the people cannot understand each other, and the words have remained the same due to the unifying power of a non-phonetic writing system.
    I never cared for it either. But I give it a lot of respect for spinning off "Angel," one of my all-time favorite programs.
    The Korean writing system is phonetic. It looks like logograms to us because the letters of each (monosyllabic) word are arranged in a square instead of a line like ours. In South Korea a small number of Chinese logograms are still in use; primarily things like names. In North Korea they are illegal. Japanese uses a mixture of phonetic symbols (two different syllabaries, one for Japanese words and one for foreign words or acronyms) with a subset of 2,000 Chinese logograms.
    As I noted earlier. Even if they spoke plain English we still wouldn't understand what a "charmed quark" is.
    One swallow of Dubonnet Red on the rocks with a twist gets the summer off to a very good start.
    Wow, that phrase is going to be rattling around in my head for weeks.

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  11. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Interesting theory, do you know of any studies that support it? Or maybe you know of some links that can expand on your theory. I do know that they have a lot of proof that training kids in music before before age 6 or 7 does increase intelligence, and I don't see any reason not to believe that's the case. If that's true, then your theory needs to be explored until it's understood better. My reason is that every little bit that might help increase intelligence is worth knowing about.
  12. What if someone really started from the ground up by creating their own alphabet? That would be intense!
  13. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    Stay tuned to China. They're about one generation away from browbeating the entire population into fluency in Mandarin. Once that happens, they can introduce the phonetic syllabary that's been under development for decades.

    They can't do this now. As I noted earlier, their non-phonetic writing system, reinforced by a four-millennium continuity of government and culture, has resulted in all Chinese languages using the same words in the same syntax--about 98% in formal writing, anyway. They are just pronounced differently--vastly so: "five" is wu in Mandarin and ng in Cantonese, but they are the same word, from Ancient Chinese ngwu. And of course they have different tones. Mandarin has a four-tone paradigm, but Cantonese has twelve.

    Chinese can read each other's writing, which helps preserve the solidarity of the nation, but only because they do not use a phonetic system.

    A syllabary is probably better than an alphabet for Chinese. There are only 400 syllables that conform to the language's phonetic limitations, each one of which can have one of four tones. 1600 symbols is not hard to learn; Chinese children are expected to know more than that in the fourth grade, and Japanese people have to know 2,000 just to read a newspaper.

    I haven't studied the proposed syllabary but I believe it has a logical structure so there's some recognition of the four phonemes (maximum) that make up each morpheme:
    • (Optional) starting consonant
    • (Mandatory) vowel, diphthong or triphthong
    • (Optional) final consonant, limited to N or NG
    • (Mandatory) tone, from the set high/rising/falling/low.
    We would have a similar problem, albeit lesser, if we tried to reform English spelling to make it more phonetic.

    How do we reconcile American LAB-ruh-TAW-ree with British luh-BAW-ruh-tree? American can't and up with British cahn't and oop? American homonyms liter and leader, latter and ladder, with two different pronunciations in British? American tune (toon) and new (noo) with British tyoon and nyoo? American far and murder with British fah and muhduh?
  14. So you think that by the next generation, everyone worldwide will be speaking Mandarin? I know they're the #1 language in the world but I always just thought that was because the population in China is so fricken huge. I think they still have a long way to go to get Mandarin intergrated into the US. I mean, where in the US can you buy books or movies in Mandarin? (as far as physical locations, I don't mean where on the internet)
  15. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

  16. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    The following link provides a chart that shows a break down of how many people speak the major languages and English is pretty far ahead of whatever is in second place.
  17. SciWriter Valued Senior Member

    Everyone I know around my town now speaks rap language.
  18. Billy T Use Sugar Cane Alcohol car Fuel Valued Senior Member

    New languages are "designed" often. Whenever a group of people with a langauge is forced to be a minor component of a larger language group, especaially if the minority was a mix of several languages, as was case of slaves imported. This new language (called a pigdin) is not a real language with grammar, syntax etc. Their children, who hear it at the age people are supposed to learn languages, will improve it to be a true language, with these missing elements to become a creole. The missing element are structures coded in you DNA that all humans have according to Chomsky, but this possible structure will be narrowed down to reflect what part of the structure they are hearing from adults speaking their "native language."

    True languages do not always arise this way. It is not uncommon for twins to have their own terms, which only they know the meaning of. Less common, but well documented cases exist where these "languages of twins" become full different languages, but they almost always die out will decreasing use by time the twins are teenagers.

    There are a few cases that have been studied where these twin languages persisted as a second private language for many years. - Not just a few private words but a language of considerable communication power, but always consistent with one of the specialized structures that Chompsky's theory permits.
  19. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Maybe English is their second language?
  20. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    No, just everyone in China. As of today, tens of millions of Chinese people speak Cantonese and other languages and they can only understand each other in writing. (The non-phonetic writing system has maintained a 95-98% common vocabulary and syntax among all the Chinese languages but their phonetics have diverged so widely that they are not intercomprehensible.) The PRC government has been aggressively promoting Mandarin as the national language. It is taught in all schools and it is difficult to find formal classes in the other languages. Radio and TV are in Mandarin, although there are a few programs in the regional languages. With each generation a greater percentage of the population becomes fluent in Mandarin and it is estimated that in another 25 years it will be universal.
    China has almost one-fifth of the world's population. India has almost one-sixth. The USA ranks a distant third with not quite one-twentieth. If their economies continue to modernize and liberalize, China and India will become the twin 500-pound gorillas of international politics and culture.
    The Chinese have no agenda of spreading their language. Even they recognize the tremendous handicap of their writing system. Perhaps in another half-century when Mandarin is universal and they can adopt the phonetic system that is already prepared, it will be more practical to teach Chinese to foreigners.

    You have to go back into ancient times to find any proselytism for the Chinese language. When their Buddhist missionaries traveled to places like Japan and Korea, which were still in the Bronze Age, they brought their Iron Age technology and culture. This included teaching their language to the scholars and the ruling class, for two practical reasons.
    • 1. They had a written language, so teaching it to the local people allowed them to learn to read, and opened up the entire literature of China to them. Until a few hundred years ago, educated Japanese and Koreans wrote and read only in Chinese.
    • 2. Chinese was the language of an Iron Age people so it had words for concepts that did not yet exist in the local languages, helping them expedite their own transition to Iron Age technology and culture. However, they never suggested replacing the native languages with Chinese. To this day both Japanese and Korean are packed with Chinese loan-words, just as English is packed with French loan-words.
    These days most large American cities have a Chinese community. You can find Chinese seasonings, clothing and chochkes, as well as Chinese books, magazines, newspapers and videos. In the larger cities you'll find a Chinese movie theater.

    BTW, books and other written material are in Chinese, not Mandarin. All Chinese languages are written the same way. If you go to a movie you'll find that they are not only subtitled in English, but also in Chinese. That way if the dialog is in, say, Cantonese (Hong Kong has a huge movie industry), Mandarin- and Shanghai-speaking people will be able to understand it. It's also great for students because you can follow the dialog in print and learn new logograms.
    The definition of "speak" is difficult to standardize for non-natives, and there are many charts like this with wildly varying numbers. This is the largest figure I've ever seen for English, and I assure you that half of those people are around 4 or 5 on my fluency scale. My Mandarin is better than that, and I would never claim to "speak" it.

    Nonetheless, even with a more honest assessment, it's quite possible that more people have a functional command of English than any other language. But these things come and go. Who remembers Aramaic?
    Linguists refer to that as AAVE, "African-American Vernacular English."
    AAVE is a dialect of English, so English is their primary language.
  21. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    Actually with that comment I was trying for a little humor. But I do have a question about English dialects. What you called AAVE is more crudely referred to as black English. However I'm not so sure that you can equate that to RAP, at least not as it is now. The RAP and Hip Hop subcultures seem to have more of a multicultural gang flavor now. My guess is this is primarily due to incredible increase in gang populations in all cities of the U.S. Besides language differences between the various gangs, they all seem to have a common gang subculture that they all understand, and the terms 'dog' and 'homie' and many other terms appear to be of Mexican origin. Anyway your comments would be appreciated.
  22. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

    That's hardly crude. Today the term "black" is more common than "African-American" or "Afro-American," and it's certainly considered polite. Only linguists use the tongue-twisting full thirteen syllables. "Ebonics" is a more popular term. And nobody knows what AAVE is.
    Apparently you're not old enough to have heard your parents describe life in Chicago during Prohibition. I am.
    "Homie" and "homes" are just contractions of "homeboy," an American slang word that goes back 100 years and was still in use in its original form in the 1970s. "Dog" has been a slang word for "man" for at least three generations in my observation; as in "lucky dog."

    The equivalent American Spanish slang word is vato. Ese has a similar meaning, although it is restricted to friends and is somewhat more likely to be used as a form of address, as in ¿Como estás, ese?

    Cholo, a slang word for "rebel," was in use in the 1970s, but I haven't heard it for a while.
  23. KilljoyKlown Whatever Valued Senior Member

    I think you may be right, but not by a great deal. However I do wonder why we didn't learn from prohibition? But that's a topic for another sub-forum. You seem to be very educated in the subject of language and still very up to date. May I inquire about your background in this area?

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