[unrev-II] Thinking about communicating

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Sun Aug 19 2001 - 15:12:03 PDT

Many moons back, James Cooke Brown decided to test the central Whorfian
thesis, namely that the structure of individual languages does in some way
shape the thought of monolingual speakers of those languages. We might ask
the same question ourselves as we ponder our OHS notions.

That work began the evolution of the language Loglan

 From the forward to the book _Loglan 1_ which is entirely online in HTML,

"At the beginning of Christmas Holidays, 1955, I sat down before a bright
fire to commence what I hoped would be a short paper on the possibility of
testing the social psychological implications of the Sapir-Whorf
hypothesis. I meant to proceed by showing that the construction of a tiny
model language, with a grammar borrowed from the rules of modern logic,
taught to subjects of different nationalities in a laboratory setting under
conditions of control, would permit a decisive test. I have been writing
appendices for that paper ever since. I believed, once or twice, that I had
glimpsed the end of it; but I cannot yet be certain."

I present that quote in order to respond a priori to questions about
Esperanto and other invented languages (aren't all languages
invented?). Esperanto, for instance, is relatively easy to learn and use;
indeed there are lots of Web sites that speak Esperanto (google got 487,000
hits, only 3360 for loglan!) But, Loglan appears to be different; it is a
fabrication with a scientific bent, and one that might be important to
those of us who wish to build software tools to enable enhanced human
communication and learning.

The argument can be made that English is rapidly becoming the lingua franca
of the Web, and so it may be. My thinking is that it may still be worth
taking a look at fabricated, restricted languages as a means to continue
our efforts to understand the nature of communication.

I landed on Loglan not by chance, but by way of the insight of Charles
Moore, the creator of the Forth computer programming language, a language I
have used a lot. He pointed out an article in a back issue of Scientific
American, and that's where I started. More recently, I have observed
discussions on the Standard Upper Ontology list about the use of restricted
natural languages as an interlingua, so long as those languages can be used
as a means of expressing KIF expressions (Knowledge Interchange Format,
http://logic.stanford.edu/kif/kif.html). There is a discussion on
"controlled natural language" by John Sowa at

Mentioned there is ACE (Attempto Controlled English).

My point? Perhaps Loglan is worth looking at. Why start with English? Why
not start over with something already much closer to KIF?


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