[unrev-II] Speaking & Thinking with E-Prime

From: Jack Park (jackpark@thinkalong.com)
Date: Tue Oct 23 2001 - 08:20:20 PDT

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     From the creators of the statement "The Map is not the Territory"

    Consider this excerpt:
    "In essence, E-Prime consists of a more descriptive and extensionally
    oriented derivative of English, that automatically tends to bring the user
    back to the level of first person experience. For example, if you saw a
    man, reeking of whisky, stagger down the street and then collapse, you
    might think (in ordinary English) "He is drunk." In E-Prime one would think
    instead "He acts drunk," or "He looks drunk," both of which statements
    obviously coming closer to an accurate description of the actual
    experience, and involving fewer covert assumptions than the English
    original. After all, one might have encountered an actor (practicing the
    part of a drunken man), a man who had spilled alcohol on himself undergoing
    a seizure of some kind, etc., etc. The E-Prime statement still leaves these
    possibilities open, whereas the "is" statement does not. Although E-Prime
    usually reduces hidden assumptions, it does not exclude them (for example,
    you may have seen a woman, or a robot, or an alien, etc. that looked like a
    man and acted drunk). E-Prime fosters a worldview in which the user
    perceives situations as changeable rather than static, and where verbal
    formulations derived from experience indicate possibilities rather than
    certainties. Subjectively, I have found my creativity greatly enhanced, as
    many problems that "are unsolvable" in ordinary English only "seem
    unsolvable" in E-Prime! This shift in attitude can make a great difference.
    Thus, removing the "to be" verb from English results in a language of a
    more phenomenological character, in that this change automatically causes a
    reduction of the number of assumptions in even simple sentences. Statements
    made in E-Prime almost always mirror first person experience far more
    adequately than the "is" statements they replace. E-Prime also greatly
    encourages one to use the active voice ("Smith-1 did it") rather than the
    often misleading and information-poor passive voice ("it was done"). Of
    course, as Bourland pointed out, one can continue the modification of
    E-Prime even further, adding for example the alterations and
    non-aristotelian tools that Korzybski recommended (dating, indexing, etc.),
    bringing one to E-Prime-k. My own version of E-Prime (E-Prime-p) aims at a
    phenomenological ideal, of ever more adequately representing the territory
    of my experience while ever more clearly communicating with others."

    I pose this excerpt, in some sense, as a follow up to my earlier posts on
    Loglan, a language for speaking and thinking with logic.

    I also pose this excerpt since I think it is, an some other sense, related
    to the evolution of a Collaborative Literacy, as is being developed by Jeff
    Conklin and his colleagues.

    Robert Rosen took Aristotle to his limits in trying to formulate a means of
    modeling complex systems. The generalsemantics.org folks are speaking in
    non-aristotelian terms, and, largely, for the same purposes. Frankly, I'm
    having some problems getting my brain around the differences in
    approach. Perhaps, somewhere 'out there', we might have an opportunity to
    discuss this particular line of reasoning. That, because, I think, if we
    don't find a way to articulate what we think in terms that others will be
    able to unambiguously understand what we are saying, then (brace
    yourselves), all this OHS/DKR stuff will be for nought (or words to that


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