Received: by alpheratz.cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk id PAA17272 (8.6.9/5.3[ref firstname.lastname@example.org] for cpm.aca.mmu.ac.uk from email@example.com); Tue, 30 Apr 2002 15:54:50 +0100 Date: Tue, 30 Apr 2002 07:02:22 -0700 From: "Douglas P. Wilson" <firstname.lastname@example.org> Subject: Re: future language To: email@example.com Cc: Robert Neville <firstname.lastname@example.org> Message-id: <email@example.com> X-MIMEOLE: Produced By Microsoft MimeOLE V5.00.3018.1300 X-Mailer: Microsoft Outlook Express 5.00.3018.1300 Content-type: text/plain; charset=iso-8859-1 Content-transfer-encoding: 7BIT X-Priority: 3 X-MSMail-priority: Normal References: <E3DD3DA1-5C2D-11D6-80EF-003065B9A95A@harvard.edu> Sender: firstname.lastname@example.org Precedence: bulk Reply-To: email@example.com
Wade T.Smith <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
> As the missionary says in 'At Play in the Fields of the Lord'
> "In a hundred years or so, we'll all be brown."
The dingoes of Australia all look the same, though they probably arise from
feral dogs of not one but several distinctive breeds, but they are not a
good example since they came from quite a small population of individual
dogs, and became quite inbred.
Where there are large populations the missionary's insight is mistaken --
there are more true bottleless blondes and coal-coloured Africans alive to
day than ever in the past. Key biological principle: there are powerful
mechanisms for creating and sustaining biological diversity because such
diversity is essential to mere survival, let alone evolution.
Does this apply in memetics as well? I am sure it does. The Christian
religion, for example is founded on a book that includes strict warnings
against sectarian dissent, but oh what a wild diversity of churches read
that book today, each discovering their own truths therein.
> ... we'll co-manage language to the pidgin of a commonly shared tongue.
I believe you mean a creole, not a pidgin, but I didn't mean either one.
What I was trying to describe was not the blurring of distinctions but
something almost the opposite, a language capable of extreme clarity
precisely because it lacks all the historical accidents embedded in a
language like English. Perhaps I should have emphasized more strongly the
role of library classification schemes and thesauri as an inspiration and
source of data for what I have been trying to do.
> The experiment of esperanto has failed ...
As a "language" (or putative language) Esperanto was a pidgin because it
drew words from various source languages in an arbitrary way -- and that is
why it is entirely unlike the kind of universal or ideal language that
interests me, the kind which has lots of nice mathematical properties.
List the words of Esperanto in any alphabetical order and you will
immediately see that similar looking words often have strikingly different
meanings. This was done on purpose, for the sake of cultural neutrality,
but I think it an unfortunate design-decision.
> ... - a pocket of speakers exist, ...
I am told that there is actually a small number of NATIVE speakers of
Esperanto. It would be more correct to say that these people speak the
corresponding creole language, which would come into being when some people
learned Esperanto in infancy, as their first language, and then used it to
communicate among themselves while growing up. I hope someone is studying
this -- I'd love to know what parts of Esperanto have undergone changes
> but, as you say, it is not designed by the patterns and motives of
On re-reading my own message I note that my attempt to describe or to define
this wasn't very good -- not as clear as I had hoped. "Designed by" is an
interesting restatement, but I don't think it is quite right either. What
distinguishes German from Malay is, on this theory, is not so much design as
content -- it is the different memetic contents of the languages that makes
them different languages.
> But it is not only pride that stands in the way.
This statement reads like it was written by a person who sees the current
assortment of natural languages as rather a bad thing, someone who may have
hoped we as a species would adopt a single language, thereby rendering
I have been such a person all my life, but I am beginning to suspect there
is something wrong with that point of view. On the memetic-content theory,
each natural language may contain (or consist of) a large amount of memetic
content, something that is, or should be, or will be valuable. Had we all
adopted a single language a few generations ago, European Union meetings
would be less horrific, but the content encoded or embedded in the other
languages would have been lost.
We may someday learn to extract the content from languages, preserving and
perhaps making use of it, at which time we may discover that we have in
fact been speaking a single universal language all along and just didn't
notice because of all the memetic baggage in the way. (I know that sounds
preposterous, but I think the basic idea is only mildly insane and may
contain some small kernel of truth).
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