521-Class 26

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<sidebar>Psych521</sidebar>

Linguistic Engineering

Readings: Foer's New Yorker Article on Engineered Languages, Listen to this Radiolab segment on Charles Bliss, starting at about minute 5, but feel free to listen to the first bit as well.

Have a peek at a (fairly incomplete) list of constructed languages


Study questions

Foer

What is messy about languages according to Foer? How did Ithkuil aspire to be different?

What was the point of Quijada’s example of Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2”

What kind of learning and usability challenges might a language like Ithkuil present?

Why do you think that invented languages have never really caught on to the point of replacing entire normal (non-invented) languages?


Radiolab episode

What was Bliss’s hope for the symbolics language? Why was he not that happy that it was being used to help kids with cerebral palsy?

What are the similarities/differences between Bliss’s motivation in creating his symbolics system and Quijada’s Ithkuil?

Do you think that it is possible to have a language where the meaning of a word (or graphical symbol) is fixed so that it cannot be reinterpreted?


Take home points

  • Motivations for creating new languages tend to be utopian: understanding the "true" nature of things, exactitude, universal communication, world peace.
  • Some problems with constructed languages:

In their attempt to be logical and unambiguous they become unlearnable and unusable

  • Imposed categories tend to be highly idiosyncratic, not reflecting human psychology: Too complex. Cannot be understood in real time; Too inflexible (Blissymbolics)
  • Languages necessarily exist in a social context. Can't strip that away and expect the language to be learned.