The first tentative example of a non-arbitrary languages is a language composed entirely of acronyms. For the moment please consider this only as a reference language, useful for the precise definition of terms or the creation of ontologies. Inventing languages for actual spoken use by human beings is a much nuttier activity, discussed elsewhere. Acronymic languages are most interesting because of several remarkable properties, discussed below, especially the summary and expansion properties. We are all familiar with text compression software — in constructing an acronymic language we essentially build a text compression scheme right into the structure of the language. This is possible because of certain rules that any acronymic language must obey :
Rule One — Transparency of Vocabulary
The vocabulary of a language is transparent when any pair of words which are similar in sound, or similar in written form are also similar in meaning. Some words in English seem to have this property, as illustrated by the sequence: spit, spat, spot, spurt, spunk, and many other sets of words given as examples of sound symbolism or onomatapoeia, most of which have been collected and published by Margaret Magnus . Though such examples are numerous, English and all other natural languages most certainly do not obey this rule. There may well be good reasons why not.
All constructed languages that obey Rule One are not acronymic languages, which must obey another rule:
Rule Two — Fronting, Most Significant Data First
The Greek prefix ‘acro’ means ‘extremity’ or ‘height’, as in the word ‘acropolis’ which usually means a fortress or temple on a hill or mountain top. In the word ‘acronym’ it always means an initial letter or the sound at the beginning of a word, never the letter or sound at the other extremity, the end of the word. We might by analogy coin the term ‘bathonym’ and talk about a ‘bathonymic language’. What would this mean in practice? In an acronymic language the words ‘stop’ and ‘strong’ would be considered very similar, since they both begin with ‘st’. In a bathonymic language they would be considered quite different, since one ends with ‘op’ and the other with ‘ng’. One might also imagine a neutral language in which all sounds or letters have equal significance, regardless of position in the word. All three of these hypothetical languages would obey Rule One, but for reasons given below the acronymic languages, those which obey Rule Two, are much more interesting and potentially useful.
There is one more rule to present, and that is one adopted for convenience only. Each of us speaks and writes a natural language which obeys none of these rules but which shapes our thoughts in profound ways we never fully perceive. Neutrality is almost impossible, and constructed languages like Zamenhof’s Esperanto are probably weaker because of the attempt at neutrality, which deprived Esperanto of any consistent sound symbolism or phonosemantics. So, instead of any attempt at neutrality, the example acronymic language presented here obeys the purely pragmatic:
Rule Three — Approximation to some Natural Language
Rule One and Rule Two do indeed rule, and all research has aimed at a language that satisfies them completely. But that still leaves considerable freedom of choice. Somehow those choices had to be made, and the only practical scheme was to approximate a natural language, in this case English. Insofar as was possible given the very onerous constraints of the first two rules, words were given some approximation to the meanings of their English equivalents.
… very unfinished, please be patient …
Copyright © 2002 Douglas P. Wilson
Related Web Pages are:
The main Social Technology page.
FindCompatibles , the key page, with the real solution to all other problems explained
Technological Fantasies , a page about future technology
Practical Immortality , not the immortality of the body, nor making a copy of the mind in a machine, but actual transfer of a person, personality, memory and consciousness into a supercomputer
Social Tech a page about Social Technology, technology for social purposes. I think I was the first person to use this phrase on the Internet, quite a long time ago.
Roughly corresponding to these web pages are the following blogs :
FindCompatibles devoted to matching people with friends, lovers, jobs, places to live and so on, but doing so in ways that will actually work, using good math, good algorithms, good analysis.
Technological Fantasies devoted to future stuff, new ideas, things that might be invented or might happen, such as what is listed above and below.
Practical Immortality yes, practical immortality. Don’t write this off as insanity, please. See the first entry in the blog first.
Sex-Politics-Religion is a blog about these important topics, which I have been told should never be mentioned in polite conversation. Alright that advice does seem a bit dated, but many people are still told not to bring up these subjects around the dinner table.
I believe I was the first person on the Internet to use the phrase Social Technology — years before the Web existed.
Those were the good old days, when the number of people using the net exceeed the amount of content on it, so that it was easy to start a discussion about such an upopular topic. Now things are different. There are so many web pages that the chances of anyone finding this page are low, even with good search engines like Google. Oh, well.
By Social Technology I mean the technology for organizing and maintaining human society. The example I had most firmly in mind is the subject of FindCompatibles , what I consider to be the key page, the one with the real solution to all other problems explained.
As I explained on my early mailing lists and later webpages, I find that social technology has hardly improved at all over the years. We still use representative democracy, exactly the same as it was used in the 18th century. By contrast, horse and buggy transporation has been replaced by automobiles and airplanes, enormous changes.
In the picture below you will see some 18th century technology, such as the ox-plow in the middle of the picture. How things have changed since then in agricultural technology. But we still use chance encounters, engagements and marriages to organize our home life and the raising of children.
I claim that great advances in social technology are not only possible but inevitable. I have written three novels about this, one preposterously long, 5000 pages, another merely very very long, 1500 pages. The third is short enough at 340 pages to be published some day. Maybe. The topic is still not interesting to most people. I will excerpt small parts of these novels on the web sometime, maybe even post the raw text for the larger two.
This site includes many pages dating from 1997 to 2008 which are quite out of date. They are included here partly to show the development of these ideas and partly to cover things the newer pages do not. There will be broken links where these pages referenced external sites. I’ve tried to fix up or maiintain all internal links, but some will probably have been missed. One may wish to look at an earlier version of this page , rather longer, and at an overview of most parts of what can be called a bigger project.
Type in this address to e-mail me. The image is interesting. See Status of Social Technology
Copyright © 2007, 2008, 2009, Douglas Pardoe Wilson
I have used a series of e-mail address over the years, each of which eventually became out of date because of a change of Internet services or became almost useless because of spam. Eventually I stuck with a Yahoo address, but my inbox still fills up with spam and their spam filter still removes messages I wanted to see. So I have switched to a new e-mail service. Web spiders should not be able to find it, since it is hidden in a jpeg picture. I have also made it difficult to reach me. The picture is not a clickable link. To send me e-mail you must want to do so badly enough to type this address in. That is a nuisance, for which I do apologize, but I just don’t want a lot of mail from people who do not care about what I have to say.