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(The New Yorker)   The story of constructed language Ithkuil, designed to be both maximally precise and maximally concise. Come for the fascinating discussion on linguistics, stay for the bizarre right-wing hate group adopting use of the language   (newyorker.com) divider line 159
    More: Interesting, Ithkuil, linguistics, Robert Heinlein, Caspian Sea, ambiguity, artificial languages  
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14027 clicks; posted to Main » on 18 Dec 2012 at 5:23 PM (2 years ago)   |  Favorite    |   share:  Share on Twitter share via Email Share on Facebook   more»



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2012-12-18 08:49:16 PM  
^^ That's "more-standard."
 
2012-12-18 08:50:53 PM  
For a long view of the topic, check out Umberto Eco's The Search for the Perfect Language. Fascinating book.
 
2012-12-18 08:54:23 PM  

MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language. Watch who speak it - those who fail out of the educational system.

 
No it's not. It's a dialect of American English, with regularized transformations between the two. You're conflating linguistics with cultural demarcations of social class.
 
2012-12-18 08:58:23 PM  
Screw Esperanto. I've always felt that Spanish has the easiest spelling, fewest inconsistencies and best propensity for "saying what you mean". If we could drop the genders in Spanish, it would be the easiest language to learn, methinks.
 
2012-12-18 09:03:33 PM  
Ha, I thought that link was how to speak Elvis,not elvish
 
2012-12-18 09:07:52 PM  

MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language. Watch who speak it - those who fail out of the educational system.


Wow, you don't really know anything about linguistics at all.
 
2012-12-18 09:33:00 PM  
Doubleplusgood!
 
2012-12-18 09:35:32 PM  

Philip Francis Queeg: How do you say "esperanto" in Ithkuil?


Came for this ^.

And ftfa, regarding 'Gulf': 'Using their efficient language to communicate, the New Men plot to take over the world from the benighted "homo saps."

No. This is like saying 'LotR' is about a birthday party.
 
2012-12-18 09:36:28 PM  

theorellior: MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language. Watch who speak it - those who fail out of the educational system.
 
No it's not. It's a dialect of American English, with regularized transformations between the two. You're conflating linguistics with cultural demarcations of social class.

 
 
Don't make me go all rhinoceros on you........mesmile ha you!
 
Article was very good.  That guy's brilliant and humble and has all types of refined spiritual depth.
 
I'm simpler (duh)...fell in love with one word, and created a webpage for it.....from a Philippine dialect (Cibuano), the word is, well, "lantawa"   Here's the webpage for it   http://lantawa.com/  
 
Sorry about those Politics incidents. I'm sort of a bright spaz-noir, such as that may be. I'm over it.
 
2012-12-18 10:03:49 PM  

casual disregard: I think I agree with you. Except I have never witnissed Ithkuil fail :3 I would much prefer to witness the event in real-time than to pre-suppose it must be a dead idea.


What happens when two Ithkuil speakers disagree on how to translate a word or concept? Say that you (taking the example from the article) think that gawk contains an element of surprise and I think that gawk contains an element of stupidity?
 
2012-12-18 10:09:34 PM  

lockers: casual disregard: I think I agree with you. Except I have never witnissed Ithkuil fail :3 I would much prefer to witness the event in real-time than to pre-suppose it must be a dead idea.

While I am not a fan of not giving things a chance, I believe it's safe to assume that ithkuil is going nowhere. If you really want to give it a chance, embed it in a very successful fiction that you can world build around. Star trek gave you klingon... and I have met people who could read tolkeins what-ever-it-is-named elvish. That is probably your only chance of getting it taken seriously.


Where it could be taken seriously is in the area of language translation and speech recognition. It could be a kind of CLR for translators.
 
2012-12-18 10:10:44 PM  
How do we know this is a hate group? Did I miss something in the article? I just saw a Russian group that was interested...?
 
2012-12-18 10:35:43 PM  

TorqueToad: How do we know this is a hate group? Did I miss something in the article? I just saw a Russian group that was interested...?


They are lead by an anti-semitic nutter who wants to create a superhuman society to help free the ukraine from their russian overlords and the global elite (jews!). The main speaker at the conference was a known terrorist who'd served time for his criminal acts.

it's on like page 8.
 
2012-12-18 10:55:59 PM  
Yea, I don't think the author understood Gulf all that well.

Interesting that the story also mentioned Loglan but failed to mention the use of Loglan in "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress", what I consider to be RAH's best.

Interestingly, I was Renshawed back in the mid 1960's as part of a treatment for dyslexia. Seemed to work and I did become a very fast reader, although I'm not sure the T-scope was as useful as the adjustable speed reading screen - which in those days was a mechanical device that you placed over the open page of the book and was driven by a spring.
 
2012-12-18 11:20:57 PM  

GypsyJoker: If you want to hear snippets of a sampling of the world's languages, try here.

Some amazingly cool stuff; the Ubykh soundfiles are priceless. (Almost literally, because the language is dead.)


Neeeeeeaaat.

/etymology nerd
 
2012-12-18 11:28:16 PM  

NoboruWatanabe: ilambiquated: cig-mkr: [d6xokdhfna55s.cloudfront.net image 201x201]

That's called metathesis. Happens a lot. For example, in classical Greek, I have is ekho. I will have should be ekhso, but it's eskho. Another example: Bird used to be pronounce brid. And Germans say Ross (short for hross) instead of horse.

Out of curiosity, where do Germans use Ross instead of Pferd?

Been a German speaker since I was 5, don't think I've heard that one.


Not a Rammstein fan?

"Ich bin der Reiter
Du bist das Ross
Ich steige auf
Wir reiten los
Du stohnst ich sag dir vor
Ein Elefant im Nadelohr"

Rein Raus, from the album Mutter
 
2012-12-18 11:31:37 PM  
Well, because this is Fark, here's the world's compendium of swear words in all languages, starting with Tagalog
 
It is not safe for work
 
http://www.youswear.com/index.asp?language=Tagalog+%28Philippine%29
 
2012-12-18 11:37:18 PM  
I have never heard of Ithkuil before. Hmmm.
 
2012-12-18 11:45:42 PM  

LordOfThePings: thisisyourbrainonFark: tl;dr

+1


At first I was thinking tl;dr, then I r and realized that even though it was a little l it was wi
 
2012-12-18 11:59:25 PM  
"On a warm afternoon in mid-July, I visited Quijada's modest three-bedroom home in suburban Sacramento, where he lives with his wife, Carol Barry, also a retired civil servant..."

That's a sweeter deal than tenure, I am sure.

Constructed or natural, language is arbitrary. If natural languages are arbitrary, and he is building upon a framework based of natural languages, then his creation i is just as arbitrary as any other language. He's not created a language from scratch, just borrowed concepts and categories translated from his own linguistic framework into what his cultural/mental maps deem as "more precise". His idea of precision might be your complete inelegant sloppiness.

The really precise language was probably howled by the wild boy of Aveyron.

/I was a linguistics major, and the amount of egotistical puffery with the field, the Chomsky/Pinker fellation, the chicken/egg arguments, the hyping it up into a being a "real" science, as something mathematically rigorous and exact, plus the grad student brain sucking thievery of academia, etc...made me glad to graduate.
 
2012-12-19 12:00:11 AM  

Fark Rye For Many Whores: No one who set out to design a form of communication would ever end up with anything like English, Mandarin

Yes

, or any of the more than six thousand languages spoken today.

No. See that's not fair to every other language in the world, to choose the two weirdest (ok and French) languges. I'm not saying every other language makes sense (IANAL) but obviously the intense colonial/trade/exploration/science contacts have made those languages a mess.


You must forgive me, but I feel like that's a small apology for nudity. I realize we can't account for everything!

/fwiw no languages "make sense"
 
2012-12-19 12:06:12 AM  

casual disregard: Submitter here. I actually felt my heart break when I noticed Ithkuil had been embraced by terrorists.

Part of me, saying this as a USA citizen, wants to found a "daughter" country of the USA just to prove it's possible. And in doing so there would be two official languages: English would be spoken and written and Ithkuil would be the lingua franca. Or, I suppose, the lingua ithkuil.

Breaks my farking heart to see a hate group endorsing it, though.


Meh. I'm sure many anti-Semites piss into toilets while standing up.

Doesn't mean I'm going to put the seat down.

/why let douchebags ruin good things?
 
2012-12-19 12:26:42 AM  

on the road: casual disregard: Imagine a society in which English is the primary spoken and written language, except Ithkuil is the language of law. Nobody speaks Ithkuil except for practice.

You have all the advantages of English metaphor and all the advantages of Ithkuil specificity. Imagine spoken English language hand-in-hand with a written Ithkuil Constitution. Literally the best of both worlds.

I understand the point, but it leaves a huge gulf between the written and spoken language, like Chinese. People literally have to learn two separate languages to both speak and write.

For one thing, it promotes illiteracy. Mastering written Chinese is a herculean task that was crystalized in practices like the mandarin examinations. It tends to absorb effort that could be channeled into more practical or fulfilling ends.

For a country to establish spoken English and written Ithkuil as official languages would be worse than simply using Chinese. Since the languages are separate in structure, anything spoken that has to be written down is subject to misunderstanding and mischief. Contracts and legislation would suddenly require a two-step process to accomplish anything meaningful that represents the original intent.


That is an excellent point which I cannot answer. I would hope that the crystalline structure of Ithkuil would overtake the problem. But successful implementation would require good faith. Can we guarantee good faith on an inherently unfaithful format of communication? Before we answer, let's remember that the first group to acknowledge Ithkuil seriously was a hate group.
 
2012-12-19 12:30:34 AM  
Subby is confused. Hate Groups are always left-wing
 
2012-12-19 12:42:30 AM  

Clemkadidlefark: Subby is confused. Hate Groups are always left-wing


No, they're North, South, East, or West-wing, depending on which direction they're facing at the time.
 
2012-12-19 12:53:21 AM  

Graffito: casual disregard: I think I agree with you. Except I have never witnissed Ithkuil fail :3 I would much prefer to witness the event in real-time than to pre-suppose it must be a dead idea.

What happens when two Ithkuil speakers disagree on how to translate a word or concept? Say that you (taking the example from the article) think that gawk contains an element of surprise and I think that gawk contains an element of stupidity?


I think that is a fair criticism. I suppose the idea is that Ithkuil is rigidly defined and rigidly enforced. I don't know how specifically you could prevent it from deforming or devolving. It's the sort of language which has no native speakers by default and therefore has no rules to break as a result.
 
2012-12-19 12:59:46 AM  

cig-mkr: Ebonics, or "African American Vernacular English" just seemed to me to be an excuse for a poor command of the English language. It's probably just the way it was presented and how the media hammered it to death.


Actually, my understanding was that by classifying "Ebonics" as different language, schools could get ESL (English as a Second Language) grants to teach them how to speak English.   Schools in predominantly Hispanic neighborhoods were getting extra money to teach their students how to speak English, and the schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods wanted a piece of that action too.  
 
Ironically, the black community got their panties in a wad about this, played the race card, and effectively screwed themselves out of a nice chunk of federal grant money for their kids.
 
2012-12-19 01:03:18 AM  

Mawson of the Antarctic: After listening to so many people today biatch and moan on both sides of the Instagram debate, it's refreshing to read something of actual substance.

 
/language enthusiast, etymology fan
 
 
If you're interested in this kind of thing, you might want to read Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid ("GEB" for short) or Le Ton beau de Marot by Douglas Hofstadter. He wrote some pretty interesting stuff about translation.  One of the the points he made was that the shorter a piece of text is, the harder it is to translate it well.  Thus, he concludes, the title of a longer work is often the most difficult part of the work to translate, since it encapsulates so much meaning into so little text.
 
One example that I think illustrates this point is a short story written in Spanish titled "Nosotras."  The word "nosotras" is the feminine first person plural; it's used when everyone being referred to is female.  I guess you could translate it as "We, the Women" or "Us Females."  In the story, the fact that every character (to whom the title refers) is female turns out to be a significant plot point.  But in English, a translated title like "We, the Women" overstresses that point.  There just isn't a simple way in English to convey the point of the title without bludgeoning the reader over the head with it.
 
2012-12-19 01:15:56 AM  

lockers: So what happens when it becomes a living language and morphs into a flawed, yet serviceable language like all the rest. In theory, people using Ithkuil will change the way they use language. In practice, people will change Ithkuil as they use it. A lot of English's written oddities has to do with the great vowel migration (a political event) happening after the formalization of the written language. That messy people problem is what caused all practical languages to be less than ideal. Given that, why is this language "better" than english? Considering we have damn near universal literacy in the first world, and a majority a literate worldwide, what exactly is the benefit that is immune to the people using it problem?

 
It was pointed out to me in a book that trying to make a phonetic language for an alphabet is a losing proposition for two reasons: first, that languages have multiple dialects, and second, that the pronunciation of words changes over time. Take the infamous English phrase "park the car in Harvard Yard" for example. If there is only one correct way to spell it, but you use a phonetic alphabet, then there is only one "correct" way to pronounce it and all other dialects are "wrong." Who's going to decide which dialect of English is the sole "correct" one?
 
I think I first read this in "How the Mind Works" by Steven Pinker, but I'm not sure.
 
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/How_the_mind_works
 
2012-12-19 01:18:34 AM  

Pointy Tail of Satan: Imray Klaatu narruwak. Micro pru val barata luke dinsal inkaplis. Yabu tari axel bugettio barengi-degas.


OK, but that's not a very nice thing to say about your sister.
 
2012-12-19 01:45:16 AM  
That was the craziest article I've ever read.
 
2012-12-19 01:48:49 AM  

Dr.Zom: Among the Wakashan Indians of the Pacific Northwest, a grammatically correct sentence can't be formed without providing what linguists refer to as "evidentiality," inflecting the verb to indicate whether you are speaking from direct experience, inference, conjecture, or hearsay.

 
English need this.
 
Cool article, subby, thanks.
 
Actually, English has more evidentiality built into it than native speakers realize.  To give one example, think of WILL versus GOING TO.  The difference between "It will rain tomorrow" and "It's going to rain tomorrow" is evidentiality.
 
http://www.englishgrammarsecrets.com/goingtoorwill/menu.php
 
One thing I love about the Nepali language is how it does evidentiality, especially the "hearsay particle" "re" (think "ray of sunshine" for pronunciation).  It rougly translates as "X said that" or "according to X."
 
So the pseudo-Nepali sentence "Mary is beautiful, John-ray" translates into "John said that Mary is beautiful" or "John thinks that Mary is beautiful."  It's such a useful little monosyllable.  You can even leave off specifying WHO said it, so it becomes a more general "They say that" or "It is said that":
 
"bhare paanii parcha re"
this.evening water fall(PRES INDEF) HEARSAY
'They say that it's going to rain this evening.' 
 
http://cslipublications.stanford.edu/LFG/11/lfg06bashir.pdf
 
2012-12-19 01:52:35 AM  

Pointy Tail of Satan: Imray Klaatu narruwak. Micro pru val barata luke dinsal inkaplis. Yabu tari axel bugettio barengi-degas.


Just be sure to pronounce that correctly.
 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4VtcOCHePB4
 
2012-12-19 01:56:45 AM  

Don't Tongue the Reaper!: Dr.Zom: Among the Wakashan Indians of the Pacific Northwest, a grammatically correct sentence can't be formed without providing what linguists refer to as "evidentiality," inflecting the verb to indicate whether you are speaking from direct experience, inference, conjecture, or hearsay.

 
English need this.
 
Cool article, subby, thanks.
 
Quechua has a similar evidentiality. I know this personally, I am not speaking from hearsay :)

But does Quechua have a "hearsay particle" for evidentiality like Nepali does?
 
2012-12-19 02:02:23 AM  

Oznog: Consequently many of the BASE words got deprecated because they couldn't be distinguished from the negated form. For example, "evitable" and "clement" are words, but rarer if not deprecated. If you said "inevitable" or "inclement" with a lot of common-speech accents, the "n" sound is often short and can be absent but the word may be assumed to be "inevitable" or "inclement" even in the lack of contextual clues, unless the surrounding enunciation context is so bold and clear that its absence would be noted.

 
Frankie Landau-Banks would like a word with you about neglected positives.  I think she's a bit gruntled.  Also
25.media.tumblr.com
Hopes the weather will be clement.
 
2012-12-19 02:10:37 AM  

CitizenTed: Screw Esperanto. I've always felt that Spanish has the easiest spelling, fewest inconsistencies and best propensity for "saying what you mean". If we could drop the genders in Spanish, it would be the easiest language to learn, methinks.


Correction: It's easy to learn pidgin Spanish.  It's NOT easy to learn real Spanish.  The grammar is remarkably more difficult to master than most people realize.
 
If the level of fluency you're looking for is "Please give me a glass of water" and "How much do the sunglasses cost?" then, sure, it's easy.  If you want to appreciate Pablo Neruda, then it's a very different story.
 
2012-12-19 02:39:41 AM  

KarmicDisaster: I'd be very surprised if the average right wing hater could learn this. I mean study it out.


"Right Wing" (and "conservative") are shifty terms. Just to point out something not necessarily obvious, the "nationalist" terrorist groups in what use to be the old SU are mostly out-of-work Communists who are beating the nationalistic drum to gain support.

So if the particular koolaid meme you're slavishly repeating is "All right wing people are drooling morons" it may not particularly apply here.
 
2012-12-19 02:53:49 AM  

Just Another OC Homeless Guy: KarmicDisaster: I'd be very surprised if the average right wing hater could learn this. I mean study it out.

 
"Right Wing" (and "conservative") are shifty terms. Just to point out something not necessarily obvious, the "nationalist" terrorist groups in what use to be the old SU are mostly out-of-work Communists who are beating the nationalistic drum to gain support.
 
So if the particular koolaid meme you're slavishly repeating is "All right wing people are drooling morons" it may not particularly apply here.

At some point the horseshoe theory comes into play.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horseshoe_theory
 
2012-12-19 02:54:19 AM  

Just Another OC Homeless Guy: KarmicDisaster: I'd be very surprised if the average right wing hater could learn this. I mean study it out.

"Right Wing" (and "conservative") are shifty terms. Just to point out something not necessarily obvious, the "nationalist" terrorist groups in what use to be the old SU are mostly out-of-work Communists who are beating the nationalistic drum to gain support.

So if the particular koolaid meme you're slavishly repeating is "All right wing people are drooling morons" it may not particularly apply here.


That might be true if the nationalists in question weren't also stridently anti-communist. In this case, the almost cultish group adopting the language is pro-white, pro-Slav/Rus, anti-Jew, anti-Israel, etc. It's hard to imagine a less right-wing organization. You might well be projecting your own hopes and fears onto the other side. Have you ever considered that?
 
2012-12-19 03:20:13 AM  

lantawa: Well, because this is Fark, here's the world's compendium of swear words in all languages, starting with Tagalog
 
It is not safe for work
 
http://www.youswear.com/index.asp?language=Tagalog+%28Philippine%29

 
I see that your website has a Nepali page, and includes my favorite Nepali swear word, "Chickne."
 
When I lived in Nepal, I had a Peace Corps friend who was in training to become a math teacher, and he was working with some younger kids, doing practice teaching.  Since he was still in training, the trainer (who was fluent in both Nepali and English) was in the classroom observing his lesson.  The subject was addition, and my friend delivered the lesson in his best Nepali.
 
My friend divided the students into groups of four and gave each group a box of matches.  As he was telling the students what to do, he gave the instruction "Remove the matches from the box," but he mispronounced the verb for "remove."  The Nepali verb he wanted was "Jickne," but what he actually said was "Chickne."  The students burst out laughing.
 
Later, my friend asked the trainer why the students had laughed.  The trainer explained that he had used the verb "Chickne" when he should have said "Jickne."  "Chickne" is a vulgar word meaning "to copulate" or "to have six with."  So instead of saying, "Remove the matches from the box," what he had actually told the children was, "Fark the matches in the box"!
 
/Then there's the American tourist who went into a bar intended to ask for a pisco sour, but accidentally asked for a "pico sour" instead.
//  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pisco_sour
/// "Pico" is Chilean slang for "penis"
 
2012-12-19 03:22:10 AM  

NoboruWatanabe: ilambiquated: cig-mkr: [d6xokdhfna55s.cloudfront.net image 201x201]

That's called metathesis. Happens a lot. For example, in classical Greek, I have is ekho. I will have should be ekhso, but it's eskho. Another example: Bird used to be pronounce brid. And Germans say Ross (short for hross) instead of horse.

Out of curiosity, where do Germans use Ross instead of Pferd?

Been a German speaker since I was 5, don't think I've heard that one.


It's semi-obsolete, poetic.

Aufs hohe Ross setzen sich meistens diejenigen, die nicht reiten können.


Or

Des Rosses Gurte sind gespannt;
Glück wird es mir bringen.
Unter Hufen hallt das Land,
hell die Eisen klingen.

etc
 
2012-12-19 03:23:30 AM  

ciberido: Then there's the American tourist who went into a bar intended to ask for a pisco sour, but accidentally asked for a "pico sour" instead.

 
I meant to specify that this happened in Santiago, so everyone in the bar laughed when they heard the American ask for a "pico sour."
 
2012-12-19 04:28:59 AM  

DeltaPunch: Very cool, thanks subby.

Anyone know of any good resources for a budding language/linguistics enthusiast, either online or actual book?


Wikipedia is pretty cool actually. Try skimming through the descriptions of obscure languages, like Akan (Twi), Georgian (Kartveli) etc. There's lots of good stuff about Sanskrit too. The list is endless. You'll bump into a lot of things you never heard of like "tone terracing", "polysynthesis" and "circumfixing" etc etc.Then explore from there. The good thing is you can do it at your own speed.

Also I recommend "Empires of the Word" to help get a big picture.
 
2012-12-19 04:39:11 AM  

MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language.


That's an example of what's called "prescriptive" linguistics. Most people interested in languages are interested in "descriptive" linguistics.
 
2012-12-19 06:44:51 AM  
Well, that was a depressing, albeit interesting, read. It sometimes seems there exists no work so innocent and so crafted with the finest intentions but that will find perverse application in the hands of some batshiat kooks.
 
2012-12-19 06:59:12 AM  

ilambiquated: MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language.

That's an example of what's called "prescriptive" linguistics. Most people interested in languages are interested in "descriptive" linguistics.


Irregardless, amateur grammar Nazis tend to be prescriptive.
 
2012-12-19 07:51:44 AM  

Isildur: Well, that was a depressing, albeit interesting, read. It sometimes seems there exists no work so innocent and so crafted with the finest intentions but that will find perverse application in the hands of some batshiat kooks.


Duh.

/I wonder how you say "Duh" in Ithkuil?
 
2012-12-19 08:16:39 AM  

casual disregard: The idea is supposedly that the language is not intended to be spoken. It is intended to be perfect code.

Imagine a society in which English is the primary spoken and written language, except Ithkuil is the language of law. Nobody speaks Ithkuil except for practice.

You have all the advantages of English metaphor and all the advantages of Ithkuil specificity. Imagine spoken English language hand-in-hand with a written Ithkuil Constitution. Literally the best of both worlds.


What you have is another barrier between people who actually understand what the law says or shoudl say and what the average person thinks the law says/or wants it to say.
 
2012-12-19 08:17:10 AM  

MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language. Watch who speak it


uhhhhhhhh
 
2012-12-19 10:17:53 AM  

Baryogenesis: ilambiquated: MemeSlave: Ebonics IS a poor command of the English language.

That's an example of what's called "prescriptive" linguistics. Most people interested in languages are interested in "descriptive" linguistics.

Irregardless, amateur grammar Nazis tend to be prescriptive.


static.tumblr.com
 
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