Saturday, October 24, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 6

Maxim Six: Loglan can be used as an interlanguage.

This is never listed as a goal or virtue of Loglans, but it has been a theme for many years (I suggested it around 1961 and was almost certainly not the first) and has been growing in importance in recent years.  It requires some explanation.  First, although the usual word for interlanguage is "interlingua" and that, in turn, is the name of several international auxiliary languages, this is not about a Loglan as an IAL.  Indeed, even though various users of Loglans have suggested this as a goal and several feature and maxims have made it a plausible goal (cultural neutrality, vocabulary drawn from a wider range of cultures), the official organs of Loglan and Lojban have repeated denied such an aim.  The syntactic and semantic peculiarities if Loglans has probably reinforced this position.  We will, however come back to this question from another direction later.

Rather, a interlanguage is a concept from the work of handling language data on computers.  It is a language which lays out the data supplied by various natural languages in a format more readily accessible to various manipulations: translation, abstraction, cross-referencing and the like.  The original notion come from machine translation, where it was seen first as an economy: translation between two languages require two translation programs, among three, six, four, 12 and so on, n(n-1) for n languages.  But, if there were a single language into which one could translate from any language and out of which one could translate to any language, with accuracy comparable to the one-to-one translations, then the only 2n programs would be needed.  If the new language were of a particularly simple, transparent, structure, without the details of various natural languages, the programs for a given language might be significantly simpler than any one-to-one program, which has to deal with the particularities of two languages at once,  And so, the scheme's disadvantages in number for a small group of languages might be overcome by each translation program being markedly simpler.

At the translation level, which tends to be the beginning of all processing of language data other than statistics about a particular language, the idea is that the text in one language comes in and is translated into the interlanguage.  From there, in the translation phase, version in the other languages in the system can be run off as needed.  But the interlanguage text can be dealt with in a variety of other ways: an abstract can be prepared, consequents can be inferred, categorization across a variety of fields can be made.  And so on with all the things that get done with texts.  These other uses of the text help to guide the selection of features for the interlanguage, keeping it as simple as possible yet as useful as needed.

Clearly, because of consequents drawing, formal logic is going to play a role in the mix.  But it is also there because the interlanguage version of the text sentence is supposed to show the meaning of that sentence and this is readily taken to be a formula of the currently favored logical system.  Beyond this there are clearly needs for various kinds of rhetorical information, pragmatic markers, connotation clues and the like to make translation (and the rest) accurate.  Some of these, however, may already be in some of the more advanced logical systems.  The vocabulary of the language has to be fairly fluid to allow that word-word translation does not always work well, that one language's "blue" may be another's "green" and many much more complex problems of being outside -- or at least marking separately -- all the various cultural features that might be involved  Even anaphora needs some special consideration. The sciences seem to have fewer of these sorts of problems and so have been the first areas to be dealt with along these lines.

And, of course, once you start to talk about a language into which you translate everything and from which all can be derived, someone made the leap to:  Why don't we all, at the occasions where this sort of things is to be done, just talk the interlanguage, thus eliminating at least one step -- and, for most of us actually involved, all the steps.  We talk interlanguage and so don't need the translations, though they are available for those who don't speak interlanguage (what are they doing here any how?).  There is some evidence that thoughts along this line -- as well as an ancient tradition of doing scholarship in a common language and a fondness for IALs among intellectuals -- played a role in the development of some IALs designed specifically for scientific conferences.

At every point in the above description of an interlanguage, the various maxims about the Loglans are clearly echoed: formal logic, cultural independence, freedom from ambiguity (not mentioned above but clearly necessary),   And it is already spoken by a significant number of speakers. So, a Loglan is a natural for an interlanguage or, at the worst, is a long step toward its development, needing only minor refinements to be totally adequate.  Such refinements would clearly be needed if the questions raised here about the accuracy of the various claims are borne out.  But even then this is clearly a better starting point than any natural language, since it is fully described and comes close to most of the goals.  So, let us begin with a Loglan and tweak as the best strategy to proceed.

The nearly fatal flaw with this plan is that the interlanguage is not a language in any ordinary sense. It has no phonology nor morphology, it doesn't have a syntax to lay out the linear order of words (and no words, for that matter, nor linear order).  It is a data structuring device, in which the meaning of sentences are given a conceptual form.  It is at least two-dimensional and often many more.  It involves detached and discontinuous elements.  And much more.  Now, obviously, all of these features are represented more or less well in ordinary linear languages, since that is whence they come into an interlanguage. But mainly less well, given the linear nature of language.  Even a very good Loglan -- indeed, even formal logic itself -- is always 1) going to fall short of accuracy and 2) involve a mass of irrelevancies of phonology, morphology and syntax.  So, in no way, can it substitute for an interlanguage.

But this does not mean that Loglans are useless in creating an interlanguage.  Lying, as they claim to do, somewhere between  formal logic and ordinary speech, the deviations that they make from formal logic toward speech may be as significant as the deviations the other way.  And the way these moves fail may be even more revealing.  Consider one simple case, modification pairs, such as those displayed in the iconic "pretty little girls school", here understood in the basic right-grouping sense.  Formal logic has traditionally taken constructions as simple conjunction "this is a school and for girls and little and pretty", but this is notoriously inaccurate, as "small galaxy" immediately shows.  The Loglans keep these constructions from speech, thus indicating the necessity of keeping a visible relationship between the parts.  However, they fail in that they take all such pairs as the same, where as the relationships involved may be very different for different pairs,  Even formal logic acknowledges some differences: notice the 'x is for girls" not merely 'x is girls" in the expansion above (less clear if the original were "girls'").  Clearly, the relation between "girls" and "school" is different from that between "little" and "girls school" and that difference needs to appear in the interlanguage (and, indeed, in any deep representation of the meaning of an expression). (Obviously, Loglans, like ordinary languages, can express all these difference, but, like both ordinary languages and logic, they do not do so at the most basic level, but only in elaborate periphrases.)

How would this phrase look (in a very schematic way) in an interlanguage?  It begins with an entity item attached by an instantiation connection to a nexus loosely described externally as SCHOOL, which contains threads for buildings, campuses, institutions, as well as education (and many more that are not relevant here but might be activated in different circumstances).  The addition of "girls" as a modifier activates a series of connections which gets to "student body" and this is now linked by inclusion to GIRLS.  Adding "little" looks for sized components and finds, again, building, campus and student body and the size of each of these is compared with that of the "average" SCHOOL in these areas and declared to be significantly less. (I won't go into "pretty" which behaves more or less like "little" but does pretty much eliminate institutions from the relevant connections for SCHOOL.)   The whole of the phrase is now a neural-net-like mass in semantic space: a central cluster, with radiating lines, from which yet more lines radiate to termini ut nunc.  But any of these termini -- and indeed, the central cluster -- may yet be developed as the discourse proceeds.  The school may be established as a single building, which may reflect back on the original cluster.  Or the curriculum may get spelled out.  Or a teacher introduced.  Or the girls' ethnicity may be an issue.  And so on.  To a large extent, such developments are sequential in a dialogic development, yet some may reflect back to earlier points in various ways (as in the confinement to a single building just noted).  And, of course, in the process other centers spring up and evelop and their expansions come to intersect with earlier center.  In the end, an interlanguage text is a four dimensional spreading shadow across the semantic field (unfortunately, the clearest metaphor seems to be a cancer).  No Loglan, nor otherlanguage, can represent this in its basic simplicity.  Every language can (at least in theory) say what the interlanguage represents.  


Friday, August 28, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 4

Maxim 4: Loglans are unambiguous.

Officially, that means that they are free of syntactic ambiguity, that the sentences cannot be analyzed in more than one way. This does not prevent any other sort of ambiguity: ambiguous words or phrases, ambiguous references, and so on. Nor does it prevent vagueness, a lack of precision in the given situation. Much of the history of the vocabulary of the Loglans has, however, been directed against these problems as well.

The basic claim of anamphiboly flows from the fact that FOPL++ is easily shown to be to be such and that the Loglans, as derived from this base, with care, preserve this feature. The immediate problem is that the Loglans were not derived systematically from the base but were created by different processes which, nonetheless kept that base more or less in sight. These processes centered on grammatical theories and presentation that were in several ways different from that employed in FOPL++. So the claim of freedom from syntactic ambiguity rests on the products of these theories, not on FOPL++. There are open (and unexplored) questions whether every grammatical sentence according to these can be automatically traced back to a well-formed formula of FOPL++; whether, if so, the formula is the right one, given the meaning of the sentence; whether every well-formed FOPL++ sentence gives rise to a grammatical Loglan sentence (and the right one); whether there are alternate, equally valid, grammars (from other theories perhaps) that yield different results on Loglan sentences (giving them different structures or even reversing their grammaticality). There are in particular problems, more or less on the line between grammar and semantics, about pronoun reference and the scope of quantifiers, two systems from FOPL++ rejected early in Loglan history. Part of the problem is simply that the transformation of FOPL++ to a Loglan using familiar sort of rules has never been attempted . For now, though, it seems that the Loglans are pretty much ambiguity free according to their own grammars. And this is no small things, since no other languages, natural or constructed, can make that claim or offer that thorough a grammar.

Taking that as settled and despite repeated advice against it, much attention in the Loglans has been directed at other forms of ambiguity and vagueness. So, for example, figurative meanings are to be marked to distinguish them from literal ones and, typically, several level and types of figurative meaning are also distinguished and marked (optionally, of course). But even literal meanings have been refined considerably. Part of this is, of course, just part of getting technical terminology for various fields. But many of the discussions of new words suggest ordinary applications are intended. Some of this is surely fed by L1 preconceptions, which find any other way of parceling out the universe to be inherently wrong (never mind neutrality) and so want to divide broader concepts (“vague”) or combine separate ones, rather than leaving them stand on their own and working with them. (Oddly, nothing seems to have ever been done with {klama}, which covers two verbs in most familiar languages: “come” and “go” in English, for example.) This is in addition to the natural expansion of the vocabulary to meet the needs of the modern world: words for pizza and smart phones and dick pix and whatever else in todays headlines. So, the vocabulary of the Loglans (I admit I really only know about Lojban here) has grown enormously and in a fairly uncontrolled fashion. No authority seems to check words to see if they are actually new or well formed or fit to their intended use and no on seems to guarantee that all words coined get recorded in a central file (of which there seem to be several, run by different groups).

While the expansion of the predicate vocabulary has been large, it has at least some natural roots. The expansion of the particle vocabulary is proportionately even greater and less clearly motivated. The phonological definition of a particle (in Lojban, again) has been expanded several times to meet the growing number of new forms suggested. While many of these new forms are cases of preciding old forms and so make no new grammatical categories, many others seem to be new grammatical functions (not always terribly clear) and thus to require new grammatical rules. And that requires another look at the whole grammar to see whether it still coheres. It is not clear that this has been done for several years. The overall effect has been to complicate a once fairly straightforward grammar into something quite Rococo with relatively little motivation other than someone's “brilliant idea” and a plausible appeal to some language somewhere maybe doing it on some level.

Since the grammar is both complex and minutiae-laden, there is thus the practical question whether a speaker can be sure that what they say is grammatical and what they meant to say. The omission or misplacement of tiny particles can materially change the whole structure (and so, presumably, meaning) of a sentence. Loglans generally have low redundancy, so mistakes of this sort are not as readily spotted as they might be in natural languages, which offer added clues, nor is backtracking allowed.

But even in the area of fixed items, there has been considerable uncertainty and change and lack of settlement. To take the longest running case, {lo} was inherited by Lojban from Loglan with a very unclear – indeed, diverse and contradictory – definition. It is a term maker, a mate to {le}, itself a somewhat problematic version of the logical definite descriptor (the unique object with the property if there is exactly one but otherwise – the usual case – the thing the speaker has in mind and calls by this name, regardless of whether it has the property). The one sure thing about {lo} is that {lo brida} is actually a brida – in some sense. After a long period of dispute about the implicit quantifiers with the descriptors which decided there were none, the question turned to what the expressions actually referred to: the obvious things with the property (one or several – which creates its own problems), the mass of such things, the archetype of such things, and so on, usually trying to reproduce the superficial expressions of, say, Trobriand Islanders or the Piriha~. Eventually, a reasonable solution appeared to have been found in the notion of plural reference (or Lesniewskian sets) and of saliency. However, even after the dust settled, an informal survey suggests that now two Lojbanists has the same idea about what the official definition is and almost none have it nearly right. Similar, though less virulent, discussions have clouded the issue of quantifiers, resulting in a variety of basic ones in place of the original two. In the case of anaphoric pronouns, there are several systems, formal and informal, but no guarantee that they are collectively adequate, short of actual repetition or overt assignments (not a part of ordinary language). Some of the systems are also impractical to apply, requiring remembering the exact grammatical role a word played in an earlier sentence, for example. And failure here does reflect back on syntactic ambiguity, since, if we cannot be sure whether what goes in one place is the same as in another, we have lost the logical form.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 5

Maxim 5: Loglans increase rationality.

This is New Age SWH, taken now not as a hypothesis to be tested but as a theory to used. The idea is that, since Loglans incorporate logic and logic is at the root of rationality, speaking a Loglan will make for more rationality. The shift from hypothesis to guiding principle is alrady present in much of Whorf at least, so the move is not unprecedented, And, as in Whorf, it functions at several levels, personal, global and political. Sometimes it is just the speaker who becomes more rational; sometimes it is that a world with many Loglan speakers would become a more rational world; sometimes it is that, should Loglan become the language of diplomacy and law, the world would become a more rational (and, hence, peaceful and pleasant) place.

Aside from the problems with SWH as a description of anything, this view also relies on the rather tenuous connection of Loglans with logic and upon the connection of logic with rationality. To be sure, it is rational to accept the conclusion of a valid argument from premises you accept and less rational not to. And logic (in the present sense) provides a direct means for determining that a valid argument is valid. So, it is a useful tool in the pursuit of rationality. Logic (in a slightly extended sense) also usually provides a tool for finding that an invalid argument is not valid, may even – more usefully – suggest both arguments that are like the present one but clearly wrong and also suggest claims that, if they were premises, would make the argument valid but are clearly false. Both of these are useful in countering bad arguments, whether in a debate or in one's own reasoning. But this is not all there is to rationality and for these other part, logic has little to do.

There is, first of all, the issue of those premises from which we draw conclusions. Some of them may, of course, be conclusions from other premises, but most are not in any formal sense. They are the products of experience, and education, and conversation, and thinking in less structured ways, never of formal argumentation. We think they are true and suppose them to all hang together in a consistent whole (logic can say something about this point), but in fact they are rarely examined, even (especially?) by philosophers, the purported paragons of rationality. So, we may rationally move from minor errors to catastrophes in a perfectly rational way. But we are inclined to think that people who hold to beliefs that result in clear conflicts with reality are irrational. If so, then logic has even less to do with rationality, for many such people hold beliefs that follow quite validly from their core beliefs and if these seem to conflict with what other sees as happening, then those others just have misunderstood the real situation (countless contemporary cases will spring to mind).

But even supposing that logic had more to do with rationality than it does, the notion that knowing logic thoroughly makes one more rational could easily be quenched by attending a meeting of the Association for Symbolic Logic. It will be filled with the same political bickering, petty back stabbing, sly thefts and digs as any other academic meeting – not even better disguised. And, of course, there is always the famous 20th century logician who wrote a paper brilliantly demonstrating that substitutional quantification was the proper way to do metatheory – and then spent the rest of his life claiming that the paper had totally demolished the claims of any such metatheory (and, as an added point, he called himself a nominalist).

Since logic (let alone Loglans) does not seem to have anything to do with individual rationality, it seems unlikely that a leaven of Loglanists in the world would raise the level of rationality. The leaven principle does occasionally work, as most revolutions – and maybe some cases of less violent but equally significant social changes – show. But the baking soda or yeast is missing here, and, even if people were more logical, that would not, as noted, necessarily make for a more rational (or otherwise better) world.

Only in the matter of a Loglan as the language of diplomacy, of the framing of laws and treaties and the like, does there appear a chance that something of this maxim might make sense. If the legislation or treaty were written in an unambiguous language, then many of the quibbles that have fed disputes, suits, and wars would be avoided. But the Loglans are only syntactically unambiguous, so this only solves such disputes: whether a condition applies universally or only to the last mentioned case, for example, or (maybe) whether a clause is motivational or regulatory (“a well regulated Militia, being necessary for the security of a free State” or some such). But beyond that, there are the words that fill between the logical connections and there is no guarantee in the Loglans that they are unambiguous. To be sure, the tendency in vocabulary creation has been in that direction since very early on (Brown was rather loose, but computer scientists have long been in control and they constitutionally are not). Single concepts have been divided and subdivided for greater accuracy (although this is not strictly about ambiguity). And one would expect the same and more if the task were given over to lawyers and diplomats. But at least the latter are also notorious for tact, wording an unpleasant claim in a less unpleasant form, and thus for words that are fuzzy (not in the strict logical sense, perhaps). And, in the press of events, a fuzzy term can be brought into two quite different focuses, each favorable to one side and not the other: a tactful demand can be called a polite suggestion, and so on. That is, however much a Loglan might reduce the area of permissible disagreement, it cannot remove most of the main points of contention.

Finally, the obvious needs to be said. Nothing in the Loglans prevents lying or flags it when it occurs. Nothing in the Loglans prevents a word from having a negative, pejorative, dismissive or scurrilous connotation, even if every effort is made to keep such factors out of its definition. So, Loglan discourse can be as loaded as one wants, spreading good will or ill by seemingly factual claims. One might take this to be good news, since it means that the Loglans are actually languages (though it should be noted that, unlike Esperanto, there are no reported cases of Loglans actually being used in these ways, in spite of some tempting situations). So, assuming stooping to invective is irrational, Loglans have no special innoculation against it.     

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 3

Maxim Three: Loglan is culturally neutral.

In the original context of testing the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, this meant that Loglan was a language with a syntax totally different from any other language, so so not projecting any other language's metaphysics and accompanying culture. As noted earlier, Loglan is, in fact, an SAE language, committed (if SWH were true) to the familiar metaphysics and culture of Northern Occident. Even if the superficial appearance of FOPL, the underlying source of Loglans, were convincingly different from other languages, the language which emerges from the transformations to make it “speakable” is clearly a familiar sort.

So, even though this root problem went unnoticed, the notion of cultural neutrality shifted from the syntactic in the broad sense to a more narrow sense and even to vocabulary. The basic idea became that every culture should have equal (or at least proportional) access to Loglan. This began with the decision to construct physical forms of the basic predicates of the language should be derived from the corresponding terms (as near as might be) in the major languages of the world according to a procedure which allots contributions from the various languages according to their population of users. This has been done three times, with a changing list of languages and proportions. It has never been tested that this principle of word forms actually helps people, even those who speak languages which are heavily represented in the lists, to learn the vocabulary (anecdotal evidence suggests that the helpful cases are pretty much balanced off by the misleading ones). Since the meaning of the predicates are usually very different from (though related to) the words in the base languages, the procedure ends up being neutral in the sense that users of all languages, however hard learning the vocabulary is, are equally unfamiliar with the meanings of the word learned.

But “equally unfamiliar” was not the cultural neutrality eventually sought (though, of course, the one the original purpose aimed for). Loglans ended opting for the Anglican formula, “All may, none must” (maybe skipping the “some should”). That is, features of languages of the world would generally not be obligatory in Loglans, but whatever a language had would be available in Loglans and roughly as easy to do as alternatives – except skipping the whole thing. The list of such items that are, or were at one time, in Loglans reads like a Fun Facts list about languages. Loglans have optional tenses, of course, but also optional aspects and moods and modes and other things that seem related. All of these are expressed in very similar ways, the one about as easy as the other, and can even be combined for new possibilities. (Loglans do not, curiously, have the tense system which appears to hold at least partially in all tense languages, but rather have a more inclusive system, from Logic, which covers the natural system somewhat misleadingly. The aspect includes all that occur in any system, which is more than any one natural language has.)

The same goes for most other features that one tends to hear about some language. Loglans have no singular/plural distinction but can mark the notions with equal ease (also dual, trial, ….). Loglans have no gender distinctions, but can mark masculine, feminine, neuter, and probably just about any other such category with nearly equal ease (though not as easily as tense or even plurality). Loglans do not do much marking of relations of terms in a sentence (case or adpositions, typically, in natural languages) because most of the common ones are inherent in the meaning of the predicate with regard to given places, but it has prepositions available to display those relations and many more beside and means to create even more if need be (though slightly less efficient than the ones already in the vast vocabulary). Loglans do not have honorifics or dismissives as a rule, but the means are there to use them, scarcely more difficult than in their native languages. Loglans have ana rray of inclusive and exclusive first and second person pronouns, but require only the one form of each, ambiguous even to singular and plural. iIt is even possible, though not easy, to produce a process sentence or a mass language one, thus coming back to the original idea. And, of course, Loglans' vocabulary can mange all the distinctions that natural languages do, though, admittedly, not always so simply.

Were the population of Loglan speakers drawn from all the cultures of the world, one might expect to see this wealth of possibilities get regular use. One might even see dialects of Loglans arising depending on different habits of using various items. But that population is almost entirely at least competently anglophone and the non-native English speakers are drawn primarily from other European languages. As a result, when not just opting out of various possibilities, Loglans' speakers fall back on the familiar: three tenses more or less, say, rather than aspects or other systems. It is not clear how well understood a person would be who used some significantly different array of devices from the storehouse. So, despite its cross-cultural (if not neutral) potential, in use, Loglans remain thoroughly Euro-American (and ANZ, too, of course – sorry about that).

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 2

Maxim Two: Loglan was designed to test the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

This would be the sexy metaphysical SWH of the 1920s into the 60s. Although it was never formulated very precisely, the general idea was that the structure of the language you spoke conditioned the way you viewed the world, giving you a naïve metaphysics which pervaded your thoughts and culture. Over the years there were a number of more detailed positions about how strongly to take “condition”, from “nudging you in a direction” to “totally determining your world view.” The strongest position was hard to hold in view of the numerous expositions of metaphysics of incompatible sorts in languages of a certain type (process philosophy in plug-and-socket English, for example, or the fact that both Plato and Aristotle wrote Greek). The weakest claims hardly came up to the level of a hypothesis rather than a casual observation, since nothing really counted as a counterexample. But somewhere in the middle there seemed to be a significant thesis.

The roots of this discussion lay in the change around the beginning of the 20th century, from “civilizing” (deculturating) or killing tribal people to learning how that lived and viewed the world (empirical anthropology). And with that came studying the tribal languages in there own terms, rather than merely finding how they expressed various things from Latin (or Hebrew or, for a really scientific approach, English) grammar. And, as these studies piled up, it became clear that people spoke languages radically different from one another and especially from English (and the rest of the Indo-European European languages). And it was equally clear that how they described the components and structure of the world were very different from the familiar categories of naïve Euro-Americans , and, indeed, from the theories of not so naïve philosophers.

The familiar languages, which came to be called Standard Average European (SAE), were plug and socket affairs of nouns, which filled holes in adjectives to make bigger nouny things, and verbs, holey things which eventually had their holes filled by the nouny things to make sentences. Now there were languages which seemed to have no nouns at all, only verbs, say. Even people names were verbs. And then there were languages that had only nouns (or maybe they were adjectives) and no verbs. And words that could not be described in familiar European grammatical categories.

These strangenesses extended to vocabulary also. Beyond the apochryphal tales of the twenty-seven Eskimo words for snow, there were facts like that some languages had no color words except “black” and “white” or that they used the same word for blue and green (or different one for dark blue and light blue). These were less surprising, since there were occasional differences of this sort among the languages of Europe (or even within some one of them). But they tested out as genuinely affecting how people perceived the world (told to put all the blocks of the same color together, Navajo children regularly but the blues and the greens in the same pile, say). And there was other evidence that what you called a thing affected how you behaved in relation to it (Whorf on empty oil drums, for example, or, more significantly, word choice in propaganda). But the most interesting such differences came in the details of the language, the essential categories, like (loosely speaking from an SAE perspective) tense and case. Many languages did not have tense at all, even when they had verbs, and what they had instead (i.e., to deal with time relations) were elaborations on aspects and the like from the richest of Indo-European grammars and far beyond. Similarly, what happened to nouns, when there were some, bore little relation to familiar cases, even to the complex constructions on Finnish nouns. They even overlapped with tenses in some cases. And these differences seemed to have metaphysical significance, since they spoke to how the world of space and time (or whatever, it must be said at this point) was organized.

And now that the anthropologist-linguists could interview their subjects directly, rather than through an interpreter (or string of interpreters), they could get direct information about they viewed the world. And what they found, turned out to be a range of different metaphysics, of views about what is in the world and how it is put together. Although there are different details for each group, they came to be grouped together into a few broad categories, There was, of course, the “natural” view of individual independent things which took on properties and engaged in activities, but remained essentially the same throughout. Time and space are linear and are the framework within which things operate. By contrast, there is the world as a giant activity (maybe a process), involving countless subactivities and and subprocesses which flow into one another, or pass away or start up, with little vortices which are now part of one process, now of another and are counted as one only because of spatio-temporal continuity. Space and time are relative to particular processes and often circular as a result. Then there were the views that held that what there really were were enormous entities, various spelled out as masses and universals, and events were simply the collocation of chunks (or projections) of these archetypes, which were the primary individuals. Time and space derivative notion, if they played a role at all. (There actually several other language classes and metaphysics discovered, but these three were the most discussed and developed and they show the essentials of process.)

Comparing their language data and their metaphysical data, anthropologists discovered some interesting connections. It seemed that speakers of SAE languages (even if spoken far from Europe) were inclined to view the world as independent things entering into activities and so on, and to speak languages with tenses and take time and space as fame works. And conversely. Similarly, process metaphysics and a relativist view of times went with languages which were virtually all verbs – most opf which had aspects. And archetypes metaphysics went with all-noun languages. Correlation is not causation, of course, and here it might go either way, so for several decades there was a search for a test to find whether there was causation (preferably from language to metaphysics).

So, in 1955, James Cooke Brown, a newly minted Social Psychologist and Assistant Professor at the University of Florida, hit upon the idea of constructing a language, Loglan, that was not like any other – certainly not like that of the students who would be his subjects – and running some experiments with it: test subjects in a range of psychological and cultural traits, teach them the language thoroughly, then test them again to see what changes (if any) appeared (teaching other students some familiar language as a control group). But constructing the language turned out to be more complicated than planned as new ideas kept arising to be incorporated – and old one needed to be discarded. So the experiment was never performed. But the idea of the experiment – and the language that was to embody it – gained some public notice (Scientific American, June, 1960) and people asked about it. Brown had by then invented Careers, a popular board game, and left academia, but from time to time encouraged those interested in Loglan, getting some grants for developing the language and self-publishing various books about the language, giving enough details for people to manage intelligible utterances in it. In 1975, he started a major effort, publishing the most thorough books so far and starting an organization to promote the language (with many goals beyond that of a hypothesis test), including a journal for discussion of an in the language. In the classic politics of international auxiliary languages (which Loglan always officially denied it intended to be, but …) Loglan spawned Lojban, a virtual clone (remembering that clones differ markedly in outward appearance) which, after an unpleasant lawsuit, proceeds on its independent way, diverging ever more from the original, as it too has developed. Neither language still says much about SWH, but each pursues other sorts of goals. The test of SWH, for which Loglan was started, has never been performed or seriously attempted.

And this is just as well, since Loglan is totally misdesigned for that purpose. Loglan is based on First Order Predicate Logic (FOPL) and, though it has come to not look much like it, it retains that basic structure. But FOPL is the product of over 2000 years of European development, put into final form around the beginning of the 20th century by English and German logicians (with significant help from French and Italian and eventually Polish); its entire history is in SAE languages. Not surprisingly, then, it is a paradigm case of an SAE language, terms plugging the holes in predicates to make sentences. As a result, teaching it to English speakers (the likely test subjects, but any Euro-Americans would do as well) would be merely exposing them to another language of the same type, presumably merely reenforcing their existing metaphysics rather than introducing a new one. I suppose one might try to find a group of speakers of, say, a process language and teach them a Loglan. But the process of devising appropriate tests for the new language and culture is prohibitive.

And futile. SWH in the metaphysical form dropped out of academic interest shortly after Loglan started up. Its underpinnings were made questionable (at least) by developments in the 1950s and 60s in Linguistics and the other social sciences. On the one hand, the differences between languages were found to be very superficial, with a basic common core across all languages. On the other hand, the way that people viewed the world and their place in it turned out, on more thorough examination, to be pretty much the same at the basic level. The great metaphysical differences proved to be merely a linguistic construct, made of inadequate analysis and incomplete observation.

In particular, in one major division in theoretical linguistics, sentences were seen as built up from particles very like terms and predicates into basic units, which then combined and were transformed through a series of processes resulting eventually in an utterance. The stages at which an utterance came to take on the peculiar surface structure of a given language were very late in process, in some versions even just the last step before phonetic realization. While these theories are not universally accepted (or even respected), their analytic and explanatory power make them a major force in the field. Even their opponents, those who point out, for example, that the process is too complex to allow for creating individual sentences on the fly in real time or that they cannot account for changing sentences in midutterance or that finding the same structure at the root in all languages looks suspiciously like an artifact of the procedures of analysis, still make use of some of the results. To be sure, some branches of this general pattern, like the claim that the basic structure just is FOPL – or, rather, an updated intensional version – are less widely held (or understood or developed) but are especially interesting to the Loglans, since they place its creation in the mainstream of linguistic research.

On the other side of the issue, the 1950s and 60s saw a new drive to put more science in the social sciences (well, the linguistic developments were part of that, too). In particular, there was a growing interest for creating objective tests for characteristics that the various social sciences were interested in. A report on what a subject actually did in certain situations was generally considered more significant than what the subject said it was doing. Indeed, language moderated data generally required some care in use, both from the subject and from the interpretations of the observers. So it was seen that people with different languages behaved very similarly in a variety of situations which were created (it was thought) to test the subject's view of itself and of the world around it. The result seemed to be that people everywhere behaved as though they were separate entities, not vortices in a stream nor chunks of greater whole and that they interacted with other things which were also independent, separate, objects. While all manner of challenges have been raised to the interpertation of these results and not all have been met successfully, the basic likeness of the non-verbal responses to situations remains, whatever its explanation. So, the final word (you wish!) on SWH is just that, when speaking about their world view, speakers spoke languages which their examiners took literally: process language speakers were viewed as having a process view of the world because they reported that view in a process language. But non-verbally they did nothing different that fit with the supposed view.

SWH had two other versions which persist after the metaphysical one disappeared. One is the New Age version that grows out of the metaphysical. In the 1950 to'70s (at least), when people were seeking some sort of mental/spiritual experience of a different world view, the suggestion (little understood in detail) that coming to speak a radically different language would produce this effect led many people (well, dozens) to learn the language of their particular path, Sanskrit, Chinese and Japanese, mainly, with no particular effect that could be traced to the language. Others, wanting to get away from all linguistic/cultural conditioning sought to transcend language by meditating on sounds or meaningless phrases or expressing themselves in glossolalia, again with effects that did not seem to be particularly related to the unlanguage involved. But the idea moved to the science fiction and hence conlang world, where it thrives. Starting a little early (1948) with Orwell's NewSpeak, that will make its speakers unquestioning servants of the grammarian state, there have been languages constructed – or at least described – to manage all manner useful traits: intelligence, happiness, spirituality, attractiveness and so on. Aside from some doubts about how well these languages are designed for their intended purposes (one popular one aimed at promoting a positive attitude is overloaded, more than two to one, with negative terms), the results have not been confirmatory of the general plan.

The other SWH that survives is the vocabulary version, which was dismissed as uninteresting and trivial in the early days. This version actually received some support from the more objective tests that harmed the metaphysical version. To be sure, it was not all success: where the old test, telling Navajo and Anglo children to put blocks of the same color together, led to the Navajo putting blue and green blocks in the same pile, the new test, which omitted reference to color (but forced that as the deciding factor), resulted in all the children creating virtually identical piles. But at the micro level, those same Navajo children are slower to identify colors as like sample one or sample two when both samples are in the turquoise range of the Navajo word. The differences are microscopic, but enough to show that some features – i.e., vocabulary – of a language do affect the way we see the world. The result most often seen touted as demonstrating SWH is the fact that Russian speakers, who have two words for blue, one for lighter and one for darker shades, are 0.17 seconds faster at identifying a sample flashed on a screen as being light or dark. I note this triumph without comment.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 1C

Step C: Two-formulae sentence makers

The two-formulae sentence makers start with some adequate selection of the “propositional connectives” (the Loglans take AND, OR, IFF and REGARDLESS, though the last needs some extra work like the argument reordering for predicates). Added to these are similar connectives that go outside truth value logic to causation in various senses and various sorts of modalities. Like subjunctive conditionals (hypothetical, contrary-to-fact, etc.) as well as alternate logics like strict entailment or analytic entailment or relevant entailment (and relevant or analytic disjunctions as well) and so on through the plethora of logics. But, for the most part, these additions do not make grammatical differences and so do not need to be discussed separately here, even though the Loglans do accommodate some of them. (There is a similar plethora of logics for one-formula sentence makers and the Loglans have some of them as well, but again, they are grammatically of a piece with the standard items.)

Historically there are two ways that these sentence makers (conjunctions) are represented. The dominant form is infix – or Principia – notation, where the mark of the conjunction goes between the two formulae and the a pair of parentheses enclose the whole. The alternate form is prefix – or Polish – notation, where the mark goes before the pair and no further parentheses are needed. (There, admittedly, a third possibility, postfix or reverse Polish notation, where the mark comes after the pair. This was used on some calculators back in the day, but never had much play in Logic). From the point of view of an attempt to eliminate detritus, prefix is obviously the most desirable version. But as a feature in a spoken language, it seemed to put a strain on memory and and analysis. It seems to be harder to grasp CCpKqrKCpqCpr than even the fully parenthesized ((p→(q&r))→((p→q)&(p→r))). And, in FOPL as used, numerous abbreviations were possible, dropping parentheses under a variety of rules, including various additions to the the markers to show relative depth and the like. Prefix notation does not offer much in the way of abbreviations, except marking when a string the same connective occurs and this rather obscures structure than reveals it: C3pqpp is even more opaque that CCCpqpp.

The Loglans use both forms and, indeed, mix them in a single sentence. Obviously, this requires some care and, especially devices for showing boundaries of component sentences: Kpq&r is just ambiguous as it stands, requiring parentheses somewhere or a convention that tells where they go: (Kpq & r) or Kp(q&r). But such explicit parentheses or conventions or other devices are needed already for the infix forms in any case. As noted earlier, right parentheses are generally detritus – except in various situations where they are not. Right parentheses are needed more often, but they, too, can be dropped in many cases (and always the outermost ones if they begin the sentence). The rest of the infix cases depend upon conventions involving order of grouping (left grouping of similar conjunctions does not need parentheses – this and the following are not necessarily the Loglanic conventions, but familiar types) or type of conjunction (AND and OR don't need parentheses as components of IF). The Loglans also have depth markers, so that a conjunction marked n+1 is of a component of a sentence with a conjunction marked n. And there are convention about whether the prefix or the infix marker dominates in a mixed sentence.

There is one more marker that is needed in the Loglans. In prefix notation in FOPL, the boundary between the two connected sentences does not need to be marked, since the new sentence always begins in a distinctive way: a new conjunction or a one-formula formula maker or a predicate, any of which close off the previous sentence, which was down to a string of terms, into which these new markers do not fit. But in the Loglans, a new sentence can begin with a term or a quantifier, which now counts as a term, and so can appear to continue the string of terms of the previous sentence. One could, of course, require closing out all the terms and the previous entences to start afresh, but it is clearly more efficient to have, as in the case of the separation between subject term and predicate, a single marker to accomplish this necessity. As a plus, the separator can carry negations, which means that the initial conjunction can be simple and yet all of the logical relations be expressed.

With all these devices, it seems likely that any formula of FOPL can get an reasonably efficient unambiguous Loglanic formulation, though, short of a fully parenthesized one, I am not sure this has ever been proven (or questioned, even). What is less certain is whether a given formulation is in fact unambiguous and, even if it is, that it is an unambiguous representation of the formula intended. As will be discussed later, the test for anamphiboly is not directly tied to the structure of FOPL and the presumed indirect connections have not been tested (or, for the most part, stated). For now, however, the general expectation is enough to continue the claim that the Loglans are spoken FOPL.

But conjunctions introduce several new kinds of repetitive redundancies. And removing this detritus introduces new kinds of expressions into the Loglans, which, in turn, suggest new kinds of expressions in FOPL, expressions which may have been there but were not discussed earlier. Some of these cases are just matters of convenience (more efficient usage, a branch of speakability), others are genuine new notions. Similarly, so merely expand on already given categories, others change the boundaries of familiar structures.

To take a simple case, “Sam is tall and Sam drinks beer” (symbolically (Ts & Bs)); do we really have – in a human language – have to (or want to) repeat the “Sam”​ Just about every L1 experience says not. The Loglans could, of course, use a pronoun here, but that is hardly a savings. So we want to collapse the two sentences into the single subject and a complex predicate. Now, in the logical tool kit there is a device for doing just this, using a predicate making operator on a formula and a variable. This would result in \x(Tx &Bx) for the predicate and the desired sentence would be the \x(Tx & Bx)s, not an improvement. But we have some experience with which suggests immediately that we 1) move the subject to the from an replace the operator, 2) assume the bound variable inside is the subject and so drop it as covered in front, and 3) drop the superfluous right parenthesis. This gives s(T&B, or even sKT,B. We do need the left marker still, since B might be a sentence in its own right under some circumstances. It also turns out, that if the & here is a different word, peculiar to joining predicates, the left parenthesis is not needed (except in more complex cases) , so we can get down to sT+B. Curiously, this sort of change is not needed with K, since what follows the K up to the separator shows what sort of expression is involved. This factor will recur in what follows.

We can complicate this example slightly: “Sam is tall and Sam is going to San Francisco”: (Ts &Gsf). The first step in the collapse is\x(Tx & Gxf)s. But now, we need to proceed with some care, since the simple sT+Gf is unclear: f might be an argument to both predicates, especially if T is (as is usual in the Loglans) a predicate of more than one place with some later ones just not mentioned. There are two simple possibilities: either mark the end of the compound predicate to show that the following term goes with both or mark the term as being connected with just the last predicate (similar to the connection within terms). The general dislike of RHE markers favors the second approach, sT+G-f, but, in fact, as cases become more complicated, with some terms going with only one predicate and some with both (and with more predicates involved), both systems have to be used, so sT+Gf is also correct for this case (the final parenthesis, after the f, not being needed).

All of this amounts to a change like that seen earlier with quantifiers, a formula maker has become a more inner grammatical type, a predicate maker in this case. At least, unlike the case of quantifiers, the relative scope of the collapsed sentence is not a problem, always being a component of what larger sentence it lies immediately within. When the collapse is extended, the abstracted sentence itself more than one level deep, there may be internal problems of relative depth, but there are surely enough mechanisms in place for the fully sentential forms that fairly straightforward modifications can be made for these cases.

This pattern calls attention to another. A logician confronted with “This is a tiny galaxy” would likely transcribe it as “This is tiny and this is a galaxy”, KTt,Gt, which a Loglanist would immediately want to turn back into tKT,G. But that Loglanist would also recognize that this is just not right, even the tiniest galaxy is not tiny (or even small). So, how do we deal with these? Logic has a series of suggestions. The first is to simply say that “tiny galaxy” is a separate predicate, related to smallness and galaxies, if at all, only semantically and not formally. So a tiny-galaxy is indeed a galaxy and smaller than most other galaxies, but this is all additional information in the dictionary, not available grammatically, as it appears to be in the English. That is, the correct transcription is tW. This seems pretty unsatisfactory, even aside from the necessity of constantly creating new predicates which are related to existing one in similar ways. The second approach (and Loglan proper did this at one time) is to say that a number of adjectives (call them) are in fact two-place with the second place for some reference class, so “tiny” is actually “tiny for a ...” with the argument “a galaxy” or “galaxies” or some such added somehow (and just how is open to several suggestions) but presumably as a term (*G in the Loglan, say). So, we end up with tKGT-*G. This is clearly better, but the repeated G looks like redundancy. To be sure, we do occasionally want to use predicates of this sort non-redundantly: “He is tiny – for a walrus”, say (meanly), hKHT-*W. But, when the reference class is given directly, this seems unnecessary (and so to be eliminated for speakability purposes). So, the third approach is to produce a predicate maker which, in this case, asserts one predicate of the arguments and relativizes the other to that first and then assert that whole of the arguments again. While this case is typical, fine analyses have found other cases where two or more predicates interact to create something new, though related in regular ways to the underlying basic predicates (adverbs, for example, like “very” or “rapidly”). While the Loglans have developed experimentally a number of markers for different sorts of such situations, the general approach has been to use simple concatenation (as in English), so back to tTG (the reference class comes last). Since both predicates may well have other relevant arguments than t and may be complex in the way discussed in the previous paragraph, some markers of grouping and subordination may be needed, but there seem to be enough of those, either in the forms used for sentential cases or in slightly modified versions, to guarantee that an unambiguous expression can be found for these cases. In addition, one of the concatenated expressions might itself be a concatenation, not a buried sentential conjunction. Sorting out the half-dozen or so readings of “pretty little girls school” (tested later on such thing as “pretty little girls school teachers union regulations compliance monitors”) led to another system of prefix and infix and closure markers. parallel to those for collapsed sentential connectives – and some devices for resolving indeterminate scopes.

The opposite situation also often occurs: same predicate but different arguments “Sam is going to San Francisco and Bob is going to San Francisco”. Again, an anaphoric solution is possible, but offers no advantages over the original. So, as expected, the Loglans create a compound term here – not corresponding to anything at all common in FOPL and its kin. So, we get something like (s&b)Gf or, again with less detritus, Ks,bGf; the occurrence of only a term between conjunction and separator shows that this is a term maker. The infix system needs a different form of the conjunction again (neither sentential nor predicate), s^b,Gf, more or less. Once you start on this course, of course, it is hard to stop. So “Sam is going to San Francisco and Bob is going to Los Angeles” is Ksf, blG (non-first arguments could always move in front of the predicate for rhetorical reasons and so this poses no new issues) or sf^blG, with parentheses as needed in each case. These moves can be iterated to, say, Ksf.bDlvG: “Sam is going to San Francisco and Bob to either Los Angeles or Las Vegas.” The subordination of the components, though moved from the sentential to the nominal level remains clear. But, in a case like KsbGDfl “Sam and Bob are going to San Francisco or Los Angeles”, some doubt remains: are both of them going to one of the places or is each of them going to one, perhaps a different one: going back to the sentential level, DKsGf,bGf,KsGl,bGl or KDsGf,sGl,KDbGf,bGl. The usual possibilities are available: we might reorder the terms so that the topmost conjunction comes first and so on, or we might mark each conjunction for relative depth. This whole approach can even be extended to cases which are not exactly parallel: “John is going through Chicago or by auto” jGD4c5a. As noted earlier, the prefix notation is generally simpler here, since the same form can be used for sentences and most collapses (and markers added for nonsentential conjunction); the infix forms require new forms (typically related) for each sort of case: terms, predicates, term strings, and even subtypes within these.

When we say that Sam and Bob are going to San Francisco, there is no obvious suggestion that they are going together (whatever that means: on the same plane, in adjoining seats, for the same meeting, etc.), just that one is and the other one is, too. But sometimes it is significant that they are going together and that should be marked. The straightforward way of doing this, a term-maker (of extendable number of terms, since the group need not be just two) raises some problems. In standard FOPL, terms refer to individuals, though that is not very precisely defined. These new terms clearly refer to sets or, at least, to more than one individual simultaneously (a little excursion into Logic gets these two to amount to the same thing eventually). The fact that the collapsed sentential forms above also seemed to do so can be dismissed as being merely an appearance, not the ultimate situation. To be sure, the present new situation can, with some degree of plausibility, be reduced to the sentential case by a variety of devices: as a collapse of “Sam is going to San Francisco and Bob is going with him”, the latter predicate probably concatenating with the former, or , more simply, as an preposition “with Bob” attached to the main predicate and its argument raised somehow (but quite regularly). Neither of these feels quite right and so the term maker is used, iterated for more than two involved terms. These terms can, obviously, interact with other types, from above, so markers for relative scope are needed throughout.

There turns out to be a similar situation with predicates as with terms, one thing with two or more different components. So, along with blue and black balls that are some blue and some black, there are blue and black balls that are each partially blue and partially black. This seems, possibly because it uses “and” in English) to be a special case of combining predicates, different from the modifying sort and the sentential collapse, and so it also receives its own markers (related to those for set building above, perhaps). And, of course, devices for marking relative scope.

And scope is the last issue to deal with, the scope of those prenex 1-formula markers moved inward early on. The Loglans tend to be very careful with negation, keeping it clearly over compond sentences by attaching it to connectives and making appropriate changes in quantifiers and modals in the move. The situation with quantifiers and modals is less clear. A prenex quantifier tends to be moved to the first occurrence of its variables, which may be deep in some compound sentence. Though there is a rule about heeding changes brought about by negations, passage through a negation scope is not always obvious. It may be more obscure if the quantifier is caught in a collapse and is buried in a term, not even a sentence. So, while the general story is that the scope of a quantifier is the shortest complete sentence that contains all the occurrences of its variable, it may not be easy to see what that is. And reconstructing the sentence may only work up to equivalence, not the real original (not that that is a bad thing). For the restricted quantifiers, which have no variable to keep track of, the limits are the last pronoun that picks up that quantifier expression – and there may be several such in the course of a complex sentence. For the modals, there seem not to be strict rules but rather loose habits: a tense marked predicate refer to events at that time, subsequent ones (unmarked) refer to that same time or ones later as the eventss flow naturally. Subsequent marked ones place their event according to the mark relative to where the time was when the predicate came along. Except, of course, there are markers for radical shifts – to Now, for example, or some specified event. The case for non-tense modals is even less clear: one tendency is to take each as referring to the smallest possible sentence, the other is to take them as lasting until and countering modal comes along (and “in fact” to the ongoing “supposing”, say.)

In Summary,
The Loglans can be said to be spoken FOPL (or its current equivalent) in the sense that every sentence of such a language can be viewed as derived from a formula of FOPL by a series of transformations, which preserve meaning and structure, while reducing repetition and irrelevant items. I have sketched the major types of such moves above, skipping details, which are both very detailed sometimes and also have changed over the history of the Loglans and in the different separate languages. The crucial point is that these transformations are all reversible, that the original formula can, in principle, be recovered. A related feature is that the basic structure of that underlying formula is close to the surface, easy to see, since the transformation do not run deep.

Interestingly, the books about the Loglans (Loglan 1 and The Complete Lojban Language, preeminently) say little about all of this, but are focused more upon the relations of the language described to familiar languages (English first, of course). One would not really learn the grammar of FOPL from any of these books and so lines like “this structure in FOPL gets transformed to this structure in Loglan” do not play much of a role, either as instruction or explanation. We do learn that basic sentences consist of a predicate and a string of terms in order, without any special marking for the roles of the terms and that changing the order of some items is not to be done unless caution is used (with some English cases of what lack of caution could do). And that compound sentences come with a choice of representations, which will carry over to sentences of similar meaning which have compound predicates or compound terms. And we learn that certain sorts of delimitors can be dropped and others not in various situations, although this is based on problems about what comes next in a string of words, not about the end of structure as such. So, since the original transformation is not much discussed, the reversal plays no role; it is enough that the sentence is grammatical in this language, without considering whether it really represents FOPL. Originally, this is not surprising, since the scientific foundations for this sort of description only appeared at the same time as Loglan began (1955) and the Loglans lost their contact with academic linguistics (they never had much with field linguistics) in the early 1960s, when these theories began to make some way. On the other hand, the epigones of the Loglans were largely computer scientists, and so theories of computer languages, which are more static – not to say linear – dominate most theoretical discussions of the grammar of the Loglans. This theory has been directed mainly at producing parsers to derive a grammatical description linearly (YACC and PEG seem to be the current models).

But surprisingly, had the Loglans kept in contact with Linguistics outside the computer field, in Anthropology and Philosophy and just pure Linguistics, it would have found that it was in the forefront of the field. According to not a few schools of Linguistics, every sentence of every language is derived from a formula of some worthy successor of FOPL, by some appropriate form of the moves outlined above. The theoretical base is not, of course, strictly FOPL++, but an abstraction with essentially the same structure. And the moves will be different for each language, but basically of the same sort: shifting linear order, collapsing commonalities, eliminating detritus and so on. The major difference for natural languages, aside from generally a much larger set of rules, obligatory and optional, is that they are not required to be reversible. That is, a single linear string of words can be derived equally correctly from very different formulae. So, again I come to the point that the Loglans' interest lies entirely in its monoparsing.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 1B

Step B: One-formula sentence makers

Sentence makers that require one formula (and perhaps something else) fall mainly into three groups: Negation, Modals, and Quantifiers (which also require a variable and possibly even another subordinate formula). In the standard presentations of FOPL, these go at the beginning of the sentence and their order is significant, since each attaches to the sentence formed by the sentence makers to its right back to the unmarked sentence. But beyond the structural significance of the order, there are clear semantic differences between, say “it is was the case that someone [then] was a witch” and “someone [now] was a witch”, that there used to be witches and that there are still former witches around. So moving one past the other is generally not allowed. On the other hand, many modals and quantifiers come in pairs, strong and weak, such that passing negation through them changes one to the other: ~1~ = 2, so ~1 = 2~ and conversely. Of course, in any case, the maker governs the whole sentence that follows, negating it, casting it into the relevant alternate reality, or binding all its free occurrences of the indicated variable.

But in adding these items to a Loglan sentence, we discover something more about what is bound up in the expressions “speakable”. We began by giving voice to the expressions of FOPL. Then we pruned the mass of punctuations to just those actually required to keep the structure fully marked, Now, something new seems to have been added, which seems at the moment to be loosely familiarity. That is, the changes here from formula to Loglan neither gives voice to new symbols nor eliminates detritus, but merely puts things in positions familiar from the L1s of likely learners of the language. In light of this, we can look back at the shift of the first argument from after to before the predicate and wonder. Was it just to make for a more efficient term formation or was it also to bring the sentences into something very like the familiar Subject-Verb-Object order of the L1s of many likely students of the new language?

What happens with Negation and Modals is that they are regularly shifted from the front of the sentence to a place immediately before the predicate. The original position is always possible but is, in fact, rarely used, even with compound sentences. Quantifiers are also shifted inward, from before the sentence (prenex), to the place in the body of the sentence where the bound variable first occurs. To be sure, this move is done carefully, in that, for negation and modals, the original order is preserved – though negation tends to move left when the standard dualities allow (but this is stylistic, without logical significance). Similarly, the order of quantifiers of different sorts is preserved, argument places being rearranged to preserve order and further rearrangements forbidden if that order would be disturbed. So, assuming “x loves y” is xLy, “Everybody has someone who loves them” is basically AxSy yLx, which becomes AxL[1,2]y (Loglan has no free variables; every variable is assumed bound particularly unless otherwise bound explicitly). The movement of the quantifier over quantifiers is also treated carefully, though there is some controversy (resolved in different ways every few years) about exactly how that works. The basic positions are that negation, while represented just before the predicate, is to be understood as as far left in the sentence as possible, and that negation is to be taken as being where it appears to be. In the first case, quantifiers (and modals) may have to through the logical place of the negation to get where they belong and so are transformed in the usual way. In the second view, only makers that came before the original negation need changing. Whichever way is current, the proper original form remains (subject to the position finally assigned to the negation), though it will be different in the two cases. Ax~Fy, on the first view, might be from ~AxSyFxy or Sx~SyFxy or SxAy~Fxy, which are all equivalent. On the second view, it would be from Sx~SyFxy, since Sx, but not Sy had to pass through the negation to get to its place. (We will later see cases where the negation comes at the end of a sentence and the matter is slightly more complicated, but still resolvable). In all these cases, then, the logical form is preserved – up to equivalence, anyhow. And, of course, the prenex version remains available (at slightly extra cost), just as the L1 probably contains the equivalent of “it is not the case that” and “it is possible that” and even “everything is such that”

The case is less clear with some modals that do not comes in pairs, like Past and Future. In standard Tense Logic, each of these is one of a pair of the usual sort: “somewhen in a past” and “somewhen in a future”, roughly speaking, but paired with “everywhen in pasts” and “everywhen in futures”. Thus, the usual negation movement is validated. But Loglan tenses are not quite like that. Nor are they like natural language tenses, built on a system of points (present, past, future and retrofuture) and vectors (before, now, and after). Rather they are (mea culpa in here somewhere) an uneasy compromise between the two: vectors to begin with, but once the vector is traced, its head become a point from which a further vector can extend. As a result, PFa sometimes says no more than that Fa was once true, but at other times it says that Fa was true at a particular, but unspecified, past time. And negation reflects this in that ~PFa is sometime unresolvable and sometimes means P~Fa (The easy analogy is when we say “There is a man in the house. He...”, so here “There was a time when … Then ...”). The best solution seems to be not to move tenses relative to negation, but the rules for this are neither so well spelled out nor so carefully followed. There are other modals with similar problem, “probably” and “certainly” for example, but for different reasons. Still, with care, the original structure is retained, if not quite transparently.

The case of quantifiers, and especially restricted quantifiers, is a more profound change. Not only are the quantifiers moved inward from their prenex position, but they change their grammatical status, Quantifiers are no longer a separate sort of thing – a 1-formula sentence maker – but become simply terms. Syntactically, there is little difference between AxFb and @G,Fb, and there is none in the case of the resolution of AG,Fb, from [AxGx]Fxb, where the values of the quantified variable are restricted to the non-empty class of Gs (the comma mark a separator between the predicate in the term and the one in the sentence, to prevent them being taken as a compound – on which more later). Quantifiers thus get involved in the place shifting predicate changes, where care has to be taken to prevent changing the relative order of different quantifiers, although terms generally can move about freely. As with negation and modals, these problems could have been avoided by leaving everything prenex, though arguably this would make sentences of any appreciable length harder to understand – and it is not a common pattern in natural languages (so maybe not something hard-wired in our understanding?).

Moving the quantifiers inward to the first place the bound variable occurs also means a loss of direct information about the scope of that quantifier (this is true for modals and negation as well, though the negation tends to get dealt with in various ways, using DeMorgan and the like). If the variable bound by a quantifier occurs in some place other than the first one, the connection has to be made. In the case of simple quantifiers, this is done by repeating the bound variable, so AxLxx becomes AxLx. But with the restricted quantifiers, the ordinary anaphoric pronoun resources must be used, the variable having been swallowed [AxGx]Fxx becomes AG,F[it], for some pronoun [it]. The Loglans have a plethora of pronoun systems, including assignable ones, and ones that can be used on the fly, depending on such factors as the initial letter of the predicate in a term or the structural position of the original term in its home sentence and so on. Despite this, it is not clear that every term can be represented unambiguously by a pronoun in every position, and certainly not clear that this can be done in a way that is easily interpretable by a hearer. Keeping the variables somehow would have eased this problem, which, admittedly, looms larger in theory than in practice. In any case, the scope of a quantifier is now determined to be the shortest sentence which contains the quantifier and all its anaphora (variables or pronouns). Aside from taking some care about what variables to use, this gives a practical solution, even if the sentence represented is only an equivalent to one started with.

The issue of repetitions arises for regular terms as well, of course, and does not have a variable solution although a variable has been hidden in going from FOPL to Loglan. With regular terms there is the option of simply repeating the term rather than using a pronoun, and this can be used when clarity advises it. Repeating a quantifier tends to make for confusion: is this just a repetition or is in a new quantifier with the same range? The convention is that “repeated “ quantifiers are actually new ones with the same range. So, AG,FAG is [AxGx][AyGy]Fxy, a very different claim from [AxGx]Fxx (“Everybody loves everybody, versus “Everybody loves himself”). (By the way, there is a version of FOPL in which term makers are in fact treated as quantifiers. In such a system – or even in the present one with minor changes, if the variables were not suppressed, a large part of the complications of the Loglans' various pronoun systems could be relieved by using the variables. This added “detritus” would pay other benefits as well, eliminating a major need for place-shifting and for the separation between predicates – assuming we could also eliminate the shift from VSO to SVO order. Of course, place shifting has other virtues, like providing easy ways to match familiar concepts with very general predicates, as “destination” is hidden in “go” as the second place, to be shifted to first for independent use. The need for predicate separation markers – and term enders, for that matter – does not seem to have any separate use and adds a variety of complications.)  

Monday, June 1, 2015

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans 1A

The Role of Errors in the History of Loglans

Disclaimer: This is my personal account, from my point of view. The events involved are described as I remember them and interpreted them. The science involved is as I understand it and extrapolate from it. I have tried not to assign blame here; I think most of the errors were inevitable in the situations involved and were probably seen as errors only in corrected hindsight (if at all). Others may have different memories or interpretations, read the science differently, and disagree about what was an error, but this is my story. Bring your own salt.

I am dividing this essay into sections headed by various claims that were made for Loglan (and Lojban). Most of the errors discussed here attach more or less well to one of these claims, a few others can be sandwiched in. These claims have played a major role in the spread of interest in Loglans and have, in various ways, guided developments over the decades, so they may an informative and useful guide for presenting the problems.

Maxim One: Loglan is spoken Formal Logic (or Symbolic Logic or First Order Predicate Logic)

In many ways, this is the root error, from which the others derive. Most of the features later claimed for Loglans or sought for them derive from similar feature had by or claimed for FOPL (and it predecessors into the 19th century and successors into the 21st). The formulae of FOPL are syntactically unambiguous; there is only one way to analyze one. Translating an argument into such formulae provides a definitive way to demonstrate the validity of the argument (or its invalidity and where it goes wrong). Such translations also reveal misleading features of ordinary language, which give rise to many needless confusions and disagreements (and much metaphysics, some would say). Thus, FOPL is a valuable tool for rational discussion and for promoting understanding among people of different views, since it can be used to reveal the structures of any language.

Of course, the claim that some set of formulae was translation of a given argument is open to some disagreement; there is no automatic procedure for such translations as there is for judging validity of the translated set. Thus, the validity of many historic arguments (the Ontological, as a prime example) are still undecided. Of course, if the argument was given in FOPL – or an appropriately fleshed-out version of it – to begin with, this problem would disappear. So, the construction and use of such a language (partially realized for present purposes in careful ordinary German or English) became the goal of some logicians/philosophers from the '20s on. James Cooke Brown, the creator of Loglan, studied with Broadbeck at Minnesota and was at least thoroughly exposed to this Logical Positivist tradition. So, whether consciously or not, the “logically perfect language” played a role in his choices when he came to create an experimental language.

Another major factor was simplicity. FOPL does away with the many parts of speech and with the variety of tenses, moods and modes, and cases of familiar languages. Among content words there are only two parts of speech, terms and predicates, and, while there are a variety of subtypes (more as logic developed beyond the '50s) they all behave in the same way. Terms are divided into names, which stand for individuals (however that may be defined), and variables, which play a role in forming compound formulae, together, eventually, with compounded terms. Eventually there came to be terms of various sort, depending upon what was being counted as an individual, but this did not change the basic grammar. Predicates were divided according to the number of terms they required to make a formula (and, eventually, what types of terms). A(n atomic) formula, then, was just a predicate with the appropriate number of terms (of the right sorts) in order: Faxb, for example. No cases or sentential roles, no prepositions, no tenses, etc. Beyond this were the recursive steps involving -makers: a maker took a specified number of variables and formulae and returned a term or a formula, depending on its type (this gets somewhat more complicated later, but the basic pattern remains the same). Thus, &, a typical formula maker, takes two formulae and returns a new formula, their conjunctions: from Faxb and Gxc to (Faxb & Gxc). A, a variable binding predicate maker (quantifier), takes a variable and a formula to give a new formula, the universal generalization of the original formula: so from x and the previous formula we get Ax(Faxb & Gxc). The occurrence of x in this formula are now said to be bound by this quantifier, whereas before they were free. Similarly, @, an illustrative term maker, takes one variable and one formula and produces a new term, in which the variable is now bound: from x and Fx to @xFx, the salient F, say. The formulae used by a maker may be of any degree of complexity and the so may be the terms used in formulae. But the history of their construction and so their ultimate structure is always apparent: there is never any doubt about what formulae and variables (and whatever else) is involved at any level. At any stage in the development of to and beyond FOPL, the set of akers is closed and introducing new ones (beyond mere abbreviations) takes a rather dramatic effort, even though the pattern for defining them is clear throughout.

Given this, spoken FOPL would seem to be an easy thing to achieve. We need an open class of expressions for names and another for variables and another for predicates, perhaps with some special markers for different types of each sort. Then we get some special expressions for the various makers in use. Then we just rattle the formulae off as they are written, using the recommended expressions for the various symbols. Every logic teacher does this every day to talk about the formulae on the board:”For all ex both eff ay ex be and gee ex see”, for the sentence above. Clearly, this ad hoc technique is not quite good enough for our purposes, even leaving aside the fact that we don't have any meaningful expressions here yet. The three classes of expressions are not separated; they are all just letters and the capital/lower case distinction does ot come across in speech. Then there are the parentheses, the left one here pronounced “both”, looking ahead to the connective to follow, and the right one omitted altogether. With a different connective, the left parenthesis would have been differently pronounced, as “if” or “either” or “as”, say, so we need either to deal with them all the same (as “paren”, say) or make the nature of the enclosed compound sentence clearer at the beginning. (This is the way this problem arises in parenthesized infix – or Principia – notation; in other version the problem arises in different way, either by complexities on the connective to show how deeply it is buried in the compound, in labeled infix, or , in prefix – Polish – notation, by the need to mark the division between component sentences.). The right parenthesis can, in fact always be dropped in sentence compounding (though it is often a kindness not to), but needs to be reintroduced (and, indeed, extended) in the case of compounded terms with in a simple sentence: is Fa@xGxcb, composed of the predicate F and the terms a and @xGxcb or of that predicate and the terms a , @xGxc and b, or, indeed, of the terms a, @xGx, c, and b with predicate F? We must either enclose the formula in the composition in parentheses, if they are not already there, or else enclose the terms which follow a predicate in some sort of parentheses as well (F, say) and in either case, take care to pronounce both of these parentheses. (There are other, even more tiresome ways to deal with this problem, by always marking the number of places of each predicate, for example). But these can all be done rather cheaply: a few more words for constant characters, like right parentheses of various sorts (or, actually, for right parentheses, one sort is enough, if we put all of them in – but would we want to?).

The thought of a string of “end”s (say) at the end of every sentence is enough to show that spoken FOPL needs to be different from the written form, where adding a few right parentheses is a minor matter. So you need rules about when you can drop parentheses and when you can't and (probably) when you can but shouldn't, for clarity's sake. Or find another way around the problem. This is the first stage of the Loglans' adoption of FOPL.
Step A. Atomic sentences

Loglan took as its basic sentence type, before any frills, a predicate with a fixed number of places (given in the glossary but not marked in the word anywhere, despite regular suggestions to do so). Predicates had a definite (though increasingly complex as the years went by) phonemic structure, so were distinctive. Names also were distinctive in a variety of ways, while term variables were given by a finite list and rules for extending by subscripts. Composite terms were formed by replacing the first term (which Loglan had moved in front of the predicate – an insignificant change, to aFxb and xGc) by an operator which did the work of a 1-variable, 1-formula term maker and by attaching the arguments of the predicates the formula by explicit connectives, @G+c, for instance. This solved the first level of possible term misalliance, but for deeper ones, a right hand end marker for these term makers was used as needed (i.e., when more terms for a higher component followed). The problem about only using the first term of a predicate was solved a device creating new predicates in which the original first term and another term were swapped, from aFxb to xF'ab, for example, giving rise then to a term @F'+a-b, say. The situation calling for RHE markers is then something like H@xF' b>, which would first appear as H@F'+@G+c-b, where the predicate to which b is attached is unclear, hence H@F'+@G+c]-b, however pronounced. These and other changes created a new problem, when the predicate of a term might come directly before the predicate of a sentence, creating a potential ambiguity (predicate strings having been made legal – see later). One could make this a case where the RHE parenthesis of the term was used, but, since that could trigger a string of such parentheses, a separate divider was introduced. H@xFx becomes @F/H (or, still legal but riskier, @F]H). Since this automatically closes all the terms that went before, it suggests similar RHEs to close several terms, but not all without stringing out the term closers. This turns out to not help a lot, since learning different words for closing two, three, … terms is less efficient that just using two or three or … closers (having that many open terms at any point is probably bad style, but grammar has to apply to bad style as well as good).

The complexity of speaking even a relatively simple sentence makes one wonder if there is not some other way organize terms without loss of crucial information (what term occupies what place with which predicate). The answer so far is “No”. There are ways of reducing the reliance on order and devices for tagging terms according to what predicate they go with, but these all introduce yet more essentially empty and repetitive items, which the present complexities sought to reduce. A case system, meant both to relieve the requirements for a fixed order and to give some meaning to the various positions – which now have meaning only if you remember the definition of the predicate correctly – does not simplify the need to shift order to make a term nor does it help enough with the problem of dropped places (upcoming) to be worth the cost. It is not clear that the Loglans' solution to making this structure speakable is the simplest or shortest or clearest one, but alternate proposals so far have offered no obvious advantages and have often had clear downsides. So let us call this a success: it keeps all the essential information but gets rid of as much superfluous verbiage as possible. That it is often notoriously easy to get wrong, whether by (unstylishly) leaving in unnecessary RHEs or by (disastrously) leaving out needed ones, is a problem for eventual textbooks. And one that gets worse as we get deeper into the language.

In making a language based in this way on FOPL, another inelegance arises. When using FOPL to transcribe arguments from another language, we naturally pick predicates that exactly fit the situation we are dealing with. But, in a Loglan, we have fixed predicates with fixed places. So, to deal with a particular situation, we may not need all places that the predicate supplies (or we may need one not supplied, but that is a later problem). For instance, the predicate briefly rendered “go” is actually a five-place predicate “1 goes to 2 from 3 along route 4 using mode of travel 5”, so to say just “Sam goes to San Francisco” leaves three places unfilled. Since we don't at the moment care about what goes in there in fact (from here on Southwest by airplane, say), we don't want to say anything more (as we don't in English). The stock logical move in this case would be to bind each of these unused places with a particular quantifier, “some” (and, so, a number of at least implicit parentheses) Sx*Sy*Sz*sGfxyz***. The Loglans can do that, of course, but that seems to be defeating the purpose of making this as much like other spoken languages as possible while keeping it as rigorous as FOPL. So, the Loglans have three responses, each ultimately going back to the official form. One is to introduce a new predicate based on the original but having on the interesting places (it holds of the mentioned things just in case there are things for the other places so that the original predicate holds for all of them together). The second is to insert a dummy term in the unfilled slots. And finally, and most pleasingly, the slots are just left empty. This last is the standard when the empty slots are all at the end, with no intervening filled slots. The dummies (there are several, for some reason) are used when a filled slot comes after an unfilled slot, though other devices can also be used with just the blanks. So “Sam is going by Southwest”, officially SxSySzsGxywz, might be sG- -w- (- for a dummy insert) or sG- -w or sG4w (where 4 is a marker that the next term is, in fact, the fourth one for the predicate) or, modifying the predicate, sG[1,4]w (dropping the other terms) or sG<2>w (rearranging the terms by exchanging the 2nd and 4th), dropping the unused final terms in each case. Of course, restoring the FOPL original requires knowing the places of the original predicate so that the quantifiers can be properly placed, as close to the predicate as possible. These unmentioned quantifiers will come to raise questions in going beyond atomic sentences. 

In the opposite direction, predicates may be extended by adding terms. Although the general idea of prepositions (or cases) to give overt meaning to predicate places was rejected, it is retained for situations where a predicate needs to be extended beyond its usual sense. So a new term is introduced by a marker that says what its role is to be. It can be inserted into the physical string of arguments at almost any place, though traditionally goes at the end. Similarly, the possibility, briefly mentioned above, of a “preposition” to indicate which place of a predicate an argument fills is fully realized in the Loglans, though rarely used. The prefixes to the predicate that exchange the first place and another can be combined to create any order of arguments we want. However, these combinations are often long and not transparent for some rearrangements, so the prepositions are a better choice in speakability terms. Both these prepositional structures behave just like the regular arguments. In particular, they attach to the predicate of a term with the same ties as other arguments. They can even, with some adjustments be made the term replaced by a term-maker. And they are closed off just like other terms.At this point is is fairly clear, if not rigorously demonstrated, that the Loglans' reading of atomic sentences does represent the structure completely and accurately.