On succinctness

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Astraios »

Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.
Hey, I speak English and French and Hebrew already and I'm learning Arabic and the other Romance languages and the Northern Germanic languages! They all mark tense! xD

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Aurora Rossa »

Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.


But isn't heaven supposed to stand outside the bounds of Earthly time and such? What tenses would it have to mark?
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Re: On succinctness

Post by Thry »

Eddy wrote:
Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.


But isn't heaven supposed to stand outside the bounds of Earthly time and such? What tenses would it have to mark?

The tenses for before and after Astraios began studying Lakota, obviously.

Astraios wrote:Hey, I speak English and French and Hebrew already and I'm learning Arabic and the other Romance languages and the Northern Germanic languages! They all mark tense! xD


Just poking fun ;).

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Re: On succinctness

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Don't poke me. Grr. :evil:

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Re: On succinctness

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Astraios wrote:Don't poke me. Grr. :evil:


Only if you say that in Lakota ;).

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Astraios »

Owómatȟaŋtȟaŋ šni yo. Ȟnááá. :evil:

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Re: On succinctness

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Astraios wrote:Ȟnááá. :evil:

That's a neat onomatopoeia. Ok, ok, you win.

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Astraios »

It's onomatopoeia for a person making growly noises. An actual bear/dog/wolf/thing would go ȟló (or ȟloȟló).

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Re: On succinctness

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Astraios wrote:It's onomatopoeia for a person making growly noises. An actual bear/dog/wolf/thing would go ȟló (or ȟloȟló).

What I liked about it was the ȟ, so it doesn't matter :P.

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Rodlox »

cromulant wrote:
JeremyHussell wrote:
Astraios wrote:English and Chinese are succinct because they're both pretty isolating and don't mark very much morphologically at all, not because they're widely spoken...

Those are some ways English and Chinese have achieved succinctness, not reasons they've become succinct in the first place.


A teleological argument!

Why, then, did Mandarin and English in particular need to "achieve" succinctness, moreso than other languages?


This and the "English & Frisan" vs "Mandarin & Dungan" sounds like the whole Persian vs Pashto in What Language Is - the more widely-used a language is (English, Mandarin, Persian), the more it will be simplified with all the complexities removed.

and yes, I'm oversimplifying, a bit.
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Re: On succinctness

Post by Rodlox »

Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.


but I thought there is no passage of time in Heaven...so why would they bother with tense?
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Re: On succinctness

Post by Thry »

Rodlox wrote:
Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.


but I thought there is no passage of time in Heaven...so why would they bother with tense?


If you want to get too metaphysically picky, Heaven needs time as well. If heaven is a place where people go after they die, then time has to pass because there are events in Heaven and these events need to get ordered. (time before and after soul X gets into heaven). Plus Heaven hasn't always existed, since God created it "in the beginning", and that also constitutes an event to order. Thus Heaven lacking Earthly time doesn't mean Heaven lacks time, it means it has Heavenly time.

I don't know why I'm talking about philosophy in a linguistics forum.

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Re: On succinctness

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It happens a lot here, don't worry. :roll:

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Re: On succinctness

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Astraios wrote:It happens a lot here, don't worry. :roll:


Good to know.

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Chuma »

Theta wrote:
JeremyHussell wrote:
Theta wrote:I don't think succinctness is really an important feature, just something that happens to be a characteristic of certain languages. Inuktitut tends to have very long words for common expressions and it does just fine.

Depends on your definition of 'important', I suppose. I'm interested in this feature, and ways to achieve it. That's pretty much the only justification a conlanger needs, right? :)


Well maybe 'necessary' would be a better word. I think that if someone finds their conlang to be not as succinct as some of the languages they know, it's not really a *problem*.


For most conlangers, it's true, succinctness is not important. But apparently it's important to the OP, so I guess we should just leave it at that.

I like my conlangs to be succinct too, as it happens. My main conlang Rammy is more about being clear and succinct in a technical way, whereas my secondary conlang The Choir Conlang is more about being poetically succinct - laconic, if you will.

cromulant wrote:
JeremyHussell wrote:Has anyone ever read anything about correlations between language features and how widely spoken the languages are? I feel like I'm about to get into an argument based primarily on lack of evidence, which I'd like to avoid if possible.

...there are none.

I doubt very much that Mandarin has changed significantly just because it has a lot of speakers. English is a little special, because it is widely spread as a second language. There are some studies as to if and how this affects it. There are also studies of nearly extinct languages, to see if they are different somehow.


Let's see, on topic...
I think your list of strategies was quite good actually. Some of the strategies are not very good, but I don't think you meant to imply that.

I have been wondering about what happens when you have more allowed syllables. Clearly the number of syllables per second goes up, but does it go up enough to keep the data transfer rate constant? Or is there some number of syllables that maximises the rate? Should be easy enough to measure.

I think one thing that would help is to have a lot of features. Not a lot of degrees of features, because that makes you have to slow down for clarity, but a lot of separate features. One notable example is tone. Would you have to slow down if you add tone? Maybe, but you can think of it in another way: Suppose you have a non-tonal language, and then you add tone to each syllable. Surely that should increase the clarity? Which means you would be able to increase the speed.

Unfortunately I really don't like tone. Or stress. But in principle, I think they would help.

Fusion and irregularity can help make things more succinct. That might be an advantage of natlangs, at least compared to certain types of conlangs. Classical example: English "I am, you are, he is" versus Esperanto "mi estas, vi estas, li estas". The Esperanto version is easier to learn, because you can separate it into logical parts, so similar meanings have similar sounds. But English is much more succinct, not only because is has fewer syllables, but also because it has a bigger difference between them, so you can speak faster.

It's easy to do what Esperanto does, piling up suffixes for all your inflection needs. But fusion/irregularity is more succinct. In Rammy, I've used one strategy: Marking all inflections on little form words. That way they can be horribly fusional and irregular, and still reasonably possible to learn, since they are a limited number.

In the Choir Conlang, I've put all the inflections on the content words instead, particularly the verbs. They are inflected in such a way that each combination of root+form is not particularly similar to either other words with the same root, or other words with the same form - the very opposite of Esperanto or most other supposedly logical languages. In principle, it is more likely to be similar to a word which differs in both root and form. That minimises the risk of misunderstanding - since you are unlikely to misinterpret both root and form at the same time, you can talk faster. The problem is of course it's very difficult to learn.

Giving every sound combination a meaning is generally a bad idea, since you would have to speak extremely slowly. Redundancy (in a sense) is good. But you can still control your redundancy, if you're really serious about succinctness. You can, for example, make a set of five-phoneme roots such that no root has more than three phonemes in common. Or you can go to feature level and control things even more. You can even create the conlang equivalent of hashcodes. Horribly unnaturalistic, but perfectly doable.

One quite simple trick I think is "zero-syllable words". Try letting the word for simple things like "I" or "be" be just one sound, and not a vowel. Sure, it can be seen as affixes, but it might help to think of it as words.

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Re: On succinctness

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Chuma wrote:
cromulant wrote:
JeremyHussell wrote:Has anyone ever read anything about correlations between language features and how widely spoken the languages are? I feel like I'm about to get into an argument based primarily on lack of evidence, which I'd like to avoid if possible.

...there are none.

I doubt very much that Mandarin has changed significantly just because it has a lot of speakers. English is a little special, because it is widely spread as a second language. There are some studies as to if and how this affects it. There are also studies of nearly extinct languages, to see if they are different somehow.


Cite, cite away!

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Ollock »

Chuma wrote:I doubt very much that Mandarin has changed significantly just because it has a lot of speakers. English is a little special, because it is widely spread as a second language. There are some studies as to if and how this affects it. There are also studies of nearly extinct languages, to see if they are different somehow.


I have a suspicion that quite a few people who claim to speak Mandarin natively, particularly of older generations, in fact speak it as a second language. This comes from the widespread belief that all the Sinitic languages are dialects of "Chinese" and that Modern Standard Mandarin should be considered the standard for them all, meaning people will look on the other "dialects" as less desirable. There are, of course, communities who resist: notably Cantonese and Taiwanese speakers, as well as Hakka.

Even then, Mandarin was most definitely a second language to a large population in the past. It was the lingua franca of the elite in China before it became the official language.
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Re: On succinctness

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Eandil wrote:
Rodlox wrote:
Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.


but I thought there is no passage of time in Heaven...so why would they bother with tense?


If you want to get too metaphysically picky, Heaven needs time as well. If heaven is a place where people go after they die, then time has to pass because there are events in Heaven and these events need to get ordered. (time before and after soul X gets into heaven).


the point of being in Heaven is to praise God (and that's all you do there anyway)...so why would its language care who arrived when?

Plus Heaven hasn't always existed, since God created it "in the beginning", and that also constitutes an event to order.


no, God created the universe; Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere and always.

even if that's not so, it no more constitutes an event to order (since it predates all its speakers) than "What three things did you think before and after your sudden death?"

I don't know why I'm talking about philosophy in a linguistics forum.


because you're that good.

and linguistics makes philosophy possible. :)
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Re: On succinctness

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Rodlox wrote: the point of being in Heaven is to praise God (and that's all you do there anyway)...so why would its language care who arrived when?


That depends on the interpretation of Heaven. Some people other than Dante (with his "beatific vision" thing) consider that in Heaven you can also be in contact with people you love. I guess that doesn't merely involve looking at them, anyway. I don't know modern Christian Theologians' take in Heaven. Also, during Apocalypsis, there are events that would affect Heaven and Hell (like their ultimate closing), creating more events to be marked. And why are we denying the simple possibility of talking about Earthly affairs in Heaven?

Rodlox wrote: no, God created the universe; Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere and always.

even if that's not so, it no more constitutes an event to order (since it predates all its speakers) than "What three things did you think before and after your sudden death?"


Actually, God created the universe and the universe includes time. So regardless of the physical or abstract location of Heaven, Heaven's importance is not merely where God is, but where good souls are. This way good souls already have a past event to refer to in Heaven (and also the entrance/the kicking of the first two humans, for example?). Some people identify the Garden of Eden with Heaven because Adam and Eve were "kicked out of Paradise".

And well you also have the Apocalypsis, which marks a chronologically important event in Heaven, Hell and Earth.

Rodlox wrote:because you're that good.

and linguistics makes philosophy possible. :)


:P. But linguistics or language?

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Re: On succinctness

Post by Chuma »

cromulant wrote:Cite, cite away!

Wish I could, haha. I haven't read any of those studies, but my professors have said that they exist. However, that's not to say that they found any differences.

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Re: On succinctness

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Eandil wrote:
Rodlox wrote:
Eandil wrote:@Astraios: Because, whatever language is spoken in Heaven, it will mark tense.


but I thought there is no passage of time in Heaven...so why would they bother with tense?


If you want to get too metaphysically picky, Heaven needs time as well. If heaven is a place where people go after they die, then time has to pass because there are events in Heaven and these events need to get ordered. (time before and after soul X gets into heaven). Plus Heaven hasn't always existed, since God created it "in the beginning", and that also constitutes an event to order. Thus Heaven lacking Earthly time doesn't mean Heaven lacks time, it means it has Heavenly time.

I don't know why I'm talking about philosophy in a linguistics forum.


Why would they need to be ordered? Also, your assertions regarding what kinds of time there is or isn't there are kinda ... based in nothing?
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Re: On succinctness

Post by cromulant »

Chuma wrote:
cromulant wrote:Cite, cite away!

Wish I could, haha. I haven't read any of those studies, but my professors have said that they exist. However, that's not to say that they found any differences.


Then I suppose I cannot comment on them.

However, like I said earlier, English was very close to its current form long before long before it was widely spoken as a second language. We can understand Shakespeare with little difficulty. The British Empire was just barely getting started during his time.

It's possible that English has become more concise since Shakespeare's time, but since the differences between 2000s English and 1600s English are so marginal, the difference in succinctness must be marginal as well, and most of English's succinctness was already in place in the early 1600s.

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Re: On succinctness

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Eandil wrote:
Rodlox wrote: the point of being in Heaven is to praise God (and that's all you do there anyway)...so why would its language care who arrived when?


That depends on the interpretation of Heaven. Some people other than Dante (with his "beatific vision" thing) consider that in Heaven you can also be in contact with people you love.


yeah, and others you love will be suffering eternal torment; neither is the point of Heaven. God is the point of Heaven.

And why are we denying the simple possibility of talking about Earthly affairs in Heaven?


angel 1: "dude, guess who won the Presidential election!"
angel 2: "dude, we're trying to sing God's praises here."

Rodlox wrote: no, God created the universe; Heaven is where God is, and God is everywhere and always.

even if that's not so, it no more constitutes an event to order (since it predates all its speakers) than "What three things did you think before and after your sudden death?"


Actually, God created the universe and the universe includes time. So regardless of the physical or abstract location of Heaven, Heaven's importance is not merely where God is, but where good souls are.


with God. and God is not bound to time, so why would anything/anyone with God be bound to time?

And well you also have the Apocalypsis, which marks a chronologically important event in Heaven, Hell and Earth.


being born marks an chronologically important event in fetal development - the biological clock of fetus and mother don't always stop just because that period came to an end.

Rodlox wrote:because you're that good.

and linguistics makes philosophy possible. :)


:P. But linguistics or language?


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Re: On succinctness

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Rodlox wrote:
Rodlox wrote:because you're that good.

and linguistics makes philosophy possible. :)


:P. But linguistics or language?


Yes.

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Re: On succinctness

Post by JeremyHussell »

Chuma wrote:It's easy to do what Esperanto does, piling up suffixes for all your inflection needs. But fusion/irregularity is more succinct.
I've noticed that filling a language with regular, combinatorial patterns (the oligosynthetic model) leads to a lot of verbosity in the form of long, descriptive compound words containing many morphemes. On the one hand, the idea that there could be a core vocabulary of simple concepts which can be combined to say anything seems like a good idea, since there's less vocabulary to learn. On the other hand, when you do that it seems the burden of learning the language shifts from learning individual words to learning what combinations to use when you want to speak about anything not covered by the core vocabulary. Creating a single word to lexicalize a concept that was previously represented by combining many morphemes definitely makes a language more succinct, but does it actually make a language harder to learn? Possibly harder for readers who can't ask anyone what a new word means, since they cannot break the new word down to core components in order to get some idea of the meaning, but a speaker is likely to have to learn the combinations pretty much by rote to begin with. People tend to learn languages in large, non-decomposable chunks at first. The use of general patterns usually comes later, even for seemingly "obvious" generalizations like figuring out the morphemes of a word, noticing patterns in how they're used in different words, and finally using the morphemes productively to create new words. (Hell, children even learn questions and statements separately before figuring out how to convert one to the other.)

It looks to me like a larger vocabulary can make a language more succinct, and more useful, with little penalty to initial learnability, and if the core vocabulary remains in the language, the flexibility and productive derivation won't be harmed either.

This is not to say that I encourage the use of irregularity where it provides no advantage. There are plenty of cases where irregularities just make a language harder to learn, without making a language more succinct or more useful in any way. Processes like levelling, back-formation, and reanalysis make it obvious that people find patterns to be more natural.

Chuma wrote:One quite simple trick I think is "zero-syllable words". Try letting the word for simple things like "I" or "be" be just one sound, and not a vowel. Sure, it can be seen as affixes, but it might help to think of it as words.
There's a balance to be struck between succinctness and irregularity. Creating a completely new word to lexicalize something is the ultimate in irregularity, but can be the most succinct. Agglutinative compounds are highly regular, but can be quite lengthy. What you call "zero-syllable words" are somewhere in between. (I call them bound morphemes. If you want them to act as standalone words, they have to attach to some sort of null morpheme.) Leaning even more towards succinctness, without sacrificing too much regularity, you can have inflections that alter phonetic features on the root, rather than adding new phonemes or syllables.

There's also some loss of flexibility when you start fusing things. For example, comparing cases with adpositions:

Adpositions can be joined and share a single complement: 'of and for the people', vs Latin 'populi et populo' (not 'popul-i et -o')
Adpositions can take joint complements: 'of the city and the world', vs Latin 'urbis et orbis' (not 'urb- et orb-is')
Adpositions can take phrases and clauses, while cases take only nouns.
Adpositions are usually an open class, while cases are a closed class.

Clearly adpositions are more flexible than case, yet case is widely thought to make a language more succinct. Similar situations happen with other affixes which can't act as standalone words. What I think is happening is that things like case optimize succinctness for simple structures at the expense of complex structures, for a net win in succinctness due to the simple structures being so much more common. Ideally, there would be a way to make adposition-like things just as succinct as cases, without the loss of flexibility. (Or cases just as flexible as adpositions, without the loss of succinctness, if you want to look at it that way.)

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