ROILA ... this is silly.

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Joined: Thu Nov 12, 2009 9:46 pm
Location: New Zealand, Earth, Sol.

ROILA ... this is silly.

Post by Chargone »

So... this thing's been around a while. It's supposed to be a language to make it easier for humans to talk to computers. So, i bought their book.

So far? It's silly.

So far as i can tell, it mostly makes it easier on whoever's writing the computer's vocabulary database. Maybe.

Ok, first off: vowels.

It has five. Reasonable enough. Only...
A as in hat
E as in red
I as in lick
O as in moan
U as in hut

Apparently they've never heard of the IPA, for one thing, but... well, what little evidence is to be found is that those values would be based on New Zealand English (actually, maybe not, upon second look, which makes it a little less awful. Or more. I don't even know anymore). Which means that, except for O, which is a diphthong, those sounds are all Really similar, and ... designed? To be pronounced quickly and fit nicely into NZ English stress patterns. ROILA doesn't stress anything, and is intended to be pronounced slowly and clearly (actually, the book then goes on to suggest lightly stressing the first syllable of each word, for asthetic(?) reasons)

Trundle on a bit through the book... no articles, ok. Cool. Adjectives behave basically like english (well, maybe. I was skimming a bit, it mostly dealt with "the cat is red" type structures.) But toss out the "is", load up extra gramatical roles on various words so many=very, no=not, some others (wouldn't a computer prefer less of that?) ... very blatantly english with various features stripped out.

Then we get to the bit where they proscribe idioms. Computers can't understand them, so don't use them. Which is fair enough, and so far as i noticed thry've done a decent job of avoiding them so far. Except...
Their primary example of an idiom, which you shouldn't use is... nonstandard pluralisation. Which is to say that in Roila, plurals get the plural marker even if they don't in english. A reasonable rule, sure, but Nothing To Do With Idioms! (Well, to the best of my knowledge)

"Is" makes a reappearance later... but the example used is "three and four is seven", stating that an "is" is needed because if you left it out the sentence would read "three and fourty seven". (Also, it acknowledges that is, am, and are are the same thing, but there's no mention of "to be")

There's more, but the sillyness has added up to the point where i have no interest in continuing to read it. I don't exactly feel ripped off. The book is entitled "Learning ROILA" and, with that goal in mind, seems decently put togeather, and a fair bit of work's gone into it, obviously. It wasn't to expensive, either.

On the other hand, i can't help but feel that the language is failing at it's stated goal, or at least making it harder than it needs to be, right from it's phonology. Though according to the preface, their research does indicate that ROILA is easier for machines to deal with than English (well, of course. it's got less sounds, and then limits the possible arangements of sounds to CV(C), and a quick skim shows that last C only at the ends of words.)

Credit where it's due, ROILA is "finished" to a useable state, and if one is not the sort of person who makes a study of linguistics, professionally or as a hobby, most of the things which bugged me probably wouldn't matter. But the baaic stuff the book would seem to imply its creators (emplyed/funded first by a university in the neitherlands, then the New Zealand Institute For Language Brain And Bahaviour), or at least the people writing the book (some overlap, but at the very least the latter group seems not to include at least one person the former does) Don't Know about lingustics/languages/English(!) is... ... baffling?

I mean, it can be summerized (doing it a bit of a disservice) as "take english, knock out a bunch of useful but not strictly necessary features, relex".

So, as "language which is easier for a computer to understand than english" it seems successful, though with plenty of room for improvement (seriously, those vowels!). As a conlang, it seems... not great.

I don't know, i'm hardly an expert on this stuff (though apparently, at minimum, more knowledgeable than the author assumed their audience to be), and i've probably misunderstood something somewhere and made errors, but it bugged me, so you guys get a rant on the subject.

Which i can't figure out how to end.
So i'll just stop here.

Edit: gah, the typos! Sorry about those :s

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