(From Lognet 93/3. Used with the permission of The Loglan Institute, Inc.)
Letters policy: Unless otherwise stated, letters sent to The Institute, JCB, or any other editor will be considered to be offered for publication. But it would be good if the writer offers explicitly. We reserve the right to edit letters, mostly just to drop material that has to do with ordering books, etc. Sometimes a given correspondent will have several letters in the hopper, so to speak, and we may combine them to save space. We’d be grateful if you could send your letters to us by e-mail. If e-mail is not available but you do have a personal computer, you may mail your letters to us on floppy disks. We can read most types of disks and translate most word-processors, so your doing that or writing by e-mail will save us a lot of typing. Of course ordinary mail is welcome as well.—JCB
Dear Dr. Brown:
Thank you for your letter of March 1st, 1991.
I Intend to try to learn the Loglan language by understanding of English if you would like to offer me the learning materials written in English.
If possible, I need a personal computer. But both of them, the IBM- PC type and Apple Macintosh type, are too expensive for me. I anyhow want to learn the language.
[I live in the city of Chengde.] ... As you know, Beijing (Peking) is the capital of China. Chengde is neighbouring city to Beijing, about 200 kilometres. Chengde Mountain Resort is beautiful in scenery and pleasant in climate. As a renowned imperial palace of the Qing Dynasty, it is enclosed by a wall over ten kilometres long and consists of pavilions, halls, towers and pagodas in the architecture of north China and typical south China scenes of blue lakes shaded by willow trees. The key scenic spots of the Mountain Resort combine the essence of the Han, Mongolian and Tibetan culture and architecture.
Welcome to Chengde!
Welcome to vizit the Mountain Resort at any time!
Sincerely yours, Shang Junyi
We welcome New Member Shang as our first logli from China and appreciate his invitation. I was happy to send him last Spring, as a gift from The Institute, a full set of Loglan learning materials...less our computer-based materials, of course, which he cannot yet use. We hope this limitation on his learning can be removed in the near future, especially now that LOD is with us; see my SLS. It would be most interesting if Member Shang’s insights into the usage problems we are currently discussing, for example, could be shared with the rest of us through either the “Logli List” or the “Loglanists List” once he is able to join our discussions electronically. Anyone have any ideas about how to get a computer-cum-modem to this new logli of ours on the other side of the Pacific? Please send me your suggestions. My wife and I are planning to visit China next Spring and we could probably carry something reasonably light to Member Shang in Chengde. I’d hope we could then find a way of linking him up with The Institute electronically. Does anybody know about e-mail to China? Eo djadou mia.—JCB
Thanks for the prompt mailing. ...
I have studied Classical Latin for seven years, German for five, and have made it a point to dabble in other languages as the mood should come over me. For instance, I am right now playing around a bit with Volapuk, and have enjoyed looking at Fijian. I don’t care for Esperanto, though, because the requirement of definite articles seems rather restrictive, and the rhythm of the language strikes me as cacophonous.
Also, my exposure to Latin and German causes me to favor those languages that free people from the rigors of unbending word order. (If you have looked at the modern European languages, you will see what I mean.) An ideal language would be one that had an even mix of prepositions and postpositions, and word classes (be they nouns or verbs or whatever strange parts) which were logically and phonetically distinct.
... Do you offer the dictionary on disk? Could I download it? .. I do not have a PC or Mac, but do have several C-128’s and ST’s, and will be picking up an Amiga soon. I happen to program in 6502, 6809, and 68000 assembly language. [I answered this question and a second letter came.—JCB] .
You expressed uncertainty [in your answer] whether the database could be accessed without appropriate software. Why is that? Is the dictionary encrypted? I’m sure I could write my own program to search and sort your Loglan dictionary database, assuming I had a copy of the database on disk.
I’ve looked at the Loglan books and found much of the language to be interesting. However there still remains some question in my mind about the function of word sequence in Loglan. Perhaps I haven’t read enough of the book but it seems that a lot of the grammatical structure is “prepositionally” oriented: little words go first and then substantives follow. Why would that be more logical than using substantives first and then little words, as the meaningful relationships become more and more refined? To me a language that defines things postpositi[onal]ly would be more comfortable than a language that does things the reverse.
(Since the word-order problem has come up several times in recent months, and may well be of general interest, I have allowed myself to make an extended, mainly historical response to Reader Montchalin’s questions.) Loglan was once a “Noun-Adjective” language...for reasons I have some difficulty remembering but which were probably similar to those you report for preferring to deal with “larger and more important things first” and then refining your meaning as speech proceeds. But in 1963 and ’66, Joseph Greenberg’s Universals of Language came along and gave us all a huge dose of information about the distributional characteristics of the world’s languages...including all these word-order features in which you’re interested. Greenberg also reported numerous “structural dependencies” among these order features; in other words, he’d found that groups of order features tended to hang together. He called such dependencies “language universals”. .You might wish to read his book. (You can find a reference to it in the Bibliography of L1.) The distributional picture Greenberg paints is pretty decisive for anyone designing a language which is to be in any sense “international”. For example, “Adjective-Noun” languages like English (a big house) are much more common in the world picture than “Noun-Adjective” ones like Spanish (una casa grande), at least as “commonness” is measured by the number of speakers (85% of those who speak any of the 8 most populous languages—Loglan’s “target languages”—speak A-N ones). But N-A languages are not more numerous as measured by the number of languages; only 35% of the 201 languages Greenberg tables on this feature are A-N, a larger number, 64%, being N-A, and 1%—Spanish among them—using both orders (un gran hombre/un hombre grande). As for what is probably the most important ordering principle in any language, the preferred order of the main constituents of its declarative sentences (Subject, Object, Verb), Greenberg found that,when measured by the number of their speakers, languages which use the “Subject-Verb-Object” (S-V-O) word-order are much more common (83%) than either of the other two dominant orders, S-O-V and V-S-O, the latter two together accounting for only 17% of speakers. However, as measured by the number of languages, only a large plurality (41%) are S-V-O. On the other hand, “Subject-Verb” languages, i.e., those that are either S-V-O or S-O-V, together account for 79% of Greenberg’s world-wide list of languages. So the choice of S-V-O for Loglan seemed to be both strongly indicated by the people count and weakly indicated by the language count. As to the ordering feature in which you’re most interested: whether a language has “Prepositions” or “Postpositions” (a few languages in Greenberg’s sample, namely 4, have both), the distributional picture is not so clear. It is true that 58% of the speakers of the 8 most widespread languages—who at the time constituted about 80% of the world’s human population—speak languages that use prepositions (see Chapter 6 of my L2, “The Word-Order Problem”, as reprinted in 1:54-61 for further discussion of this feature). On the other hand only 52% of Greenberg’s sample of languages employ prepositions. But if we look at only the S-V languages in his sample—and such languages are themselves predominant (all 8 of Loglan’s target languages are S-V)—it turns out that 80% of these languages use prepositions. It also happens that whether auxiliary verbs are used pre- or post-positionally in a language depends almost entirely on whether that language uses prepositions or not. In other words, if one class of operators, say modals, are used prepositionally in a language, then any of its other operators, say descriptors, are very likely to be used prepositionally as well. So if Loglan was to have prepositions—as it seemed on other grounds that it surely must—then all its other operators should be used before their operands as well.
So that’s how Loglan got to be S-V-O, A-N, with prepositioned operators in the middle 1960’s; for this is the trio of word-order characteristics that has apparently been most favored by language evolution in this species on this particular planet...try other beings elsewhere for other arrangements, soi crano. It was some time later, during the middle and late 1980’s (when the 4th Edition of L1 was being prepared), that a project that had long been on my personal back-burner, namely loosening up Loglan’s word-order requirements so as to make any natural word-order readily speakable, was finally realized. These arrangements are now reported in the 4th Edition, pp.134-36, 342-46. So we can now say mutce groda hasfa or hasfa go groda go mutce, depending on whether we are by birthplace A-N or N-A inclined; and we can also say Mu titci lo henji, or Mu lo henji ga titci, or Ga titci ga mu lo henji (the last being the word order our Lodtua prefers) according to our natal or post-natal predilections, and count on it’s being understood. (I trust you understood all three, soi crano?) So the one word-order characteristic that seems to be genuinely invariant in the language is, unfortunately, the one you feel most uncomfortable with, namely that all Loglan operators precede rather than follow their operands. Uu. But as you now see, it probably can’t be helped.—JCB
The following letter came by electronic mail:
I’m looking for general info about Loglan, about your organization, and about related languages and organizations.
I’m a designer of languages, and though I haven’t investigated your language, I’ve been told that Loglan is similar in nature to my primary language-design project, [which] has the purpose of designing a language which makes clear speech easy and ambiguous speech difficult. Hence, my interest in Loglan.
If you can email any info to me, I’d appreciate greatly it, though you can also snail-mail it to me.
Thanks in advance,
Zack T. Smith
I referred Inquirer Smith to Member Reed Riner’s Etc. article “Loglan: The Option of Clarity”. We hope Inquirer Smith joins our community. We need his kind of expertise.—JCB
Dear Dr. Brown:
I most certainly enjoyed our phone conversation last week.
After I received your brochure, I then remembered the reference to Loglan. It had to have been in that June 1960 article in Scientific American.
My life at the time was fairly hectic so the article faded from memory—alas! ...
I do not yet have a computer; a friend threatens to give me an IBM with a 286 chip in it. I tell him, as I tell my two sons, both of whom are Apple fanatics, that I’ll whack ‘em a good one with my magnesium slide rule—if they don’t stop bothering me.
I came across the word ‘meme’ in Douglas Hofstedter’s book on Metamagic Themas. [I think the British biologist Richard Dawkins invented the word ‘meme’ and first used it publicly in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene. Greenhood and I make use of it in our “Paternity, Jokes and Song” scenario for language evolution, which apparently got into my phone conversation with New Member Nielsen.—JCB] There was an excellent article on that theme in a recent—3 or 4 years [ago]—issue of Analog by the president of the L-5 Society. ...
I’m currently juggling time and place factors. One day I’d very much like to visit you in San Diego. Again, thank you for sending your brochure so rapidly.
Robert L Nielsen
I invited New Member Nielsen to visit The Institute when he’s in the neighborhood and urged him to take his sons’ advice and get a small computer. Then, even if he used it for nothing else, he could at least join us in our e-mail conversations about Loglan. I explained that it’s in the e-mail world that we’re doing most of our developing of new usages these days. While I’m about it, let me extend the same invitation to any other logli who plans to visit San Diego, as well as the same encouragement to other computer-less logli who are thinking of taking a place at our electronic table. If you plan a visit to The Institute and want to be sure of finding me here, it might be wise to drop us a postcard first, as sometimes my wife and I are traveling. At such times we leave The Institute and its business in the hands of logli friends or non-logli relatives.—JCB