(From Lognet 94/1. Used with the permission of The Loglan Institute, Inc.)
Letters policy: Unless otherwise stated, letters addressed to logli in general, The Institute, or any editor of Lognet will be considered as offered for publication. But it would be good if the writer explicitly offers. 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 will combine them into one purely for the sake of clarity. If you are not on e-mail and your letter is a long one, we’d be grateful if you’d enclose a soft copy of it on a disk. We can translate most word-processors and having your letters on disk could save us a lot of typing.
We start with a letter from Jeremy Dunn, one which struck the keynote of this issue:
I have seen many interesting issues raised in LN and felt the urge to make some general comments for thought.
1. I have noticed ... in many of the translations and transcribings appearing in LN that it seems to take several letter exchanges by highly skilled Loglanists to decipher or transcribe the most casual English remarks. Loglan will never be a candidate for language translation or even for common speech if it can’t be “fuzzy” enough to allow normal speech. I do not wish to give the impression that I think Loglan is a failure for its clarity of lexicon but I think there is a need for examining the issue of fuzziness. If we are going to be able to say exactly what we mean we must also be able to be as vague as we wish to be. I wish I could be more specific in this area, [but] I can only think of a single possible example offhand. Consider e and ze; in Loglan these are two very different kinds of and, but in English we just say and or add a lot of verbiage to be specific. Suppose we had a word that was a fuzzy connector (say ugh just for fun) and we said ze ugh e. This would mean that we were creating a fuzzy English type of and so that we don’t have to be real specific about what we are talking about. We might wish to complement our fuzzy connector with specific grammar words for fuzzy connections that occur frequently in natural languages. If we study this issue closely we might be able to solve our translation problems in a much more direct fashion. Instead of being in the bind of trying to determine what a given writer “really means” we can instead write what he says at face value in the fuzzy construct that he probably was actually thinking in. This approach would give us the specificity and the vagueness that we are looking for. Few people are going to converse with the specificity of thought that Loglan is imposing on us, we cannot spend an hour thinking our sentences out before we speak them. I would very much like to see some discussion [of] how we can be more fuzzy and [of] the fuzzy connectors we might need; we do at least need a fuzzy connector (not ugh).
2. I was intrigued by Randall Holmes’ comments about how it is too late to incorporate higher order logic in Loglan without major surgery. I hope he considers writing an article in La Logli to give a discussion of what changes and additions would be necessary, so that we might try a hand at seeing what could be done.
3. I am unclear as to how one does multiple ands and ors in Loglan. Does one chain them together? Suppose I [want to] say Jack and Jill and Tom and Harry went up the hill. Does it then go “Jack e Jill e Tom e Harry went up the hill.”? [Yes, and the whole structure groups left: (((Jack e Jill) e Tom) e Harry).—JCB] If it does take this form, then would it be worthwhile to create a multi-and and a multi-or to conserve space? [That might be useful; but think about how its syntax might work, and how it might be most economically accomplished.]
4. How about reverse-Polish Loglan? What!? Loglan has been based on linearly chaining our thoughts together; consider the sentence Jack and Jill went up the hill to fetch a pail of water. In reverse-Polish this would be Jack Jill and, hill went up,, pail water of,,, to fetch. I have used extra commas to show the grouping of the concepts in the new order. Can Loglan change [word-order] like this? [Not into Reverse Polish, which early studies showed imposed too great a strain on the human temporary memory; but we can easily speak V-S-O and S-O-V word-orders in Loglan (S-V-O is Loglan-normal), which share some of its features and presumable advantages; see L1:522.] We might need an extension for number words to substitute for the commas in my example. People are quite unlikely to think and speak in this manner but we should be able to do so if we desire to. Can Loglan be spoken in this manner without being clunky? Perhaps Mr. Holmes could answer this question for a non-logician like myself.
5. If Loglan has a definable set of word construction and formation rules, does The Institute have anyone working on a program that can take a given set of root words and algorithmically produce a new word or set of word possibilities for word creation? [Yes; see below.] I have tried submitting various words at times and can never seem to remember all the ins and outs of the process; there is a lot to remember. A program would be helpful for those of us who want to focus on the process and content of language creation rather than the phonemic end of it; I hate putting a great deal of thought into an idea only to be told my phonemic designations for my concepts are incorrect. [Such a program exists, and is now part of LOD; see my Sau La Sacdonsu in this issue.]
I hope to have much more to say soon. What think ye logli of all this?
—Hue Djerumi Dun (Jeremy Dunn)
Try Dje’rymis Dyn, Jeremy. The problem with your “fuzzy connector” is that it would require the listener to pick out one of its values as the intended one before da could think about or transform the sentence that contained it. In short, it would require the listener/reader to do the logical work that the “lazy” Loglan speaker/writer had apparently chosen not to do. Giving the Loglan speaker this option would, it seems to me, defeat the purpose of Loglan by turning it, if only optionally, into the kind of untransformable code that the natural languages already are. But what do others think about this proposal?
This letter of Jeremy’s was one of the things that provoked my article on the “Loglan is both hard and easy” paradox in this issue (see “Why Is Loglan So Hard to Use ... ?”). Two other provocations were (1) my recent e-conversations with our Lodtua about how best to solve this problem (see Sau La Lodtua) and (2) the consensus that is now emerging among our tiftua (“offering-workers”)—presumably sparked by James Jennings’ thoughtful article, La Cejnoa, in LN93/2:8-10—arguing that usage-building is, or should be, The Institute’s main current concern.
The next letter is a composite of several letters that I’ve recently received from Bob Tait, who is a very active new member.—JCB
I have been very favorably impressed by the material you sent me in October. Loglan 1 is awesome...perhaps too awesome for many people. The MacTeach programs are effective and rather enjoyable. I also liked the 93/3 edition of Lognet: I hope I’m on the mailing list for future issues.
[From a later letter:] I appreciate all of the help you’ve given me as I’ve immersed myself in the Loglan culture. Your highly technical enterprise has been underway for almost forty years, and it’s difficult to catch up. Yesterday, I received a listing of the Loglan grammar from Dr McIvor. He states that NB3 would be useful to my understanding of it. I haven’t studied it much yet, but I suspect I will need all the help I can get. In addition to NB3, is there any other back material that you think might be useful? [Yes, Notebook 1. This was the 1982 report on the Machine grammar project that was issued just after it was finished; it might still be useful to you. Though out of print, the master copy of this book may be borrowed by Institute members for copying.—JCB] If you can give me an idea of the cost, I could send more money. [No cost; just a deposit.] I hope I am not being too much of a nuisance. [Not at all; it is both our pleasure and our duty to encourage the deepest and broadest understanding of Loglan among our logli.]
My interest in Loglan dates from your 1960 Scientific American article. Of all the many articles that I have read in that magazine the two that impressed me most were your article and the 1962 one by Victor Yngve. One of the things that I would like to do with Loglan, in addition to learning to read and speak it, is to write a program equivalent to Yngve’s that would produce gram-matically correct random speech. If you don’t have his article handy, I’ll be glad to Xerox a copy and send it to you. (I have all of the Scientific Americans since 1958, as well as, SciDex, the computerized index.) [Yes, I’d very much like to see a copy of Yngve’s 1962 paper; I once knew his work well. His early work, like Quine’s, influenced the design of Loglan grammar; but I’m not sure I even saw his 1962 paper. (The 1961 one is the one I cite, I notice.) By the way, I wrote a program in 1962-63 that did approximately what you describe. It’s purpose was not only to explore Yngve’s “depth hypothesis” in Loglan, but also to find and remove the syntactic ambiguities that still lurked in the language. I don’t think I could lay my hands on that program now; so do write another, and let us know how it behaves with modern Loglan.]
I would like to give you some feedback on my experiences with Loglan thus far, and also tell you a little more about myself and my family.
I’m enclosing my MacTeach STATS files even though I am far from fluent in Loglan. As you can see I have spent a huge amount of time on the drills—although during some of these sessions I left the program on while I took a break for meals or watching TV. I have also read Loglan 1 twice. I believe my lack of fluency is largely caused by the fact that my ability to recall names and words is much poorer than it was ten or fifteen years ago, and because I don’t have the advantage of daily contact with other Loglan speakers. [Your lack of fluency may also be caused, soi crano, by your not having anyone to talk to in it! Also, our current set of MacTeach input files doesn't take the learner as far as fluency; an expanded set might, however, do just that; see my SLS.] My attempts to interest members of my family in studying Loglan have been fairly unsuccessful. My daughter Elizabeth seemed to be doing pretty well, but her interest has lapsed.
I expect that I will use the MacTeach program again from time to time, but right now I believe that my time will be better spent trying to read and write in the language. I enjoy reading Lognet and am looking forward to seeing La Logli. I found Loglan 1 to be excellent but very daunting. When Loglan 0 (or 3) is available, it might be more acceptable to beginners.
I’ve run into a few difficulties with the software. I didn’t seem to be able to shuffle the MacTeach deck. The Online Dictionary has a problem with entries that take more than 24 lines: the first part of the entry scrolls off the screen. Importing the dictionary into a word processor is rather tedious. On the whole, I have really enjoyed using these programs. In spite of my initial reaction to the Parser, I have been able to use it to good effect. [If you’re on e-mail, you should “talk” to Dr. McIvor directly about these problems. His e-address is on the back cover. If not, send him a surface letter describing them exactly.]
My family and I have always shared an interest in learning and languages. Our house is filled with books and magazines. I got a Mechanical Engineering degree from Virginia Tech in 1951 and took graduate courses at the University of Cincinnati and Xavier University. I spent some time as a Labor Officer in Korea, so I had a little exposure to Korean, but my only foreign language study was one term of German in evening college. I retired from the jet engine business nearly a year ago.
My wife Florence majored in Home Ec at Purdue and works as a tax preparer from late January through April 15 each year. She studied Latin and French. She lost interest in Loglan once she learned to call me a puntu rirgu. My oldest daughter Marianne majored in Industrial Psychology and Management at Eckerd College and did graduate work at Houston and Michigan State. She taught at Washington State for three years. She studied Spanish and German in school and has also studied American Sign Language. She plans to move back to Cincinnati the end of April. If you haven’t already sent her the Online Dictionary, don’t; she can use mine if she does anything with Loglan.
My second child, Elizabeth, graduated from Kent State in Psychology and did graduate work at Depaul, and is currectly studying Art at Miami University. She has a physical disability which has prevented her getting a job, and she now lives with my wife and me. She studied French and Russian, and I still have hopes that I can lure her back to Loglan. George, my third offspring, graduated from Kent State in Business with a Computer Science option. He studied Spanish and German and a little bit of Arabic and Japanese. He lives in the area. So far he has shown no interest in Loglan, but I think he would be quite good at it. Rob, my youngest, graduated from Purdue with a major in advertising and a minor in French. He’s living in our basement right now. He played briefly with MacTeach, but it is very far down on his priority list. My wife and children have among them about forty years of foreign language study, but have had no opportunity to apply any of these languages outside the classroom.
I have a nephew who owns a home in Cincinnati, but is currently living in Japan with his wife and two daughters. They previously lived for ten years in Germany and all are fluent in German. The daughters are now studing Japanese. I haven’t said anything to them about Loglan, but when they move back to Cincinnati the girls might be interested.
I realize this letter is long. If you wish to print any part of it, please feel free to edit it. As an exercise, I may still try to translate it into Loglan, but I didn’t want to wait until I’d accomplished that to write to you.
Thanks for your time.
—Robert Tait III
Good luck to Member Tait’s efforts to sell Loglan to his friends & relations! The next letter comes from our first Icelandic member, who has similar plans.
Dear dr. Brown,
Thank you for your e-mail of Oct. 2 regarding Loglan, which I read on Oct 20, I think it was, and please pardon my tardiness in replying. (Sorry, I haven’t been on CIS that much lately.)
I did receive your package in good order, on August 25.
So I’m the first Icelander in the Loglan community! Well I was going to ask you for the names of other Icelanders in order to contact them, provided it was not against your principles. I’m clearly preempted! However, I count among my friends some which might get interested.They are mathematically inclined people mostly, and one of them is a professional linguist (university teacher) who just yearns for more languages to study.
As for myself and my involvement with Loglan, I suspect you will find my recount a familiar one, and hardly one to merit inclusion in your worthy newsletter. An Electrical Engineer by education, though mostly programmer by profession nowadays, I was born in Reykjavik, Iceland in 1949. I studied engineering and mathematics in Iceland and Sweden, specializing in Computers and Control Theory.
I have always been interested in languages and comparative linguistics, and happily, college school in Iceland in those days was very conducive to such interests. Even taking the physico-mathematical (or “hard-sciences”) track, we were obliged to study FIVE languages, in order: Danish, English, German, Latin and French, not counting my native Icelandic including Old Norse.
As to Danish, most Icelandic boys at that time did acquire (well, reading knowledge of) that language by reading a publication called “Anders And”, which is Danish for Donald Duck. That distinguished person has an Icelandic cognate nowadays, name of Andres Ond.Wonder when we get him in Loglan ? [Try Danld Anhat, from the scientific predicate anhati = is a duck/an anatid, one of the Anatidae.—JCB]
In addition, I pinched from my stepfather a textbook of Esperanto, which took me all of three days to master. (Now I’m bragging, [soi crano].)
Then, in my student days (1975 ?) I saw your ad in the Scientific American. I dug up the 1960 article, got interested and tried to order the books as advertised, but to no avail.
I turned to other matters, but the concept of Loglan was always in some corner of my mind. There was a passing discussion of Loglan on BIX, where one of the participants maintained that Loglan was still alive and well. Finally, in the fall of 1992, while lurking on CompuServe’s Foreign Languages forum, I stumbled upon Kirk Sattley’s expository posting and contacted him, which lead to my ordering your book and cassettes, after some deliberation.
I have by now browsed your material (well, I read the book in hotel rooms and listened to the cassettes while driving during a September ten-day business trip around Iceland. Though not perfectly fluent in Loglan yet,I maintain I recognized a distinctly American accent, [soi crano]!)
I intend to give Loglan further scrutiny when time permits.I find the concept very interesting, and will be asking you to send me more material shortly.
Best wishes for you and your Institute,
—Geir Reginn Johannesson
We hope Member Johannesson can get a logla study group going on his island. I have taken the liberty of replacing Geir’s use of the e-mail smile convention, namely ‘:-)’, with our own more flexible Loglan convention ‘soi crano’...more flexible because the Loglan writer can impart an image of whatever w is doing while writing; see LN 90/1:14.—JCB