Monday, August 3, 2009

Artificial Language - Loglan

A few posts ago, I discussed Esperanto as a language that failed ("used to day by only a few million speakers (with varying degree of expertise), one tenth of 1 percent of the world's population"). Clearly I am an ignoramus. For there is a language that is an even greater disaster.

The following is a from a delightful little book called Kluge: The Haphazard Evolution of the Human Mind by Gary Marcus.

To my knowledge, only one person ever seriously tried to construct an ambiguity-free, mathematically perfect human language, mathematically perfect not just in vocabulary but also in sentence construction. In the late 1950s a linguist by the name of James Cooke Brown constructed a language known as Loglan, short for "logical language." In addition to a Wilkins-esque systematic vocabulary, it includes 112 "little words"that govern logic and structure. ... The English word he, for example, would translate as da if it refers to the first singular antecedent in a discourse, de if it refers to the second, di if it refers to the third, do is it refers to the fourth, and du if it refers to the fifth. [It is not as difficult as it seems - it merely follows the vowel sequence of a, e, i, o, u - da, de, di, do, du] ... To see why this is useful, consider the English sentence He runs and he walks. It might describe a single person who runs and walks, or two different people, one running, the other walking; by contrast in Loglan, the former would be rendered unambiguously as Da prano i da dzoru, the later unambiguously as Da prano i de dzoru.

But Loglan has made even few inroads than Esperanto. Despite its "scientific" origins, it has no native speakers. On the Loglan website [], Brown reports that at "The Loglan Institute ... live-in apprentices learned the language directly from me (and I from them!), I am happy to report that sustained daily Loglan-only conversation lasting three-quarters of an hour or more were achieved," but so far as I know, nobody has gotten much further. For all its ambiguity and idiosyncrasy, English goes down much smoother for the human mind. We couldn't learn a perfect language if we tried.

I wonder if it possible to write poetry using Loglan.

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Brian Barker said...

Interesting mention of Esperanto.

I've just done a Google search, and came up with 50,000,000 hits! There's a lot of interest about this unique phenomenon out there.

Your readers may be interested in the following video A glimpse of the language can be seen at :)

Bill Chapman said...

You are,of course, not an ignoramus! You are entitled to all your views. I would still see Esperanto as a great success,as it moved from a desk project to the language of a real and growing community.

Amitabh Mukherjee said...

Brian, Bill, I hope you do realize that I have nothing against Esperanto. It's just that I have just started learning world languages and I find such variations in tongue extremely invigorating. In that process, I now keep a keen eye on anything that discusses languages and I just happened to stumble across Loglan and remembered Esperanto from my ignorant past.

Amitabh Mukherjee said...

Do you have a Google alert on Esperanto? :)

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