Monday, March 16, 2009

The new universal language

As anyone can tell you who's tried to learn a new language, it sucks. I've been living in Germany on and off now for over five years and I still can't speak it worth a damn. A cursory examination of this language will give some idea why. Mark Twain has already covered how awful it is in nauseating detail, so I won't repeat that here.

But more to the point, as the internet and computers become more and more critical to our daily interactions, we will soon need something that spans the gap between programming languages and natural human language for all forms of internet communication. Something with a regular, easily parsable grammar that can be easily converted to logical propositions.

This is my attempt to create such a rational language.

1. In as much as this is possible, grammar is completely separate from vocabulary. Therefore the language can take words from any source.

2. A word is the smallest possible unit of meaning. There are no prefixes, suffixes or compound words.

3. Tenses are formed by bracketing the action with on or more auxiliary verbs and a qualifier:

yesterday I walk to the store was
or was I walk to the store yesterday

4. Verbs can take one or more objects. Objects are always preceded by a preposition, therefore the order in which they appear in a clause is completely arbitrary.

yesterday walk I to the store was
yesterday to the store I walk was

5. A subordinate clause is always bracketed by a conjunction and a verb (much as in German, OK, it does have its good points...)

yesterday I walk to the store was because I moo some milk need was

--since all objects require a preposition, we invent one for the direct object. In this case, moo.

6. Pronouns are not gendered. Instead, different ones refer to the last noun, the second from last, the third from last, etc. We will use the English word latter to refer to the last noun, and former to refer to the second from last and former former to refer to the third from last.

yesterday I walk to store because I moo milk some has need was latter contain
bacteria bad has therefore former former moo animal sick has be

7. Desirable vocabulary: there is no word is. Two words replace the English verb to be, one meaning "to have the quality of" and the other meaning "belonging to the set of." We can use has for the former and be for the latter.

the cat has blackness
the cat be moo mammal

8. There are no adjectives. Every adjective can be expressed in the form of a clause containing the noun form.

the cat that moo black has

which we shorten to:

the cat black has
or the has black cat

Contrast this to:

the cat be moo animal black has

All adjectives we use are considered to take on the meaning of their noun forms.

9. There are four personal prononun. They are treated as nouns.

First person singular: i
First person plural: we
Second person singular: you
Second person plural: vous

10. Articles: they serve no purpose and are not used.

11. Negation: the clause, sentence, paragraph, etc. to be negated is bracketed by negator (ne) and a specifier: not, never, etc.

ne boy moo candy try yet

12. There is no punctuation. Sentences are bracketed by their verbs and qualifiers. Tenses and negatives can bracket whole paragraphs or even books.

today moo has new language i to you describe now language this has simple has logical has ne punctuation or adjective or article in former time six has has exist not shall i to you has this language describe now be was sentence previous has of question is not now question formed through verb has auxiliary has you use do you know how you of question form now be

Well, OK it needs some work.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

On the negation of modal verbs

I recently learned (it goes to show how diligently I've been practicing my German) that Germans use the phrase "must not" in the opposite sense of English speakers to mean "need not." Thinking about this, I realized that there is an implicit "or" in any statement involving modal verbs and the sense of the negative depends upon which part of the logical proposition is negated.

For example, I would translate the phrase:

"You must do A"

into a logical proposition as follows:

^A -> P

where P is some form of punishment. Or:

A or P

We could negate the phrase either by negating the whole thing:

^A and ^P

Or we could negate only one part:

A or ^P = P -> A
(e.g., "You (must not) play in the street.")

^A or P = A -> P
(e.g. "You must (not play in the street.)")

The first example would seem to be how the Germans use the phrase since whether we do A or not, we will not get punished for it, while the third form is more in line with how we use the phrase, that is, A implies punishment. The second example seems rather more ambiguous and in fact inverts the construct: now, getting punished implies that we have done A.

It has rather deep implications, since all of ethics, law and morality is related to the use of modal verbs. Can we use this idea to justify breaking the Ten Commandments?

I translate,

"I shall go to the store,"


F (uture) -> S (going to the store) = ^F or S

The sixth commandment becomes:

You shall (not kill.) = F -> ^ K = ^F or ^K = ^(F and K)

You (shall not) kill. = ^F -> K = F or K

or perhaps,

^(F -> K) = F and ^K

The second says that if there's a future, there may or may not be killing while the first and third say what we want them to say: if F is true, K must be false.