Friday, March 29, 2013

A Logical language

Joshua Foer: John Quijada and Ithkuil, the Language He Invented : The New Yorker:

'via Blog this'

The New Yorker has a cool article on an artificial spoken language designed to eliminate many of the flaws common in the natural languages we've all grown up speaking -- shortcomings like ambiguity, multiple meanings for single words, exceptions to rules, and so on. The language, Ithkuil, is based on language theory and the understanding of grammatical universals that has been broadly accepted for the past fifty years.

A designed language is a very science fiction type concept. One that's been touched on in several novels, some of which have explored the potential for a highly ordered rather than loose syntactical language to have a significant impact on the efficiency of human thought.

That's something that appeals to me. I'm one of hose people who subscribe to the hypothesis that it was the neurologic organizing effects that accompanied the emergence of syntax structured language that lay behind an apparent burst in paleolithic technology and culture around 50,000 years ago. Structured language plays a measurable role in organizing our brains, and its absence in individuals raised in near complete isolation up to around age 16 leads to life-long deficits in abstract reasoning capabilities.

With that said, I have no idea if this Ithkuil language will be ever be adopted, or just how well it's put together. Developed here in the US, it's apparently gained a following in some Russian academic circles, but it's worth noting that previous attempts to create logical languages have not found widespread use. It's also unclear if a more orderly, less ambiguous  and more grammatically logical language would have any noticeable impact on thought.

But still, it's fun to speculate and read the speculation of others.

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