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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • Maybe this is me being ethnocentric (with a mix of naivete), but why can't we standardize on one language? Is spoken language like programming languages in that regard, where some tasks are better done in C++, some in Perl, and some in Assembly?

    I won't be so naive to suggest that English be the standard language - after all, Spanish is more widely spoken than English.

    I can sympathize with the loss of a language, but I suggest that Darwin's Rule of "Survival of the Fittest" applies. The outgoing langua

    • Recall that in Orwell's 1984, the main intellectual activity of Ingsoc was the perfection of the language NewSpeak, in which herectical ideas could neither be spoken nor thought. There is something very magical about language. It's not merely a pragmatic way to get information -- it's the cement of society itself. This extends into the animal kindom as well.

      Consider the bizarre symbotic relationship of a certain caterpillar and tree ants [mongabay.com]. The caterpiller has "dew patches" on which the ants feed. In return,

      • Interesting points and I don't know if I'm just too simple to come around to your points or if I can't convince you of mine - perhaps we're at a stalemate.

        I would argue, though, that if we've gleamed the nuggets out of a language that's doomed to die and recorded it for posterity, then what's wrong with destroying it for a common good (unifying humanity with language)? Look at Latin - it's a dead language, but we have recordings, we have books and we have classes on learning Latin. So we've destroyed La

        • I would argue, though, that if we've gleamed the nuggets out of a language that's doomed to die and recorded it for posterity, then what's wrong with destroying it for a common good (unifying humanity with language)?

          What's wrong with that? A whole helluva lot!

          If you're approaching this problem as a native English speaker that thought in English when learning other languages that are substantially similar to English, then I don't know if I'm personally skilled enough to convey the abysmal sense of lo

          • Colours in various languages are a fascinating subject: anthropologists have done studies like showing patches of colours to people and asking what do they call them. Even within same cultures there are differences: we have a table cloth six people couldn't agree on whether it was blue or green, and I can guarantee it wasn't the question of the cloth not being washed :-) But, IIRC, spectra blue-green and red-orange-yellow-brown have been identified as rather fuzzy.

            Finnish examples: there is (still) no n
            • Colours in various languages are a fascinating subject

              Definitely! [demon.co.uk] And one of my fondest memories from grad school was the book Basic Color [mcgill.ca] Terms by Paul Kay [berkeley.edu] and Brent Berlin -- one of the few bits of linguistics I found that was actually accessible to anyone who hadn't already spent years reading up on theoretical backstory.

              The short story is this: collect all the color-terms in a language. For each one, ask "is [this term] a kind of [this other term]?" You get things like "pink ISA red", "beige ISA white", and so-on. So then you look for all the things that aren't ISA anything else. In English, this is grey, brown, white, black, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, purple; I think that's all of them. So you collect those, and throw out any words that are built up of other words, and you throw out words that can't apply to anything at all (so if you have a word for "grey" but it applies only to a horse being that color, toss it out). What's left are called "basic level color terms".

              And there are two surprising things you find out when you do this across languages:

              1) different languages have different sets of such basic level terms. So you can have a language where people have a word for the color orange, but say "but that's just a kind of red", and/or the term for the color orange is just "cloud red" (so it's a compound, so you throw it out).

              2) there are patterns in what you get. I don't remember the exact details, but it's things like: you don't have "orange" (when not ISA "red"!) showing up before "green" (when not ISA "blue"!).

              The weirdest languages I've ever found for this are the Northern Iroquois languages (and possibly Cherokee (which is Southern Iroquois), but I don't know). They have, by the above criteria, no basic-level color terms at all. They have a whole thing with some colors being ISA other colors, and some not being ISA anything, but all those get thrown out because they are all compounds: and almost all of them are compounds build of a common noun plus the verb that means "to be the same color as". So "the couch is blue" basically comes out "the couch is sky-color". "The cat is white" comes out "The cat is snow-color". But while some terms are clearly "conventionalized" (everyone uses snow as the default comparison noun in for the color white, blood for red, etc), you can use anything that makes any sort of conceptual sense: bone-color, ash-color, tongue-color, pinecone-color, etc. Tomato-color! Carrot-color!