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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


        • No, we can't recreate languages. Languages are products of cultures, and recreating cultures would require being able to turn back time. We can create new variations from the remains of languages, that's all.



          Think of all the bazillions of loanwords [rice.edu] in the English language: tundra, sauna, payama, ketchup, katamaran-- would they have
          become part of the English without history, mainly trade, and largely because of two English-speaking empires, first the British economical and political, and then the American economical and cultural. Do these loanwords have their original meaning? In most cases, no (for example: katamaran is Tamil for "bound-log). In other words, information has been lost, and if those languages would disappear, only the loanword semantics would remain. These are just examples at the technical level: in cases like sayings or poetry, even wider chasms exist. Translation simply doesn't work, most of the time. Rough made-up estimate: you can usually get 80% translated between languages of the same linguistic family, if translating basic prose. Change the register or the linguistic family, and it gets worse, possibly much worse. For example, Finno-Ugrian and Indo-European are not related families, so something is lost in the translation, either way, but they are reasonably close (Subject-Verb-Object, roughly the same concepts of time and place, etc), but if getting farther, to, say, Asian or Amer-Indian, it's getting really hard.



          If you don't mind some linguistic roughing, take a look at the conlang community. A good tutorial on creating your own constructed language is
          available [zompist.com], and it's a good shakeup on monolingual beliefs that everything could or should be expressed using a single language.


          • No, we can't recreate languages.

            I can't agree with that statement. Hebrew was a dead [spoken] language until the end of the 19th Century. Today it's a living [spoken] language again, the native tongue of a significant population. It's probably the only counterargument though, being the only language to be revived from the dead. Unfortunately, that also means that Yiddish is pretty much pushing up the daisies...

            Languages are products of cultures, and recreating cultures would require being able