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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 Latin into non-usage (save for medical terminology [nuggets]). Language is probably an exception to your destruction-avoidance policy because we could recreate it if we wanted to.

        Jason

        • 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 Ame

          • 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

        • 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

        • The Catholic church would disagree with you that Latin is a dead language as there is modern and classical Latin. The pope issues nearly every written edict in Latin and up until Vatican II masses were conducted in Latin. No, Latin is quite alive and well, especially in the romance languages :) And don't forget the legal profession.

          Umberto Eco had a wonderful book Experiences in Translation [amazon.com] that would be of interest to anyone considering abolishing language for just one as it goes into the philosophy an