universal language...why not?

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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Braininvat on August 13th, 2017, 12:26 pm 

Hungarian must be good for developing abstract thought - 20th century physics/math had a disproportionate number of Hungarians.

I've noticed a recent slangy move towards using "z" when "s" is given a z sound, coming from hiphop culture. I suppose it's an example of informal drift towards more phonetic spelling that eventually, slowly, brings some change to the formal written language. If that goes to far, of course, we will diminish some of the "sandbox," the fun wordplay, like GB Shaw's famous quip that "ghoti" is pronounced "fish." (the gh in enough, the o in women, the ti in action). Wharez thuh fun in that kind uv reestrikshun?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 13th, 2017, 2:47 pm 

You know why so many Hungarian mathematicians? They're poor. Poles, too, btw, and Russians - whose languages are not even similar. Because you don't need laboratory or scientific equipment (the physicists went to America); all you need is a pencil and a marble-topped cafe table. It is a legend of Banach https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stefan-Banach that two graduate students followed him around to copy down his idle scribbles before the waiter could wipe them off.
Also, of course, there is advanced education, but no lucrative careers to syphon off the brightest: they might as well follow their passion.
Naw, it's neither language nor money. Or wasn't - I don't know the situation at present.
I t was strict fathers, encouraging mothers, mentoring grandparents and demanding teachers. They used to expect a lot more of children - and give them more credit - in Europe generally and eastern Europe particularly, than they did in the west. This, too, is why first generation immigrants outperform assimilated American students. Ever see photographs of Europeans before 1970? The 18-year-olds look like serious adults, while their north American counterparts look like kids.
Of course, that's coming back to economics: if you have the wherewithal to coddle your children, and fewer of them, you keep them dependent longer. And if industry doesn't require fresh supplies of labour, the entire nation keeps its offspring out of competition for jobs as long as possible. And if the youth and its parents and grandparents have disposable income, the advertising industry invents whole new species and subspecies of market to target.

As to the phonetic spelling, there is a poster on one forum I used to attend who uses that system exclusively. It's cute the first time, but soon grows incredibly annoying.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 14th, 2017, 6:49 am 

Thank you Serpent! That was an excellent post to my mind, and it contained the sort of rough quantitative answer that my own rationalisation (admittedly crude) primed me to expect.
I agree with your opinion that “Language changes organically, not by edict”, up to the point where Eclogite made the point, correctly in my opinion, that usurped nations in the past have generally adopted the language of their conquerors.

But the world has changed of course since the days of empiricism. I’m of the opinion that with the revolutionary improvements in communication over the last few decades, that we are slowly but surely becoming a global community, and that ‘organically’ (I like that choice of a word; it has connotations of primitively motivated and subconsciously chosen to the point where things just happen), we will gradually come to use one already established language over others as our second language (second to our culturally-established language at the time of birth).

In line with the questions raised in the OP, the posts so far suggest that HUMANITY IN GENERAL HAS NOT BEEN IN THE PAST, AND IS NOT NOW, INTERESTED IN ANY SANITISED FORM OF A NEWLY-CREATED INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE.

There have to be reasons, albeit not patently obvious. Reasons presented so far include maintenance of cultural traditions because of a close association between cultures and language expression; people adopt the language most suitable for economics and trading in at any given period in time; people ‘organically’ prefer a language full of inconsistencies in which they can say one thing and mean another in order to further their own self-interests without appearing to be selfish.

Each of us has presented an informed opinion. We are just speculating. Let’s see what evolves ‘organically’ over the next decade or so. It’s a shame that we don’t have such a thing as a scoreboard indicating the usage of the various second languages; we could lay bets on it to keep it interesting.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 14th, 2017, 10:57 am 

doogles » August 14th, 2017, 5:49 am wrote:I agree with your opinion that “Language changes organically, not by edict”, up to the point where Eclogite made the point, correctly in my opinion, that usurped nations in the past have generally adopted the language of their conquerors.

Used, yes, both because they forced to and because it was advantageous. Adopted, no. English is neither predominantly Latin or Norman French, even though those were comprehensive, durable conquests. Even in countries, like Canada, where the occupying foreigners settled for good, and made a concerted effort to eradicate native language and culture (not to mention peoples), the much-diminished, displaced and impoverished native populations clung to their heritage over centuries, against all odds. The Welsh have managed it even longer. Where an empire didn't establish a civilian presence, or didn't stay very long, the language of its administration never percolates down to the working class or peasantry. National identities are amazingly resilient.
I really do recommend the Story of English series - it's quite entertaining.

I’m of the opinion that with the revolutionary improvements in communication over the last few decades, that we are slowly but surely becoming a global community, and that ‘organically’ (I like that choice of a word; it has connotations of primitively motivated and subconsciously chosen to the point where things just happen), we will gradually come to use one already established language over others as our second language (second to our culturally-established language at the time of birth).

Very possibly. What people choose for convenience or strategic advantage or improvement in their material standard of living is more likely to "take" than anything that's forced on them. While many people behind the iron curtain learned Russian perforce, they started forgetting it the minute the last Russian boot marched off their land. (Unfortunately, what whooshed into the vacuum was hordes of opportunistic missionaries and predatory entrepreneurs... But they were unable to bring back the rigid class system, so that's a net gain.)

Heretical as this may be, I would far and away prefer a a world government to the currently existing nation-states. I picture it as a federation of autonomous principalities with no standing armies, adhering to a single constitution (the UN declaration of human rights will do to be going on with). A common administrative and trading language, overarching the local dialects, would be very helpful in establishing such a union.

The notion of a common world language without cultural and political baggage is hardly new.
Why people aren't interested in learning Esperanto? In fact, many are, and have. But these are intellectuals with no political or economic influence. The people who have the most clout have far more to gain by keeping peoples estranged from one another. (Where does Machiavelli say "Unite and conquer." ?)

Really, it comes down to: This is hard work. What do I gain?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Braininvat on August 14th, 2017, 12:47 pm 

So many good points, Serpent, I will have to get back to this. Your analysis on E. European academic performance....

tt was strict fathers, encouraging mothers, mentoring grandparents and demanding teachers. They used to expect a lot more of children - and give them more credit - in Europe generally and eastern Europe particularly, than they did in the west. This, too, is why first generation immigrants outperform assimilated American students. Ever see photographs of Europeans before 1970? The 18-year-olds look like serious adults, while their north American counterparts look like kids.
Of course, that's coming back to economics: if you have the wherewithal to coddle your children, and fewer of them, you keep them dependent longer....


...rang true to me. My comment on the cognitive benefits of Hungarian was a bit tongue-in-cheek. In "My Fair Lady," as I recall, it was the Hungarian whose English was so good that it convinced Prof. Higgins that he must be foreign.

As for a world government, with a least-bagged world language, that is a thorny question. Chinese is quite hard to learn for non-native speakers. English is tainted with imperialism and full of irregular verbs, weird spelling, and so on. Russian (from my brief experience of learning a few words) seems to be easier and simpler in construction.
And all the English speakers already know the Russian word for "desk." However, compared to Chinese, English, and Spanish, there are fewer native speakers or second language speakers at present, which could weigh against it. And it requires learning a new alphabet. Spanish might be a better choice, but 1.5 billion people in Asia may disagree. Dunno, we might be stuck with Inglese.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 14th, 2017, 1:11 pm 

My comment on the cognitive benefits of Hungarian was a bit tongue-in-cheek. In "My Fair Lady," as I recall, it was the Hungarian whose English was so good that it convinced Prof. Higgins that he must be foreign.

I know you were kidding. Language and math aren't even processed the same way in the brain; many scientific/mathematical/geometric thinkers are inarticulate (why so many very bad math teachers), while some great writers and poets are innumerate.
One trait that might give Hungarians (and presumably other tribes with overlapping DNA) a slight edge in learning foreign languages is an ear for sound. And since music and math are closely related....
Heh - that theory doesn't even work in my family. My cousin's outgoing musical wife picked up English apparently without effort, while he struggled with word-lists, grammar rules and a morbid fear of making mistakes. I suspect it's far more a psychological phenomenon than a question of wiring or custom. In my teaching experience, it's easier for the extroverted - who are probably also more eager to communicate.

Too many people hate Russians. A simplified Chinese might transcribe to the Latin alphabet...

Well, let's get those typhoons under control first.
Last edited by Serpent on August 14th, 2017, 1:15 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 14th, 2017, 1:14 pm 

Braininvat » August 10th, 2017, 3:27 pm wrote:The positives of a diverse multi-lingual planet seem to outweight the negatives, IMO. A planet with many languages has many ways to think about a particular question, issue, conundrum, whatever. "Darmok" was such a compelling episode of ST:NG because the contact with the Metaphor Talkers expanded the understanding of the Enterprise crew. It wasn't "Hey, this is stupid. Let's force them to learn English and shut up with all this '...and the walls fell' nonsense." Variety is the spice of life, and universe. How could travel be broadening and even mind-blowing if everywhere you went people spoke the same way and thought the same way? I think there is already a dangerous level of homogeneity on Earth, thanks to mass merchandising and the general spread of American media culture.

Maybe part of learning to get along with people who think differently from you is having such people still around, and doing their thinking with symbol systems other than English. There's also the well-documented relation between being bilingual and generally better academic performance and mastering of life skills.

In ecosystems, a monoculture usually brings about death (e.g. southern forests that have been turned into tree plantations, with accompanying massive species destruction). I think a parallel can be drawn to a human monoculture. Vive la difference.


What happened to button we could use to say we like a post?

Yes, the connection between language and thinking is very important, and diversity in languages preserves that diversity.

Might professions also lead to specialization and might holding one profession above all others, also be like a forest with only one species of trees destroying the ecosystem? Today we seem to share one value, money, and that doesn't exactly mean greater happiness and better health. I think our language contributes to this and another language might make us more aware of different values?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 14th, 2017, 1:24 pm 

Serpent » August 14th, 2017, 11:11 am wrote:
My comment on the cognitive benefits of Hungarian was a bit tongue-in-cheek. In "My Fair Lady," as I recall, it was the Hungarian whose English was so good that it convinced Prof. Higgins that he must be foreign.

I know you were kidding. Language and math aren't even processed the same way in the brain; many scientific/mathematical/geometric thinkers are inarticulate (why so many very bad math teachers), while some great writers and poets are innumerate.
One trait that might give Hungarians (and presumably other tribes with overlapping DNA) a slight edge in learning foreign languages is an ear for sound. And since music and math are closely related....
Heh - that theory doesn't even work in my family. My cousin's outgoing musical wife picked up English apparently without effort, while he struggled with word-lists, grammar rules and a morbid fear of making mistakes. I suspect it's far more a psychological phenomenon than a question of wiring or custom. In my teaching experience, it's easier for the extroverted - who are probably also more eager to communicate.

Too many people hate Russians. A simplified Chinese might transcribe to the Latin alphabet...

Well, let's get those typhoons under control first.


Hating Russians or any other nationality is ignorant. However, it is rational to dislike the leadership of a country. But as a woman, I assume I share much in common with all women, and now can we talk about the importance of nurturing and educating our children? Laugh, the forum has an introduction of how it appeals to men, and there are not many long lasting threads that address issues about children. I think women around the world, might agree about the disparity of power and concern for children. Maybe it isn't our language that matters, but also what we think is important?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 14th, 2017, 1:41 pm 

Serpent » August 13th, 2017, 12:47 pm wrote:You know why so many Hungarian mathematicians? They're poor. Poles, too, btw, and Russians - whose languages are not even similar. Because you don't need laboratory or scientific equipment (the physicists went to America); all you need is a pencil and a marble-topped cafe table. It is a legend of Banach https://www.britannica.com/biography/Stefan-Banach that two graduate students followed him around to copy down his idle scribbles before the waiter could wipe them off.
Also, of course, there is advanced education, but no lucrative careers to syphon off the brightest: they might as well follow their passion.
Naw, it's neither language nor money. Or wasn't - I don't know the situation at present.
I t was strict fathers, encouraging mothers, mentoring grandparents and demanding teachers. They used to expect a lot more of children - and give them more credit - in Europe generally and eastern Europe particularly, than they did in the west. This, too, is why first generation immigrants outperform assimilated American students. Ever see photographs of Europeans before 1970? The 18-year-olds look like serious adults, while their north American counterparts look like kids.
Of course, that's coming back to economics: if you have the wherewithal to coddle your children, and fewer of them, you keep them dependent longer. And if industry doesn't require fresh supplies of labour, the entire nation keeps its offspring out of competition for jobs as long as possible. And if the youth and its parents and grandparents have disposable income, the advertising industry invents whole new species and subspecies of market to target.

As to the phonetic spelling, there is a poster on one forum I used to attend who uses that system exclusively. It's cute the first time, but soon grows incredibly annoying.



I love this post!!! You spoke of family members and how they function together and the difference in preparing our young for life or keeping them immature but technologically skilled.

This looks like a good book.
The Vanishing American Adult: Our Coming-of-Age Crisis--and How to ...
https://www.amazon.com/Vanishing-Americ ... 1250114403
The Vanishing American Adult and over one million other books are .... Sasse diagnoses the causes of a generation that can't grow up and offers a path .... our kids (and ourselves) as we watch devices suck up increasing amounts of .... Ben Sasse is not a typical politician, and he says explicitly that this is not a policy book.


I just listened to an explanation of the book and I am disappointed. It makes no mention of the change in education that would I blame for the failure of children becoming adults.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 14th, 2017, 2:03 pm 

Athena » August 14th, 2017, 12:24 pm wrote:Hating Russians or any other nationality is ignorant.

Maybe so, but you'll have to wait a generation or two to erase the memory of oppression and brutality - which hasn't ended everywhere. And I'm not at all sure you'll ever convince Americans to stop hating their traditional enemies. How likely are they to learn German?

I think women around the world, might agree about the disparity of power and concern for children. Maybe it isn't our language that matters, but also what we think is important?

How will you discuss these problems with women around the world?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 15th, 2017, 11:51 am 

Serpent » August 14th, 2017, 12:03 pm wrote:Maybe so, but you'll have to wait a generation or two to erase the memory of oppression and brutality - which hasn't ended everywhere. And I'm not at all sure you'll ever convince Americans to stop hating their traditional enemies. How likely are they to learn German?


It is my understanding the Klingon language of Star Trek was based on German, and some Trekkies did learn the language. We learned Greek and Latin during the Renaissance and well into the 18th century because these languages conveyed knowledge important to civilizations. Then French became important because France became a cultural leader. Germany became a leader in philosophy and technology and surely English speaking people learned German for this reason. For sure our colleges replaced a study of classical philosophy with German philosophy. Except for people who were involved with WWII, I have not heard of hate of Germans or Japanese. However, when my son joined the military we were focused on the USSR as our enemy. I held my tongue when he wrote home about our communist enemy because if a war had occurred he would be better off if he believed the propaganda he was being fed.

When it comes to learning other languages, if you read the National Defense Education Act, you will find learning other languages is considered important to our national defense. But obviously, there is not a lot of social pressure to learn the Semitic languages. My sister did study Russian for awhile because she had a Russian husband for awhile, but most us have no reason to learn Russian.

If enough people learned and used a universal language and it conveyed some kind of important information, there would be more motive to learn it. But before it would be very useful, information we want would have to be translated into the new language. Just speaking to a person with another language isn't good enough motive unless there is something really special about that person.

How will you discuss these problems with women around the world?


That is simple, find a forum focused on women's issues that is international. Oh my goodness! I never thought of doing that before and just now googled for an international forum focused on women's issues and there are several possibilities. Mostly it looks these are professional and business women, who are talking about business and career issues, not the children of the world, but I have subscribed to one that may be to my liking. If I were a millionaire, I would travel the world and give villages a computer for domestic women to use to talk about children around the world and how we might change the world so it is a better place for children. I would hire someone to create translator programs, so we could speak and read in our language and understand what the other is saying.

My dreams are not realistic but there are many women's groups and I can get more involved. That might be more productive than trying to discussions what interest me in forums where others do not share my interest. But a better world means we all communicate because that is the only hope of things getting better. Duh, back to the need for a universal language. If women everywhere shared the same language we would gain the strength of union. We might not send armies to help each other, but I can see a group of activist women flying around the world and scolding those who need to change their ways. Laugh
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Braininvat on August 15th, 2017, 12:08 pm 

qo' Hol chenmoH tlhIngan.


Or prepare to die!
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 15th, 2017, 2:13 pm 

How does "Today is a good day to die." sound in Australian?
By Grabthar's hammer, by the suns of Worvan, you shall be avenged.



Athena --- If enough people learned and used a universal language and it conveyed some kind of important information, there would be more motive to learn it. But before it would be very useful, information we want would have to be translated into the new language. Just speaking to a person with another language isn't good enough motive unless there is something really special about that person.

find a forum focused on women's issues that is international.

Indeed. So, you're not against a universal language anymore? Good.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 16th, 2017, 6:30 am 

Serpent - “How does "Today is a good day to die." sound in Australian?”


Sounds out of place!

If it was a good day to die, we’d go fishing or play golf. Lol
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 16th, 2017, 7:02 am 

Athena » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:51 pm wrote:If women everywhere shared the same language we would gain the strength of union. We might not send armies to help each other, but I can see a group of activist women flying around the world and scolding those who need to change their ways. Laugh
Isn't that intrinsically divisive?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 16th, 2017, 11:42 am 

Eclogite » August 16th, 2017, 6:02 am wrote:
Athena » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:51 pm wrote:If women everywhere shared the same language we would gain the strength of union. We might not send armies to help each other, but I can see a group of activist women flying around the world and scolding those who need to change their ways. Laugh
Isn't that intrinsically divisive?

Of what from whom?
Dividing victims from their oppressors is dangerous, yes, but the only road to liberation.

Anyway, women have always talked among themselves in the tea-rooms and powder-rooms, factories and hospitals, kitchens and nurseries of the world, just as men have talked among themselves in the stock-rooms and board-rooms, garages and pool-halls, taverns and barracks. That division had been the norm forever, and is only being eroded slowly in some western cultures since the late 20th century.

It's only since those lines have begun to blur that whole populations have been able to communicate internationally. Up till mass media, scientists had talked privately to scientists, dog-breeders, gamblers, Olympic athletes, spies ... but not all the men or all the women or all the students or all the conservationists. So, in a way, it's just the opposite of divisive.

What will break down the borders - and not too far in the future - is a series of domino collapses.
The only hope of building civilization up again is this kind of personal contact among peoples.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 16th, 2017, 12:36 pm 

Serpent » Wed Aug 16, 2017 3:42 pm wrote:
Eclogite » August 16th, 2017, 6:02 am wrote:
Athena » Tue Aug 15, 2017 3:51 pm wrote:If women everywhere shared the same language we would gain the strength of union. We might not send armies to help each other, but I can see a group of activist women flying around the world and scolding those who need to change their ways. Laugh
Isn't that intrinsically divisive?

Of what from whom?
Of women from men. I don't approve of Men only golf clubs. I don't see why I should approve of Athena's Amazon Army.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 16th, 2017, 4:11 pm 

Eclogite » August 16th, 2017, 11:36 am wrote:[division]Of women from men.

At least half the women of the world are already segregated by edict of their male masters. Liberated women reaching out to their oppressed sisters does not add to the division that already exists.
I'm pretty sure they wouldn't exclude liberated men from any discussion of how to rescue children from starvation or induction into armies, or reject any help from sympathetic men in securing a better future.

I don't approve of Men only golf clubs. I don't see why I should approve of Athena's Amazon Army.

Nobody said you should.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 16th, 2017, 10:42 pm 

Serpent » Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:11 pm wrote:
Eclogite » August 16th, 2017, 11:36 am wrote:[division]Of women from men.

At least half the women of the world are already segregated by edict of their male masters.
And you think introducing further division makes this better?

Serpent » Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:11 pm wrote: Liberated women reaching out to their oppressed sisters does not add to the division that already exists.
She did not characterise those she was reaching out to as "oppressed sisters". She appeared to be focused on the protection and development of children.
I just had the pleasure of an extended visit from my daughter, son in law and new grandaughter. I was greatly cheered by the extent to which the adults functioned as a team in looking after the child. We solve problems through inclusive decisions and actions, not exclusive ones that perpetrate and solidify old divisions.

Serpent » Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:11 pm wrote:I'm pretty sure they wouldn't exclude liberated men from any discussion of how to rescue children from starvation or induction into armies, or reject any help from sympathetic men in securing a better future.
Not all confidence is well placed.

Serpent » Wed Aug 16, 2017 8:11 pm wrote:
I don't approve of Men only golf clubs. I don't see why I should approve of Athena's Amazon Army.

Nobody said you should.
I was providing context for my position.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 17th, 2017, 1:21 am 

Your disapproval is duly noted.
On the bright side: no such army is likely to materialize.
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