universal language...why not?

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universal language...why not?

Postby nicolle38 on August 6th, 2017, 12:38 pm 

I always wondered why humanity didn't decide to choose one universal language and have everyone learn it as their second language? That way, within a few years, everyone on Earth could speak to each other without translators. I looked at Interlingua and such attempts to blend different languages and, to me, that is the wrong way to go about it. We need to invent a totally new language...a simple, basic language made up of simple sounds and symbols. It should be a straightforward "subject-verb-object" type of language with easy-to-make oral sounds. It would form the basics for everyone and then each country or culture could add on it's own culture specific words. To me, English is got to be the worst mishmash of words and sounds.

If we put some innovative minds together we could invent it in a year or so...produce guidebooks and have the entire world talking and listening without translators. Oh well.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 6th, 2017, 2:04 pm 

Metrics is used by every nation except the US I think? I believe science has favored metrics? It would be easier and perhaps more efficient to switch the whole of the US to metrics and this has not happened yet. Learning a new system is not as simple as learning something new. It can also require unlearning the old. I know what a foot is because I have experience with inches and feet, but for me a Centimeter is a word without a meaningful meaning. I can read the technical meaning of Centimeter and have some comprehension of it as word, but not the meaningful comprehension I have of an inch (meansurement made with a thumb) and a foot (meanserment made with a foot) Our sense of meaning involves experience- a word does not have intrinsic meaning.

Not only heads would have to be regeared for a new measurement system, but also factories would have to be regeared to conform to metrics, and that in away, is unlearning the old to move on to the new. It is a major feat and where should it begin? I think in general we lose the ability to make this change when we get older. You are up against human nature. Only a small perportion will addept to a new language. While those who learn several languages wiill have a higher IQ, and that is a benefit we don't want to lose.

Language is reflective of culture (experience) and I think there is a benefit to having many cultures/languages, and diversity is one of the main stratagies of nature. The communication problem we face when we do not share the same language is for sure a problem, but maybe it is one we should live with. I didn't always think so, but today I think good translators and protecting our differences may be a good way to go. Like birds having different songs, functions as a way to maintain diversity which increases the chances of birds surviving.

Wittgenstein argues the need to be very clear in our wording and explains what this has to do with thinking. You might want to read "The Blue and Brown Books" if you are interested in languages.

Our professionals also have special languages, so even if a specialized book is written in Enlgish it can be incomprehensible to those who are not educated in the speciality. All the books written for Dummies, dumb down the information so the common person might have some understanding of it, but this does not prepare the Dummies for the professions.

Do you speak another language?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 6th, 2017, 4:28 pm 

Humanity doesn't choose anything, ever. Segments of humanity, either voluntarily or forcibly confined behind artificial boundaries, have choices made for them by their leaders. Military and economic empires impose their language, law, customs, religion and industry on occupied territories. Empires ebb and flow, always having an influence, always leaving some residue behind.

Intellectuals invent things like a standard of measurements, such as metric, or a universal language, such as Esperanto, and urge everyone to use them for better communication. However, they never have the power to persuade large numbers of people to do so, while leaders, kings, popes, bank presidents, generals and CEO's have the power to bribe, coerce or con entire countries to adopt whatever is advantageous to the leadership.

Right now, it looks as if English will be the universal language, since it is already the language of global commerce. In China and India, learning English is a regular part of any good education; in a great many countries, even among those that have never been British colonies, English is spoken widely and taught in school. Until everyone learns it, there's Google translate.

And, of course, metric measurement will be universal, once the last American tycoon who still runs factories gives them up for pure money-trading.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 8th, 2017, 12:06 pm 

Serpent, I enjoy reading your perceptive. Isn't Latin the foundation of Euro languages?

I have heard in India the upper class learns and uses English but not the masses; leading to government that can't be representative of the people because the language of decision makers is not the language of the people.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 8th, 2017, 4:36 pm 

Athena » August 8th, 2017, 11:06 am wrote:Serpent, I enjoy reading your perceptive. Isn't Latin the foundation of Euro languages?

It's one of them; spread by the Romans, obviously. But the Scandinavian, Germanic, Celtic and Slavic groups of languages all remain more or less intact, with Latin being superimposed in the legal and and administrative spheres, while French and Spanish have a heavier Roman content and, of course, Italian s the direct descendant. In the eastern part of Europe, we also get some Persian and Asiatic influences.

I have heard in India the upper class learns and uses English but not the masses; leading to government that can't be representative of the people because the language of decision makers is not the language of the people.

It's hard to imagine that the political and financial classes would allow their children to neglect their native tongue(s) in favour of a foreign one. I think the educated people all over Europe and Asia are at least bilingual, as are the Hispanics and Francophones in America, which gives them a huge advantage over Anglo Americans.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby someguy1 on August 8th, 2017, 6:29 pm 

Also there should only be one type of music, one type of art, one type of novel, one type of food. Keep things simple, stop causing all this confusion with different cultures and stuff.

That was sarcasm of course. If you ever studied a foreign language you know it's not just a matter of different sounds for different objects, like cerveza versus beer. Language goes hand in hand with culture. If you abolish language you abolish culture. So how far are you willing to go with this idea? To dumb down all human communication to "Me want food?"

I'd like to relate an example from my recent experience. In English when I say Thank you, you say, "You're welcome."

In Spanish when I say Gracias, you say, "De nada." Literally "It's nothing."

I claim that between "You're welcome" and "It's nothing" is a world of cultural difference between English- and Spanish-speaking people. The language reflects the history of a people. The way they relate to the world. In essence, their mind. Their culture. Who they are.

You can't homogenize language without homogenizing culture.

My question to you would be: Is it your intent to wipe out or ignore or trample on cultural differences among native speakers of all the languages of the world? Or do you see my point that smoothing over language differences would erase many things of value from the world? Like culture, history, worldview. Mind and heart.

Can you see that even choosing the words and ways of expression of your universal language would in itself be political? Should our language be full of very precise words that express action and progress and getting things done? Or should it be vague and poetic and oriented towards process and feelings?

Is there a touch of what some might call cultural imperialism in all this? The modern technocratic world demands a simplified stripped down language so that we can all get with the program. The program the elites have mapped out for the proles.

Across the globe a lot of proles are starting to notice that the program's not really working for them lately, and they're starting to push back.

You can't take the politics out of your idea. How would you address these concerns?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 8th, 2017, 9:12 pm 

someguy1 » August 8th, 2017, 5:29 pm wrote:Also there should only be one type of music, one type of art, one type of novel, one type of food. Keep things simple, stop causing all this confusion with different cultures and stuff.

There are two sides to that proposition. A homogeneous world culture and government would certainly make many things on Earth better for many people. Why do you suppose, in science fiction, all the aliens we encounter have world-governments (except the dysfunctional ones locked in endless factional conflict) and, in a future where we go to the stars, Earthlings are a unified people, not 1500 squabbling tribes?
Coz that's the only way we can achieve interstellar travel.

If you abolish language you abolish culture. So how far are you willing to go with this idea? To dumb down all human communication to "Me want food?"

Nobody's proposing the abolition of any languages. In fact, some scholars keep trying to resurrect languages that have already died. Lots of languages and cultures, nations, empires and entire ways of life have died out for many reasons, from many causes. No living thing is immortal or invincible; no life can endure without change.
Learning to share food more equitably is not such a bad idea. I'd trade a couple of pictures to feed 10,000 starving children; throw in a symphony for their vaccines and a tinted bass-relief frieze for their textbooks; I'm willing to gamble that some of those kids will grow up make great art, have great ideas, build good things.

But that's not really the trade being offered. At the moment, it would be enough just to be able to say "Hello. I'm not planning to cut off your head."


I claim that between "You're welcome" and "It's nothing" is a world of cultural difference between English- and Spanish-speaking people. The language reflects the history of a people. The way they relate to the world. In essence, their mind. Their culture. Who they are.

I suspect you're overstating the difference. In both instances - which might be paraphrased as "I'm happy to accommodate you" and "You don't owe me anything" - it's just a polite noise, uttered automatically. The essence is the same: a social formula to acknowledge routine appreciation for a routine service or small favour. Indeed, widely disparate cultures have a great many such formulaic exchanges and protocols for standard social situations; their occasions and expression are surprisingly similar.
More efficient communication is beginning to show people directly (rather than through literature, available only to the educated) just how alike we all are.

My question to you would be: Is it your intent to wipe out or ignore or trample on cultural differences among native speakers of all the languages of the world?

Is that multiple choice? I'm not a fan of trampling and quite averse to wiping out, but I can do ignore with the best of 'em. I used to live in a multicultural city, and it was fun, colourful, diverse. Didn't keep us from transacting business, using public facilities, dealing with legal matters and doing work, mostly in English.
Immigrant families often sent their children to enrichment classes in their own language and culture - but the next generation, very rarely. People assimilate when they're successful and accepted. you can cry all you want for the lost tribes of Israel, but they probably did a lot better than the diaspora.

Or do you see my point that smoothing over language differences would erase many things of value from the world? Like culture, history, worldview. Mind and heart.

Hate crime, religious warfare, generational tribal feuds, slave trade, genocide, segregation, genital mutilation.... and bullfights.
I can do without the bullfights.

It's a tough choice.
But I don't honestly believe people stop writing poems or falling in love or remembering their grandparents fondly, just because they stopped pushing bones through their nostrils or throwing corpses in the sacred river. History and tradition are wonderful, except when they're horrific. Let's not just consider the rosy aspects. Let's not get entirely carried away by sentiment.

Can you see that even choosing the words and ways of expression of your universal language would in itself be political?

What isn't?
Should our language be full of very precise words that express action and progress and getting things done? Or should it be vague and poetic and oriented towards process and feelings?

Both. And it already is.
Do you recall that Star Trek episode 'Darmok'? http://www.startrek.com/database_article/darmok
There is no way in hell the Tamarians could ever have built a spaceship, or even a sailing ship. I mean, how would they say "Pass me the hammer" ?
Is there a touch of what some might call cultural imperialism in all this?

As compared to...?
The modern technocratic world demands a simplified stripped down language so that we can all get with the program. The program the elites have mapped out for the proles.

Show me where any technological communication became less, rather than more, complex as it progressed. As for elites and proles, show me any historical period that was arranged otherwise.
But a universal language wouldn't stop any people who wanted to achieve democracy, I don't think.


You can't take the politics out of your idea. How would you address these concerns?

It wasn't my idea. Sorry if I presumed too far.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 9th, 2017, 1:46 pm 

Someguy and Serpent, your arguments are out standing! I agree with both of you. I am becoming highly sensitive to what is a fact and what is an attitude. In the comparison between "you are welcome" and "it is nothing" I can see an important difference on a scale of humility. I think "it is nothing" might be higher on a scale of humility than "you are welcome"? But if "welcome" expresses a philosophical notion that what goes around comes around, well come, then I see a positive shift from humility to honor. However, if as Serpent says the word "welcome" is just a habitual response to the words "thank you", then no value is implied. Also cultural purpose and meaning is lost because the word "welcome" has been disassociated from its meaning, and new generations are not carrying cultural history and identity.

People assimilate when they're successful and accepted. you can cry all you want for the lost tribes of Israel, but they probably did a lot better than the diaspora.


I see in that sentence lost culture and questionable identity. When this happens to indigenous people, it is like a mass off of plants and animals. We don't know what we are losing? And I swear if I saw the person in charge of google spell check, I would shot that person (people) for the crime against our past and culture they are committing. I wasn't intending to say that, but I hate some of the corrections this program insist must be made. It is so obvious the computer program is AI and not fully functioning human. Back to indigenous people, be they Hebrews or native Americans or any others, the death of their culture is worse then the death of individuals. If we have any meaningful immortality it is our offspring and the hope they carry the purpose and meaning of our people. What dies when the tribe is lost in time and forgotten? Does that matter? Is surrendering to AI desirable?

Come to think of it, how universal is math, science, and computer language? Our language coming from Rome is very materialistic, and may even blind us to having a better understanding of reality, that is energy not matter. I think we are missing some concepts such as those expressed by cultures that saw reality as animated and perhaps more fluid and multi-dimensional. Can AI carry human purpose and meaning? Here I am leaning towards Someguy's argument. Facts without meaning (something built on experience) don't equal a good life for humans but can be more like the mechanical society we defeated in two world wars.

Here is a troublesome thought expressed by Wittgenstein, "The aim of the book is to set a limit to thought, or rather- not to thought, but to the expression of thoughts...what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense". That is a dangerous point of view and if a universe language carried such an attitude, it would be a disaster for humanity. Our fascination with AI seems dangerously close to this disaster.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 9th, 2017, 6:34 pm 

Athena » August 9th, 2017, 12:46 pm wrote:... In the comparison between "you are welcome" and "it is nothing" I can see an important difference on a scale of humility.

And do you normally associate Spanish with humility? There may be other inferences to draw, but we don't actually know where the formula originated. Perhaps a rigid system of indebtedness; perhaps noblesse oblige or religious duty; privilege and paupery. 'Welcome' is probably a remnant of medieval hospitality, where you were required by custom to give a traveler food and shelter, whether you liked him or not. In Hungarian, you say "of the heart" - which means: willingly, not because I must.
Think about when the thanks-welcome exchange most frequently takes place. A waitress puts your food on the table - you are literally welcome in the restaurant. A clerk bags your purchase and gives back change - it is literally nothing, just doing his job. Someone holds a door open - they literally didn't have to.
All of these cultural norms existed in both societies (most societies, east and west); each language retained a different phrase from the same traditional expressions of necessary social grace. Which phrase was kept may us tell us something about the culture and world-view - but is that information valuable? I don't know what it's worth, or what it costs.

[People assimilate when they're successful and accepted. you can cry all you want for the lost tribes of Israel, but they probably did a lot better than the diaspora.]
I see in that sentence lost culture and questionable identity.

The Israelites who were deported by the Assyrian empire, probably along with other conquered peoples, with whom they may have mixed and presumably joined up with one or more large populations. The remaining two tribes didn't lose their culture and their identity - they are the ones who revolted unsuccessfully against Roman rule 700(?) years later, and dispersed in their turn. The present Israel is a completely different entity.
Empires do this kind of thing all the time.

The most nearly analogous situation in America is the kidnapped Africans who did lose their cultural identity, had no place to return once they were freed, and eventually became American by default. Most natives didn't have that choice: they were more often slaughtered outright than relocated, and there was a good deal more resistance on the part of the dominant race against their assimilation than there would have been in ancient Mesopotamia, where everyone looked much alike. (Which btw is what I meant about them being better off than the ones who ended up in Russia and Germany.)

But the fate of Moabite, Igbo and Cherokee is not comparable to the autonomous decision if immigrant Poles and Italians to become American. For one thing, that decision is made individually, and the first part - leaving their native land, had been taken long before they encountered the new host culture.

What dies when the tribe is lost in time and forgotten?

We'll never know. We do know that some other tribe takes its place, and they couldn't both have occupied the same place at the same time, and could not all coexist indefinitely.
Does that matter?

Yes, when it happens; no, a thousand years later.
Is surrendering to AI desirable?

AI isn't attacking; has no design on your culture or your identity. It's a tool used by members of your own tribe. You've surrendered the power of decision to them. Don't blame Watson; he's just doing his job.

If we have any meaningful immortality it is our offspring and the hope they carry the purpose and meaning of our people.

As we assign purpose and meaning to our peoples, we can change that meaning and find a new purpose; geography can change it, wrong choices and bad luck can change it, stronger enemies can change it, weather can change it, time can change it. Change is unavoidable.

Our language coming from Rome is very materialistic, and may even blind us to having a better understanding of reality, that is energy not matter.

It doesn't just come from Rome. In English, you have remnants of French, German, Saxon, Norse and a dozen other languages.

I think we are missing some concepts such as those expressed by cultures that saw reality as animated and perhaps more fluid and multi-dimensional.

And you can never, ever have any inkling of their view of reality unless you study their language, or their literature is translated, or you converse with someone from that culture, with whom you share a common language.
You can't have it both way - access or isolation; contamination or preservation.

Can AI carry human purpose and meaning?

It can't carry any other kind - yet. Where to? For whom? Why?

Here I am leaning towards Someguy's argument. Facts without meaning (something built on experience) don't equal a good life for humans but can be more like the mechanical society we defeated in two world wars.

That's not precisely what happened. Mechanisms are incapable of hate and ambition, humiliation and revenge, egotism and aggression.
Anyway, who advocated for facts without meaning? Or having a mechanical society?
What are you and Someguy protesting, exactly?
Nicolle didn't say that a big empire should take over the world and force everybody to speak COBOL and kill off all the existing languages and cultures. I didn't advocate for it, either - just pointed out that that is how empires have generally behaved, and that is how we arrived at the situation you are now defending.

Do you want all change to stop here, now? Build walls around every nation? (Warning: many of those will be hard to place as the people on each side disagree on the line of demarcation.) Shut down immigration, international commerce and travel? Cut the phone lines? Silver-seed the information cloud?

Here is a troublesome thought expressed by Wittgenstein, "The aim of the book is to set a limit to thought, or rather- not to thought, but to the expression of thoughts...what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense".

Isn't that a description of cultural mores?

That is a dangerous point of view and if a universe language carried such an attitude, it would be a disaster for humanity.

First, who says a universal language carries any "attitude"? Pidgin works in communication of simple needs and functions. It's not meant to replace the literature and mythology.
A real language does just the opposite: expansion and interaction, not retreat and contraction.

Our fascination with AI seems dangerously close to this disaster.

So, pull the plug!
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 10th, 2017, 4:32 pm 

Serpent » August 9th, 2017, 4:34 pm wrote:
Athena » August 9th, 2017, 12:46 pm wrote:... In the comparison between "you are welcome" and "it is nothing" I can see an important difference on a scale of humility.

And do you normally associate Spanish with humility? There may be other inferences to draw, but we don't actually know where the formula originated. Perhaps a rigid system of indebtedness; perhaps noblesse oblige or religious duty; privilege and paupery. 'Welcome' is probably a remnant of medieval hospitality, where you were required by custom to give a traveler food and shelter, whether you liked him or not. In Hungarian, you say "of the heart" - which means: willingly, not because I must.
Think about when the thanks-welcome exchange most frequently takes place. A waitress puts your food on the table - you are literally welcome in the restaurant. A clerk bags your purchase and gives back change - it is literally nothing, just doing his job. Someone holds a door open - they literally didn't have to.
All of these cultural norms existed in both societies (most societies, east and west); each language retained a different phrase from the same traditional expressions of necessary social grace. Which phrase was kept may us tell us something about the culture and world-view - but is that information valuable? I don't know what it's worth, or what it costs.

[People assimilate when they're successful and accepted. you can cry all you want for the lost tribes of Israel, but they probably did a lot better than the diaspora.]
I see in that sentence lost culture and questionable identity.

The Israelites who were deported by the Assyrian empire, probably along with other conquered peoples, with whom they may have mixed and presumably joined up with one or more large populations. The remaining two tribes didn't lose their culture and their identity - they are the ones who revolted unsuccessfully against Roman rule 700(?) years later, and dispersed in their turn. The present Israel is a completely different entity.
Empires do this kind of thing all the time.

The most nearly analogous situation in America is the kidnapped Africans who did lose their cultural identity, had no place to return once they were freed, and eventually became American by default. Most natives didn't have that choice: they were more often slaughtered outright than relocated, and there was a good deal more resistance on the part of the dominant race against their assimilation than there would have been in ancient Mesopotamia, where everyone looked much alike. (Which btw is what I meant about them being better off than the ones who ended up in Russia and Germany.)

But the fate of Moabite, Igbo and Cherokee is not comparable to the autonomous decision if immigrant Poles and Italians to become American. For one thing, that decision is made individually, and the first part - leaving their native land, had been taken long before they encountered the new host culture.

What dies when the tribe is lost in time and forgotten?

We'll never know. We do know that some other tribe takes its place, and they couldn't both have occupied the same place at the same time, and could not all coexist indefinitely.
Does that matter?

Yes, when it happens; no, a thousand years later.
Is surrendering to AI desirable?

AI isn't attacking; has no design on your culture or your identity. It's a tool used by members of your own tribe. You've surrendered the power of decision to them. Don't blame Watson; he's just doing his job.

If we have any meaningful immortality it is our offspring and the hope they carry the purpose and meaning of our people.

As we assign purpose and meaning to our peoples, we can change that meaning and find a new purpose; geography can change it, wrong choices and bad luck can change it, stronger enemies can change it, weather can change it, time can change it. Change is unavoidable.

Our language coming from Rome is very materialistic, and may even blind us to having a better understanding of reality, that is energy not matter.

It doesn't just come from Rome. In English, you have remnants of French, German, Saxon, Norse and a dozen other languages.

I think we are missing some concepts such as those expressed by cultures that saw reality as animated and perhaps more fluid and multi-dimensional.

And you can never, ever have any inkling of their view of reality unless you study their language, or their literature is translated, or you converse with someone from that culture, with whom you share a common language.
You can't have it both way - access or isolation; contamination or preservation.

Can AI carry human purpose and meaning?

It can't carry any other kind - yet. Where to? For whom? Why?

Here I am leaning towards Someguy's argument. Facts without meaning (something built on experience) don't equal a good life for humans but can be more like the mechanical society we defeated in two world wars.

That's not precisely what happened. Mechanisms are incapable of hate and ambition, humiliation and revenge, egotism and aggression.
Anyway, who advocated for facts without meaning? Or having a mechanical society?
What are you and Someguy protesting, exactly?
Nicolle didn't say that a big empire should take over the world and force everybody to speak COBOL and kill off all the existing languages and cultures. I didn't advocate for it, either - just pointed out that that is how empires have generally behaved, and that is how we arrived at the situation you are now defending.

Do you want all change to stop here, now? Build walls around every nation? (Warning: many of those will be hard to place as the people on each side disagree on the line of demarcation.) Shut down immigration, international commerce and travel? Cut the phone lines? Silver-seed the information cloud?

Here is a troublesome thought expressed by Wittgenstein, "The aim of the book is to set a limit to thought, or rather- not to thought, but to the expression of thoughts...what lies on the other side of the limit will simply be nonsense".

Isn't that a description of cultural mores?

That is a dangerous point of view and if a universe language carried such an attitude, it would be a disaster for humanity.

First, who says a universal language carries any "attitude"? Pidgin works in communication of simple needs and functions. It's not meant to replace the literature and mythology.
A real language does just the opposite: expansion and interaction, not retreat and contraction.

Our fascination with AI seems dangerously close to this disaster.

So, pull the plug!


That is a great read and for awhile I was afraid we agree so much there was nothing for me respond to, other than to say I really enjoyed reading what you had to say. Fortunately, I found something to argue about.

I really enjoy this exchange of thoughts....

I said "Does that matter?" and you replied "Yes, when it happens; no, a thousand years later".

Can we throw some history here that applies to other comments you made, including questioning my position on change?

During the Dark Ages people didn't have the concept of history we have, and they pretty much thought time stood still and Europe was still part of Rome. I suppose the power of the church of Rome gave them this impression, but the folks in Italy knew better because they knew Rome had a better history than what they were living and this is where the renaissance began. Most of Europe was agrarian so the system of kingdoms was working for them, but areas like Florence were urban and reliant on commerce much as Rome had been. When Rome fell they had established communes and they carried a memory of a more democratic, communal government, and they had the documents such as Cicero's speeches about the duty of serving as statesmen and being politically active. They started the renaissance as an intentional effort to bring back the good days that died with the fall of Rome, and this began with education preparing people for self-government. That is liberal education.

People can care about the past and may identify with the past long after the generations who lived that past have died. It is a good thing they do because we would not have the culture we have enjoyed if that past was not resurrected. It was not the Florentines intent to return to the past, but take what was good about it and move forward, just in the US did not attempt to return to the past, but to use what was good and move forward. The Dark Ages was a period without the benefit of this past and we might to keep that in mind. The future is not always better than the past, and civilizations do rise and fall. But are things from the past worth preserving? I think so.

I think it possible that we are in a new resurrection with anthropologists, archaeologists, and geologists resurrecting the past, and linguists who trace our history through language play an important role in all this. It is a much broader study of our earths history and human history that might improve the decision making we need to do. And possibly all this is my romantic thinking, but enjoy feeling connect with our planet and all of humanity. I like throwing in some Eastern and Mayan ideas about consciousness.

Right now I am distressed that because we have not used the classics to transmit our culture, our civilization is no longer protected by past wisdom. I think the language of AI without the classics could evolve into a manifested reality we do not like, because it is great for advancing technology, but not great for human beings.
Dawkins is not my hero.

Time to go get a kid. I hope I said enough to keep the discussion going. Perhaps it would be useful to look at what is the purpose of universal language? Advancing technology is one purpose. Advancing actualizing our human potential may be something else? For sure the subject of language is worth having.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Braininvat on August 10th, 2017, 5:27 pm 

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.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 10th, 2017, 6:30 pm 

Athena » August 10th, 2017, 3:32 pm wrote:I said "Does that matter?" and you replied "Yes, when it happens; no, a thousand years later".

Can we throw some history here that applies to other comments you made, including questioning my position on change?

Okay.
During the Dark Ages people didn't have the concept of history we have, and they pretty much thought time stood still and Europe was still part of Rome.

Which people thought this? The serfs probably didn't care very much about the 'big picture', but they certainly all had folklore, legends and songs to remind them of their ancestors (and usually to exaggerate the exploits and prowess of those ancestors) and they hung onto a surprising amount of local tradition in spite of the church's disapproval. Scholars, archivists and and historians have been around much longer than this. Of course, they wrote whatever pleased their patrons - but they certainly could count time and keep track of wars and dynastic sequence.
...but the folks in Italy knew better because they knew Rome had a better history than what they were living and this is where the renaissance began.

That's one way of looking at it. Wealth didn't hurt. And the renaissance heavily depended on noble, as well as merchant patrons all over Europe supporting alchemists and artisans, astronomers and painters, masons and scribes - who all traveled, conferred and exchanged letters.
Certainly, the church was influential in all scholarship, as monasteries were pretty much the only way to get an education, unless you were raised at a court. Having a common language for scholarship and commerce helped greatly in the communication of ideas. Of course, once the printing press got going...
The common folk, who didn't speak or read Latin had precious little to do with it.

... They started the renaissance as an intentional effort to bring back the good days that died with the fall of Rome, and this began with education preparing people for self-government. That is liberal education.

Someone should have told the Borgias, Albizzis and Medicis.

The future is not always better than the past, and civilizations do rise and fall.

They rise; they fall; they stay down and do not rise again; another one takes their place.
The future is inevitable. We can hope it will be better than the past, because most of our history was horrible for most of the people, and we have very, very rarely brought a chestnut out of the ashes.

But are things from the past worth preserving? I think so.

Some things. You can't bring back extinct species, defunct civilizations or massacred tribes. You can save the odd stone carving, mural or clay vessel (gold necklaces tend to get very good care); from more recently, people (monks, mostly) have saved documents.
It's not a question of whether something is worth preserving: at any given moment, somebody is dedicating his life, maybe risking his life, to preserve whatever they value. The fact is, nobody can save everything and nothing lasts forever. If Alba Longa had prevailed, there would have been no Roman kingdom, and if that continued, there would have been no Republic. Do you know how many small nations existed, world-wide, in 1017? How many of them do you actively miss? If the Cherokee and Huron hadn't been displaced, there would be no modern USA. Maybe that makes you sad for a minute when you think of it, but you're not campaigning to give it back.
That's mortality; something has to die for the next things to live.

And possibly all this is my romantic thinking, but enjoy feeling connect with our planet and all of humanity. I like throwing in some Eastern and Mayan ideas about consciousness.

So, why do you object to a global language? A language you can speak and read is your only access to other times, other civilizations, other kinds of thought, other kinds of people.
What use is a diverse world to you if most if it remains closed and secret?

Right now I am distressed that because we have not used the classics to transmit our culture, our civilization is no longer protected by past wisdom.

No civilization was ever protected by past wisdom. People in power make decisions in the circumstance of their present. When they invoke the past, it's usually in the most narrow, self-serving and inaccurate way. They're just as dishonest about the future: they may have plans and hopes, but they don't know what will happen any more than you and i do - we're all projecting, guessing and ... right now, as so often before, sweating.

I think the language of AI without the classics could evolve into a manifested reality we do not like, because it is great for advancing technology, but not great for human beings.

What language of AI? For a start, there is no entity you can identify as AI - unbless you mean Robin Williams and that poor little boy who wanted his mother http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0212720/. (Good film, btw, if a third again as long as it needs to be.)
Machine intelligence is just intelligence of a specialized type, made by humans, programmed by humans, used by humans. It can be applied to all kinds of processes, including international communication - but mostly missile guidance systems.
What's that got to do with the question of a global second language that everyone could learn, along with their own? What makes you fear that a smart computer will deprive you of your language?
I can promise that data - facts, dates, events, names - will be preserved far more accurately by a computer than it ever was by a sycophantic court clerk.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby nicolle38 on August 11th, 2017, 7:24 pm 

I'm not following some of the above discussion, especially the ones saying that learning another language somehow ruins the culture of the first language. I have French as my second language. I'm still very attuned to English culture. I only use French to find the bathrooms in Quebec. So, why would the entire world learning the exact same second language...some kind of universal language be different?

I really wish that there was no need for translators between Koreans and Trump. I read that, already, the media translators have screwed up the meanings. A universal second language could be the first step to world peace...through understanding speech without translations. And...yes...the unkempt masses won't decide to do this. But, so far, even the ruling elites aren't interested in discussing it. To my mind, it's odd behaviour (notice the "iour") to emphasize our diversities to the detriment of our similarities.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 11th, 2017, 8:41 pm 

nicolle38 » August 11th, 2017, 6:24 pm wrote:But, so far, even the ruling elites aren't interested in discussing it. To my mind, it's odd behaviour

Ruling elites aren't interested in peace and harmony, or idealism, or understanding. They're interested in power: control of resources, control of populations, control of economies. A lot of that control is predicated on all peoples distrusting, fearing and despising one another, so that any nation can be turned against whichever other nation its rulership wants to conquer, loot or subdue. Or to get an even bigger military budget approve by his government. Or to win a campaign on an anti "them - who are the cause of all your problems" platform. Or even just to distract the ruler's own people from his own wrongdoings.

They are never going to make an intelligent, concerted effort at mutual communication. But they do impose the economics, laws and customs of stronger nations over weaker ones; the overlords always establish their own language as the official one in administrative matters and the doings of the upper strata. That's how you have a layer of Latin in jurisprudence and Norman French in heraldry on top the mixture of common tongues that is everyday transactional English.

That's how cultures are destroyed - a mixture of repression, erosion, convenience and assimilation. Some people think a language that bridges divisions must necessarily mean the dominance of one discrete group and the diminution of the other. Yes, this has generally been the case, because of aggression. But there have also been allies and trading partners who retained their individual characters over centuries. .. and, not so happily, traditional enemies who were blended into a single nation by imperial edict, but yet remained so distinct that they rekindled their hatred and resumed their feud as soon as the empire lost its hold on them.

I very much doubt a common language would make people any more neighbourly. It hasn't worked in America.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 12th, 2017, 6:38 am 

Some random thoughts (in English).

It has long struck me as amusing that we use Latin to describe the current "universal language", English, as the language of the Franks - lingua franca.

Then there is the phrase, so apposite it has been attributed to no fewer than three writers, George Bernard Shaw, Ocscar Wilde and Winston Churchill. "The Americans and the British are two peoples separated by a common language."

The notion that English speakers are mutually intelligible to each other has never spent time in Newcastle or Glasgow.

The simplicity proposed by the OP has failed to take into account the difficulties of correct - and thereby intelligble - pronounciation when not raised with the language. For example "th" for non-native English speakers. The tonal qualities of Chinese. A language that avoided all those pitfalls would likely be very limited.

The variety of thought possible in a language with a rich cultural heritage (which is probably the majority of currently extant languages) and the different perspectives different languages can bring to bear suggest to me that our goal should to become bilingual, or multilingual in existing languages, not the invention of a skeletal language devoid of character.

An earlier poster (excuse me not checking whom) stated their main use of French was to find toilets in Quebec. The only time I used my schoolboy French for real communication was with a camp site manager in Poland as it was the only language we had in common. I was looking for the toilets. Does this reveal something about French!
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 12th, 2017, 6:45 am 

nicolle38 - “To me, English is got to be the worst mishmash of words and sounds.”

I’ve been partly following this thread because this short statement by nicolle48 echoed my own opinion and realisation decades ago. I've also wondered why there has never been a push to rationalise many of the inconsistencies patent in the language, for example, the apparently idiotic variation in the pronunciations of the combination of the letters ‘ough’ in the words thought, though, bough, cough, through, tough, thorough, and hiccough or the variations of the spelling of the homophones he’s, ease, fees, seize, sneeze, and peas, or even food, lewd, sued, wooed, nude, chewed and viewed. It’s stupid.

Not only is this irrational if you stop and think about it, but the sad fact is that at an early age, we are all forced to accept this nonsense. If we do not spell these words in this manner when we are at primary school, we fail our exams. So, in this sense, WE ARE ALL FORCED TO ACCEPT NON-SENSE EARLY IN LIFE.

We can all rationalise that a new international language would be useful on our planet. Esperanto has been around since the 1870s or 1880s (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto ) and it has a small niche following of some hundreds of thousands, but attempts to popularise it and it’s offshoot, Ido, or even Interlingua, have just not taken off.

The arguments made by members so far that there are strong associations between cultures and languages and that diversity/variety of cultures makes for a more interesting world and that life would be boring if we had just the one simplistic language and culture, are all plausible to me.

But the question I’ve asked myself is why English, and not one of the many other established languages, has gradually become the second global language, especially when it has so many non-sensical variations in the spelling of homophones and pronunciations of letter-combinations. I am not familiar with any language other than English; I’ve never yet had a need to learn one. But I find it hard to believe that other popular languages could be as inconsistent and confusing as English. Can anyone enlighten me?

Some decades ago, I formed the opinion that people just do not want to establish a simple and basic international language devoid of frills, as the OP proposed. We appear to have a need for a language via which we can practice a certain amount of duplicity.

For some reason the following observation on human behaviour struck a chord with me. Richard Alexander made some interesting points in his 1979 book on Darwinism and Human Affairs. He postulated (p 134) that “No one is less attractive as an associate than someone who is known to be utterly selfish, with only his own interests at heart, or is a known liar – one who deceives deliberately and in circumstances in which the gain to himself is the greatest. … humans behave as if they are concerned with their own genetic interests, and that they are also masters at deceiving others. I suggest that the separateness of our individual self-interests, and the conflicts among us that derive from this separateness, have created a social milieu in which, paradoxically, the only way we can actually maximise our own self-interest and deceive successfully is by continually denying – at least in certain social arenas – that we are doing such things. By conveying the impression that we do not intend to deceive, and that we are in fact altruistic and have the interests of others at heart, we actually advance our own (evolutionary) self-interest. … The result, I believe, is that in our social scenario-building, we have evolved to deceive even ourselves about our motives.”

So, the question is whether English has become popular because of its inconsistencies? Has it become a contributor to a social milieu in which we can say one thing and mean another? And is this one reason why we don’t tidy it up or create a new and simple no-nonsense international language?

Have we created a social milieu in which we accept confusion, double standards and duplicity?

Patrick White, a Nobel Prize winner in literature, gave one glaring example in an edited version of a speech to La Trobe University and reported in the Sydney Morning Herald on page 13 on 27th July 1988. He said “ … for all our rationalising and material progress, we more or less take it for granted that our behaviour shall be sustained by lies. It starts early in childhood, where the child may be taught it is wrong to lie, yet any intelligent child can see that the parents are in many cases lying to each other – that they also see fit to lie to their children when it suits them – sometimes in all good faith to protect them from the realities of life. So the trivial childhood lies develop naturally enough into the poisonous political and national lies of adulthood.”

I could list many examples, but I don't think I need to. Any of us who interact with other humans have to deal with misleading advertising, exaggerated sales pitches and ‘cons’ on a daily basis.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 12th, 2017, 9:55 am 

doogles » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:45 am wrote:But the question I’ve asked myself is why English, and not one of the many other established languages, has gradually become the second global language, especially when it has so many non-sensical variations in the spelling of homophones and pronunciations of letter-combinations. I am not familiar with any language other than English; I’ve never yet had a need to learn one. But I find it hard to believe that other popular languages could be as inconsistent and confusing as English. Can anyone enlighten me?
Economics. Britannia ruled the waves and then the US took over. Your great grandchildren had better learn Mandarin if they want a place in the global economy.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 12th, 2017, 10:42 am 

English became popular because the sun never set on the British flag during its days of imperialism. When they could no longer maintain their imperialism, the US stepped in. It is the same reason the Roman language was spread and combined with native languages.

I think it might be easier to correct the spelling of our words than change the sound of them, because of how our brains develop. We know, when neurons are used they grow and those that are not used atrophy, and also we have learning windows, so if we do not learn a second language when we are young, it can be impossible for us to do so later. Learning a language involves narrowing our hearing and use of sounds, not increasing our awareness of sounds. For this reason, an Asian may find using the "r" sound very difficult, or people may retrain an accent long after moving to a region with a very different accent. On the other hand, some of us will automatically pick up the accent of a person we are speaking with when speaking with that person, without that being a permanent change to how we speak.

If we have not attempted to learn at least a second language when we are young, it can be extremely hard to learn a new language later in life. We might overcome this problem by teaching a second universal language to children, as today schools may use Japanese or Spanish as a second language. However, remember if we don't use it we lose it, and it is unlikely a new language would be used in many homes the first generation of trying to introduce it. We might increase the number of who speak the new language over a few generations.

I can see this effort having a greater chance of succeeding if in writing the language followed rules without deviations. I so remember the teacher in school trying to teach us the spelling rules, but on the spelling test were all the words that broke the rule. I was impressed by the notion that it was pointless to learn all the rules because they were broken so often. So I really appreciate the notion that this spelling nonsense is forced on children and may not be a good thing. Such as in the word "lose" the "o" says its name, because it is followed by an "e", right? No, choose has two oo's but lose has one o. How stupid is that?! Why can't that be corrected? And surely we need a word that is not sexist because always saying "she did it" instead of always saying "he did it" is just as bad as never saying "she". Does any language have a none sexist word we could use?

By the way, I have older books that spell words such as "learned" with "t" instead of "ed", learnt. That is evidence that we can change how we spell words.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 12th, 2017, 10:46 am 

Eclogite » August 12th, 2017, 8:55 am wrote:Economics. Britannia ruled the waves and then the US took over. Your great grandchildren had better learn Mandarin if they want a place in the global economy.

In the British empire, as in the Spanish, Roman and Inca empires, it was brute power. The conquerors were not wasting their time on the inconsequential speech of all the subject nations: they imposed their own civilized language for administrative and tithe-gathering purposes, and let the barbarians get on with their own business in their own bar-bar-barking tongues.
If a native wanted to do well, get a better position, a kitchen, garden or counting-house job, maybe even foreman or clerk, he would learn the ruler's language. If a tradesman wanted to sell to the only people with disposable income, he would learn their language. If a patriot wanted to help his co-nationals who got in trouble with the occupation, or wanted to foment revolution, he would learn the oppressor's language.
So, when the empire collapsed or retracted, guess which natives were in a position to lead the liberated nation. The same ones who could also maintain international contacts.

Mandarin speakers already have English. If you learn it, your advantage will be minimal - but learning it will be interesting, will open a fresh vista of cultural understanding, and keep you occupied through many unemployed hours.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 12th, 2017, 11:08 am 

Eclogite » August 12th, 2017, 7:55 am wrote:
doogles » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:45 am wrote:But the question I’ve asked myself is why English, and not one of the many other established languages, has gradually become the second global language, especially when it has so many non-sensical variations in the spelling of homophones and pronunciations of letter-combinations. I am not familiar with any language other than English; I’ve never yet had a need to learn one. But I find it hard to believe that other popular languages could be as inconsistent and confusing as English. Can anyone enlighten me?
Economics. Britannia ruled the waves and then the US took over. Your great grandchildren had better learn Mandarin if they want a place in the global economy.


Seriously? Can a nation become number one without war? This is off topic, but maybe something interesting we could look into. Also, the difference between English and Mandarin is not just language but also logic.

East/West Logic
webpages.charter.net/lrsmith/eastwest.htm
Eastern versus Western Logic. In the West, our entire system of logic and science is built on a model which was inherited from Greek thought. It is dualistic; it is either/or, either something is true or it is not. It is sequential, with one thing happening after another, in order.


We need to thank Phoenicians for our alphabet because the Greeks took their alphabet and gave us the alphabet we use. Picture language and Eastern logic are not as good for the technological advancement we have made. Alpha is Greek for "A" and beta is Greek for "B". Our A, B, C is easier to say, but we loose meaning with these letter names. I think a study of Greek language should come before attempting to design a new language. The way they put together concepts/words seems very important to me.

However, Eastern logic may be an advantage with quantum physics, because linear logic has the advantage up to quantum physics.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 12th, 2017, 11:43 am 

Athena » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:08 pm wrote:Seriously? Can a nation become number one without war? This is off topic, but maybe something interesting we could look into. Also, the difference between English and Mandarin is not just language but also logic.
Yes seriously. I am always serious unless I am joking.

Point 1: Did I say the Chinese status as the most important country on the planet would be achieved without a war? I made no comment either way.

Point 2: Unlike the Soviet Union the Chinese are smart enough to realise that combining capitalism with a rigid dictatorship produces outstanding and sustainable results. Combine that with a population of over 1 billion and you have an assured world leadership position within the next three decades. The internal dissensions within Europe and current self destruction of the US will simply accelerate that.

The differences between the languages are irrelevant in terms of which language becomes the dominant one. Economic power is the determining factor.

Of course, effective real time translators will probably render my argument irrelevant within fifteen years.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 12th, 2017, 1:25 pm 

Serpent » August 10th, 2017, 4:30 pm wrote:I said.. During the Dark Ages people didn't have the concept of history we have, and they pretty much thought time stood still and Europe was still part of Rome.

your reply.
Which people thought this? The serfs probably didn't care very much about the 'big picture', but they certainly all had folklore, legends and songs to remind them of their ancestors (and usually to exaggerate the exploits and prowess of those ancestors) and they hung onto a surprising amount of local tradition in spite of the church's disapproval. Scholars, archivists and and historians have been around much longer than this. Of course, they wrote whatever pleased their patrons - but they certainly could count time and keep track of wars and dynastic sequence.


The apparent disagreement here is you have taken our present Western logic for granted, but Europe did not have this sense of linear logic until after it was resurrected during the Renaissance. It was the Greeks who gave us linear logic and our present sense of history. This is a matter of culture and it is not universal.
To know grandma did things differently is not necessarily a sense of history. To know yesterday we had freedom and today we are slaves, is not to have a sense of history as we do.

I said..."but the folks in Italy knew better because they knew Rome had a better history than what they were living and this is where the renaissance began." and you replied..
That's one way of looking at it. Wealth didn't hurt. And the renaissance heavily depended on noble, as well as merchant patrons all over Europe supporting alchemists and artisans, astronomers and painters, masons and scribes - who all traveled, conferred and exchanged letters.
Certainly, the church was influential in all scholarship, as monasteries were pretty much the only way to get an education, unless you were raised at a court. Having a common language for scholarship and commerce helped greatly in the communication of ideas. Of course, once the printing press got going...
The common folk, who didn't speak or read Latin had precious little to do with it.


You demonstrated a lot of knowledge of this period and place but not all of it which did include the common people's memory of being a commune with equality, because of fleeing the fall of Rome and moving to islands to gain safety, and not being ruled by a governing power such as Rome once was. The common folks did regain a degree of equal political representation, and this is what lead to the education that is essential to equal political representation. For sure wealth, traveling and trading were very important, and much of that "wealth" was the result of plagues that killed thousands of people, leaving fewer people to inherit the families wealth. Fewer people dropped the value of everything (food and land), while fewer workers meant better pay. This made normal business a less attractive investment and the accumulation of art a good investment without the risk of business. As their economic growth grew with a return to population growth and was based on trade, it tended towards secular government, rather than church controlled kingdoms. This progress came later to the rest of Europe that was more agrarian. I think the difference in cities dependent on commerce and towns dependent on an agrarian way of life is very important. A lot of Europe does not have coast and is not on the silk road to China. It could not progress as the Italy did. Even those with coast could not progress as fast before trade routes were discovered, and then it was technology such as the compass that made more exploration possible. Most of Europe was like the Sleeping Beauty when Rome fell and didn't wake up until the renaissance was well under way. Russia is still struggling to gain technology and modernize because its winters are a serious draw back to progress. Exploiting the minerals in Siberia is very different from the gold rush to Californa.

Someone should have told the Borgias, Albizia, and Medicis.


Should have told them what? Now, this could get waaaay too political! The Trump family is well educated and their education does not equal advancing the good for all but this family's time in power may resurrect an interest in political activism, as bad times in the past raised interest in political activism.

I said " The future is not always better than the past, and civilizations do rise and fall." and you replied
They rise; they fall; they stay down and do not rise again; another one takes their place.
The future is inevitable. We can hope it will be better than the past, because most of our history was horrible for most of the people, and we have very, very rarely brought a chestnut out of the ashes.


This thread may not be best for discussing our future, but our life style can not be sustained, and we should give thought to that. Rome's standard of living could not be sustained when their population got too large and their supply of gold was exhausted. Europe began falling when its population growth forced the use of marginal land for farming and bad weather caused those crops to fail. The exhaustion of our supply of oil will be more dramatic than Rome's exhaustion of gold, or past civilizations failure to produce enough food. We are oil rich again, as Rome became gold rich with new discoveries of gold that lead to the relocation of the center of Rome. Our population is as ignorant of such matters as the ancient Romans were, and in our ignorance comes favoring one leader over another, thinking these godlike people give us good times or bad times, not having clue what population growth and resources have to do with our economies rising and falling.

I said..."But are things from the past worth preserving? I think so." and you replied...
Some things. You can't bring back extinct species, defunct civilizations or massacred tribes. You can save the odd stone carving, mural or clay vessel (gold necklaces tend to get very good care); from more recently, people (monks, mostly) have saved documents.

It's not a question of whether something is worth preserving: at any given moment, somebody is dedicating his life, maybe risking his life, to preserve whatever they value. The fact is, nobody can save everything and nothing lasts forever. If Alba Longa had prevailed, there would have been no Roman kingdom, and if that continued, there would have been no Republic. Do you know how many small nations existed, world-wide, in 1017? How many of them do you actively miss? If the Cherokee and Huron hadn't been displaced, there would be no modern USA. Maybe that makes you sad for a minute when you think of it, but you're not campaigning to give it back.
That's mortality; something has to die for the next things to live.


Now we are arguing attitude more than facts. I believe we are in the Resurrection and that this is a critical time our history. Archeologist and geologist and related sciences bring the past into the present and I think it is our job to learn as much as we possibly can and to rethink everything. As long as humans can record and transmit information, our shared consciousness will expand, and this might be the most important thing about our existence. It is stupid to cut down the forest to make room for farming, ignorant of the life that is being destroyed, and possible uses of the destroyed plants. So might it be stupid to assume progress is replacing others? Our way of life can not be sustained. What have we lost? Without the knowledge of natives, we may not have been so successful. For sure it took us way too long to appreciate the notion that the earth is one living organism and destroying parts of it can have bad repercussions and the natives did try to make us aware of that. I have very negative feelings about thinking the barbarians who successfully invaded mean progress.


I said..." And possibly all this is my romantic thinking, but enjoy feeling connect with our planet and all of humanity. I like throwing in some Eastern and Mayan ideas about consciousness." and you relied....
So, why do you object to a global language? A language you can speak and read is your only access to other times, other civilizations, other kinds of thought, other kinds of people.
What use is a diverse world to you if most if it remains closed and secret?


I object to one universal language for the same reason we should object to clear cutting, and replacing all the variety that is in a natural forest with pine trees. I think you have argued in favor of preserving native languages and adding a universal one. I am in favor of that, but would also argue the importance of preserving all languages, as it is important to preserve the variety of life in a forest. Even if the language becomes dead as the Greek spoke in Athens may be dead, there is value in knowing the ancient organization of concepts, that is language. When we know morale is the spirit that comes out of being moral, we have a better understanding of those two words and the meaning of spirit. It is a loss when we lose information like this from our consciousness, and some have called such a lose the Dark Ages.

I said...."Right now I am distressed that because we have not used the classics to transmit our culture, our civilization is no longer protected by past wisdom." and you said...
No civilization was ever protected by past wisdom.


That is so wrong, I am going to stop here and go weed my garden. We may be at a cross road now. We could move forward into a New Age or we fall backwards into another Dark Age. Being smart and lacking wisdom is not progress, and wisdom comes from the past, not today's technology. You and I have had this argument before, and although your side of the argument seems popular today, I do not see the wisdom in it.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Athena on August 12th, 2017, 5:29 pm 

Eclogite » August 12th, 2017, 9:43 am wrote:
Athena » Sat Aug 12, 2017 3:08 pm wrote:Seriously? Can a nation become number one without war? This is off topic, but maybe something interesting we could look into. Also, the difference between English and Mandarin is not just language but also logic.
Yes seriously. I am always serious unless I am joking.

Point 1: Did I say the Chinese status as the most important country on the planet would be achieved without a war? I made no comment either way.

Point 2: Unlike the Soviet Union the Chinese are smart enough to realise that combining capitalism with a rigid dictatorship produces outstanding and sustainable results. Combine that with a population of over 1 billion and you have an assured world leadership position within the next three decades. The internal dissensions within Europe and current self destruction of the US will simply accelerate that.

The differences between the languages are irrelevant in terms of which language becomes the dominant one. Economic power is the determining factor.

Of course, effective real time translators will probably render my argument irrelevant within fifteen years.


You may not have commented about war determining which country is the center of human activity and power, but I thought you said it may be in our best interest to learn Mandarine for the same economic reason English is spoken around the world. While the English did use military might to secure their economic interest, if all they had was military might, they would not have held power. You have said it is economic power that leads to domination.

What gives a national economic power leading to people wanting to learn that language? What happens when a country has exhausted its resources, or never had them in the first place, and must import them? What happens when a country does not have the energy for industry and our modern life style or the cost of that energies doubles? What happens when the population demands more than what can be provided without importing the needed the resource? I think we need to know these things before taking studying Mandarine too seriously.

The differences between languages are not irrelevant. Not all languages are good for the advancement of technology and perhaps some languages are better for developing wisdom than others?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 12th, 2017, 5:53 pm 

Athena » August 12th, 2017, 12:25 pm wrote:The apparent disagreement here is you have taken our present Western logic for granted, but Europe did not have this sense of linear logic until after it was resurrected during the Renaissance.

Where does this idea come from? Of course I take logic for granted: nobody could have invented parchment, ceramics, wheels and sail without it. Nobody could have built rock calendars and navigate by the stars without the very same kind of logic. Civilizations, both B and A /C built aqueducts, pyramids, crypts and palaces. Logic and math, geometry and astronomy are the property of all humankind, and have been since long before an Athenian raised one slab of marble on that hilltop.
Did Europeans all just climb down off the trees in 1400 and start farming? No. The Vikings had already sailed across the Atlantic and back - something Greeks and Romans never managed.
Everything is linear. Everybody keeps track of time, generations, wars and celestial events. Everybody paints their history on walls and carves it into pillars.

the common people's memory of being a commune with equality, because of fleeing the fall of Rome and moving to islands to gain safety, and not being ruled by a governing power such as Rome once was.

True: I do not know which common people did this, where, or when. I do not know how they returned to Italy, who led them or how they played into the politics of Milan and Florence.

[Someone should have told the Borgias, Albizia, and Medicis.]
Should have told them what?

That they made the renaissance to help the common people gain political equality and re-establish the ideals of the Republic.

This thread may not be best for discussing our future, but our life style can not be sustained, and we should give thought to that.

Obviously. How would a global pidgin hinder that effort? How will technology hinder it?

Our population is as ignorant of such matters as the ancient Romans were, and in our ignorance comes favoring one leader over another, thinking these godlike people give us good times or bad times, not having clue what population growth and resources have to do with our economies rising and falling.

See? No society benefits from the wisdom of the past.

I said..."But are things from the past worth preserving? I think so." and you replied...
Some things.
Now we are arguing attitude more than facts.

No, I wasn't. Recall the context. I said the demise of cultures and nations matters at the time that it happens, but no longer matters a thousand years later. Things change. We are the product and inheritors and beneficiaries of those changes.

If you wanted to preserve cultures, you'd have to take them all-in-all: the taboos alongside the mythology, shrunken heads along with the quaint dances, foot-binding along with the embroidered silk. But we cannot keep everything from the past - not our own past, nor that of any culture we've been in contact with: people choose all along the way. That's a fact.

Your choice of what to preserve from the past is limited to some aspects of some periods of one single culture, with a general nod to some other cultures that existed on the periphery. You've cherry-picked the past for your own purpose - just everyone always does, because that is all we can do - and, honestly, all we want.

As long as humans can record and transmit information,

which computers do better than scribes
our shared consciousness will expand,

which would be enhanced by the ability to communicate across linguistic divides
and this might be the most important thing about our existence.

such as having a future -
Yes, I wholly agree.

So might it be stupid to assume progress is replacing others?

It may be stupid, but it's also unavoidable.
I have very negative feelings about thinking the barbarians who successfully invaded mean progress.

Nor did the civilizations that successfully invaded. But they did.
There is an attributed meaning to "progress", which is interpreted as positive and desirable, whereas it really just means going forward in time and/or space: progression; process; one thing happens after another; history. You don't have to like it, but it won't stop until everything is dead.

I object to one universal language for the same reason we should object to clear cutting, and replacing all the variety that is in a natural forest with pine trees. I think you have argued in favor of preserving native languages and adding a universal one.

That is exactly what Nicolle proposed.

I am in favor of that, but would also argue the importance of preserving all languages,

AI can do that; people can't. Our brains aren't big enough.

[No civilization was ever protected by past wisdom.]
That is so wrong,

Name two that were; show what the past wisdom protected them from.

and although your side of the argument seems popular today, I do not see the wisdom in it.

I'm not sure what the "sides" are, exactly. What is it I'm arguing for?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 13th, 2017, 4:39 am 

Eclogite » Sat Aug 12, 2017 9:55 am wrote:
doogles » Sat Aug 12, 2017 10:45 am wrote:But the question I’ve asked myself is why English, and not one of the many other established languages, has gradually become the second global language, especially when it has so many non-sensical variations in the spelling of homophones and pronunciations of letter-combinations. I am not familiar with any language other than English; I’ve never yet had a need to learn one. But I find it hard to believe that other popular languages could be as inconsistent and confusing as English. Can anyone enlighten me?
Economics. Britannia ruled the waves and then the US took over. Your great grandchildren had better learn Mandarin if they want a place in the global economy.


Eclogite, thank you for acknowledging my question. Unfortunately the answer may have missed the point. I was suggesting (tentatively) that because of an apparent liking (to my mind after reading widely), by our species, for living in a social milieu of deceit, confusion and double standards, that English will remain the dominant second language because of its capacity for, simplistically, allowing us to say one thing while meaning something else. Your answer suggested to me that you believe economics and trading terminology were the dominant factors in choice of 'second language'. My bet is that the most complicated and confusing language will become dominant because of the capacity for enhancing the above social milieu of deceit, confusion and doubles standards.


Hence my still unanswered question, to anyone posting in this thread, do any other major languages contain as many inconsistencies in terms of spelling and phonetics as the English Language?
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Eclogite on August 13th, 2017, 4:48 am 

Your thesis is an interesting one, but seems without foundation. Latin dominated the Roman Empire because it was the language of the ruling power. Spanish took over most of Latin America because it was the ruling power. And so on. There are a mutiplicity of examples across millenia.

Political power determines language and today political power stems from economic power. You will have a tough job disproving that.

One can dissemble effectively in any language. (It's what we do.) Machiavelli had no problem in Italian. Hitler had no problem in German. Nasser had no problem in Arabic. The list is endless.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 13th, 2017, 5:08 am 

Since posting, it has just occurred to me that business and 'trading' at any level may require a certain amount of deceit, confusion and double standards.

But I would still appreciate it if anybody could enlighten be about the relative fallibilities inherent in other languages.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 13th, 2017, 5:11 am 

Our posts must have crossed Eclogite. You've made an opinion judgment, but I'm still looking for someone to answer my question in any form. Your post did not help.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby doogles on August 13th, 2017, 5:47 am 

My last response was inappropriate Eclogite. Apologies. Your response was adequate from a qualitative point of view. I realise that I should have stipulated and clarified that what I was looking for was something in the nature of a quantitative answer from someone familiar with multiple languages. The only hint I gave to this was my statement that I found it hard to believe that any other language would have as many inconsistencies as English'.

I'm still hoping that someone out there can enlighten me.
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Re: universal language...why not?

Postby Serpent on August 13th, 2017, 11:54 am 

doogles » August 13th, 2017, 4:47 am wrote:My last response was inappropriate Eclogite.... I was looking for was something in the nature of a quantitative answer from someone familiar with multiple languages. The only hint I gave to this was my statement that I found it hard to believe that any other language would have as many inconsistencies as English'.

I'm still hoping that someone out there can enlighten me.

There probably isn't another language with as many inconsistencies, because there certainly is no other as large in vocabulary and disparate of provenance. Modern English had been built in many layers of European language through conquest and settlement and intermingling of peoples, and then Britain collected additional words, concepts and expressions from its own subject peoples, and then invented or adopted the new terms of developing technology through the industrial revolution and after, and maintained close ties with ex-colonies - notably the USA - that branched off their own dialects and linguistic innovations, some of which tricked back into the mother tongue. I doubt any other language has quite so much accrued baggage. This was a pretty good overview https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7FtSUPAM-uA both as a television series and as a book.

Most European nations (I don't know about other continents, though I seem to recall China doing it in the late 20th century) have undergone periodic linguistic cleansing. The academic(s) in charge try to rid the grammar of contradictions, the vocabulary of contaminants, the spelling of obsolete letter combinations, and so on. It doesn't work. People make fun of the proposed replacements of foreign words and keep on using whatever speech they're accustomed to.
English has had many assaults on its vagaries http://www.bl.uk/learning/langlit/dic/caw/1613cawdrey.html; many attempts to standardize, simplify, rationalize it. Every dictionary and grammar book has some influence on the general public, through being taught in schools and then picked up by respected authors and eventually by the newspapers. But these influences are slow and diffuse.
Language changes organically, not by edict.

For what it's worth, I think it's a wondrous language. (Yes, there should be an e in there, and was, then was replaced by an apostrophe, which has been eroded in common usage.) After the relatively narrow confines of Hungarian (which has consistent spelling and some very picturesque folk sayings) I find it delightful. So did a whole lot of creative people from Shakespeare to Bob Dylan. You can deceive in all languages; you can deceive in complete silence. But there is unlikely to be another language with such an immense sandbox to play in

(or let your cat use.)
Last edited by Serpent on August 13th, 2017, 12:30 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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