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ShieldW0lf's Journal: Language 3

Journal by ShieldW0lf

In the beginning, language is spoken.

It is communicated from one person to another with the accompaniment of cues like body language, pitch and intonation, even pheromones communicating fear or excitement. It is intended to be used together with these cues.

And so it is for many years.

Then written language is created.

Written language is tough, because you have to deal with the fact that language is meant to be accompanied by many cues which you no longer have at your disposal.

It's also tough to be precise, because the language is very flexible and meant to be suitable for a great many other expressive pursuits whose needs are contrary to the goal of precision.

Writing is intended to be done once and distributed to an audience to stand as it is written, and so it is treated as an art. A writer is expected to put effort into making it just right before releasing it.

And so it is for many years.

Writing is used to codify laws.

Societies get more complex, the limitations of the common language are met, and new languages are created with new syntax, based around old ones.

Legal language is created to express such things as rules and contracts.

We are all systematically bound by what is expressed in these languages, and irrespective of our personal opinions or even our ignorance, we materially put our support behind these expressions by our participation.

Most people don't understand this language, and its meanings are often unintuitive and convoluted. Unless you have access to great wealth, you can't even learn it.

If you do have access to great wealth, you can hire teams of experts who have dedicated their lives to exploiting the convolutions of this language.

And so it is for many years.

Technologies arrive that allow the written word to be communicated broadly with great speed and great ease.

Speed enough that it can be used for a casual conversation.

Ease enough that you can casually reach a world audience during any 5 minute break in your schedule.

Language starts to break down.

Emails and instant messages are misunderstood more often than not.

People attempt to inform themselves, and they encounter linguistic constructs that exist for the higher purpose of eliciting emotional responses when used by artists.

They are manipulated and misled with misdirection and emotive imagery.

People are unable to concisely specify their agreements with their fellows without the assistance of a professional, but they are bound by them in ways they do not understand.

They are unable to understand the agreements that they make with commercial interests, but they are bound by them in ways they do not understand. These agreements are crafted by teams of people who dedicate their lives to being skilled in exploit your lack of understanding to their advantage.

Most people are unable to walk into a courthouse and express for themselves why they should not be punished.

If the attention of the system is ever placed upon them, their fate lies in their capacity to find someone who understands the language and rules of the law well enough to compete on their behalf.

It leads a person to think... shouldn't the language we use to make our agreements and our laws be straightforward enough that everyone can learn and understand it?

Shouldn't we insist that it not only be understandable, but understandable in a timely enough fashion to make all our decisions from an informed position?

Shouldn't every single human being on earth be capable of communicating with precision?

How would you do it?

My mind drifts to the book 1984.

Language is stripped down, shorn of the capacity to communicate things which disadvantage the state. Extraneous words are discarded. A standard is made, everyone is taught and kept up to date, and it is impossible to communicate outside of a very rigid framework.

It is put forth as a nightmare vision. The ultimate control of the population by the state.

But what if everyone was bilingual?

What if there was one language that was very precise, and it was engineered to be easy to understand.

Imagine if it was utterly devoid of the sorts of communications that could elicit emotional responses in people and make them choose something because the language made them feel good.

Now, if that was the only language that you knew, it would be very easy to organize with precision, but there would be no room for creativity, or expressions about the human experience, or creating things that were appealing to the primitive side of what we as humans are.

So you'd need a second language. One that was rich with multiple interconnected meanings, flexible, emotive, organic. A romantic language.

Two modes of communication, understood by all, with a social structure that indicated by decorum which mode should be used for which purpose.

This would still allow for that decorum to be broken when important things that fall outside the realm of tradition need to be said.

This would mean we could get rid of both lawyers and advertising.

We would have a civilization where every one of us understands what is going on well enough to participate, well enough to put transparency to purpose when we demand it, well enough not to be bamboozled and swindled anymore.

If you were going to pursue it as an agenda, you might choose something like English, which has strong representation as the language of business, then have an engineering team skilled in information theory create a suitable subset of the language, and go about the developing world educating people in that subset of it, allowing them to be advantaged by participating in world business.

Then choose a romantic language well represented in the developing world, Spanish perhaps, and take the two pronged approach of providing easy access to education in the romantic language to children in the English speaking world, while investing heavily in the creation of cultural works in that language. These children would end up thinking of English as the language for serious things and Spanish as the language for creativity and expressions of feeling and passion.

Inside of a couple of generations of spreading bilingualism in this fashion, such a structure could be realized across the globe.

Peoples cultural languages would end up being folded into the Romantic language over time, making it an increasingly rich means of expression and preserving history.

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Language

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  • You're thinking of Lojban [wikipedia.org]. Other than not being English based, it has all the characteristics you describe in your essay.

    It's designed to be the new Latin, but as all artificial languages, it's extremely difficult for it to gain widespread adoption.
    • The reason it failed is because it doesn't immediately materially reward the person who chooses to use it. That is a key point in my opinion, and the reason why I feel that it would have to be an English subset that gave the person who learned it a limited but functional capacity to speak with an English person. People all over the world want to learn English as a second language for economic reasons, and that is the key to selling the concept. In my opinion.

The one day you'd sell your soul for something, souls are a glut.

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