Accidia occidere

Follow the adventures of a lone nerd as he fights a losing battle against Apathy.

Multiple levels of language = Multiple levels of consciousness?

So I’ve recently been checking out a bunch of different languages; Latin, because it’s the origin of english, Russian because it sounds cool, Lojban because I think it would improve my mental faculties, and Toki Pona because it sounds like a great language to just chill out in. Warning, Wall of text coming up. Below. Coming below?

Along these lines of though I realized something important, although kinda obvious: Languages have very different purposes!  All natural languages like english, spanish or swedish are meant to cover all bases, you should be able to communicate short and quick, smart and comprehensively, and also poetically. These take time to learn because there are many many rules, quirks and idiosyncrasies in the languages, and often there are specific name for items or concepts, names which often make no logical sense..   The constructed language lojban is meant to have all the strengths of a natural language; it is fully comprehensive and in a group of people speaking it you should never need another language. It is meant to be parsable by machines, and it is constructed in such a way that new words can be constructed and used without there being much confusion about what they mean. It’s basically a language that optimizes the flow of information for yourself and in communication with others. It’s Unambiguous.

Another constructed language is Toki Pona, and I really like this one. It’s a very simple language with just 124 words, and the first thing you learn is the word “Pona” which means good. Basically this a language for easy and intuitive person-to-person communication. A lot is left open to interpretation and I get the feeling that the language easily melds with body language. Some things would be very difficult to achieve with this language, for example I can imagine that trying to explain a complicated new concept would be very hard, so it’s not really suitable for using as your only language.

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So lets say that for example my day is spent with me being in three different lingual modes:

  • Primitive communications

  • Flexible Communications

  • Advanced communications

*These aren’t the best way to describe this, and this dialogue with myself isn’t the smartest way of communicating this to other people. But then again- I am writing this mostly for my own benefit.

  1. The primitive communication mode would be when I am hanging out with my buddies, maybe gaming, training or something else that doesn’t involve any deeper discussions. We would communicate feelings, opinions and ideas about our situation and so on, but mostly on a shallow level, and our body language would do most of the talking. For this you do not require a complicated logical language like lojban, and neither do you actually need the natural languages which requires on to take some care in expressing oneself.  In this situation a language like Toki Pona would be fully satisfactory.
  2. Then there’s the flexible communication mode. Let’s say that after having spent some time sweating under various weights at the gym and speaking Toki Pona we decide to go home. We might talk to some people on the way out, and on the way home we buy some food and call some friends and whatnot. Now a natural language would be best since it would allow us to communicate effortlessly with most people we come across, and while discussing movies, foods,  places and such it would be easier to do it in the language where those already have dedicated words and concepts.
  3. Also, the advanced communication mode. So, after a hearty protein-rich dinner and a movie involving men, women, violence¨, comedy and science (all you need in a movie) we would start discussing the concepts introduced by the movie. We would segway into technology perhaps, and make the inevitable (ok, this is not so much an example as it is an excerpt of my life) step into the world of computer hardware, software, games, maybe also programming. At this point what would be better than a logical language where half the learning lies in the formation of words themselves? We could learn and improve our learning without having our minds constricted by the arbitrary words that have been assigned to each concept by someone. There would be no ambiguity, and no greater misunderstanding. No one would have to be hammered over the head with various flawed metaphors until he understood what someone truly meant. Logic hoe!
  4. As we tire our minds we would settle into a calmer pace of speech, talk about recent events and other people. We might slip into that bad habit of spending minutes just quoting various shows and games instead of holding an actual conversation. So, natural language it is. Probably a mix between our native language (in my case swedish) and english. (This mix is known as swenglish, or svengelska.)
  5. Towards the end of our social relations we wouldn’t have much more to say, so we would sprinkle what ever activity we shared with some short comments, just a few syllables here and there. Again,  Toki Pona would be perfect.

 

Ok, so that’s the idea. As we move between various communicative states we would use different languages- The right language at the right time. This would be useful in other ways too, have you ever felt like instead of saying “This food is very good.” you would instead want to say “food good.”? But how would it sound if our language regressed like that whenever we were preoccupied with our plate? And maybe you have felt annoyed by having to search you brain-fruit for what the hell was it called when you did *that* kind of format in your writing again? Wasn’t it something borrowed from latin? Or was it a word in your native language, but influenced by english? It would be a lot easier if just knowing what *that* was meant you almost automatically knew the word for it.

The first thing I thought about when reading about Toki Pona was how much better at listening you could be; you wouldn’t have to carefully phrase your short replies right when listening to an upset friend who needed to vent some feelings. You wouldn’t have to try and summon up a good sentence while preoccupied when all you needed was something that communicated you general opinion. Think about a long phone conversation, one of those where you miss the person and really want to keep talking with them, but you don’t have to much to say. All those long silences, half-expressive grunts and half-baked attempts to maintain constant dialogue would be exchanged by words that expressed you general point or feeling without requiring any assembly of sentences.

Sapir and Whorf hypothesized that our language skills shaped our mind and set the rules for how we would think about things. This is kind of like machine languages, and how you can achieve the same results in lets say Lisp as in C, while one specific function or structure may be easier/more comprehensive in one language, and those programming in one language might my more prone to use this or that sort of structure than one programming in the other even though it’s is just as possible in both.

Imagine then that you have access to languages of all levels to speak, think and feel.  It sounds awesome, which is why I’m gonna grab myself by the bootstraps, shake myself around good and tell myself to get cracking. Then I’ll take myself out for a beer to apologize for the rough behaviour, maybe make up for it with a gift. Maybe Chrono Trigger for Nintendo DS, Who knows.

Those are my thoughts today.

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