Constructed languages

Hulalessar

Senior Member
English - England
I think it's difficult to devise a complete language.
Any natural language is above all a convention which is a means of communication between humans. It is something of a contradiction in terms to make up a language as all languages have evolved organically by people interacting. A complete language can only be something people use.
 
  • Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Prescriptive grammar rules by formal institutions, solutions privileged for the standard register in the media, entries accepted by official dictionaries, forms chosen by most prestigious writers, varieties chosen for education of it whether as a first or foreign language... Let's be honest, the main examples of all the so-called 'natural' languages have underwent much nip and tuck all the same during their process of codifying and standardization. Not to mention how unnatural the current use of some ancient/classical varieties of living or once living languages can also be.
     

    Apollodorus

    Senior Member
    English UK
    Esperanto doesn't belong to any Empire and hasn't ever imposed its culture, which can be associated to an international community but not to a specified place. At most, one could call it Eurocentric, there I'd agree. But not really a 'Western imperialistic' thing, otherwise it'd had never had such coverage in countries like China.
    Esperanto may or may not belong to an empire. But the original idea seems to have been to propagate the language together with a specific religious and political philosophy, i.e., culture. It failed to impose that culture because it failed to impose itself.

    China is a dictatorship which is very good at borrowing things from others for its own agendas. I’m not convinced it is using Esperanto differently from other things it has borrowed (or stolen).
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Prescriptive grammar rules by formal institutions, solutions privileged for the standard register in the media, entries accepted by official dictionaries, forms chosen by most prestigious writers, varieties chosen for education of it whether as a first or foreign language... Let's be honest, the main examples of all the so-called 'natural' languages have underwent much nip and tuck all the same during their process of codifying and standardization. Not to mention how unnatural the current use of some ancient/classical varieties of living or once living languages can also be.
    Speech and writing, though related, are two different things. All writing to a greater or less extent involves artificiality. The degree varies. A standard language may (a) reflect an earlier stage of a language (b) be subject to deliberate archaising (c) be a compromise mixture of two or more dialects. There will always be some degree of diglossia, in some cases so extreme that children have to be taught the standard as if it were a foreign language. The point is though that written standards are conventions used by identifiable social units and conlangs are not.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    The logical thing would be to reduce it to A-I-U + P-T-K-M-N-L-S + Y-W. They seem to be the most common among most main languages, although you will still see one of them missing in one major language or another. Most notably P in Arabic.
    I find it interesting to think about what such a language would be like.* People don't usually pause between words (unlike in written text where there are literally spaces between every word), so they need hints to make a series of syllables intelligible:

    1) If a language has regular stress (for example: always on the first syllable, on the last syllable or on the penultimate syllable), then you know where (a lot of) words start.
    2) Context
    3) Small grammatical words, prefixes and suffixes help enormously.
    4) Word order
    5) Some languages only have very small words and thus don't need phonemic stress, but this requires a rich phonology in order to still have enough words. For instance, Mandarin Chinese words only consist of one or two syllables, but there are 19 consonant phonemes, 2 vowel phonemes, 3 glides and 5 tonemes, so you can make a lot of syllables. Mandarin Chinese currently has 2080 syllables. In comparison, Hawaiian has 25 vowel phonemes (including long vowels and diphtongues) and 8 consonant phonemes, so a total of 225 syllables. This means that Hawaiian needs relatively long words and the main stress is completely predictable.

    If your constructed language has the syllable structure (C)V(C) and there can be 11 syllable nuclei (a, i, u, ay, uy, aw, iw, ya, yu, wa, wi), then you end up with a mere 8x11x8 = 704 syllables. You would end up would a Hawaiian-like language.

    English has roughly 10 000 syllables, but it's hard to count because it depends on the accent.

    (*But not interesting enough to actually acquire such a lifeless language)
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I agree that is not difficult. After all, you have so many a posteriori examples to choose from. What does everybody struggle with when learning English, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean? Those are 5 lists of things to avoid.
    Japanese people find Korean relatively straightforward and vice versa. English is relatively easy as it is a sort of creole or pidgin, using word order rather than declensions. You will always find one group unhappy with one or more features of a synthetic language.

    I beleive it will always be the case that the vast majority of people who acquire one or more foreign languages will do so for pragmatic reasons such as job, family or culture. Idealism is probably low on the list for all but a few.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    China is a dictatorship which is very good at borrowing things from others for its own agendas. I’m not convinced it is using Esperanto differently from other things it has borrowed (or stolen).
    I'd say they just got interested in the idea that a global working language coming from the West could be one different from English. One easy to teach and learn, and not associated to a specific power.

    Speech and writing, though related, are two different things. All writing to a greater or less extent involves artificiality. The degree varies. A standard language may (a) reflect an earlier stage of a language (b) be subject to deliberate archaising (c) be a compromise mixture of two or more dialects. There will always be some degree of diglossia, in some cases so extreme that children have to be taught the standard as if it were a foreign language. The point is though that written standards are conventions used by identifiable social units and conlangs are not.
    Those conventions, though, can end up looking very artificial to those speakers whose variety is one of the furthest apart from the closest to the more standard-looking one. It doesn't matter how identifiable those social units are if it really feels very artificial at the end of the day.

    I find it interesting to think about what such a language would be like.* People don't usually pause between words (unlike in written text where there are literally spaces between every word), so they need hints to make a series of syllables intelligible:

    1) If a language has regular stress (for example: always on the first syllable, on the last syllable or on the penultimate syllable), then you know where (a lot of) words start.
    I think stress needs to be regular indeed, but that doesn't mean it always have to fall upon the same syllable. Even Esperanto allows to chop final -o's (regular noun ending) in order to turn paroxytonic words into oxytonic ones and give room for some variation in stress pattern, something particularly useful in poetry, songs, etc.

    5) Some languages only have very small words and thus don't need phonemic stress, but this requires a rich phonology in order to still have enough words. For instance, Mandarin Chinese words only consist of one or two syllables, but there are 19 consonant phonemes, 2 vowel phonemes, 3 glides and 5 tonemes, so you can make a lot of syllables. Mandarin Chinese currently has 2080 syllables. In comparison, Hawaiian has 25 vowel phonemes (including long vowels and diphtongues) and 8 consonant phonemes, so a total of 225 syllables. This means that Hawaiian needs relatively long words and the main stress is completely predictable.

    If your constructed language has the syllable structure (C)V(C) and there can be 11 syllable nuclei (a, i, u, ay, uy, aw, iw, ya, yu, wa, wi), then you end up with a mere 8x11x8 = 704 syllables. You would end up would a Hawaiian-like language.
    I agree. Even more if, say, we reduced syllable-ending consonants to just [n], which is what we know is most common, most notably in Japanese.

    The question would be: would you really need many more, for a language supposed to be easy to learn? If the regular derivational system is rich enough, as in Esperanto, would a number of one-word basic roots lower than 1,000 really be a problem?
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    The question would be: would you really need many more, for a language supposed to be easy to learn? If the regular derivational system is rich enough, as in Esperanto, would a number of one-word basic roots lower than 1,000 really be a problem?
    Do you mean one-syllable basic roots? I think 704 basic roots + affixes would be way too little, although the minimalist constructed language Toki Pona only has 137 words and a couple of particles, but it is an incredibly ambiguous language. For instance, there is no difference between feet, toe and leg. There are also only four numbers: zero/no/nothing, one, two and multiple/many :D I think any language with less than 2000 roots is impractical.

    Some people say Japanese only has 50 syllables, but in reality Japanese has differences in pitch, nasality and consonant length, bringing the number of actual syllables closer to 400. On top of that, Japanese roots are 1 to 5 syllables long.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    I think it's difficult to devise a complete language. But by "difficult" I mean "a huge amount of work", not "insurmountable challenges". Even after you devise the linguistic rules (several man-years) there are tens of thousands of words to create.
    Of course, it's laborious. The thing with languages is that the vocabulary and grammar points are endless, so we shouldn't aspire to "completeness" (which is by definition impossible) but I think it's feasible enough to cover 99.9% of the vocabulary/grammar you need, especially if the primary use is just as a lingua franca. Beyond that, you get diminishing returns. The task of adding new vocabulary, tournures, past that point is best left to speakers.

    Something I don't like about Esperanto is their obsession with having "no irregularities" at all. Instead of accepting most placenames are best left in the local language, they have to shoehorn all new words into their phonetic and morphological rules. This list of Spanish provinces is hilarious.

    The hub language must have words for all concepts, and be based on one to one principle: one word one meaning, one meaning one word.
    That could be a separate project. What constitutes a "meaning" is really fuzzy. If we set to create words such that they always have the same translations in even a small number a languages, you get too many words for it to be practical as a spoken language.

    I would rephrase that as: English is not the global lingua franca because it's easy but because it happens to be the language of a former global superpower.
    Well, the British Empire is what gave birth to the USA in the first place, so your assertion makes sense, but I wouldn't be sure which polity was it that cemented the status of English during the 20th century.

    The logical thing would be to reduce it to A-I-U + P-T-K-M-N-L-S + Y-W.
    I think inevitably words would be too long with that scheme. Arabs pronouncing "P" as "B" wouldn't be a problem though, they would say "baba" and everyone would understand "papa". [b], [p], [pʰ] would be allophones of a single phoneme.

    Any natural language is above all a convention which is a means of communication between humans. It is something of a contradiction in terms to make up a language as all languages have evolved organically by people interacting.
    If it's a code with which you can potentially communicate anything, it has speakers and in some cases like Esperanto even some of them are native, what else could it be? It may not be very romantic, but it's entirely possible to create artificial languages. I would go so far as to say Esperanto is more developed as a language than most of the 6,000 living natural languages.
     
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    Apollodorus

    Senior Member
    English UK
    I'd say they just got interested in the idea that a global working language coming from the West could be one different from English. One easy to teach and learn, and not associated to a specific power.
    Easy to teach and learn, perhaps. But spoken by too few to really matter. More likely, a ruse by Communist China to portray itself as "cosmopolitan" and "progressive" ....
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    That could be a separate project. What constitutes a "meaning" is really fuzzy..
    You shouldn't use English as a universal example or model. This is really a fuzzy language, with 14 completely different meanings of the word "trunk". At the same time it has 140 completely useless names for groups of animals. Other languages like for example French, German, and the Scandinavian languages are much better organized, but no natural language is precise enough to serve as a hub language. On the other side, you will never achieve absolute precision, but the definitions of different meanings that you find in good dictionaries is quite a good approximation for practical purposes.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Well, the British Empire is what gave birth to the USA in the first place, so your assertion makes sense, but I wouldn't be sure which polity was it that cemented the status of English during the 20th century.
    I think that this webpage gives a good overview. What it does not touch on specifically is the advance of English in continental Europe.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    You shouldn't use English as a universal example or model. This is really a fuzzy language
    I don't think English is different from other languages at all.

    On the other side, you will never achieve absolute precision, but the definitions of different meanings that you find in good dictionaries is quite a good approximation for practical purposes.
    Then such a language would be completely impractical to speak. Anyway you would like to look into WordNet, which awards a "synset" to every concept. Words can have multiple synsets (polysemy) and synsets can have various words (synonymy). There are similar versions for other languages too. This has various usages in NLP (natural language processing).

    I think that this webpage gives a good overview. What it does not touch on specifically is the advance of English in continental Europe.
    I think in the interwar period English still didn't have an advantage over French outside of the countries where it was spoken. After WWII, the US would undoubtably be the strongest power in the capitalist West, as the article says. I've been looking at various Eurovision editions and it looks like English didn't have a clear advantage until the 70s. For Germanic countries, this might have been earlier.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Do you mean one-syllable basic roots? I think 704 basic roots + affixes would be way too little, although the minimalist constructed language Toki Pona only has 137 words and a couple of particles, but it is an incredibly ambiguous language. For instance, there is no difference between feet, toe and leg. There are also only four numbers: zero/no/nothing, one, two and multiple/many :D I think any language with less than 2000 roots is impractical.
    The semantic primes are no more than 70. Basic English uses a list between 850 and 2000 words. I guess it all depends on what we understand as core vocabulary too. Because, obviously, we could say we already need 2000 words only to name an order of mammals like the rodents.

    One-syllable basic roots would be theoretically ideal, but yes, that requires a large inventory of phonemes, otherwise it would be too reductive. Even Chinese, with more phonemes and use of tones, has a limited number of possibilities that give way to many homophones, requiring in practice more two-syllable words than one.

    Probably the most sensible option would be using the one-syllable basic roots for the core, but not limiting the language only to that possibility.

    I think inevitably words would be too long with that scheme.
    I referred to the most common phonemes and basic phonotactics. But of course more phonemes could be adopted (h, -ng, e, o would probably come next and would allow for many more possibilities). A few syllable codas other than a (semi)vowel or an [n] could be possible. And some easy combinations could also be allowed. But I still think the language should remain at a very low profile in its phonological 'richness', giving room as you mentioned for a wide presence of allophony. A nice balance could be found between this and the length of words, which in any case shouldn't be longer than three syllables for any root word belonging to the core.

    It may not be very romantic, but it's entirely possible to create artificial languages. I would go so far as to say Esperanto is more developed as a language than most of the 6,000 living natural languages.
    No doubt it is. Languages adopt what they need. Esperanto has been used by people from all regions of the world and on average by highly educated people, which in practice means the language has needed to develop in order to cover all fields of knowledge. Something most of the languages spoken by fewer than 1,000 people in a couple of valleys or villages simply don't need.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think in the interwar period English still didn't have an advantage over French outside of the countries where it was spoken. After WWII, the US would undoubtably be the strongest power in the capitalist West, as the article says. I've been looking at various Eurovision editions and it looks like English didn't have a clear advantage until the 70s. For Germanic countries, this might have been earlier.
    I think that probably is about right. Very broadly, in western continental Europe before WWII, as first foreign language to be learned German held sway in Northern Europe and French in Southern Europe. If German did not lose prestige after WWI it certainly did after WWII. With the UK joining the Common Market in the early seventies English got a boost. French sort of got nudged aside. Possible explanations are: northern Europeans find English easier to cope with than French; Non-French Romance language speakers started to learn English because a lot of their tourists came from Northern Europe and they consider English easier than German; when it comes to promoting French, the French are inclined to overplay their hand insisting it is the only language suitable for sophisticated international communication - that annoys people; whilst the English expect everyone else to speak English, they do not insist on its superiority and are quite happy for foreigners to speak it incorrectly; the universality of US popular culture; the (somewhat erroneous) perception that English is easy to learn.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    ... whilst the English expect everyone else to speak English, they do not insist on its superiority and are quite happy for foreigners to speak it incorrectly; the universality of US popular culture; the (somewhat erroneous) perception that English is easy to learn.
    I have read many enough opinions from native English speakers insisting that English is superior to other languages, and this superiority has given and guarantees its function as international language, some entered into discussion and came with quite rude remarks. I believe that this view is very widespread among native English speakers (those that have an opinion on the subject).
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    One-syllable basic roots would be theoretically ideal, but yes, that requires a large inventory of phonemes, otherwise it would be too reductive. Even Chinese, with more phonemes and use of tones, has a limited number of possibilities that give way to many homophones, requiring in practice more two-syllable words than one.

    Probably the most sensible option would be using the one-syllable basic roots for the core, but not limiting the language only to that possibility.
    In my opinion a language with 20 consonants and five clear cut vowels would be very practical. One syllable roots give too little space for creating enough words. They should be reserved for the most used words. Less used words would require two and three syllable roots. Scientific and technological words will have to be even longer.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I have read many enough opinions from native English speakers insisting that English is superior to other languages.
    I have never come across one. Perhaps you would care to offer some quotes.

    Is there anything equivalent to this well-known quote by Antoine Rivarol: "Ce qui n'est pas clair n'est pas français; ce qui n'est pas clair est encore anglais, italien, grec ou latin."?

    The inclusion of Latin would I think have surprised English scholars who were contemporaries of Rivarol, as around the same time they were imposing Latin grammar on English, the effects of which linger today. Rivarol is typical of many in thinking that if a language does not make the same distinction as ones own that it is defective, and that if it makes distinction that ones own does not it is cluttered. Each language needs to be considered complete and adequate for its native speakers to say what they want to say and be understood. There may be misunderstandings, but I would be surprised if there is any language where misunderstandings are impossible.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I have read many enough opinions from native English speakers insisting that English is superior to other languages
    I believe that this view is very widespread among native English speakers (those that have an opinion on the subject).
    I disagree. But I rarely hear opinions about "the best language". Maybe this is skewed. If 99.98% of people have no opinion about "the best language", the only ones to express an opinion are the people voting for their own native language. They may sometimes be vehement in their patriotism.

    Until recently, any English scholar had to know ancient Latin to be considered a "scholar". This has been gradually diminishing, but as recently as 1960 (in the US) I took two years of ancient Latin in high school.

    From the 1960s to the 1990s anything French was considered superior in the US. Dozens of French phrases were commonly used in English.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    One syllable roots give too little space for creating enough words. They should be reserved for the most used words. Less used words would require two and three syllable roots. Scientific and technological words will have to be even longer.
    This is what has happened in Mandarin Chinese. A few centuries ago, words were 1 syllable (and there were no tones). As more and more words became needed, those 1-syllable words were paired up to form 2-syllable words. Nowadays 80% of the words are 2 syllables, but many of the very common words (of, go, walk, he, it, is, has) are 1-syllable.

    I assume that precise technical terms are longer than two syllables.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    In my opinion a language with 20 consonants and five clear cut vowels would be very practical.
    How many syllables would you get out of "20 consonants and 5 clear-cut vowels"? It depends on your rules for syllables.

    I think the number of syllables matters the most. Chinese only has 416 different syllables, so it needs tones to increase that to around 1,500. English has roughly 15,000 different syllables.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I have read many enough opinions from native English speakers insisting that English is superior to other languages, and this superiority has given and guarantees its function as international language, some entered into discussion and came with quite rude remarks. I believe that this view is very widespread among native English speakers (those that have an opinion on the subject).
    It's not a surprising thought, though. As Nebrija said in the first ever published grammar in Europe, siempre fue la lengua compañera del imperio, language always was the companion of Empires. So thought the Romans about their language, so did the Spaniards (still some may do), so have the French quite often done too. It was customary to either praise the simplicity (whether when referring to the vowel system and spelling in Spanish, or to the changes in English), or the complexity (expressing how the clarity, accuracy or vastness of the syntaxis or lexicon in Spanish/French/English was beyond comparison, and I've also heard things of the like mentioned by speakers of other widespread languages).

    In my opinion a language with 20 consonants and five clear cut vowels would be very practical. One syllable roots give too little space for creating enough words. They should be reserved for the most used words. Less used words would require two and three syllable roots. Scientific and technological words will have to be even longer.

    In fact, it'd probably be more sensible to reserve one-syllable roots for derivational affixes, and make most semantic words two or three syllables long.

    Scientific vocabulary would be something to deal with in a different way. And the hard decision should be made whether to build compounds out of words from the language itself or combine them with loanwords provided they're very widespread. This is something Esperanto has always hesitated about. My opinion is that consistency is probably better than internationality in this case. Otherwise some words would follow one way, some a different one, and the whole picture would be too chaotic again.
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Kurdish
    What are people’s opinions on constructed languages? Has anyone here studied one?

    I’ve never studied one, nor do I find the idea appealing.
    Do you see any draws or benefits to them?
    yeah , yes ! I deal with such creations & developments.
    won't comprehensively explain (unfortunately because these developments mostly and commonly contains technical contexts too , at least mines. )
    the second question can be replied and broadened and also simplified by this explanation. (I am sure you will understand the point because it is easy, but I will try to (re)explain further if not)

    * you can take the computer language as sample to see it much more simpler. yes it is computing language.
    (binary system)


    mines presumably will be more and more complex.
    In fact, I find it almost offensive.
    it conforms with the existing scientific contexts. not really offensive. Remember please the definition of "language" it is about coding (i.e. cryptic/cryptographic communication)


    I’m also not sure I see any point or benefit to constructed languages. An artificial lake at least serves some purposes. What purposes do constructed languages serve?

    actually artificial / constructed languages are in the same function both by its definition.
    If it’s about creating a language that’s easy to learn because its grammar, vocabulary, or whatever else is simple, again, I’m sure there’s at least one natural language that already meets whatever need the constructed language is supposed to meet.
    ? (I could not see any question there, but explanation for some keywords:
    ease,simple: this is changing from one by one. I do not know any easeness defined by quantitative measurements
    grammar: this is being protected in constructed languages but as said I did not see any question
    natural language : what does this mean? did you mean Non artifical language by natural ? if so, one more time check please the definition of "language")

    How do others feel about constructed languages? Do you see any draws or benefits to them?
    general explanation:

    only possiblities: I think they can be or already are much wider than expected or predicted.
    and why not to benefit them world widely?
    assume a language known by every person all around the world? (This is not currently available but to me possible.)

    notation: I did not read the previous comments
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    you can take the computer language as sample to see it much more simpler. yes it is computing language.
    "Computer languages" are not "languages". Human languages communicate information (and emotions, etc.). Computer languages do not. Computer languages are used by humans to give commands (instructions) to computers. That is their only purpose. High-level computer languages (C++, java, python, Fortran, APL, etc.) are written in a convenient format for humans to use, then are automatically translated by "compiler" programs into machine language, which computers can run (execute; perform).

    For example the mathematics formula "A = B" and its English phrase "A equals B" express the same meaning: that the value of A is the same as the value of B.

    But the computer language statement "A = B;" doesn't mean that. It is a command to evaluate B, then assign that value to A. It is a command to change the value of A.

    (binary system)
    "Binary" is not a computer language. It is a number format. It means the same as "base 2". For example, the number written as "14" in our normal "base 10" system is written as "01110" in binary (base 2).
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    natural language : what does this mean? did you mean Non artifical language by natural ?
    In this thread discussion, "natural language" means a language that wasn't designed and created. There are about 7,100 of them in the world. The term distinguishes those from constructed languages.

    if so, one more time check please the definition of "language")
    Which definition? For example, the word "language" has 14 definitions (second list) in the WR dictionary:
    language - WordReference.com Dictionary of English

    So the reference to "the definition" does not express a meaning.
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Kurdish
    C++, java, python, Fortran, APL, etc.
    these are programming languages ,which I use some of them. These are not languages yes.(But to a point of my view, if we accept the producted computers as creatures :) ,then it seems like it could be)
    "Binary" is not a computer language.
    I think the point should be clear to what is referred to.

    Though,I can say that as you may be aware;

    symbols , then words and sentences and much bigger bundles are being transported by coding via binary system
    8 bite --> 1 Byte
    1024 Bytes ---> 1 kByte
    1024 kByte --->> 1 Mbyte
    (goes on)
    ...


    In this thread discussion, "natural language" means a language that wasn't designed and created.
    ah , I think that all of languages are designed and created. sure!
    if you do not believe me, then this will eventually reach to the point which the life was started for all alives. And as this will be open to discussions and critiques --->> please go to the commencement point. This is a belief : I reply it as this one: EVERYONE SHOULD BE AND/OR ALREADY FREE TO WHAT TO BELİEVE! :)

    Which definition? For example, the word "language" has 14 definitions (second list) in the WR dictionary:
    language - WordReference.com Dictionary of English

    So the reference to "the definition" does not express a meaning.
    okay, I was using / alluding the definition in cybernetics. sorry for unclearance.
    (it does not exist in the list quick overviewing it)

    I remember as in this form:
    it is encoding type of communication which both the communicator and communicating/communicated parts undferstands the same codes samely.
     
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    Uncreative Name

    Member
    English - United States
    I think the main problem with the argument here is that people are asuming that Constructed Language accounts for nothing more than Auxiliary Languages like Esperanto - the idea of an easily-learnable language for the entire world is optimistic and naïve.

    There are plenty of other types of constructed languages, which can serve several purposes: there are fictional languages like Sindarin or Klingon, programming languages like Java, theoretical languages like Ithkuil, artistic languages like Toki Pona, and more.
    For me, a big part of the beauty of natural languages is that they are organic entities whose development over time is not “manufactured.” I find that incredibly fascinating and profoundly awe-inspiring. In that sense, a constructed language is like an artificial lake.

    I’m also not sure I see any point or benefit to constructed languages. An artificial lake at least serves some purposes. What purposes do constructed languages serve?
    Constructed languages often serve a completely different purpose from natural languages, and as such, they shouldn't really be compared to one another. There are plenty of benefits to constructing languages or studying ConLangs - for learning experience, to enhance a fictional world, to test a hypothesis about a feature - most importantly, though, they are for the personal enjoyment of the creators and of the people who learn them. Video games and movies don't provide much more than entertainment - should we bash the people who make those?
    It is something of a contradiction in terms to make up a language as all languages have evolved organically by people interacting. A complete language can only be something people use.
    Thank you. It's like plastic surgery.
    I understand your concern, but nobody is trying to pass off constucted languages as if they were natural languages, or as if they were "better" than natural languages - except AuxLangs, but I've already expressed that I'm not a fan of those.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I understand your concern, but nobody is trying to pass off constucted languages as if they were natural languages, or as if they were "better" than natural languages - except AuxLangs, but I've already expressed that I'm not a fan of those.
    I do not think that anyone is quite saying that. Rather they are questioning some of the claims made for them.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    The thread topic is "contructed languages", and (as @Uncreative Name says) there are a variety of purposes for them. In each case "bad/good/better" is about how well they accomplish their purpose.

    At some point, the thread veered to the topic of interational auxiliary languages (one language for the world), and whether constructed languages or natural languages were a better idea. Since that is a "future possible situation", everyone's ideas are valid.

    Some constructed languages are the "real" languages of fictional races (Klingons, Romulans, dwarves, elves, Taurens, etc.) so their intended purpose is limited to making the fictional race seem more realistic.

    Computer languages are not "languages" in the normal sense (conveying information; expressing emotions), but they are good for their intended purpose: commanding computer operations.

    Some constructed languages have the purpose of being an auxiliary language. Others have the purpose of logical thinking. Others have other purposes.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I think that in respect to the idea of constructed language as universal language, there is one thing that seems to be overlooked. There are two possible domains to use a lingua franca: that connected to a specific activity (trade, politics, science and engineering; today, the global tech related to software and networks - that is, the domain of English, where this rationalistic language plays its role successfully. Take an average formal narrative: automatic translation works well just because one the same patterns are mainly used, regardless of the source language - and, as long all sides share the same templates in their wording (and in their thinking) that can be successfully auto-translated into English, they can just use English.

    Another domain is the informal, everyday, and literary, language - and here, to me it is evident that a universal language will never ever succeed, because the conception is self-contradictory: such language cannot be neutral. Each human language, at least on the level of group/family, uses individual approaches that are formally visible as syntax, informational structure, verb aspects/moods/tenses and so on - but actually these features manifest different ways of conceptualization of reality - and individual features of this kind simply cannot be combined or averaged. You may reason about which word order is the best - but there is no such thing as the word order in terms of a general determinant, because a lot of languages strongly rely on topic-comment relation and not on subject- and object-oriented pattern of Germanic languages as English. Speaking of European languages, there are different approaches to the way verbs forms reflect events, differing in Germanic, Romance and Slavic family, and, again, you cannot combine these - unless only you want everybody to think in English (and Esperanto, at least in its basics, is rather a Germanic language in respect to verb system, than a Romance one - and this is telling about who benefits; I suppose it was an early attempt of the globalist project). It is like with electrons - these can be thought as either particles or waves, but not both; and even if one implements a conception that generalizes these two, it will be anyway a totally new concept - where neither particle nor wave is the basis upon which the whole concept is built, but rather some other idea is.

    There is no unified, all-human approach to reality and never will be as it would lead to cultural stagnation. And, you couldn't keep people from natural altering the universal language in process: as long as their mentalities are different, they would anyway cause it breaking into branches, and repeat the Tower of Babel story. To impose a common language, you need to impose a common mentality - but for that, you need a common language first, for them to adopt this new mentality - and this vicious circle saves humanity from globalizators.
     
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    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Post 145 touches on some interesting questions ranging over the fields of linguistics, philosophy and psychology/neuroscience.

    I do not think that individual languages "manifest different ways of conceptualization of reality". What they do is classify human experience in difference ways. "Conceptualization of reality" is a metaphysical exercise which is not language dependent. If it were, then each language would only have one concept of reality. That that is manifestly not the case is shown by Ancient Greek philosophy which was all conducted in the same language but produced many different and mutually exclusive concepts of reality.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I do not think that individual languages "manifest different ways of conceptualization of reality". What they do is classify human experience in difference ways. "Conceptualization of reality" is a metaphysical exercise which is not language dependent. If it were, then each language would only have one concept of reality.
    I agree in the sense that that was actually a loose and infelicitous wording of mine. But anyway, if you and I have had the same experience, but, in our modelling of that experience, we use different patterns, based on language-specific principles, we could say that our experience differs - at least in terms of perception; in reality we did pragmatically the same thing, but perceived it in a little different way, so that some components of the reality were highlighted and became a skeleton of the sentence syntax and/or were underlined in lexis, while other components were ignored, in each language differently. And, if to take some extreme cases into account, it well may be that a certain language has no pattern for a certain category of human experience at all - which, to me, shows that speakers ignore the related side of reality and thus lack the experience. I've read about that linguist - Elliott was his name, if I remember correctly, who examined a language of tribal communities in S.America and was surprised that they have no concept of count. For us modern people, it could be weird - to not use count as such - but it is pretty simple actually: once one has no trade and no specific reflexion related to distribution, they need no numbers, and are satisfied with dichotomies as "(not)enough" or "little/a lot" and actually cannot tell five items from six of them, visually.

    We can argue about that whether there is one and the same objective reality or not - but it is not that important. We perceive and focus on one things and reject other things. But, language is a finite set of values, in terms of its core as limited by the length of forms and constructions and the need to avoid phonetic ambiguity, so speakers are destined to select one things and reject other - not only in respect to lexical values, but as well in that which are the starting points and determinants in images people use to share. Yes, the basic set can be extended - and, say, chemistry uses its own sub-syntax, but, it is anyway built upon a basic grammar and is mixed in speech with ordinary predication - and so with topicalization, tenses/aspects and other intrinsic patterns. Same principle is true for the Greek philosophy - it is not a measure of things, otherwise everything written in India and China could be easily classified as subdivision of the Greek philosophy or of European thought in general as the most advanced (although I think that many Western thinkers proceed form exactly this point - "they are like us but only represent the same things in a ridiculous manner").

    We can in principle convey another perspective using one and the same language. Suppose you had an unusual experience and want to tell other people about it: you would use tricky combinations of words and other non-standard means, and, to some degree you would succeed, regardless of the particular language - but, only to some degree. Poetry is also about it. The need in these tricks arises because the core of language is centered around an experience that is common and shared by all or most of the speakers - so there is a correlation between experience and language. Languages are different not only lexically but grammatically - and this means that things around which languages are centered, are different. As a rough analogy - one may want to explain all the peculiarities of sexual act to a virgin: something would be clear for her/him, and something would still have no much sense or be conceptualized in a wrong way.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Computer languages are not "languages" in the normal sense (conveying information; expressing emotions), but they are good for their intended purpose: commanding computer operations.
    This is why some languages such as Spanish clearly distinguish between language as a spoken linguistic system (una lengua) and language a code of signs (un lenguaje).

    To impose a common language, you need to impose a common mentality - but for that, you need a common language first, for them to adopt this new mentality - and this vicious circle saves humanity from globalizators.
    I'm not so sure you need a common language to adopt a common mentality. Languages, particularly when close, are prone to converge into one single way of expressing things with different words. Specially when there is a diglossic situation, as most languages in the world are.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I don't know that it qualifies as a constructed language but I quite like Interlingua. There's something oddly appealing about being able to read a "Romance language" that you've never studied.
    Out of curiosity I found some text in Interlingua and using Google Translate (meaning there may be some oddities) converted it into various Romance languages and, for good measure, into Latin. With the possible exception of Romanian, I would suggest that anyone knowing any one of the Romance languages could make significant, if not perfect, sense of of the others and the Interlingua. That is to be expected given the subject matter. Does it suggest that Interlingua is unnecessary?

    Interlingua se ha distacate ab le movimento pro le disveloppamento e le introduction de un lingua universal pro tote le humanitate. Si on non crede que un lingua pro tote le humanitate es possibile, si on non crede que le interlingua va devenir un tal lingua, es totalmente indifferente ab le puncto de vista de interlingua mesme. Le sol facto que importa (ab le puncto de vista del interlingua ipse) es que le interlingua, gratias a su ambition de reflecter le homogeneitate cultural e ergo linguistic del occidente, es capace de render servicios tangibile a iste precise momento del historia del mundo. Il es per su contributiones actual e non per le promissas de su adherentes que le interlingua vole esser judicate.

    Interlingua se ha separado del movimiento para el desarrollo y la introducción de un idioma universal para toda la humanidad. Si uno cree o no que un idioma para toda la humanidad es posible, si uno cree o no que Interlingua se convertirá en tal idioma es totalmente irrelevante desde el punto de vista de la propia Interlingua. El único hecho que importa (desde el punto de vista de la propia Interlingua) es que Interlingua, gracias a su ambición de reflejar la homogeneidad cultural y, por tanto, lingüística de Occidente, es capaz de prestar servicios tangibles en este preciso momento de la historia del mundo. Es por sus contribuciones actuales y no por las promesas de sus adherentes que Interlingua desea ser juzgada.

    A Interlíngua se destacou do movimento pelo desenvolvimento e introdução de uma linguagem universal para toda a humanidade. Se alguém acredita ou não que uma língua para toda a humanidade é possível, se alguém acredita ou não que a Interlíngua se tornará tal língua é totalmente irrelevante do ponto de vista da própria Interlíngua. O único fato que importa (do ponto de vista da própria Interlíngua) é que a Interlíngua, graças à sua ambição de refletir a homogeneidade cultural e, portanto, linguística do Ocidente, é capaz de prestar serviços tangíveis neste preciso momento da história do mundo. É por suas contribuições atuais e não pelas promessas de seus adeptos que a Interlíngua deseja ser julgada.

    Interlingua s'est détachée du mouvement pour le développement et l'introduction d'une langue universelle pour toute l'humanité. Que l'on croie ou non qu'une langue pour toute l'humanité est possible, que l'on croie ou non que l'interlingua deviendra une telle langue est totalement hors de propos du point de vue de l'interlingua elle-même. Le seul fait qui importe (du point de vue d'Interlingua lui-même) est qu'Interlingua, grâce à son ambition de refléter l'homogénéité culturelle et donc linguistique de l'Occident, est capable de rendre des services tangibles à ce moment précis de l'histoire de monde. C'est sur ses apports actuels et non sur les promesses de ses adhérents qu'Interlingua souhaite être jugée.

    Interlingua si è distaccata dal movimento per lo sviluppo e l'introduzione di una lingua universale per tutta l'umanità. Che si creda o meno che sia possibile una lingua per tutta l'umanità, che si creda o meno che l'Interlingua diventerà tale lingua è del tutto irrilevante dal punto di vista dell'Interlingua stessa. L'unico dato che conta (dal punto di vista della stessa Interlingua) è che Interlingua, grazie alla sua ambizione di riflettere l'omogeneità culturale e quindi linguistica dell'Occidente, è in grado di rendere tangibili servizi in questo preciso momento della storia dell'Occidente mondo. È dai suoi attuali contributi e non dalle promesse dei suoi aderenti che Interlingua desidera essere giudicata.

    Interlingua s'ha desvinculat del moviment pel desenvolupament i la introducció d'una llengua universal per a tota la humanitat. Que hom cregui o no que una llengua per a tota la humanitat és possible, que l'interlingua esdevindrà o no una llengua és totalment irrellevant des del punt de vista de la mateixa interlingua. L'únic fet que importa (des del punt de vista de la mateixa Interlingua) és que Interlingua, gràcies a la seva ambició de reflectir l'homogeneïtat cultural i, per tant, lingüística d'Occident, és capaç de prestar serveis tangibles en aquest precís moment de la història de la món. És per les seves aportacions actuals i no per les promeses dels seus adherents que Interlingua vol ser jutjada.

    Interlingua s-a desprins de mișcarea pentru dezvoltarea și introducerea unui limbaj universal pentru întreaga umanitate. Dacă cineva crede sau nu că o limbă pentru întreaga umanitate este posibilă, dacă cineva crede sau nu că Interlingua va deveni o astfel de limbă este total irelevant din punctul de vedere al Interlingua în sine. Singurul fapt care contează (din punctul de vedere al Interlingua însuși) este că Interlingua, datorită ambiției sale de a reflecta omogenitatea culturală și, prin urmare, lingvistică a Occidentului, este capabilă să ofere servicii tangibile în acest moment precis al istoriei lume. Interlingua dorește să fie judecată după contribuțiile sale actuale și nu după promisiunile adepților săi.

    Interlingua a motu se abduxit ad progressionem et introductionem linguae universalis pro omni humanitate. Utrum aliquis credat linguam pro omni humanitate fieri posse, sive non credit interlinguam talem sermonem futurum esse, ab ipso Interlinguae respectu prorsus nullius momenti. Solum quod res (ex ipsa Interlinguae parte) est quod Interlingua, ob suam ambitionem culturam et sic homogeneitatem linguisticam Occidentis reflectendi, capax est reddere operas tangibiles hoc temporis momento in historia. orbem. Praesentibus contributionibus et non suorum promissionibus Interlingua iudicari vult.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I can't read Portuguese or Spanish Wikipedia pages without the aid of a dictionary. On the other hand, the Interlingua Wikipedia has never caused me any serious problems. Make of that what you will.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I'm not so sure you need a common language to adopt a common mentality. Languages, particularly when close, are prone to converge into one single way of expressing things with different words. Specially when there is a diglossic situation, as most languages in the world are.
    The keyword here is "when close" - and my point was primarily the syntax/morphology and underlying informational structure. To me, the culture and mentality of China or Japan pretty much differs from the European ;the languages differ pretty much as well - is it merely a coincidence?

    Yes, languages can converge, but gradually, and at a certain stage this touches only some aspects of them; if there are some mutually exclusive features, these features cannot be mixed.

    Take for instance, grammatical gender, absent in English, but prominent in many languages; in the Slavic family, it requires agreement of adjectives and verbs, which in turn prevents using genderless nouns like "one friend of mine said..." - so in Russian, you would always know at once, if the friend was male or female - not speaking of the idea of implementing multiple gender pronouns - and, I guess this has something to do with mentality, at least in terms of possibility of altering it, isn't it? And you can't just remove genders from the grammar, because the rich morphology provides the ability to change the word order, which is necessary for the topic-comment structure - and the latter is the actual basis in these languages, so to remove genders means to remove everything.

    As for converging, it takes place but I think it is also has to do with the mindset. In Russian, we don't say "I have something", but "At-me-(there is) something" (which finely complies with the approach in the Slavic languages where an adverbial phrase sets the environment is set first as a topic), however, most Slavic languages sitting in Europe, adopted the subject-oriented "I have", while the Eastern ones use that impersonal "at me is" - and in the well-known country where the war is going today, this division is geographical - and, I believe, is correlating with the mind-setting as well. A speculation of mine, of course, but, we talk about correlation.

    Take verbs - it is the basis of a language, you use a verb in literally every sentence. In Spanish you use the Romance/Greek verb concept, based on the opposition Imperfect-Aorist (regardless of the language-specific names), where the key point is whether the viewpoint is located within the "body" of the action, or, that action is rather seen from outside as a past fact. In Slavic languages, the principle is similar, but the key point is whether there was an explicit transition to the final state which then holds as the current one - so the concept is not about the relation between the event and the viewpoint, but about how the action itself looks. In Germanic languages, an event is rather a temporal object that can be multiplied with the help of adverbials in the context - and even though English uses the Progressive form, it is not the same as Imperfect, as it is based on the idea of a fraction of process, and is working actually as a sort of temporal adjective. English lacks a dichotomy as that in the above families, and is highly subject-oriented. We can't say "ah, this is just some formal grammar nuances" because it is the core. My interest are verb forms and events, and to me it is evident that people use different mental models. There were experiments showed that even across the I-E languages, speakers build the imagery of sentences differently. This doesn't mean, of course, that we are like aliens compared to each other, but anyway the grammar affects the approach to the reality.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    The keyword here is "when close" - and my point was primarily the syntax/morphology and underlying informational structure. To me, the culture and mentality of China or Japan pretty much differs from the European ;the languages differ pretty much as well - is it merely a coincidence?
    Well, I think we're dealing with the opposite end when talking about East Asia with regard to Western Europe. (I'm talking here about main 'civilization mindsets'; the real specific opposite ends probably are to be found in languages spoken by small human groups in long-time isolated places, which are fewer and fewer by the day)
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Well, I think we're dealing with the opposite end when talking about East Asia with regard to Western Europe. (I'm talking here about main 'civilization mindsets'; the real specific opposite ends probably are to be found in languages spoken by small human groups in long-time isolated places, which are fewer and fewer by the day)
    In terms of the extent and amount of noticeable differences, you could be right, but this anyway does not negate the fact that, once you cannot remove grammatical gender from Russian or add it to English without ruining the whole matrix in either of these languages, you cannot combine these - and so a colang aimed to be an intermediate, is simply impossible without being biased towards a certain language - as no concept is there that could be an in-between in respect to genders and stuff. The same is true for verbs in Germanic and Romance families - if you want an intermediate colang between two languages from these groups, you have to choose either the Germanic or the Romance approach to verbs. So it appears that the probability of a truly unbiased solution is in direct proportion to the similarity in grammar, and actually things can work only for the same family - ideally, with the syntax/morphology almost coinciding, at least in function - and the trick is that in such cases, the vocabulary as well appears so close that the speakers understand each other well and just do not need a colang.
     
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    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    What are people’s opinions on constructed languages? Has anyone here studied one?

    I’ve never studied one, nor do I find the idea appealing.

    I’m averse to the whole concept of constructed languages. In fact, I find it almost offensive.

    For me, a big part of the beauty of natural languages is that they are organic entities whose development over time is not “manufactured.” I find that incredibly fascinating and profoundly awe-inspiring. In that sense, a constructed language is like an artificial lake.

    I’m also not sure I see any point or benefit to constructed languages. An artificial lake at least serves some purposes. What purposes do constructed languages serve?

    If it’s about creating a community of people united by a common language, there are plenty of existing natural languages that can be jointly learned for that purpose.

    If it’s about creating a language that’s easy to learn because its grammar, vocabulary, or whatever else is simple, again, I’m sure there’s at least one natural language that already meets whatever need the constructed language is supposed to meet.

    I would much rather see a community of people studying one of the world’s many lesser-studied and/or endangered languages than see artificial languages constructed and studied.

    How do others feel about constructed languages? Do you see any draws or benefits to them?
    I find them offensive, as they amount to an attempt to destroy cultures and languages.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    I’m not sure English is any more dominant in Ireland now than it was in the 1890s, to be honest.
    Well, it is. In 1926, when the Irish Free State became independent, 16% of Irishmen lived in fully-Irish-speaking areas (na fíor-Ghaeltachtaí) and a further 3% lived in the partly-Irish-speaking areas (na breac-Ghaeltachtaí). Nowadays, 80,000 of 5m live in the Gaeltacht, but within the Gaeltacht itself, Irish has withered, and it is now claimed only 20,000 people live in truly Irish-speaking areas. This is 0.4% of the population.
     

    S.V.

    Senior Member
    Español, México
    an attempt to destroy cultures and languages
    Irish has withered... only 20,000 people live in truly Irish-speaking areas
    What a sad contrast. If sad were not such an empty word. May Irish survive another hundred years. De corazón.

    On the other two pages, the answer seems tied to the difference between what is possible, and what we are capable of.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Well, it is. In 1926, when the Irish Free State became independent, 16% of Irishmen lived in fully-Irish-speaking areas (na fíor-Ghaeltachtaí) and a further 3% lived in the partly-Irish-speaking areas (na breac-Ghaeltachtaí). Nowadays, 80,000 of 5m live in the Gaeltacht, but within the Gaeltacht itself, Irish has withered, and it is now claimed only 20,000 people live in truly Irish-speaking areas. This is 0.4% of the population.
    This is correct (I think the number of true native speakers living in Irish-speaking areas is nearer the 50,000 mark). However, the overall picture is somewhat more complicated. While Irish has withered as a native language, it is now spoken by hundreds of thousands of people as a second language (particularly those who are educated through the medium of Irish in Gaelscoileanna). It has also experienced a new lease of life in Northern Ireland thanks to the importance attached to Irish culture in Nationalist communities.

    We therefore have very many people who speak Irish Gaelic with Irish English accents. Whether this is a healthy development is debatable. There are ongoing exchanges between Irish and Scottish Gaelic speaking areas (including between BBC Alba and TG4), which is a good thing. For too long both languages evolved in relative isolation despite being broadly mutually intelligible (particularly Ulster Irish and Scottish varieties).
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    ...but anyway the grammar affects the approach to the reality.
    I need to be convinced! If you mean by "reality" something like the nature of being/existence then I do not think that language comes into it. As I mentioned above, the Ancient Greeks had many different ideas about reality in this sense. The same observation can be made about philosophies recorded in Chinese, a language quite different from Greek. And if talking about the Far East, Chinese and Japanese are as different from each other as each is from English.

    If you are thinking of something more mundane, then I do not think it is the case, except possibly trivially, that a person's language affects the way they experience the world as they go about their daily business, or even when they are in speculative mode. Language is an act of classification. Our experience of the world is so complex that it is not surprising that there are countless ways of classifying it. A basic experience for all humans is that things do things and have things done to them. Every language can tell us clearly if the dog is chasing the cat or the cat is chasing the dog. When you go beyond that it becomes a question of what in any language must be expressed and what is routinely left out, the important point being that what is left out is often implied or can be supplied if required.

    Unlike English, French has no continuous forms of the verb. The fact that French has no continuous form of the verb does not mean that a native French speaker cannot perceive the difference between an action which is progressive or continuous and one which is not.

    Languages with grammatical gender often afford the speaker the opportunity without using extra words to indicate whether the person spoken about is male or female. Spanish, for example, can distinguish between a male and female neighbour by using either vecino or vecina. Whilst English does make some natural gender distinctions, it does not do so to the same extent as Spanish. If I want to make it clear the neighbour I am talking about is female I have to spell it out. The fact that English does not require you to distinguish between male and female neighbours does not mean that a native speaker cannot conceive of a neighbour as being male or female. (For the record, the Spanish system is not in fact that straightforward as vecino can refer to both a male neighbour and any neighbour whether male of female, while vecina definitely refers to a female.)

    One can make the same points about any aspect of grammar. English lacks classifiers, ergative alignment, evidential markers, inalienable possession marking and conjugating adjectives, amongst other features. Does anyone natively speaking a language with any of those features perceive the world differently from a native English speaker?

    To get back to conlangs, given the wide variety of features languages display (see previous paragraph) the idea that you can come up with something which is some sort of a compromise is surely fanciful. A camel is often jokingly referred to as a horse designed by a committee. If you try to please everyone with your conlang you will end up with a camel.
     
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