Perfect language:

Total posts: [19]
Okay, I don't remember where, but I read about this artificial language that is totally unambiguous and I want it to be the basis of my secret tongues.

Sorcery is the art of communing with animals and the elements. There are nine secret languages: air tongue, fire tongue, earth tongue, water tongue, spirit tongue, grave tongue, void tongue, moon tongue, and star tongue.

I was wodnering if anyone might know what the language is called.

edited 1st Oct '11 12:00:29 PM by nekomoon14

Level 3 Social Justice Necromancer. Chaotic Good.
Is Lojban what you're looking for?

ETA: ... oops, beaten to the punch. Curses!

edited 1st Oct '11 12:10:00 PM by bluepenguin

You probably want to read _In The Land Of Invented Languages_ by Arika Okrent. She discusses various attempts to make the perfect language, why they failed, and successes and failures in inventing languages. She also compares attempts to make symbolic languages to the writing used in Asia by the Chinese and Japanese.

All attempts to make a perfect language have failed, although one early attempt did end up becoming the Thesaurus. The most successful artificial languages to date have been Esperanto and Klingon.
If it is an unambiguous language you want, you'll want to read the Tractus Logico-Philosophicus but Ludwig Littgenstein. This is a very dense work, so you'll want to read up on symbolic logic first (which isn't too hard), and then keep Littgenstein's book around as a reference for his thoughts on unambiguity.

Computer languages also are unambiguous, although limited because the languages themselves are void of natural concepts.
6 OhSoIntoCats1st Oct 2011 12:31:07 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The thing is though that Klingon was not made to be perfect, it was made to be unusual humans, and it's like the most successful conlang out there. This seems to say something about human capacity for language.
I guess the moral of the story is that you can't make a perfect language.

Klingon probably succeeded because it was made just for fun, and thereby avoided the personality conflicts that derailed almost all other attempts to create an ideal language. Esperanto is a rare exception where the developers of the language managed to avoid thinking of themselves as the language gods and allowed the language to grow.

But the other problem is that there is no way for a language to be perfect. Language concepts just will not be tidily packaged up like that. The other successful attempt ended up not being a language at all, but the Thesaurus, and you can't speak Thesaurus.
Another thing I am currently reading in a book titled _What Language Is_ by John Mc Whorter, is that the "little languages" like Akha, pack a lot of unambiguous meaning in a single word or phrase, while "big languages" like English are very vague. Unfortunately, it is a lot harder to learn a language like Akha because the grammar is so incredibly complicated.

On the other hand, if you are looking for ideas for a secret language, you might want to look at these "little languages". It certainly makes it a lot harder to learn a language if its grammar is a hundred times more complex than Latin.

I've had an idea for my own settings that the Words of Power are in a language that is a thousand times more complicated than even these "little languages", which themselves are simplifications of the original Words of Power. Makes it kind of hard to master, of course.
9 Tzetze1st Oct 2011 01:53:45 PM from a converted church in Venice, Italy
Wittgenstein didn't really stick with that book.


And lojban is only syntactically unambiguous. They specifically didn't even try semantic unambiguity.

edited 1st Oct '11 1:54:12 PM by Tzetze

10 OhSoIntoCats1st Oct 2011 01:53:52 PM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
The thing about larger languages like English is that, well, the theory goes that through contact with lots of other language speaking groups they've simplified. Like, English contact with Nordic languages, at the time they were pretty similar except for the case markers, so they dropped the case markers, and it just continued until it just became simpler and simpler.

It has to do with adult language learners, I think. Children are more easily able to learn all of the complicated unambiguous things — in fact it's implied that these things help children learn — while it's very difficult for adults.
Shadowed Philosopher
I love complex languages and orthographies. I like the tengwar in particular since you can do so much with only a few glyphs; it looks impressive as hell. As regards language, there's no such thing as 'perfect', but if you're going for 'logical' Lojban is a good place to start.
Shinigan (Naruto fanfic)
Also known as Katz
In the absence of perfect concepts to convey, a perfect language is impossible. That is, unless the thing you're trying to say is absolutely precise, there won't necessarily be one best way to say it.

Perhaps that could be the basis for your magical languages? Perfect concepts?
Lojban! that's it! Thanks so much.

[up]That might be a cool idea. "perfect concepts" - I'll look into that.

edited 6th Oct '11 10:57:32 AM by nekomoon14

Level 3 Social Justice Necromancer. Chaotic Good.
14 66Scorpio7th Oct 2011 04:46:27 AM from Toronto, Canada
Banned, selectively
I guess the question is "perfect for what?" My understanding is that Lojban is constructed logically so it 'makes sense' to the extent that various signifiers have a rational basis to them rather than the organic, arbitrary way in which a language like English has been put together over the last 1500 years.

It would be good to base your secret dialect or thieves cant or whatever, on this for use as a common language to communicate between people of a similar profession or organization but whose natural language might be markedly different.

The alternative to a constructed language is a pidgin based on the dominant language, but it won't be very secret.

The third alternative is to use an anchient language. Latin basically filled that role among academics from about the 16th to 19th centuries.

A couple other things to consider is writing and hand gestures. Chinese was primarily a written language but everyone speaks it differently. Chinese movies and TV shows are subtitled. . .in Chinese! You can also look at something like ASL to allow for secret communication that no one can overhear and might not even notice if they are not watching closely.

I thought about the idea of a perfect, unambigous language to be used as part of a magic system but that presented a number of problems. One is that if words themselves have magical power, then it stands to reason that anyone could use magic if they can speak the words or draw the runes. That reduces magic to being an exercise in pronunciation and calligraphy that has little to do with the personal characteristics that one normally associates with a magic user: intelligence, wisdom, force of will, essence of soul etc. As the saying goes, you simply say the magic words and there you are.

As a final note, you can't have a perfectly, semantically unabiguous language for use in the real world because the real world itself is not perfect or in any workable way completely digital to the extent every object in the universe can be associated with one and only one word or combination of words so as to distinguish it from every other object in the universe.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are probably right.
15 Tzetze7th Oct 2011 09:04:13 AM from a converted church in Venice, Italy
[Lojban] 'makes sense' to the extent that various signifiers have a rational basis to them rather than the organic, arbitrary way

No, they didn't try for that. You're thinking of so-called categorical languages, like Ro. Lojban just tries to make sentences grammatically unambiguous, so that something like "Americans eat more than four hundred Africans."* is impossible.

For the actual words, they just mashed together vocabulary from the six most spoken languages. They did take steps to get rid of things like homophones as well, but that's it.

edited 7th Oct '11 9:08:03 AM by Tzetze tells how to create conlangs. I found it while looking around for Lojban.

In Real Life people use minor spells without even paying attention (whether they work or not is another thing). Say a few words while performing a simple action and you can alter your luck. The point of my system is to make it so you at least have to learn a language that will give you influence over the forces you are directing.

Saying "fire attack" in earth tongue will not work, so you have to learn one language at a time. But I want the languages to unambiguous - there should be a clear divide between charm and charisma, a definitive difference. In other words, there should be no chance of misinterpretation.

edited 8th Oct '11 4:55:18 PM by nekomoon14

Level 3 Social Justice Necromancer. Chaotic Good.
17 66Scorpio9th Oct 2011 03:27:46 AM from Toronto, Canada
Banned, selectively

I know more about English than Lojban as I teach ESL and try to explain where all the inconsistencies come from. What I meant, and perhaps I am wrong, is that Lojban seems to incorporate signifiers or tags so that you can identify the parts of speech: subject, verb, object, adjective, adverb etc. English retains pronoun cases from Old English: I/me, he/him, etc. However, many English words can be used as different parts of speech and you have to infer what was meant from the word order, but it could be ambiguous.

This is different than semantic ambiguity where the meaning of the word - when used as a particular part of speech - might not be clear. I'm not sure, but would Mercutio's "I will be a grave man" translate into Lojban and still be a double entendre?
Whether you think you can, or you think you can't, you are probably right.
18 ohsointocats9th Oct 2011 08:01:37 AM from The Sand Wastes , Relationship Status: Showing feelings of an almost human nature
I think if you get rid of ambiguity, you get rid of jokes.

I don't know if that's of so much importance in a "magic" language, but it is something to consider.
19 Tzetze9th Oct 2011 09:40:23 AM from a converted church in Venice, Italy
Oh, that is different. My understanding is that parts of speech are mostly indicated with the form of the word itself (like, gismu which are sort of like verbs are always CVCCV or CCVCV) or if necessary with le words. But yeah.
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Total posts: 19