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Language

Diinlang Numeral Ideas 2.1

It is probably overdue that we revisit the numerical system of Diinlang.
My first attempts in this direction were admittedly Eurocentric. This was partially done to have some connection with the SI system of prefixes. One objection to this is some of these prefixes have more general and less specific uses. Some of these are only partially related to their numerical use. A mega-city has ten million people, not a million. A microwave wavelength can be anything from a millimetre to a metre. Uses such as microscope, microchip and micro-surgery have little to do with the numerical value. In Diinlang mu may be used instead of micro for units of 0.000001.
I was watching reruns of QI recently, and there was mention of the idea that the Chinese and Japanese languages made mathematics easier. (I have also come across suggestions that the Chinese names for geometric shapes were easier to learn, not being based on Greek. That is a topic for another day!)
Part of the Asian proficiency for mathematics is claimed to be due to the words for numerals.
“Because as human beings we store digits in a memory loop that runs for about two seconds…Chinese number words are remarkably brief. Most of them can be uttered in less than one-quarter of a second (for instance, 4 is ‘si’ and 7 ‘qi’) Their English equivalents—”four,” “seven”—are longer: pronouncing them takes about one-third of a second. The memory gap between English and Chinese apparently is entirely due to this difference in length.”
Using short words for Diinlang numbers may have advantages.
The number system of Chinese and Japanese is logical and easy to learn. Eleven translates as “ten-one”, twelve as “ten-two”, Twenty one as “two ten-one” and so on. This system also has advantages:
“Gladwell dares, “Ask an English seven-year-old to add thirty-seven plus twenty two, in her head, and she has to convert the words to numbers (37 + 22). Only then can she do the math: 2 plus 7 is nine and 30 and 20 is 50, which makes 59. “Ask an Asian child to add three-tens-seven and two tens-two, and then the necessary equation is right there, embedded in the sentence. No number translation is necessary: it’s five-tens nine,” he asserts.”
Ordinals are created by just prefixing the number with “bi” (sequence). First = sequence one, thirds = sequence three and so on.
Fractions have the form “Of x, take y”, so three fifths is “of five, take three”.
For SI compatibility, Diinlang numerals would be based around thousands rather than the Asian system of ten-thousands. Arabic numerals will be used.
The article quoted from above seems to suggest Cantonese numbers are quicker than Mandarin. These may prove a good place to start for Diinlang. Some Chinese number names are renamed for clearer phonetics. In Mandarin these are 0 (ling): renamed 洞 (dòng) 1 (yi): renamed 幺 (yāo) 2 (er): renamed 两 (liǎng) 7 (qi): renamed 拐 (guǎi) 9 (jiu): renamed 勾 (gōu).

0: 零 (ling4) lihng Diinlang zeru, oh
1: 一 (jat1) yaat Dinlang un
2: 二 (ji6) yih Diinlang biy or by. Possible alternate: dua
3: 三 (saam1) saam Diinlang tri (short terminal -i, so sounds like tree). Tre may be more practical
4: 四 (sei3) sei Diinlang tet
5: 五 (ng5) ngh Diinlang fy, if not too similar to by. f looks like 5? Possible alternate: senk
6: 六 (luk6) luhk poss. sis memory aid: s looks a little like 6
7: 七 (cat1) chaat Diinlang hep
8: 八 (baat3) baat Diinlang either baa or baat. memory aid B looks like 8
9: 九 (gau2) gau  Diinlang gau memory aid g looks like 9
10: 十 (sap6) sahp Diinlang dek
100: 一百 (jat1 baak3) Possible alternative “sto”, already used by a number of languages. Since Diinlang does not use “c” a word beginning with “h” might be better. Hek from Hekto?
1000: 一千 (jat1 cin1) Diinlang: should begin with K. for correlation with SI. The word Kilo is already well established as a unit of mass.

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Language

Sapir on IALs

My colleague on this project is fond of referring to Sapir’s essay on international auxiliary languages.
Sapir spends much of the essay proving that English or French grammar is not as simple as is sometimes claimed. His examples are interesting, but if you have ever been caught out by English’s many homophones or heterographs, or the 13% of words that are not spelt as they sound, you probably did not need so much convincing!
For my money, the most useful section is:
“What is needed above all is a language that is as simple, as regular, as logical, as rich, and as creative as possible; a language which starts with a minimum of demands on the learning capacity of the normal individual and can do the maximum amount of work; which is to serve as a sort of logical touchstone to all national languages and as the standard medium of translation. It must, ideally, be as superior to any accepted language as the mathematical method of expressing quantities and relations between quantities is to the more lumbering methods of expressing these quantities and relations in verbal form. This is undoubtedly an ideal which can never be reached, but ideals are not meant to be reached: they merely indicate the direction of movement.”
His remarks that “A common creation demands a common sacrifice, and perhaps not the least potent argument in favour of a constructed international language is the fact that it is equally foreign, or apparently so, to the traditions of all nationalities.” is also worth understanding. Many IAL projects have floundered because they too closely resemble an existing natural language, with various historical, patriotic or nationalistic baggage.
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Language

Some Ideas for Diinlang

I have had a number of ideas about Diinlang, but many are not worth a full blog post, and often I forget to jot them down and forget them.
I will attempt to recall some of them and will add some additional ideas and reflections.

Object Marking

A way to optionally designate the object of a sentence has been mentioned before. Rather than a suffix, I think a better route would be a particle, such as “om”. Is there a need for a distinction between direct and indirect objects? Probably not, since this will often be signified by their position in a sentence.

Agent Nouns

Agent-nouns are formed from verbs by the addition of -or for an animate creature, -er for an inanimate. The former can be gendered as -oro or -ora. Thus: “Ye kuker per ye kukoro” = “A cooker for a (male) cooker (chef).”

Complimentary Word Pairings

An idea I have not made much use of is that of reversed, complimentary words. For example, the genitive particle “vo” was derived by reversing the letters of “ov”, the phonetic rendition of “of”. Of course, currently “ov” is not used in Diinlang. Such a system could be used more in Diinlang, but for which specific word pairs.

Modifiers

In English, we often contract phrases “the wrong way”. “Automatic pistol” becomes “automatic”, giving no help as to the nature of the item to a non-native not familiar with the contraction. In Diinlang, where a noun and modifier combine to make a compound noun it may be prudent that one word takes its adverbial, adjective or genitive form. “hairy restorer”, “spider vo web” etc. An idea to further investigate.
It would facilitate learning and use of Diinlang if most modifiers had a distinctive form. While it is not necessary to distinguish between adjectives and adverbs, it may be necessary to distinguish between different types. Diinlang (and other ALs) would benefit from a breakdown of all modifier uses. Something similar for the various verb tenses and aspects would also be useful. Sapir mentions “point” and “linear”-aspects of speech. How would Diinlang deal with these, and how would the latter overlap with the habitual, for example?
Nouns and verbs that are used as modifiers will change form, probably taking a suffix. Logically, modifiers that are used as nouns or verbs should change form. Words that are primarily verbs or nouns do not change. As in English, such verbs can be used as nouns by adding a determiner or article, or used as verbs. Words that have a dual use as both adverbs and determiners would not change.
Sapir has the interesting observation on noun formation from modifiers: “English, for instance, has a great many formal resources at its disposal which it seems unable to use adequately; for instance, there is no reason why the suffix -ness should not be used to make up an unlimited number of words indicating quality, such as `smallness’ and `opaqueness,’ yet we know that only a limited number of such forms is possible. One says `width,’ not `wideness’; `beauty,’ not `beautifulness.’”

Flesch

Diinlang must also be relevant to how it will be used. This includes use on-line. Factors such as readability will contribute to this. Flesch Readability scores suggest that most words should have three syllables or less, and sentences be under 25 words. To facilitate the latter there must be clear ways to link the thread of consecutive sentences. Consider the English sentence: “The dog chased the ball into the lake. It was cold and wet.” Grammatically correct, but also unclear as to what was cold and wet. The dog, the ball or the lake? We may need pronouns that can be used to indicate if it was the subject, direct object or indirect object that is the subject of a following sentence.

Evidentiality

The Pirahã language has the interesting feature that it can be specified if an action was personally witnessed, deduced from circumstantial evidence, or based on here-say. Certain usages in Diinlang I would like to see as less specific than traditional languages. It is more accurate to say “the house appears/seems red” than “the house is red”. The house may just be reflecting the light of the setting sun.
This property is called Evidentiality. Some thought needs to be given to the most effective way to use this in Diinlang. A family of modal and/or auxiliary verbs might be used.

Also to be considered is the number and forms of evidentiality that will be used. For example:
• Something personally witnessed
• Something that can be proven to be true
• Something that is believed to be true but may not be provable
• Something from an unreliable source, such as internet forums, facebook, Wikipedia, gossip, newspapers, commercial media, etc.