Simplified Technical English and Conlangs

Regular readers will know that I have an interest in readability. Recently I was reading about Simplified Technical English (STE).
STE essentially has two parts:
• One part is a vocabulary/ dictionary of approved words. More on this in a moment.
• The other part is sometimes described as a grammar or set of rules. It may be more productive and accurate to think of it as a style-guide.
The STE suggestions are worth keeping in mind when you are writing. This should particularly be the case when writing instructions or safety warnings.
Using the approved word list is a little more difficult than applying the rules. There are programs that will check text for you, but these appear to be relatively expensive. Unlike for some other controlled languages, so far I have not been able to locate any free or on-line resources that can check that your text is in STE.

STE and Conlangs

What relevance does STE have to conlangs? One of the big challenges to creating a conlang is constructing a vocabulary. Directly translating words from English often proves far less simple than one might first assume. Many English words have multiple meanings, some of them contradictory. The STE vocabulary assigns a single meaning to an approved word. In most cases an approved word can only be used as one part of speech. The approved STE word list and its definitions therefore may be a very useful starting point for creating the Diinlang vocabulary.
The writing rules illuminate other possible issues with Diinlang. Shorter sentences highlight the need for transition phrases that clearly link different sentences and paragraphs. A system to clearly show if a sentence is addressing the subject, object or indirect object of a preceding sentence would be useful.

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 diis
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.


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.

Some Ideas for Diinlang 2.1

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.


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.'”


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.


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.

Basic Prepositions 2.1

A friend sent me the above graphic. I could not resist sending him the message “Keys are AT home, IN the lounge, ON the table” A perfectly logical statement in English which disproves the proposed rule. Words in English often have multiple meanings, some of them depending on context.
As a matter of fact I had been thinking about prepositions that day. As I typed in song titles in title case, I reflected how it would be nice if all the uncapitalized words belonged to closed groups. It would also be nice if all the prepositions were less than five letters, making the “five letter rule” redundant.
Choice of prepositions in Diinlang needs to be simple. In a previous post I proposed adopting some ideas from Italian. This is an update for Diinlang 2.1, and only deals with a handful of useful prepositions.
In” has a wider range of use than in English. When travelling, you travel in a vehicle rather than by a vehicle. The exception is when you are physically on top of something such as a horse, camel or bike. Then you travel on, rather than by or in. In can be used for when you are within a location, or for during a time period. You would be “in France” or “in Summer”. Italian also uses in for constructions such that indicate travel towards a large area. “Vai in Francia” rather than “go to France”.
On” sees less use as a preposition than in English. It is generally reserved for when physically on an object. You ride on a bike, meet on a bridge or are on a mountain. In most cases that English would use on, in Diinlang the preposition “at” would be used instead. You meet at the high street, at the bank, at one at Tuesday. “Veng” (near) may be used instead. The other use of “on” has the meaning “about”. Rather than having a book about Shakespeare or book of Shakespeare, in Diinlang the translation would be a book on Shakespeare.
At” is used to designate points in space or time, and in most cases replaces the use of “on” in English. It substitutes for “in”, although either can be used when the “within/ during” requirement is met.
Po” means “from” and is derived from “apo” used in a number of other languages. It is used with various verbs and directives for constructions such as “down-from” or “run-from”. Po is used to construct more logical terms. Rather than saying “a play by Shakespeare”, Diinlang would say “a play from/po Shakespeare”. There is no direct equivalent of the English word “by”. Other words are used in Diinlang to create more specific statements.
The use of “per” has been expanded further in Diinlang. It has the meaning “for/to” and now becomes the complement of “po”. It can also have the meanings “during” (per annum), “for each” (per person), “to each/ in each” (per metre, per hour), “in accordance” (per your request), “by means of” (Li skribis per plumo, Sono passato per il centro) and in some cases mean “as, with, by, via”. For the moment I will retain “ad” for “to”, but expect in most cases per can be used instead. Rather than “Book of Records” or “Book of Shakespeare” the Diinlang construction translates as “Book per Records” or “Book per Shakespeare”
De” remains in use as a non-specific preposition, to be used when the use of po or per is uncertain, or to substitute for on, in or at. It is the closest word that Diinlang has for “of” in that it complements “vo”: “Jon vo kanis” means “Jon’s Dog” while “Kanis de Jon” is “Dog of Jon”.

Comparatives and Superlatives: Part Seven (Diinlang 2.1)

For Diinlang 2.1 I will attempt to simplify the comparative and superlative system once again. “Ta” and “ko” remain as the positives, with the meanings of large/big/great and small/little, and hence “taz” and “koz” mean many and few.
The suffix “mo-”, makes a comparative, hence mota, moko, motaz and mokoz have the meanings: bigger, smaller, more-numerous and fewer. To make a superlative add the definite article to the comparative, as is practised in many languages. ie “ve moko”=“the smallest”. For uses such as "most people like coffee" use a constructions such as “remo motaz”. (very many) or whatever word is selected for “majority”.
“Mo” is combined with “re”, the word for “repeat/again” to give a new word for “very”.

Diinlang 2.1 Single Letter Contractions

The other night I was watching “Blue Planet II” again. David Attenborough said something about the majority of the Earth’s animal life living below the twilight level of the oceans. These creatures use light to communicate, making it likely that visual means is the most commonly used communication system on the planet. A few days later a friend notes that most personal communication these days is written. This is another example of visual communication. As I have noted before, many English speakers read at a higher word rate than they listen at.
It is logical that any auxiliary language (auxlang) project consider its visual as well as its phonetic elements. English partially does this already, using alternate characters or spellings to distinguish certain homophones. Consider “click” and “klick” or “saw” and “sore”. While creating new alphabets may be diverting, an auxlang should probably be compatible with the ISO standard alphabet. This approach allows me to utilize the non-phonetic letters for Diinlang.
One of the systems that I have looked at when designing Diinlang is Dutton Speedwords, and related systems such as Yublin. Clearly, making the most commonly used words short contributes to making an auxlang type-friendly. Dutton’s system has its good points and bad. One of the better is how the single letter word for “will”(r) and that for “was”(y) combine to make a word with the meaning “would”(yr).
Below is an attempt at some single letter codes that can be used when writing Diinlang. Since Diinlang uses a syntax that is similar, but simpler than English these letters may also be mixed into English, which is a good way to learn them.
Note that these single letter codes are contractions, rather than single letter words. When spoken, nearly all of them follow the simple rule of taking an “e/i” sound if a consonant and a “h” if a vowel. The exceptions to this rule are few and easily learnt.
    • The pronoun “u” is pronounced “yu”.
    • The pronoun “m” is pronounced or written as either “me” or “em”. They are interchangeable in meaning or use.
    • “y” and “n” mean “yes” and “no”. They may be pronounced “ye” and “ne” but “ya” and “no” are also permitted. These are also alternate written words if not contracted.
    • The non-phonetic letters (c, q, x) are treated as symbols and have pronunciations that must be learnt.
The proposed single letter contractions for Diinlang are:

a: "ah" future tense marker, the equivalent of "will" or "going to" in English. "a-t" gives "ah-te" for "would" and forms a subjunctive tense.
b: "be" verb "to be". a b (ah be) "will be", t b (te be) or bt (be-te) "was".
c: symbol standing for the word "kom", meaning "with".
d: "de" meaning "from", "for", "of". General purpose preposition.
e: "eh" means "and". The symbols "&" or "+" may be used instead and pronounced as "eh".
f: "fe" verb "to do". Placed with another verb creates an infinitive. This is a new change for Diinlang 2.1 and replaces the word "du".
g: "ge" verb "to get", creating passive voice when uses as an auxiliary with another verb.
h: "he" verb "to have", creating perfect tense when used as auxiliary. Note that the vowel sound is very short.
i: pronounced "ih", means "in".
j: "je" indefinite article. means "some". Gendered forms are ja and jo, specific plural jez. "jaz" and "joz" could potentially be used.
k: "ke" relative pronoun "that". This represents other English relative pronouns such as who, what, which.
l: "le" for "to say". "lt" is "le-te" and means "said".
m: "me" or "em" First person pronoun. First person plural pronoun is formed "mz" for "mez" or "emz".
n: "ne" or "no" negator.
o: pronounced "oh" means "or". "eo" is "eh-oh" and means "and/or".
p: "pe" means "per".
q: symbol pronounced as "kwe", means "what"(interrogative or marks a clause or sentence as a question when placed at the start or end. Its resemblance to the Franco-Latin "que" may see it used as a relative pronoun (English "that") or for comparison (like English "than").
r: "re". On its own could be used for the word "again". re- is used at the start of some Diinlang words with the same or similar meaning to its use in English.
s: "se" reflexive pronoun.
t: "te" past tense marker when placed before a verb. Past-passive suffix on adjectives and adverbs. Creates a single word past tense form when used as a suffix on verbs
u: "yu" Second person pronoun "you". Optional plural formed "uz" or "yuz".
v: "ve" definite article, means "the". Gendered as "va" and "vo", plural as "vz" for "vez". "voz" and "vaz" are gendered plurals.
w: Unassigned. Given the problems with pronunciation it causes some nationalities this phoneme may possibly not be used in Diinlang.
x: symbol pronounced "eks" meaning "out".
y: "ya/ye/" means yes. Second form is pronounced "yeh" rather than "yee".
z: "ze" third person pronoun. Becomes zo (he), za (she), plurals are zz/zez, zoz and zaz.

Managing Capitalization

This is a follow on to my last post, with some ideas to make capitalization in English more user-friendly. The core of this seems to be a consistent manner to identify proper nouns and related adjectives. The proposed approach is:
Treat proper nouns as the names of specific things. Often this will apply to an individual item, or a very select grouping. Such proper nouns will be capitalized.
Treat common nouns as generally applying to categories or sub-groupings. A common noun may or may not encompass one or more proper nouns. Common nouns are uncapitalized unless first in a sentence, all the sentence is capitalized or in title case.
This approach still leaves some grey areas and ambiguities. For want of other authorities, whether to capitalize such nouns is left to the writer. Whatever choice is made for each case, the treatment should be applied consistently throughout the document.
All or None: If judged a proper noun, all of the noun phrase will be capitalized. This gives the reader a clear indication of where the proper noun ends. For long proper noun phrases title case format may be used. For ease of reference and accessibility I suggest the system on the Wikipedia Manual of Style be used. Effectively this means capitalize the first and last word. Each word in the clause/ phrase is capitalized unless it is:

  • A definite or indefinite article in a non-initial position.
  • A short coordinating conjunction (FANBOYS).
  • A preposition of four letters or less.
  • The word “to” in infinitives.
Proper nouns may be taken to include, but are not limited to:
  • Proper names, including titles and adjectives that are a part of the name.
  • Titles used in place of proper names. Such incidences are most likely to occur in speech. “Can I get a comment, Senator?”, “I need you Granny.” I am uncertain as to whether this applies to third person statements.
  • Names of specific organized religions and their adherents.
  • Names of specific books, films or other works of art or reference.
  • Names of specific companies, brand names, product or model names. Brand names that have become generic terms are uncapitalized.
  • Names of specific geographical features, including the names of individual mountains, rivers, seas, oceans, valleys.
  • Names of specific roads, streets, buildings, cities, towns, villages, regions.
  • Names of specific countries, counties, areas, continents, nations. Specific names derived from such: Italian Coffee, English Muffin.
  • Names of specific nationalities or ethnicities: Asian, Italian, Mexican American, Caucasian, Black, White.
  • Names of specific days, months and named holidays.
  • Names of specific time periods, historical evens and geological eras. Spanish Civil War, Middle Ages, Boxer Rebellion, Jurassic Era.
  • Names of specific planets, moons, stars or other celestial bodies.
Not usually capitalized:
  • Definite and indefinite articles, unless an integral part of the name: “The Hague”, “The Lord of the Rings”.
  • The names of the seasons, unless personified.
  • The points of the compass and similar terms, unless integral to a name.
  • The designation of centuries: twentieth century, fifteenth century.
  • Common names of animals, plants and other organisms unless they include a proper name. Names of cultivar groups and breeds probably should be capitalized. The latter are often named after regions, anyway.
  • Names of literary or musical genres, unless containing a proper name.
Scientific names are capitalized at genera-level and higher. The second half of a species name is never capitalized, even if derived from a proper name. The subspecies name, if stated, is treated the same as the second part of the species name.
It was once the convention to underline a species name when it was written. In typed format the convention now seems to be to italicize the species name. Hence, the correct format for a scientific name is Homo sapiens idaltu.

As seems inevitable with English, inconsistencies arise. In a sentence such as “The army wants to buy more” the term “the army”, clearly refers to a specific army, such as the US Army or British Army. This would suggest it should be “Army”. The Wikipedia Manual of Style requires “the university” to be uncapitalized in a similar construction. This page suggest that a proper noun should be capitalized except when they are used alone later in the paragraph: “We went fishing on the James River. Later, our family joined us at the river.” This reminds me of how an abbreviation may be used if already introduced in previous text.
Another construction that “feels wrong” is to leave “the pope” uncapitalized. There may be many kings in the world at any time, but usually only one pope. When used in the singular, the title refers to a very specific individual, and the title is effectively substituting for a proper name. The same logic may be applied to “god” when used as a proper name to refer to the Abrahamic diety.

Capital Punishment

In general, it is good to learn new things. I am, however, a little disturbed by how many new things about English I have learnt over the last few years. Given how long I had to spend in school, I might hope that I would have been well-versed in these concepts by the time I graduated. It is a fact that my English teacher never formally taught us the rules of grammar, but I find many other people at a similar or worse level.
Contributing to the situation is that most of “the rules of English grammar” are not rules at all. Many of them are prescriptions; someone’s opinion of how English should or should not be written. Such opinions have many origins. How does on decide whether to accept or ignore a prescription? There are a number of style guides, such as the “Chicago Manual of Style” and Gower’s Plain Words. One may be obligated to follow one of these if writing for certain publications. Most guides differ on various points so whatever you write some of your readers will consider wrong! My personal “acid test” is based on whether a rule or prescription contributes to clarity and comprehension.
Another problem with mastery of English is that at an early age we are sold other lies. Not only are most rules not rules: we are taught false dogma too. “Sound it out” is not useful advice for learning how to spell English words. One in eight English words are not spelt how they are pronounced, and the same phoneme can be represented by a variety of letter combinations. One of the first things I recall writing at primary school used the word “wiv” multiple times.
To my shame, my Achilles’ heel in English is capitalization. I have no problem with beginning a sentence with a capital, nor with capitalizing the pronoun “I”. A fairly recent piece of knowledge is not to capitalize articles, prepositions nor coordinating conjunctions in title case. The problem is proper nouns, and another commonly encountered lie. This lie typically runs something like “Capitalization is simple, simply capitalize proper nouns!” Firstly, most articles entirely fail to mention that there is something called a “proper adjective” too, and that these should also be capitalized, except when they are not! Hence, it is “Italian coffee”, not “italian coffee”. A good rule of thumb is to always capitalize names of nations and nationalities. Some terms like “french fries” are no longer regarded as proper nouns, however. One source I have says “brussel sprouts”, another “Brussel(s) sprouts”!
As for the rules being simple: the US Government Printing Office Style Manual section on capitalization is 17 pages!
Identifying a proper noun is fairly simple when it is a given name or part of it is a given name. Capitalization can clarify, such as the grammar joke about the difference between “Helping Uncle Jack off a horse” and “Helping uncle jack-off a horse”. Place names are fairly clear, until we start using adjectives such as north, south, central etc. A trick here is to replace the compass direction in the phrase with a term such as “southern”. Consider “I know south New York and am from the South Bronx”. The first “south” is a common adjective indicating part of New York, while the second is an integral part of a place name. Family positions such as mother, uncle etc are capitalized when the preceding part of a title, or when used to substitute for a name.
The key word to remember when trying to identify a proper noun or adjective is “specific”. There are many people in the world, but “John Smith” is a specific individual (even though there are thousands of people of the same name).
I will admit, I remain uncertain about some areas. “The cowboy fires his Colt.” is clear. Colt is the name of a specific company, derived from the name of a specific individual. “Colt” here is a contraction of the name of a specific gun model, such as “Colt Peacemaker”. By the same criteria, it is “Armalite” rather than “armalite”. But what about “claymore” as in “claymore mine”? Claymore, the sword, is probably not a proper noun. It is a subcatergory of sword, but not really a specific model or trademark. Claymore the mine is a specific model of mine, but the term is also used for other models that work in a similar fashion. And is a military name a trademark or specific label?
My fallback of clarity and comprehension has only limited use when it comes to capitalization. Capitalization has very little relevance to spoken English. You cannot hear a word is capitalized when written. The only example that I can think of works in the reverse direction, as in when we use capitals to represent a certain word is stressed, such as “…the judge really IS a donkey!”
To confuse matters, the capitalization rules of other languages are different to those of English. German capitalizes all nouns. Other languages and alphabets use different systems or do not bother at all. Although an advocate of a German-based conlang, Molee was in favour of discarding capitals entirely.
Capitals are a visual, rather than a verbal element of communication. This needs to be kept in mind if we are ever going to simplify and rationalize capitalization for English and conlangs. Does it matter if I write “karate” rather than “Karate”, or if I wrote “Claymore Mine, Claymore mine or claymore mine”? In all variants the meaning is clear. On the other hand, “Polish” and “polish” have different meanings, and even differing pronunciations. “Save the Earth!” has a different meaning to “Save the earth! (Grandad wants it to plant some cuttings)”
“Grammar Essentials for Dummies” remarks that capitalization is more about tradition than logic, which gives us a hint on the right direction to take. New capitalization rules need to be simple, consistent, brief and geared towards clarity and comprehension. We need to look at European languages using the Latin alphabet that make less use of capitals than English or German.
What to do in the meantime? Articles on capitalization will sometimes tell you, “If in doubt, look it up”. This would be good advice except most on-line dictionaries do not identify proper nouns, or worse, are inconsistent. Unless you are bound by a particular style guide, my suggestion is to observe that given for capitalization in the Wikipedia Manual of Style. This has the merit that it is easily accessible any time one has an internet connection. Writer's Web provides this quick reference, although some style points may differ.

ACE in Action.

In the previous post I looked at ACE (Attempto Controlled English), with the idea of adapting its grammar to Diinlang. I have found the ACE rules useful for standard English too.
A friend and myself had some fun experimenting with the sentence:
“John and Mary with the dog arrived later.”
In common English this is ambiguous. In ACE we have the rule that “John and Mary” is treated as a single noun phrase and subject. The implication is that John and Mary arrived together, or at least at the same time.
Suppose this was not the case, and we wanted to make this clearer. We might write:
“John, and Mary with the dog arrived later.”
This makes it clear that John is independent of Mary. What is not clear is if Mary has the dog with her, or is just known for being a dog owner. “Mary with the dog” may be an unusual nickname. We can write:
“John, and Mary with her dog arrived later.”
“John, and ‘Mary with the dog’ arrived later.”
and things become clearer.
Using ACE, we worked over a sentence that had been proving a problem for my friend, and were sucessfully able to rewrite and draft some alternatives. This reminded me that I too had a sentence that was proving problematic.
The original sentence was:
“A scout and his bike can easily and quickly be concealed by laying/lying both down under a section of net.”
The main problem her is the verbs “to lay” and “to lie”. One lies oneself, but lays an object. Here we have a subject (a scout) lying themselves and laying a bike. I could write: “A scout and his bike can easily and quickly be concealed by laying the bike and lying himself down under a section of net.” Which would be correct, but is unwieldy and unnatural sounding. 

Firstly, I applied “Can-Prime” to the sentence. Then, applying ACE I placed the adverbs “easily and quickly” to a better position. This gave: “A scout and his bike may be concealed easily and quickly by both laying/lying under a section of net.”
Better, but the main problem of the laying/lying verb remained. ACE regards “the scout and his bike” as a single noun phrase/subject. I think as a person “the scout” has precedence over the bike. I tried playing with different tenses and decided that “had lain” sounded more natural than “had laid”. I also changed “and the bike” to “with a bike”. This made my final sentence:
“A scout with his bike may be concealed easily and quickly by both lying under a section of net.”
Is this “correct”? Doubtless, many will disagree, but the meaning is clear and unambiguous, which should be the objective of any grammatical system.