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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Law Will Allow Eldery to Serve in Combat

WASHINGTON (FPA)- In a mid-morning press conference, the Joint Chiefs of Staff officially anounces the repeal of the military's maximum enlistment age. "For too long, our nation's eldery have been prohibited from serving in combat roles, merely because they lack the strength, endurance, reaction time, and resistance to injury of young men. This new policy will finally end the many decades of official discrimination" General Martin Dempsey spoke.

General Dempsey also reiterated his earlier call for boxing associations to ban weight classes "because there's no reason a 135-lb lightweight can't hold his own against a 250 heavyweight."

 

Friday, January 4, 2013

Why Esperanto Sucks

Perhaps I'm being a bit harsh. I completely agree with the goal of Esperanto to make a universal, easy-to-learn language. Unfortunately, Esperanto has a number of problems:

1. It's basically pidgin Spanish.

People who are familiar with Romance languages will have no trouble learning Esperanto, but most people in the world do not speak a Romance language and have never studied one. Basing a language on Latin is only useful to people who have studied Latin or speak a language related to it.

2. It contains a number of sounds which are nonexistent in other major languages.

Esperanto has many words containing the letter l, which is difficult for Japanese people to pronounce and is interchangeable with r in many other languages. It contains the letter v, which is absent in Japanese, Arabic, and others. It has words containing the "ar"  and "er" sounds- also nonexistent in many major languages. It has the hard h which is nonexistent in French and p which is nonexistent in Arabic. It has the ch from "loch" sound which is also nonexistent in many languages- including almost all dialects of English! It has dipthongs which do not exist in many languages. Bottom line, it has too many sounds.

3. It has too many long words.

Long words are intimidating to students. Yet Esperanto is full of monstrosities such as imperiestro and komecanto. Consonants clusters and long words should be avoided if the goal is ease of learning.

4. Most Esperanto speakers live in Europe.

A person in a country like Ethiopia or Malaysia is going to have a hard time finding anyone nearby who speaks Esperanto. A person in that situation is better off learning English despite the difficulty.

5. It has too many words.

An English-speaking college graduate has an average vocabulary of about 20,000 words- including various derivatives. A Chinese-literate college graduate can recognize about 3,000 ideograms- including ones derived from others. I have a vocabulary of about 2,000 words in Swahili including derivatives which is plenty enough to be fluent. Esperanto has 900 standard roots, which is a step in the right direction, but still about 3 times more than what I'd say is essential.

6. It uses suffixes instead of word order to indicate subject and object.

English, Chinese, Swahili, and many other languages use word order indicate objects. Why throw in an unnecessary case system?

7. It uses the definite article.

Again, unnecessary and nonexistent in many languages.

8. It is not linguistically neutral.

A good universal language should not sound like it was derived from another natural one. It should use words from many different language families. Putting in words from Hindi, Arabic, Japanese, and others will give a few cognates to act as a toe-hold to the learners who speak those languages.

9. It contains the letter s which is difficult for people who lisp.

Letters like s and r should be avoided particularly for the sake of people with speech impediments.



The goal of Esperanto remains valuable, but it cannot be achieved without learning from its shortcomings.







 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A New Constructed World Language

Although no language has succeeded in becoming universal, I still think the goal is possible and worthwhile. Multiple failures does not mean the goal is impossible. There were many unsuccessful attempts to build a flying machine before the Wright brothers.

Additionally, the success of standard Indonesian shows that a planned language can become popular if it is easy to learn.

As an armchair linguist, I decided to take a crack at it. I call my creation Mundobik- worldspeak.

Here are the key principles I used to construct it:

1. A small sound inventory

The vowels are basically the same as in Spanish: a (ah), e (ay), i (ee), o (oh), and u (oo).
The consonants are b, d, k, m, and n.

These sounds occur in all major languages, so there are no new sounds to learn and no need to worry about mispronunciation or accent.

2. Simple grammar

There is no grammatical gender- the pronoun ki can mean "he", "she", or "it". All plurals are regular and are formed by adding the suffix boku, which can also mean "many", "very", or "a lot". Tense and mood are indicated by adverbs. Possession is indicated by the word me. The word ma at the end of a sentence indicates a question and the word imbe indicates a command. The word no is used for negation. The first letter of a sentence and all nouns are capitalized.

3. A small vocabulary drawn from major natural languages

The basic vocabulary is about 300 words with the rest being formed from compounds. Sources include English, Japanese, Spanish, Arabic, Swahili, Russian, Indonesian, and Hindi. Many of the most basic words have multiple meanings. For example, the word da means "yes", "true", and "correct". The word koku means "nation", "tribe", or "group".

Useful phrases in Mundobik

hello                                      
nanu

goodbye                           
amani

How are you?                   
komo u ma?

good, fine                              
bonu

bad                                   
nobonu

OK                                        
oke

yes                                         
da

no                                           
no

My name is...                         
E me namu....

What's your name?                
Ke u me namu ma?          

please                                     
bida

thanks                                    
denku

sorry, excuse me                    
keda

Do you speak mundobik?      
U bik mundobik ma?

My hovercraft is full of eels. 
A e de kudanaba, kuna boku baninokaboku.
(lit: In my jumpboat, there are many watersnakes)