From Lognet, issue 94/3.

Sau La Sacdonsu

(From the Start-Giver = Founder)

Recently we’ve been focusing on the difficulty of learning Loglan. I believe that’s a healthy development. It’s causing us to identify what are evidently some fairly peculiar linguistic problems, and that could lead us to ways of overcoming them. But one can go too far in this back-stiffening direction. There is also, paradoxically, the manifest ease of learning long as it’s elementary, as it is when one is speaking it with other learners on a daily basis. In our rush to confront the dark side of our learning paradox, we shouldn’t forget that it has a bright side, a side that was shown to me during our apprenticeship program in the middle-1970’s.

In those years The Institute was a very different place. One of the biggest differences, let’s face it, was that I was nearly 20 years younger. As it happened I was also a whole lot richer. So I not only had a lot more biological energy to give to Loglan in my 50’s, but my invention, Careers, was also doing fabulously well, and this meant that I had spare income to spend on Loglan if it seemed to me to deserve it. It did; the scientific community’s response to the 1975 books was extremely gratifying; our new journal The Loglanist was generating linguistic inventions at a mile a minute; and we had people knocking on our doors wanting to learn the language. I also had a six-bedroom house in San Diego that had been bought especially to house Loglan activities. (I, like everybody else, expected The Institute to be funded by the National Science Foundation (“NSF”); and so I had made these preparations.) So the apprenticeship program launched in 1977 took place in an atmosphere of bustling optimism.

The program itself didn’t last long: only from Summer 1977 through Spring 1978 when NSF, alas, decided not to fund us. But during that brief period I had four live-in apprentices, each one staying about a month, and each being the only apprentice onboard during his month. The preparation I required was (1) reading L1; (2) mastering the first deck of flashcards (the pre-computer equivalent of M2); and (3) listening for at least 20 hours to the early audio cassettes; typically this was about a month of work in all. Three of the four apprentices successfully mastered the art of Loglan conversation. (Significantly, the one who failed hadn’t done his prep!) We had at least one forty-five-minute session of Loglan-only conversation each day, and of course there was a good deal of spontaneous Loglan speech throughout the day.

Some of our most marvelous linguistic inventions were made during these month-long visits by apprentices. Me was invented during this time; ha, during someone else’s visit; and our measurement system was put together in The Institute’s kitchen by one of our apprentices during the last few days of his stay. But we hadn’t mastered the art of precise logical talk yet. Indeed, the logical usages of the language were still quite rudimentary.

What we did do is learn to talk simply and reasonably fast...although of course with plenty of pauses as we searched our all-too-new mnemonic files for “just the right word”. But we all had a sense of naturalness, even easiness, as we put Loglan (and our own brains) through these linguistic paces. We knew the primitives; we found the little words easy; but the complex predicates proved undecipherable. So we avoided them like the plague. To use a complex for the first time always meant looking it up; one’s listener almost always had to do the same. That broke the flow of conversation completely; so naturally we avoided doing it. As a result nearly all of our ideas and metaphors were couched in primitive terms. In fact it was this avoidance of complexes by myself and my apprentices that provoked the GMR (the “Great Morphological Revision”).

When the apprenticeship program had, unfortunately, to be prematurely ended, we still had four or five applicants on our waiting list. (Ed and Julie Prentice were two of them; Alan Gaynor was a third.) The program was suspended when we learned in the late spring of 1978 that NSF had turned us down. (Two “excellents” and a “poor” were the three judges’ ratings of our grant proposal. “That almost never happens!” we were told by people familiar with the funding process. The first two judges, both computer scientists from their writing styles, were obviously looking at a very different object than the third. The third was equally obviously a linguist; and it was clear from what he said that we were stepping on his “turf”, a territoriality issue we have never been able to resolve satisfactorily with the academic linguistic community.)

But to get back to that early apprenticing. The three apprentices who succeeded in learning how to sustain Loglan-only conversation in their month of training went on to become Loglandia’s greatest teachers and most creative workers. One of them was John Parks-Clifford, the Editor of The Loglanist from 1976 to 1983; another was Scott Layson (now Burson), who, although eighteen at the time, went on to become my leading worker a few years later on the MacGram Project. It was Scott and I who shared that victorious moment in 1982 when we first “parsed a corpus”. Scott was also one of the organizers and teachers of the Boston Study Group a few years later.

So apprenticing pays, there’s no doubt about that. Unfortunately we can’t afford it now. For one thing, Careers has slumped; for another I’m a good deal older: I don’t have the boundless energy I must have had twenty years ago. For a third, Loglan isn’t the commercial success it was in the middle ’70’s. So we simply can’t afford to pay our apprentices’ airfare back and forth and house and feed them for a month as we did in those early days (one of them, pc, paid his own way); and we don’t have a house big enough, or a teacher young enough or with spare time ample enough, to house and teach them as we did in those halcyon days.

Nevertheless, what we learned from our apprenticing is a permanently valuable lesson. I have no doubt that if we were to find some other way of providing face-to-face, month-long, everyday opportunities for speaking Loglan again—a way like that “speech community” I proposed about a year ago—we would again experience the easy-learning phenomenon.

What do we need to do to release that phenomenon again? Mainly, we need another big house and another guru; this one is wearing out, soi crano. Bob McIvor and Kirk Sattley, who are the obvious candidates to replace me as our face-to-face teacher, are also getting a bit long in the tooth. We obviously need a whole new generation of younger Loglan teachers. That’s where people like Mike Demoulin, Wes Parsons, James Jennings, Steve Rice, Randall Holmes, Alan Gaynor—all in their thirties, I believe—could well come in...if only we could find a way to invite them in for guru-training. In any case, guruhood is waiting for you, Hoi Ganbra. Seize the day.

But who’s to teach them? That’s now the question, isn’t it? Are they to teach themselves? Frankly, I believe they could. But they’d have to do it at least in pairs and for continuous periods that were at least as long as a month. Neither solitary learning nor snatched weekends will produce guruhood.

* * *

Loglan itself has changed considerably since those halcyon days. All four apprentices got their training in what was essentially the 1975 language, which was both pre-GMR and pre-MacGram. So we were still speaking a formally ambiguous language (although not a very ambiguous one) and we didn’t have all those right-closers to deal with (we did have gu; but we didn’t have gu’s current kin). The next batch of apprentices and teachers will have these strange, new clause-closers to deal with! Let's see how they handle them. But my guess is that the existence of these new, more robust syntactic markers will make no difference at all in the speakability of the language...that we’ll know what we are doing as speakers, that we’ll like knowing it, and that our listeners will welcome this strange new clarity in speech.

I have mentioned that, in 1977-78, Loglan logical usages were still rudimentary. We knew how to say that something was one-legged, and the connective interrogative ha was added during this period, so by the end of it our hostesses could say Tu danza lo tcati, ha lo skafi (You want tea how-connected-to coffee?). But all the rest of our present kit of logical usages still lay ahead of us. The very existence of these logical usages, of these “congealed bits of philosophical analysis” (as I have sometimes called them), will create a very pleasant challenge for the next generation of face-to-face speakers; and it will not be, I think, an insurmountable one.

The greatest difference, I believe, between 1978 Loglan and the language we write and read (but seldom speak!) today is the one that has been generated by our long years of work on GMR, on the Eaton Interface, and finally on the development of LOD itself...all of which has taken place “since last we spoke”. This lexical re-engineering of Loglan has produced a language that has a truly gargantuan facility for complex-predicate production. For its users, myself included, the very presence of such a facility invites subtlety. This development was undreamed-of in 1978. Then, the tiny group of face-to-face speakers used Loglan primitives by default, the complex predicates of those days being nearly unintelligible. These days, in contrast, we use subtle, ad hoc, purpose-built complex predicates by choice as if there were no other good way, soi clafo, of saying things in Loglan! We write as if the primitive predicates of the language had no other use than as the ingredients of our beloved complexes. Indeed, primitives seem to be disappearing from our vocabularies! Logli now clucea instead of just plain cluva as they once did. It may not be long before primitives disappear from the language if to use a five-letter word were to break the new, sophisticated rules, soi stuteu. (There’s one! It makes my point just as I exaggerate it. Stuteu from stuci tetcu = story-stretch = exaggerate; and I loved using it to report that I was doing so! I have come round, in short, to positively relishing Loglan’s new capacity for nuance. Also, since Steve added soi to the language, Loglan has become an honesty-inviting language. It allows a writer to say what w is doing or feeling as w writes. Speakers do this all the time, of course, with intonation and facial expression. But writers have never before had this privilege of “thickening the bandwidth” of their messages virtually at will. Obviously what I’ve been saying about primitives and complexes has been an exaggeration. But look how much fun it was to say so...thus making the point even while jokingly denying it! Loglan, while we weren’t watching, has become a language of poets and elegancers, as well as of honest men. This, I think, will be the largest difference between the speech of gurus and apprentices in the Loglandical future and those of 1977-78.

* * *

If I’m right about how Loglan has changed since 1978, and how those changes are likely to affect any future apprenticing, then we obviously have some work to do to prepare our future turcia (work-learners = apprentices) for their roles. It’s clear we’ll have to prepare them to recognize and decipher new complexes “at sight”. For their ditca (teachers) will obviously be using them relentlessly from the first day they arrive. There’s no help for it. That’s what Loglan has become these days: a complex-rich language. Gone are the days of complex-avoidance. Decipherment must become an elementary skill in the preparation of our turcia.

We can easily provide that skill. We can easily make the tools with which complex-decipherment can be taught. From our own personal experiences with affix-learning, Bob McIvor and I are agreed that MacTeach 3, our current affix-teacher, is not good enough. We are agreed that the best way to learn an affix—one like tel, for example—is to learn a handsome word that contains it: telbie (terla bidje = Earth-edge = horizon), for example; after that it sticks forever. We recognize the stu part of stuteu immediately because we learned it long ago in such words as stutaa and stucue (story-talk and story-say); but the -teu part of stuteu tends to elude us because we have never encountered a word with teu in it before. So off we go to LOD to look up stuteu. But suppose we had learned beforehand that -teu meant tetcu = stretch? Then the meaning of stuteu would have been as obvious to us on first encounter as that of stucue was.

So what is required to avoid all this looking-up of new complexes? We need a new computer program—or maybe only a new input list for the M2/3 program we already have—that will exhibit words like telbie, trateu, and stucue, and maybe 1,000 more, and teach us how to analyze them, how to break them up into their parts tel, bie, tra, teu, stu, and cue, and how to recognize those parts in new contexts. When we’ve done that for the turcia-in-training, t will (with a moment’s thought) be able to understand what the ditca means when d says sharply No stuteu! on the very day t arrives.

* * *

I have some very good news for us on that score. Alan Gaynor, the designer of the Philosopher’s Assistant, the expert system that will, when it is built, help the user examine—in Loglan, of course—the consequences of any set of premises u wishes to contrive, has volunteered to be the builder of the complex-teaching input list for M2/3—call it M4—just as soon as he has finished the Index for L1, a task for which A has also volunteered.

Even more promisingly—in all of the several senses of that very pleasant word—A has volunteered to apprentice himself to me as the future Production Editor of Lognet, planning to take over from me just as soon as A understands, and feels up to, that formidable task. A is beginning A’s po turcia (apprenticeship) with this issue..

So, nu hapvia, Alyn! (Hapvia = hapci vizka = happily-see = X welcomes Y to Z. The current L-word was backward-built as vizhai, uu, and will be corrected in LOD.) So Nu hapvia means Be welcome! or Be happily-seen!)

* * *

I have one more happy duty, and that is to welcome Emerson Mitchell to the ranks of our tiftua (offering-workers). E has been a logli for a long time, but a quiet one. In LN 94/2 I evidently caught E’s eye with my invitation to the professional logicians among us to stop “just listening” and contribute actively to the e-mail discussions of our Lodgru (lodji grupa = logic group), our logic roundtable. What we do in the Lodgru is discuss possible new logical usages—for example, alternative ways of translating English only and respectively—and how we should say these things in Loglan and interpret them.

E, who is both a mathematical logician and a set-theorist—E’s background is therefore very similar to Randall Holmes’s, although I believe E comes at logic from the philosophical side whereas R comes at it from the math side—joined the Lodgru in November, and with E’s help the L has been passionately discussing subjunctives, hypotheticals, counterfactual conditionals, and the uses of set-designators ever since. E has been a very creative contributor to these discussions, and the permanent members have asked E to sit in on the Keugru sessions as well. Ui, E accepted. So the K, too, now has a new member.

Ui nu hapvia, Hoi E’mrsn, dio lo logli tiftua!

* * *

Loglan 3 is approaching takeoff. It’s author, Steve Rice, finished writing it last year and has, indeed, already received S’s M.A. in Technical Writing (I believe it was) on the basis of it. But because S has been so very busy breasting these personal landmarks, S hasn’t had time to do the last-minute updating of L3 that will make it reflect the latest decisions of the K. So in September, S turned L3 over to Kirk, Bob, and me. We’ve agreed to turn our attention to it in late December or early January. So it should be out in one issue or another of La Logli in 1995. To receive it, just make certain that your current account with The Institute—see your mailing label on this issue—shows a balance of $5 U.S. or more.

* * *

Stray Items: Bob tells me that there’s going to be a new issue of LIP, with Grammar 80 on board; so send in your old one if you want this update. We still need a replacement for Bill Gober. Anyone want to do a column on usage, plain and fancy? Actually, we need more than that. We need a cataloguer of Loglan usages, someone who will keep up with our growing body of usages and their recommended expansions, and, from time to time, tell us what they are. —JCB