(From Lognet 92/1)

Sau La Tisra(From the Selector = Editor)

As do all of you, I have other things I do outside of the Loglan venue. In my case, part of this time is spent reading science fiction. Fiction involves an informal contract between the writer and the reader; the willing suspension of disbelief for the duration of the story. For me, science fiction is that sub-genre of fiction where some element of plausible science is extended to an extreme and the effects of that change, in particular on people of that story, are examined. Without people what you have is a technical manual and not a story. If the story is poorly constructed, the disbelief is not willingly suspended, it is hung by the neck until dead and the story goes into the trash. Much of early SF suffered from this exact problem, all science and no story.

With that background, I will share an observation on what is, perhaps, an unnoticed trend in modern science fiction. Many of the contemporary popular stories utilize language and communication to advance the story line much more that ever before.

Several examples follow:

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert A. Heinlein, where many logli first became aware of the Loglan language.

Star Trek Ghost-Walker by Barbara Hambly.

Startide Rising by David Brin.

West of Eden by Harry Harrison.

Forty thousand in Gehenna by C.J. Cherryh.

And, just to show the real world is also involved: Computer Language, Vol 8 Nbr 3 March 1991, letter to the editor: “Moreover, APL is a language. If you understand the point of the Whorf-Sapir Hypothesis, that you can only think what you can say and vice versa, or the domain of a language determines the ranges of its universes, the language filters our expression of a problem.” Lynn H. Maxson, Oceanside CA.

And a quote from Fuzzy Sapiens by H. Beam Piper: “And you know what English is? The result of the efforts of Norman men-at-arms to make dates with Saxon barmaids in the Ninth Century Pre-Atomic, and no more legitimate than any of the other results.” In my opinion, one of the best descriptions of English ever written.

My point is this: language seems to have come into its own as a phenomenon and Sapir-Whorf is, once again, fashionable. People are thinking about what they are thinking and how they think it. People are learning to accurately make statements, even using English, and are more than ever aware of the dangers of ambiguity. We appear to be in a linguistic renaissance, and Loglan appears to be in a uniquely favorable position to benefit from this activity.

What we do not seem to have is a stable product to offer to the masses. I continue to read very persuasive thoughts about changing the language, some more fundamental in nature, some less. The whole feel, for me at least, is that we are still engineering. While we are still engineering, we are not actually using the language.

The masses probably would rather be able to say “Please pass the potatoes” than to cleverly decline any number of predicates. We don’t yet have many ready-to-use phrases of an everyday nature. Am I the only one who feels this lack? Is it a lack?? I know that in English I spend the better part of an hour each day just in the exchange of small, thoughtless pleasantries with others. This is at the rate of one minute or less per exchange, so it indicates numerous exchanges over the course of a day, but essentially repetitious statements made without any real thought behind them.

In support of this thought, I extend an invitation to the readership at large: Send your common, garden-variety, phrases that either should be or are already translated into Loglan to Lognet. If you have already made a translation, please send that along with the original phrase. Language is much more than declensions and scope-terminators, it is people exchanging thoughts with other people. There is a large body of nearly automatic language we all use from day to day without giving it much thought. It is the “small change” that we pass from hand to hand until we run into something of more consequence that actually requires thought on the part of the speaker as well as the audience. We need to build our “small change” library.

We need to have; “How are you”, “What’s for dinner?”, “I’m going to the store, do you need anything?” and “Don’t praggle me boy, I’ll quang you proper!” and all those others that you use so frequently. Help us to create the “Loglan phrase book” and we will have something to entice those who might benefit but are less willing to examine something that appears to be purely scientific. If they can whisper sweet nothings in someone’s ear, they may be more willing to practice — I know I would be. [Jim, this idea is a war-winner! Why not start a column dedicated to this kind of material yourself? You could call it "Lo Nu Pifcue" ("Things Frequently Said") or "Lopo Cmataa" ("Smalltalk"). I could provide a half dozen usages to get you started. —JCB]

Speaking personally, not as Tisra, I am against attempts to hybridize the character set (for example, the use of diacritical marks and overstrikes). One of my correspondents uses Braille as his primary textual means. If we add diacritical marks or overstrikes to the language, we have just eliminated all possibility of Loglan ever being transcribed into Braille; do we want this? Do we want to hamper our own use of that most ubiquitous tool, the computer keyboard? Try to get your word processor to overstrike an elevated dash over any other character. Think about daily use.

I have another correspondent whose first language is ASL (American Sign Language). We are discussing similarities between the Loglan primitives and ASL signs and may see an article evolve from this. Any other ideas you may have for Lognet or La Logli articles are most welcome. Please write.

Hue Djim.