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Have you felt that English wasn’t rationally constructed? Do you ever wonder, for instance, why we made “affect” and “effect” seem so similar when they mean two different things? Or why “you’re” are “your” sound identical, but are dissimilar in meaning? Couldn’t we have designed something little bit more simple? About two decades ago, a group in Washington, D.C. attempted to do just that.

In 1987 the Logical Language Group began constructing a language based entirely on mathematical logic. As a foundation for their work, they used  James Cooke Brown’s research from 1955. Brown had created a language called Loglan in order to test the effects of language on the speaker’s thought. The LLG adopted many of Loglan’s concepts to create their own language. Their goal was to invent a language that would be able to express complex ideas simply and without ambiguity. They aspired to remove the restrictions that ambiguity imposed on creativity, thought, and communication. By 1998, they had created an entirely new language according to those precepts: they named it Lojban. That same year they published a complete grammar and vocabulary of Lojban under the title The Complete Lojban Language.

So how exactly did Lojban’s creators attempt to make language less ambiguous? First the LLG invented 1,350 basic root words. The creators made sure that they included no words that sound alike but have different meanings (like “your” and “you’re”). They also made sure that they did not include words that have multiple but unrelated meanings (like “bank“), or words that differ only in punctuation but not in sound (like “its” and “it’s”).

Beyond word selection, however, Lojban’s creators made other decisions to remove ambiguity from language. For instance, all of Lojban’s parts of speech have easily identifiably structural characteristics, so that one can unambiguously recognize which word is which part of speech just by the way it appears. Also spelling in Lojban is completely phonetic. This means that a word will sound exactly the way it looks. Finally, Lojban’s grammar is regular: the language’s rules have no exceptions. In all of these ways Lojban’s creators attempted to design a language that was unambiguous and easy to learn. But they went one step further to ensure the language’s success.

The creators wanted to make sure that Lojban would be accessible for speakers of diverse languages, so Lojban’s vocabulary was invented using the roots of the six most widely spoken languages in the world: Mandarin, English, Hindi, Spanish, Russian, and Arabic. The result is a highly unique language, which Lojban speakers say has “a smooth, rhythmic sound, somewhat like Italian.”

After Lojban was created, LLG declared that no new Lojban words or idioms could be made for five years in order to create a baseline lexicon and reference grammar while language usage expanded. This period was called “the freeze,” and it ended in 2002. Lojban speakers are now free to alter and build upon the language as they see fit.

So what is the point of inventing a language like this? Well, for one thing, Lojban’s creators think that the language helps humans communicate more directly and expressively. But also, they think Lojban might help humans communicate better with computers. Unlike natural languages, computers are able to process Lojban with ease. This is due primarily to its unambiguous grammar and simple structure. Lojban supporters assert that this may make it possible for Lojban to be used in the future for computer-human interaction, and perhaps conversation.

Today, Lojban is spoken all over the world. The highest concentrations of Lojban speakers are in Australia, Israel, and the United States. Every year, since 1990, Lojban speakers have gathered for Logfest, an event which features technical discussions, lessons in Lojban, conversation hours, and the annual meeting of the LLG.

But Lojban is not the only constructed language out there. Lojsk, for instance, is a single-syllable-oriented language developed by Ari Reyes. There is also Voksigid, a language based in mathematical logic and influenced heavily by Japanese. And, of course, there is Klingon, the constructed language spoken by the fictional Klingons in the Star Trek. If you are interested in creating your own language, check out this great language construction kit.

What changes would you make to English to make it a clearer language?

131 Comments

  1. test1 -  June 7, 2014 - 12:58 pm

    I all the time used to read article in news
    papers but now as I am a user of net thus from now I am using net for posts, thanks
    to web.

    Reply
  2. Karry -  November 16, 2013 - 2:54 pm

    there is already an ancient (perhaps the oldest) language that is mathematically constructed without ambiguity. It’s Arabic.

    Reply
    • jamie -  May 10, 2014 - 10:17 pm

      Oh brother! And if you believe that, then I have a bridge that I’d like to sell you.

      Reply
  3. Kayla -  November 20, 2012 - 7:50 am

    u’e.

    I found a guide called Lojban for Beginners. The above says: Wow!

    Reply
  4. toby -  October 24, 2012 - 1:34 pm

    For one, I would have liked some sort of an example as to the language. Also, English has easily distinguished saounds in its alphabet. If the were no irregularities and ambiguities English would sound much more primitive. Our language has DEVELOPED into what it is. Why attempt to devolve it?

    Using pronunctiation to spell out words would become difficult to write in my eyes.

    Attempt reading this:
    T’is iz A wA tU wrIt Englis’ fOnetiklE cOrekt.

    Phonetically writing Engllish becomes stark and blunt. Doing so would eliminate the need for some letters especially c and x Example:
    you kould kompletely eliminate letterz if all letterz only made one sound. Foksez would be spelled completely different.

    Another alteration would be eliminating silent letters:
    te bik waz a very god on

    This of course would be impossible without substituting the lost sounds. Say th is t’ sh is s’ and ch is c’ also oo as in book is u’ oo as in flook would be U. Hard sounds would be represented by capital letters. A E I O U. Observe:
    t’is iz sumwut wut lAngwij wuld bEkum.

    ~Toby

    Reply
  5. Meg -  October 10, 2012 - 10:55 am

    Paragraph 4:

    “But they went one step further to insure the language’s success.”

    Insure is not correct. It should be ensure.

    Reply
  6. Marshun -  October 8, 2012 - 2:39 am

    Even if Lojban does not remain perfectly “logical” as it grows, it is still easy to revert to standard Lojban. Natural languages become what they are and then are standardized (often to conflicting and changing standards), but constructed languages are standardized and then released into the wild. A natural language has no standard dialect that is perfectly “logical”, and even if someone wanted to create one, it wouldn’t be as good as Lojban because it would inherit the weaknesses of the language from which it is derived. Yes, languages have weaknesses other than inconsistency – they often make it awkward to express thought. For example, consider “If P, then if Q, then R, else S” (and let P, Q, R, and S be any clauses you like). Does it mean “If not P, then S” or does it mean “If P and not Q, then S”? You could say something like “If P, then if Q, then R. If not P, then S” (awkward because it’s redundant) or “If not P, then if Q, then R. If P and not Q, then S” (even more awkward), but it would be nicer to have a language designed to express that statement without awkwardness. Or you could use a system like “If P, then {if Q, then R, else S}” / “If P, then {if Q, then R, else S}” where { and } are pronounced respectively as “begin” and “end”. But even that has its limitations and weirdness, so you might as well start from scratch.

    Reply
  7. Marshun -  October 8, 2012 - 2:09 am

    Lojban is not intended to replace natural languages or be an international auxiliary language. Its main purpose is to serve as a linguistic experiment, testing linguistic relativity and pushing the limits of humans’ ability to express thought. By comparing and contrasting it with natural languages, researchers learn about natural languages. By trying to implement it digitally, researchers learn how software can and does parse languages, even if the research does not extend perfectly into natural language processing. Can a constructed language replace a natural language? Serious Lojbanists don’t use the language because they think they already know the answer; they experiment with it precisely because they don’t know the answer and they want to find out (or to learn whether they can find out definitively). In this sense, citing appreciated qualities of your pet language – cultural heritage, artistic expressiveness, etc. – is an invalid response to Lojban because no one wants to eliminate natural languages anyways.

    Beyond experimentation, Lojban does have a practical use as an unambiguous and systematic language that can express human thought. Even if it’s not perfect, it’s still less ambiguous and more consistent and expressive than any natural language. An author of a technical specification or academic paper doesn’t care about cultural heritage. In such a context, language is merely a tool for transferring thought from one mind to another. In this sense, languages for expressing thought are like programming languages – there is no single solution to all problems. In different applications, different languages are more effective than others. It is almost always easier to speak your native language when ambiguity is acceptable, so it doesn’t make sense to speak a constructed language casually. However, it is easier to prevent an argument from being misunderstood in Lojban than in a natural language, so it makes sense to write a paper in Lojban if the author and readers all understand it. Lojbanists wouldn’t recommend Lojban in all contexts, but they might recommend it in formal communication with other Lojbanists. How might it look if everyone in the world spoke Lojban as a second language? They would certainly use it to communicate with people of other cultures (its cultural neutrality helps there) and probably in most business and academic settings, but they would revert to natural languages when communicating casually.

    Lojban can also be enjoyable to use. I find it strangely euphoric to think and communicate in a language that is not associated with a living culture. If you study a language properly, you learn to think in that language instead of thinking in your native language and translating between it and the studied language. When I learned Latin this way, I found that thinking, reading, and writing in Latin is an exercise in escapism because it makes thoughts feel dissociated from my own life. The same can be said about Lojban if it is primarily used to communicate esoteric and fictional thoughts than to facilitate mundane daily speech.

    Reply
  8. Ronaldo -  September 8, 2012 - 10:32 am

    Just a few comments

    - translation machines never worked well, and never will.

    - Esperanto didn’t fail because of its qualities. It just didn’t grow as fast as expected because of persecution (sometimes to the death) by regimes like Stalin, Mussolini, Franco, Hitler, Salazar
    and because of internal ego-clashes. English sort of won over German and French because it had a bigger advertising budget, and bigger army.

    - Esperanto wasn’t developed by a collective, it was created by ONE guy (who fortunately didn’t have a bloated ego)

    - if I wanted to save English, I would add words for practical notions for which other languages do have words, but english doesn’t.

    - I may learn Lojban someday, especially if someone convinces me it’s somehow better than Esperanto. 1350 roots sounds rather limiting though

    Reply
  9. Olivia -  August 12, 2012 - 4:39 pm

    sign me up! sounds pretty cool!

    Reply
  10. Johan -  August 10, 2012 - 1:32 pm

    I love English the way it is. I began learning English at the same time I spoke Spanish and Hebrew. It was difficult to learn it fast because the three languages are so different and now that people are making the language easier I think that’s the best idea that someone ever had because it could make someone learn English faster.

    Reply
  11. Svenjamin -  August 8, 2012 - 11:56 am

    I think that the implementation of a new language would be virtually impossible. I think the intention is valiant, however, I do not think the the English language is that far off the mark for irregularities and exceptions. Every language has exceptions to the rules. English may have slightly more but that makes it much more descriptive with the flexibility to be short, simple and to the point or to be verbose, weighty, detailed and complex. I’m sure these linguists had a ball creating this new “language” but I am convinced it will never gain any traction or become a living, breathing lexicon with any sizable population to speak it beyond its creators. Sorry to be pessimistic.

    Reply
  12. Eyewitness -  August 6, 2012 - 2:18 pm

    I was waiting for this article to get around to at least a paragraph on Esperanto, which was never mentioned. Is the omission because the article is written by english language speakers/thinkers whose (supposed) inherent illogicality allowed them so tailor the discussion to only what they wanted to feature? Even in the paragraph dedicated to the mention of other constructed (“synthetic”) languages, Esperanto is demoted to the insignificance of invisibility. If the article was written in Lojban, would the authors have been logically compelled to include Esperanto in the discussion?

    To wit, I am very doubtful of the “logicality” of Lojban once it is allowed an adaptive life outside the language laboratory. Inevitably, the further development will become a question not of extended logical development, but of WHOSE extended logical development. Remember when Ebonics were proposed for language courses in schools and colleges? I do. African-Americans cried “Foul!” They objected to the segregation of black american dialect from the predominant American english language standards.

    I think Lojban, this nominal exercise in language development, more accurately considered an exercise in fantasy and egotism. I’m crying “Foul!”

    Reply
  13. Ricardoism -  August 5, 2012 - 10:50 am

    I just waisted my time. I didnt see any examples of this language in sentence form or words.

    Reply
  14. Chuck -  August 5, 2012 - 7:39 am

    If culture were static, language could be also. Static culture can use any structure, as it doesn’t change.

    Ancient Egyptian and other pictographic languages–most old enough that daily use and pronunciation isn’t preserved–(and picto-vocal such as Mayan,)
    seem to have been fairly stable, but probably varied over time too.

    English is the result of a huge number of intersections, overlapping, adoptions, mispronunciations, accidents, created words & jargons and many other confusions over time.

    One of it’s advantages is that it requires minimal vocabulary to communicate, structure is relatively unimportant to meaning…thus verb subject order is understandable even when ‘wrong.’

    Simultaneously, it has informal rules of compounding words, creating new words from compounded abbreviated sentences, combining pre & post fixes derived from other languages, acronyms etc. which provide a richness in fine discrimination of meanings (of course, meanings change with usage.)

    When the Oxford English Dictionary was envisioned, there were two basic kinds of dictionary–descriptive and proscriptive. The descriptive form was chosen to reflect the dynamics of actual use. The French use a proscriptive form, where the ‘official’ language is determined by committee and unofficial words are prohibited. Enforcing such regulation is nearly impossible in a dynamic free society.

    English has only recently developed ‘official’ spellings, a fact reflected in the various spellings adopted by different portions of the English speaking world. Regional differences reflect the immigrants who made up any particular area as well as subsequent changes.

    The biggest change in the language in several centuries is the existence of the computer and spell/grammar checker, followed by the changes implemented by cramming messages into extremely short electronic text messages, which are related to the development of typing equipment which has largely eliminated individual handwriting differences.

    Words are invented and redefined constantly–some ‘become viral’ and others, even quite clear and logical words die still-born.

    If there were a single thing to change, it would be to change to a phonetic alphabet in which every character represented a single phoneme.

    But it probably would evolve anyway. :) So forget that.

    Computer translation and dictionary/encyclopedia access are improving and changing communications, once such access is automatic and internal to your thoughts, most linguistic problems disappear, leaving only the single largest barrier to communication–the fact that you create your own reality in your mind, and that the mind very often hears and sees what it expects, and rejects things which it either is in denial or disbelief.

    Combine this with the tendency of people to make assumptions regarding the subject involved and other parts of a communication, their failure to rationally ask themselves if their interpretation is ‘reasonable’ before responding, and (taking steps to verify!) and miscommunication can and does result with anything from neutral to hilarious to deadly results.

    Language of any sort is, at best, a clumsy attempt to express internal thoughts. For fields where precision is vitally important, science, engineering, law, medicine, finance &c, jargons develop with very precise definitions to the words…such jargons often are impenetrable between fields.

    In law, in particular, as it is the second most conservative field outside religion, the use of archaic forms and meanings combined with solid definitions of standard words which are quite different from the majority usage, and a very strong tendency for those in the field to use language to obscure rather than clarify, to create rather than eliminated ambiguities (despite strict word definitions,) and legal documents can be either clear ad concise or long, tedious, contradictory even meaningless.

    Adding ‘clarification’ to a law creates rather than eliminates ‘loopholes,’ and despite half a century or more of jurisprudence experts recommending that legal documents be written in ‘clear, concise, everyday English,’ the field continues to issue millions of pages of complex, impenetrable, contradictory and meaningless documents each year upon which the rest of society bases it’s resolution of disputes.

    Billions of man-hours are wasted preparing, reviewing, arguing and resolving disputes based upon these intentionally opaque documents.

    A prime example is to compare the US Constitution, an intentionally concise and thoughtfully prepared document of a few hundred words (which is still argued about largely because it has some external conflict over interpretation despite it’s clarity and conciseness,) with the newly prepared constitution for Iraq (a country created to be intentionally unstable by outsiders after WWI,) a document consisting of hundreds of PAGES and 10′s of thousands of words.

    The single most valuable change to be made in English is to restrict the complexity of legal documents to ensure that they are internally consistent, and as understandable as possible. Elimination of the ‘shrink wrapped’ legal agreement in favor of commercial legal standards (such as the Uniform Commercial Code,) would eliminated billions of commercial ‘contracts’ (which were ‘take it or leave it,’ and largely ignored by those agreeing to them–rather than negotiated, which is the standard assumption of a contract,) would be a great commercial and social benefit–implemented globally, it would drive new era of global commerce.

    Similar uniform international rules of law would greatly reduce the ambiguities in the current enforcement of environmental protecting laws (and since the environment is everywhere continuous, local environmental enforcement works very poorly.)

    I expect that computerized semantic content analysis will eventually force such changes–sooner rather than later.

    But since fortunes are made and lost through artful and deceitful legal documents and the differences in law geographically, there is a strong and powerful contingent of very wealthy people who have a vested interest in keeping matters as confusing as possible. Such a force is difficult to overcome, and historically it has taken the application of physical force to remove such people–and a new batch always springs up again.

    Humans are, at root, emotional rather than logical, so a logical language without a change in basic thought patterns, is unlikely to be widely adopted.

    The move towards icons (pictographs) in computers is a step backwards, and is neither intuitive nor universally understood, as well as requiring a level of visual acuity much higher than the use of alphabetic languages.

    A universal educational system, with emphasis on clear and concise communications and basic rules of behavior including procedures to identify and resolve misunderstandings would vastly reduce the number of conflicts between groups and individuals…at least for a while.

    Reply
  15. Gosxka -  August 4, 2012 - 12:08 pm

    don’t mention Esperanto in the comments, as it has nothing to do with the article! Esperanto isn’t all there is in the world!
    take into consideration diamanto and di-amanto, and something which gets on my nerve – ‘vi’ used both for plural and singular, and ‘ekzemple’ pronounced ‘egzemple’ by everybody

    Reply
  16. Sarainthesnow -  August 4, 2012 - 7:24 am

    I agree with some of the above comments. Esperanto was not even mentioned but it is an important constructed language which has been around for over one hundred years!

    Reply
  17. Bill -  August 4, 2012 - 3:42 am

    Think about it – no puns with lojban. Where’s the fun in that?

    Reply
  18. S. Kauffiay -  August 3, 2012 - 7:14 am

    Because of it’s (supposedly) unerring structural logic, Lojban could be successful as a second language which DOESN’T evolve in different way from one group of speakers to another: If all people learning Lojban are aware of the various rules, then there can be no disputes over usage (as there are often in natural languages such as English – I’m painfully aware of this as a Brit living in the US). Any usage inconsistent with the (supposedly consistent) rules would be incorrect.

    I doubt it could rival natural languages, such as English, in humour, poetry, rhetoric, etc. I wonder if Lojban has intended onomatopoeia, and if so, how such words were arrived at.

    Reply
  19. Gleki -  August 3, 2012 - 3:37 am

    Lojban can be ambiguous in the meanings of it’s words.
    As for syntax it’s truly unambiguous.

    We can’t compare it with Klingon or Esperanto as they don’t reduce semantic ambiguity. They are simple relexes of existing languages. They don’t perform deep analysis of how we speak.
    The Logical Language Group seems to have done a great work. I wonder how they could reach such goals that looked unreachable.

    I’ve never seen anything similar.
    Lojban is awesome.
    Wish more similar languages appeared.

    Reply
  20. Daktar -  August 3, 2012 - 2:39 am

    I’ve often thought that English pronouns could stand to be made a little less ambiguous. Describing the actions of individuals in a large group can get complicated fast, particularly if there all of the same gender. Possibly you could give different pronouns based on the order in which individuals are introduced in a paragraph or other such section of writing. You’d have to have a good memory to use a system like that in speech, though!

    Reply
  21. sHini -  August 2, 2012 - 5:52 pm

    Sometimes the stupidity of a person makes his self more ambiguous over simple words.

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  22. dtayls -  August 2, 2012 - 3:42 pm

    Hmm. Now to apply my Greg shorthand to receiving dictation of Lojban…oops! Ambiguity lives!-)

    Reply
  23. selpa'i -  August 2, 2012 - 8:50 am

    A lot of misconceptions in the comment section, to some degree it’s the article’s fault, but I still am happy that Lojban gets some press.
    Lojban is *syntactically* unambiguous. This does *not* mean that you cannot be vague in what you say, or that you can omit things.
    “Politicians won’t like Lojban” — Horse apples. Lojban does not forbid you from being vague. A politician can choose to be deliberately vague by omtting important arguments from a predication and then use those omitted arguments later as a back-door should somebody criticize them.
    “English is better / We already have Esperanto” — Whoever said that missed the point. Lojban is *not* intended as an international auxiliary language, even though it is damn well suited to be one. It is culturally neutral. It is simple.
    Learning Lojban has been one of the most fun things I have done. It’s an amazing discovery journey. You are missing out on something if you dismiss it based on your prejudices and premature conclusions from an article that only scratches the surface. Instead, read about the Language, join the IRC channel #lojban on freenode, which is full of Lojban speakers.

    Reply
  24. bjvl -  August 2, 2012 - 7:28 am

    Joseph must be a regional language teacher….where I grew up in the Midwest
    “You’re right (about that dog)”
    and
    “Your right (to a lawyer)”

    sound *exactly* the same. Regionally, of course, it could be “yer right to a loyya.”

    But then, newscasters use the flat middle America accent that I also use in order to avoid such regionalism.

    Reply
  25. Joe -  August 2, 2012 - 4:29 am

    Okay, so this subject has been exhausted. Time for a new story dictionary.com Thanks

    Reply
  26. Monty Nelson -  August 2, 2012 - 4:17 am

    There is a tremendous investment for most of us isolated Americans to learn any OTHER language. The learner will emerge in some separate/belonging matrix that will expand understanding. It will be interesting to see what happens with another “invented” language. If I were smarter and had more time I would learn Lojban and Esparanza… the spelling of both over tax my failing mind. Life is ambigous.

    Reply
  27. sHini -  August 1, 2012 - 8:01 pm

    Only stupid people make their own ambiguity about this.

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  28. Tony -  August 1, 2012 - 7:39 am

    Try Shakespeare in Lobjan. No thank you.

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  29. annoyed mouse -  August 1, 2012 - 2:59 am

    the aim of language is not to communicate directly or even precisely because there is nothing direct or precise about what human beings mean or what being human means.

    Reply
  30. DavidJohn -  July 31, 2012 - 9:01 pm

    I love English. I see no need for conflict between English (and other natural languages) and newly-created languages as the ones discussed in the article and comments. Each language and dialect has its purposes, strengths, weaknesses, and nuances. Use each language accordingly. Languages are awesome.

    Reply
  31. Ian -  July 31, 2012 - 5:14 pm

    All of the vowel sounds in Lojban are more or less identical to that of German.

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  32. Phylbelou -  July 31, 2012 - 4:25 pm

    If there are going to be ‘rules’ for words that all words must obey. I.e., neighbor, it’s ‘i’ before ‘e’ except after ‘c’. I do not see a ‘c’. therefore ‘neighbor should not be allowed to play with the other word. ‘Neighbor’ and all his rebel pals can create thier or there own language!

    Reply
  33. Janey -  July 31, 2012 - 7:31 am

    I don’t think we need a ‘made up’ language.

    I’m a Brit and the whole beauty of English is that has evolved and continues to do so, over time. Yes, it’s hard to learn, as the grammar is simplistic but the depth of meaning of word placement and emphasis (especially our spelling) takes a bit of getting used to (if it’s not your mother tongue), but it’s a wonderful thing.

    For those of you who think I’m too nationalistic, I speak French fluently and that is also a language of great beauty.

    But English rocks. We don’t need Lojban. Or Esperanto. How many people do you know, speak Esperanto? Exactly. Me neither.

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  34. MJR -  July 31, 2012 - 2:35 am

    “highly unique” is bad English. Unique needs no modifiers.

    Unique is like being pregnant: there are no degrees of uniqueness, just as there are no degrees of being pregnant. Someone is either pregnant or they’re not. You can’t be highly pregnant, and an article or situation can’t be highly unique.

    Reply
  35. miss gingerly ways* -  July 30, 2012 - 11:05 am

    i love language even more after reading this. heard some interesting stuff on cbc today relating to all this. the way i fele.. feel, is that any style of creative diction is affective communication evolution. ;)

    Reply
  36. Alfredo -  July 30, 2012 - 10:09 am

    I’m not native english speaker, but I have studied it for many years and I try to learn new words, phrases and expresions every day. English lenguage is not perfect (for me) but it is the most world widely useful for business and scientific colaboration, We don’t need another “Esperanto”.
    Everyone could use an on-line translator for free if they need, like google.

    Reply
  37. ashok bagga -  July 30, 2012 - 9:08 am

    Nature nurtures the creatures.Nature created creatures & are helpful to keep the nature balance.English the language is widely accepted all over the world.Every language has its own grammar & if we study them closely & we will find that all are similar to each other,except the pronunciation or way the languages are being spoken.But one thing which is acceptable to me is that the most easiest language in the world is English in its present form.I am not suppose to make this language change from any angle.Best language to coordinate,communicate & cooperate in the world.The person who is able to read & write ,can easily understand what is being said by the other person.

    Reply
  38. Alphabetgirl -  July 30, 2012 - 1:28 am

    About “your” and “you’re”. I was brought up in New Jersey and teach English as a Second Language in South Florida.

    Thanks, Dicky, for bringing this up. It’s fascinating!

    This is my opinion on whether they are pronounced the same. First, the full form of “you are” has two syllables, and is not the same as “your”. Secondly, the reduced form of “you are”, as in rapid speech, is still not the same. It also has two syllables but the vowel in the second syllable is ‘reduced’; it is pronounced /yu-er/. Finally, the contraction, “you’re” is one syllable and can be pronounced either /yur/ or /yor/.

    I believe that our difference of opinion lies in connecting the spelling to what we hear. I believe that Dicky always uses only the first and second pronunciations, and that he/she? reads the contraction as two syllables. Where are you from? I believe that the third pronunciation for the contraction is more widespread than just the South of the US. Anyone else have a comment on this?

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  39. Bryan -  July 29, 2012 - 4:40 pm

    People who have problems with english would probably find something wronge with most anything.

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  40. Adam Stokke -  July 29, 2012 - 4:23 pm

    Thanks to whomever took the time to research Lojban a bit to write about it for a larger audience. I wanted to add a bit for people out there who feel that:
    a) Esperanto has “been there, done that”;
    b) Lojban’s logical structure and its lack of ambiguity make it less able to convey the sort of creativity observed in natural language and
    c) English occupies the role Lojban does (or might) already, etc.

    My apologies in advance if some of this is overly technical. WIkipedia is my friend and should be yours, too!

    Esperanto, being a very early example of a constructed language (c. the late 19th century), has become well known. It features a very linguistically regular grammar which makes it very easy to learn — provided you are at least somewhat familiar with the structure(s) of Indo-European languages. Lojban, building upon its intellectual predecessor Loglan, has attempted to incorporate vocabulary which is phonologically based upon a statistical sampling of cognate terms in the most commonly spoken human languages — which of course include languages that are not Indo-European. It is also possible to “play” with predicates in Lojban such that word order can vary quite freely and can correspond to any order the speaker prefers. This could be influenced by their native tongue, or the native languages of the listeners, or personal preference. The point is, Lojban provides greater freedom when it comes to syntax, and is less influenced by a single language family. It represents a new wave in -actually useful constructed (auxiliary) languages-.

    Lojban does indeed feature a grammar which is parsable by software. This does not mean, however, that ambiguity is not expressible in Lojban. It is important to keep in mind that while the language opens up very interesting avenues in regards to applications in software and in the realm of human-computer interaction, it can still express ambiguity through ellipsis — that is, the omission of expected structures. Sure, your utterance or writing might produce errors when run through a parser, but your human companions wont balk (although they might ask you to clarify yourself).

    English currently is used as a worldwide auxiliary language — but this is as a result of historical factors. What is interesting about Lojban (and what was interesting about Esperanto and the earliest conlangs) is in the attempt to design something that could occupy that role, and do so in a way that allows both for a great deal of precision as well as very expressively. Of course Lojban will never replace any natural language — but it may well provide a linguistic laboratory and research lab, of sorts, and is a significant achievement as a result.

    And, to be frank, the ultimate value of a conlang is to help us appreciate the value of all languages, and to understand what it means when natural languages die. A few people have noted this here and it bears repeating.

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  41. Fifi -  July 29, 2012 - 3:12 pm

    Joseph, everyone who speaks English knows that “you’re” and “your” is the same. As for overly idiomatic language, every place has a culture that is distinct. It seems that you are putting down cultural diversity.

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  42. Brent -  July 29, 2012 - 1:52 pm

    Oh, Good!… Let’s make another division and diversion of effort and intellect to create another language no one is going to speak, but those who are smarter than the rest of us.

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  43. grace valle -  July 29, 2012 - 1:45 pm

    Language is a “cultural” , people create it and change it very often, it can not be modified by grammar rules or a literate’s ideas

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  44. Elena -  July 29, 2012 - 1:39 pm

    Nineteen Eighty-Four, anyone?

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  45. Khurram Shamsher Lall -  July 29, 2012 - 11:52 am

    All I have to say is this: as a polyglot, why was the Latin (Roman) alphabet pre-supposed to be the best alphabet for a constructed language like Lobjan? اردو اور ہندی دونوں ورنامالہ موجود ہیں! As someone already pointed out, Hindi/Urdu is superior and their alphabets readily available.

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  46. Violet Black -  July 29, 2012 - 11:11 am

    Ah, Lojban. I’ve heard of it, but I haven’t yet had a compelling reason to learn it.
    It always did bother me that English can’t be bothered to follow its own rules. I wished someone would come along and standardize everything–although of course a spontaneous linguistic shift would be difficult on everyone and make an even larger mess.
    The grammatical ambiguity we value for expressive purposes has its own problems. I used to say the prettiest language I had heard was ESL: Enough English for me to have a reference point, but none of the deliberate nuances or more sophisticated errors a native speaker would introduce. (It’s like debugging a computer program: The more complex the algorithm, the weirder the errors.)
    Now a lot of the people above are saying how an unambiguous language would destroy poetry and creativity, and I don’t have the experience to formulate a counterexample. But it seems to my intuitive mind that, with all the efforts I make to be unambiguous when I write, there must be lyrical forms that do not require divergent interpretations to maintain their beauty and power. For that matter, it is possible for a situation to be ambiguous even when the language describing it is as clear as possible.* I guess the thing I’m flailing in my puddle of vocabulary trying to say is that our communications shouldn’t need an extra layer of obfuscation from the language itself. Anyway, if I ever do learn Lojban, remind me to attempt to create a decent poem. ;)

    *Quick example off the top of my head: “You are inside a small room that has white walls.” Those words and phrases don’t have any double meanings that I know of, but what is the room? Are you in a medical hospital? A mental hospital? A laboratory? Your own bathroom? A supermarket storage closet? I think the omission of data can almost always be achieved independently of the medium.
    —–
    @Ole TBoy Japanese and Biblical Hebrew are said to be even more awesome for puns. In Japanese, there are less than fifty syllables used for the entire language, so it’s easy to find phrases that sound alike. In Biblical Hebrew, the vowels weren’t written down, leaving a heck of a lot of homonyms to work with. Yahweh Himself makes some punny jokes in the Torah/Old Testament.

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  47. obuakor stella -  July 29, 2012 - 10:18 am

    oh! I wonder how English Language will sound to ears with the concept of Lojban.

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  48. William Broadhead -  July 29, 2012 - 10:11 am

    This is a double-plus-good idea. However the oversight required to maintain a pristine language which would define how we think and express ourselves, leaves me nonplussed…..double-plus-bad.

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  49. Gail -  July 29, 2012 - 5:33 am

    Do you say Lojban with a long or short o?

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  50. ccrow -  July 29, 2012 - 4:43 am

    @ColinB It’s not necessarily poor grammar- I’m sure natural languages can’t process Lojban at all. :-p

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  51. Sam McFisher -  July 29, 2012 - 3:12 am

    Well am an Arabic Native speaker, and Arabic has an easy rule, any word has a root source of a 3 letter word(sometimes 4-letter) which makes any word understandable, and as for synonyms I think it’s a must in a language if spoken by human beings, to make poetry, art, after all it’s the people that makes the language like calling a chair a chair or whatever…

    I think ENGLISH IS A VERY POOR LANGUAGE and actually it can be considered something different than a language coz slang english and different accents of english … can be very tricky .. wether with a scotish, british, indian , southern accent .. even vocabulary is very different … and u might not understand the words coming out their mouths… so basically it’s a very bad language… like spelling has no solid rules like the spanish or frensh for example…

    Peace to the World from ALexandria, Egypt

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  52. Astheart -  July 29, 2012 - 1:59 am

    I am not a fan of artificial languages. It´s important to learn living languages! Considering English as lingua franca now I think it´s really important to learn English. Basic English is easy. But If you want to improve your level, it needs hard work. All languages have their colloquials and idioms and there´s no other way than to learn them by heart. Understanding spoken English I think is the most difficult. The only help is just listening and again listening! It takes time but it will come the time when your brain starts distinguishing sounds and then all the troubles are over. Love English!

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  53. Chelle -  July 28, 2012 - 6:22 pm

    Diversity is a beautiful thing. English, in all its lovely British and American varieties, is a fine language.

    Few know, for instance, that the “classic” southern accent, as spoken in Virginia and the Carolinas, is actually “High English” spoken with a lilt. It was passed down from the “upper crust” here in the Colonies and began as anything but a “hick” language.

    I love our regional accents and made a game of guessing the home of origin of my friends in service while in the Army. I miss Latin, but recognize it frequently, most often in medical practice and the commonalities in the few languages I know.

    Learning a new language is not only challenging and fun, it exercises the brain and prevents age-related decline in cognitive function. If people want to play games and make up languages it’s fine with me, but banning native speakers from their own language is pompous and arrogant and not even dryly humorous. After that insult I I found comforting irony in the fact that the little get-together for Lojban users is spelled Logfest, with a “g” *laugh* no ambiguity there at all.

    For myself, I’ll take Elvish over Lojban or whatever they want to call their math language. We have more than enough emotionally dead, mathematically based computer jargon in our lives. Leave us our poetry! Leave us our ability to identify ourselves and each other by the way we use language. Let us aspire to something greater than simple!

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  54. Michael -  July 28, 2012 - 5:59 pm

    I know this may label me but when the video game: Skyrim, came out, it also came with its own language: Draconic. It may not be the most simple, but i think its even more simple then English.
    Its a language that has a basic 407 word vocabulary, pronunciation is easy with a few exceptions ( j’s are pronounced like y’s), and word construction is simple.
    For example: Moon and Eclipse are not part of the vocabulary but Sun (Krein) and Night (Vulon) are so Moon would be VulonKrein (NightSun) because night is prominent and sun is secondary. Eclipse is KrienVulon (SunNight).

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  55. SplatterPatterns -  July 28, 2012 - 3:31 pm

    Interest in the subject? Read this book.
    Just want a good read? Get this book.

    In the Land of Invented Languages by Arika Okrent

    Reply
  56. Joe -  July 28, 2012 - 2:07 pm

    Whazabout Ebonics?

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  57. Raghav -  July 28, 2012 - 11:47 am

    @Raja
    Yes, Hindi is very simple to read and understand, but going from sounds to symbols I find much harder.

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  58. Larry -  July 28, 2012 - 11:06 am

    I disagree that your and you’re do not sound alike. It may be that some American English dialects pronounce them differently, but people normally pronounce them alike. When I was a child, I pronounced their, there and they’re differently…or I attempted to an insisted that they did not sound alike. Now, I do not know of anyone who now pronounces them as distinctly as I did.

    In college reading class, “buzz” and “was” sounded like rhyming words but my education instructor offered the dictionary pronunciation guide to show that standard English pronounced the vowels differently. I finally decided it was a matter of dialect.

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  59. TEd -  July 28, 2012 - 10:32 am

    Lojban … Very interesting indeed all the many facets suggested here? However … Explain to me how to correctly pronounce ‘Lojban’ … Would this be considered a sin, or that someone needing this is too stupid to understand a phonetic example? … This is the problem I have with ‘English’ … All the different pronunciations available for some of the same words, and hardly ever an explination as to the proper way to sound it out … Another thing to mention is the fact that most words over three letters can be spelled incorrectly but understood if the first and last letters remain as first written … So they say that is? I’m sure many of you have probably seen examples of this on the internet?

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  60. roberio -  July 28, 2012 - 9:49 am

    Kudos to Ptron and Cyberquill, each of their posts when brought together summarizes why no constructed language will ever become a global language used for international commerce and communication let alone supersede English or even French and Chinese.

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  61. Small Potatoes -  July 28, 2012 - 9:14 am

    For anyone who is interested in hearing a clip of Lojban, you can go to: http://www.omniglot.com/writing/lojban.htm

    It is one of my favorite websites. It has descriptions and sound clips of just about any language you can think of (natural or constructed).

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  62. Jill -  July 28, 2012 - 8:35 am

    I’ve always thought that the reason that English-speaking countries are so creative and innovative is because our language wires our brain for divergent thinking.

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  63. Charlie -  July 28, 2012 - 8:21 am

    All of the characteristics they want belong to a subset of English that unfortunately people keep adding not so clear constructs to. So they just backed up and said, “Look, we’re not going to allow people to muck up English anymore!” But people will and the words will be distorted into variations over time and lazy Americans will allow them to be added rather than learning to remove them.

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  64. Peter Piazza -  July 28, 2012 - 7:59 am

    Let us not forget there is another language far more important than ancient languages or newer languages based upon mathematical logic. It is a language that can heard close up or at vast distances. It is a language that can be spoken with or without vocal cords. It is a language that can transmitted with or without a writing instrument. It is a language that can be communicated with a soothing glance, a gentle touch or a kind thought. It is a language which is soken best in silence. It is the language of the heart.

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  65. Chuck -  July 28, 2012 - 7:34 am

    I agree with Pedro. Language must be expressive, not logical. For a variety of reasons. The words we choose have connotations and denotations that help make center our intent. Having said that, the ambiguity of the English language does have a negative side in the professional world. Especially, if you are in logical profession – such as engineering or software development. The negativity isn’t always rooted in the language but rather in the speaker or writer. English should be taught and spoken with more rigor. The meanings of words can be dangerous, let’s not forget lessons taught by George Orwell with New-speak. Political Correctness is also another source of skewing what is meant by words. My English sucks, as English is hard. However, it is something I try to work on constantly.

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  66. Neil660 -  July 28, 2012 - 6:30 am

    First of all, I feel that the article benefits from not having mentioned Esperanto; we’re all pretty familiar by now of what it strived (and failed) to achieve upon its inception. Secondly, I want to question those who are so adamant about the existence of differences in ‘you’re’ and ‘your’ (Joseph). Are you really so closed minded as to fail to understand that perhaps there are hundreds, if not thousands, of regional dialects in English. I speak a dialect of English with the prestigious accolade of having ‘received pronunciation’. I’m not proud of that, but mention it because in this particular dialect the aforementioned coupling is homophonous. If you fail to understand even that, then I question your qualifications as an English teacher.

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  67. Fofo -  July 28, 2012 - 6:18 am

    English is my second language. I began learning English at age 12 and grammar was extremely easy having Greek as my first language. I have two graduate degrees and reading and writing is not a problem. I agree with Yip, the first thing to do is reform the language to phonetic spelling. How do you justify the pronunciation of colonel? is it kernel, oh, I thought that’s what a corn morsel is that we eat, but I have corns on my feet? Oh well…….. we do adjust but why make the spelling so difficult?

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  68. mediastarguest -  July 28, 2012 - 1:55 am

    @Joseph ; you´re wrong on one thing – your and you´re do sound ALMOST identical

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  69. mary jean may salado -  July 28, 2012 - 1:10 am

    as i read this article, there is only one question that directly gives me a favor to ask. it is, do i need to learn a language which is more capable than what i am expecting? and that is yes! because to learn language is more benefited. let us conquer those words in language which doesn’t mean so as to be more domesticated.

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  70. Vanessa -  July 27, 2012 - 11:15 pm

    I wouldn’t make any changes to English. Language is meant to grow and thrive, not be pressed into our stupid rule-boxes.

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  71. Socrates -  July 27, 2012 - 10:58 pm

    No rhyme or reason* between pronunciation and spelling of the English language, not its ambiguities, are the biggest obstacles for foreign (and native?) speakers to master this language. Overhauling English with the scope (much more limited than Lojban) to minimize those inconsistencies, to me would make a lot of sense and could benefit the language without affecting its richness and beauty.

    * to read, read, read but to lead, led, led
    to lead but lead poisoning etc

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  72. Socrates -  July 27, 2012 - 10:55 pm

    No rhyme or reason* between pronunciation and spelling of the English language, not its ambiguities, are the biggest obstacles for foreign (and native?) speakers to master this language. Overhauling English with the scope (much more limited than Lojban) to minimize those inconsistencies, to me would make a lot of sense and could benefit the language without affecting its richness and beauty.

    * to but
    to but poisoning etc

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  73. Dexter -  July 27, 2012 - 10:22 pm

    Isn’t ambiguity THE beauty of the language? These people who sought to revolutionize the English Language are products of plebeian ‘late’ capitalist machinations that sought to complete the circle of this ideology – where economic practicality overrides literary imagination. Attempting to make EL work like MA is pure logocentrism at work.

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  74. Dexter -  July 27, 2012 - 10:19 pm

    Isn’t the ambiguity THE beauty of the language? These people who sought to revolutionize the English Language are the products of plebeian ‘late’ capitalist machinations that sought to complete the circle of this ideology – where economic practicality overrides literary imagination. Attempting to make EL work like MA is pure logocentrism at work.

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  75. Dexter -  July 27, 2012 - 10:16 pm

    Isn’t the ambiguity part of the beauty of the language? These people who sought to ‘revolutionize’ the English Language are the products of plebeian ‘late’ capitalist machinations that sought to complete the circle of this ideology – where economic practicality overrides literary imagination. Attempting to make EL work like MA is pure logocentrism at work.

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  76. Dexter -  July 27, 2012 - 10:15 pm

    Isn’t the ambiguity part of the beauty of the language? These people who sought to revolutionize the English Language are the products of plebeian ‘late’ capitalist machinations that sought to complete the circle of this ideology – where economic practicality overrides literary imagination. Attempting to make EL work like MA is pure logocentrism at work.

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  77. Carla -  July 27, 2012 - 9:38 pm

    Maybe it’s just me, but I had the impression that language was for communication. To me a language that is simpler to learn without all the exceptions to the rules and leaves less room for misunderstanding is a great idea. I don’t speak language to twist, layer, or complicate, I speak it to communicate. Why must we allow the desire for artisitic expression to boggle our language? Having a simple, straightforward language does not stifle creativity. Music, art, and sculpture are all ways to express artistic emotion. Leaving the depth and complexity there would keep us from hindering our main mode of communication. And who ever said things must be complex to be beautiful. There are many simple things in life that are beautiful because they are so simple. Technically, a language can be both able to express depth and complexity and still be simple to use. The Inuit, I believe have seven words just for the concept of snow. Each one describes a different quality or type of snow. This allows for expression of more than just the single word snow. So, have a language that is simply constructed and used, but that has a humongous selection of vocabulary. And creativity in literature is not limited to word play, there are also many twists and ironies that can be expressed in the content of the words, or in the sequence of events that play out. For example a visual pun can be described in both a simply used language and a very complex language. In both languages it would still be funny because the content being described is funny regardless of what words are being used. If the punch line in a joke is, “The white horse fell in the mud.”, it will be funny that the horse fell in the mud whether someone says, “the horse fell in the mud”, or that “the equine of species animalia descended heretofore unto his uncleanliness.” Or heck, have two languages, one for straightforward everyday communication and one for artistic expression. But then again, the one for artistic expression would probably die out because people wouldn’t understand it anymore because it wasn’t being used in daily life. The same way that a lot of people can’t read Chaucer or most of the classics without a dictionary because we don’t use language like that anymore in daily life. Language seems to be simplifying itself over time. The bulk of the time language is being used for communication and that is how most languages will skew.

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  78. Marcus Scott -  July 27, 2012 - 6:41 pm

    As a linguist, it really irks me when I see articles like this. Languages are a manifestation of our psychology; how we think, what we connect with, how we express these thoughts and connections. Since language is basically the auditory (and in terms of written material, visual) representation of human thought, there are obviously going to be complexities, as the human mind is complex, not to mention the fact that hundreds or thousands of years of interaction with other cultures and languages, as well as the natural progression of the language itself, will bring forth what some may see as “illogical formation”. However, when it comes to foreign languages, what may seem logical in one language may not be so in another. In English and many other Indo-European languages, the roman characters are used, and many non-Sinitic language speakers may deem the use of thousands of characters to be superfluous, while to a Sinitic mind, the process for reading and comprehending the sentences and the characters therein may be deemed as easier. It all depends on the culture, which is obviously made of people, and people are obviously very complex beings

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  79. AZ Mom -  July 27, 2012 - 4:06 pm

    I, for one, would welcome more phonetically consistent spelling in the English language. I have a tough time explaining spelling rules to my five year old. It just is….isn’t an acceptable explanation to her.

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  80. mgw -  July 27, 2012 - 3:56 pm

    I have not looked at Lojban but I would imagine it would be harder to describe English speaking Lojban than it would be to describe Lojban speaking English.

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  81. Brava -  July 27, 2012 - 12:24 pm

    Mi parolas Esperanton. Mi scias ĝin ĉar ĝi estas facila kaj simpla. Mi serĉis por Lojban kaj provis lerni kelka Lojban vortoj. Ĝi estas nek facila nek simpla! Mi restos kun Esperanton.

    I speak Esperanto. I know it because it is easy and simple. I searched for Lojban and tried to learn some Lojban words. It is neither easy nor simple! I will rest with Esperanto.

    Plus, Esperanto has more of a culture and history than Lojban. I think there’s only so many logical languages that can be introduced in such a time. More people speak Esperanto than Lojban, and while at a first glance Lojban looks pretty and unusual, it quickly becomes confusing to read and such. I was hoping for some examples in this article. I went to another website that claimed to give some overviews (note the word “overview”, not a tutorial – an overview!) but it was mostly written in Spanish. While I do know Spanish, I can’t learn another language in it. :P Not THAT fluent, sadly. What English articles there were was just notes written by the scientists who created the language.

    If we were to adopt Lojban, I’d think much creativity would be killed. Reddit would certainly be suffering with the loss of possible puns that make English so great (a post about trees would branch off into comments making puns about wood and plants and trees, et cetera).

    Yes, English is confusing, but is extremely rewarding due to the areas it covers and the cultures it holds from many, MANY countries, and the things you can do with it!

    Hablo español, ich spreche Deutsch, je parle français, I speak English, mi parolas esperanton, parlo italiano, and I also know American Sign Language. That’s seven languages. Pass on Lojban.

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  82. Farooq M. Hashmi -  July 27, 2012 - 12:11 pm

    As a matter of real languages are not “invented”.Contrarily, they keep on moving through the process of evolution.I feel that the “inventors” of ‘Loglan’.'Lojban’ and ‘Esperanto’.etc., are conspiring to underrate the syntactical mastery of the English classics.

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  83. Lou Senior Head -  July 27, 2012 - 10:24 am

    I have heard that creating your own language is a symptom of schizophrenia….

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  84. Pedro -  July 27, 2012 - 8:01 am

    “Lojban’s creators think that the language helps humans communicate more directly and expressively.”

    I might be willing to concede that we could communicate more directly with such a language, but more expressively? That would only be possible if the language would allow its speakers to convey the same ideas in a multitude of ways by using synonyms, different sentence structure, and other linguistic variables. The creators of Lobjan and other languages are definitely doing something very worthwhile and useful for research purposes, but let’s keep in mind that ambiguity and linguistic creativity make languages endlessly fascinating. A mathematical approach could never produce a language that affects humans as deeply as languages that constantly evolve and reflect the cultures of those who speak them.

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  85. Cadence -  July 27, 2012 - 7:53 am

    Holy crap, I want to learn Lojban now.

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  86. Marc -  July 27, 2012 - 7:17 am

    I wouldn’t. I think this invention, while it might lead to fewer misunderstandings and certainly fewer lawsuits, will be the death of creativity. It will be the death of all humor other than the banana peel kind. It will make poetry pointless. After all, how can you have the fog come in on little cat feet if there’s no such thing as fog. Just imagine the Mona Lisa with a big fat grin on her face instead of the enigmatic expression she wears. In ambiguity lies mystery, romance, comedy, in short life. Unambiguous language is what computers use.

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  87. abby -  July 27, 2012 - 7:14 am

    every language is complex and unique but that’s what makes it interesting i think this is a really awful idea

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  88. ed -  July 27, 2012 - 7:06 am

    Great idea. How do we implement.

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  89. GalacticPresidentSuperstarMcAwesomeville -  July 27, 2012 - 6:44 am

    a CLEARER language than ENGLISH as we know it??? :S :S :S :S :S :S

    Anyone who speaks any other language knows how easy english speakers have it. There can be no more practical, straightforward or clear language in the world. Shame on those who ever dare to complain of the complexities of english. Try learning another language. Shame.

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  90. LOJBAN | BLOGCHI@mayopia.com -  July 27, 2012 - 6:35 am

    [...] ‘LOJBAN’ or Logjam? — Every pursuit has a separate language and construct. — So here we have another psycholinguistic reboot of a separation of the chosen and mathematically frozen out to obstruct — of course with a code of conduct. — If you’re interested? First you learn the language. — Or Teach the Children in a bubble. — Forget about the pictures of the Universe sent back from Hubble. — Ambiguity is only a form of Hope to help think about Viva La difference. – LLG? Cool. — Are they Masons? — We’re still working on Spanish. Capiche? –>>L.T.Rhyme [...]

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  91. will -  July 27, 2012 - 6:23 am

    Is Lojban the language spoken by Rap artists? Such as when they spell using Z’s for S’s and leave out many of the letters of a word that are not spoken.

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  92. ftimur -  July 27, 2012 - 6:09 am

    There is already a – genuinely – natural language with – mathematical – logic and with no irregularities, spoken by some people on earth. English can become another with some modifications. However, some love talking ambiguously to show how sophisticated they are. If Lojban ever becomes a widely spoken language erudite would introduce the ambiguity in it.

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  93. Martin -  July 27, 2012 - 5:26 am

    I’m surprised you don’t mention Tolkien’s Elvish at the end there.

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  94. yip -  July 27, 2012 - 5:03 am

    I believe creating a completely logical language is the way of the future. Sure, English is now the international language, but the annoying grammar rules (tread/trod/trodden but work/worked/worked?) and the ridiculously inconsistent spelling/pronunciation (compare the “ou” and “gh” sounds in “through,” “though,” “tough,” “cough,” “thought,” and “bough”) may hinder non-native speakers from easily learning it and they may thus be unable to properly communicate with the rest of the world.

    If the English language were to undergo a reform, a phonetic spelling is #1 on my list. #2 will be the creation of advanced technical terms from native English roots instead of incongruously having to resort to Latin terms that are better-suited for speakers of Romance languages (e.g. blood -> sanguine; lung -> pulmonary; etc.).

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  95. coldbear -  July 27, 2012 - 4:56 am

    I wouldn’t. I like the natural fluidity and expressiveness in English. Are there faults? Most certainty. As new words are created, some faults are cured and others are created. Big deal.

    However, don’t take me as an English-only person. Although I don’t speak any other language with any kind of thoroughness as English (I do know elements of Spanish, French and German), I believe natural languages have an intrinsic value over any manufactured language (think Esperanto). Even the dying languages of this world have more value than they do.

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  96. roger gunderson -  July 27, 2012 - 4:12 am

    I would change words that start with the letter z unless they acturally start with the z sound.

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  97. Helen -  July 27, 2012 - 3:42 am

    Wow. And I thought I was the only one in the world that dreamed of a logic-driven language! Probably the coolest article I’ve read on Dictionary.com this year!!! As a logic-fanatic this is one of the most exciting things I’ve ever heard and I can’t wait to learn more aboutit! As beautiful as our modern languages are–there’s just something refreshing in the very theory of it all :) Thanks for sharing!

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  98. ColinB -  July 27, 2012 - 3:41 am

    Yes, English is often confusing, and of course it does not help if you use poor grammar as in
    “Unlike natural languages, computers are able to process Lojban with ease”

    And if, as you write, Lojban users have been free since 2002 to alter and build upon the language as they like, I’d bet $100 against a pinch of dirt that any number of illogicalities have crept in….

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  99. Sam -  July 27, 2012 - 2:07 am

    That sounds nice! English is enjoyable to learn but the “similarities” make some of it’s structure confusing. I agree with the changes mentioned,esp the difference in the meaning of the same words like “bank”

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  100. Ignacio -  July 27, 2012 - 2:05 am

    So they have re-invented the 125-years-old ESPERANTO.

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  101. Guest -  July 27, 2012 - 1:09 am

    .i mi tavla la lojban ;)

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  102. MBR -  July 26, 2012 - 10:25 pm

    Nice to see a conlang (i.e. constructed language) other than Esperanto, Klingon, Na’vi or Dothraki getting some press. Slowly but surely, we are taking over the world!

    But I would have to say that logical languages are impossible to learn to fluency by humans. I have no interest in trying to learn Lojban because it extremely large and incredibly complex, much more so than English. If you want to learn something simple and easy to understand, go for Esperanto or Interlingua. If you want to learn something wacky, go for Klingon (good luck finding material, though).

    And if you check out the Language Construction Kit, be ye warned; it is only an overview/getting started guide. If you really want to get into conlanging, go on the forums (the ZBB and CBB). Research linguistics topics on Wikipedia. Listen to the Conlangery Podcast. And last but certainly not least, study both natural languages and other conlangs. You don’t have to learn them fluently; just have a look to see how they work. The joke goes, “A linguist is somebody who checks out a book from the library on Friday and comes to work Monday saying he knows Swahili.”

    If you should decide to sojourn into conlanging, know that it will change your life forever.

    Reply
  103. Nina -  July 26, 2012 - 9:39 pm

    Well, sounds fun, but I have never heard of such language. I hope I will get to get familiar with it and USE it with someone who also knows it..or else what’s the use?

    Reply
  104. Daniel Delgado -  July 26, 2012 - 7:55 pm

    This is mind-blowing how useful a language that can e simpler to be a candidate of a future dominant language. While I am not entirely interested in learning, it reminds me of the Dinosaur language from “Starfox Adventures” back from the Gamecube that was barely spoken, but had a very small, possibly underdeveloped language system from the booklet. It makes me almost believe some insane fans would use a language kit and perfect an archaic language by Nintendo…and that’s just the tip of the iceberg considering infinate languages pondered upon by fantasy writers and little kids making languages!

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  105. John -  July 26, 2012 - 7:55 pm

    I won’t change a thing. Complexity makes our brain work.

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  106. Mark Venzke -  July 26, 2012 - 7:18 pm

    Please provide links to Internet sites where one could hear the language being spoken with English subtitles.

    Please provide statistics for the numbers of people in various countries who have at least a basic ability to communicate in Lojban.

    Please date the articles on your Internet site.

    Reply
  107. Bubba -  July 26, 2012 - 6:07 pm

    Great idea. I will have to find out more about this ‘Lojban’. English is my native tongue and, I believe, one of the worlds richest. This wealth is due to Britain being invaded by so many differently speaking peoples and the influences of the many cultures that England dominated during its vast and lengthy Imperial period, and from whence it absorbed a cosmos of ideas idioms and words. However… It must be an incredibly difficult language to learn as a non-native speaker. As mentioned above, the rules of grammar are inconsistant and communications constantly cross-wired, to which all of our organically grown languages must suffer to a degree. English, I’m sure, is the worst in this regard. I would be interested in any studies done on the effects of language on the thinking process.

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  108. Commentator -  July 26, 2012 - 6:05 pm

    “But they went one step further to insure the language’s success.”
    Shouldn’t “insure” be “ensure”?

    Reply
  109. Cary Jhinga -  July 26, 2012 - 5:55 pm

    Ai jho phee no feema Lojban!!

    Reply
  110. Cyberquill -  July 26, 2012 - 5:54 pm

    The only chance for an artificial language completely devoid of ambiguities, irregularities, and disparities between spelling and pronunciation to remain that way is if it is used so little that natural language evolution never occurs.

    Once a language catches on, all manner of idiosyncrasies will inevitably sneak in over time, and there’s not a darn thing that can be done about it except to replace it with yet another perfectly clean and logical language created from scratch, and so on and so forth, ad infinitum.

    So in order for an invented language to stay in mint condition as intended by its creators, it must, first and foremost, be prevented from coming into contact with the masses, or else it’ll pretty soon “come to life” like English.

    Let’s face it: English is about as clear and unambiguous as any widely spoken language will ever get, and there are no limits to its range of expressiveness and the potential to be creative with it. The notion that clinical sterility in a language will boost creativity seems rather ludicrous.

    In short, anyone who seriously believes the perfect language can be designed, released into the wild, and then the people won’t mess it up (in the unlikely event that more than a handful would even bother to learn and speak it at all) is living in the twilight zone.

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  111. ee -  July 26, 2012 - 5:48 pm

    interesting

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  112. Ray -  July 26, 2012 - 5:43 pm

    A mathematician… Did he prove the language was Complete and Compact?

    Reply
  113. Ezra -  July 26, 2012 - 5:23 pm

    That’s pretty interesting. I’m not sure how willing I would be to learn a manufactured language, simply because of how few people use it. I would say that “you’re” and “your” only sound the same in informal speaking. I hear it a lot here in Arkansas.

    Reply
  114. Ptron -  July 26, 2012 - 4:42 pm

    I wouldn’t change anything about English. It’s current state is the evolution of thousands of years, and its diversity highlights its rich history of starting out as a Germanic language that was influenced by Latin, French, Celtic languages, and the Nordic invaders. Then today we have even greater diversity and richness because English is further influenced by the other languages of the world and is spoken in a large number of countries and regions, creating unique dialects. It’s fascinating!

    Reply
  115. TETO -  July 26, 2012 - 4:25 pm

    If I were not 90 I’m sure I would love to do this. Would take up my time and keep me from driving, which would please everyone.

    Reply
  116. Raja -  July 26, 2012 - 12:12 pm

    Hindi is considered to be one of the most scientific language. What you all say?
    >Almost every word in Hindi is pronounced exactly the same as written.
    >Moreover, it covers most of the sounds in universe.
    >This language is originated from one of the most ancient vedic language Sanskrit.
    I Love Hindi very much!!
    Oops, I love English too! :-);-)

    Reply
  117. Luis Legarreta -  July 26, 2012 - 10:30 am

    It is awsome that people think a natural language can be designed with an unambiguous grammar and remain so. People make a language by speaking it, evolving it and making it increasingly rich and beautifull.

    Nevertheless it is a very interesting article, thank you.

    Reply
  118. Handsome Jonni -  July 26, 2012 - 9:45 am

    *instance

    That’s a typo, not a grammatical error.

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  119. Handsome Jonni -  July 26, 2012 - 9:43 am

    Lojban surely is not popular with politicians or salesmen.

    Do these people not understand that language is also used to deceive?

    Also, to the author; were you being poetically ironic or ironically poetic when you made use if the word “are” as follows?

    “Or why ‘you’re’ are ‘your’ sound identical, but are dissimilar in meaning?”

    I try to refrain from grammar naziism, but in this intance it seemed appropriate.

    Reply
  120. SFDex -  July 26, 2012 - 8:07 am

    I’d take issue with the precept that ambiguity in language impairs creativity. Often it’s wordplay and confusion resuitling from ambiguity in language that leads one down the path of creativity. Further, the rich heritage of a language infuses it with story and song in ways that created language won’t have until it’s been part of the human condition for generations.

    I can definitely see how this language would help with technical disciplines, as the article mentions. Also, much as Esperantu tried to do, a language like this could enhance international and inter-cultural communication. But would it enhance creativity? Maybe not.

    Reply
  121. Ole TBoy -  July 26, 2012 - 7:59 am

    One of the wonders of the English language lies in its ambiguity. Poets in particular depend on ambiguity to create engaging word schemes.

    Also, the flexibility English allows is perfect for the joke teller for it makes it fairly easy to place the “kicker” word or phrase in the vital spot to induce laughter–at the ultimate position in the concluding sentence, i. e., at the very end.

    I adore English as it exists. There may be a better language in which to create “puns” but English seems mighty apt for playing this word game.

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  122. Ellen Nichols -  July 26, 2012 - 7:58 am

    “Affect” and “effect” actually have four different meanings, as each can be a noun or a verb.

    I love the ambiguity in English. The denotative and connotative meanings of words allow poetry to flourish, support humor, and challenge crossword puzzle solvers. Of course, I am a native speaker (US Midwest.)

    Reply
  123. Dicky -  July 26, 2012 - 7:25 am

    BTW (this in English), “you’re” and “your” are not supposed to be pronounced the same (except maybe in the southern U.S.A.). “You’re” should be pronounced ‘yu•err’ and “your” pronounced ‘yorr.’ The word “they’re” is pronounced ‘thay•err’ and “there” pronounced ‘thær.’ If we would pronounce the words properly, maybe more people would get the spelling correct.

    Reply
  124. Dicky -  July 26, 2012 - 7:07 am

    I’ll bet there ain’t many poems written in Lojban.

    Reply
  125. Dante -  July 26, 2012 - 6:43 am

    Hmm, no mention of Esperanto in this article?

    Reply
  126. nachitos -  July 26, 2012 - 5:43 am

    It’s a pity there is no mention of Esperanto in your article.

    Reply
  127. Neil660 -  July 26, 2012 - 4:04 am

    It would be interesting to see how the language evolves. Surely it will become punctuated with smatterings of irregularities? Assigned semantic meaning to speech sounds often behaves in a completely arbitrary way (obviously there are linguistic rules that coaxes the creation of neologisms), and I’m sure that within time, given a factor of enough speakers and wide circulation, any artificial language would take on irregularities.

    Yay! I’m the first to leave a comment!

    (Sorry, I’m being ironic)

    Reply
  128. Joseph -  July 26, 2012 - 3:29 am

    Esperanto is already widespread, and there is a vast literature to enjoy. It was meant to be used in international communication, and it would have eased the burden of translating from all languages into all languages.
    But that did not happen.
    I have been teaching English for decades. “You’re” and “your” do not sound identical. Please check on that.
    Globalese is the new “language” for communication. That is basic English, simple grammar structures already in use, no jokes, sober, and easily accessible to any speaker. It may sound a stupid language, but it works. It is in fact very simplified English.
    Native English speakers are now the ones who cannot make themselves understood out in the world, because of their overly fluent idiomatic and regional accents.
    Sometimes, as an interpreter, I was compelled to translate highly accented English speech into understandable English.
    One major change I would make to make (watch out: make to make) English a clearer language is to prohibit native English speakers from speaking it.

    Reply

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