Emo Bear

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A Universal Language...

Think about this: your first language, just like religion — you were born into it. As a child, you never got to choose them and things may or may not change until later in life (1).

I have always speculated that babies in so many countries say “ma” because they are either hungry or want to be held or want some attention. If this is true, then generations after generations, mothers have totally made the mistake of assuming that their babies are talking about them.

Unlike computer languages, I don't think we/countries have ever actually sat down together to invent a universal language that's easy to learn, easy to understand and (almost) error-free. We are definitely not quite there yet to take on this challenge. But what if some day, like Sebastian Seung predicts(2), that we will have the brain/every neuron/every synapse mapped and we use that data to understand how languages work in our brain; especially in babies. We can then construct sounds/vocabulary that make sense scientifically and build an efficient language for the whole planet to communicate with.

So for now it is important that we keep as many languages alive as we can so that once we have the science to do so, we can study and understand them even further in relationship to the brain.

I hope in the years to come (as a transitional state) our kids will get more exposure to different languages. English will most likely be their main language, but maybe their math class could be taught in Mandarin, science class in Portuguese, history class in German, etc, you get the idea...

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1) This is strictly from a Western point of view (mostly for North Americans who only know English), obviously does not apply to kids in places like Singapore who have to learn 4 languages.

2) “Some day, a fleet of microscopes will capture every neuron and every synapse in a vast database of images... because finding an entire human connectome is one of the greatest technological challenges of all time.” — Sebastian Seung

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    Apr 5 2011: i like Terence McKenna theory on the future of human evolution and communication, where we will be able to visulaize our communication causing a univeral language of its own.
  • Apr 19 2011: great idea, here is my idea, why not ask kids to translate their work , assignments or reports once every month or every week in a new language, that will make concepts more clear and they will also be learning new language.
  • Apr 4 2011: Here's a wild guess - Take English, give it a completely phonetic spelling(current spelling rules are a a mess), ditch conjugation & declension(there's hardly any left), declare it IE - International English, as opposed to BE and AE - and we're done!

    - a completely analytical language with no complex grammar rules
    - strict SOV word order, the most common form in the world
    - spelling obvious from speech & pronunciation obvious at first glance
    - easy to adapt to by current 1st & 2nd language English speakers
    - easy to learn by new speakers

    Then again It's just my wild guess.
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      Apr 4 2011: Maja, not sure that no complex grammatical rules make a language easier to comprehend... In fact, I think that grammatical rules make language richer and more flexible. I would like to share a joke my English teacher once shared with me:

      "European officials have often pointed out that English spelling is unnecessarily difficult - for example, cough, plough. What is needed is a phased programme of changes to iron out these anomalies. The programme would be administered by a committee staff at top level by participating nations.

      In the first year, for example, the committee would suggest using 's' instead of the soft 'c'. Sertainly, sivil servants in all sities would resieve this news with joy. Then the hard 'c' could be replaced by 'k' sinse both letters are pronounsed alike. Not only would this klear up konfusion in the minds of klerikal workers, but typewriters kould be made with one less letter.

      There would be growing enthusiasm when in the sekond year, it kould be announsed that the troublesome 'ph' would henseforth be written 'f'. This would make words like 'fotograf' twenty per sent shorter in print.

      In the third year, publik akseptanse of the new spelling kan be expekted to reash the stage where more komplikated shanges are possible. Governments would enkourage the removal of double letters which have always been a deterent to akurate speling.

      We would al agre that the horible mes of silent 'e's in the languag is disgrasful. Therefor we kould drop thes and kontinu to read and writ as though nothing had hapend. By this tim it would be four years sins the skem began and peopl would be reseptive to steps sutsh as replasing 'th' by 'z'. Perhaps zen ze funktion of 'w' kould be taken on by 'v', vitsh is, after al, half a 'w'. Shortly after zis, ze unesesary 'o kould be dropd from words kontaining 'ou'. Similar arguments vud be aplid to ozer kombinations of leters.

      Kontinuing zis proses yer after yer, ve vud eventuli hav a reli sensibl riten styl."
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    Apr 2 2011: You may want to look into the work of Noam Chomsky and Steven Pinker. Chomsky approached language from the "mathematical/analytical" side to find a universal grammar, and Pinker's work backed up that theory with the biological/neurolinguistic approach.