Friday, July 11, 2014

Pretty Little Girls School (Teachers (Union ....))

James Cooke Brown, the creator of Loglan, confronted the ambiguity of "pretty little girls school" and various extensions to find all the possible readings and to build into his language a way to disambiguate them.  In the right grouping fashion of English and Loglan, he found the following possibilities:
P(L(GS)) a pretty example of a small school for girls.
P((LG)S) a beautiful example of a school for little girls
(PL)(GS) a beautifully small example of a school for girls
(P(LG))S a school for little girls who are beautiful
((PL)G)S a school for girls who are beautifully small
In each case, any binary pair could conceivably be not a subordination relation but a parallelism:
pretty examples of small girls and small schools, for example.

These patterns can be extended indefinitely in the grammar and quite a bit further in even in practice: pretty little girls school teachers union official, say.  Loglan's requirement of complete freedom from syntactic ambiguity naturally required a general scheme which would teat each such pattern differently yet still fall under a general rule.  The resulting system, while not terribly complex, is somewhat difficult to produce and interpret on the fly, but it does work.

Happily, tp does not require complete freedom from ambiguity but merely strives to bring out major differences in structure and ease the disambiguation task to (usually) manageable proportions.  It seems likely that, in the spoken language, further disambiguation comes in changes in voice and perhaps the written language should reflect that, but now we have only the abstract grammatical structures to suggest thaty these added features may occur and need to be recognized.

So, for tp, we might take something like "good little fish bowl", which, since tp groups left rather than right, comes out as 'tomo kala lili pona'.  As in the case of Loglan, the uniform default grouping is unmarked, though the grouping is mirror-imaged. The remaining cases are (with hypothetical commas to mark possible signs of the differences involved)
tomo pi kala lili, pona
tomo kala pi lili pona
tomo pi kala lili pona
tomo pi kala pi lili pona
Hopefully, the pattern is clear enough to extend to cases of good little fish bowl shelves (supo ...) and good little fish bowl shelf brackets (palisa ...) and beyond (but remember that tp style favors many short sentences over any kind of long structure).

When the items within a grouping are conjoined rather than subordinate, the rule seems to be the same: a pair in a modifier position is set off by 'pi'.  New issues arise about conjoined heads: does the 'lili' in 'tomo en kala lili pona' modify both 'kala' and 'tomo' or only 'kala' and the same applies to 'pona' and 'kala pili'?  that is, is this ((t+k)l)p, (t+(kl))p, t+((kl)p)?  And, it follows, 'tomo en kala pi lili pona; might be either t+(k(lp)) or (t+k)(lp).  This suggests that the rules for conjoined terms needs some further study, recommending commas at least and maybe even different markers.  Or, of course, prohibitions against certain kinds of conjunctions.  But this latter seems to prohibitive, since, even with many sentences rather than longer strings, some conjunctions seem inevitable (the red-and-blue ball on the beach, for example).  But at least more study and thought is needed here.

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