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This was originally posted on another thread, and has been moved here by MrPedantic:

Good day mates, you have put many good and interesting questions in this forum. I am trying my best to answer it. First of all, I have to say there are serious problem in current English, the vocabulary problem. Nowadays, the Webster and Oxford dictionary have already more than 300,000 entries. Roughly, they are not including scientific words. As the English taking more and more words from other countries and the development of human knowledge offer more words, the real number of English words are more than one million. You may feel proud of it, for it is the most complete vocabulary of the alphabetic world. Yet do you think about another question, that how many words a single person can remember during his life? Some book said that the vocabulary of Churchill was 30,000. While in Shakspea's time the English have only 30,000 words, so his vocabulary could not be more than this. In psychology, there is a 'frequency effect' that is, the more you use a word, the familiar you feel for it. Just think, even if you can keep 90,000 words in mind, the using frequency would be one third of the ancient English speakers. I believe that is the reason of why Shakspea's English was so good, none of the later can overtake him. For the later have to deal with much more words than him.

The question is, among the one million words; every single person could only remember three to five percent of them randomly. When the number reach the figure of ten million, the percentage would be as low as point three to point five. Do you think it is not a problem, comparing with some other language, that every single speaker can remember more than ten million words?

The translation theory is in fact the same thing. For example, the English word 'alto' can be translated into a certain language that have no this word but have three word as 'lowest', 'female' and 'voice'. They can use these three words to create a word or we may say, compound word equal to the English word 'alto'. That means to say words carrying smaller meaning size could easily create a word carrying larger meaning. For we can use 'lowest plus, female plus voice as alto'. We can't use 'alto minus lowest, minus female' as voice. I call it as pixel theory, for only smaller pixel could express the in formation of larger pixel. So the target of translation would be finding the smallest meaning size to make the translation clearer. It sounds a bit like the semantic primitive. But in fact it is not, since every translation or even every language could not reflect the exactly truth, we can only find a group meaning carrying, that smaller than all the other and they can translate all the information in the rest languages better.

As for the short-term memory, the key issue is how can we squeeze more information carrier during the gap of this period. The current English words are too long. While if we cut the size, it would not have enough symbol to be employed. What should we do?

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Comments  
Su's post:
I always wonder some thing in English grammar. For instance, the sentence:
I drive him.
'I' is the subject. 'Him' is the object. Yet their position have told us this too. Is that means the English grammar is sort of double expressing? For if the sentences of: I him drive. drive I him. drive him I. him drive I. him I drive. never happened in our printing material, the position will tell us what they are.
Another example is this:
I carried him, before.
It is also double expressing. The past tense 'ed' tells us the action happened in the past, while the word 'before' tells this too.
So the question would be; why should we express a certain meaning in a sentence twice, while other meaning only once? Is there any meaning that need to be expressed three times?

Julie: Subject Verb Object (SVO) isn't universal. In Japanese, the order is SOV.

e.g. honya e ikimasu. (bookstore, to, go = I go to bookstore)

If memory serves, suffixes in Latin determine the case, so word order is more flexible.
(is that right, Mr. P?)

Old English had a lot more inflections, but as inflections became more simplified, the language relied more and more on word order for its meaning. We can't assume the position determines the case, since SVO isn't universal.

Besides, look at the classic case of:
I like him more than her.
I like him more than she.

How do we distinguish between the two if we don't have objective cases?

As for your second example, I think Chomsky has brought it up in his transformational grammar book(s).
IMHO, tense markers do seem redundant in some cases. e.g

I watched TV last night.

Since we know it's "last night", the tense marker in "watched" does seem redundant as we can simply say "I watch TV last night".
Based on this, we may want to do away with tense markers. But then look at this example:

I came. I saw. I conquered.

Now if English doesn't have tense markers, we will have to add another word to explain the tense (like we do in Chinese):

I come already/before. I see already/before. I conquer already/before/etc. etc.
In this case, "I came. I saw. I conquered." is a lot more efficient.
I think that the two words ' more than' give the position order. So besides the grammatical difference, there is nothing wrong with the sentences.

I like he more than her.
I like him more than her (correct )

Can you tell me beside 'I like him more and like her less'; is there any other meaning there?
Secondly, Chomsky only said 'does seem', he didn't say 'definitely'. So I don't know what the difference in the last two sentences is.
I watched TV last night.
I watch TV last night.(incorrect )
The only difference is the first is grammatically incorrect.
Immediately, you know that I am wrong. Why do you feel so sure? For you have understood the meaning of this sentence pretty well. Since you understand it very well, why do you say I am wrong.
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Su: I think that the two words ' more than' gives the position order.

Julie: I beg to differ.

I like him more than her. = I like him more than I like her.
I like him more than she gives the impression of I like him more than she likes him.

So word order doesn't tell us everything.

As for the second one, I've made myself very clear. Tense markers are more effective when no specific time is mentioned. Please refer to my example about "I came. I saw. I conquered."
You said: "As for the second one, I've made myself very clear. Tense markers are more effective when no specific time is mentioned. Please refer to my example about "I came. I saw. I conquered.""
I agree with you that "I came. I saw. I conquered." are more effective. But I have another two questions that why people using irregular verb 'came' and 'saw' instead of 'comed and seed'? Can we find a uniform of the symbol of 'ed' and can the new symbol being separated from the verb?
Some linguist believes that the past tense was started from ancient time, when people don't care about time too much. They just care about past or present. But we care about every minutes of our life. In scientific study, they even care about one thousandth second of time. If we put a symbol like 'ed' in every words, then with the development of the science we should put at least every second before or from now a different suffix like 'ed' behind every verb, how many new suffix would we invent? Do you think they make sense?
As for the sentence:" I like him more than she gives the impression of I like him more than she likes him.", I am not sure what it means. But I reckon, when people want to express an idea likewise, normally they use a much simple sentence, for they have to have the confidence that the audience would understand it easily. But since I am not sure what do you mean, please explain it in a different sentence.
Why do people use irregular verbs? Depends on the origin of the verb, I guess. English did borrow from many languages.

You asked: Can we find a uniform of the symbol of 'ed' and can the new symbol being separated from the verb?
-Linguistic engineering is like genetic engineering -- it's something I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole! Maybe it's better to have consistent tense markers, but any artificial manipulation of the language is bound to have unintended consequences.

Why would you want to "suffix-ize" every second? How is that more efficient than "such-and-such happened on 1/1/2000 1:20.00" or whatever? Keeping track of such a suffix would be more hassle than it's worth......

>I like him more than she
Versus
I like him more than her
Please simplify my sentences then. I don't know if there's a simpler way to say this. I learned the diff between the two sentences back in grade school.

Again, just an example to show that word order alone doesn't tell the whole story.
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If you don't like to use another explanation, then I try to explain it and you may correct it for me. The sentence of:
"I like him more than she gives the impression of I like him more than she likes him."
means: She expressed an idea that I like him more than she likes him. But in fact I like him more than this.
You said: "Why do people use irregular verbs? Depends on the origin of the verb, I guess. English did borrow from many languages."
But I have a different idea. The past tense of old English 'wear' was 'wered' not wore. This word is harder to pronounce than current 'wore'. You may repeat them several times to find it. So the economy of pronunciation is the first priority. Like wise, plenty of the irregular verbs have such property. Just think about 'taked' and 'took', 'seed' and 'saw' 'haved' and 'had', 'runed' and 'ran' etc. that means to say the English victim memory to remember a new word in order to reduce the times of oral action. Why this happened? Because English has not got enough phonetic patterns. Once the number of phonetic pattern increased, all the grammatical system would be changed. Some German linguists had found some thing about this.
Yes, it should be a hassle. But the full question is that the ancient people caring about the past and now, so they invent the past and present tense. Current people caring about every minutes, if keeping on the track, then we have to invent a suffix for every second for every verb. Yet when we separate them or free the suffix from the verb, then every thing would be simple. I think you agree with me at this point, but why not we free those suffix from the current verb?

May be this time I got what you want to say.
I like him more than she.
Means 'I like him more than she does.'
I like him more than her.
Means 'I like him better than her.'
If I am right, than the 'does' will divided the two meanings not 'she' or 'her'.

You said
"-Linguistic engineering is like genetic engineering -- it's something I wouldn't touch with a 10-foot pole! Maybe it's better to have consistent tense markers, but any artificial manipulation of the language is bound to have unintended consequences."
Any development in language would be step by step. Even the ancient monarchy couldn't change it overnight. The question is currently most of the linguists intend to explain the some ancient legacy or habit as linguistic science. It is a big mistake.
As more people use Englsh, the language will change more quickly, and I don't see how we can "freeze" the language at one point in time so we can conduct this little experiment. The moment you come up with a system, somebody would have borrowed more words and "messed up" your system again. After all, we're asking the whole world to abide by one set of rules

Why not we free those suffix from the current verb?
In this case, why bother have any word at all? Just break apart every word for every separable element-and you'll end up with uhmmm -- letters. Unbreakable will become "un" "break" "able" -- which is inefficient if you consider the 2 spaces wasted between the words.

-If I am right, than the 'does' will divided the two meanings not 'she' or 'her'.
-You're adding a word! That's not efficient.Emotion: sad

The French tries to "control" how their own people use language, and from what I can tell, with limited success. I am not sure how we can program efficiency into everyone.

>Because English has not got enough phonetic patterns.
I beg to differ. What's wrong with preserving the original "look" of the loan word? That way, we can understand how the loaned words change through time. We're eradicating linguistic forensics here. Emotion: smile

>I think you agree with me at this point, but why not we free those suffix from the >current verb?
We're going in a circle. We've agreed that tense markers are important when "when" is not mentioned. Problem is, you assume that everyone values efficiency over everything else, that everybody cares when things happen down to the second, and that everyone define efficiency the same way. That's a huge cultural assumption to make. Also, who are we to say that tense markers and the suffix system are less efficient? Just because we don't have it in Chinese doesn't mean others find them a nuisance.
If it is such a nuisance, it wouldn't exist in SO many languages. Some may argue that turning *** into a prefix or suffix is more efficient than trying to have so many detachable parts, with all these spaces, no?
-You're adding a word! That's not efficient.Emotion: sad
That is correct. Add one word would be inefficient. Do ever think about that in a sentence, if every word turned to be shorter, and at the end we put on an extra word, then the total sentence would be still shorter than the original one? I am going to explain what is the nature of semantic language. It is a balance memory and expressing speed. In a certain language, the words like 'alto' represent large memory, because you need to remember is just for expressing speed. While a word like lowest-female-voice, you don't need to keep it always in mind, so it save memory while expressing it in a longer time. That is to say the memory and expressing time can always exchange each other. In a certain language, they always keeping balance, unless the number of PP changed, then they will shift to a new balance. Another example is the word 'pork' it means 'the meat of pig' why we invent this word? Comparing with the donkey meat, we didn't invent a word for it, why? The reason is that the word 'pork' happened in our life frequently, while the donkey meat is not. A new word 'pork' needs more memory to exchange speed, while the donkey meat rarely happened, we don't want to waste our memory.
In this case, why bother have any word at all? Just break apart every word for every separable element-and you'll end up with uhmmm -- letters. Unbreakable will become "un" "break" "able" -- which is inefficient if you consider the 2 spaces wasted between the words.
I'd like to say, when the meaning carriers or elements free from word, it will much easy to combine others to form a new term or new compound words. It will increase the frequency of each such element, from psychology, the more frequently we use it, the better we remember it. In that way, the language will turn to be an easier language for the learner. I think that is the reason of the Chinese language, with such a complex writing system and still can survival.
-Problem is, you assume that everyone values efficiency over everything else, that everybody cares when things happen down to the second, and that everyone define efficiency the same way.
I reckon that every body values efficiency. The reason is that people care about their life. The life of every body is the most precious thing in the world. No one want waste his life, when he at his born.
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