humorous items from the early
days of the Conlang mailing list

the following item is a parody of the newsletter vidpuni, which eventually evolved into Journal of Planned Languages.

From: cs.wmich.edu!brewer (Steve Brewer)
Subject: Vortpunoj-2
Date: Tue, 1 Sep 92 16:39:46 EDT


+-----------------------------------------------+
|                                               |
|            (-:   VORTPUNOJ   :-)              |
|       ^Jurnalo de nenecessaj lingvoj          |
| Nur alia eldono, la 31-an de februaro, 1992   |
|            S. Brewer, redaktoro               |
|             brewer@cs.wmich.edu               |
+-----------------------------------------------+

IN THIS ISSUE OF VORTPUNOJ:
        Lingvo de la monato: Diptolongo         By So:l Daleb Kap
        Porpoise Poetry Revisited               By D-ro M. Bontrompon
        A contest!

***********************************
Lingvo de la monato: Diptongalo

        Diphthongalo                            Diptongalo

Diphthongal was created by a speech     Diptongalon kreis parolada
theripist to help his patients who      terapisto, por helpi terapatojn, kiu
had trouble pronouncing or              malbone diras a^u komprenas
understanding diphthongs.  The          diftongojn.  La fonemoj de la lingvo
language's phoneme set consists         estas nur diftongoj kaj la vokaloj,
entirely of diphtongs together with     kiu konsistigas ilin.  Ties aboco
the pure vowels that make them up.      konsistas tute de ne-normaj signoj,
Its alphabet consists entirely of       sed, estas norma transliterumado per
non-standard characters, but there      du-literaj kombinoj por ^ciuj
is a standard transliteration using     Diptongala litero.  Jen la aboco:
two-character combinations for each
Diphthongal character.  Here is the
alphabet:

a   e   i   o   u                       a   e   i   o   u
au  eu  iu  ou  ui                      au  eu  iu  ou  ui
aw  ew  iw  ow  uj                      aw  ew  iw  ow  uj
ai  ei      oi                          ai  ei      oi
aj  ej      oj                          aj  ej      oj

The words were selected so as to        La vortojn oni elektis por fari, ke
make pronouncing and understanding      diri kaj kompreni la diftongojn
the diphthongs critical for             estu gravega por komprenado.  Oni
comprehension.  This was done by        faras tiun per devigi, ke rilataj
making related words differ only by     vortoj malsamas nur pro tio ke unu
one having a two-vowel phoneme and      havas du-vokalan fonemon kaj la alia
the other a diphthong.  Some            diftongon.  Jen ekzemploj:
examples:

ei      yes                             ei      jes
ej      no                              ej      ne

ui      right                           ui      dekstre
uj      left                            uj      maldekstre

euuj    inside                          euuj    interne
ewuj    outside                         ewuj    ekstere

********************************
Porpoise Poetry Revisited

Multaj homoj skribis al ni por demandi pri la "Porpoise Poetry" de S-ro F.
Foceno en la lasta numero de Vortpunoj.  Ni, kompreneble, turnis nin al
Profesoro Mifaras Bontrompon je la Porpoise Linguistics Institute.  Jen
lia responda^jo:

In recent email with the Editorial staff of Vortpunoj, I received the
following message which is purported to be poetry written by a porpoise.
My assignment was to produce a translation of the meaning of the poem,
with the understanding that the poetic nature of the original might be
lost.

This task was considerably more difficult than the usual run-of-the-mill
assignment translating geckos or cockroaches.  Although non-standard
transliterations are quite common, in this case the choice of
transliteration scheme nearly rendered the task impossible.
Representing porpoise speech entirely with the characters "E" and "e"
meant that much of the nuance of the individual words was lost.

However, I believe I have accomplished the task.  Standard
representation of porpoise speech, which consists of a
pitch/volume/duration triplet for each squeak.  Of course, the original
is lacking in all three of those values.  However, we made the
simplifying assumption that the number of "e" characters correspond to a
duration, we also assumed that the capital "E" characters indicated a
higher volume than the "e" characters.  We created for each squeak an
estimated *range* of possible values, based on our simplifying
assumptions.  Then, we ran a computer matching program that generated
every possible word that the might be indicated.  In several cases there
was only one possible word.  Based on these we could eliminate some of
the possibilities for other words, in some cases due to grammatical
impossibility and in others on consistancy in meaning.

Here are the results of our efforts:

Glossary

E               I-see-it [via echo-location]
                seaweed
                tentacle
Ee              good-luck!
EeEeEeEe        right [correct, exclamation of agreement]
Eee             thermocline
Eeee            behold or to-bite-the-flukes of
EeeeEeeeE       underneath-and-to-the-right
EeeeeEeeeeE     go-for-it [exhortation to strive, whatever the odds]
Eeeeeeee        so-near-and-yet-so-far [exclamation on the unatanable]
                you've-almost-got-it
                you're-almost-there
Eeeeee          look-out [exhortation to take care]

> Eeee! Eee!  EeeeEeeeE?

Behold!  Look underneath that thermocline and to the right!

> EeEeEeEe....  E E E!

Right....  I see it!  There's [seaweed or tentacle] there!

> Eeeeeeee.  Eeeeeeee.

So near and yet so far!

> Eee! Eeee!  EeEeEeEe!  E!

At the termocline!  Look!  You can get it!  The [seaweed or tentacle]!

> EeeeeEeeeeE?  Ee!

Go for it!  Good luck!

> Eeeeeee.  Eeeeee.  E!  E!

You're almost there! Look out!  I see it!  The [seaweed or tentacle]!

> E!  E!

I see it!  The [seaweed or tentacle]!

E E E!

I see it!  The [seaweed or tentacle]!  I see it!
**********************************

        * CONTEST *                             * KONKURSO *

The designers of a new langague are     La planantoj de nova lingvo ser^cas
seeking input.  The person who          sugesta^jojn.  La homo, kiu sugestos
submits the most useful suggestion      la plej uzindan ideon, tiu ricevos
will receive free a signed limited      senpage a^utografitan eldonon de The
edition of The Complete Grammar of      Complete Grammar of Simplang, lingvo
Simplang, a language mathmatically      matimatike pruvita havi la plej
proven to have the smallest possible    malgrande eblan gramatikon.
grammar.

Input is sought for the design of       Sugesta^jojn oni ser^cas por la
Inoffensish.  This language is to       planado de Inoffensish.  Tiun lingvon
allow people to make statements         permesas, ke homoj faru asertojn,
about the world that won't offend       kiuj ne ofendos iun ajn.  Ekzemple,
anyone.  For example, these two         ^ci tiuj du frazoj tradukus al la
sentences would translate to exactly    tute sama frazo:
the same sentence:

   In 1492 Columbus discovered             Je 1492 Columbuso trovis ameriko
   America and brought                     kaj portis kristanismon al la
   Christianity to the new                 nova mondo.
   world.

   In 1492 white europeans began           Je 1492 blanka e^uropanoj
   a centuries-long program of             komencis centjaroj-longan
   genocide against native                 programon por gentmortigi
   Americans.                              kontra^u indi^genaj amerikanoj.

In Inoffensish both sentences           En Inoffensish, amba^u frazoj
would mean something like:              signifus promksimume:

   In 1492 Columbus opened the             Je 1492 Columbuso malfermis la
   new world to Europeans, which           novan mondon por e^uropanoj, kiu
   has had profound effects,               por pralo^gantoj de norda ameriko
   both good and bad, for                  faris gravajn efikojn, kaj bona
   aboriginal North Americans.             kaj malbona.

The purposes for this langague          Oni uzos tiun lingvon por pacigado,
peace studies, diplomacy, press         tiuj, kiuj bezonas registaran
releases by groups dependent on         subtenon, ktp.
government funds, etc.

Send in your suggestion now!            Ensendu viajn sugesta^jojn tuj!

--  Fin --




From cbmvax!uunet!s35.prime.com!DTBX
Wed Feb 26 13:09:15 1992


Bruce "Esperanto is the spawn of the Devil" Gilson writes:

>So much of what I have seen here has been
>arguments of the general nature of "Esperanto is the only conlang with a
>significant number of users" (usually quoting a number of 2 million out of
>the World Almanac, about 30-40 times as big as the best estimates of the
>true number that I've seen)

no one speaks Esperanto!!!  in fact its totaly a conspiracy and ZERO ZERO
ZERO people speak it!!!  the hell with facts, they're ugly and slimy,
estimates are real and facts are FALSE!

>and pointing out the importance of a large installed
>base. When I try to steer the discussion to more significant factors like
>the points of difficulty in Esperanto that have been disposed of by
>subsequent language constructors from Couturat to Weferling, I get cries
>of "accusative bashing" and such.

Bruce would never bash the accusative!  anyone who says that Bruce bashes
accusatives is a dirty Esperantist scumbag liar.  Bruce presents REAL
FACTUAL... uhh, ESTIMATIAL ARGUMENTS against the accusative!

>Most non-Esperantists see things a little differently.

"A little differently."  Bruce has a higher couthosity factor than ALL
YOU ESPERANTISSTS put together.  that's why he can speak for the entire
world.

>The number of users is
>to a large degree a matter of accident. When Volapuek was _the_ AL par
>excellence, it had a large number of users, and Esperanto in 1887 and the
>immediately following years won against this in part because it was in fact
>a better-designed language. But in recent years, there has been a concerted
>propaganda effort on the part of Esperantists to sell Esperanto as _the_
>world language, _the_ solution to the world's intercommunication problems.

propaganda is the right word!  esperantists control the news media. (how
often do they mention anything but esperanto?  just try to find ido or
novial or jesperson in a dictionary!  they controll the publishers!)
esperantists own the world major banks.  (thats why no one gives Bruce
money!).  and the drug trade.  they've conspired with the queen of england
and the pope!!!!!

>esperanto propaganda to non-committed people first tries to convince
>them that there is a need for a world interlanguage, and then states that
>there is one, and that it is esperanto.

and its prophet is Bruce Gilson... NOT!

>however, when the unknowing
>initiate is first recruited, he is not told that esperanto, in its 100+ years
>of existence, has had many rivals; it is only once he has perhaps become a
>thoroughly indoctrinated fighter for the cause, that this information comes
>out. By that time, it is a wonder that _any_ do leave the Esperanto movement,
>but leave it they do, as exampled by people like F. Peter Gopsill and John
>Bell.

a bunch of cultists!  they use mind control on there recruits!  they
murdered maralyn, you know.  and jimmy hoffa.

thats all...

Goose Brillson ("Bruce is my evil twin... or triplet!")
.signature




Date: Thu, 25 Jul 91 12:14 EDT
From: Ronald Hale-Evans (apple!binah.cc.brandeis.edu!EVANS)
Subject: SUPERL


[The following "Non-Fact Article" appears in the science fiction anthology
*Universe 10*, edited by Terry Carr, published in hardcover by Doubleday &
Co. and in paperback by Zebra Books.]

                                  SUPERL
                            Charles E. Elliott

Your request for information [writes Lt. Comdr. Boethius C. Heminstitch,
the Public Relations Officer of the division of Unusual Languages of the
U.S. Coast Guard] about SUPERL has been forwarded to me. I hope that you
will not take offense because I have not used SUPERL in this letter; it has
been a long-standing policy of this office to answer all requests in the
language of the request.

As you probably already know, SUPERL is a language devised to replace all
of the so-called natural languages. It is streamlined and rationally
designed and has every advantage over the "natural" languages.

SUPERL was developed by a team of U.S. Coast Guard linguists on an
abandoned oil rig off Santa Barbara. The Coast Guard sponsored this
research and development project for obvious reasons having to do with
interservice funding. The project stretched over a period of six months and
resulted in Coast Guard handbooks in SUPERL Grammar, SUPERL Phonology, and
SUPERL Readers I and II. At present an exhaustive SUPERL Dictionary is
under preparation. Over five hundred centers for teaching SUPERL have been
established, and it is already the official language of several government
departments.

The advantages of SUPERL are many. Using it, speakers may talk directly in
mathematics, physics, chemistry, spherical trigonometry, and anthropology,
without the necessity of an intervening language. It of course makes direct
conversion of the foot-pound-Fahrenheit system to the metric-Celsius
system, thus relieving users of laborious and time-consuming computations.
In its binary mode, SUPERL may be used directly with computers, bypassing
any computer languages. With SUPERL a thesaurus is unnecessary: an
alphabetical listing *is* a thesaurus. The real relationships of concepts
are phonologically represented, and the unwholesome arbitrariness of
phonetic symbolization is done away with.

The articulation of SUPERL involves many facial muscles, so that it is
impossible to say something illogical in SUPERL without at least a weak
smile. Blatant absurdities result in broad grins and repeated winks.

However, while these are major advantages, they might be built into
"natural" languages. SUPERL has, in addition, two characteristics that no
"natural" language has: truth and compactness.

Grammatical utterances in SUPERL are always *true*. Thus, new truths about
the universe can be discovered by babbling. This has obvious advantages.
Speakers of SUPERL have at their tongue tip (so to speak) the combined
knowledge of mankind, and, what is more, all the facts about the universe
they will ever need. The Coast Guard is presently exploiting this
characteristic in a unique project. Thirty garrulous people have been
gathered in our laboratory in Peoria and instructed to talk about whatever
interests them. What they say is recorded and will be compiled into the
SUPERL Encyclopedia. We modestly hope that ultimately this will be the
Ultimate Compendium of All Knowledge. If it is ever declassified it may
prove of interest to scholars and teachers.

The grammar of SUPERL is equipped for many uses. For example, history can
be recounted using the past perfect. Count nouns are used for the nobility,
and there are mass nouns for the people. And not only does it have a
passive voice for the cautious, it even has a future tense for the anxious.

SUPERL is, in addition, amazingly compact. What may be a lengthy exegesis
in a "natural" language is often a simple sentence in SUPERL. A classic
example of this is B.A. Booper's refutation of stratificational analysis.
It was a single word! Whole novels have been written on the back of Howard
Johnson menus. SUPERL lends itself quite naturally to poetry. For example:

        Gnuj
        Wroj

--which shows a height of lyricism not often attained in awkward "natural"
languages. The approximate English translation is "As the moon casts
silvery fingers (*or* greasy forks) over the spider's (*or* lampshade's
*or* fodder's) back, does he (*or* the moon) care, really care? I will
return (*or* become nauseous) to my beloved (*or* the general public). Is
there any other way? (*or* Do you have any oranges?)" The entire works of
Shakespeare are being translated into SUPERL; the result is expected to be
a single trilogy of plays. There may be some difficulties with actual
production, for, as one writer observed, "The cast is large, but the
soliloquies are short."

In spite of the many advantages of SUPERL, large numbers of people still
sullenly refuse to say anything in it. We guess that this may be the result
of half-baked rumors and spurious opinions about SUPERL. It would be well
to straighten out a few expressions of anti-SUPERL sentiment.

Some object because speakers seem to be unable to make jokes in SUPERL. This
seems to be a rather pointless objection. Jokes have their place, but there
are all sorts of practical jokes that don't require any use of language at
all. Let those who cite this as an objection stitch a friend's trouser legs
together, or pour olive oil into their wives' cocktail glasses. In any case,
to satisfy these spoilsports, we may point out that already a team of United
States Coast Guard Transmogrificational Grammarians is at work devising a set
of standard jokes that may be recited in SUPERL.

That chimpanzees seem to be able to learn SUPERL faster and better than
human beings is not really an objection to the language, either. There is
simply a difference between the brains of chimps and the brains of human
beings. *Vive la diffe'rence!*

The rumor that a certain anthropological finding, an artifact, had no name
in SUPERL, and that proponents of SUPERL subsequently smashed and disposed
of the artifact, has no truth in it. Speakers of SUPERL have tested this
rumor by trying to repeat it in SUPERL. They were able to repeat this
rumor, but only with broad grins and guffaws. Thus, even if true, the rumor
had to be most illogical.

The most vicious rumor is that it is possible to say "The world is coming
to an end soon" in SUPERL without even the hint of a smile. This we must
simply discount. If the present trend of diversity in "natural" languages
continues to pollute our linguistic atmosphere, we really *are* in for
trouble. Let the anti-SUPERLites consider that, instead of carping at a
minor inconsistency in SUPERL.

I hope I have given you the information you require. You may be amused to
know that there *are* dirty words in SUPERL. In the interests of National
Security, however, these words have been classified and may be used only by
the highest echelons of the government and the military.

Please write me directly if you are in need of further information about
SUPERL. I would also be grateful if you would forward to me the names of
any you hear being critical of SUPERL. Please indicate in your report if
they are supported by any government moneys.

******

Isn't this classic? Who is Charles E. Elliott? Has he published any other
work? I will do an electronic library search after I send this off and let
y'all know. In any case, I don't think *Universe 10* is in print, and I
have seen "SUPERL" nowhere else, so I don't think anyone is losing revenue
here.

I sent a xerox of this piece to Bob LeChevalier (lojbab@snark.thyrsus.com),
prime mover behind Lojban, but he didn't think it was very funny. I wonder
why?

Besides being a brilliant satire of the planned language movement (and I
think we can see a little bit of Esperanto, Loglan/Lojban, BABM, the "a
priori" languages of Descartes and friends, Solresol, maybe even Lincos, in
here), this piece raises some interesting philosophical questions. *Why*
can't we create a language where grammatical correctness implies factual
correctness? (Douglas Hofstadter is great for this stuff; see *Goedel,
Escher, Bach*.)

The compactness aspect of SUPERL reminds me also of R.C.W. Ettinger's book
*Man into Superman*, where he speculates on the possibility of making
future language more compact and expressive by using all phonemes that can
be generated by (super-)human vocal organs, and using more of the possible
short words. (For example, "at" and "it" exist in English, but why aren't
"et", "ot", and "ut" words?)

Further comments, anyone?




From: trl.OZ.AU!j.guy (Jacques Guy)
Subject: Plan B, and beyond!
Date: Thu, 10 Sep 92 16:38:39 EST


Searching for a snail-mail address I had mislaid, I had to revive my
mailbox and wade through 993 messages. As I did, I chanced upon
several which I must have missed. One was telling us about the
availability of a certain "Plan B" at hebrew.cc.columbia.edu.  'Twas
like waving a red rag at a frog (a bullfrog) and I snapped at the bait
merrily.

I read Plan B on the taxi ride to the city on Telecom business which,
according to Telecom, you have no business knowing about. But Plan B
is no corporate secret, so I want to tell about Plan B "Design and
Implementation of a Near-Optimal Loglan Syntax". Be warned: I'm about
to take the mickey out of Plan B from Hebrew Space. And why shouldn't
I?  It reads as if the author was having us on.  So it's only a mickey
for a minnie [see footnote 1]. Nevertheless, Plan B gave me a great
idea for the perfect conlang. Just bear with me as I unveil before
your amazed eyes the arcane mysteries of Plan B, you will be fully
rewarded in the end.

The Plan-B language -- I'll call it Bee for short -- Bee, then, has 16
er... phonemes, because sixteen is a power of two, which makes it
computationally desirable. Each phoneme has two allophones, one of
which is a vowel, or a diphthong, or the same preceded by "r", the
other a consonant. I say: jolly good idea!  Indeed, it's like the
author says: "By providing both a vowel and a consonant pronunciation
for each letter, and using them alternately, we can pronounce
arbitrary strings of letters without difficulty". Brilliant. And I,
poor sod, who thought a strict CV(V) language would do it!


For instance:

English: "I   like her driving my  car"
    Bee: "G-l  tk-s  ck-l   mg-n   g-n  cc-l"
    IPA: [g-rE ti:-s eik-rE mai-n  ai-n eiS-rE] (S = esh, E = epsilon)

This is terrific, for it means that each word has exactly two
allomorphs, depending on how many er... phonemes precede it in
the sentence. "Ck" for instance, is either [eik] or [Si],
e.g.

English: "She likes me"
    Bee: "Ck-l tk-n   g-l"
    IPA: [Si-l ruk-ri g-rE]

The unambiguous segmentation of the spoken chain into its
discrete words, implemented oh! so very messily in Lojban,
is implemented Huffman-style in Bee. And I, poor sod, who
thought the first vowel of a word could be used to tell
how many syllables it had!

Let us now turn to the grammar of the language. It makes do
with an unlimited number of ... er... case-markers, of which
you have already encountered three: -l, -n, and -s. -l has
highest precedence, -n second highest, -s third. Armed
the vorpal sword of that knowledge, you should be able
to disentangle the Gordian knot of the two sentences
above in even less time flat than Alexander.

No? Well, perhaps two more sentences would help:

I   drive  the   car
G-l mg-n   hb-n  cc-l

I   can   drive  a   car
G-l cn-n  mg-n   b-n  cc-l

Ha, ha! I hear you say, why "Gl cnn mgn bn ccl" if "Gl tks
ckl mgn ccl"? Shouldn't it rather be "Gl cns mgn bn ccl"?
I agree with you. It's probably a typing mistake: "s" and
"n" are rather close together on a keyboard. However:

I   will drive my  car  to   you
G-l ml-n mg-n  g-n cc-l th-n j-l

So, clearly, it wasn't a typing mistake. Now where have I
put that vorpal sword again?

In conclusion, the author sums up the advantages of such a
language. I cannot resist the pleasure of quoting ckl:

Compared to existing loglans, [Bee]

. Is much simpler.
. Potentially allows for mechanical recognition of
  continuous speech.
. Is suited to laboratory studies of the Sapir-Whorf
  Hypothesis.
. Possesses a certain elegance. (Eat your hearts out, Coco Chanel,
  Christian Dior, Pierre Balmain and sundry!)

Well, folks, allow me to present my own loglan, beyond Bee.
So I'll call it Cee.

Cee is written in an alphabet of 26 letters: a, b, c, d, e, f...  I'll
leave you to guess at the rest. Those letters are pronounced
respectively  bi, ba, sha, da, fi, fa...  I'll leave you guess at the
rest. That leaves us quite a few handfuls of syllables out of which we
select:

bo  as first-order precedence whatever, which we write 1
sho as second-order precedence ditto, which we write 2
do  as third-order of the ilk, which we write 3
... I'll leave you to guess at the rest.

And also:

bu  which we write  or 
shu which we write .

Now look:

English: I     drive    the   car.
    Bee: G-l   mg-n     hb-n  cc-l
    Cee: Me-1  drive-2  the-2 car-1.

(Hyphens have been inserted only for your convenience, o, gentle readers!)

English: I    can   drive    a    car.
    Bee: G-l  cn-n  mg-n     b-n  cc-l
    Cee: Me-1 can-2 drive-2  a-2  car-1.

I'll leave it to you to work out the pronunciation of those two Cee
sentences. Just note how that little syllable, bu (spelt ),
neatly and *elegantly* solves the problem of recognizing morpheme
boundaries.  Cee, admittedly, is more verbose than Bee, but I'm working
on it. Now where is my copy of Dutton's Speedwords?


Footnote(s)

[Note 1] Why "minnie"? Well, we all know who Mickey and Minnie
Mouse are, don't we? And what sex they are. Yes? So, it's...
twit for twat!

1