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Speedtalk from "Gulf" mentioned in New Yorker 
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Post Re: Speedtalk from "Gulf" mentioned in New Yorker
PeterScott wrote:
You correctly point out that spoken language requires redundancy through allowing for multiple ways of pronouncing the same word. This permits someone from Boston to understand someone from Atlanta, for instance. But I don't see why Homo Novis shouldn't be capable of understanding very fine degrees of pitch and not require any redundancy in their language (essentially requiring everyone to speak the same dialect and accent).They could have listening skills to put a master chorister to shame: perfect absolute pitch, perfect relative pitch, and so on. They could equally well have the same control over their vocal chords.

Heinlein's description of the superiority of Homo Novis was that it was due to their mental abilities, not their physical ones. To postulate that they would be able to have the perceptual ability to recognize 17[1] variations of what non-Homo Novis people would normally perceive as a single phoneme is conceivable, but not, I believe, likely. The ability to generate those distinctions without producing intervening variations would definitely require an even more unlikely ability since the vocal apparatus is essentially an analog, not a digital mechanism. Presumably, we are still dealing with Homo Sapiens physiology.

David
[1] Most languages use from 20-odd to 30-odd phonemes. To raise that to the necessary 800-odd required for Speedtalk would require roughly a 17-fold increase in the number of phonemes, most depending on relative minor variations in the basic phonetic production, aspiration, glottal stopping, tongue position, bi-labial vs. labio-dental etc. (There are a few languages which utilize these normally minor variations as phonemic distinctions, pitch in Chinese for instance, but most languages have none or few of such distinctions).

Laying aside the purely vocal aspects, written SpeedTalk would require the same number of distinct written characters to represent all of the phonemes, a different perceptual requirement.


Sun Jan 06, 2013 1:06 pm
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Post Re: Speedtalk from "Gulf" mentioned in New Yorker
Quote:
Laying aside the purely vocal aspects, written SpeedTalk would require the same number of distinct written characters to represent all of the phonemes, a different perceptual requirement.


Exactly. Learning to write such a language would not be as difficult as learning to write in a character-based language such as Chinese or Japanese, but it would be *much* more difficult than a language based on an alphabet or syllabary. All other things being equal, a difficult written language impacts universal literacy. China and Japan have nearly universal literacy, but the standard of "literate" is lower than in Europe. I've had Japanese friends who tell me that they have an easier time reading books in English than in Japanese despite it being their native language.

Heinlein was wonderful at speculative thinking about the possibilities of all sorts of things. He was definitely no linguist, though, and I get the impression that he was no specialist in neurological function either. Which, since he was educated as an engineer and physicist, isn't surprising. :-)

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Mon Jan 07, 2013 2:23 pm
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Post Re: Speedtalk from "Gulf" mentioned in New Yorker
JamesGifford wrote:
I think it's clear that Speedtalk and all its kitties came from Heinlein's exposure to General Semantics, a movement which ultimately failed to change the world much.


Definitely. As I intended to point out in my first post. The text I presented came from my unpublished book
Heinlein & Korzybski
Maps of General Semantics

However, I goofed and gave the title of the article that I wrote in "ETC, A Review of General Semantics [Vol. 68 Number One, January 2011]. This article was a modified excerpt from the book.

Heinlein made the relationship to General Semantics clear when he wrote:
"A symbolic structure, invented instead of accepted without question, can be made similar in structure to the real-world to which it refers. The structure of Speedtalk did not contain the hidden errors of English; it was structured as much like the real world as the New Men could make it. For example, it did not contain the unreal distinction between nouns and verbs found in most other languages. The world—the continuum known to science and including all human activity—does not contain “noun things” and “verb things”; it contains space-time events and relationships between them. The advantage for achieving truth, or something more nearly like truth, was similar to the advantage of keeping account books in Arabic numerals rather than Roman."

This is pure General Semantics.


Mon Jan 07, 2013 4:44 pm
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