Talons Philosophy

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To Create an Abstract Conlang

I have been looking into research on how to construct a conlang (constructed language), in order to construct to attempt to construct one using abstract concepts to describe concrete objects.

A conlang is a fairly interesting idea/hobby, if you are interested in creating your own conlang, I found these links helpful: Zompist, COE, and Andrew Moore (dead). Note: if you do want to create conlang, knowing an additional language is extremely helpful.

Moving on, what do I mean by creating a language starting from the abstract? Zogg from Betelgeuse thoroughly answers that question. However if you prefer reading, then here is my version of what an abstract-concrete language would look like. Imagine our own language, English, it describes much of what we know and do by using objects. It describes complex ideas and concepts using concrete objects, but not in the reverse order. When we describe guilt, we describe it as a pit in the stomach, or a burden upon ones shoulders. We do not describe guilt using abstract concepts, like numbers, mathematics, and so on. We can use numbers to describe the properties of certain shapes/objects. But we cannot use mathematics to describe other abstract concepts like emotions.

Now for language, language is a complex thing, it all starts with phonology (the sounds used in any particular language), and then nuances added to the phonology like pitch, tone, and stress. Then grammar (the set of rules for a particular language) and finally the actual creation of the words. I would like to note that this is a very simple description of the steps it takes to create a language; in reality it takes weeks to procure the right sounds, shapes and rules that make a conlang your own. And again I would refer you to the three links above for further instruction on language, as I am not fluent in creating conlangs at all.





Finally, the fun part, constructing/finding a language based upon the abstract. I cannot use sounds like other conlangs, as this would be using physical air to describe things around me. I cannot use symbols or shapes on paper, as again these are based on concrete objects. I cannot use anything sensory whatsoever, I essentially must avoid everything from the school of empiricism, absolutely everything, as anything from empiricism relies on concrete things. Similarly I cannot rely on rationalism either as this depends on empiricisms and vice versa. Therefore, for my mind it is impossible to create an abstract-concrete language. However, when looking at the language which computers speak, binary. It is clear that this language develops from the abstract to the concrete, however to relies on hardware to function. Although it is a language that relies on abstract concepts, that nearly describes everything. It does not however describe emotions, as I had said earlier, for a language to describe emotions with abstract concepts is nearly impossible. DNA however, the ATCG language, may describe those complex things.




DNA is a code that uses four nitrogenous bases to construct millions of things, we are even beginning to think that this code constructs emotions too. But, unfortunately, it is still not an abstract-concrete language as it uses concrete nitrogenous bases to describe more complex abstract and concrete things. Like our languages DNA is concrete-abstract and not vice versa, perhaps that is how it should be, although of all this, I am still unsure.



2 Responses to To Create an Abstract Conlang

  1. Avery C says:

    Very interesting post Vincent. I’ve never really thought this way about languages before, which was why this intrigued me when you mentioned in it class a while back. I’m glad you followed through and made a post about this, because these are great ideas that should be shared.

    Additionally, I’d like to argue that binary does not truly qualify as an abstract to concrete language.
    Binary is a language (or base, if you prefer) created by humans to convert human spoken-word languages (like English or French) or programming languages (like Python or Java) into a basic form that computers can understand. It relies on two “symbols”; one and zero, representing true and false.

    At first appearance, this does seem abstract because 0 and 1 are numbers and numbers are abstract. However, there is an important question that stands unanswered: Why were zero and one chosen as the only symbols for basic level computer code? Why not have a base 3, base 60, or base 327 system?

    Look at how the human mind sorts and processes ideas. We like opposites – good and evil, day and night, white and black. We absorb information from our senses empirically and use reason and rational thought to transform it into workable ideas. Families and species of animals don’t really exist in nature – it’s just a human construct that we have created to further our understanding.

    So to summarize what I’m saying, binary appears to be abstract because it is based upon numbers (which are abstract). However, my argument is that these 2 numbers/values are actually based upon information that is ultimately derived from our senses – we see the sun and the moon, and we reason this data into a pair of opposites (day and night). This means that binary is NOT an abstract-concrete language, because its roots are ultimately concrete.

  2. Vincent says:

    Very true, binary and all abstract things seem to require a concrete host in order to function in our reality. However, I would wonder, how does the computer interpret those ones and zeros, it interprets them as on and off switches, completely invisible, and yet they can describe exactly how to build most objects through a 3d printer. These on and off switches can nearly describe anything we know, yet for us, it takes much longer to understand the explanation. I would consider binary the closest thing we have to an abstract-concrete language, but it is not quite there as it is unable to describe certain abstract concepts.

    To clarify:
    English says that a hierarchy is like a tree
    Binary says a hierarchy is 010011001001100101010100101010110100111001001010000010101010010010101010000101010100101000001000001001000001010100101001001010010010001001010011111110010100100100110010010100101001010010100 . . . . . . . . . and so on.
    English uses a metaphor while binary just uses plain hard code, no metaphors just a completely accurate description of what a hierarchy is. For every computer a hierarchy is the same thing, but for humans, a hierarchy is a different thing per human. So binary is efficient, but less diverse in processing concepts. Perhaps most other abstract-concrete languages are like this as well.


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