Linguistic Ideas

Lately I've been trying to codify what words it would be reasonable to come up with on my own. I most often come up with my own words when I add a small postfix to a word that is popularly considered valid. What irks me is that any word that results from affixes would not originally be consider a word but with common use it would eventually be accepted as a word on its own right. People would commonly use a word if it was useful. A person with a good understanding of affixes can easily understand a word that is made from them so long as the person knew the original word. For example if "superficial" is known to a person, "superficiate" should be understandable as well. Its meaning is to make something superficial. Similarly "superficiation" would be recognized as the process of making something superficial.

I'd hypothesize that it is metadiscussion and metacognition which leads to a need for hyperaffixed words. For example if a person was writing an essay on how society tends to make things superficial if they aren't already, the person might want to use affixed words to simplify the discussion. Instead of saying "the person who makes things superficial", the person could say "superficiator". Once the reader learned to intuitively recognize the meaning of "superficiator", they would then be able to take in much more complex sentences involving that concept. For example, "Superficiators are taught that obfuscatory remarks help reduce value conflicts in social situations." would otherwise have been "The people who make things superficial are taught that remarks which make things more obfuscated help reduce value conflicts in social situations.".

Perhaps one concern people have with the production of words is that it is mentally destabilizing for the mind. I remember one X-Files episode that featured a mad man who thought that creatures called "howlers" were invading people's minds. One could also visualize a religious fanatic vindictively calling a person or a group of people "sinerites", which translates as something like "the offspring of sin". So often people who use complicated words actually use them as simplifications and not as a tool. An example of this is how members of the Scientology cult use the word "entheta" to identify any piece of information that is against their cult, or in their mind, anything that is false. A person might dismiss an entire conversation as entheta. The key to its character is that it is an emotionally charged word for them. It isn't a tool-like word in that it can't be used in sentences in any meaningful way, except to say "So and so is entheta.". My way of using affixed words is qualitatively different from this.

In a sense the difference is that my words are not closed. They can thus be combined with other words and be useful in sentences constructed with them. I should certainly think more about closed and open words: it is a new idea to me.

Getting back on topic though, I'd like to have a clear understanding of the ways that words can be affixed and the ethical justification for doing so. One way would be to learn the exact affixes that are available. Secondarily, I'd like to develop some heuristics for determining how complicated to make a word in order to optimize its usefulness. Another secondary goal is to think more about compound words and what affixed words are like when compounded. For example above I saw fit to use the word "baseimprovement", a combination of "base" and "improvement". The issue is that "base" is not an affix, but is more of a root word. Perhaps some insight into this can be shed by considering that some accepted words don't have a root at all and just affixes. A great example is "exotic", often thought to be a root word, it is actually just "ex-" prepended to "-otic". The issue with compound words is that it they would have two root words and possibly some midfixes between the two words. Instead of midfixes it could be as follows: prefix1-root1-postfix1+prefix2-root2-postfix2. One way to help elucidate such words could be to use programmers' markup capitalization on the words. For example abasicImprovement.

I suppose the desire in making denser words is to express a sentence at the level that I'm thinking of it. If a concept as I'm thinking about it is a single object then I should be able to express it as a single object in a sentence as well. Done correctly, the reader has an easier time of taking in a sentence if it's components are properly abstracted. An accepted alternative to affixed words is to hyphenate them to indicate that part of the sentence should be taking as one subject, or object, in the rest of the sentence. Given this expanded goal, it might make sense to place parenthesis around parts of a sentence to indicate precedence, just as might be done in a mathematical equation, even when the parenthesis aren't required for technical correctness.

Taking that notion even further, perhaps it would be useful to all kinds of mathematical markup freely interspersed in linguistic grammar.

Another vein of language development I'd like to explore is the advantages of mindmaps over linearized text. At first glance it seems the difference is that linearized text is 1-dimensional while mindmaps are 2-dimensional. This isn't quite the case however. Linearized text isn't just 1-dimensional, it is ordered. Each word has an order in a paragraph and it is impossible for two words to immediately follow a word. Mindmaps allow this by having two separate lines drawn from a word to the 2 following words. Each of the elements of a mindmap are placed in 2-dimensions on a page but their exact position and orientation to the other words doesn't mean anything. Instead it is the lines between elements that indicate relationships. These lines might make a mindmap arbitrarily high in dimension, albeit compressed down onto a 2-dimensional page.

This striking difference, the dimensionality, might point out something about how people best communicate with each other. Perhaps people are best at learning linearized text, or perhaps linearized text is simply an artifact of humankind being at an early stage of its linguistic evolution. In other words, given equal training, a person might learn better from and prefer mindmaps over linearized text. I find mindmaps far easier for expressing complicated ideas and somewhat harder than linearized text for expressing simple ideas. Perhaps the situation analogues the computer science task of sorting. When a small number of items need to be sorted, insertion sort is the fastest algorithm, but when a large number of items need to be sorted, more advanced, 2-dimensional algorithms are needed. This rings well with my intuition. When trying to write complex ideas in linearized text I often feel it takes an exponential amount of time to figure out how to fit all the little points together in one line.

John LeFlohic February 17, 2002 Last Updated February 17, 2002