The 5 Word Langage

Finally, I sort of have the time to do a quick review of the 5 word language. I’m a big fan of small languages (as in small vocab, small numbers of rules, small number of morphemes)

This is really, 5 morphemes. I think all small languages, in practice have about 2000 lexemes (set phrases that behave as words that you just have to memorize). But no need to quibble about the number of morphemes, this looks like it really is 5 morphemes. That is small.

What is totally awesome about this, is it is 2 morphemes short of what you can memorize in a single view–short term memory is about 7 (plus or minus 2) items.

The vocab is laid out in a grid and the entire grid is used. This compares to toki pona which ignores the diagonal– i.e reduplication in tp doesn’t mean anything.

I think logotome is a real word… shoot me if it isn’t… and the logotome of a language is the set of all possible words (or lexemes) that the phonotactic system lets you create. Toki pona’s logotome is huge– even with the small alphabet and CV(CV)(N) structure, you have like 10000s of possible short words. A five word language has 25 two word phrases,

Good & Potential Applications
This might be a useful conlang creation technique. Create a dozen small 5 word conlangs, then turn the best of those into a large language. If the large language was compatible with the small one, then you’d have a conlang with a core that someone could learn before they lose interest, which I suspect is about 2 maybe 3 hours. Irrr

I like the idea of using numbers– it has an obvious application for text messaging on phones (there is a (failed) app for that! it’s an emoji type conlang). If I were to learn/create a dozen of these language though, I’d worry about having to remember that 42 means one thing in the 5 word language in another thing in the 7 word language. Already I constantly mix up telo, which in toki pona means water and in Russian means body. I read somewhere that when you hear a word that is the same in 3 languages (like, say, chocolate or tea) you the area of your brain in charge of that word for each language lights up. So cross language interference may be a real thing to consider when making small languages that draw on the same phonotactics (or logotactics– I don’t see if the 5 word language has a spoken format).

Domain specific languages. A domain specific language is an idea borrowed from software development– where you create a mini-language to deal with a specific topic. Then the language can be optimized for talking about that specific topic. It’s like an extreme version of slang and technical jargon, which can feel like a mini language. Except English jargon still will follow English grammar and syntax. In the lexicon, words are available for diabetes and God, so I figure this language makes it easier to talk about those topics. And if you want to talk about something else that doesn’t suit the language’s lexicon, create another 5 word language!

Areas for Improvement
Like many combinatorial languages (i.e. a fixed set of morphemes that are combined in all possible combinations), this particular description doesn’t say much about grammar. Is the grammar isolating? Do we have bound morphology? (i.e. do any of the morphemes only occur in a fix relationship to other morphemes, ie. do we have a tense suffix?) What are the basic sentence patterns? I.e. is it S-V-O, OVS, do we have prepositions, post positions, do we branch left (like japanese) right (like english) (Did I get that backwards?) or mixed branching (like toki pona). Do we have Part of Speech rules or are all words content words? Are some words “semantically bleached” and don’t mean much on their own, but mean something when in a sentence… examples from English– the, to, in, of, have, going (future), etc.

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One Response to The 5 Word Langage

  1. Bob says:

    Thanks for your review
    440-10 4 22