January 24th, 2004

beartato phd

(no subject)

Finished Abley's "Spoken Here", about endangered and minority languages. Much of it was sob stories about cultures and languages being crushed under the ass of the 900 lb gorilla that is English. Somehow I don't fear this having disastrous consequences, myself; if all of these cultures arose in some way from a primoridal human monoculture, I don't expect any less of humanity than an incredible shattering fragmentation of the Anglephonie in the not-too-distant future. Consider the Provençal speakers Abley situates under the cruel thumb of Parisian French --- both of them are the grandchildren of Latin, and nobody seems to bother crying about the Gaulish that it displaced, only because there's none of them left.

The mutation rate is qualitatively higher for languages, and the selection pressure is lower. I think we will all be fine, as concerns maintaining some sort of minimum level of diversity, no matter how things play out, without intervention. The analogy to biological diversity is flawed, because there is no food-chain. We will not topple a tower of interdependent languages if Manx is never spoken again. French and Spanish and Portuguese and Romanian go on just fine without the academicians' Latin.


silly programming language analogy that popped up in a phone conversation:
"...perl is a warehouse full of rope, with a neon sign out front, 'free hanging supplies, help yourself!'. ML says, 'here is a single strand of twine, but I'm watching you!'..."


thoughts floating to the top of my head during the walk back from campus about parametricity of LF functions and commuting with substitutions. Not sure what to make of them, yet.