[precis] Path towards a multilingalization IUse referent

Andrew Sullivan ajs at anvilwalrusden.com
Sun Aug 21 05:24:49 CEST 2011

Dear colleagues,

I did not read the rest of the message past what I quote below, becase
it did not seem to me that the structure of the message would answer
the question I pose.  Therefore, I make a request:

On Sun, Aug 21, 2011 at 01:08:29AM +0200, jefsey wrote:
> However, the Internet MUST be supported by a
> network/human oriented universal semiotic system.

I would like a defence of that claim.  Speaking entirely personally, I
don't believe it.

We shape our technology, but our technology also shapes us.  There is
nothing intrinsic about "green" meaning "go".  There is nothing about
the universe that causes time zones (which is different from saying
"differences in the apparent time of dawn and dusk").  Yet we all,
techno-literate that we are, take these bits of cultural dreck and
make them true.  Moreover, we adjust to them -- somehow finding it
more convenient to say, "Darkness falls earlier," than to say, "The
time on the clock is wrong."

It is, in my personal opinion, completely foolish to imagine that
Internet names -- which are, by their nature at the time of
registration and lookup, even if not for the user, completely devoid
of cultural context -- can ever be made completely user-centric.
Users will have to learn some things, and some of those things will be
"Internet names are a little different, & have strange restrictive
rules."  More importantly, while I am not one of those people in the
thrall of the conceptual scheme (cf. Davidson), I think it is
preposterous to suggest that we will come up with a universal semiotic
system given the limitations of the DNS and the way that denoting
works in different linguistic traditions.

I believe we can come up with some useful conventions that will work
most of the time, for most people.  I believe that these will strain
the rules of every writing system on the planet, in much the way that
"ns1" strains English writing rules.  I am incredulous at the
suggestion that the Internet needs a "network/human oriented universal
semiotic system," both because I don't believe it and because I
believe that humans (and especially human language) are much more
resilient than that.

Best regards,


Andrew Sullivan
ajs at anvilwalrusden.com

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