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Dee ("Plan D")?

Introduction to the Project

A, B, C, tumble-down D,
The cat's in the cupboard
And can't see me.

These pages resulted from a discussion on the Conlang list in September 20051 about Jeff Prothero's article "Design and Implementation of a Near-optimal Loglan Syntax" in which a language called 'Plan B' is described (May 1990); for a link to this, see menu on the right.

The article prompted a satirical response in from Jacques Guy (Sept. 1192) in which he referred to 'Plan B' as Bee and proposed a parody of it called Cee; see menu on the right.

If any language results from considering Bee (Plan B) and Cee, then I guess it ought to be Dee (or 'Plan D' if you prefer).
(Thinks: Whatever happened to Plan A?).

1Also arising from the first of these discussions Jörg Rhiemeier has been developing his X-1 language.

What does Plan B do & not do?

In fact, 'Plan B' does not give a syntax for what we now call a loglan (a language based on the principles set out by James Cooke Brown) or even a loglang, in that it does not implement formal logic. Indeed, it seems clear from what Jeff Prothero himself wrote that Plan B is what we now call an engelang; cf.:
"Here I will propose a loglan syntax which:
* Is simple enough to be parsed by a couple of hundred lines of straightforward C. (See attached program.)
* Is simple for humans to learn and use.
* Allows for unambiguous resolution of continuous human speech.
* Offers near-optimal conciseness and simplicity.

'Plan B' certainly fulfills the first criterion. This, however, has no direct relevance to a loglan(g), but it may, of course, be the aim of an engelang.

As regards the second criterion, there are, in my opinion, features about 'Plan B' which do not make it easy for human use, e.g. the bizarre spelling system in which each letter may be pronounced as a vowel or as a consonant, that every morpheme has two quite phonetically disparate allomorphs, that morpheme segregation is effected by a "Huffman-style expanding-opcode sort of scheme". It is my opinion that the first criterion has been achieved at the expense of this second one.

From the examples which Jeff Prothero gives in his article, it would seem that 'Plan B' does offer an unambiguous resolution of its input. But, as far as I can see, this is achieved by relexifying English and providing it with a syntax so that it can be unambiguously parsed using a binary tree. Whether this makes for "near-optimal conciseness and simplicity" is, I think, a matter of debate; and I leave it to the reader to decide if the language is justly parodied by Jacques Guy's Cee or not.


Why I began and have abandoned the project

The discussion in September 2005 concerned itself mainly with the orthography and phonology of 'Plan B'. In March 2006 I returned to this and developed a radically different solution: a syllabary of 16 symbols.

I also considered the question of 'self-segregating morphemes' and the 'Plan B' grammar. In doing this, I had originally thought to produce a loglang of my own on the basis of these considerations. But it became clear to me that any loglang syntax would have to be radically different from Plan B's syntax. With, however, its restriction to 16 symbols, the results were likely to feel very kludgey, especially when compared with existing loglangs such as Loglan, Lojban, Gua\spi, and Ceqli.

In March 2009, during threads on the Conlang list related to oligosynthetic languages (the original thread had split into two or three related ones) , I wrote:

I recall that in the late 18th century Father Joachim Bouvet sent Leibniz a letter in which he described the I Ching (yi4 jing1). He listed the hexagrams not in the weng-wang order in which they are commonly listed, but in the Fu-xi order. Leibniz read the hexagrams as the numbers 0 to 63 in binary notation!
So why not 2^6 concepts? 64 'primitives' would still constitute a challenging oligosynthetic language.

From this, I conceived the idea of expanding the syllabary of 16 syllables to one of 64 syllables, each being written with a hexagram, and thus to develop an oligosynthetic language. In the end, however, I gave this up because:

  • I think 64 primitives are too few in which to express the whole range of huuman thought, experience and knowledge;
  • a quick look on Google will reveal that the Yì Jīng (I Ching) hexagrams have many cultic associations and, it seems to me, that no matter how much I may dissociate the language from these, mystic and/or cultic associations will remain;
  • also an oligosynthetic language, even if possible (and I have grave doubts on that score), is a long way from a loglang or loglan and would have nothing to do with Plan B (or Plan C).

Indeed, I have become more and more convinced that any reform of Plan B would make the whole thing collapse. Thus, as the old nursery rhyme says, after A, B and C, D has tumbled down. And the cat in the cupboard? That, methinks, is the one Jacques Guy let out of the bag with Cee.


Why I keep these pages online

I do so for two reasons:
  • Some may find the schemes for mapping bit to CV syllables of interest.
  • As most (possibly all) engelangers, at least, concern themselves with self-segregating morphemes, the discussion of how this is done in Plan B and how else it might be done may be of interest also.

For the sake of completeness, I have also retained, slightly revised, the page that refers to syntax; some may perhaps find things of interest there. At least it clarifies why I abandoned the project