How would a human language with place-value sound/read?

Numbers are exact. Numbers have place value. [Irrational numbers are also exact and they have ever-surprising place values.]

Language doesn’t have place value. English has reasonably strict order of words – subject-verb-object, which is more like place value. Sanskrit, on the other hand, is order independent.

However, a lot of possible parts of speech  in any spoken languages remain unspoken in any given sentence. [For example, in the previous sentence, “by normal human beings” is missing.]

This is natural. Speech developed as a medium of alerting fellow apes. One can’t be complete and quick in alerting the mother when a leopard is about to strike the baby. [That is probably why place-value based mathematics developed much later than languages.]

The flip side of this is inexactness and incompleteness of thought. No place it is more evident than in Marketing and Product Requirement Documents. There are so many gaps.

What if we had a tool which looked like an Excel sheet? Rows would correspond to a sentence. Columns would correspond to the part of speech. Absence of a part of speech would be clearly visible. It will be SO easy to communicate in writing! [“Dude, you want us to implement this feature for all the models?” will be evident by simply highlighting the empty cell of the “adjective of object”.]

Spoken language could even bigger fun. The idea would resemble music.

Each cell above would correspond to (say) one beat of time. Either a word is spoken or silent is observed during that time. Probably it will take long time to finish the sentence, given so many parts of speech.

Cultural impact of such a spoken language will be profound. For example:

  • “Think before you speak”- at least for later beats, people will get enough time to think before speaking
  • “Let me finish the sentence” would become a history. People will be trained to wait for >40 beat interval automatically
  • Hiding information would become psychologically VERY stressful – because both the talker and the listener know that an important beat has passed in silence
  • Because all the parts of speech are compulsorily and in order spoken all the time, chances of miscommunication will become rare. A person with below average intelligence will be able to comprehend any idea more effectively
  • As sentences are nearly infinitely extensible, some kind of “beat plea” words have to be added. [In the famous story ‘Kadambari’, Bana Bhatt has written a one and a half page long sentence.]
  • Most spoken language will automatically be musical
  • Literature may become a bit (more) bore

What other impacts can you think?


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