Complex Languages and Writing Systems

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Standard of Complexity


  • significantly ambiguous grammars.
    • demonstratable context sensitivity.
  • conjugation
    • numerous irregularities in conjugation
  • symbolism
  • inflection

Writing systems

  • many transcriptions for the same verbal message
  • many/multiple notations for the same audio sound in semi-phonetic alphabets.
  • non-phonetic notation systems (kanji, etc).


  • Languages
    • English
    • Ancient Greek (Nicolas?!)
    • Finnish (???)
    • Basque
    • Various Native American languages
      • aulun:
        • Oh, tell me more! Who nevertheless might participate.
      • Any particular ones?
  • Writing Systems
    • Assyrian cuneiform
    • Other mixed ideograph-phonetic systems, such as was used for the first great poetry collection in Japanese.
      • How does this example differ from modern Japanese, which has 1 ideographic, and 2 phonetic writing systems, which can and are mixed all in the same text?
        • they're visually rather different, whereas i think the heian (heinian? whatever) era writing system was just one big jumbled mess. (maybe i'm responding to something i wrote ages ago. oh well.)
        • pne:
          • man'yougana, as used in the Man'youshu, are ideographic characters used for their phonetic value - the prototypes from which the current syllabaries derived by simplification. The complexity lies in the fact that AIUI in the Man'youshu, they were not simplified but used alongside ideographic characters used for their meaning. As a bad comparison, it would be a bit like having "4tunes" in English and having to figure out whether those symbols refer to more than three melodies ("4" used for its meaning), or to fates/incidents of luck/wealth ("4" used for its sound).]
          • aulun:
            • Japanese is quite a good example for "complexity" (as far as I'm understanding the term correctly). There are several different "systems" parallel one has to choose the right one. Yet, this is also a feature of modern Japanese where you e.g. have one kanji (hanzi) character and you must decide how to pronounce it choosing from sometimes up to, say, three or four different possibilities from context: genuine Japanese pronunciation, or several historical "Chinese" pronunciations (e.g. Chinese "ren": hito, jin, nin). It's a bit like various forms of Latin or French loans in English. In this context, also Chinese has its "complexity" (not at all speaking of homophones!)
        • aulun:
          • Please do tell me what's "complexity" regarding Finnish?
        • What's complex about Finnish & Basque? Just because they are far from English?
        • Why don't you start by explaining what your standard of complexity is?
        • Anything more than Esperanto is too complex for me ;-)
          • .i ma te zmadu (More in what way?)
            • I would assume in complexity.
            • CIRCULAR LOGIC! A language is complex if it is complex?
            • A.K.A. the reflexive principle
            • The question was ma te zmadu and obviously the answer is le ka pluja.
              • The question should've been ma se pluja or pluja fi ma (or perhaps pluja mama).