baseline

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  • galfi fanta temci in the long tanru approach
  • gafyfantytei as a lujvo (even a relylujyjvo)
  • dunja cedra for the metaphorically inclined.

The baseline, a concept borrowed from software engineering, is an artifact of The Logical Language Group's policy - and some would say, of Lojban mythology. It dictates that, as features of the language reach full specification, they will be considered frozen, and no proposals for changes will be entertained for the next 5 years. The intent is to allow any real issues with the language (as opposed to theoretical) to arise in actual use, rather than the endless meta-discussions that plagued (and some would say, continue to plague) the Lojban mailing list.

The baseline is intended to apply once a reference grammar, a textbook, and a dictionary are written. The reference grammar goal was fulfilled by The Complete Lojban Language, the content of which is thus deemed frozen. As of 2014 the textbook and the dictionary have not been complete, although the gismu, cmavo and rafsi have been stable for several years: 1994 in the case of rafsi and gismu, 1998 in the case of cmavo. Learning materials are being prepared but are not official.

A recurring question is, what of features of the language which are not currently defined in the The Complete Lojban Language? The current answer is that these can legitimately be addressed in the future Dictionary, the future Textbook, or whatever other materials The Logical Language Group may decide to add to the baseline. The content of the Reference Grammar can be added to; it can not be subtracted from.

The perceived gaps involve issues of semantics and pragmatics, not syntax. The syntax is fully specified by a PEG machine grammars (and this is a hardliners/naturalists bone of contention).

History

As of 1997, the language design has been baselined for a minimum of 5 years after the publication of the three books: the reference grammar, the dictionary, and the textbook. Since the latter two are not near publication, this means that no changes to the language will even be considered until now plus five years. This baseline is non-negotiable, even if we enter into discussions with The Loglan Institute to reunite the Loglan community after JCB's retirement.

The phonology, orthography, and morphology have been essentially stable since 1988, except for a slight change in what counts as a legal fu'ivla. The gismu list has been stable since 1988, except that about 25 gismu have been added and 2 gismu changed. This includes the words themselves and the English keywords; place structures for the gismu had minor changes up until 1994, but since then only clarifications of confusing wording have been made to the official baseline gismu list, and they are now considered baselined. The rafsi have been unchanged since 1993, when around 20% were changed in a final tuning before baselining them. Much existing text was not been updated after the rafsi change, so texts dated before 1993 may be confusing. The grammar has been basically stable since 1993, was under careful documented control after that date, and frozen with the publication of the Reference Grammar in 1997. The cmavo list has been baselined since 1997, though new compounds may be defined through usage. The only area not frozen is the addition of new words to the lexicon through borrowing (fu'ivla) or compounding (lujvo).

Those two productive areas are open-ended; a primary limitation on the language definition is the inability to record and define new coinings as fast as they are invented.

Some software engineering definitions of baseline:

  • http://www.rspa.com/spi/glossary.html : a point at which some deliverable produced during the software engineering process is put under formal change control.
  • http://dq.com/homefind/dhseglss.htm : A work product that has been formally reviewed and agreed upon and that can be changed only through formal change control procedures. Baselines often provide the bases for further work.
  • http://www.cio-dpi.gc.ca/emf/Reference/glossary/glossary_e.html : A set of configuration items (software documents and software components) that has been formally reviewed and agreed upon, that thereafter serves as the basis for future development, and that can be changed only through formal change control procedures.

As is clear, the term refers not to stability per se, but to a period of closely guarded change.

Discussion

  • Bob LeChevalier:
    I believe that the term refers both to stability (which means closely guarded change) and to careful definition of exactly what it is that is being baselined/closely guarded. That which is not documented, is inherently not baselined. We need something we can call a Lojban dictionary as part of the baseline, even if it is only the "pocket dictionary" consisting of the current baselined gismu list and cmavo list. The baseline documents have to accessible to the non-Internet Lojban community; they have to be published in print. Otherwise the non-Internet people are cut off from the baseline and thus from the language. (In addition, LLG would have no way to get sufficient income to survive without "products" that people want to buy - donations have never been enough to support even the limited amount of work that we are able to do as an organization.)
    The primary baseline concern is to not make changes. Period. To not even CONSIDER making changes. If something turns out to be so broken that we have to make a change, then the baseline has failed (and we would be hard pressed to stop the flow once the dam against prescriptive change were to break).[1]
    • Too bad. Especially since a significant part of the baseline appears to be known only to Bob LeChevalier and John Cowan, the baseline ends up amounting to "the Lojban Cabal decides".
      • The baseline will of course end up amounting to what the voting membership decides. At the moment, there is a resolution of that membership as to what documents the baseline should consist of, and the order of priority in which those documents are to be developed. The priority has already changed a couple of times, and the reference grammar was added once it was clearly going to be written. The membership also elected a Board of Directors to manage activities of LLG during the year in between Logfest annual meetings, which includes managing the production of the baseline documents in accordance with membership resolutions.
  • To the extent that there is an organization called "LLG", then, that organization is the Lojban Cabal, and the Board is merely its active figurehead. The membership has gone out of its way to try to find ways to include active Lojbanists who cannot make it to LogFest (including those like And Rosta who disagree with Lojbab), and the Board during the year goes out of its way to make sure it listens to the community, both voting and non-voting members. I would like to think that if we are a conspiracy, it is a conspiracy that is inclusive and not exclusive.
  • Bob LeChevalier:
    Beyond this, you have my commitment as dictionary editor, so long as I hold that position, to not place my own opinions and ideas over those of the community that actually uses the language. I think I have become temperamentally suited to a role of losing battles in order to obtain consensus, and on those issues where the community of Lojban users chooses a meaning for a word that I personally disagree with, I will lose if necessary to achieve consensus. I was after all the namesake of the Lojbab Lesson. So the baseline will be the Lojban Cabal deciding what the Lojban community has decided.
  • I think that changes and tinkering which does not invalidate existing text is mostly benign, and is probably beneficial if enough consideration is given to existing text and the published works. So everyone: use whatever features you like best, whether or not they're listed in the book. (Say NO to the Lojban Cabal.)
  • The Lojban Cabal, or at least this spokesperson for it, does not disagree, so you are not successfully saying NO.
  • Bob LeChevalier:
    However, referring to the above, new people coming to the language, and old people wanting a reference, will want to know what things have been firmly decided (and new people have a strong preference for having lots of stuff firmly decided before they will bother learning it, even if they later choose, as you wish to, to deviate from the standard. Your deviation neither invalidates the standard, or the need for it.
  • Ostensively, the baseline incorporates only what is published. So superficially, your complaint that the baseline is known only to Lojban Central is unfair. Underlyingly, though, I think I agree (we have all too often seen "Oh, X? I meant Y" - e.g. with vo'a), and you may be surprised to hear I think ultimately even Lojbab would agree, if pressed.
    • Bob LeChevalier agrees that Lojban Central has been excessively slow in documenting a baseline, and thus in making something known to the community that can be called "the baseline". But no baseline exists until it is documented, so the complaint is unfair in being semantically null - (null is known only to Lojban Central).
  • nitcion:
    The concern is always that the language not break up into warring dialects. If the book is clear on something, even if it made the wrong decision, there's a lot to be said for sticking by it - Lojban mutual intelligibility is more important. If you buck something that has been regarded as clear and settled for years, you open a Pandora's box. If on the other hand
  • a topic has been underexplored, or demonstrably poorly understood in its existing treatment,
  • and community feeling is overwhelmingly for a change/clarification (as now is looking like happening with ka),
  • and due consideration is given to existing usage, where demonstrably and objectively not braindead (a condition apparently not met by ka usage)

then reason should prevail.

    • Bob LeChevalier:
      Bob LeChevalier agrees, and intends that it shall.
    • Maybe it's too early to worry about dialects. At this point a dialect would consist of 2 or 3 people.
      • More likely 1 person. Also, I think there are several consisting of 0 people.
    • Unless Lojban dies soon, the majority of users have yet to appear. They are the ones that will support or ignore whatever dialectical choices they find when they arrive. But we don't yet have enough users such that an unintelligible dialect would have more than a dozen users. So there is that constant pressure to remain close to the Book.
  • xod:
    So after the baseline period, will there be a Lojban Cabal that will decide what changes become Standard Lojban? But we are still bound by intelligibility, and during any period, what the community does is where the center of gravity is, no matter what any Cabal dictates
    • There will hopefully be an LLG after the baseline period. I believe that there are people that will urge that a committee of some sort revise the baseline documents at that point, in order to reflect what has been learned by the user community during the baseline period, thus making a new standard that will describe the consensus of usage insofar as consensus has been achieved, better than the original baseline documents. My plan is that this committee's work be as descriptive as possible of actual usage, because significant changes that have not been tested in usage may necessitate a new period of baseline testing (the purpose of the baseline being to allow people to learn what is new to them, internalize it, and test it), and I don't think anyone wants that.
    • Bob LeChevalier:
      I think though, that it is possible to document usage and also to support the hardliners by explicating the formalisms that have been identified. In case of conflict, we may not be able to decide between formalism and informal usage, and dictionaries in particular have been fairly successful in describing both preferred usages and colloquial usages. I think we'll find a way to do this in the Lojban dictionary, though our first efforts may be clumsy.
  • elrond:
    Reading the comments here makes me think about Académie française, which exists mainly to achieve the purposes described there; it does so by:
    • reading as many as possible sources & varieties of french documents and transcripts of public speech, continuously
    • sending from times to times, update requests to various editors of dictionaries for addition of new words created through usage, or marking as "obsolete" or "deprecated" words not used for a very long time
    • publishing reports on the evolution of spoken french
    • most important, feeding some of the bulletins officiels (official advisories for the french national education system) about how french should be taught (careful, not what should be taught, but how), or about (very) minor modifications (most of the time, addition of cases) of the grammar.

References