In the end I just saw it as a strange and random language quirk. Like articles in German or Dutch.
I help out on /r/EnglishLearning, and a lot of the time my answers are like, "well, I don't know why but it sounds better this way...", which makes me think of the statistical model.
On the Spanish side, I recently thought about it with regard to the subjunctive mood, and in particular its use with the verbs pensar and creer (to think/believe). The upshot is that you use the indicative mood in the positive case, and subjunctive mood in the negative case (creo que estas bien / no creo que estés bien). People give lots of motivated reasons for why this is, and how in the negative case you're not "sure" of it, while in the positive case you're "sure" that you "think" it, or something like that. But ultimately, I think it's just the simple aforementioned positive/negative rule that native speakers build up over time from being exposed to sentence constructions, maybe without even realizing it, and only post-hoc rationalize why it is.
I don't see why this would be a "strange" and "random" language quirk when it makes perfect sense in practice. The only situations I can see where it wouldn't make perfect sense would be in situations where you're translating to English, which is not a productive way to think about languages.
It is 1 => Es la una (describing time uses Ser)
I am an engineer => Soy ingeniero (describing a profession which can be seen as a temporary state of affairs)
My favorite quirk is "estoy muerto" (I'm dead), which leads to plenty of metaphysical discussions.
Determining whether a sentence describes the subject or describes the subject's condition is the trickiest part.
"I am alive" uses "estar" -> "Estoy vivo."
But "I am dead" also uses "estar" -> "Estoy muerto."
AFAIK, when most people die, they are dead forever.
There are a few other ambiguous ser/estar situations we were taught, exceptions to the permanent/temporary distinction that I can't recall. But the near break-down this woman had about Paris was quite memorable.
And the longer I think about the word 'racja' the less I'm confident I'm able to explain precisely what it means using english.
I guess that's part of the fun of learning other languages, I will never understand articles in english and I made peace with it. Now I'm also learning spanish and subjuntivos drives me nuts but spanish and polish grammar are surprisingly similar (waaay closer than both are to english)
"These authors observed that a communication under the copula ban can remain extremely unclear and imply prejudice, while losing important speech patterns, such as identities and identification . . .Bourland sees specifically the "identity" and "predication" functions as pernicious, but advocates eliminating all forms for the sake of simplicity. In the case of the "existence" form (and less idiomatically, the "location" form), one might (for example) simply substitute the verb 'exists' "
From the Appendix of 1984:
"So did the fact of having very few words to choose from. Relative to our own, the Newspeak vocabulary was tiny, and new ways of reducing it were constantly being devised. Newspeak, indeed, differed from most all other languages in that its vocabulary grew smaller instead of larger every year. Each reduction was a gain, since the smaller the area of choice, the smaller the temptation to take thought. . . Like various other words in the B vocabulary, duckspeak was ambivalent in meaning. Provided that the opinions which were quacked out were orthodox ones, it implied nothing but praise, and when The Times referred to one of the orators of the Party as a doubleplusgood duckspeaker it was paying a warm and valued compliment."
It does sometimes lead to belabored wording, and demands more careful consideration during composition. However, when regarded as a tool for encourage more thoughtful word choice, and in contrast to the explicitly stated goals of "Newspeak", the use of E-Prime increases the 'area of choice' and broadens the spectrum of vocabulary used in practice, if not in theory.
So of course for Star Trek VI, they asked him to translate "To be or not to be".
Chancellor Gorkon: You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.
General Chang: "taH pagh, taH be?"
I seem to think using links of equivalence between ideas, yet often these links contain unvoiced and thus hidden ambiguity.
Consider a more realistic example, e.g. "Russia is a dictatorship" vs "No it isn't". What are these people arguing about? A fact (they disagree over which things Russia has done), an opinion (they agree on what Russia has done but disagree on whether those things were bad), semantics (they agree on what Russia did and how bad it was, but disagree on whether that meets the criteria of a dictatorship), or something else? Using e-prime isn't a panacea against this sort of confusion, but it is almost always helpful.
My second answer is ontological. The "is a" relationship is much more useful in mathematics and computer science than it turns out to be in the empirical, social and psychological sciences, where even the ontological categories that one discusses may be disputed. Instead of saying, "a cat is a mammal", it seems much more useful to talk about statistical distributions of traits shared by or not shared by cats and other mammals. And then, very often, our categories can obscure truths, e.g. the truth that biological sex is more complicated, multidimensional and continuous, that the binary categories "is a" encourages us to use. Historically, much of science begins by creating ontologies; basic questions are "what kinds of things are they?"; but at some point they can also become crutches. I think we see this in modern evolutionary biology quite clearly, with a move toward "population thinking" rather than categorical ontologies.
Of course, the art lies in knowing when to break the rules for maximum effect. That's always fun :)
It doesn't translate to English well, but instead of asking e.g. "are you eating?" or "is she eating" I say "is it eaten?"(note the lack of the word "being" - I'm not asking here if she is currently being devoured).
It's a lot like "it is known" in Game of Thrones.
I wonder if the origins of E-Prime were in any way similar.
It seemed to be an example of something like this: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_constructionism
I think mastery takes ages. I also think all the “beginner” texts, the ones you can find online or in books quickly, overemphasise the precision and analytic benefits. I got much more from it once I started using it in a more poetic mode. It draws “scientific” communication out into myriad detail; it contracts poetry and prose with punch.
I don’t think removing the ability to discuss easily discuss even tentative conclusions of objective reality facilitates agreement about it.
> Instead of saying the ball is blue, you say, the ball looks blue to me.
Yes, and there is a very good reason English supports both types of claims, which mean substantially different things.
Right, and one of them isn't literally true, hence the point of all this. If the ball looks blue to you, it will look red to someone moving away from it rapidly, for example.
To exist, or not to exist: that question burns:
Whether a nobler mind would suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or would take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them? To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh inherits, the best devoutly wish for
This consummation. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: but that prospect brings terror,
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
The oppressor's wrong, the proud man's contumely,
The pangs of despised love, the law's delay,
The insolence of office and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin? who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
But that the dread of something after death,
The undiscover'd country from whose bourn
No traveller returns, puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Than fly to others that we know not of?
Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Yields its place to the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.—Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
They will remember all my sins.
To continue to exist, or to cease to exist?
Or, if you want to make a phone call in one of Vonnegut's stories:
2 B R 0 2 B
Welcome to Node.js v16.0.0.
> 2 || !2
The basic idea for me is that all instances of 'is' are technically false statements. "That chair is red" is false, not just in the boring sense that the chair probably has some non-red bits, but more fundamentally in the sense that redness is a result of you looking at it, not an intrinsic quality of the chair.
The E-prime version of that would be, "That chair looks red to me." A pedantic and unimportant difference in that example, but consider the difference between 'Bob is dishonest' and 'Bob lied to me.' The latter may or may not be true, but it is clearly a subjective observation and can be argued with on those terms. The former phrasing, taken literally, implies the existence of a hypothetical quality called 'honesty' and asserts that Bob doesn't have it, which is both literally false (because there is no such quality, at least not that we can measure) and less useful (because we assume the speaker has some reason to think Bob is dishonest, but don't know what it is).
The point is that it's a bug of our language (inherited from Aristotle, according to Korzybski) that we commonly phrase opinions as if they were facts, and that we describe things by assigning them imaginary intrinsic qualities and then talking about them as if they were observable. Once this meme infects you, you see it everywhere. The chair 'is' red, Bob 'is' dishonest, [politician] 'is' crazy, a photon 'is' a wave. In every case, rephrasing those in e-prime would be clearer and more accurate.
Some might still say this is just semantic nitpicking. In some contexts, sure. But I've found it to be very helpful, mostly in sciences but also in philosophy, art, and life generally. And it is particularly relevant to internet arguing. Not in the sense that you get to say, "Hah, you used 'is' so you're wrong!" but in the sense that you can more easily see when someone has said something you disagree with, but can't argue against because it is not arguable. Consider e.g. "vim is better than emacs". There's no point in debating that until you find out why they think that. That may seem obvious in the abstract, but in practice I find that most people would rather just guess, as in "I'll bet he means X, so I will now write 8 paragraphs angrily explaining why that's not true..." than ask.
0: "You just said is!" I hear you cry. Okay you got me. More precisely, it's all instances of the 'is of identity', as distinct from uses like "That is what I said" or "What is your drink preference." What E-prime tries to avoid is not specific words, it's phrasing a subjective statement about an observation in the form of an objective statement about an intrinsic quality of a thing.