An imperfect system

We can all picture our parents complaining about the decay of language.
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This kind of complaints is on record from the beginning of historical time: it stems from the illusion of grammar as a machine, spawning beautiful language according to fixed rules.

Rather, grammar is the beautiful product of our order-seeking brains: language evolves, grammar catches up*.

A fascinating example is Michif, a combination of a variety of Canadian French and native Indian Cree, where grammar is a surprisingly complex merger of the two**.

All of this to say that one should not be surprised to find plenty of grey areas when dealing with grammar.

I care to emphasise this because Tower of Bubble (ToB) specifically, and G-Space generally, are often (initially) misunderstood as an attempt to encase “true grammar” within precise, rigid bounds.

This, however, is not the idea. ToB is just a tool for visually representing the key elements of grammar structure as the reader sees it: there are plenty of nuances that may be missed (tool is too blunt) or deliberately omitted (to keep things simple) when using ToB notation.

For example, when describing a noun in Latin-based (and other) languages it is important to go through the effort of indicating gender (masculine, feminine, neuter) or number (singular, plural) as both adjectives and verb endings related to that noun would be impacted. In English, instead, it would make little sense to focus on these characteristics because they are of comparatively little consequence.

There are also special or ambiguous constructs that can be tricky to represent. When coming across these in examples, I will look to explain my choices.

Depending on purpose, one may wish to be more or less precise: as an aid to translation for more advanced students, a skeletal notation is sufficient; when teaching beginners more detail will be useful.

In all cases, the main point of ToB is to make grammatical elements visible and therefore easy to review, discuss, analyse. Specialist uses of ToB will no doubt stretch the initial model and will drive a progressive evolution of it.
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Practice makes perfect.


*Guy Deutscher’s The Unfolding of Language is fully dedicated to explaining the creative and destructive forces of language.

**You’ll find many more fascinating examples in Larry Trask’s Why do languages change.

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