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Re: [aymara] Preguntas

Hi Omar!  I am delighted to be privileged to make a response to this!  This
is just exactly the kind of organized inquiry we need to really get at the
truth and not just trade opinions.  At the outset let me say that I agree
altogether with Don Asay that truth is truth, and those who seek with a good
conscience are going to find it, and, moreover, when they seek *together*
they will increasingly find that they agree.  I have something more to say
about this but first let me address the specific points you raise.

1 LANGUAGES AND COMMUNICATION  The main role/purpose of the languages is
communication.  Absolutely I agree with this.  I have mentioned to some, I
don't know if I said it to the whole list, our experience with machine
translation at Logos.  Keep in mind that we  began our work in the mid 60's,
there was as yet no machine translation, we were the first to develop it.
We did have one competitor, Systran or some such name.  They had influence
with the US government and got the big contracts.  They had to put out
reports on their work because it was for the government, and we of course
read them.  But they had only the most rudimentary syntactic resolution and
no real semantic resolution.  With each contract they used the money to make
their system  bigger, add more dictionary stuff, basically, without
significantly improving their analysis.  I think this is stated in the
article in Byte magazine especially on machine translation.  It was a Jan.
article, several years ago, I kept the magazine for a while then didn't want
to think about Logos any more so I tossed it.  Sorry.

Well, so here we were, launching out on a venture no one else had done, Noam
Chomsky was out there saying the semantic "deep structure" of language can't
be known, the US government was just wrapping up its "Georgetown Project"
examining the feasibility of machine translation with the conclusion that
computerized translation of natural languages was NOT feasible at that time.
So how could we, none of us linguistic experts, Bud Scott wasn't even a
programmer, he managed to learn-on-the-job Fortran programming language so
as to know enough about the computer to write the necessary specs.  Charlie
Byrne, mentioned by Ken Beesley was a programmer, but he knew absolutely
nothing about the system.  I know because I was chosen to work with him all
the time because none of the other linguists would do so.  He would take the
specs/flow charts that we made for the programmers and sit right down and
start grinding out code without trying to understand what the programs were
supposed to do in any way.  The Byrne family also did not provide us with
programmer-verified specs after we tested the programs so we would know just
how they worked.  We did have other programmers who gave us verified specs,
2 of them were my sons.

So how could we have the temerity to set out on such a contra-indicated
project???  Just this: We reasoned that if language were not able to be
known, it could not be used as an agent of communication!!!  I mean, how is
it that we speak and understand each other?  There has to be a common logic
driving all our minds.  This applies also to Chomsky's claim about the
unknowability of the semantic deep structure.  If we can't know it, how can
we understand one another?  This shows especially in the exercise of irony.
If we don't have access to this pool of semantic meaning, how can we
understand something from its articulated *opposite* with some non-verbal
clue like a wink, or only quasi-verbal rhetorical device, to signal the
nature of the communication?  Absolutely I agree that language is for

If anyone wants more on this, I will be glad to detail to what extent
western philosophy has become degraded in the course of the 2nd millennium,
after the Western Patriarchate, Rome, separated itself from the rest of
Christendom, but I don't want to bore everyone too much.  I invite you to
consider, however, that no other people in the entire cosmos ever found it
necessary to "prove" to themselves that they *exist* as Descartes did!  I
mean, Aristotle makes the point, which however is surely axiomatic to every
thinking mind, that the more certain cannot be proven by the less certain,
and what is more certain to us than that we exist?  Thanks be to God the
aboriginal native Americans were largely saved from all this error and
stupidity because the European colonists did not want them to be educated.
The Aymara language was also saved them from the degradation that overtook
European languages.

Which brings us to the 2nd point: LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT: First version: There
are languages that make easier the expression of thought.  Absolutely.  I
would mention Greek, Russian, Sanskirt, and Aymara that I know something of.
And I would cite English as absolutely the most sloppy language in
existence, one that makes lying easier than telling the truth.  I saw a
fresh example clicking through my news earlier, it is in connection with
this defense shield we want to build, which is becoming increasingly
problematic and contra-indicated as absurdly expensive, unworkable, and
furthermore a substitute for the kind of political negotiations and peace
that should be pursued.  We used to say this proposed absurdity was targeted
at "rogue states" but now with North Korea being no longer in that
category - I mean where are these rogue states?  The only country that bombs
indiscriminately at will whether the rest of the United Nations agree or
not, and with deadly depleted uranium, is the United States of America.  So
we have a new expression, "problem states" or some such.  But none the whole
megillah corresponds to any objective truth.

Oh yes, Latin is also a rather less poetically beautiful language than Greek
and Russian but nevertheless very lucid for the expression of truth.  I
studied St. Thomas Aquinas in Latin, and used the Latin translations of
Aristotle by Thomas Moerbecke, I think his name is, that St. Thomas himself
used for his commentaries on Aristotle - I used these to follow Aristotle's
Greek.  My Greek was never good enough to dispense with such a " bridge" but
I do know it well enough to appreciate the incredible perfection of Greek,
so far as being able to express the most complex thought with precision and
clarity.  The example that stays in my mind is the term "potentiality"  It
translates literally into Latin as quod quid erat esse.  To ti ein enai in
Greek.  I'm sure the Spanish speakers will appreciate from the Latin how the
definite article "quod" is prefaced to the relative clause which thus
maintains all the verbal complexity of the original instead of reifying this
in a simple noun like "potentiality" - which basically can be given any of
the several meanings we find in the dictionary when we look up words.  And,
incidentally, against the background of this experience I have a very fine
appreciation of the subtleties of expression possible by reason of the
tremendous complexity of the Aymara verb as also the use of agglutinazition
to build words from roots and suffixes that have their own clear meaning in
themselves - this is true also of Russian and Greek, that I know of.

Going on to Second version: Languages determine the way in which we
categorize the world.  Not quite, I would say, Omar.  I would turn that
around thus:  If we think a poor struggling state like North Korea is
whatever we now call what we used to call a "rogue state", and if we think
purposely targeting civilians, women and children, and with deadly depleted
uranium, is "collateral damage", and if we deny that the most dangerous
rogue state in the cosmos is the United States of America, then I think our
perception of reality is radically skewed and that this will be reflected in
the language we use.  So I really do not think there are different ways to
"categorize" the world.  I was very impressed by what Don said about the
Aymaras recognizing the truths the Mormons were teaching them and asking to
be baptized.  I suppose everyone knows who Ted Turner is, he gave like a
couple of billion to the UN, calls himself a "citizen of the world" and
flies the UN flag over Turner Broadcasting in Atlanta.  He largely funded
and arranged together with Kofi Annan a summit of all different religious
leaders from all around the world to precede the UN Summit of Presidents of
all the countries there are, which was held last August/September, I guess,
in New York.  Here is a report on this: "'I was born in a Christian family,'
said Turner, who once said publicly that Christianity was 'for losers'.  He
dreamed of becoming 'a man of the cloth,' he said, but was bothered that his
religious group taught that only Christians were going to heaven.  'I
thought heaven was going to be a mighty empty place,' he said.  'Now I
believe there may be one God who manifests himself in different ways to
different people.' ... Sadhvi Shilapiji, a Jain nun, said she found Turner's
speech 'fascinating'.  'It was the feeling of the common man not burdened by
any religious or political affiliation," Shilapiji said.  'It came from the
heart.'"  And, after all, it is the pure of heart who will see God, as it
says in the Beatitudes.

I won't address the final category because, Omar, this is not anything
personal in any way, yours is an altogether laudable attempt to find out the
truth about some of these ideas we have floating around, but I think
"cultural object" is an expression like other less innocuous ones I have
mentioned above which our society has devised but which does not correspond
to any objective reality.

I would like to tell everyone one more story before I close off my part of
this.  I was brought up - like Ted Turner, actually, we both come from the
south.  His father was always off making his millions, and Ted was brought
up by a black man, and it worked so well he had the same black man bring up
his own children.  Besides the fact that Ted was making his billions and
building his media empire (which is currently proving its worth in reporting
facts faithfully) he had to work through his own western neuroses and I'm
sure his children profited from having an African-American surrogate father.
So my family were not millionaires but I had a very similar upbringing.  But
in adolescence I began to have questions about my Protestant religion, I
became Catholic, not because of any Catholic teaching, but because I thought
if God wanted to draw us to himself in love to be united to himself for all
eternity, he wouldn't have left us down here with only an unintelligible
book for a guide.  Actually the Russian Bible is not all that
unintelligible, but our translations are very faulty.  Anyhow, that's where
I stood.  I was mesmerized by Thomas Aquinas, because I loved using my mind,
but in my culture religion was taken "on faith" there was no encouragement
to really use one's mind to love and praise God.  Unlike, let me say even
though I am anticipating a little, in the Eastern Orthodox tradition - the
Greek verb "to theologize" means to pray, not to study what in the Catholic
Church are called "theological" arguments.  This is actually the teaching of
St. Thomas also, although Catholics are given altogether to reading not St.
Thomas in his own very pristine Latin but translations (one remover from the
original) and commentaries (a further remove) on him.  Then I ended up
living, with my family - I have 7 children - in a Catholic community in
which what St. Thomas taught was actually *lived* and taught in a very
practical way - the Logos translation system came out of that experience -
until 1980 when the head of that community died.  I had long been interested
in Russia (and, incidentally, there is now a very sizeable Mormon presence
in Russia) and I won't bore everyone with all the details but I ended up
finding in the Russian Orthodox tradition essentially the very same life we
had in our community.  So I became Orthodox (having come to realize that it
is the Church, the Body of Christ, as Paul says in chap. 5 of Ephesians,
which is infallible, not any fallible human person, and certainly not a
celibate male who knows nothing about family life), and after a while the
priest who was my spiritual father came to the US and served for a number of
years as the Bishop, in New York.  Well, the situation between the US and
Russia being what it was/is, I basically never really got any chance to talk
to him, I wrote him letters, he was marvelously inventive in finding some
way to respond, I think it is living proof of what intimacy can be achieved
within an entirely spiritual relationship.  I knew he was from Kazakhstan
from his official biography, and I also knew that much of Kazakhastan was
part of the Gulag, the camps where all the best Russians were exiled by the
atheistic Soviet regime, as the Pope has emphasized of late, this was a very
*ecumenical* experience, because everyone was just thrown together
indiscriminately, there were of course Orthodox, but also Muslims,
Buddhists, I'm sure there must have been lots of Mormons, Catholics, various
Protestants, you name it, political prisoners, and of course the common
criminals whom the Soviets used to keep order in the camps.  Well, as
everyone can see I don't keep much track of time so I think it was around
summer before last a Russian lady from New York came to our church.  I
should explain that I was careful not to ask the Russians themselves for
information.  For instance, a young priest I was very good friends with in
Jerusalem was stabbed to death by the Jewish extremist group Kakh when  I
was there.  (This group was later declared illegal in Israel so it morphed
into Eiyal and assassinated Rabin.)  So I went to the American consulate to
find out more about what was going on (all I knew is that he was dead and
there was something written on the doors of the Russian mission in huge and
hideous red Hebrew letters, the paint dripping down like blood) because I
didn't want to know anything dangerous to the Russians, that might slip out
in an unguarded moment, or that I might blurt out because I wouldn't know
the relevance of it.  So in our conversation this Russian lady said my
spiritual father, the Bishop, is hers also.  She said he is from her same
city.  Oh, I asked, Karaganda, Kazakhstan?  Yes, she said.  How, I asked,
did yours and the Bishop's families get into Karaganda?  It was prison city,
she answered.  So of course I immediately sent that information to Pope John
Paul, who immediately arranged a big conference at Bose monastery in Italy,
and invited the Russians to come and tell the stories that have come to
light since Russia has been free, of how the people, all different ones,
lived together and struggled together and worked out their salvation with
fear and trembling together - so that they learned more and more (I mean,
the Gulag endured for several generations, it was a going concern long
before Solzhenyitsin got around to writing about it) how since as Don is
saying, truth is truth, the differences that have grown up and separated us
over the years, especially in the course of the 2nd millennium after Rome
went her own way and increasingly put herself at one remove after another
from the truths and practices of primitive Evangelical Christianity - so
those differences are, I was going to say superficial but I think that at
this point everyone on this list is prepared to recognize that they don't
even really exist, but are illusions made up by fallible men.  (And women of
course, although we really are less blameworthy, the guys don't give us a

Just one more point and then I will let everyone go: This marvelous Russian
Bishop Paul, my spiritual father, is in the not too very distant future,
going to be the Patriarch of  America - and this is how the east-west schism
which has divided the whole globe since 1054 will end.

--- Original Message -----
From: Omar Beas <omarhbeas@yahoo.es>
To: <aymaralist@aymara.org>
Sent: Sunday, February 25, 2001 5:08 AM
Subject: [aymara] Preguntas

> Estimados hermanos de Aymara List/Dear Friends of
> Aymara List:
> Me gustaria saber sus opiniones respecto de los
> siguientes temas, los cuales eventualmente podriamos
> discutir. Por favor si responden a uno o varios,
> indiquen el titulo de la pregunta (aqui en
> mayusculas)para asi poder ordenar mejor las ideas de
> c/u. Sientanse libres de plantear todos los ejemplos
> relevantes al caso./
> I would like to know your opinions about the following
> topics, which eventually we could discuss. Please if
> you reply to one or several of these topics, indicate
> the title of the question (here in capitals) in order
> to have clear the ideas of all the participants.
> Please, feel free to show all the relevant examples to
> these issues.
> 1. LENGUAS Y COMUNICACION: "La funcion/finalidad
> primordial de las lenguas consiste en la
> comunicacion"/ 1. LANGUAGES AND COMMUNICATION: "The
> main role/purpose of the languages is communication"
> 2. LENGUAJE Y PENSAMIENTO: Primera version: "Existen
> lenguas facilitan la expresion del pensamiento"
> Segunda version: "Las lenguas determinan la forma en
> que categorizamos el mundo"/
> 2. LANGUAGE AND THOUGHT: First version: There are
> languages that make easier the expression of the
> thought" Second version: "Languages determine the way
> in which we categorize the world"
> 3. LENGUA Y CULTURA: "La lengua es ante todo un objeto
> cultural"
> 3. LANGUAGE AND CULTURE: "Language is above all a
> cultural object"
> Aymaristicamente,
> Omar
> _______________________________________________________________
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