Saturday, November 12, 2011

Lojban for communication about emotions

A few days ago jonored and I ended up in a discussion on IRC about what languages are good for discussing what languages are good for discussing various topics. Most people who were active in channel agreed that English is bad for discussing anything (other than it being the language we all knew), something like lojban is preferable for technical topics, and something like French is preferable for emotional topics. Their reasoning was that for topics that had anything to do with emotion you want a language that is more poetic than structured, so something like French is better than something like Lojban.

Of course I had to be the unusual one and I commented that I'd prefer something more structured in order to discuss emotions. I ended up discussing this more with jonored over lunch, and it came down to unstructured language is good for art-based communication (which is both a very powerful and useful mode of commutation, but not the default state for at least what seems to be most people). Simple discussion on the other hand, seems to me like highly structured, precise language would just be preferable.

Personally, I struggle a lot with any discussions about emotions. When I found the description of alexithymia on wikipedia earlier this year, it was the first time that I'd seen a description of anyone else having similar struggles with identifying and discussing emotions. It also was the first time that I'd heard that other traits of mine, such as the scarcity of fantasies, might be also associated with the same basic trait of mine. I do struggle with all three of identifying my emotions, translating my emotions into any spoken language rather than the generic concepts that I think in, and communication of emotions with other people.

In particular, the challenge I have with the communicating emotions once I can identify them in myself aspect comes from multiple aspects; two primary aspects beyond the simple translating thoughts to spoken (or typed) language are a need for what I say to be sufficiently precise and emotions just being a sufficiently complex problem in which applying logic does not allow for me to just go through the analysis and return an answer within even a semi-reasonable amount of time. (Not having responded to 'what do you think about foo?' within an hour is not reasonable when it comes to real-time communication.)

The discussion on IRC lead jonored to wonder, would it be easier for me to discuss emotions if I was using the system for emotions in Lojban rather than attempting to communicate via English and the non-verbal methods which ASDs are associated with weaknesses in. Rather than so many different words and the idea that one word 'should' in some situations suffice if you choose the correct one (no matter how crazy of an idea that is), this would allow people like me to construct the best description from a short enough list of ideas that it can far more reasonably be applied analytically.

The relevant part of Lojban is the attitudinal system. There are written words for 39 different concepts and their negations that tend to be communicated through non-verbal communication. These words, some intensities, some domains, and various other associated ideas are combined into a concept that is the emotional state being discussed. As there are only 39 of these which are explicitly combined, this is a short enough list that running through the list pulling out all identifiable aspects is a seemingly feasible idea.

So, jonored had me read through that chapter while he wrote up a reference sheet for me, and has been trying to help me get used to it by asking questions for me to reply to using that in particular. Unfortunately this is requiring quite a bit of care because if he asks a question that is too hard for me for some reason or another, I still won't respond for over an hour (and then not respond in a useful manner, more start stressing out about the fact I've not responded and this is wrong of me). The basic question is whether this would end up helping me be able to translate identified emotions into language and communicate them without being overwhelmed. There's not been nearly enough time to see how much it'll really help, but it seems a promising idea. At the very least the way its formatted allows for a list of words to be run through analytically without the problem that every other one of those that I've seen has of implying very strongly that only one word applies in any situation, or that there's a word that matters "most" somehow that is the one that "should" be given. I'm going to try to actually look into this rather than just face extreme perfectionism every time it comes up, and hopefully it helps some.

Whether or not it helps me it seems like it could help some people with alexithymia.

1 comment:

  1. This does sound promising.
    I really need to take some time and learn lojban...