This is the fifth part of my travels in Czech Republic. The bus took me here from [Brno](/2013/08/10/czech-brno ).
Going from České Budějovice to Český Krumlov proved to be easy as pie, and soon I found myself in Český Krumlov.
Český Krumlov is situated along the Vltava river, and is mainly known for its beautifull inner town and castle.
It came into existence in the 13th century and grew around the castle, and features Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque elements. Because of the well preservedness for over five centuries, and its typicalness for a small central European medieval town, it's enlisted in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
As I left the bus, I had no idea yet where to sleep, but just entering the pueblito there was already hostel 99 seeking my attention with it's cosy interior and fair price. I got myself a bed in the roof and started exploring the city!
While I was enjoying the wonderful scenery the train stops at a station, way sooner than expected, and suddenly everybody leaves the train. Surprised, I ask a backpacker girl what's happening, and she says were switching to bus now. There's buses to Brno, and Brno hl.n — which one to take? I went for the hl.n one, and arrived where I wanted to be :)
It was a touring bus with popular nineties music piercing through the speakers. Luckily the Moravian scenery remained as impressive as from the train, with wild bambis jumping through the wide fields.
Brno is the biggest city in Moravia (eastern region), and the second biggest one in whole of Czech Republic. Hence, it's the political and cultural center of the Moravia.
After the Industrial Revolution it became one of the Austrian industrial centers. Even this day it has one of the main weaponfactories in Europe.
With a setting sun, I arrived at Olomouc station. I bought a tram ticket, and found Poet's Corner hostel without any problems.
While still in Kutná Hora I informed Jiri about my arrival late in the evening. Right after my checkin, I got a phone call from him. We would meet 30 minutes later. So I took a quick shower, and when I was ready he was already standing there. He hadn't changed a hair :)
The train ride from Prague passed beautiful landscapes, with wide, sunny fields, idyllic houses on hills amidst trees and sunflowers. My attention was taken away from all this by a man that was walking the train up and down, selling food and drinks. Something that I wouldn't mind on Belgian trains :)
Two hours of this scenery later, I arrived in Kutná Hora.
This is the first part of my travels in Czech Republic.
Around noon, Antwerp.
The Airport express takes me full throttle to BRU, where the airplane's ready, but waiting for a man named "Daim Maximilian". After several failed attempts of the crew to locate him, we leave without Daim.
At Prague Airport, I arrived in hot weather, even though weather forecast wasn't so sunny.
In August my university always closes for a week, and even though there were some interesting events happening that week, I decided to travel.
A friend had recently gone to Czech Republic, and had some Czech crownes left. As flights to Czech Republic were one of the cheapest flights, I thought "Maybe I can help him get rid of his money, explore unknown territory and visit a friend I know from Colombia"!
Sometimes, the only thing you have to do is look at what is offered to you :)
And so I booked my flight an unusual whopping 7 early days in advance!
I wanted to download a stream from BBC, but it didn't seem like something any of the default download helpers could fetch.
Apparently, some enthousiasts have coded an alternative for BBC: get_iplayer
To get a stream from for example http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b0103z8j, note the id b0103z8j and use it
It'll download to an m4a or something alike.
Saturday I went to the Belgium Rythm 'n' Blues Festival aka Blues Peer.
THE ROBERT CRAY BAND [USA] [22u00 - 23u30]
THE FABULOUS THUNDERBIRDS [USA] [19u45 - 21u15]
HUGH LAURIE [UK] [18u00 - 19u15]
HERITAGE BLUES ORCHESTRA [USA] [16u30 - 17u30]
THE DELTA SAINTS [USA] [15u00 - 16u00]
RITA ENGEDALEN [NO] [13u30 - 14u30]
SUGAR BOY AND THE SINNERS [NL] [12u00 - 13u00]
A while ago, I read an article [mirror] about John Quijada, a Californian guy, that had been working for 30 years in his free time on a (rather theoretical) language "whose aim is the highest possible degree of logic, efficiency, detail, and accuracy in cognitive expression via spoken human language, while minimizing the ambiguity, vagueness, illogic, redundancy, polysemy (multiple meanings) and overall arbitrariness that is seemingly ubiquitous in natural human language."
When I was at a bar a couple of weekends later, someone brought this up again. He had read the same article, and described -- while he himself was stroking his beard -- how the guy came up with the word for "that chin-stroking moment you get, often accompanied by a frown on your face, when someone expresses an idea that you've never thought of and you have a moment of suddenly seeing possibilities you never saw before" (ašţal), and so I thought about putting it here on my blog, as I thought it was rather interesting.
The article first mentions the merits of such an effort: combine maximal precision (i.e. allow every thought to be declared precisily and unambiguous) and conciseness (with as few sounds as possible). Natural languages grew organically, and usually miss one or both of these traits.
The concept of artificial languages can be traced back to the twelfth century, when the German nun Hildegard von Bingen wrote down the grammar to the Lingua Ignota. The concept of the Chinese characters representing not sounds but words and concepts was very intriguiging to the western world, and made philosophers dream of a universal language, like Arabic ciphers had done to math, such that "instead of disputing, we can say that 'we calculate'," as Leibniz wrote in 1679.
Many constructed languages (conlangs) have seen the light since then, as there are John Wilkins' Philosophical Language (where the root of a word was the concept, and was specialized by adding suffixes), François Sudre's Solresol (whose words consisted of a sequence of one of the seven syllables of its alphabet, that could be represented by notes, colors, symbols), L. L. Zamenhof's Esperanto. More recent and known conlangs are Klingon and those constructed for Lord of the Rings (Tolkien maintained he even created the universe to develop his own languages). (many more)[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_constructed_languages].
The article goes on about how suddenly John's new language got more attention: the Russian popular-science magazine Computerra brought an article "The Speed of Thought" which compared Ithkuil to Speedtalk, another conlang created for the science-fiction book "Gulf". In this book the language was created to allow for faster and more precise thinking.
This comparison raised a lot of interest from Russians (who proposed changes, and even translated the English grammar to Russian), and later on of a Ukrainian university who invited John to come and give lectures on Ithkuil.
John Quijada planned to become a linguistic anthropologist, knowing everything of the most exotic languages. One day he had an epiphany: every language does at least one thing better than every other language. For example, Aboriginals always use absolute directions, rather than indications relative to a person, and the Wakashan Indians had the concept of evidentiality, where what one says indicates the source, like personal experience, inference, conjecture, hearsay etc. And these ideas from other languages formed a basis for his own language, which he constructed after he wasn't able to get a PhD. So he became a truck driver and later worked for DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) while working in his spare time refining his language.
When he picked up the Metaphors We Live By, which argues that our thinking is structured by conceptual systems that are largely metaphorical in nature, and made a link with how his languages might force its speakers to precisely identify what they mean to say, an idea that the book disputed.
This leads to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, of which there are several version. The weak one argues that the language we speak shapes our experience of reality. Thus, speakers of different languages view the world and think differently. The strong hypothesis and suggests that language constrains the thoughts we can have.
The latter one has been disregarded by "respectable linguists", when sociologist and science-fiction writer James Cooke Brown tried to render people more logical by his Loglan conlang, and failed.
The weak version, however, still gets support. For example, speakers of languages with only masculine or feminine words (Spanish, French), think differently about objects even in a non-gendered, second language (English).
The goal of the language is to be able to express things so clearly as to remove any doubt, and in the process create new concepts and words that are the result of joining words. An example he gave, a word no other language probably has a word for, was "ašţal" (just look in the intro for the meaning :p)
Then, one day, he got invited to speak in Kalmykia, in the Ural Mountains in Russia, known for being the only region in the European part where Buddhism is the major religion and former President, Kirsan Ilyumzhinov who turned the state into the chess capital of the world.
Once there, they told him some people had been studying his language for two years already, part of a psychonetics training program. His presentation included a description in Itkhuil of Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2: Aukkras êqutta ogvëuļa tnou’elkwa pal-lši augwaikštülnàmbu, all the while he had no clue what it was all about that made it so interesting to them.
Then some time later, he got invited again to a conference, now in Kiev. It was there, psychonetics finally unfolded itself a bit. It was about hiding nothing from your unconsciousness: “A psychoneticist must have nothing unconscious. Everything must be conscious”. Every thought, every uttered word must've been because of deliberate action. Ithkuil, in this regard, was perfect, as every nuance had to be decided upon meticulously.
This conference, however, wasn't full of language geeks, but most of them were big strong men with shaved heads. At one point, a gaunt man who has been recording the whole time, gets up and delivers a speech. At the end it is clear that the guy is one of the top terrorists in Ukraine. After some research they discover that their main interest is not the linguistic part en se, but rather develop "intellectual special forces" that can "give birth to a new race that can really be called superhuman", as they believe that learning Ithkuil "has the potential to reshape human consciousness and help them “solve problems faster."
What happened thereafter, we don't know ... yet
After these adventures, QUijada decided that after 34 years, his project was completed, and self-published a definitive, four-hundred-and-thirty-nine-page description of the language.
Quijada summarizes his journey of him and his language as follows: "Eipkalindhöll te uvölîlpa ípçatörza üxt rî’ekçuöbös abzeikhouxhtoù eqarpaň dhai’eickòbüm öt eužmackûnáň xhai’ékc’oxtîmmalt te qhoec îtyatuithaň.", or translated: "I am privileged to have had the rare experience of having what I think of as a hobby propel me to faraway places where one encounters new ideas along with new cultures and new peoples generous in their hospitality and respect, leading me to humble introspection and a new appreciation for the human spirit and the wonders of the world."
I haven't studied the grammar of Ithkuil, but the unambiguity seems to come from an extensive coverage of cases rather than a mathematical system which allows one to construct things previously unthought of, which I hoped to see.
For example, one of the 200 categories is the Degree Of Discretion, which ranges from public to confidential. One of them is semi-public, and can be interpreted quite broadly: is semi-public limited to the family