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In linguistics, what's the definition of a perfect language?

Off the top of my hat, given the primary purpose of language is communication, a perfect language must be able to convey 100% of the information from the speaker/writer (transmitter) to the listener/writer (receiver)

What other the other criteria for a perfect language?

EDIT [1] START

It appears from comments by Keelan and Tristan that the notion of a perfect language is not explicitly mentioned let alone investigated in linguistics proper.

However, in my humble opinion, such is implicit in the way natural language has been adapted to fields like philosophy and science.

In medicine there's the concept of magic bullet (the ideal drug), some of its qualities being 100% curative, 0 side effects, easy route of adminstration, etc.

In engineering there's the ideal machine which inter alia must be 100% efficient.

In politics-morality, there's utopia, a perfect world.

I would expect there to be the notion of a perfect language (an ideal language) in linguistics as well.

EDIT [1] END

EDIT [2] START

Ideal Language

Ideal language philosophy is contrasted with ordinary language philosophy. From about 1910 to 1930, analytic philosophers like Bertrand Russell and Ludwig Wittgenstein emphasized creating an ideal language for philosophical analysis, which would be free from the ambiguities of natural language that, in their opinion, often made for philosophical error.

I found a resource - it's a philosophical topic - but the idea isn't new and has been studied by professionals in the field of philosophy of language. I would be grateful if linguists could offer their insights. For/Against/Both/Don't care?

EDIT [2] END

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    I’m voting to close this question because it is not clear in what linguistic context the term "perfect language" appears and requires explanation.
    – Keelan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 9:04
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    this seems based on the false assumption that "perfect language" is a term used in linguistics. Such a term is absurdly loaded and, as you highlight, has unclear meaning so is of little to no scholarly use. Unsurprisingly then, it doesn't really seem to be used
    – Tristan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 9:49
  • @Tristan, it is not explicitly stated, true, but is implicit in the fact that philosophy and science are domains where clarity and precision of language matter and concerted effort has been made to improve language e.g. precising definitions (reducing/eliminating vagueness).
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 10:02
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    @AgentSmith linguistics studies language as it is, and is not concerned with and generally rejects attempts to improve language. It seems your question is one of philosophy of language rather than linguistics and so is better asked on the philosophy site
    – Tristan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 10:06
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    a moderator will need to move it. I've flagged it to be moved
    – Tristan
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 10:09

1 Answer 1

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There is no such thing, because the communication channel between the speaker and the listener is always a noisy channel, with a lot of variation in the amount and quality of the noise. Rational speakers (a hypothesis in psycholinguistics, not something really proven) adapt their linguistic output to the channel noise to a certain amount, e.g., by speaking louder when there is a lot of acoustic background noise) or by adding redundancy.

Experimental studies (typically performed with minimal artificial languages) where some parameters of a natural language model were tweaked show that natural languages are close to a (local) optimum. Studies over many different languages also show, that all natural languages transport about the same amount of information measured in bit/s (see this answer: https://linguistics.stackexchange.com/a/32379/9781)

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  • Yes, rather unfortunate, "there is no such thing" as a perfect language, but I'm not saying there is. I would like to hear the thoughts of linguists on the issue. Imagine you're constructing a language from scratch e.g. like Esperanto. What would be its selling point? When it comes to languages we have thousands of options. Why should I learn your new language? Is it better? How?
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 13:15
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    Loooots of questions in this comment ... for conlangs there are different "selling points", e.g., learnability as a second language (there are easy and difficult L2 out there), being joint to a certain part of popular culture (e.g., Klingon), being an intriguing though experiment (like Lojban). And there is Constructed Languages but that site is also bound to the stackexchange format (kind of atomic and answerable questions, not for posting open-ended discussion points) Commented Jan 16, 2023 at 13:20
  • I'm surprised that a perfect language is not part of linguistics. Utopia (a perfect world) is a bona fide idea of politics & morality; an ideal machine is a legit concept in engineering; an ideal drug is a medical holy grail.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 4:12
  • We don't understand the limits of our linguistic channels really well, but they are set in some way by human physiology (in the brain, in the speech organs, in the hearing apparatus), so an ideal language needs to be physiologically possible. Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 8:53
  • then we have discovered a necessary condition for a perfect language.
    – Hudjefa
    Commented Jan 17, 2023 at 9:22

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