The phrase refers to flying an aircraft in such an extreme manner that it's in imminent danger of ceasing to fly at all; speed, altitude, angle of attack, or g-force is so great that it's at the limit of what the aircraft can tolerate. The smallest mistake could then result in the aircraft 'departing' from controlled flight, becoming uncontrollable, and tumbling to the ground like a brick.
Sambahsa pushes the envelope. Right up-front it challenges the student and makes it clear: this is not going to be easy. I think Sambahsa is right on the limit of the degree of difficulty that is practical for an international auxiliary language. Has Dr Olivier Simon, the brilliant inventor of Sambahsa, got it right? Or has he pushed the envelope just a little too far?
Will people volunteer to fly this language, step up into its cockpit, strap themselves in, learn its complicated check-lists before they can even switch on the engine, and then finally take off and fly? Or will they assess the difficulty as too great and merely admire the language on the ground, never flying it?
I'm not sure yet. I cautiously volunteer that yes, they will fly. And I suspect that once they are in the air they will fly beautifully. But getting Sambahsa off the runway for the first time is like taking flying lessons on a 300,000 kilogram Boeing 747 rather than a 1,000 kilogram Cessna 172. There are a lot more switches and dials in the cockpit and it is pretty intimidating; of course, once you become familiar with it, it all becomes second nature.
Quite frankly I don't expect many people to learn Sambahsa right now, unless they can speak French, because the English-language documentation is not sufficient for such a complex language, except for dedicated language enthusiasts who are not going to let a little lack of documentation stop them.
Fortunately, I am one such enthusiast. And what does an enthusiast do when he gets into the cockpit of a new language, looks at all the dials and switches and hasn't got a clue what they all do? Why, he writes a flight manual, of course. Then he studies the manual. Finally, he takes off and flies.
All right, so here it is: for anyone out there who, like me, would like to learn Sambahsa but is finding it impossible to do so without better documentation, here begins my attempt to produce, bit by bit, a flight manual.
Let's get started.
Step One: The Walk-Around
Before getting into the cockpit, a good pilot always performs a preflight inspection. This involves walking around the exterior of the aircraft, taking a careful look at it, kicking the tires, checking the control surfaces, and generally making sure all the parts of the aircraft are in good order. Since we are going to be walking around a language rather than an aircraft, what we need to do is make sure we understand its chief components.
And with Sambahsa, there is one place to start: the pronouns and articles. When it comes to the third person (he, she, it, they, them), pronouns and articles are one and the same thing in Sambahsa.
Instead of saying "The woman gives the man the letters." we say something roughly equivalent to "She woman gives him man thes letters." Here, "thes" represents a hypothetical, imaginary English definite article which is declined in agreement with "letters" (a plural noun, neutral gender).
Welcome to the 747 cockpit...
Before I go any further (since it's about to get scary) I need to explain something. Why am I bothering to learn Sambahsa?
The short answer is that a Boeing 747 is more capable than a Cessna. If I want the advantages of a sophisticated jet airliner I'm going to have to put in more study time up-front than is required by a single-engine trainer.
The long answer is because I have discovered, as discussed in a previous post, that writing literature in a new language requires the investment of time in two parts: 'start-up time' and 'composition time'.
Start-up time is the time you need to invest up-front, before you can get started writing in the language. This investment only needs to be done once. In the case of Sambahsa this is a large investment: Sambahsa takes time here.
Composition time is the time you need to write each page of literature you produce. This investment occurs repeatedly, thousands of times, for the rest of your life. Even a small increase in composition time required per paragraph can result in a massive overall increase in the amount of time required to create works of literature. Therefore, if in exchange for greater start-up time you can gain the advantage of reduced composition time, that is a very well worthwhile trade-off. I believe Sambahsa could possibly deliver this. Excessively simple languages usually increase composition time.
My main concern with Sambahsa is that readers may not be able to comprehend literature written in Sambahsa without themselves investing a very considerable amount of time in learning the language. And things like the third-person pronouns and articles discussed below may deter them from trying. However, for now, let's be optimistic and hope for the best.
Okay, let's look at the third-person pronouns and articles. We're not even going to mention the first-person and second-person pronouns for now; they are straightforward and nothing to worry about.
In my notes below, I assume the reader is familiar with the grammatical cases typical of European languages: nominative, accusative, dative, and genitive. Nominative means the subject ("I am hungry"). Accusative means the object ("He saw me"). Dative means the recipient ("He gave the hamburger to me"). Genitive means the owner ("This door of the house is small"). In English, the dative and genitive cases are indicated by prepositions (to, of). In Sambahsa, this information is contained in the pronoun or article itself and there is no need to use a preposition to indicate the dative or genitive case.
In my most recent post I described my terror upon seeing the approximately one hundred third-person pronouns and articles which exist in Sambahsa...
Writers who are now feeling faint should sit down, take a few deep breaths, and consider learning Frenkisch instead (an excellent choice if you wish to get some of the same benefits which Sambahsa provides but without the extreme difficulty; think of it like flying a smaller airliner). I would not recommend turning to Interlingua instead; in my experience the composition time Interlingua requires is very great unless you are a native Romance-language speaker. In any case, Sambahsa and Frenkisch are more logical and consistent.
The good news is I have figured out how to reduce the burden of learning the third-person pronouns and articles in Sambasha. By following five simple rules, the student only needs to memorise 33 words. The rest can be deduced without memorisation. For reading, one could carry a small reference card.
Sambahsa nouns have one of four genders depending on the intrinsic gender of the entity they represent (woman is feminine, man is masculine, basketball is neutral, and person is undetermined). So, to decide which pronoun or article to use, ask yourself: (a) is the entity singular or plural; (b) what is the gender of the entity (masculine, feminine, neutral, or undetermined); (c) what is the case applicable to the entity (nominative, accusative, dative, or genitive); (d) which kind of article or pronoun do you wish to use (types (1),(2),(3),(4) below). Although this sounds complicated it is in fact extremely simple. There is only one problem and one problem only: memorising the 33 words; assuming you have memorised these, the decision-making process is absolutely trivial.
The following categories are used in the tables below.
(1) = Personal and impersonal pronouns; definite articles (e.g. he, his; the)
(2) = Distant demonstratives (e.g. that)
(3) = Nearby demonstratives (e.g. this)
(4) = Relative and interrogative pronouns (e.g. who, whom, which, that)
The C Rule: for each case, prefix the (1) form with c- to derive the (2) form, unless the (1) form begins with a, in which case prefix the (1) form with ci- to derive the (2) form (thus cial and ciay; this preserves the [ts] pronunciation of the c). Please note that, although grammatically correct, these distant demonstratives are currently rarely used in Sambahsa.
The T Rule: for each case, remove any leading i- from the (1) form, then prefix the remainder with t- to derive the (3) form
The Q Rule: for each case, remove any leading i- from the (1) form, then prefix the remainder with qu- to derive the (4) form
For Neutral: nominative and accusative forms are the same; dative and genitive forms are the same as those of the masculine
For Undetermined: nominative and accusative forms are the same; dative and genitive forms are the same
Generally speaking the system is logical except for two problem-words: ia, highlighted in red, can mean "she", "they" (e.g. basketballs), and "them" (e.g. basketballs); and iom, highlighted in yellow, can mean "him" and "of the" (e.g. of the men; or of the basketballs). This is a bit of a worry. It would also be nice if the patterns were perfectly regular along one or both axes of the tables, which could halve or maybe even quarter the number of words requiring memorisation (but it's not that sort of language).
How practical this system is in real-world use remains to be seen. Nevertheless it is beautiful when seen in sentences: precise and concise. I'm not going to prejudge it; I'll give it some time and see if it sinks in.
My apologies for any typographical errors below. Readers interested in learning Sambahsa should see the official grammar .
|Masculine Singular (Plural)||Nominative||Accusative||Dative||Genitive|
|(1)||is (ies)||iom (iens)||ei (ibs)||ios (iom)|
|(2)||cis (cies)||ciom (ciens)||cei (cibs)||cios (ciom)|
|(3)||so (toy)||tom (tens)||tei (tibs)||tos (tom)|
|(4)||qui, quis* (quoy)||quom (quens)||quei (quibs)||quos (quom)|
|* qui = relative pronoun, quis = interrogative pronoun|
|Feminine Singular (Plural)||Nominative||Accusative||Dative||Genitive|
|(1)||ia (ias)||iam (ians)||ay (iabs)||ias (iam)|
|(2)||cia (cias)||ciam (cians)||ciay (ciabs)||cias (ciam)|
|(3)||sa (tas)||tam (tans)||tay (tabs)||tas (tam)|
|(4)||qua (quas)||quam (quans)||quay (quabs)||quas (quam)|
|Undetermined Singular (Plural)||Nominative||Accusative||Dative||Genitive|
|(1)||el (i)||el (i)||al (im)||al (im)|
|(2)||cel (ci)||cel (ci)||cial (cim)||cial (cim)|
|(3)||tel (ti)||tel (ti)||tal (tim)||tal (tim)|
|(4)||quel (qui)||quel (qui)||qual (quim)||qual (quim)|
|Neutral Singular (Plural)||Nominative||Accusative||Dative||Genitive|
|(1)||id (ia)||id (ia)||ei (ibs)||ios (iom)|
|(2)||cid (cia)||cid (cia)||cei (cibs)||cios (ciom)|
|(3)||tod (ta)||tod (ta)||tei (tibs)||tos (tom)|
|(4)||quod (qua)||quod (qua)||quei (quibs)||quos (quom)|
Remember, only the 33 words in green require memorisation.
The other words are obvious by extrapolation.