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. . . first, as assigned by John.  I built a game / interactive fiction in Inform 7, and you can see the results here.

Second, Ira's assignment: I generated the triangle, the polygon, and the fuzzy polygon, which IS beautiful.  But I can't somehow get from it to language, partly because I'm stuck on some of the things you are saying about language.  I want to lay out my thinking about the differences / similarities between natural language and code, based on your posting.

Linguistic power comes not just from the connotative dimension but also from its performativity.  I say "I love you" to different people to whom it means different things, but I also do different things when I say it: it can serve a phatic function, express an obsession, enact insecurity, compensate, even wound somebody — performativity is unlimited, dependent upon uptake and context, but those aren’t extraneous exactly – they can be coded in the linguistic production itself (they are, in the hands of Jane Austen, e.g., incredibly clear).

While it is true that in English you can say "I love my skates" and "I love my mother," it really only seems to be the case (or is only true of syntactic rules) that the verb "love" doesn't have a declared datatype for its object.  Arthur Quinn says that "the simplest definition of a figure of speech is 'an intended deviation from ordinary usage," an intentional mistake, and that's what your "I love my skates, and my mother" (I'm rewriting it to make a point) would be if they appeared in the same sentence.  The sentence is a specific kind of mistake — often labeled zeugma but it's really "syllepsis," I think, and the most famous example of it is Alexander Pope's line about Belinda who is in danger: Belinda may either "stain her honour, or her new brocade."  That mistake is funny because it violates rules of decorum (I'm not sure whether they are rules about connotation or rules about performance).  The performative effect, however, is to make us think about Belinda — she is clearly a ninny, someone for whom staining a dress and losing her chastity are acts of the same magnitude.  And your sentence "I love my skates, and my mother" similarly tells us something about you, which you of course recognize with the parentheses and the wink!  Rules can be written to express the performative effect: you could, I sincerely believe, make a Jane Austen game (a game about psychological realism).  If "skates" were entered into the game coded "thing [datatype] lovedObject [variableName]" while "Mom" were coded "person lovedObject," your program wouldn't ever substitute skates for Mom, or would do so only if you called function "syllepsis."  Language is only baggier than code if you don't take into account all that it is doing at any given moment, all of which can be coded.  Barthes's S/Z is really a program that codes Balzac's short story "Sarrasine."  That text demonstrates that the program for generating the story — really the program for generating any natural sentence in all its connotative and performative grandeur — would have to be so much longer than the sentence or story itself, and I'm not sure any of it would ever be generalizable to other sentences or stories, which is why such coding would be a worthless endeavor, as was my attempt to write an XSL transform to write Wordsworth's poem "A Slumber Did My Spirit Seal."


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