Super Duck

Yet Another Bad Idea

(Unoriginal, Too)


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Another point that was made to me in some (mainly offlist) discussion was that nobody questions the professional credibility of an economist who plays Monopoly with his kids on the weekend...

This is what should have been in the Times!

Bravo, David! The article was excellent in the NYT, but this would have been even better for the "world" to see. There are a couple of other points that I'd like to make—explicitly. I strongly feel that more conlangs don’t "see the light of day" and become spoken and otherwise "living" due to the fact that not just the general (language-using, "know-it-all") public, but the institution of linguistics (i.e. academia) is also dismissive of if not antagonistic towards conlanging as well—at least traditionally. It's baffling to me. I must wonder to what extent the world would be even more conlang-rich if those who are supposed (?) to be fascinated by all language as a function of the definition of our humanity would actually just embrace this phenomenon as a natural one. I get the feeling from so much commentary on the web by people who are at least presenting themselves as pedigreed linguists regarding articles just like this one that conlangs are there primarily to make them—those who focus on "real" languages—feel better about themselves. They are to me, for lack of a better term "elitist bullies". Now, I am not even a pedigreed conlanger. But, I see all language that can be learned and used as a communication tool as, well, language. Some are more optimized (by the nature of their lexicons) to deal with certain subject matter than others. Pirahã would probably not be the language of choice for a brainstorming session for designing a new clean room at Intel. The Dothraki would likely deprecate Na’vi for the discussion of horses. But, how are constructed languages as tools that are intentionally designed by humans fundamentally less VALID than those that evolve organically along with lactose tolerance? Honestly, I don't get it from a scientific perspective. Socially?, well, that's probably another article all together.

Re: This is what should have been in the Times!

Those of us who've gone through academic linguists have experienced resistance, sure, but I will say this: By and large, I've had some tremendously supportive professors. Leanne Hinton, who's spent her entire professional career working on endangered language preservation and revitalization, was the one who signed off on my student-run conlang class when I was a senior at Berkeley—and this was after being rejected by professors at, among other places, the English department. Before our plans got derailed, Eric Baković at UCSD contacted me (this is important: he contacted me—quite out of the blue, in fact!—and not the other way around) about working together to start up an undergraduate conlang class (one that would be on the schedule; not a student-run class). In fact, since it was graduate school, pretty much the entire faculty at UCSD reviewed my record and knew about all my conlanging activities before I was admitted, and they accepted me like a peer.

As with anything else, I think familiarity softens hostility. Something like language creation, to one who's never encountered it before, seems frivolous—perhaps ridiculous. And linguists, being heavily invested in language, may naturally feel repulsed. It's certainly not always the case, but the possibility exists. I'll say this, though. I've never met a linguist who's spent a good amount of time with a conlanger who was dismissive of conlanging thereafter.

Re: This is what should have been in the Times!

››› I'll say this, though. I've never met a linguist who's spent a good amount of time with a conlanger who was dismissive of conlanging thereafter. ‹‹‹

And this is why I think this (↑) article is so important. I hope you've also posted it around the major linguists’ lists. If you haven't. Please DO. It won't hurt them to read the comments below either.

Did I really give you the grammar of Fijian for your wedding? 'Cause I don't remember doing that.

It was the Fijian grammar and a salad spinner. (Erin remembers!)

User bloodygranuaile referenced to your post from A few lovely things saying: [...] (for word nerds) meditation on the growth and current status of language creation: On Conlanging [...]

Why are you writing a story about fake people?

Actually, still in medieval fictional literature, authors/narrators often pretend to tell a true story that's been related to them through friends, colleague writers (e.g. adaptation of a story by Chrétien), or happenstance of finding it inside a (history) book (e.g. Hartmann's Poor Heinrich). You can see confessions of authenticity all over the place, as a literary trope that's played with. Apparently, making up fictional events and people meant to tell lies in the very narrow interpretation of some of those in charge. Fiction, especially non-Christian, was deemed suspicious by the church for quite some time, after all, and there's letters of abbots and bishops complaining about how those devilish legends and sagas are more popular than the gospels.

And what's amusing is by the time that that was no longer an issue, fiction writers were doing the same thing, but not for fear of persecution: They were doing it because they liked how it worked in the older texts where it was done for fear of persecution. So what was borne of necessity eventually became almost a cliché (though a cliché I like, if done well). :)

Speaking of the Smiley Award (~:D), I see that 2011 isn't listed yet.

Don't remind me... I swear, I'm on it! It's just the write-up that's tough. :(

2011 also isn't over. :)

besides, he just (posthumously) awarded a Smiley not long ago.

I agree absolutely that conlangers are more likely to value linguistic diversity. In my experience, most conlangers seem to become interested in creating languages when they're young adults, in high school or college. At that age, the “why are you creating a language when so many languages are becoming extinct?” argument doesn’t carry much weight, since no high-schooler is capable of hopping on a plane to go collect language data in some exotic locale. What’s interesting, and again this is just the impression I’ve gotten from my experiences, is how often that young conlanger seems to actually end up working with endangered languages several years later.

I started creating languages almost ten years ago, at fifteen. Through conlanging, I became interested in ‘exotic’ languages, and now I’m in New Mexico studying Native American languages. I hope to get involved in fieldwork in the next year or two. If I had never become interested in constructed languages, I wouldn’t be involved with language preservation.

(Also, I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting several conlangers in person. In my morphosyntax class alone, there were probably six or eight people who’d tried it. There was also a Klingon speaker who hadn’t tried his hand at creating his own language.)

Right on! Good luck getting involved. Fieldwork has to be the toughest and most rewarding area of linguistics.

On Conlanging

(Anonymous)
Great comment and a few wonderful ideas and quotes … wish I could remember them all ;)

LearnNavi.org, not .com :3

I believe you made a booboo, good sir.

Re: LearnNavi.org, not .com :3

You guys don't have both...? Fixed. :)

Meeting conlangers in person

Besides the people I've met at Worldcon and LCC whom I already knew online, I've met two conlangers locally whom I didn't already know online. Both I met through the local Esperanto society, but I've met up with them outside the Esperanto society meetings to hang out and talk about conlanging. But certainly most of the conlangers I know, I met through the CONLANG list.

Re: Meeting conlangers in person

Oh, ha. You know, now that you say this, I actually met two conlangers—three, in fact—in person before I met them online. The funny thing is I didn't know they were conlangers until after I encountered them again online. The ensuing conversation always began with something like, "So that whole time you were a conlanger...?!"

Athdavrazar, Zhey David! (Dothraki for 'excellent, O David!')I am relatively new to the conlang world, and can't (yet) really call myself a conlanger. But what David has experienced in response to his NYT article, and what others have experienced regarding constructed languages seems to be part of a bigger mindset. Already in the two years I have been actively learning Na'vi, and the 6 months or so learning Dothraki, I have had this kind of 'Why don't you learn a REAL language' thrown in my face. I also work with big cats, like lions, etc. I have had numerous people tell me 'Those cats belong in the wild. Why don't you let them go, and get yourself a girlfriend?'. Do you see the parallel here? It seems like there is a close-mindedness in our world today, who won't open enough to appreciate the significant pleasure there is in learning a fledgling language, or what it is like to form a close bond with a 500 pound cat or (fill in the blank yourself). This is becoming a serious problem, especially when people with mindsets like this are allowed to set policy. I think every person is entitled to their beliefs and worldview, and to work out these beliefs in their everyday lives. And let no external force change your beliefs or worldview (unless you want to change it)! But people whose eyes are open (Na'vi concept!) realize that people have their own beliefs and interests and are entitled to practice those beliefs and interests (within certain limits, but those limits are pretty broad) without this kind of criticism from others. So, if you enjoy conlangs or conlanging, conlang away, and let these naysayers find out how much fun they have really been missing!

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