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Thoughts - Conlangs and culture

From:Harald Stoiber <hstoiber@...>
Date:Thursday, October 3, 2002, 23:19
First of all, may ye kindly take friendly words of greeting from my writing hands!

> Herzlich willkommen to both of you! > Cheers, Jan
All non-german speakers will hopefully forgive me but since Jan found such inviting words I simply wish to enunciate my salutation to all list members who share my mother tounge with me: Beseelt von Freuden wunderbar biet' ich meinen Gruß Euch dar! Having said this, I want to make you acquainted with some thoughts that came to my mind yesterday. I was musing about building the lexicon of my current language project. Now I am quite satisfied with the grammar section (let's see how long that state will last... *gg*) and, thus, I stepped forward to face the task of creating roots and assigning them meanings. And that's where the questions arise: What will me word be for ...? What will my word be for "cancer"? Which one will I find for "shareholder value"? How will I name the concept of television? Should I map the concept of "mid-life crisis" into the semantic space of my language? I have consciously chosen these examples that are oh so very typical for the status quo of human culture on this planet Earth. And, eventually, one crucial question: Is it my native culture or any existent human culture or even human culture as such that my language will be devised for? And this is the key question I think. In their wonderful introductions to conlanging, Mark Rosenfelder and Pablo Flores warn the reader not to re-invent the English vocabulary. But actually, I am positive that we can safely read this as "do not re-invent the terms and concepts of your own culture". And that's what literally hit me yesterday. To make it a really original language it would help a lot to put up a really original culture alongside. A lot of language seems to be about culture itself. I am convinced that language can never entirely leave the space of culture. Thus, culture-independent or culturally neutral languages actually don't exist. All they do is creating a new cultural space that wraps up, combines and somehow harmonizes all the cultures from which the language should be independent. My own project is a highly inflected grammatically complex latin-sounding (but not at all being) language based on predication (for mere derivational purposes - not at all because of logic or disambiguation) that could well be an elaborate proto-language which may then be simplified over many centuries, giving birth to another couple of languages (conserving previously inflected forms as stems etc.) - like Proto-Indo-European did and Latin did, too. Additionally, I have designed the language to be "the language in favour of what is written" (as I would translate its native name). It is primarily designed for use within books and scriptures. It can be read out loudly in a solemn fashion. It cannot be spoken or used for casual conversations because there is no reliable built-in self-segregation of words. It could be the formal literary language of scribes, high priests or scholars. It could be the language of something that a historican may find in a noble ancient library. Who knows right now... I am still designing it but one thing is clear: I cannot put it in the context of the twentieth century just to spare the effort of inventing a culture, too. Wow, that sounds like work! *ggggg* And it magnificently looks like fun!!! :-))) All the best and cheers, Harald -- A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. (Rabindranath Tagore)


H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>