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Collaborative conlang - Third time's the charm?

From:Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Date:Thursday, October 9, 2008, 7:07
It's that time again. Time to try to launch another collaborative project in
linguistic anarchy. My last two collaborative conlang projects were
interesting, but ultimately not terribly successful. (Kalusa - conlang archives
May 2006... and another project from longer ago. I don't recall the name.)

So here's my latest brainstorm: Start with a simplified "bootstrap"
proto-language along the lines of Toki Pona (but without all the excessive
ambiguity). That bootstrap language is used for all discussions about the
emerging collaborative conlang, so that people who do not share the same native
language can all discuss and work on the conlang using the bootstrap language.
And in fact, that bootstrap language would eventually evolve INTO the
collaborative conlang. One problem with that is that the original bootstrap
language would already have put its stamp on the eventual collaborative conlang
where basic vocabulary and grammar are concerned.

Therefore, the original bootstrap proto-language could be set up with "placeholder" words
for the initial vocabulary. To distinguish between "real" words and placeholder
words, all placeholder words would be written in UPPER CASE ONLY. Placeholder
words would NOT reflect the eventual phonology, or morphology of the evolving
conlang, because they are disposable placeholders only. The bootstrap
proto-language would have the placeholder name "TAK" (talk). The real name may
or may not be discovered later by participants in the project.

Grammar would be a simple SVO positional grammar with the very minimum of features.
This too, would be disposable as the "real" grammar emerged and evolved to
replace the placeholder grammar.

The only hurdle to participation would be the necessity of learning the handful of
placeholder words and the minimal grammar so that it would be possible to use
the bootstrap language to discuss and evolve the emerging conlang.

For that it would be necessary first to have a quick and easy course of
instruction to pick up the bootstrap grammar and vocabulary. This would need to
be available in many natural languages so that people from diverse linguistic
backgrounds could all participate. The second requirement would be a forum
where discussions could be held IN the bootstrap language. Finally, an
interactive database would be needed for registered users to contribute
discovered vocabulary to the dictionary.

There would be no "official" dictionary, because any forum member could contribute
any word or grammatical principle. Whether that word remains in the language
would depend only on whether other community members used that word. The same
would apply to rules of grammar, declensions and case endings (if verbs and
nouns are eventually inflected), number of noun classes and their properties,
and so on. Rules would remain rules if and only if they are generally adopted
by the community. In fact, the language might not even have an "official" name.
It would be called whatever people called it.

Eventually all the UPPER CASE placeholder words would disappear and the real grammar
would emerge to displace the simplified placeholder grammar, and a new language
would be born which was not "designed" by any one person, but, to use an old
favorite phrase of mine, "used into existence."

Some preliminary quick-study lessons (40 sample sentences) for the bootstrap
language can be found here: along with links
to a forum (still empty of posts) and a dictionary database with some 75 or 80
placeholder TAK words (borrowed from Toki Pona and Ilomi (thanks Larry)), and
an interface for registered forum members to add words to the dictionary

There is NO official policy, NO official grammar, NO official lexicon, and NOBODY to
set themselves up as the authority on what is or is not "correct". Usage is
king, and nothing else matters. Complete linguistic anarchy prevails.



David J. Peterson <dedalvs@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>
Jim Henry <jimhenry1973@...>
Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Noelle Morris <rhamantus@...>