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Re: Tell your conlang story!

From:Paul Bennett <paul-bennett@...>
Date:Monday, February 27, 2006, 23:09
On Mon, Feb 27, 2006 at  4:53 PM, Monica Byrne wrote:

> I'm contacting you now because I'm a producer for North Carolina Public > Radio (check out our show: We're currently > broadcasting in North Carolina only, but we're soon going national. I would > love to do a piece on conlanging, but our show is about storytelling instead > of analysis or exposition, so we're looking for a few good stories about > your experiences with conlanging.
Not that I'm itching to get on the wireless, but I'm very local indeed: Garner, NC. I listen to UNC every once in a while, but far from regularly or frequently. No offense, but I'm more of a WPTF guy. If you're still in the conlanging game proper, I'd love to meet up. This goes for others in the local(ish) area. I was (and still am) going to do a post in praise of Sai's conference, and suggest something, probably less grandiose for those of us for whom Berkeley is not really a comfortable commute. Anyway, here are some short answers. If I end up with longer answers, I'll get in contact directly.
> Here are a few questions to get you thinking: > > 1) How did you get in to conlanging? What was your inspiration?
It all started, as I recall, with a chance purchase of a Teach Yourself Serbocroat book (it was actually the dialect that we now know as the language Serbian), some time in the late 1980s, although the seeds were sown by Tolkien some years earlier. In leafing through the book, I was struck by how similar the verbs were to Latin and Greek, and that somebody ought to make a language based on these similarities. A few years later, I was again struck by how similar Albanian was to those languages, and I set about making a language called "Common", in reference to the language name commonly (*ahem*) found in role-playing games. This developed a bit, and around that time I started inventing a writing system for it, based on similarities I had noticed between the Latin, Greek and Cyrillic alphabets (which were obvious) and the Hebrew abjad. I was astounded that nobody had ever before seen the connections that I was seeing, for if they had (I reasoned) it would be common knowledge, ! and a subject studied in school. Later still, after Common had been languishing unfinished (astute readers will see this as part of a larger pattern), I happened to see a documentary about Illyich-Svitich (+/- my poor Russian spellign), and the Nostratic theory. Aha! Someone *had* noticed this before, but apparently only this one Russian guy. My hopes rose, and were dashed, though I did set out on the first of many attempts to learn Russian. The project languished again, until I discovered, by chance on the same day, two books: The Major Languages Of Western Europe, and The Loom Of Language. They blew my mind *wide* open, and I have never looked back.
> 2) What is your purpose in creating languages? Is it a personal art, an > anthropological experiment, a pasttime...?
It's a passtime, and also a way to learn things. In nearly ten years (at a guess) on this list, I have learned a lot, from some very smart people, and I've always had the chance to properly comprehend anything being discussed.
> 3) How have people reacted when you tell them about it?
I tend not to.
> 4) Did conlanging lead you places you never expected it to take you?
Yes. Over the last five years, I have gone from being largely agnostic to a Christian, and the development of the Christianity of the speakers of one of my languages has gone along with that process. I wouldn't say hand in hand, but reading for the purpose of furthering one has often lead me to further the other.
> If you have any stories for me in these veins, please let me know! You can > contact me at, or (919) 445-9245. I'm really looking forward > to hearing from you!
I may well do that, if I can organise my thoughts. Paul