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Re: Tell your conlang story!

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Wednesday, March 1, 2006, 4:38
Monica Byrne wrote:

> 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.
> Here are a few questions to get you thinking:
> 1) How did you get in to conlanging? What was your inspiration?
At 13 or so, for reasons I no longer remember, I started combing thru an old (1900s) encylopedia on our bookshelf; somehow I hit on "Sanskrit", followed all the cross-refs, and haven't stopped since. I also discovered my mother's old college Latin grammar, plus my sister's HS Spanish textbook. All that led to two early inventions, heavily influenced by Latin. I would dearly have loved to major in linguistics in college (1950s), but my parents simply wouldn't countenance anything so impractical...As it was, my conlanging gene lay dormant until Spring of 1976-- by then I _had_ received a PhD in linguistics (Indonesian historical ling.) and was at the end of a one-year job with no further prospects; so I was reading a lot of sci-fi, and fell in love with Ursula Le Guin's "Left Hand of Darkness"; started fantasizing a similar first-contact story, which led to a new planet, its people and of course its languages. The main language, Kash, really only took off when I bought my first computer in 1999-- the first thing I searched for was "invented languages" and-- surprise!!-- there were a gazillion. Second thing was to write out all my scattered notes. Joined the Langmaker list, then Conlang. In that same Spring of 76 I also read LOTR; I had been aware that Tolkien had invented languages, but apparently my edition lacked the appendix, and I had no idea how fully he'd developed them; so I'm one of the rare conlangers who's never been influenced by him.
> 2) What is your purpose in creating languages? Is it a personal art, an
anthropological experiment, a pasttime...? All of that. I came to love certain areas and ethnic groups of Indonesia (the Balinese, and the Bugis and Toraja of Sulawesi in particular) in addition to reading in the old Dutch ethno/linguistic research. But my languages and people are only vaguely reminiscent of all that.
> 3) How have people reacted when you tell them about it?
Don't ask; don't tell ;-) To my family, it's just another proof that I'm crazy; a couple friends find it interesting, but also a bit on the crazy side.
> 4) Did conlanging lead you places you never expected it to take you?
Absolutely. Since I was never able to put all that acquired knowledge to its proper academic use, it's passed over to the conlanging side. Not to mention the world-building and conculture side. _Linguistics_ certainly led me to new places-- 6 wonderful years in grad school at one of the most exciting times in our nation's history-- late 60s/early 70s; I was a good 10 years older than everyone else, older than some of my teachers in fact)-- and a fascinating year in Indonesia doing research. Sorry about the length; it's only the half of it :-) But I applaud your project; like so much in our lives that's often kept hidden, it's good to bring it out into public view.