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Re: Language Lessons (long--YHL rambles)

From:dirk elzinga <dirk.elzinga@...>
Date:Wednesday, August 1, 2001, 17:45
On Wed, 1 Aug 2001, Sally Caves wrote:

> I imagine you've seen my aborted "Teach Yourself > Teonaht" pages. > > > > They are a hell of a lot harder to > write than straight grammar pages. Why? In the > grammar pages you set down all the rules in an > uncreative manner. The rules themselves are hard > enough already for you, as conlanger, to master, > given the amount of change your language undergoes > all the time. To write a successful Teach Yourself X, > you have not only to be master of the rules and idioms > of your conlang, that you have SET, but you have the > added taxonomic task of putting these rules into NEW > categories, from easiest to hardest, from most common > to least common. And then, for it to be pleasant to > the student, you have to couch it in a story. At least > that's what I was trying to do.
Exactly. Also, I think a great challenge is trying to find the "break-through" point of the grammar. That is, the point of grammar which doesn't hinge on prior knowledge. I have always envisioned a grammar as being a closed circle; you can't find the beginning because there isn't one. Since the whole structure is self-contained, there isn't always an easy entry point. If you're lucky enough to find the break-through point of your grammar you still have the difficulties outlined above. What topics are relevant (and interesting!) to the learner? What points of grammar are "easy"? (Easy for whom? Opinions about that will vary as well.) I admire a pedagogical grammar that can accomplish the breakthrough in a satisfying manner, and deal with topics that are interesting as well as relevant. I doubt I'll be able to do such a thing with Tepa. (Of course, I'm not sure I'd want to, either. Tepa is a dead language; part of the conceit surrounding its documentation is that the last speaker of Tepa wasn't even a native speaker. And the source material isn't from a linguist, but from a missionary who had other things on his mind.) Dirk -- Dirk Elzinga "The strong craving for a simple formula has been the undoing of linguists." - Edward Sapir