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Re: Alexarchus the Conlanger(?)

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Wednesday, December 20, 2006, 16:43
----- Original Message -----
From: "Andreas Johansson" <andjo@...>
> > If Green's comparison with Nadsat is accurate and representative, the > language > may have been a sort of "perfected" Greek.
Except that I hardly regard Nadsat as a "perfected" English. It's supposed to be a colorful, but debased one, or at least a "street slang," spoken by the violent teenagers of _A Clockwork Orange_: English is distorted, extended, and mixed in with Russian and Cockney Rhyming Slang. So I don't know what Green thought of this; perhaps he doesn't really know the context for Nadsat. Side note: If I recall correctly, Burgess also makes the academic English of the future "different" from that we know today, cf. Frank Alexander, the scholar whose wife they rape and whose book they burn. Samples of his writing are given in the book, but I can't remember them. I do know that the name of the book itself is one Burgess says he heard from London slang, and it's used frequently in other contexts. Burgess's definition in his preface to the book says: "If he can only perform good or if he can only perform evil then he is a "clockwork orange," in other words either a beautiful organism or a mechanism wound up by an indifferent God. Back to Alex: I think what Green meant is that Alexarchus' language is a hodge-podge of words borrowed from other (base) languages. What Alexarchus thought he was doing, we can't know. As I said, Green references W.W. Tarn, who calls A. a "dreamer," "mad," "comic," "schizophrenic" or "dual personality," the usual "lunatic lovers of language" response we get from many outsiders. ;) But Tarn also suggests that the Greeks looked upon "speaking in tongues" (which A. wasn't doing) as a sign of divine inspiration, and this may have been a motive for him; either that or the usual combination of a divine city that he created with a divine, or at least strange, tongue. Maybe he wasn't very good at it, though. It's still based on Greek, but distorted by combinations and neologisms. As you say, a "perfected" Greek. So: Green or Tarn? Best to look at Athenaeus for Greek response to Alexarchus, on the Web site that was given.
> Since Alexarchus himself was Macedonian, and presumably bilingual > (Macedonian > and "real" Greek, whether those be considered different languages or not), > he > might have had a somewhat more liberal attitude than a proper Greek would > have > had.
Indeed! Sally