Conlanging and Natlangs
|Date:||Saturday, July 15, 2000, 22:00|
The general public often looks down on Conlanging. It
may be considered a "weird hobby" if done for fun and
an "impractical concept" if done for communicative
Yet IMO conlanging is going on at all times in the world
of natural language. People coin new slang terms constantly,
and new inventions like "radar" and "modems" produce new
words than may become quite common. All this may not
be serious stuff. Some is clearly for fun -- take "Jabberwocky"
-- not without its influence on the English language.
Natural languages are "under construction" constantly.
Moreover, the leading "natlangs" are all to some extent the
result of conscious efforts to define norms and establish
a common vocabulary. Famous poets have set the
standards for many -- including Pushkin's role in forming
modern Russian; Dante in Italy, etc. Hungarian vocabulary
was in part an artificial creation of its pioneer lexographers.
Hebrew came back from the dead -- reorganized by
planners. Norwegian was restructured (from Danish)
and reorganized (at least twice). Most literate African
"languages" today were created by conscious choice
by language planners by selecting from leading tribal
dialects, often fusing them into a norm that is then taught
in the schools. Missionaries did the same with Fijian
and other South Sea languages.
An Emperor of Korea invented Hangul; Kemel Ataturk
reorganized Turkish, replacing much grammar and
vocabulary and putting it all into a new alphabet.
To imply that languages "just grow" is IMO very
nearsighted. Even the major "school grammars"
show the impact of the conscious efforts of
individuals on the direction of language.
"Classical Latin" "Classical Literary Chinese," Sanskrit,
etc. were all norms set by "grammarians" -- not mere
refections of what was being spontaniously spoken by
some population. Further back, languages like Akkadian
seem to have been "devised" from various souces by a
series of planners.
ASL and all the other sign languages for the deaf are
clearly inventions. So were things like Gregg shorthand.
Also things like Bliss Symbolics.
Natural languages and subsidiary language forms are,
in fact, often the result of conscious efforts to fill a need.
And fun can be a need as well.
Leo J. Moser