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Re: The...the...

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Tuesday, April 25, 2006, 21:08
One of the things I learned at the Conlang conference was that we (including
myself) as conlangers could stand to think of idiom, metaphor, and cultural
context to shape our structure.  Otherwise we truly aren't, as Yaguello
charges, to my great fury, ;) escaping the "straitjacket" of our native
languages.  I think many of us do, and I'm sure this issue has been raised
before; but when I see things, now, like "how do you express "the more the
merrier?" I want to say this is a wonderful question to ask about western
languages and the components of the expression, but how might I do it
differently in Teonaht?  This has really galvanized me!  I like the idea of
"if/then":  If more, then merrier."  Ty makmohs, ta maktoviel."  I think
someone suggested this--maybe even you.  But it's still kind of a calque of
the English/Spanish/etc.  Why have a substantive adjective at all?  "if more
you, then happier me."  Or even parallel structure?  "A gaggle of you makes
a happy tent."

One of the things I really want to experiment with is alterity of
expression.  I think it might be impossible.  What do the rest of you think?
I suppose this is a different question altogether.  Maybe "the more the
merrier" is too simple.  But it's pithy, and totally cool, and the Teonim,
as long-winded as they are, admire that.  Dovnnaka joven man joven doven.
"foolish a youth when a youth makes merry."

What about "Stop bugging me."  What does "bug" mean?  What is the cultural
metaphor it's invoking?  How can I say something equivalent and vivid, yet
different?   We can say "get off my back."  French:  "don't break my feet."
What can we say that says something similar with a powerful new image?  New
verb, new noun.  And how would it reflect our conculture?  Do the Teonim
have a sense of personal space?  Maybe they conceive of themselves as a
house--they already conceive of language as a city.  "Don't muddy my door" ?
"Your wordroad breaks my window."  ;)  Just a suggestion.  Somebody
mentioned Dharmok on Sunday.  Yeah, since that ST episode I was all afire to
try that out at least in Teonaht slang.

> I think this is a good point. However, > I wasn't really addressing the idiomatic usage.
No, I realize that! I'm messing around. :) I was trying to supply
> the missing structural elements. Afterall, the the...the construction > is merely the juxtaposition of two adjectives. So even before one sees > the idiom, there is an implicit non-idiomatic grammar involved.
> In fact, the two examples you give actually reinforce this point.
> In the case of "The higher the lower", a person internally sees this > as "If there is more heigth, then there is more lowness" which by > the causal connection clearly makes no sense. If there was no > causality involved, how would one know that it was nonsensical?
But one could mean by this "the higher you climb, the lower you sink," having in mind social climbing, or ambition and an ethic that requires humility. And Nik, it may make no sense in English now, but if it were to acquire that meaning it would. And it would in a conlang that has a context for it. "The sadder the wiser." On the surface, that means nothing to a foreigner unless she understands "what doesn't kill you makes you strong," or "once burnt twice shy."
> So, I think Ankanian would deal grammatically with these examples > the same way, ultimately yielding the same contradictory or non-useful > result: > > Toulaxia voru neulaxia. > Toilaxia voru pefaxia. > > On top of this, there could be idiom, based on the conculture or the > context, but as my conculture is not very well developed. I don't > know yet what it would be.
That's what we need to develop before we create the language. What are the ethical and social contexts of our utterances? Believe you me, I went hogwild into Teonaht for forty years never asking these questions. Now I see an impossibly steep road ahead of me. Sally