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Aesthetic/Arbitrary Artlangs (WAS: Has anyone made a real conlang?)

From:Jim Grossmann <steven@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 23, 2003, 4:44

This is a response to Dave Starner’s post of Tue Apr 22, 2003  2:23 am.
(see excerpt below)

Why would they be harder?

With auxlang projects like Esperanto, you have lots of research to do;
possibly every rule and root in the language, to see how common or learnable
they are.   No such research is needed for an aesthetic/arbitrary artlang

More to your point, even an artlang has technical constraints that can be
discussed rationally.  It's like making a house.

The shapes and colors of houses vary irrationally according to fashion and
individual taste.
Dwellings can vary in complexity too.   For some, a hut will do.  For
others, twenty-room mansion is a must.  But in spite of the range of
possible variations, any house must still conform to certain structural
requirements to keep its inhabitants safe and dry.

Similar considerations apply to artlangs.  They can look as familiar as most
auxlangs do, or they can abound with exotic markers, like verb endings that
vary with the assumed level of dangerousness possessed by the referent of
the object.   Regardless, all artlangs must have grammatical means to
communicate who is doing what to whom;  what is doing what to what;  and
when, where, how, and/or why something is happening.  They must also allow
means for identifying speakers, listeners, and people or things referred to,
sequences of events.  This list isn't exhaustive, but it does illustrate my
point:  there are many aspects of artlang creation which have to be
rationally planned.

How does one pick the base rules for an artlang?   That’s like asking a
writer where she gets her ideas.  Most artlangers find their inspiration in
natural languages, general linguistic information, or artificial languages
that they admire.  Often, the artlanger starts out with a general idea like
"I want to create a grammar of elegant simplicity," or "I want to create a
polysynthetic monster in which every grammatical morpheme has about ten
allomorphs,” and continues from there.   Some artlanger might start out by
attempting something impossible like a language in which nothing does what a
noun does, and wind up writing a pleasing grammar in which nouns and verbs
are distinct syntactically, but not morphologically.   Another artlanger
might start out by imagining a fantasy culture and then imagining the kind
of language that the people in this culture might speak.  Or, visa versa.

Starting with a general idea and painstakingly working out enough details to
make your imaginary language as complete as you want it to be--that’s what
makes artlanging fun for me.  Can one person write a grammar for an artlang?


BTW, Goesk is my only euroclone.  I've got three comparable grammars on the
way that just ain’t natural.  :-)

*                       *                       *

From the original message by David Starner:

"How would you go about picking the base rules? A programming job has
technical constraints that can be discussed rationally; the same thing
allows stuff like Esperanto and Lojban to be developed by a group. But
more artistic projects, where most decisions are aesthetic/arbitrary,
are a lot harder to work on."


Andrew Nowicki <andrew@...>Aesthetic/Arbitrary Artlangs (WAS: Has anyone made a realconlang?)