Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Re: Lighting Some Flames: Towards conlang artistry

From:Arnt Richard Johansen <arntrich@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 12, 2002, 12:21
Apologies in advance for the long posting.

On Mon, 11 Mar 2002, Jesse Bangs wrote:

> [...] it seems that conlanging may be on the verge of breaking > into mainstream awareness and acceptance. > > Yet there are still major obstacles to conlanging's acceptance as an art > form, both within the community of conlangers and without.
The underlying premise of your posting seems to be that it would be beneficial to conlangers and conlanging if it came to be accepted as an art form by the mainstream of society. I doubt that this would be the case. I'm quite content to play with my own language in my own sand box, and it doesn't really matter to me how many will see my creation, if at all. I suspect that many on this list feels the same way, not least the lurkers.
> The obstacles from without include prejudices against conlangs as real > languages, the "nerdy" perception that conlangers have (and often > cherish), and distrust from the linguistic community.
Surely you can't expect linguists to study conlangs with their linguist's hat on. Linguistics is a science that deals with how language manifests itself in the human mind and in the human society, it is not a study of art, which you say that conlangs should be looked upon as and judged as.
> We need a serious body of *conlang criticism*. Currently, this is > almost entirely lacking on the Conlang list. When someone posts texts > or grammatical sketches, the responses are generally entirely > congratulatory, or they are concerned only with correcting technical > errors or confusions within the grammar. Often there are no responses > at all. While technical accuracy and consistency are important, it's > outrageous that this is where our critique stops.
I agree that for something to be art, there must be some standard according to which something is bad, and something is good. But first, such a standard must almost necessarily be subjective. Second, the conlang community may not want to make conlanging into an artform in this sense.
> We need to move beyond the foundation of technical accuracy and allow > for the artistic analysis of our conlangs.
Judging a constructed language is inherently different from judging a play, a painting, or a musical composition. This is because that a conlang is always subject to change, while other works of art, once released, is finished. It seems to be a fairly accepted principle here on this list that a conlang never leaves its author's hands, and that all language descriptions publicized on the WWW are temporary by very nature. Now, criticising an unfinished work of art is an entirely different matter than criticising a finished work of art. If one were to write a critique of an unfinished work of art, saying that this and that should have been done different, one is in a sense interfering with the artist's right to perform his art the way he or she sees fit. -arj


John Cowan <jcowan@...>