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Re: Lighting Some Flames: Towards conlang artistry

From:Michael Poxon <m.poxon@...>
Date:Wednesday, March 13, 2002, 21:06
You're a very brave man; I daresay you have had the presence of mind to come
out and say what many of us probably think in varying degrees anyway. But
that doesn't mean I agree with you. However, I do think that some form of
'critical community' may be evolving; and that is the key - it is not
necessary to form schools, much less for the apparently spurious reason of
coming up with quasi-academic names for them. These schools of thought will
evolve naturally. The reason they haven't yet done so is time. Conlanging is
such a new artform (personally I regard it is poetry pure and simple) that
the 'monsters and the critics' simply haven't yet been separated into their
camps. Coming from an academic (English/Linguistics) background, I was fed
up with the innumerable and irrelevant critical schools and the cold
partisanship they often engendered.
I don't think the history of any artform is a question of definitions of
propriety; at a given moment, all the best art (For example, Beethoven,
Blake etc) looks in both directions at once and for that reason often
appears to be in advance of its time. We don't yet have an example of a
Conlang(er) like this, unless it is Tolkien. But even he considered his most
complete creations to be too pretty and too removed from the 'red blood of
the world'. It will always be difficult for conlangers to achieve (should
they desire it) academic respectability, since it is still invariably bound
up with what is seen as inferior literature. I remember trying to discuss
JRRT with one of my professors, who replied haughtily "I don't read such
books". But the dice swings both ways. How many people on this list read
fiction other than scifi/fantasy?
It cannot be denied, however, that some kind of quality assessment (almost
said "quality control...") would not come amiss, and I too am rather puzzled
by what appear to be automatic congratulations to any newbies that arrive.
While no-one would actually want to say "your language sucks" maybe it
wouldn't be a bad idea to gently point out inconsistencies, or provide
subtle hints that it had been done before (hmm... the language of the exiled
Elves of the sunken land of Blorg... good idea...)
The founding of a school, for all its dryness, is however, done BY OTHERS,
TO YOU (capitals for emphasis, not flaming), not set up by you as a
manifesto. It's no coincidence that Andre Breton was the least artistic of
the Surrealists, for example.
I do agree with you over the issue of quality versus quantity, but even
there we have to take account of personalities; maybe some people like
flitting from one creation to the next. Personally I don't, and would find
it hard to create a language that was not calliphonous (I know I've just
made that word up, but hey...)
One way we could present our languages better is through websites. I often
find it difficult, impossible, or just plain frustrating to try and decipher
interlinears with various phonemic representations through the medium of
email, and if each conlang had its own site, we could find out more about
their individuals grammars, histories, phonologies and so on. I know many of
do this now, but it might be taken as an across-the-board suggestion.
In summary, I applaud your general intentions but don't think the formal
approach is necessary yet.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Jesse Bangs" <jaspax@...>
To: <CONLANG@...>
Sent: Tuesday, March 12, 2002 4:16 AM
Subject: Lighting Some Flames: Towards conlang artistry

> * Naturalness, as the name implies. We prefer languages that resemble > natural languages, that could fool a linguist examining them into > thinking that they actually existed somewhere on the globe. Auxlangs and > philosophical langs are anathema because their very nature goes against > this value. > start allowing for the critical analysis of conlangs to make them into an > actual art form. As a side effect of this, we also have to start taking > each others conlangs seriously--putting in the time to understand and > evaluate them. Like everyone else on this list, my time is limited and I > can hardly take the time to look at every conlang that comes my way. But > I intend to start taking time to look closely at the conlangs of others > and myself and seeing how well they hold up to the Naturalist values. I > also intend to post my critiques to the list. Hopefully, we're mature > enough (as individuals and as a community) to take and give criticism > without resorting to whining and hurt feelings. And once again, if you > don't like it form your own school. > > Responses, comments, counter-flames? > > > Jesse S. Bangs Pelíran > jaspax@ > "Skin and tragedy always attract a crowd." > --Pedro the Lion


John Cowan <jcowan@...>
Herman Miller <hmiller@...>