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A Bit of a Flame

From:Trent Pehrson <pehr099@...>
Date:Monday, November 15, 2004, 16:15
Be warned: this is a bit of a flame.

You Chomsky-loving, structure-worshiping linguists are so brainwashed.
Language structure is as arbitrary and as variable as individual thought.
It is a totally malleable convention that never remains constant for more
than a few years. The only way you people can justify your rigid ideas is
by creating an extremely narrow definition of language both in time and in
the scope of usage, and by then chopping your narrowly defined “language”
into convenient-to-your-model compartments.  For every category you
create, though, examples can be found that break you models.

Accept the truth.  Linguistic models are useful only within a declared
domain of language exploration.  They are not universal and none of them
are all inclusive—especially when you consider the possibility of non-
human language in the universe and even in the animal kingdom of our own
little planet. Of course, you structure lovers are freaking out right now--
 probably arguing that anything non-human *can't* be language.  But even
within the realm of humanity there are real and possible examples that
defy your models.  Try exploring Silbo, a language that is entirely
whistled. You won’t find those phones on the IPA.  Ever paused to think
about what human language might be like in 10 billion years?  I guarantee
that if one of Chomsky’s finite state machines started
generating “grammatically correct” sentences today that humans then
would’t recognize them as  such.  The very fact that one can create a
language means that one can create a language outside one of your beloved

Which perfectly leads to my next point.  This is a *CONLANG* site—a site
where people share and discuss *CON-STRUC-TED* languages—which are
*CREATIVE* endeavors.  If people want to use linguistics jargan in a new
way (or by your narrow vision, a “wrong” way)—or even create their own
taxonomy for describing their work, they can.  They will not die and will
not be placed under arrest and the planets will even remain in the
heavens.  I know, I know.  You disciples of structure are saying “but no
one will be able to understand such work.  There must be a common way of
describing.”  To you, I say NONSENSE!  Ever read Dr. Seuss?  My-three-
years-old son doesn’t even pause when he reads Seuss’ verbal creations.
The whole universe does not have to be variations of noun-and-verb-based
SVO  "grammatical"sentences.

And this leads to another point.  You prescriptivist, grammarian,
structure jockeys are defied by your own beloved word “grammatical”
because it is arbitrary in and of itself.  Yes, Iknow.  You have your very
own *special* (and extremely narrow) definition of the word as you use
it.  Well, that’s just fine.  Simply remember that if you are going to
define it within your models, you need to use it within your models.  Stop
telling people that things are ungrammatical in discussions that are not
specifically framed in your pet models.  And remember, there are such
things as *NEW* models and ideas.

And now, a friendly word to you conlangers who are not afraid to create—
whether you are university-trained linguists or nor not.  I enjoy and
value your interesting contributions to this list so much more than the
regurgitated tripe of those who constantly slap your wrists and make you
think your work is only important within their prescriptions.

Stop asking for their permission to construct and describe language unless
you really want it.  Remember, anyone who uses language *IS* an expert in
language.  I believe that the most interesting and beneficial entries to
this list have been the ones that were made outside of existing models and
terminology because they provide an opportunity to think freshly about
language without the old-man-stink of the popular models.

Sorry about any aftermath.

T. Pehrson


Joe <joe@...>
Henrik Theiling <theiling@...>
Rodlox <rodlox@...>A Bit of a Flame (commented on by Methos)
H. S. Teoh <hsteoh@...>
Rene Uittenbogaard <ruittenb@...>
Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Remi Villatel <maxilys@...>
rob_nierse <rnierse@...>