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Introduction and a few novice questions

From:Paul Edson <conlang@...>
Date:Tuesday, March 12, 2002, 19:16
Whee! A first post after lurking about for some time now.
The erudition and imaginative fecundity of the contributors
to this list are truly a joy. My thanks to Cristophe for
setting me on the path to productivity when I couldn't post
to the archival group at Yahoo!

Introduction first: I’m a strange mongrel mix… I do project
management for a US Navy document management system during
the day (as a contractor) and sing professionally (chorus
and small roles) with the Washington Opera by night. I live
in Maryland and am hoping to progress from ‘wannabe’ to
‘author’ in the next year or so. My knowledge of linguistics
as a field is strictly self-acquired, and I certainly am
blessed with what I'd like to think is a productive

And now, to lower the property values some, I'll jump in
with some questions born of that ignorance.

Firstly, does anyone here know of a good online  linguistics
dictionary? An example illustrating  my need: recent posts
discussed 'telicity'  and I struck out trying to find a
definition at If there's a good HTML or
(better  yet!) PDF glossary of linguistic terms that  covers
the scope fairly thoroughly, I'd truly appreciate a
reference. [If not, I suppose I  could start gathering up
terms myself and *make* one.]

Secondly, I'm in the process of developing languages for a
number of fictional cultures that I'd like to write about,
and I'm a bit overwhelmed! Not by the scope of the work
ahead of me (which I actually, in my innocence, relish), but
by the embarrassing richness of choices available as I do
so. I feel a bit like a sculptor staring at a great hunk of
Carrera marble and wondering, "What's in there?" With so
many natlang and theoretical models available, so many
interesting combinations of phonetic, morphological,
semantic, syntactic, orthographic, and other -ic, strategies
available, my first instinct is to jam as many 'interesting'
features into one language as I can hold in my head.
Obviously, this has tended to lead to false  starts and the
waste of many otherwise inoffensive sheets of paper (not to
mention the electrons!).

The question, then, is: What factors do you use  to allow
you to narrow the range of  strategies/features you
incorporate into your languages? How does one cope with such
an embarrassing wealth of possibility?

Paul Edson (

"On two occasions I have been asked [by members of
Parliament], 'Pray, Mr. Babbage, if you put into the machine
wrong figures, will the right answers come out?' I am not
able rightly to apprehend the kind of confusion of ideas
that could provoke such a question."


Patrick Dunn <tb0pwd1@...>
Christophe Grandsire <christophe.grandsire@...>
Antonio WARD <antonio_ward@...>
Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...>
Jan van Steenbergen <ijzeren_jan@...>