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CHAT: Conlang dreams revisited, and Memorization

From:Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>
Date:Tuesday, February 15, 2000, 2:50
In a message dated 2/14/2000 4:16:31 AM Eastern Standard Time,
Christophe.Grandsire@BDE.ESPCI.FR writes:

<< >Completely off-topic, but I think "the daring and unusual prefix" is
 >such a wonderfully delicious expression!  I've always admired
 >Tolkien's plotting more than his prose style, but every now and then he
 >came up with a real gem!  Describing a lowly prefix as "daring and un.usual"
 >seems to me to sum up all the pleasures of conlanging in a single phrase.
 >Matt. >>

Quite so!  Yet another view of our Peculiar Vice was expressed by a
fellow-conlanger to me recently (not as a put-down, I assure you):  "the
grave and precise creation and explication of the absurd, thereby giving
reality to the absurd."
This came to mind in connection with the discussion of memorization/learning
a conlang.  My very first conlang consisted of several hundred verbal forms,
based on a mixture of what little I knew of Sanskrit, and Latin.  I actually
knew them all and used to make my friends test me; they thought it was quite
crazy, of course.  I started Spanish years ago as a teen-ager-- the teacher
and all classmates were Americans, so we learned from the book, hardly did
any conversation.  It took college courses, entirely in Spanish with native
teachers, and a summer in South America before I could speak at all well.
While doing linguistics in grad school, I took Indonesian; by that time tapes
were used, plus we had a native speaker as a guide, so the reverse happened--
I could speak well, but had and still have a lot of trouble reading.  I don't
recall ever actively "memorizing" vocabulary etc., it just sort of settled
in-- so I'm apparently one of those to whom languages come easily.  Learning
a conlang would have to be different, no give and take, unless you talk to
yourself (I do)-- still, most of the formal bits of my  Kash grammar have
stuck in me brain; vocabulary is retained at least for a while, depending on
the most recent translation.