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Objections to Conlanging

From:Dan Sulani <dnsulani@...>
Date:Friday, March 26, 1999, 7:06
    Hi all!
    You know, I've been thinking (reading the postings on this list does
tend to do that to you :-) ) about people's reactions
to the idea of conlanging. I'm not a psychologist, (but I'd really like
to hear a psychological opinion on the subject), but
what I learned in Sociolinguistics is coming back to me now.   If one
thinks about it, it is clear that the language one speaks
is not only a medium for transferring information between people, it
also is one of the basic factors in one's identity ---
both to oneself and to others.  For example, I remember in my high
school, the state mandated that every student had to learn
one foreign language of his/her choice in order to graduate. There were
a number of languages on offer. There were also various "tracks" of
learning. Language X had the reputation as the "science lang" and thus
drew the tech crowd. Language Y was considered the liberal arts lang,
Language Z was considered the "easy lang" for those who would terminate
their education at high school. And so on. (Languages not named in order
not to offend anybody's native language; but see: the possibility that I
might offend anyone is part of my point!)
    This is also true for dialects. I remeber, as a student, going to an
Indian film with a friend of mine who was a native speaker
of Hindi. Since I didn't speak the language, he kept whispering me
translations of what was being said. At one point, a minor
character came on and said something and the whole place erupted into
laughter. When I got the translation of what he had said, I said: "But
what's so funny about that?" I was then told that it wasn't _what_ he
had said, it was the _dialect_ he had
used, which to their ears was funny. He could count to ten and send
everyone to the floor, rolling with laughter. To  _my_
impartial ears, the dialect was just as non-funny as the Hindi I was
hearing around me.
    Anyhow, the examples are endless. What you speak tells everyone
immediatedly (not necessarily acurately, of course)
whether you are friend or foe, sophisticated or boorish, one of  _us_ or
one of _them_!
    And it gets worse. Monolingual speakers tend to think that they use
natural thought processes while everybody else
gets along as best they can in some sort of unnatural foreign gibberish.
Sort of "I _think_;  they use a foreign language."
    Sorry for the short course on language and identity. But they are so
intimately entwined, that upon encountering
a _conlanger_, what does that tell someone who may be monolingual or
monocultural or merely self-centered?  He is likely to think (maybe even
out loud :-P) along the lines of :
"To create a language is impossible, since I think in the world's only
natural language, and the conlang isn't it! It's bad enough that all
those poor foreigners have to use foreign languages, but to add more
gibberish to the world --- it's totally unnatual. And that they _enjoy_
doing it? Must be either some sort of psychosis (= out of touch with
reality; and since the only reality is what _I_  speak, they're all nuts
by definition) or else it's some sort of dark conspiracy (don't spies
and such use secret codes and maybe even made-up languages?)"
    Anyhow, these thoughts all came to me this morning as I woke up, and
I felt that I just had to share them with all of you.
Thanks for listening.

Dan Sulani

 likehsna  rtem  zuv  tikuhnuh  auag  inuvuz  vaka'a.

 A  word  is  an  awesome  thing.