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Re: [CONLANG] Láadan

From:Davis, Iain E. <feaelin@...>
Date:Monday, December 2, 2002, 19:06
(All of what I say below is opinion) :)

> -----Original Message----- > From: Peter Clark [mailto:peter-clark@BETHEL.EDU]
> > >My intention was to > > >level the playing field. That is, it was intended to provide women > > >with a resource that men *already have* -- lexical items > they could > > >use to discuss things that mattered to them. > Maxim: if there is a pressing need for a term, one > will either be invented or "de-obscured" in short order, > regardless of gender. For instance, raise your hand if you > knew what a "chad" was before the 2000 presidential elections.
I don't even know what a "chad" is now, so I'm not sure that this example is relevant. :)
> Women have identical resources as men in terms of > creating new lexical items; one does not need to be empowered > in order to increase a language's vocabulary, simply > acceptance of the term by other listeners. I suppose you > could argue that this requires some particular power, but it > makes no sense to believe that women cannot invent terms used > around other women.
Inventing a term is not enough, though. The term also has to propagate so that the person you're speaking to understands what you're trying to say. It does me absolutely no good to say "I'm feeling very floggy today" if the person listening doesn't know that I've defined "floogy" to mean "a mild headache, probably because I stayed up too much last week". :) The problem with the idea that "if a word is needed, it'll be invented, and will spread by itself" is that some of these words may apply to ideas or events that don't occur often enough for propagation to take place. But, although whatever it is doesn't occur with any great frequency, it may be _essential_ to have that word, when the time comes. :)
> > >About concepts being lexicalized -- being given a surface shape in > > >sound or writing or sign -- if they are "important enough to the > > >culture." You'd need to rephrase that a tad. Concepts are > > >lexicalized in our existing cultures if and only if they are > > >important enough to those who hold the power in the use > of language. > > >Senators; presidents; chairpersons; heads of corporations; the > > >persons at the top, in every field. > Here I have difficulty believing that Elgin, a > trained linguist, would fall for such an obvious falsehood. > Language is not "controlled" by those in power, no matter how
..... I don't believe she means "controlled" in the sense that someone sits around and "determines" language usage. She is instead saying that people will talk like those who are in roles of authority/power (regardless of whether that authority is deserved) over the speaker, rather than use words that may be more useful to the speaker. I would surmise that this would actually be hard to evaluate...since it would raise questions about who actually "dominates" a given culture. :)
> > > My opinion: there are two varieties of English -- > > > dominant English and dominated (subordinate) English. > I don't see this division along gender lines, but > rather along class and race lines
I'm not sure what you mean by "class" here. It would certainly depend on your "social rank". Many factors lead to "social rank" but the biggest are race, gender, wealth/power, and fame. Many of these are coupled, so it would be hard to separate them.
> at least here in America.
I'm not sure what you mean here, either. You seem to be saying that gender doesn't determine social rank in the U.S. I suspect that it does more than you realize. Especially in certain areas of the U.S., I don't think I'll point out any particular area, though. And even if it were true (that gender doesn't determine social rank), it is a very recent thing, if you're taking the long view. I doubt that it has been enough time to really "fill in" the vocabulary gaps and have them propagate throughout. Deliberately creating the vocabulary and presenting /could/ speed of a natural process, if it was presented in a palatable form (which I'm not sure that Laadan was) and wasn't touted as being a "feminist" reform or otherwise forced on people.
> > > There's no evidence that the genders differ in > > >their expressive capacity. There is a great deal of > evidence that the > > >genders differ in power, that that difference has effects upon the > > >language, and that those effects are detrimental to > women's ability > > >to adequately express themselves aloud and in writing. Ability to > > >"think" or to handle ideas doesn't enter into this discussion. > If women can think and handle ideas as well as men, > then they can fill lexical gaps as well as men, without > having to go and ask permission. Really, I am finding this > rather insulting to women. I wonder if she still feels that way.
Again, she's not saying women aren't /capable/, she's saying that while women may make new words, they won't propagate, because those in "authority" (who, I suspect are often a group largely resistant to "new" ideas) won't use them, for one reason or another. If words aren't used, they don't propagate. And if they don't propagate, they're not available for use. The "authority" people don't "decide" not to use these words, they're simply not used because "made up words" have a stigma of "silliness, childish, etc.". Many of us have encountered this problem when talking about conlang'ing. Some would view it as a "silliness, childishness" taken to the extreme. :). I doubt that this effect is restricted to gender, but any set of roles where there is a "dominant" group and "subordinate" group. The "dominant" group is going to control the language by example, not by committee. Partly because one doesn't want to imitate the "weak" you want to imitate the "strong", since there is a tendency to perceive the "powerful/authority" figures as being "better people", even if they are not. :)