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SemiOT: Revealing your conlanger status, personal experiences of reaction...

From:John Leland <lelandconlang@...>
Date:Friday, June 18, 2004, 1:47
In a message dated 6/16/04 12:23:06 PM Pacific Daylight Time,
joerg_rhiemeier@WEB.DE writes:

<< When I mentioned it in his presence, he said that
 what I am doing was meaningless because Wittgenstein said that
 "private languages are impossible".  I am not an expert on
 Wittgenstein's philosophy, but I think my brother has interpreted
 Wittgenstein's words wrongly.  What Wittgenstein meant was, I think,
 that a language can never be private in the sense that no-one else
 can learn it.  Conlangs thus *aren't* "private languages". >>

One of my professional colleagues (without citing W.) made the same objection
conlanging in an informal lunchtime discussion, and my response was the same--
Rihana-ye is not a private language in the sense that no-one else *could*
understand it--it is simply a language no one else has yet chosen to learn, but
which in principle
anyone could learn.  For that matter, it has occured to me that if others
wished to do so, they could take the Rihana-ye basic vocabulary and create their
own valid new Rihana-ye words, and I could (in principle at least) have a fair
chance of deducing their meaning
from knowing their Rihana-ye roots. It is in fact true that since I normally
write my texts in Rihana-ye before writing the interlinear translation, I have
occasionally been interrupted and left a Rihana-ye text without a translation
for months or even years, and
then found it again when I had no conscious memory of its content, and been
able to translate it. This seems to me to demonstrate that it functions as a
real language
in that comprehension does not depend on knowing what the text says already,
I am in fact deriving the meaning directly from the Rihana-ye words, and
presumably anyone else who knew enough Rihana-ye could do the same.  I should add,
though, that there have been a few instances lately when I have been
transcribing texts for which apparently I had done the translation some time after
writing the Riuhana-ye, and I
now believe I see errors in the translation. However, since such errors occur
in translating real languages, I do not see this as disproving the
"nonprivate" nature of Rihana-ye.
John Leland


Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Mark P. Line <mark@...>Wittgenstein & 'private language' (was: SemiOT: Revealing your conlanger status)