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Lunacy survey (or "Better late than never")

From:Joseph a.k.a Buck <zhosh@...>
Date:Sunday, March 13, 2005, 20:03

1. Who are you, and what is the name of your invented language or languages?

Name: Joseph Bridwell
Languages: Palu f'Thule, Bez Dis's, Nen Shar, Laafaah Trayis, Jaejae Vyrma,
Yinikop u-Taan

2. Are you new to the Lunatic Survey or have you filled out a version of
this survey before?


3. Do you have a website for you language/world(s)? If so, please list the
URL address.


4. What is your email address? name at hostsite dot whatever.

zhosh at 2bears dot com

5. What is your age?


6. What is your gender?


7. What is your nationality?  Where do you live now?

American living in Seattle,Washington

8. What is your native language?


9. What natural languages foreign to you have you studied or do you speak?

Speak: English, German, Spanish, Italian, French in varying degrees of
Studied: Welsh, Icelandic, Finnish, Japanese, Chinese, Pali, Latin, Swahili,
Russian, Tsalagi, Dine, Hopi, Kemet.

10. What is your level of education? i.e., your highest degree achieved or

Master's in IT

11. What is your profession? Are you a professional linguist? If so, what
also makes you a conlanger?

profession: information technology analyst & programmer.
I've studied linguistics (wish I were an ESL/ESOL teacher).
Creating conlangs makes me a conlanger. I'm interested in conlanging because
of a strong interest in communication.

13. If you are a student, what is your major or your area of study?

Not a student.

14. How long have you been developing your invented language(s)?

Palu since early 90's, Dis & Nen since late 90s, Laafaah & Jaja since 2003,
Taan since January 2005.

15. At what age did you first start inventing a language? Can you briefly
describe your early efforts?

Fifth grade. Can't remember much about it other than I used the Phoenician
alphabet to write it.

16. What drew you to start inventing a language and/or constructed world?
What was the inspiration?

A life-long fascination with languages and communication. The inspiration?
My discovering languages other than the one I spoke.

17. Did you start inventing before you had heard of the list or after?
Before you had heard of Esperanto or Tolkien?

Many years before all 3.

18. Tolkien calls it a "shy art" and a "secret vice"; but that was before
the Internet. How secret do you keep it from others outside this list for
much the same reasons?

I don't keep it secret.

19. Yaguello has called it "pathological," influenced, unfortunately, by a
lot of psychiatric writings such as _Le Schizo et la langue_. To what extent
have you encountered such reactions by outsiders you had taken into your

Other than some 'tude I've gotten on-line from some on and off this list, no
one has ever suggested that my language interests are pathelogical. I'm
always suspecious of those who quickly use the word "pathological" in
describing anything. Often "apathological" means no more than the pathology
which a society views as "normal".

20. Do you consider it nerdy to be doing this? This is a term that gets
tossed around a lot. Or actually sophisticated? Do you need to get a life,
or is this your life? What is a life?

I live in the USA  where the public labels as "nerdy" any admission of deep
interest in anything other than the latest fad or idol.
And I have a life - my days are filled by a persuit of a myriad of
interests. For me, a life is questing/questioning.

21. There has been a connection noted between linguistic and musical
ability. Are you musically inclined? Do you sing and/or play a musical
instrument? Do you compose music?

I sing, though allergies often intervene. I don't play any musical

22. There has been a connection noted between linguistic and mathematical
ability. Are you mathematically inclined or inclined towards computing in
any way?

It is a common misconcepton to assume that computing and math are
inseperably linked. Though a few computer applications require use of maths
beyond algebra, I've done programming and systems analysis for 30 years, and
only twice used any in-depth math.

23. What other passions do you pursue that give you creative pleasure?
(painting, drawing, sculpting, calligraphy, model-building, novel or
story-writing, role-playing games, map-making, book-making, poetry,
web-designing, star-gazing or other?)

I'm a potter (cone 10 clays) and an avid RPGer, and I write poetry in
English & Esperanto.


1. Pick the best term for the invented language you are currently invested


2. Is your conlang a priori (devised from scratch) or a posteriori (based on
an existing natural language or drawing from a language class such as

Only Taan, which is (somewhat) posteriori Mayan; all my others are a priori.

4. Do you have a script for your conlang? What is it called? Could you
provide me at a later date with a sample of it?  Is it on Langmaker's
"neography" site?

I've played with a few scripts but never seriously focused on developing

5. Briefly describe the outlines of your invented language (syntactical
structure--VO, OV, etc.; class or type--analytic, synthetic, agglutinating,
incorporative, accusative, ergative, active, trigger, other, combinations,
etc.), noting what you have done with it that is innovative in your opinion.

Palu: generally SOV; agglutinating; tensed verbs; two noun classes (living,
non-living) + one vestigal class (intelligent); nouns inflected for
single/plural; no voiced consonants; clicks; roots are CV...CV.
Dis: rigidly SVO; agglutinating; ergative; aspected verbs; tonal (tone
signifies word as noun, verb or modifier); voiced initial consonants
indicate plurals; 3 levels of association (incidental, habitual, intrinsic);
roots are CV...CVC.
Nen: least-important noun + state to most important + state (often OVS or
OSV); temporally tagged descriptions with agglutinating nouns and their
states (active, passive, receptive, reference, animate/inanimate); plural
implied by context; roots are CV..CV or CV...CVC.
Laafaah: VSO; isolating + minor inflections of verbs (personal,
non-personal) & nouns (genitive, locative); pronouns & verbs have personal
point-of-view; roots are CVCVC.
Jaejae: OSV; isolating; pronouns take number, aspect; roots are V..CVC or
Taan: VOS; tonal; small phoneme base (4 vowels, 9 consonants); roots are

7. How extensive would you say your invented language is, now? How big the
vocabulary? Do you provide a vocabulary list or taxonomy on your website if
you have one?

The vocabularies are adequate to translate most common materials.

8. How do you build vocabulary? Some people pull words out of the air;
others build up a base of root words and affixes. Many do both.

I do a combination of both for all but Taan which takes Mayan roots modified
to fit the set of restricted phonemes,

3. Does a constructed world accompany your invention(s)? What is it called?

Here I cheat: as the names of my languages all translate to "language/words
of the people", the names of their home worlds translate as "world/ground of
the people".

9. Has your language and conworld ever served in a role-playing game or a
world shared by other conlangers?


10. Briefly describe your conculture (is it within the bounds of this world?
on another world, etc.?)

Thule - matrilineal. Bez - rearing parent. Shar - klan. Trayih -
solipsistic. Vyrmis - communal. Yinikop - patrilineal.

11. Are the beings who speak your invented language human or alien? If
alien, what features have you given the language to make it alien or how
have you restricted or expanded its phonology? vocabulary?

Thule (speakers of Palu) are intelligent erinaceidae who inhabit a desert
planet. Their language has no voiced consonants.
Bez (speakers of Dis) are 3-armed intelligent asteridae who inhabit an
aquatic domaine. Their language is concise.
Shar (speakers of Nen) are green&yellow tree-dwelling primates and inhabit a
rainforest domaine. Their language consists of nouns + states.
Trayih (speakers of Laafaah) are ground-dwelling saurians. Their language is
rich in sibilants.
Vyrmis (speakers of Jaja) are ground-dwelling pseudopongids. Their langauge
developed in opposition to that of the Trayih.
Yinikop (speakers of Taan) are humans in an alternate reality. Thir language
has 4 vowels, 9 consonants, 3 tones.

12. What do you write in it? Poems? chants? lullabies? prayers? history?
stories? recipes? Are any of these exhibited on your website?

My focus is primarily the grammars+lexicons+samples.

13. Can you speak your conlang? Are you fluent in it? Is this a goal for
you? Have you tried to teach it to an intimate? a companion animal? :)

Speak, yes. Fluent? No, and with no others with whom to speak it, I see no
reason for becoming "fluent" in it. I've never had a partner who was as
interested in languages as am I.

14. Have you made any soundbytes of your language? Could you provide me at a
later date with a sample of them?


15. If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing
system? In other words, do you use unconventional letters or letter
combinations to represent sounds? Why or why not? I'm thinking, of course,
of Etabnannery, for those who remember it.

When I first started conlanging, I'd use a system which was easy to learn.
Then I tried SIL IPA but abandoned that soon after joining this list as few
others had it or used it. I now use modified forms of XSAMPA.

16. How many of you sing in your language and have invented songs for that


17. How many of you, for entertainment or any other reason, resort to
gibberish? (This is in response to Adrian Morgan's question in December).
Does it give you ideas for conlanging? (Have you ever fooled anyone?) How
many of you have sung gibberish?


18. What on-line games do you play? (or devise?) Translations, Babel-text,
Relays, etc.

I occassionally do some translations.

19. Which do you prefer doing: devising phonology? script? structure?
building vocabulary?

Structure, syntax

20. Do you start and stop several different conlangs, or do you tend to
stick with one and develop it over years?

Start & stop.

21. What do you think makes a "complete" conlang, if a conlang can attain
completion? What are your goals for completion? When do you grow "tired" of
your conlang, or don't you?

A working grammer plus good-sized lexicon.

22. Which came first: the conlang or the conworld?

The conlang.


1. What aesthetic features do you value in inventing language? Be specific
as to phonology, structure, script, etc.

Simple phonetics, some unusual bit of syntax.

2. What commonly applied aesthetics have you ever tried to avoid in your
invention? This has been an oft debated question, especially when it comes
to Tolkien.

I've not intentionally tried to avoid any partiocular aesthetic.

3. Is difficulty or obscurity a goal in inventing a language?

Only for Laafaah and Jaejae.

4. Is efficiency a goal in inventing a language? This question needn't
cancel out the previous one.

For Dis.

5. How natural do you wish to make it, or is that a concern? Or rather, how
unnatural do you wish to make it?

Excluding sounds or symcbols human's can't make, I remain unconvinced that
anyone can create any truly unnatural language .

6. Can conlanging be sexy? sensual? obsessing? how does it heal or harm you?

It neither heals nor harms me.

7. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of obscenities?

Not a big interest of mine as they are all culturally specific.

8. Can it be mystical? To what extent does conlanging fulfill a spiritual
purpose for you? Or a magical one? Did it ever start out that way?

Though I do use natlangs for mystical, spiritual, or magical purposes, I've
never used a conlang for them.

9. How many of you have developed a rich vocabulary of magical, religious,
or incantatory terms?

Not me.

10. How many of you have striven to invent words that express novel ideas,
or are not expressed in any natural language that you know?

What I've done in this has gone into the Laadan lexicon.

11. Name a few of the words in your language(s) that you are most pleased
with and are the most original to you.

haron::= sensory impression, often distorted, which lingers after simulus
had ceased.

12. How do you sense that a word is "right" for its meaning? How much do you
labor at fitting a sound to its sense? Or don't you care?

I play around with words until they "feel" right to me for the concept they
express andthe language in whicvh they occur.

13. Do you ever rely on a software program to build vocabulary?   Do those
who don't think that's cheating? :)

No, and no.

14. Is conlang a hobby, a craft, or an art in your mind? This has been hotly
debated, so the question is not as weird as it seems. Can conlanging be
considered an art? Why or why not?

"art" as it requires development of a skill and doesn't necessarily have any
social usage outside of the conlanger..

15. If it is, who do you think are its consumers?

It's creator. To me, art not require consumers.

16. This question is directed as well at any auxlangers on the list. Is it
an art, a political tool, both? And who do you think could be its consumers?

I'm not an auxlanger, but from what I've seen on auxlang lists, they exist
as ego-ridden tours-de-force.

17. There has been some exciting talk recently (and over the years) about
what a conlang is or is not. If you could pick a metaphor or write a
descriptive phrase defining "conlang," what would that be?

Conlanging is to linguistics as exobiology is to zoology.

18. Why or why not would you eschew the metaphors "miniature" or "model"?

A model is a structure or template without inherint meaning. Miniature is a
restricted version of full version: e.g. for me, Basic English was a
miniature of English.

19. Is a conlang more like a glimpse of something life-size? (Irina's
suggestion in 2001)


20. There has been some invigorating discussion lately about what a conlang
can do that most natural languages don't (such as produce OSV structure, or
eradicate verbs) What experiments have you made with your artlang(s) along
these lines?
Nen eradicated verbs: it uses only nouns + their states + temporal markers.

21  What do you think distinguishes a conlang from a natural language, if
you think so at all?  What would it take for a linguist to be fooled into
thinking a conlang was a natural language?

A colang exists because of intentional development. A natlang lacks such
wide-scale intention. To fool a linguist? An SOV or SVO conlang with
human-capable phonemes and scattered irregularities.

22. How much do you study other languages in order to discover what is
natural in language? Or to discover how you can stretch the boundaries of
language to make it do things that are unnatural?

I browse grammars/language studies at bedtime for ideas which I can adopt or
reenginere or reverse-engineer. Right now I'm focused on the "unnatural" (I
remain unconvinced that anyone can devise any conlang which is truly

23. Can such a language function?

A conlang with unnatural elements? I consider fucntionality to be an
insperable part of any lang, whether con, art, aux or nat.

24. There has been quite a bit of fascinating debate about the relevance of
conlanging to linguistic study. We all know that linguistics can aid
conlangers, but in what ways can conlangers aid linguists? Or does it

I don't believe that it matters.


1. How did you first hear of this list?

Via its Yahoo mirror.

2. How long have you been on this listserv or on other related listservs?
Continuously? Infrequently? Off and on? More off than on and vice versa?

On and off for 2 or 3 years.

3. What is the appeal of being on a listserv and contributing to it? Do you
think you contribute moderately or excessively, or not enough? Do you tend
to lurk?

Information exchange is the appeal. My lurking depends on the topic(s) under
dicussion: some are informative, some are repetative, some are of interest,
some are not.

4. For those of you who remember its inception, how has it changed over the
past decade?


5. How helpful has the list been in developing your language? In learning
linguistic information?

No help directly with my conlangs. Moderately helpful re: linguistic

6. What books have you consulted? On your own, or because you heard of them
on the list?

I'm examined and even bought a few of the books, but I already did that
before finding this list. Since I'm not a professional linguist, the list
has lead me to a few interesting websites.

7. Do you peruse the websites of other conlangers?


8. Do you sense that people on this list are interested in your conlang and
give you feedback on it?


9. Have you ever set out to learn at least a little bit of someone's
conlang, if only a word or two, or a phrase?


10. Do you peruse Jeffrey Henning's site?

Seldom, esp. since langmaker stopped working on Windows.

11. What on-line techniques do you use to showcase your conlang, such as
Audacity or other sound programs, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Fontography, and
so forth? Did you hear of them on the list?

I don't.

12. Have you ever tried to introduce a friend to the list?


13. Do you know of anyone who does this kind of thing but who has never
heard of the list?


14. What other lists do you frequent related to conlanging?

This is the only one.

15. What do you think will be the future of the list? I see it giving birth
to alternate lists like Conworld, Lostlanguages, Romlang, etc. What improves
the present list and its helpfulness or entertainment value?

I'm not sure there is much I personally can add. I pick and choose what I
read from this list with regards to interest or innovation.

16. What Internet technology would you most like to see developed that would
aid you in showcasing your language(s)?

I believe that the technology already exsists were I interested in
showcasing my conlang.

17. What lists like conlang exist in other cultures and languages that you
know of?

I'm not aware of any.

18. There has been some terrific talk about CONLANG as a community. And yet
so many of us seem to want the world to know of it and respect it. Is the
CONLANG community enough? Is it a community?

We already have the cliques and arguments - if not community, we are at
least family.

19. In my 2000 on-line article
( I suggested that
the Internet "may provide a site that, with the impetus of competition and
showmanship, encourages inutile and obsessive activity"; I was quoting Jeff
Salamon's article "Revenge of the Fanboys." Village Voice 13 Sep., 1994. He
wrote that over ten years ago. Do outsiders still entertain such notions, do
you think, about listservs like this one? Do you? To what extent has the
list increased obsessive development in you? Would you be inventing as
furiously as you are without the list or knowledge of other inventors?

I believe your earlier reference to the "get a life" epithet already answers
this question.

20. If asked whether it is not better to turn your linguistic talents to the
learning and speaking of natural languages (a common response I've met with
and aimed at criticizing introversion or solipsism), how would you answer?

I read & write English, Italian, Spanish, French, German, Esperanto & Laadan
with varying degrees of fluency. My speaking/hearing is weakened due to not
having any locals with whom to speak any of these on a daily basis. I live
in the Pacific Northwest of the USA: I could learn Riussian, Vietnamese,
Korean, or a dialect of Chinese, but to what end?

21. In Elizabethan times there were the inkhorn neologisms. There were
ciphers and pasigraphies. Today there is conlanging. Do you think the
contemporary world is more open to language innovation or more closed?

Far more closed.  I live in a country that eschews intellectuals &
intellectual persuits.

*22. What would Tolkien have done with such a community? He writes in "A
Secret Vice" that language inventors "hardly ever show their works to one
another, so none of them know who are the geniuses at the game, or who are
the splendid 'primitives'." He suggests that perhaps in a later time
language invention will become respectable, and such things can be
exhibited. Have we reached that time?

The internet has grown to become many things, amongst which is a
wide-ranging medium/method through which people of rare interests can meet
and comunicate (and argue) about those interests. I seriously question
whether "the public" will ever find conlanging (or artlanging or auxlanging)
any less geeky than it finds people who study paleobotany ::raises hand:: or
who write the platforms & applications which run on their PCs ::raises hand
again:: Perhaps we can build an arena of respect for conlangers, but I doubt
we can avoiding the pitfalls of linguistics as a whole (e.g. I don't hold
Chomsky or Okrand to be gods).

23. Is there a danger that over-exposure can make conlanging "banal"? To
what extent is it exciting because it is a) considered disreputable, "corny"
or "mad," or b) largely unknown to the world? Does it have a fizzle-out
date?  In other words, is it just a fad, or is it a natural human
inclination that will stand the test of time?

I have no fear of the world embracing conlanging like it does the latest pop
star or clothing fad.

 Finally, may I have your permission to use any of this material of yours
for my academic work on conlanging? First name? last name? pseudonym?

Certainly, you have my permission to use my responses in whole or in part in
your academic work. My name is Joseph Bridwell