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(Language Birth) Open Source / community based Language

From:David Peterson <digitalscream@...>
Date:Friday, December 6, 2002, 16:18
Sean wrote:

<<i thinking about a "open source" language>>

So...I forget.   Did I tell the list about the class I just taught (the last
day was yesterday)?   I know I told everyone about the aborted attempt at a
Conlang class, but this one actually got off the ground and just finished
yesterday.   It was called Language Birth.   The premis was as follows:

I created a list of about 300 "basic" words with made-up phonology.   (E.g.:
The word for "man" is "sika", the word for "woman" is "maya" [maja], the word
for "child" is "malika".)   I chose the three hundred words based on the last
time I did the experiment (which was under a professor here for a pidgins and
creoles class), which was based on the Swadesh list (a poor, poor document,
when it comes to language creation).   So there were nouns that covered basic
categories, lots of sensory adjectives, a set of pronouns, mainly action
verbs (no copula, of course), two prepositions, and two WH words.   Then I
got a class of people together, which turned out to be about 20 people, and I
told them that they had to communicate using the words on the list, and only
those words.   And now it's been 13 weeks.   If you'd like to see an example
text, you can go to, as for an assignment, I had them do a
group translation of the Babel text.   We ended up calling the language
Wasabi (the runner-up was Spanish), so you can look under that--otherwise,
the authors are everybody who was in the class, so it's hard to just look it
up under my name.

The problem when I did the experiment this time, though, was that there was a
lot of writing/homework stuff, and so there were a lot of people innovating
and doing really neat things, but it never came together, because it was
individual work, and not group work.   So that was a shame.   But,
nevertheless, it was a neat experience in group language creation.   There
was a segment on the class on the local Berkeley TV channel, so you can hear
people speaking it, too.   Anyway, I think eventually I'll end up writing
some sort of paper on it, but I don't know what; I'll have to see.   But
anyway, I thought I'd share since what I did sounded similar to what you


"imDeziZejDekp2wilDez ZejDekkinel..."
"You can celebrate anything you want..."
               -John Lennon