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Aesthetic Language Sense

From:Ed Heil <edheil@...>
Date:Wednesday, October 6, 1999, 4:26
Adam Parrish wrote:

> On Tue, 5 Oct 1999, Nik Taylor wrote:
> So it seems to me that there must be some sort of underlying > aesthetic sense for language. And this sense definitely applies to > constructed languages -- otherwise, languages like Klingon (which was > specifically designed to sound harsh and violent) wouldn't be nearly as > popular. Tolkien's Tengwar is another good example: you can appreciate > the way it *looks* without knowing how to decipher the underlying > language.
Here's another element of language aesthetics... There are those (e.g. ) who claim that the sounds of all words -- not just onamotapoeic ones -- serve as iconic symbols for the meanings of the words. I suspect most conlangers allow some degree of iconism to enter into their language projects... choosing words which are not only "right" for the phonology/phonotactics of the language, but also in some sense "right" for the concept. A sense of iconism may be difficult to develop for languages with very variant phonologies -- for example, at the moment, I have no real sense of tonal iconism, and very little sense of what iconic possibilities might be inherent in glottalized consonants. Perhaps if I am persistent in my study of Navajo, this will change. (If I am not, I will regret that I blathered about it constantly on this list. :) This is analogous to the process of coming to appreciate a new artform; when you are new to it, all you sense are the aesthetic qualities of the form itself, not of the individual pieces. C.S. Lewis talked about this with regards to bagpipes: all bagpipe music gave him the same feeling, the same mood -- and it was a mood he enjoyed -- but he knew that a better connoisseur of bagpipe music would find instead of one "Bagpipe" mood, a world of expressive possibilities within the bounds of bagpipe music. I'm very familiar with the phonologically expressive resources of the English language, and Latin; to a lesser degree, with Greek, and maybe just a tiny bit with German, French, and others. But languages I don't know well all have the same music to me -- a distinctive music representative of the language itself; but very little difference in the music depending on what "tune" is being "played" -- I just hear the sound of the instrument itself. Anyway, I started looking into Klingon and got tired of it for this very reason: I got the sneaking suspicion that the words were randomly generated, and that no matter how I pursued it I would not reach a point where they "sounded right" for their concepts. I mean, even the exotic Navajo yields some immediate sense of "rightness" to its pursuer: the personal pronouns, "shi" "ni" and "bi" plus "nihi" seem somehow "right" for their meanings (1st, 2nd, 3rd sing/plur, 1st/2nd plur).... "Saad" for "word", "dine" for "human/man/person," things like that... there's some rightness there for the tasting right away. Things like "'ee'" high tone for clothing don't seem "right" to me yet... But "ei" high tone for "there" does. But I didn't get that out of Klingon. Does anyone feel the same way? Or did anyone look into it and have a very different experience of it than mine? --------------------------------------------------------------- Ed doesn't know everything, but he hasn't figured that out yet. Please break it to him gently. ---------------------------------------------------------------