conlangs' worlds (was: Back!)
|A Rosta <a.rosta@...>
|Wednesday, July 21, 1999, 14:50
[Sorry if I'm repeating what someone else has said. I deleted some
in this unilluminatingly titled thread before discovering it to be of
> I'm curious as to how other conlangers have solved the problem
>of cosmic location, since it does seem to be rather vital to an
>important part of a language's vocabulary. It seems to me that most of
>us have languages set in an Earth with a different social history
>(extreme: Tokana, where civilization never took place; less extreme:
>Brithenig, where history diverged hundreds of years ago; even less
>extreme: Elet Anta and Teonaht, which make no modification to history
>except to suggest the presence of secretive subcultures). An almost
>equal proportion have chosen to locate their creations on distant
>planets (the Kolagian languages, many of Nik Taylor's creations, andthe
>ubiquitous Star Trek languages). I'm not satisfied with either ofthese
>options. Have I missed anything? Is there a middle ground?
I think it's more of a continuum and less of a dichotomy than you make
out. The continuum is based on the degree of "ceteris-paribus-ness",
i.e. the extent to which features of This world carry over into the
of the conlang. At one extreme (of maximal CPness), the conlang is
located fully in this world, typically as a "personal" conlang,
a personal culture. An example is Namjuan, and I recall someone on this
list having the same approach. (NB I'm only talking about conlangs
associated with a distinctive culture, so am excluding, say, Liva, Yf
At the other extreme (of minimal CPness) one can recognize two distinct
approaches. In one, the conlang is in a world with no *necessary*
connection to this one, but it may happen to resemble this one. Examples
are Middle Earth and the world of Valdya. In the other, the conlang is
different planet but in This universe. Examples are, as Adam says,
Millerian, Nik Taylorian, Star Trek, Aluric, Gladilation, Rikchik.
Between these two extremes, are worlds that are versions of This one,
again with differing degrees of CPness/difference. Nearest to the
extreme are worlds that are not even patently fictitious. Examples are
Elet Anta, Tepa and Jim Grossman's (I hope I have not misidentified
the creator) conlang conlangs..
Among the patently fictitious worlds, we can draw the following
Does the conlang's world differ from This world only to the extent
necessitated by the existence of the conlang and its culture?
Yes: the rest
Then from among the rest we can distinguish two approaches:
the geological approach and the historical approach.
In the geological approach, change in This world's history is minimized,
but geological history is altered to create a new landmass. These can
be relatively more or less unobtrusive, involving more or fewer
differences from this world. Examples are (in order of closeness to
this world): Tsxaah, Livagian, Boreanesian, Nowa.
In the historical approach we have alternative history. In some cases
the existence of the conlang makes little change to history. Feorran
is an example, whose speakers keep themselves to themselves in
Antarctica. In contrast, Brithenig and Hangkerim involve some big
changes to history;.
Lastly, some oddbods. Some conlangers are deliberately vague
about their exact relation to this world. Kinya, for example, clearly
belongs with those discussed in the previous paragraph, but we
know no more than that. Piat belongs with the alternative histories,
but with the details left ruritanianly vague. And lastly, Teonath seems
to be primarily of the Valdya sort, but in a universe that allows it
to sometimes take on an Elet Anta mode of existence.
[I'll be back at the back end of August]