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Re: LUNATIC again

From:Logical Language Group <lojbab@...>
Date:Wednesday, November 4, 1998, 18:27
Now to address Sally's survey. I regret not having answered your last one,
which might have made some of these issues more clear, sooner and more
diplomatically.  Please resend it to me, and I may work on it off-line.

>Does everyone realize that >this is perfect fodder for the Lunatic Survey I posted? These are >precisely the issues that I wanted to get at. I had hardly any response >whatsoever from the IAL crowd to my survey,
I think that it is safe to say that most of the auxlangers have been driven away from this group by the fact that posts about their languages are unwelcome. Those who are active in this group who do favor an auxlang are probably also working on some other kind of conlang and would respond on the latter to your post. Finally, a lot fewer people are inventing new auxlangs - as has been noted there are many of them out there already, so it is hard to justify a new one. But the NGL people and the inventor of Eurolang are the two who most recently have discussed their reasons for inventing a new auxlang, and you should be able to get considerable meat from their posts and/or Web pages to fill in your survey yourself. They also might respond to a specific query asking them in particular to respond to your survey as the most recent significant auxlang efforts.
>even though there was a >section on it where I asked for a distinction between language invention >for its own sake and language invention for social improvement
I suspect that this was too vague to specifically target auxlangers.
>Maybe it >was the way I pitched the survey...apparently privileging the making of >"con" or "art"langs
yes, but more so from posting to a forum for people primarily doing the latter and not working on auxlangs.
>But ironically, the concept of "lunatic invention" >that I want to overturn in my study was offered by an author who is >primarily attacking the making of "auxlangs" in her book. Marina >Yaguello's _Lunatic Lovers of Language_ is a wholesale rejection of the >IAL pursuit.
Not having read the book, I suspect that she is dismissing it on intellectual grounds, whereas the auxlang movement is historically a political one. While people call their political opponents "lunatics" at times, that term usually suggests an intellectual rejection rather than a political one. Conlangs historically have been attempts either for philsophical perfection (which might be "lunatic" but then philsophy itself must then be "lunatic" in my opinion), or attempts to unite people who are divided by language differences (which is a political goal). The heydey of auxlangs in the late 1800, which gave birth to Volapu:k and the Esperanto, was also the heydey of democratic socialism, and what is now called "One-Worldism", an attempt to end the causes of war by trying to eliminate cultural differences among peoples that might divide them. The millions who responded to first V. and then E. were especially astounding considering the times and technology, as compared to the lack of similar response to any auxlangs proposed today. There was a political mindset then that accepted such things as a universal auxlang as a natural evolution of mankind to perfection. Socialism was seen as a similar evolution of political/economic systems. A reading of Esward Bellamy's _Looking Backward_ and (if you can stand it) _Equality_, makes the sort of idealism behind the IAL movement much more clear than any IAL writer managed.
>She doesn't say much about private conlanging, except to >dismiss it in her last chapter as bordering on the "pathological."
Virtually all hobbies seem "pathological" to those who do not share them. I find people watching others dress up to commit violence on others and get a ball past thenm into a goal to be "pathological", but millions of Americans do it for football, and likewise in other countries for soccer.
> To what extent are pursuers of IAL's anxious about the > success of their endeavors?
Those who subscribe to the idealistic politics of the late 19th century and its descendants are anxious indeed. Most modern auxlangers share such ideals to some extent but recognize the reality that their language will not achieve universality in a mere decade or two. Often they hope that the world will not blow up before their language has a chance to save it.
> Let's say that this is true, which it might not be: is it for > some of the same > reasons that conlangers are protective of their conlangs... > because the endeavor is criticized, by outsiders, as being > futile?
I am sure this is a factor. In addition, to disagree with other posters, I think that many do perceive that there is only one slot for an auxlang in the world. Right now, several auxlangs are thriving by the standards of attracting new speakers and being used for interlinguistic communication, but the long term goal and rationale of auxlangs is largely violated by the existance of multiple auxlangs serving the same purpose. If person X has to learn several auxlangs in order to be able to communicate with "everyone", then the point of auxlangs to eliminate the plurality of needed language learning is violated. (the removal of nationalism remains an advantage of conIALs even in plurality though, but it hurts marketing when people new to the movement have to choose among many possible options with none providing nearly a universal audience).
> In other words, what's at stake? Why does AUXLANG have > the reputation for flame wars, and CONLANG not?
A very different question. AUXLANG has flame wars because it was largely created to get them off of CONLANG. Those remaining on CONLANG are very intolerant of anything even STARTING to resemble a flamewar, and the flamers have largely been driven off as a result. Secondly, there has to be SOMETHING at stake in order for a flamewar to have sustenance. Few artlangs have anything at stake other than individual aesthetics. Now art has at time generated its share of flame wars, but usually only when there is a substantial community whose preprgatives (and money) are threatened by a competing school. There is no money in artlangs; there is no power in artlangs; there is thus little to fight about.
>What is > all the high feeling about? (I've just seen it demonstrated, > but, granted, only between two individuals).
Well, I saw a lot of fire, but much was lost in the resort to some unnamed Euroclone conlang for the flamethrowing. So I don't know the issues in this particular case. Historically, the issue has been power and control within a single language effort, and essentially a competition for a very limited and hard to reach market for the flames between languages. For the former we can cite the breakup of Volapu:k after fights for control between language inventor Schleyer and his followers, the split of Esperanto and Ido after a similar fight in the Esperanto community (there more or less along nationalistic lines between Francophiles and their opponents though this grossly oversimplifies), and of course the TLI/LLG split that led to the creation of "Lojban - A Realization of Loglan" as distinct from TLI Loglan. There have been similar but quieter strains in the Klingon community betwween the officially sanctioned KLI and those not in power in that group, but Klingon is unlikely to be torn apart because of Paramounts unquestioned economic rights in Klingon that give it legal power to choose and enforce one side or the other. Once the language is created, its only way to gain speakers for the most part is to take them away from some other conIAL. This is primarily because most people don't want to learn lots of languages, which is HARD WORK (for most). As with most political and economic advertising where there is a zero-sum game - for every winner there must nbe a loser, those who stand to lose tend to be both defensive and offensive about their effort. Lojban is luckily largely immune from this since we long ago conceded that we cannot compete with Esperanto for its "market", but are seeking a new niche, which does not really overlap E's. Only if we succeed in our niche and E. completely fails in its, is there any reason to believe that Lojban has a chance as an Auxlang of the Esperanto sort, and that won't be while I am still alive if ever.
> To what extent are IAL's basically "conlangs" that have a > "purpose"?
This is definitional. There are conlangs that are not IALs but which have a "purpose". If you define any conlang with a purpose as an IAL, then your statrement will be tautologically true.
>And it's that purpose, that sense of "advocacy," > that makes pursuing them worthwhile?
I am sure that for some, it is the sense of a hobby that extends beyond the individual that drives them. I originally had no partiular interest in language(s) or conlangs, but got sucked into Loglan because a friend visiting me introduced me to Dr. Brown. At the time political splits occurred, I was ignorant of the issues. I supported Brown because I sensed that his ideas were in danger of dying out as a result of the squabbles, so I got active in a preservationist sense, trying to preserve the intellectual investment of decades of work. Then I got in touch with others in the Loglan community and realized that they also were afraiod of the loss of years of intellectual investment, and decided to work for their benefit as well. Lojban was founded when Brown made me choose between his rights to his intellectual product and everyone else's rights to their intellectual investments. I had no goal for the language - merely the sense that it was worthwhile - that Brown's goals for Loglan deserved to outlast him (he was in his 60s and every attempt to find intellectual heirs had succumbed to a fight with Brown). One person, now my wife, had invested hundreds of hours in the language. Another, John Parks-Clifford, a univeristy professor, had sacrificed some of his academic career possibiklities by pursuing Loglan rather than other more productive sources of academic research funding. But I saw no "advocacy" at the time. There were some who saw Loglan as a possible Auxlang, but thatr was surely not its primary goal or even a signiifcant secondary one. There were many more who saw it as a linguistic toy, or as a mind-strteching exercise. I think iut is safe to say that most who have learned Loglan/Lojban have noticed that they look at language a little differently after the exercise (whether this is a Sapir Whorf effect in irtself is something worthy of debate).
>As someone put it privately to me yesterday, "peace and understanding can >aid communication, but rarely the other way around" (a paraphrase). That's >why Jack Vance's _Languages of Pao_ and even Orwell's _Newspeak_ tend to >remain fictions. It's easier for the mindset to affect the language than >the language to affect the mindset. But that's still debatable.
That is of course another paraphrase of the S/W hypothesis. If language can affect mindset at all, then trhe SWH is true.
> How do IAL people respond to this understanding > of the logic of natural languages?
Which understanding? What you just said aboutinteractions between mindset and language? Well, the dominant belief in American society that sexist pronouns and other markings of gender in the English language are in any way a cause of or a preservuing force for sexism in the culture are in effect saying that language can quite easily affect mindset. It may of course be as hard to change a language as it is to change a mindset. Which is why reformers tend to propose a whoile new language as often as a reform of the old. If you are going to make a change, might as well do it completely right.
> Why do they continue > in their pursuits? For the intellectual achievement? For > the cameraderie? The esprit de corps? The working on something > together?
Probably these are all factors for various individuals. But I think it also significant that people continue merely because they have invested so much of their time and intellect in the language that to abandon it is to abandon part of themselves. (Which suggests also that an attack by a competitor Auxlang on one's own auxlang is easily taken as a personal attack.) This is not true merely of conlangs. & years ago I started to learn Russian because I was adopting kids from Russia. My kids have been here 6 years and have long ago forgotten their native language, and have not shown much sign of interest in regaining it. I might visit Russia once or twice again in my lifetime, but surely not enough to warrant much more effort at the language than I have put in. But I am still (somewhat vainly) trying to study and learn Russian, because the gola of learning Russian has become a part of me fully as much as the goal of promoting Lojban and of being a good parent for my kids.
>Conlangers have often sighed on this list: "who are > the *consumers* of a conlang? Is an auxlang appealing because > there ARE consumers?
Cetainly some people need an audience. I would not be doing Lojban except that there is an interested audience (unlike Russian, oddly enough, where I have no particular audience).
> But what if it's not a major portion of the world?
Depends on ones goals for the language and ones involvement in the language. Most auxlangers accept that their language isn't going to take the world by storm. Some want to try anyway. Some think that they could have success if they could only get their foot in the door monetarily (Interlingua certainly had a lot of momentum that suddenly dried up when the financial benefactor that supported IALA died and the money went away. So money is not to be ignored in consideration of the conIAL situation. It is safe to say that most Auxlangers require at minimum a stable, if not a growing, community of speakers, a niche they are not in fear of being dislodged from, in order to be satisfied. For most Auxlangs, Esperanto has a monopoly on "their" niche, and they feel the same animosity towards E. that most proponents of "better" operating systems feel towards Microsoft and Bill Gates, that Betamax users felt towards UHS, etc. Even if a product is better, it has little chance unless the market is open and competitive. And few markets are less open than the world of languages.
> Can a better language make a better world?
Bog only knows.
>As for Bob's remark that Matt Pearson so eloquently responded to--that he >had somewhat "undiplomatically" criticized new "projects" devised by one >person as not being "languages," I'm going to have to side with Matt on >this issue: that's a criticism for an "auxlang." To make that kind of >criticism, you have to define "language." Conlangs are artificial >languages. Auxlangs are artificial languages that are meant to be spoken >and that are meant to facilitate global communication. They have >different purposes, but it's entirely unproductive for an auxlanger to >denigrate a conlanger as not creating a "language," even if your >definition of "language" is something that serves a practical purpose.
SEe my othe rpost, butr please stop dividing the world into conlangs and auxlangs. All auxlangs except English are conlangs. I suspect you want auxlang/artlang, but that leaves out Lojban and others that really are neither.
>Also: I realize I know very little about auxlangs, and would like to hear >a defense of them (see survey in other post).
Well, I've tried to defend them while also mentioning Lojban which is not one. I am close enough to the auxlang universe while being outside of it to be reasonably neutral but accurate intellectual observer.
>We've got Esperanto going along, and Occidental, and now Lojban >and NGL... say that NGL gets ironed out to perfection some day amongst its >members, and having visited its page I realize that it doesn't consider >--More-- >itself as an auxiliary language but as a primary language for the modern >world: > > Will there then be a competition for that one slot among > these improved languages?
I cannot envision any likelihood that any of these "improved competitors" will displace Esperanto. Esperanto has largely reached the market for an IAL, and has the best argument for new potential IAL consumers - the audience reachable with E. is the largest. None of the new competitors is ENOUGH better to cause an Esperantist who is not disaffected with that language to leave it and to learn the new one. The investment in learning new languages is too high for those who learned a second to avoid learning many languages to lightly learn a third. The only hope among such languages is that some governmental organization or other sponsor WITH MONEY or clout offers an open competition for its endorsement and money that does not inherently favor Esperanto for some reason. If Bill Gates decided to support Lojban, or even Glosa, Esperanto would suffer. But I ain't holding my breath, OR lobbying Gates %^).
> > What if (science fiction) all of them catch on equally? > Aren't we back where we started with multiple improved > languages? > ;-)
Yep. Hence few Auxlangers see this as desirable. LOjbanists have no problem with this though.
> The requirement that there has to be ONE lingua franca language > for the world to speak seems a little severe, and one that > would be hard to keep track of.
Well, Eurolang is predicated on the assumption that merely a European lingua franca would be a big plus. Interlingua largely makes the same claim, but has ssome pretensions greater than Europe. Of course, modern Mandarin, HIndi, and Classical Arabic also make claims as being viable lingua francae for portions of the world. So does English. It is arguable whether in the age of television and the Internet, it would be "hard to keep track of".
> Then what would happen if different branches develop as is > inevitable in all developing languages?
Likwise this step ins unclear in the modern era. The trend of the moment is for minority languages and dialects to die off rapidly when faced with a television/written/Internet standard form.
> Latin really worked as a lingua franca way back when, but it > was adopted because it was the language of a literature and > a culture that was already in existence, and already had > attached to it a certain prestige, and a body of classical >--More-- > and religious texts that made studying it worthwhile.
I think this is erroneous. Classical Latin worked during the Roman empire because it was the language of power. But even during that era, Vulgar Latin continued and thrived so that it survived as the spoken language rather than the classical form which was largely stultified. Remember that Latin is a dead language. It died because it pretty much CEASED to be a lingua franca and.or language of lierature/scholarship. Greek fared somewhat better, as did Arabic. But Latin was reborn as an Auxlang because of the temporal power of Christendom in the Renaissance
> Also, students were beaten if they didn't conform to the > grammatical standards of the language. We don't do that > now.
NO we flame them on Usenet instead %^) Which is more effective? Beating or public ridicule, in enforcing a standard? I suspect the latter, among those who fanctthemselves as intellectuals.
> But if there were TEXTS out there that made it imperative that > the nations of the world unite around them, I could see the > creation of a new lingua franca. But starting from the > language end of it... it's just not going to work. There > has to be a more enticing incentive. What is that going to > be?
NO idea. IF LOjban has a chance, it will be only because an unambiguous grammar offers some advantage in computer processing of language, enabling practical machine translation of some sort. Not too likely. Lojban also has potential as an Auxlang for linguists who would rather not try to present theories of language that do not have a special role for English-like structures, in English. But this is a small niche indeed, and no basis for a universal takeover by the Lojban army %^)
>> I urge anyone who has not read Rick's excellent essay "Farewell to >> Auxlangs" to do so. > >Rick who? How can I obtain this? Is it on line?
I will note that Rick Harrison has been long-time producer/editor of the Artificial Languages FAQ, and should be known to all Conlangers for that role alone, even if you know nothing else about him (or disagree with him on most issues, as I probably do %^). Eniough for this post. lojbab