Re: LUNATIC again
|From:||Logical Language Group <lojbab@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, November 4, 1998, 16:22|
So much to answer, so little time %^)
BTW, 45 seems to be a hot age this week. I hit the magic number this
Saturday. I will note in passing the Loglan founder James Cooke Brown is
77 or so. A lot of the Loglan/Lojban community are retired people, although they
are less likely to be on the net and mailing lists in strength proportionate
to their numbers.
I do sign my posts "lojbab" in part to distinguish myself from all the other
Bobs and Roberts out there. that is how I first got the nickname, compressed
from "Lojban Bob" by a person taking phone messages who needed to keep me
straight from all the other Bobs and who didn't want to write my last name.
>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."
Yes indeed, and my basis for my comments comes from working with linguists
who have a definition of language that excludes artlangs, and indeed in some
extremes excludes all conlangs. I'll have to get to that definition in a
>Conlangs are artificial
Etymologically, this is obvious. The word may have been coined before,
but has really taken root and gained some standing in the net-world only because
of this list. But of course the question is whether an "artificial language"
is a "language" at all.
>Auxlangs are artificial languages that are meant to be spoken
>and that are meant to facilitate global communication.
I can accept this definition as accurate, though some use the term conIAL
for this concept, noting that natlangs can be auxlangs.
Note that you have two definitional clauses here joined by "and". A problem
that remains is to come up for a term where only one of the two clauses is
satisfied. You also need to be clear on the passive "meant". Is it the
attitude of the language inventor that matters in deciding what a conlang is
"meant" for? If so, then Loglan/Lojban clearly is not an auxlang, no matter
who you consider the language inventor(s). Meant to be spoken seems to be
a pretty much accepted goal, but not the facilitation of 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.
Hunh? "They" have different purposes? You just gave a definition that
makes auxlangs a subset of conlangs. I can only guess you are comparing
auxlang conlangs with non-auxlang conlangs. But please don't compare auxlangs with
conlangs as if they are two different things when one is a subset of the other.
Now as to the denigration or disparagement, whether it is productive or not
depends as much on how it is taken as how it is intended. I have stopped
regularly expressing such criticism because it seems almost universally to
be taken personally rather than as an intellectual challenge. that I am not
the most tactful writer and thus am at fault for people taking things
personally cannot be denied. But my intent in criticizing IS intellectual.
So to return to a definition of language.
1. A language is a means of communication.
2. To exclude computer languages, we have to restrict this to communications
primarily between biological entities (if not actually restricting to humans).
It is clear that computer languages have little in common with human languages.
3. In order to have commmunication BETWEEN, there must be at least two people
who use the language - a speaker and a listener. Linguists tend to go much
further, and say that this communication must be bidirectional, must be
fluent, must be passed on across generations. Linguists exclude not merely
artlangs from the concept of "language", but pidgins and creoles that may
be spoken by large populations. I may disagree with that definition, but
I had better understand it when trying to communicate with linguists.
4. Linguists also distinguish between "languages" and "codes", where the
latter may differ in surface form from a parent language, but where the
semantics of the "words" in the code are essentially unchanged from the
5. Linguists also distinguish between "languages" and "cants" or "jargons"
which are incomplete languages that have distinguishing semantics in
some areas of the lexicon, but are moreor less standard in the rest
of the lexicon.
I will use the above definition, noting that any linguists here can probably
run me over the coals for various misstatements therein. But I think it
conveys that which is essential to my points and is not too far from what
Given this definition, it seems clear that most conlangs are not languages
and are not intended to be languages, in that their inventors never seriously
expect them to be used by two or more people in communication, much less
learned by a community. This seems especially true of artlangs. I don't see that this
is necessarily a disoparagement of artlangs or artlangers - it merely
recognizes that the goals are different from those linguists identify as the
basic nbature of language. I have no trouble forswearing criticism of anything
labelled as an "artlang" because in using that label, the object is distinguished from
that which is studied by linguists.
Languages which are used for world-building can be called "fictional languages"
without any problem. By labelling them as "fictional" we do not expect them
to have all the features and details of natlangs. Even if the language in
concept might have all the features, we understand that these details are not
necessarily all described. In most cases, the fictional nature of the culture
using the language ensures that what we see of the fictional language is not
a "code", since fictional authors tend to focus on what is different, and we
see the differences in these languages more clearly.
Alas, most conlangs that are not artlangs or fictional languages seem to me
to be "codes". I most often recognize a code by the fact that the lexicon
is presented with single word English definitions. I find it hard to
characterize a conlang like Glosa as anything other than "English with
strange (regularized) grammar and odd-looking codewords". In short, only
one step removed from Pig Latin. I cannot make this statement without it
sounding disparaging - it IS disparaging. It seems not to recognize just how
much of the variance in the world's language is not in phonology and grammar,
but in semantics. I should note that I have even criticized Esperanto in this
area - I have not found a definition of the Esperanto word for "morning" that
tells me what semantic definition of morning is intended, when among even the
European languages that spawned Esperanto, the range of definitions of
"morning" is considerable (does morning start at dawn, before dawn, at midnight;
does it end at dawn, after breakfast, upon the start of the typical workday,
at lunchtime, at noon?) - a language with a word for "morning" that gives no
hint of this question is begging for skepticism that the language inventor
even realizes that there is an issue. When a language inventor does this for
virtually ALL of his/her lexicon, I simply categorize the result as an English
code. Unless of course there is text that indicates that the purpose of the
lexicon list is for gloss purposes rather than definition, and/or other
commentary that makes it clear that the inventor understands the problem.
Now it seesm to me that it is almost impossible to serious look at the
semantics of a language briefly, so when I hear of someone who has worked on
a language for a couple of months saying that this language is "complete",
I instinctively classify the result as being at best an English code, and
perhaps not even that. Even Glosa took more than a couple of months to
create. A conlanger who has "invented many languages" immediately strikes
me as naive or uninformed about the complexity of what s/he is trying to do.
This is fine among our 16-year old conlangers, since they don't teach
linguistics below college level, nor write books that identify these complexities for pre
>I also think I took some umbrage to "Lojbab" for implying in his
>criticisms of new conlangs that Teonaht is not a language, only because it
>has a speaker of one,
well, that does violate what I described in my definition above. But you
do not make it clear whether this is "one" or "only one so far", or whether
yours is a fictional language with many fictional speakers besides yourself
(I won't attempt to dissect your prior posts on the language, which I admit
I have not read). Your effort could still be a most reputable artlang, while
not being an approprate subject for the scientific study of language.
>and a small vocabulary (that is, compared to a real
Ah, here you have made the distinction yourself. If you yourself distinguish
T. from a "real language", why are you disparaged if I do so? In my opinion,
we should not call something a "language" unless it is a "real language"
other than perhaps in metaphor or poetry - we now have perfectly good words
like artlang and conlang for things that resemble languages but are not
>Maybe I'm exempt from his criticism because T. is over thirty
Well that certainly exempts you from the criticism that you thought the
language was "done" after a couple of months and have therefore invented over
2 dozen languages in your 45 years %^)
>Over the course of the years, I have written prayers in T. I
>have written poetry; translations; some people have even heard my
>tentative voice in Peter Clarke's thoughtful Slova pages. Some of you
>might even have heard my songs (practice wav.files).
Sounds like considerable evidence that you have developed a semantics
for the language, presumably distinct from English semantics. YOu may not
have defined this semantics, but it would not be T. poetry, but E. poetry if
it were E. semantics.
>Some of you have
>responded in T., to my amazement.
Ah, then it HAS been used communicatively in more than one direction, negating
your original modesty.
>It's being used like a language.
So it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck. Is it a
It pretty much fits MY definition of a language. The typical linguist would
thumb his/her nose at it though. This probably doesn't much matter unless
you are trying to gain the respect of linguists for your work. I suspect that
you are not.
I on the other hand AM trying to gain the respect of linguistics for my work
and for the field of conlanguistics in general. Prior to the Internet era,
the most contact linguists had with conlangs seems to have been being
inundated intermittently by letters from language inventors seeking to
have their language written up in academic publications as something new and
different (which it isn't), or more often, from auxlang partisans who feel
slighted that their auxlang is not taken as seriously by linguists as by the
partisan. Usually, such partisans invoke the specter of the "World Language
Problem" referring to the lack of a single world language, when to linguists
the only world language problem is the wholesale disappearance of dozens if
not hundreds of languages and dialects every generation of the modern era,
without them being recorded and studied.
The success of MY effort depends on gaining the respect of linguists. That
success is threatened by other people who contact linguists and talk about
their short term creations as "languages". Maybe with this explanation, you
can better understanbd why I cringe when someone talks about their newly
invented "language" that will never be completed, much less spoken by a
community. Would that we had an even richer vocabulary of terms for things
that are soemwhat of the form of a language but having decidedly different goals
than that of natlangs or even auxlangs.
> But there's just no
>point in taking umbrage. So, again, apologies.
No apology necessary to me. I wrote undiplomatically, because the diplomatic
version is, as you have just seen, quite long-winded. I hope you similarly
see where I am coming from when I post so undiplomatically, so that we have
better communication in the future.
I will addres your auxlang questions separately, though I second John Cowan's
comment that there should not be an artlang/auxlang dichotomy - there are
languages such as Lojban that do not fit in either category. But I suspect that
your questions indicate that you would be more prone to calling Lojban an
auxlang than an artlang,and I CAN answer some if not all of your questions
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273
Artificial language Loglan/Lojban: ftp.access.digex.net /pub/access/lojbab
or see Lojban WWW Server: href="http://xiron.pc.helsinki.fi/lojban/"
Order _The Complete Lojban Language_ - see our Web pages or ask me.