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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 moment.
>Conlangs are artificial >languages.
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 parent language. 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 linguists accept. 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 college levels.
>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 >language)
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 "real languages".
>Maybe I'm exempt from his criticism because T. is over thirty >years old.
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 duck? 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 for auxlangers. lojbab ---- lojbab Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc. 2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA 703-385-0273 Artificial language Loglan/Lojban: /pub/access/lojbab or see Lojban WWW Server: href="" Order _The Complete Lojban Language_ - see our Web pages or ask me.