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Re: Bootstrapping a cooperative conlang

From:Mia Soderquist <happycritter@...>
Date:Sunday, November 18, 2007, 3:55
Michael Poxon wrote:
> Yes, but that's because you already come to the project with an existing > cultural image of "mouse". > And I have a feeling that's why a conlang without a culture is not a > conlang at all. > In the real world, language and culture are inseparable. So surely the > same for conlangs? > Mike
It's possible that a collaborative conlang might (if the planets were all aligned properly) develop a micro-subculture of its own as people work out what they mean among themselves. There's a lot of feedback between people who are even speaking the same language, as they question and guess at what the other person really means. I think people collaborating on a conlang through the medium of that same language without using another language could eventually work out a common definition for something they've seen, even if it wasn't quite the definition originally intended. Let's say that we have three collaborators who receive a picture of a mouse labeled "Zanisa". Person A sees it, recognizes it as a "mouse". Person B sees it and thinks "mouse or rat". Person C sees it and thinks "any very small mammal". Person A relates a story about a "zanisa". Perhaps the Person B will ask if the small variety or the larger variety of "zanisa" was meant, leading the discussion in a new direction. Person C may be somewhat confused or he may realize from the story that Person A was talking about a particular type of small mammal, giving Person A an opportunity to further define what he meant. Further conversation may move any of the participants toward one of the other definitions, and Persons D, E, and F who are just watching this conversation are also being influenced by it and may jump in to shed new perspectives on "zanisa" according to their own understanding. In any case, at some point, people may feel that they understand what "zanisa" means well enough, even if it means getting clarification or spawning new words related to the original concept. It's just a matter of having a base vocabulary where everyone's initial concepts are similar enough to provide a framework for talking around a particular subject. At some point, if the language is used and abused thoroughly enough, people may reach a point where they have a shared concept of "zanisa" that may or may not map 1:1 to their native language. They will have effectively joined a linguistic subculture that they grew themselves in the Petri dish of their shared communication channel (Probably an email list or forum? Maybe with a Ventrilo or Teamspeak server. OOOh. That would be fun...) But, of course, this might require some of those things that seem hard to come by, like long term participation and a willingness to make mistakes in public. Mia.


Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>