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Re: Bootstrapping a cooperative conlang

From:Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>
Date:Sunday, November 18, 2007, 5:44
On Nov 18, 2007 4:55 AM, Mia Soderquist <happycritter@...> wrote:
> 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.
...not to mention a willingness to accept that your definition is not the law. If you have enough participants who insist that "you're using it all wrong; a "zanisa" is *any* small mammal, not just a mouse or rat, and if you narrow it down, you're sick and wrong and probably grill babies and push little old ladies into the street", the conlang won't be going anywhere. Even if that's the defintion they "learned". Cheers, -- Philip Newton <philip.newton@...>


Gary Shannon <fiziwig@...>
Mia Soderquist <happycritter@...>