conlangs and audience...
|From:||Sally Caves <scaves@...>|
|Date:||Friday, March 17, 2000, 2:22|
Wow, thank you, Matt, for your warm remarks. I really think
it's this audience that will be my best one for the article. It's
been up two days, and the casual readers of M/C are not exactly
beating my door down. I hope within the month it's up I get at
least one response from a nonconlanger, even if just to say "you
guys are weird, and why aren't you concentrating on real languages?"
Matt Pearson wrote:
> Congratulations, Sally! A wonderfully written and insightful article.
> The question of "audience" with relation to conlanging is an intriguing
> and understudied problem, and provides a fascinating case-study on
> the way in which the internet helps build communities out of individuals.
> (Whenever some politician or reactionary pundit denounces the internet
> as a haven for pornographers, geeks, and kooks, I always think fondly
> of what CONLANG has brought to my life, and where I and my creations
> would be without it.)
Well, exactly. CONLANG has enriched my life immeasurably, and learning
HTML has shown me that I was born to fool with the internet. Where else
can one write and illustrate one's fantasies, and even shamelessly put
them to song?
I particularly enjoyed your discussion of the
> tension between "public space" and "private space" in conlanging--how
> most conlangs are intended not as exercises in navel-gazing, but as
> 'performances', which are *designed* for public consumption, even
> though they may not be *intended* for public consumption.
And that's what the internet has opened up to us. Axel Brun sent me
his announcement of the issue (which I'll attach, or send in another
email), in which my article is summarized leaving out this crucial
You can write something, but can you get people to read it properly?
> With regard to length, I actually think that forced compression has
> improved the article by making it more focussed than earlier drafts.
> It's really quite effective in its condensed form.
It's not so much the compression, Matt, as it is the thesis. I was
galvanized by the topic of the March issue, "Audience." That was the
lynchpin that suddenly brought my paper together. Before, it was just
a report on CONLANG: and Conlang does this, and that, and this is neat,
and notice this... I could put a whole lot more in, but the subject of
"audience" gave me a more secure foundation to anchor it on. Gads,
I'm glad they took it.
That said, I would
> welcome an expanded/extended discussion of this topic--by you or
> some other intrepid scholar.
Me, I hope. I wasn't going to stop at M/C. <G>
You raise a lot of fascinating points which
> deserve further discussion--perhaps within a broader cultural context:
> Conlanging, it seems to me, is part of a larger family of pastimes
> involving detailed created worlds. You mention dollhouses and model
> railroading. But even if one restricts one's attention to projects which
> exist solely 'on paper', there are a variety of other pursuits just
> as abstract, elaborate, and audienceless as conlanging. For instance,
> I once met someone who spent all his free time designing luxury cruise
> ships. His designs were meticulously drafted and technically informed,
> but he had no hope that any of them would ever be built--or even that
> his blueprints would ever be exhibited. That wasn't the point. What is
> the cultural and social significance of such projects? How do they relate
> to other forms of creativity?
This is fascinating, Matt. And I'm glad you raised it. I had always
compared my fascination with an imaginary language to my equal
for miniatures (which I'm also writing about), but I, too, have spent
enormous amounts of my childhood putting plans on paper, just for the
joy of it. Houseplans, for instance. I still do that. Some of them
elaborate. And those years in my teens where I spent every
leisure hour working on my model "city." It wasn't even three
It was all mapped out. Maps and maps and maps. Does anyone have any
comparable? I wonder, now, if the map-making and the house plans have
some cognitive/creative link with conlanging? These aren't
projects, nor are they even really visual. Designing space ships... I
a lot of people doing this.
> One minor quibble: Tokana has not been in development for "decades",
> as you assert. The only decades-long conlanging projects I know of
> --those of the artlang variety, anyway--are Teonaht and (I think)
Hee hee! David Bell states on his website that Amman-Iar has been in
development for thirty years; I didn't want to mention Teonaht, and your
language was the only one I could think of in my pressured weekend that
was approaching a decade in the making. So you got scooped in. My
apologies to those inventors I overlooked. Sorry.
Tokana is only about 7 or 8 years old, by my reckoning
> --unless you consider it a radical overhaul of my previous conlang
> Kosan, in which case it's about 15 years old. (Kosan and Tokana share
> a large amount of core vocabulary, but almost no grammatical features;
> it may be a matter for historical meta-conlinguists to determine if
> Tokana and Kosan are separate conlangs or radically different 'drafts'
> of the same conlang.)
Well, there you go!
> Again, congratulations! Hopefully your article will inspire a wider
> interest in conlanging among media scholars.
We'll see! As I said, I think you guys are my best audience. But I
wanted to "legitimate" the essay. Get someone outside of conlang to
Oh, the summary. I don't know who wrote it, but they remark that
inventors have been despised and persecuted (I think Paul Attallah wrote
because he told me that he had read that speakers of Esperanto were
along with other groups by the Nazis). I never wrote that they were
"despised" in the article (condescended to, misunderstood), much less
they were persecuted. But it's an interesting take on the part of an
outsider. Interesting that the only conlang he mentions is "Klingon."
Hmmm. I can't seem to paste. I'll send the post.
To be continued...
http://www.frontiernet.net/~scaves/teonaht.html (T. homepage)
http://www.frontiernet.net/~scaves/contents.html (all else)
Niffodyr tweluenrem lis teuim an.
"The gods have retractible claws."
from _The Gospel of Bastet_