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CHAT: The Conlang Instinct

From:Gerald Koenig <jlk@...>
Date:Thursday, December 2, 1999, 2:02
It seems that as long as I have been on conlang there is a kind of self
analysis going on working on the question, What makes a conlanger?  We
have the taxonomies, the personality tests, the sexual orientation
questions, the gender balance, the soul searching. I do it too, I ask,
how are we different, but I don't like being gendered away into a
pigeonhole, so I don't play the game. Anyway, I stumbled across an
article yesterday on synesthesis in Discover Magazine that got me
thinking. I read it because I used to meet every week in a class with
someone who mentioned one day that she could taste my words. I could
hardly imagine that.  According to the article she is not alone. Here
is a table from the article that describes 175 synesthetes:

Numbers and letters evoking colors    69%
Units of time triggering colors       24%
Spoken sounds calling up colors       14%
xxxx (15 entries deleted)
sound evoking taste                    2%

"In all instances of synesthesia, the perceptions are spontaneous and
enduring. In a 1993 experiment, Baron-Cohen and his colleagues gave
synesthetes and a group of nonsynesthetes a list of letters , words, and
phrases and asked them to describe the color or shape each evoked.
Follow up testing found that while only 37% of nonsynesthestes
associations were consistent one week later, 92% of synesthetes'
associations were identical after one year. Psychologists call this
"invariance"; for synesthetes it's a way of life"

Another quote:
"...some experiences- such as Pat Duffy's vivid, invariable conception
of a year as "an oblong string of colored rectangles"--are purely

"---the most common is seeing colors in response to viewing written
numbers or letters. ---the letter "o" tends overwhelmingly to be white,
it was associated with that color by 56% of the synesthetes who ascribe
colors to letters. But "u" goes all over the place .."

"--synesthetes have not been found to exhibit any more vulnerability to
mental illness than the general population".

Now, does anyone see the need for a personal gender system here? I
wonder how Pat Duffy would like seeing a year as a single long vector,
or 12 month-vectors head to tail, as in my vector tense grammar? Can
natlang grammar do violence to the mind of a conlanger? Do language
universals work for conlangers, or are they a secondary layer as
suggested in a way by Ed Heil to me. Are conlangers langesthetes?  Are
our internal perceptions of language non-standard yet fully functional?
I've always been able to get my A's in English in spite of a tremendous
inner dissatisfaction with much of it. Maybe conlangers have an
extra or idiosyncratic mapping of language in the brain. That is the
direction of research in synesthesis. Synesthetes are finding one
another on the web. Perhaps we need a test to exclude anyone who tastes
languages that start with a-u-x. I might not be here either.

Abnormally yours,

Jerry |                                 Without careful communication
Gerald Lea Koenig | jlkatnetcomdotcom   There is boundless demonization.