Re: New Survey: Celtic Conlangs (and other lunatic pursuits)
|From:||Sally Caves <scaves@...>|
|Date:||Sunday, February 16, 2003, 20:29|
I am having terrible difficulty, and have been for the several times I've
tried, registering for YahooGroups. I've set up my user name and password.
Nothing seems to work. YahooGroups does not seem to think that I have an
alternate email address, and it promises to send me some message in which
I'm supposed to click on "important" to get registered. I've received no
such message at email@example.com (my alternate email address), and I
can't post to the list, while I can read the messages. Would you still be
willing to post my survey to Celticonlang as you kindly suggested and/or
walk me through a set up? I'm baffled. The instructions are so opaque.
----- Original Message -----
From: "Aidan Grey" <grey@...>
PLEASE! On bended knee! How does anyone get on these groups? I've tried
to register for it before, and it didn't work, but I think it still has my
information. So it thinks I'm trying to usurp somebody else's name and
Here's the survey, somewhat altered:
Vyko! My apologies for cross-posting this survey. I'm Sally Caves, author
of "Teonaht," and a sometime scholar of Middle Welsh. Many of you on
Celticonlang are also on Conlang, and have seen this. For those of you who
haven't, however, I would sure be interested in getting your answers, as
this pertains to a talk I'm giving in Berkeley in April at the Celtic
Studies Association. I've tried without success to apply to Celticonlang,
but that's another story, and Aiden is kindly posting this for me. Because
I can't get on the list, I would DEEPLY APPRECIATE IT if you sent your
responses to me PRIVATELY, as tempting as it is to use this for a new
thread. It comes in four parts, and repeats some of the questions I aired
in my original "Lunatic Survey" in 1998. I'm posting these again, though,
given all the newcomers. In the first three parts of the survey, I'm
interested in gauging the degree to which Celtic languages have been popular
models among us language cobblers, and also Tolkien, who drew in part upon
Welsh, possibly Irish. Given their difficulties, Celtic languages (along
with countless other languages!) are not often the models for IALs. These
features that make them difficult or unusual, though, may appeal especially
to conlangers, not to mention their associations with a long-standing
British Isles/Northwestern European mythology that fascinated Tolkien
(Anglo-Saxon and Scandinavian included), and which have so engaged
contemporary High Fantasy. So what feels like an arbitrary question has a
focus for me, and I would so appreciate your taking the time to answer some
or all of these questions. Again, please send them privately.
A REQUEST: IF YOU ARE NOT ANSWERING THE QUESTIONS OF THE SURVEY, BUT
RESPONDING INCIDENTALLY TO SOMETHING SOMEONE SAID, PLEASE RETITLE THE
SUBJECT HEADER! Firrimby! <G> You also don't have to answer all of these
questions. Answer the ones that are relevant or important to you.
PART I. CELTIC
What is your name and what do you call your conlang(s)?
When did you start it/them?
Are you still working with it/them or have you abandoned it or them?
Have you based your conlang(s) wholly or partially on a Celtic language?
If so, on which? or combined with which?
What Celtic features have you borrowed? What is the structure of your
language? Be specific.
What innovations did you introduce? (new constructions, perhaps a new
What features of Celtic languages (or a particular Celtic language)
initially inspired or intrigued you? For example, Tolkien, as he described
it in "Welsh and English" was impressed by the beauty of a Welsh inscription
he saw on a building: Adeiladwyd 1887 ('built 1887'). He loved words like
wybren, so much more "mellifluous" than our borrowed word "sky." He was
likewise enthralled by Finnish and Hebrew. So he deliberately set out to
make his Elvish languages beautiful. Was this a draw for you as well in
choosing Celtic as a model? (I understand that T's Elvish languages are not
exclusively "Celtic." He has described them, however, as being
On the other hand, perhaps the Celtic structures, their VSO, their
paraphrastics, their initial mutations, their spelling conventions, their
general strangeness caught your fancy, not necessarily their "beauty" or
How many of you are also scholars of Celtic languages? Scholars of other
How were you introduced to them?
PART II: INSPIRATION BY TOLKIEN (tangential to the questions on inspiration
by Celtic languages):
How many of you were inspired to invent a language because of your exposure
How many of you based your conlang on one of Tolkien's languages, or your
conculture in Middle Earth?
How many of you have a constructed world, and, if so, does it include some
of the races we associate with Celtic or Scandinavian mythology? (Elves,
Dwarves, medieval societies of humans, Faeries or Fays? Selkies? Wizards?)
How many of you were inspired to examine Welsh, Hebrew, or Finnish because
of your examination of Tolkien?
How many of you were inspired to invent a conlang or a conculture because of
some influence OTHER than Tolkien?
How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you engage in
How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you heard of this
How many of you are members of the Mythopoeic Society, or the Society for
Creative Anachronism, or other High Fantasy Groups?
For how many of you is beauty and/or efficiency a factor in your
language? Or elegance? How would you define these terms?
For how many of you is the "exotic" a desired feature of your invented
How many of you have fashioned your language on a particular type (Ergative,
Accusative, Trigger, etc.)?
To what degree is difficulty and irregularity of language important to you
in your conlang? what natural language eccentricities (or efficiencies) do
you like and try to reproduce?
To what degree is accessibility, efficiency, and regularity important to
your conlang? What natural language "faults" are you correcting?
How many of you started out by pulling words out of the air, originally?
How many of you have chosen a more methodic form of vocabulary building?
I.e., how have you gone about setting up the framework for your words and
(I started out pulling words out of the air.)
PART III: THE LUNATIC SURVEY REVISITED (because we are all "fous du
langage," according to Yaguello and other French critics.
Why do you conlang? Who will speak it? Read it? What's the point? What's
the beauty? what's the intellectual draw?
To what would you compare a conlang? Is it a miniature? Is it a model? Is
it a tapestry? Is it an act of obsession and madness? <G> Or is it a
If it is a communicable language, to whom do you speak it?
To what extent is the opacity or "alterity" of your language something that
pleases you? In other words, the sounds and the script have, even for you,
a quality of being foreign, and this delights.
Comment? (I know that when I make maps of cities, and imagine myself in
them, they delight me because they are both familiar and foreign at the same
This is a difficult question: how is it that a word sounds "right" to you?
We recently discussed this. To what extent are you finding righter, better
words for the world in your conlang? (Perhaps unanswerable).
How many of you are fictive map-makers, designers of fictive floor plans,
fictive yachts, fictive star-ships, world-builders, calligraphers,
cartoonists, etc.? (These pursuits have been associated with conlanging. I
've done most of them.)
How many of you have a special script in your conlang?
If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing system?
In other words, do you use unconventional letters to represent sounds?
This is a question Heather asked, but I also asked it four years ago: how
many of you write in your language? What do you write?
How many of you sing in your language and have invented songs for that
How many of you started conlanging when you were a teenager and have stuck
to the same language over many years? Why?
How many of you change conlangs regularly, developing structures for many
languages but not sticking with any one for very long? Why?
For how many of you does your language function as a spiritual instrument?
This is a deeply personal question--let me give you an example. When I
first started inventing "Tayonian" in my early teens, what I wrote were
spells and prayers. They had a talismanic quality. Does that ring a bell
For how many of you was your language at least at one stage of its making
meant to fool others, or to write secret diaries? (Me, waving my hand).
How many of you can speak your language, at least to yourself and your pet?
child? spouse? <G> To what extent?
How many of you have put up websites where your language can be showcased?
If so, what is the website address?
How many of you have made soundbytes of your language so the rest of us can
hear it? If so, give the site.
How many of you are comfortable talking to your boss, your professors, your
family members about this pursuit? How many of you have received
condescending or other negative responses to your disclosure? (I have.) Or
even been called "pathological"?
If this attitude is changing, to what do you attribute the change? (On New
Year's Eve, a delightful, elderly gentleman could not understand why I would
be interested in this pursuit. What purpose could it serve?)
For how many of you is the damning statement "better to learn real languages
than invent private ones" a criticism you have encountered? What would be
your response to such a remark?
PART IV: GENERAL DEMOGRAPHICS:
What is your age (optional--and can be general: 30-40, for instance).
What is your profession or your station in life (i.e., if you are a student,
what is your MAJOR; if a middle or high-school student, what is your
What is your gender?
What is your nationality and your native language?
What natural languages do you speak or have studied?
How many of you have chosen a profession in linguistics because of your
interest in inventing languages? Or plan a profession in linguistics?
What have you learned from conlanging?
What texts on language and linguistics have you consulted to help invent
Do you know of anyone who has not connected with the Internet or the List
who has invented a language? (I'm firmly convinced that "conlanging" has
been a private pursuit for many people long before the list started, but
that the list has increased its visibility as an art).
Can you give me a short sample of your language with interlinear description
Would you object to my mentioning your conlang/and or your name in my talk?
I will be discreet about some of the more personal questions you answered.
Ev send poto, yry poy poy firrimby!
Eskkoat ol ai sendran, rohsan nuehra celyil takrem bomai nakuo.
"My shadow follows me, putting strange, new roses into the world."