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artlang-blindness of linguists (was ...)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Tuesday, December 9, 2003, 20:06

On Tue, 9 Dec 2003 12:26:55 -0700,
Dirk Elzinga <dirk_elzinga@...> wrote:

> On Tuesday, December 9, 2003, at 10:31 AM, Jörg Rhiemeier wrote: > > > [...] > > > > Very true. This blindness towards artlangs is something I have noticed > > in numerous books whenever it comes to constructed languages. The mere > > existence of artlangs is usually completely ignored. One even finds > > definitions of the terms "artificial language" and "constructed > > language" that include the phrase "...for the purpose of international > > communication". > > It has not escaped the author's attention that languages may be > constructed for personal or artistic reasons. He is also the author of > _A Priori Artificial Languages_ and _Mixed Artificial Languages_. In > the preface to the former he said: "I am primarily interested in those > languages which were constructed with some serious purpose in mind. A > fair number of languages, or (much more often) fragments of languages,
Fragments of languages... indeed true. Few artlang projects ever reach the stage of actual usability. Makes it even more difficult to take them seriously.
> have been created in connection with some work of fiction (usually > science fiction or fantasy), or game, or fictional world." > > Also, if you consider how volatile our projects are, it is not > surprising that they don't show up in scholarly or even popular > literature unless they're affixed to something like a movie or > best-selling novel.
Yes. Klingon wouldn't be as popular as it is if it wasn't associated with the mass media phenomenon commonly known as Star Trek; Sindarin (and, to a lesser extent, Quenya) got a boost by the LotR movies. When a conlang occurs in a popular work of fiction, people want to know about the language that appears therein; otherwise, popular interest in artlangs is almost non-existent.
> The development of the Internet and the World Wide > Web has only fueled the transitory nature of our languages;
Yes, it is so easy to revise a web page, compared with the effort of getting an already-published book revised.
> even > Tolkien, using only pen and paper, couldn't resist tinkering with > Sindarin and Quenya, and that even after the books were published and > the "corpora" were fixed.
A well-known fact that fuels endless discussions on places like Elfling, and is the main reason why we don't have authorized grammars of Quenya or Sindarin yet.
> So any discussion of artlang projects would have to be rather general > and vague (if there is discussion at all); they're moving targets.
Yes. Almost everything posted on CONLANG or on list members' web sites is work in progress, and many of us go through seemingly endless build-and-tear cycles. In some cases, even the name of the project keeps changing, such that one doesn't even know by which designation to address the project in question. I know this from my own projects. But there is a handful of artlangs which have reached a rather stable mode of existence. Andrew Smith's Brithenig is pretty stable; Klingon has an official dictionary and grammar; in the case of Quenya and Sindarin, we have at least a published corpus available to linguistic analysis; there are certainly others.
> I'm > just happy that constructed languages of any stripe are receiving > serious attention from a sympathetic scholar.
Actually, there are not too few linguists who don't even take Esperanto seriously, though such utter rejection is less common today than it was 100 years ago, when many linguists still entertained an "organic" view of language as something that lives and grows, and thought of constructed languages as bloodless homunculi. This kind of sentiment can still be occasionally encountered today, and when there is not even a serious purpose behind a language design, many people are ready to reject it as a meaningless plaything. Greetings, Jörg.


Andreas Johansson <andjo@...>
Peter Bleackley <peter.bleackley@...>
Ray Brown <ray.brown@...>