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Re: my next project: language of the Mandai

From:Tom Little <tom@...>
Date:Tuesday, August 13, 2002, 21:34
Hi Jim--

Thanks for your interest in my project.

At 02:17 PM Tuesday 8/13/2002, you wrote:
>Sounds interesting. I was intrigued by what you said about keeping the >language alive. It seems to me that, in order to keep the language alive, >you'll have to elaborate on the metaphysical assumptions of the >Mandai-on-the-street.
Agreed - this is where much of the fun in the whole thing will be!
>Since you mentioned killing, I'm assuming that the Mandai language will be >able to convey ideas about or related to everyday reality. I doubt that you >can describe this reality without referencing events in addition to static >relationships.
I didn't say the relationships would be static...the culture recognizes that relationships evolve, change, or even end, so the language will have some temporal indicators. The difference, I guess, is that the focus will be on the previous and subsequent relationships, rather than the specific event that marks the transition. And there is also a presumption that the transitions tend to be less important to the Mandai than the states.
>The idea of all-reciprocal verbs is another issue. To make all the verbs >reciprocal without merely creating a bunch of odd idioms, it seems to me >that you have to have the Mandai let go of certain assumptions, like this >one: "one thing or being can control other things or beings."
Right, and this is close to the way I'm thinking. Or perhaps I would say that in their conceptions, relationships have a strong metaphysical reality, and are often seen as more important than the individual things that are involved in the relationships.
>Note that, in a stage play, pretend-killing is a reciprocal action, with >both the "killer" and the "victim" playing their assigned roles, and >facilitating the "murder" cooperatively. This reciprocal act occurs in >accordance to a script written long before the play, and requires actors >committed to playing their assigned roles.
Intriguing thoughts, but it's still not a symmetrical relationship in my mind, because the roles of the two actors are indeed different. In my example, the relationship between the two parties is a symmetrical one--they are in conflict. The symmetry is broken only by reference to a different relationship, the relationship between one of the parties and Death, which the other party is not a part of. This takes me in a different direction than your thoughts about destiny. The Mandai see each person as a kind of locus where many different relationships overlap. Some of those relationships may be coming into being, others may be ending. The biggest challenges, I think, will have to do with relationships between people and inanimate objects. I probably can't push things far enough to conceive of all or most such relationships as symmetrical, but there may still be ways to articulate those relationships without falling into an "A does X to B" thing. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ Tom Little Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA) Telperion Productions ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~