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Re: One of Jim's Answers (Re: LUNATIC SURVEY 2005)

From:Sally Caves <scaves@...>
Date:Saturday, February 26, 2005, 16:04
----- Original Message -----
From: "David J. Peterson" <dedalvs@...>

> Jim Grossman answered the question about what metaphor best > suits conlanging with the following analogy: > > << > Conlanging is to linguistics as describing imaginary creatures is to > zoology. > >> > > This reminds me of something I heard about Vladimir Nabokov. > He was, of course, an avid lepidopterist, and a semi-conlanger (cf. > Pale Fire). Regarding lepidoperterology (if that's a word), there's > a species of butterfly named after him (or that he named...). I also > read that he once > drew an imaginary butterfly that was *so* realistic, that lepidopterists > and zoologists thought that it could, in fact, exist--it just didn't > happen to. I think this butterfly was similar to a particular > species of butterfly, with some modifications--possibly what an > a priori conlang is to the language family it's supposed to > emulate. Anyway, Jim's answer reminded me of that anecdote, > so I thought I'd share it.
What a wonderful anecdote, David!
> Oh, and I think the point is this: If someone understands butterflies > *so* well that they can create a butterfly that *could* exist on > paper, shouldn't this person themselves be an asset to zoology? > Ditto with conlanging to linguistics.
Interesting surmise! Yes, one could perhaps present a possible butterfly, a possible evolution. On the other hand, though, I could see zoologists resenting that ability; it could lead to hoaxes. It reminds me of MacPherson, and Iolo Morgannwg, inventing Celtic sources that they then "study." It reminds me of Psalmanazar and his Formosan. It reminds me, too, of And Rosta's fantasy of presenting his completed Livagian grammar as a study, and letting scholars make of it what they wanted! There's a touch of genius and madcap risk-taking in all of this. Perhaps we are all a little like Nabokov creating his butterfly. Adrian Morgan, creating a credible sounding language on the spot! I think there is a kind of brilliance in conlanging that sometimes takes my breath away. I've been enjoying reading through your responses, so far; they are so various, and they give me a lot of insight into you as people as well as conlangers. Sally