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CONLANG  April 2005, Week 1

CONLANG April 2005, Week 1

Subject:

Re: History of constructed languages

From:

Thomas Wier <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

[log in to unmask]

Date:

Fri, 1 Apr 2005 03:14:16 -0600

Content-Type:

text/plain

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From:    Mark Jones <[log in to unmask]>
> Anyway, I'm far from an expert, and I'd like to know what the first
> constructed language for media use might've been. I'm not talking here about
> Esperanto or Volapuek etc., but a fictional languages for use in fiction.

I think it's fair to say that conlanging as a fictional enterprise
is something new in the 20th century. Conlanging in some form goes
way back. I believe I posted some years ago about my discovery
that the brother of one of the Hellenistic Successors (_diadokhoi_)
of Alexander the Great engaged in conlanging as a kind of philosophical
enterprise, and made plans to impose these "reforms" of Greek, which
appear to be mostly made-up words on model cities over which he was
given actual, and AFAIK absolute, power.  Other more recent conlangers --
Hildegard of Bingen, Leibniz, Zamenhof -- usually had some ulterior
motive beyond literary expression, though Hildegard's approximates
modern conlanging in some sense.  I'd say Tolkien represents the first
widely recognized full flowering of conlanging as a personal hobby/pastime
/enterprise (depending on one's perspective), which happened to be used
in his fiction.  Jesse brought up the potentially earlier example of
_Gulliver's Travels_, and IIRC Thomas More's _Utopia_ might contain
some similarly poorly developed constructed language materials (if
only lexemes).  But all of these were to the best of my knowledge very
cursory, and don't represent fictional languages in the sense of
a linguistic system in the way we conlangers actually strive to create.
Of the earlier systems, Hildegard's would be ruled out in her own
opinion, since it wasn't devoted to fiction, but personal religious
devotion.

 =========================================================================
Thomas Wier	       "I find it useful to meet my subjects personally,
Dept. of Linguistics    because our secret police don't get it right
University of Chicago   half the time." -- octogenarian Sheikh Zayed of
1010 E. 59th Street     Abu Dhabi, to a French reporter.
Chicago, IL 60637

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