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CONLANG  July 2011, Week 5

CONLANG July 2011, Week 5

Subject:

Re: revisiting the artlang/engelang distinction (was: Re: van Steenbergen Hexagon

From:

Padraic Brown <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Constructed Languages List <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Sun, 31 Jul 2011 14:51:35 -0700

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--- On Sun, 7/31/11, David Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> > I think that is overly simplistic -- a dichotomy
> between presumably more
> > intelligent minority "language fans" who are engaged
> by the details and
> > inner workings and the presumably unintelligent herd
> of the "culture
> > fans" who would apparently not understand the inner
> workings of a language
> > if it stood up and bashed them on the heads with all
> the ablaut it could
> > manage?
>
> I'd have to agree: That's an overly simplistic way of
> characterizing what I was saying.

I'm not sure what you're agreeing with: that I just oversimplified what
you said or that what I just oversimplified was already overly simplistic.

Either way, a simple dichotomy is rarely a satisfactory scheme for
describing human behavior.

> I mean, yikes! Where did I
> ever—EVER—suggest that those that were more interested
> in the culture were incapable of understanding the
> language?!

Nowhere that I'm aware of, and I didn't say that either. I took "They
come to the language simply because it exists and is tied to the fictional
race. The latter would be fans of the language if it was a cipher of
English. In fact, any natural tendencies (like irregularities) are likely
to be seen as annoyances by the culture fan: they'd prefer it to be
perfectly regular so they can hurry up and *speak* it." and drew a
conclusion. As someone who is *not* interested in Navi or Sindarin or
Klingon *as languages*, I feel only slightly insulted that the only
alternative for me in the scheme is among the "fanboys", to use Joerg's
wonderful term, for whom a complex and well crafted conlang is a mere
annoyance and a thing that would be better made regular and easy to learn!

I also took "they would be fans of the language if it was a cipher of
English" as something of a sleight. In my opinion, a well crafted story
that skimps on the issue of language is simply the mark of an author who
is lazy (unless the work is satirical or parody). If Tolkien had used a
simple replacement cipher for Elvish languages, we'd (perhaps rightfully)
be decrying his lack of conlanging art.

> That's not a trivial point! I said no such thing,
> and would agree with no such thing. What I will defend is
> that a majority simply don't care about the inner workings
> of the language—but that goes beyond conlanging, too.
> There are millions of people on the planet that can't be
> bothered with other languages, save when it's absolutely
> required of them.

Agreed. Nor are we really interested in their opinion. As valid as it may
be, I understood the question of appeal to be aimed at conlangers, not at
the non-conlanging folks!

> That says nothing about their intellect,
> or their capability to understand the finer points of a
> second language: It's simply a description of their
> character. (Kind of like me with math: I get it, but I don't
> want it.)
>
> > As is usually the case, the truth is far more complex
> than a mere "this or
> > that" scheme would have one believe. There are
> certainly people who are
> > fans of conlangs and those who are fans of
> concultures; but I think there
> > are many that fall in between the extremes. For
> example, I am *not* a fan
> > of conlangs as languages. But neither am I an
> ignoramus who would be a
> > fan even if the conlang were an English cipher!
>
> You're also a conlanger, which rather separates you from
> those who have no interest in language. Honestly, though,
> who says that you'd be an ignoramus simply because you like
> the use of an English cipher in a fictional work?

Actually, I don't really consider myself a "conlanger" the way I think of
so many others here. I sit in awe of the things other folks are doing
and the deep understanding of linguistics that informs their art -- I
don't put in nearly enough effort for that august title! I find languages
fascinating, but I really consider myself more of a worldwright that takes
the issue of language within a constructed world more seriously than one
often sees in the pulp fantasy novels.

I wouldn't consider myself an ignoramus for using a cipher -- I *would*
consider myself a bit lazy for doing so when I could just as easily make
a more naturalistic conlang to go with it!

> > Given that so many conlangers have in fact devised
> often quite well
> > developped cultures for their languages, I think that
> many more than you
> > perhaps give credit for fall into this "crossover"
> category. Frankly, I
> > think that most of us probably fall into this
> conlanger-conculturer
> > category than at the extremes. I think the best
> conlangs ever published
> > here are those that have been intertwined with their
> concultures.
>
> If a conlang is naturalistic, it has to have a culture
> associated with it; there's simply no two ways about it. The
> two can't exist apart from one another (well, you might be
> able to have a culture without language; I don't know enough
> about humans' prehistory to have an opinion).

Actually, I think one could create a culture without a language -- in many
respects Dunein (a part of the FK in Ill Bethisad) is a culture without a
language, on account of its native language being steadily replaced by
a different language. So, folks *had* a native language to go with their
culture, but have now replaced it with an invasive species. But this is a
particular set of historical circumstances -- I agree fully with the idea
that culture and language are interlaced aspects of human experience.

> If one doesn't
> specify, a kind of "neutral" culture will be assumed, which
> will likely borrow liberally from one's own, which is not
> very exciting. That doesn't mean that you can't have a
> conlanger who concultures who doesn't actually like looking
> at other concultures all that much (I'm one).

Okay -- I certainly don't have a problem with someone who is simply
uninterested in other concultures.

> > Well, my vote is strongly for Teonaht in its cultural
> context. It is an
> > incredible language, even if it were possible to
> divorce it from its
> > native soil. The culture is equally marvellous, and is
> certainly crowned
> > by the beauty of the language. I am very much a fan of
> Teonaht's inner
> > workings, and it is one of exactly two conlangs I've
> tried to learn. Well,
> > three if you count a brief fling with Esperanto when I
> was young! But
> > language qua language simply does not satisfy. A
> beautiful language like
> > Teonaht would cry out for speakers and a place to
> happen in and people
> > to love it and lofty ideals to extol in it (and
> perhaps some not so lofty
> > ideals). So, says I that Teonaht is famous within its
> cultural context
> > every bit as much as if not more than its mere
> linguistic merits.
>
>
> And I also wasn't suggesting that we strip conlangs of
> their culture (even hypothetically); I was just asking which
> one was more interested in. And I stand by my initial wild
> speculation—that the majority of conlangers find the
> language part more interesting than the culture part. ;)

Fair enough! Perhaps others will answer the question as well. So far,
you have two votes for language as interlaced part of culture!

> David Peterson

Padraic

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