An exhaustingly lengthy reply to Sally: > PART I. FOR CELTIC CONLANGERS: > > Have you based your conlang(s) wholly or partially on a Celtic language? No. > How many of you are also scholars of Celtic languages? Scholars of other > languages? I'm a scholar of English. > PART II: INSPIRATION BY TOLKIEN (tangential to the questions on inspiration > by Celtic languages): > > How many of you were inspired to invent a language because of your exposure > to Tolkien? Very very indirectly. > How many of you based your conlang on one of Tolkien's languages, or your > conculture in Middle Earth? Not me. > How many of you have a constructed world, Yes. > and, if so, does it include some > of the races we associate with Celtic or Scandinavian mythology? (Elves, > Dwarves, medieval societies of humans, Faeries or Fays? Selkies? Wizards?) No. > How many of you were inspired to examine Welsh, Hebrew, or Finnish because > of your examination of Tolkien? > How many of you were inspired to invent a conlang or a conculture because of > some influence OTHER than Tolkien? > How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you engage in > Roll-Playing Games? > How many of you were inspired to invent a language because you heard of this > listserv? > How many of you are members of the Mythopoeic Society, or the Society for > Creative Anachronism, or other High Fantasy Groups? To all of these: Not me. > PART III: NON-CELTIC CONLANGERS: > > In the discussions I've witnessed on Conlang in almost five years, I've > observed that many conlangers have deliberately avoided "Tolkienesque" > languages, and even Indo-European languages as models for conlangs, and > especially the "Celtic." Why? Boring? Overdone? Trite? Too pretty? > Too Western? Or none of the above--just more interested in something else? > <G> I don't want to give the impression that I think we conlang only > because of Tolkien, and that anything we invent has to be INSPIRED BY or a > DEPARTURE from the "Great One"; but in this question I'm eager to see some > eschewal of or at least indifference towards the Tolkien, the "Celtic," > and/or even the Indo-European model > > What is your name and what do you call your conlang? And Rosta. Livagian. > So what is unappealing about the Indo-European model for conlanging? Or > Tolkien's Elvish? What is unappealing about Elvish as languages is the unrelenting mellifluousness, the absence of variegation, and Quenya's polysyllabicity. What is unappealing about Elvish as conlangs is the incompleteness of the design and the documentation. What is unappealing about Elvish as a model for my own conlanging is simply that Tolkien's and my goals are so different. (Well, in a sense we both want to creat the ideal language, but we have very different notions of what makes for an ideal language.) The Indo-European model for conlanging is unappealing simply because it is so inappropriate to my goals, which are engelangy, and insist on the design being constrained by no aspect of natural languages but the constraints that apply to language in general. > How did you start conlanging? What was your initial inspiration? A gradual development beginning with the invention of scripts inspired by a calendar with Tolkien's facsimiles of pages from the Book of Mazarbul. But the main inspiration was just in interest in language and a predisposition to express interests creatively. > Did you know about Tolkien's inventions? Read the books, the appendices? > etc. Or not? No. I found them later. > What language types have you modeled your language(s) after? None. > Some of you, and I'm thinking in particular of a conversation I had with And > Rosta, are not interested in producing a language that is > "mellifluous"--that "mellifluousness" is a thing to be avoided in your > conlang and especially as it is associated with Tolkien's Elvish or copiers > of Elvish. Is this so? Why? My objection to the mellifluousness is that it is unrelenting. I aim to have mellifluous words for mellifluous things and harsh words for harsh things and purple words for purple things and grassy words for grassy things. That said, the language as a whole is characterized by a phonological aesthetic that is informed by the same quasi- universal phonic aesthetics that also informed Tolkien's. > For how many of you, though, is beauty and/or efficiency a factor in your > language? Or elegance? How would you define these terms? The beauty is in the way the language succeeds in realizing its design goals, which include efficiency and elegance. Effiency might be designed as the perfect marriage of concision with unambiguity and logical precision (and also with flexibility). Elegance is in finding the optimal solution to a design problem. > For how many of you is the "exotic" a desired feature of your invented > language? Difference from familiar languages is not a goal per se, but starting from scratch is a basic design principle. I take delight in its real and its merely apparent exoticness and also in its real and its merely apparent unexoticness (specifically, respects in which it resembles English). > How many of you invent a non-human language? And if so, how alien are its > sounds and constructions? Not me. > Do you prefer inventing an a posteriori language or an a priori language? > In other words, how many of you invent a language wherein you base it > closely on a natural language (Arabic, Tagalog) or a combination of > languages, and how many others of you invent a language from, well, scratch? > (if that can be done.) Totally a posteriori; as a posteriori as it is possible to be while remaining a human language. > How many of you invent a language based on a particular type (Ergative, > Accusative, Trigger, etc.)? Not me. > To what degree is difficulty and irregularity of language important to you > in your conlang? Irregularity is something to be avoided at all costs. Difficulty is also to be avoided, so long as it doesn't involve dumbing down or compromising the other design goals; unnecessary difficulty is to be avoided. > what natural language eccentricities (or efficiencies) do > you like and try to reproduce? The kind of phonesthesia and phonological variegation in English wordshapes is something I try to reproduce. > To what degree is accessibility, efficiency, and regularity important to > your conlang? Efficiency and regularity are immensely important. Accessibility is completely unimportant. > What natural language "faults" are you correcting? Unnecessary complexity, irregularity, ambiguity, excessive inescapable vagueness. > How many of you invent logical languages? Me, though logicality is one design goal among many. > How many of you invent IALs? Not me. > How many of you have invented non-Tolkienesque or non European concultures > and what are they like? Me. The conculture is based on the premise that the average Livagian is more like me than is the average person elsewhere. This leads not to a perfect society but to a humanly imperfect society that works on principles more congenial to me than real ones do. This then interacts with the history and geography of Livagia to produce the culture. > How many of you started out by pulling words out of the air, originally? > How many of you have chosen a more methodic form of vocabulary building? > I.e., how have you gone about setting up the framework for your words and > your grammar? > (I started out pulling words out of the air.) Very much a mixture of both. Some words are pulled out of the air, though not randomly -- they have to sound right. Others are created very systematically in large paradigms and get completely redone over and over again in the quest for the optimal solution. > PART IV: THE LUNATIC SURVEY REVISITED (because we are all "fous du > langage," according to Yaguello and other French critics > > Why do you conlang? Mainly because I yearn to bring into existence the language that is to me ideal. > Who will speak it? Read it? What's the point? What's > the beauty? what's the intellectual draw? If I ever got round to documenting it intelligibly and publishing it, then it might get spoken and read by a handful of quixotic enthusiasts. > To what would you compare a conlang? Is it a miniature? Is it a model? Is > it a tapestry? Is it an act of obsession and madness? <G> Or is it a > communicable language? It is like a multifunctional machine on every aspect of whose design infinite care has been lavished. Or it's like a piece of software that handles everything you do with your computer in the optimal way. Oh hang on -- you're asking about conlangs in general. In that case I would compare it to architectural design, but it's very hard to find a really decent comparison. > If it is a communicable language, to whom do you speak it? > > To what extent is the opacity or "alterity" of your language something that > pleases you? In other words, the sounds and the script have, even for you, > a quality of being foreign, and this delights Very much so. But I also like the way it feels like a language I know in my bones, and I also like the ways in which both at a subliminal level and at a very abstract analytical level it has strong resonances of English. > Comment? (I know that when I make maps of cities, and imagine myself in > them, they delight me because they are both familiar and foreign at the same > time.) Exactly! I get the same experience with some kinds of music and landscape, too. > This is a difficult question: how is it that a word sounds "right" to you? Various sorts of sound--meaning iconicity, mostly but not entirely at a subconscious level. Some of the perceived iconcities are idiosyncratic to me (e.g. sound--colour correspondences, perhaps) while others are more] widely perceived. > We recently discussed this. To what extent are you finding righter, better > words for the world in your conlang? (Perhaps unanswerable) I try to. Righter and better than what? I find it very hard to do righter and better than English. > How many of you are fictive map-makers, designers of fictive floor plans, > fictive yachts, fictive star-ships, world-builders, calligraphers, > cartoonists, etc.? (These pursuits have been associated with conlanging. I > 've done most of them.) map-maker no -- I'd love to have maps of Livagia, but I can't just invent it out of thin air; the geography has to be based on geological principles that I just don't know enough about. If I were rich I'd hire someone to do it: I'd describe what the landscape is like in general, they'd map the terrain in detail, and I'd add on the political geography on the basis of the physical geography. Floor plans and cartoons-- not for these last 20 years. Not yachts, starships or worlds. But calligraphy, yes. > How many of you have a special script in your conlang? Yes. > If you use Roman script, how recognizably "phonetic" is your writing system? > In other words, do you use unconventional letters to represent sounds? > Why? It's a very rational romanization, and as far as possible consistent with the international values for the letters. Why? Rational because that is the spirit of the language, and international values because the roman alphabet is an international system. > This is a question Heather asked, but I also asked it four years ago: how > many of you write in your language? What do you write? Because of the stage of development the language has reached so far, I have written only translations of short passages, as a way of roadtesting the language and also as a way of delighting in seeing it come to life, or go into operation. > How many of you sing in your language and have invented songs for that > purpose? Some music, rather abortively; not words and music together. I have invented the fact that there are certain songs important in the culture, but I haven't invented the actual words or music, and am not competent to. > How many of you started conlanging when you were a teenager and have stuck > to the same language over many years? Why? Me. Why? A predisposition to fidelity, single-mindedness, unfickleness and to committing to projects that each require a whole lifetime of endeavour in order to be brought to fruition. > How many of you change conlangs regularly, developing structures for many > languages but not sticking with any one for very long? Why? Not me. > For how many of you does your language function as a spiritual instrument? > This is a deeply personal question--let me give you an example. When I > first started inventing "Tayonian" in my early teens, what I wrote were > spells and prayers. They had a talismanic quality. Does that ring a bell > for anybody? Yes and no. It doesn't function as a spiritual *instrument*, but language and languages and their words have each, animistically, their own souls. But so do pieces of wood and stone. So uttering words, even invented words whose meaning and language one does not know, is more then mere babbling, but their magic is in themselves, not in the production of external effects. > For how many of you was your language at least at one stage of its making > meant to fool others, or to write secret diaries? (Me, waving my hand) No. > How many of you can speak your language, at least to yourself and your pet? > child? spouse? <G> To what extent? There have been stages when I could manage a few phrases, but those stages all got dismantled. Conlanger Bfowol seems to be able to speak some phrases of the current version. But basically the language has never reached a sufficiently stable and complete stage for me to start acquiring any degree of fluency in terms of committing words to memory. > How many of you have put up websites where your language can be showcased? > If so, what is the website address? Not me. Ask me 10 or 20 years hence. > How many of you have made soundbytes of your language so the rest of us can > hear it? If so, give the site I haven't, but if the technical aspects were not so daunting I could give it a go. > How many of you are comfortable talking to your boss, your professors, your > family members about this pursuit? How many of you have received > condescending or other negative responses to your disclosure? (I have.) Or > even been called "pathological"? I don't mind telling people that I invent a language but two things make me uncomfortable about it. The first is that I have so little to show for all the years of effort -- yes, what exists of the language is ever closer to perfection, but it makes scant progress towards completion, so I can't speak it to people, and those that are interested want me to say stuff in it. The second thing is that I find it difficult to justify to others the resources of time and intellectual energy that go into it -- time and intellectual energy that Ought To Be spent on more worthwhile, more reputable and scholarly pursuits. Since people already see me as amusingly eccentric, when they find out that I invent a language they react with unsurprised surprise and amusement; they expect the amusingly unexpected. > If this attitude is changing, to what do you attribute the change? (On New > Year's Eve, a delightful, elderly gentleman could not understand why I would > be interested in this pursuit. What purpose could it serve?) Nowadays, I often say not just "I invent a language" but "I invent a language as Tolkien spent his life doing", so as to preempt them getting visions of esperantoid stuff, which sometimes used to happen, and sometimes I also mention Klingon. More people have heard ot these than formerly, so on average the idea of inventing a language is not met with quite so much incomprehension and incredulity as formerly. > For how many of you is the damning statement "better to learn real languages > than invent private ones" a criticism you have encountered? What would be > your response to such a remark? I haven't encountered that criticism, but I do need to point out that ordinarily I lack the impulse to talk about myself to others (my behaviour in my favourite email haunts being quite at odds with this of course), and it is even onerous to do so. So the opportunities for people to condemn my conlanging don't really arise. Plus, my lack of interest in anyone else's opinion of me is so apparent that nobody ever seems to condemn or condescend to me; if you patently live and think by your own rules it seems that people will find no grounds for or point in criticizing you. Anyway, if someone did make such a remark and I could actually be bothered to explain to them why I disagreed, then I would just explain. > PART V: GENERAL DEMOGRAPHICS: > > What is your age (optional--and can be general: 30-40, for instance) 35 > What is your profession or your station in life (i.e., if you are a student, > what is your MAJOR; if a middle or high-school student, what is your > intended major)? lecturer in English Linguistics > What is your gender? I think of myself as male, though I get very angry when offialdom does. > What is your nationality and your native language? English, English. > What natural languages do you speak or have studied? I am fluent in no language but English and I have studied the linguistics of no language but English. > How many of you have chosen a profession in linguistics because of your > interest in inventing languages? Or plan a profession in linguistics? Not because. I chose a profession in linguistics because it seemed the least bad way to make a living, what with me being very interested in it and reasonably good at it. > What have you learned from conlanging? Loads. What ingredients it takes to make a fully-fledged language. What a logically perfect language could be like, and how feasible it could be. Stuff about logic I otherwise wouldn't have delved into with such vigour. > What texts on language and linguistics have you consulted to help invent > your language? Surprisingly few. I have skimmed a few books that survey aspects of the grammar of multiple languages in order to pick up on any useful semantic feautres that I mightn't have thought of. But of course reading directed at a general enquiry into language feeds in to the conlanging. > Do you know of anyone who has not connected with the Internet or the List > who has invented a language? (I'm firmly convinced that "conlanging" has > been a private pursuit for many people long before the list started, but > that the list has increased its visibility as an art) Yes. A close friend of longstanding. I think I have also encountered a number of people who have invented IALs, but I don't really pay attention to that sort of conlanging. (There is a silent "mickeymouse" there before that last "conlanging".) I too am certain that before the net and web there were about as many conlangers as there are now. But I also think that the visibility of conlangs has in turn altered the nature of conlangs. Because it is now possible to see what others have done, both the good and the bad, and easier to learn about linguistics (both because of the net and the growth of linguistics itself), I reckon that conlangs have got more sophisticated, and more exotic and less bland. > Can you give me a short sample of your language with interlinear description > and translation? Can I plead exhaustion & lack of time? > Would you object to my mentioning your conlang/and or your name in my talk? > I will be discreet about some of the more personal questions you answered Yes. --And.