YAZ wrote:
My question for you practising conlang creators is this:
   How much, if at all, do theoretical considerations like
   those discussed in the review (and of course, the
   book) influence your thinking and activity?
If you choose to reply, please do so on-list.

I have to echo what Gary said: Naturalistic languages should
look like natural languages, and thus should involve natural
processes.  With or without theory, one should probably take
a look at as many natural languages as possible, so as not to
copy one's own, or to produce something too artificial.  Insofar
as theory helps one to achieve these ends, it is useful.

The problem, when it comes to natural languages, is when
theory constrains creation unnaturally.  I've seen this happen
dozens of times.  Take a construction like this:

Kana muleka o banti.  "The man eats corn."
Kana mareka o banti.  "The man ate corn."
Kana mineka o banti.  "The man will eat corn."
Kana bulanti o meka.  "Corn eats the man."

Okay.  If you followed that, the verb is unmarked, the object
is preceded by "o", and, paradoxically, tense is marked on the
subject.  If you buy into the theories behind certain frameworks,
something like this should never happen.  In fact, even if this
seems plausible, switch it around so tense is marked on the
absolutive argument (the sole argument of intransitives, and
the patients [still in second position] of transitives).  That's
really unnatural, in that it doesn't occur in natural languages.
However, the pattern is simple, and regular (currently, of
course.  Phonological changes and analogy can muck things
up a bit, for fun).  There's no reason that a human can't learn
this pattern--even if you did something like this:

Kana tek pandiza, lena muleka o banti.  "That tall, tan man eats corn."

Or even this:

Kana tulek pandiza, lena meka o banti.  "(Same as above.)"

As long as there's some sort of historical explanation for how
this happened (and I can think of a couple), there's no reason
that a human can't use this language, even though the T element
is buried in an NP.

The moment that the creator (or the critic) suggests that this
won't work or isn't naturalistic because of theory X, then theory
has crossed a line (or its adherent, at least).  There *must* be
a different argument for naturalistic than simply whether or
not something occurs in natural languages found in the world
currently or in the past.  After all, must natural languages are
the way they are because they're good enough.  As long as
folks can do what they need to do and say what they need to
say, innovation stops.  Plus, by and large, the reason languages
are the way they are today is chance.  Take the dual.  Why do
some languages have a dual while others don't?  Language
works with or without a dual; it just happens sometimes.
What if at the early, formative moment, those present decided
more than one was good enough, while another group decided
there was a good reason to separate out pairs of things?  So
be it.  Simply because some natural languages didn't get to
something yet, or at a particular time, doesn't mean a naturalistic
language can't.

This, of course, all has to do with languages that attempt to
look natural.  When it comes engineered languages, visual
languages, logical languages, artistic non-natural languages,
philosophical languages, etc., it seems to me that one has to
create one's own theory.  Linguistics is the study of *natural*
languages, so when it comes to what one can or cannot create,
linguistics doesn't have much to say.  Certainly, one can take
claims that are made and test them, but unless they're particularly
grandiose claims or foundational assumptions, testing them
won't be that interesting, it seems, since linguistics attempts to
explain what is, and not what can be imagined.

Frameworks, though, can be interesting constructs to tool
around with.  One of the best examples I've seen of this type
of language is Fith: a language built use LIFO grammar,
which, in real time, I think is impossible for a human to use.
There, the framework becomes a self-imposed constraint,
as opposed to a rule one has to follow just because.  If someone
claimed that languages could *only* work if the followed
LIFO grammar, we'd all think it was a joke (and would
probably want to know much more about the person who
claimed it).  The same applies for other frameworks and
theories.  Why look at any of them as mandates?

"sunly eleSkarez ygralleryf ydZZixelje je ox2mejze."
"No eternal reward will forgive us now for wasting the dawn."

-Jim Morrison