On Fri, May 15, 2009 at 2:18 AM, Brett Williams <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> else.  So it's not even aimed towards being suitable for translating
> into and out of-- though I guess it would be at least interesting, as
> its strange synonymity would surely produce a bizarre variation in the
> relay text! :)

That does sound cool.  I'd encourage you to
consider participating in a relay (probably not
an inverse relay, just yet) when NOIX is better developed.

> Which brings me around to another point, which is that I will in fact
> in a sense be participating in the relay.  Jim is going to participate
> with gzb, isn't he?

Right; Lars Finsen will be translating into gzb from
a Urianian text by Tony Harris, and then I'll translate
it into Kaleissin's Taruven and send it on.

> I have been struck by another possibility.  Perhaps, like myself and
> my scant hunger for making private language, the people who would
> learn conlangs are a strange and DIFFERENT breed than conlangers
> themselves.

I think so, though there's a fair amount of overlap
between conlang-learners and conlangers.  And
among conlang-learners, I'd distinguish at least
two types:

a. Those who learn Esperanto, or Ido, or Interlingua,
because it's spoken by a fair number of people
from interesting far-off places, but aren't
interested in minor conlangs with < 100
speakers, or in creating their own; typically, if
they're aware of other conlangs, they have a strong
opinion about the superiority of their favorite
auxlang over its rivals.

b. Those who are interested in multiple conlangs,
primarily for their linguistic or sociolinguistic qualities,
though they might not yet have devoted enough
time and energy to learn more than one of them

> It seems evident to me that there's a much larger pool of people who
> could be interested in being taught some particular unknown conlang,
> but who would be (reasonably enough) unwilling to go through the
> preliminary step of first becoming an amateur linguist!  There are a
> lot of people-- and I'm thinking particularly of my beloved
> monolingual U.S.A. here-- who would find it interesting to learn the
> strange meanings and structures of someone's conlang precisely because
> they had no idea already that language was even capable of such
> things.

Yes; perhaps we would do well to craft our
conlang descriptions in two forms, one aimed
at fellow conlangers and other amateur linguists,
and another aimed at a more linguistically naive
audience.  But it's so much work to do a thorough
description of a language in even one mode --!
and then, a description pitched at the linguistically
naive is liable to be downright annoying to
the more sophisticated...  Search the CONLANG
list archives for "fauxnetics" sometime.

>  If you're just finding words in a dictionary to string them together,
> any language is only a cypher.  It's only once you've seen a word in
> real context numerous times that you can piece together its special
> character.  It's only once a word is spoken back and forth many times
> between different speakers that it becomes a reservoir of shared
> meaning.

And besides that, even with a one-person language,
a word tends to take on more life when it's been
used many times than it had when it was first coined.
Its meaning may very well change in some way; even
if it doesn't, something neat happens when it becomes
a part of your brain and not just marks on paper.

> What I would really prefer, though it would
> take some cultural change, is for people in the conlanging community
> to become officially students of each other's languages, even if they
> were very very bad students.

That's probably a good idea; I tentatively plan to
keep studying Taruven for some while after the
inverse relay is over.

> I suspect there's also-- what do you call the opposite
> of the broken window syndrome?  One person being a student of a
> conlang, even if they never actually learn very much, might well open
> the door so that other people feel more welcome to join the party.  I
> think we need to break the ice a little.

Or it might motivate the conlang's creator to document
the language better, or work up lessons in addition
to the grammar; or confront him with things he thought
he'd explained already but apparently hadn't.

> Another perhaps fanciful idea I had was that a group of us could
> pledge that we'd all study a conlang together, and then somehow
> (perhaps a vote or a lottery) decide which one.

That's an interesting idea.  Some while back, I
think James Chandler, on the AUXLANG list, took
a vote among the list members as to what conlang
he should learn next -- Toki Pona was one of the
conlangs he was considering, I don't recall what
the other one was.

> Anyway I just think it would be a
> fantastic historical event for our artform, someone's long lonely
> quiet conlang suddenly noisy with a dozen students.  Even if we all
> left the language eventually, we'd leave it changed forever.  It'd be
> a good telling-story!

Let's do it!  I suggest, though, not taking the final
vote until after the inverse relay is over.   I suspect
a fair number of the people who would be interested
in this are participating in the relay and won't have
time to study another conlang until afterward.

> One thing I think will make it easier to learn conlangs is more
> language-learning tools on the internet.  Already there's flashcard

What might help, more generally, is some discussion
or study about how to devise a set of lessons for a
given language -- a framework like the Lingua
Questionnaire or Describing Morphosyntax offers
for devising a reference grammar.   I reckon
the best order to teach things in is not the same
for all languages, but there are probably some
principles that could be generalized and used as
guidelines for writing lessons.

> I believe there are a lot more ways we could explore of having
> languages be social from the beginning of their invention.  There's a
> special opportunity then, when no one knows more than anyone else
> about the language because there's absolutely nothing yet to know.

There have been several collaborative conlang
projects over the years.   I think Kalusa was by
far the most interesting of the ones I've been
involved in.   TAK, more recently, had an even
more interesting collaboration method, but
perhaps a bit too top-heavy; it fizzled a lot faster
than Kalusa, I think.   Other than Lojban, I'm not
aware of any collaborative conlangs that have
spawned a live speaker community.

> One idea I have for a dyadic conlang is for one of the amateur
> linguist conlangers here to team up with a linguistically naive
> person, and basically to make a language for them.

A friend and I talked about doing this, and made
the bare beginnings of a start on it -- I was going
to devise a conlang for him to use in his fantasy
novel.   But he abandoned that novel to work
on another novel and a nonfiction book, and I
never got very far with the conlang.

Jim Henry