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Hallo!

On Mon, 25 May 2009 14:21:07 +0200, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:

> On 2009-05-24 Rik Roots wrote:
> > Or are you suggesting that every neophyte conlanger is 
> > given equal status with, say, Tolkein?
> > 
> 
> I'm suggesting that here are so many different tastes
> among us that one can't create any hierarchies based
> on what one may call "conlanging style", or completeness.

Indeed.

> The amount of work, study and thought going into a conlang
> is perhaps more objectively measurable, and I'd say they
> rank in the opposite order I gave them above:  I at least
> value higher a small sketch into which has gone a lot of
> thought over a conlang with a big lexicon and a lot of
> texts but created without much thought.

This is my opinion, too.  I have seen sketches of conlangs
which contained brilliant ideas, even though the conlang in
question was indeed merely *sketched*.  On the other hand,
I have seen conlangs with large lexicon and text corpus which
don't do anything interesting.  It is the old "quantity vs.
quality" problem.  There are forgettable short poems and
impressive large buildings; but there are also masterful
haiku and Nazi monumental architecture.

> I'm also suggesting that dividing us into the great,
> the good, the mediocre and the bad will put undesirable
> preasure (and incentive for vanity and imperiousness)
> on those towards the top of the hierarchy and discourage
> those towards the bottom, perhaps depriving them of a
> chance to develop in the art.

Right.  As much as there are differences between the masterpiece
of a seasoned conlanger and the naive euroclone of a fledgling,
a hierarchy of achievement is of dubious value.  The seasoned
conlangers should not tell the neophytes that their conlangs
suck; they should dwell in their critique on the strengths of
the neophytes' creations rather than the weaknesses.  It is the
responsibility of the experienced practitioners of an art to
share their experience with the newcomers.

> Also even Homer nodded sometimes.  I'm sure he'd
> misspell the names of his heroes from time to time,
> hadn't he been blind and if he could write.
> Even the great (including Tolkien) perform
> badly at times, and even the bad have moments
> of greatness, so no, I don't think we should
> pass around medals of rank and rods of authority.

Exactly.

On Mon, 25 May 2009 16:05:30 +0200, Benct Philip Jonsson wrote:

> [...]
> Jörg Rhiemeier skrev:
> [...]
> > This is the position, as far as I understand it, of the
> > "reconstructionist" Quendianists, but the "purists" insist
> > on such reconstructions being speculative and to be rejected,
> > as nobody can know whether Tolkien would have approved of
> > these reconstructions.  After all, such "reconstructions" are
> > *not* considered legitimate in the study of extinct ancient
> > languages such as Hittite or Sumerian.
> 
> Yet I doubt that most Hittitologists or
> Sumerianists (or their colleagues studying other
> extinct languages would object to revival
> attempts.  Some (probably the majority) would just
> ignore them, and probably some would would be
> amused.

Yes.  Few would feel offended, and hardly anyone would object
against "Neo-Hittite" or "Neo-Sumerian" - as long as they don't
claim that it were authentic findings, of course.

>       I guess more philologists than would care 
> to admit it have at least passingly attempted
> composition in their language of study at some
> point or other, at least jocously, and certainly
> most have at least in their heads composed
> sentences or word forms in the frame of "I wonder
> if X is attested" or "I'm sure X is/isn't
> attested", and some have written down such forms,
> properly asterisked!

Probably.

> As for Tolkien the claim that he would have
> objected to others using his languages is hard to
> believe.  He surely approved of others taking an
> interest in his languages, and he is on record as
> approving of others using Tengwar, correcting but
> not censoring their use [Letters #168]. Why would
> he then have objected to use of the languages? The
> fact that he was himself a revivalist of Gothic
> and Old English must surely count for something,
> and it is certain that both in that rôle and
> generally he was aware that there can be no use of
> a language without "niggling" with it. (See
> "Sauron Defeated" p. 225-6.)  He would certainly
> have understood that the amount of interest a
> language can sustain is dependent on how much
> creativity it can inspire, as he'd probably have
> agreed the philological investigation of an
> extinct natlang contains and depends on a large
> amount of creativity -- though creativity under
> constraint, to be sure!  I find it hard to believe
> that he'd preferred that posterity lose interest
> in his languages rather than use them.

Indeed.  I think if Tolkien could follow the debate between
the purists and the reconstructionsists, he would take the
stance of the latter!  I cannot believe that he would react
on vinyacárier with the snottiness of a certain Dr. Schleyer,
and the kind of bickering displayed by the purists would
strike him as "orkish", or definitely not "Elvish"!  No,
while he evidently opposed *misuse* of his languages, he
*was* helpful to those who wished to learn about them.

What regards me, I have no problems with others using my
conlangs - only that as for now, the public documentation
is inadequate, but I am going to change that.  I am even
considering putting up a "How to use Old Albic for your RPG
sessions" page.

> > Old Albic does not have phonemic lenition,
> > initial or otherwise, but allophonic lenition
> > occurs.  Most, if not all consonants have lenis
> > allophones occuring after vowels, nasals and
> > liquids, even cutting across word boundaries in
> > some contexts.  These allophonic lenitions will
> > become phonemic ones, resulting in Celtic-like
> > initial mutations and all that, in several of
> > the daughter languages.
> 
> Which of course is a feature which Sindarin itself
> borrowed from Celtic.

Yes.  And my motivation to use it in Albic is indeed from
Celtic, not from Sindarin.

>       In fact Tolkien's languages 
> are good examples of the fact that good conlangs
> can be built using building blocks that are
> themselves not original, but the finished building
> becomes original because of its particular mix of
> building blocks.  To my knowledge Tolkien's only
> really original design feature, for which I know
> of no ANADEW is the _sundóma_ or Characteristic
> Vowel which he used in both Eldarin and Adûnaic
> and describes like this in his Adûnaic grammar:
> 
> [Tolkien quote snup]
> 
> This AFAIK is Tolkien's only claim to a NONAD (No
> Natlang Already Dunnit).

Actually, I use something like that in Albic!  Each root is a
string of two, three or (rarely) four consonants to which a
vowel (one of /a/, /i/ or /u/) is attached on an autosegmental
tier.  On which position the vowel occurs, is determined by
the number and sonorities of the consonants.  For example,
'house' is KT` with the vowel /a/, giving the word */kat`/ >
Old Albic _cath_ (with two consonants, the result is CVC).[1]
'Lightning' is BLT` with the vowel /i/, giving */blit`/ >
Old Albic _blith_: the middle consonant is a liquid between
two stops, and in such a root, the vowel goes between the
second and the third consonant.  'Meat' is MKL with the
vowel /a/; in this case (nasal-stop-liquid), both **/makl/
and **/mkal/ would give a sonority contour problem, and thus
the vowel appears twice: */makal/ > Old Albic _macal_.

[1] _alb-_ 'Elf' seems to be a counterexample, but it isn't.
    The root is not LB, which would indeed give **/lab/, but
    ?LB, in which /?/ is a segmental phoneme without surface
    realization, evidently a weak consonant that was lost
    (compare the Indo-European "laryngeals").  This holds
    for all vowel-initial words.

> [...]
> > Very much so.  Piling up exoticism over exoticism in a single
> > conlang usually is not a good idea.  Old Albic has a few
> > "exotic" features - but only a few!
> 
> And what more, exoticness lies in the eye of the
> beholder.  As you know my dialect contains some
> rather phonemes which are rather exotic not only
> in a European context, but their presence in my L1
> makes me rather disinclined to use them in a
> conlang.  If I did it would be fricative vowels
> *distinct* from non-fricative high vowels.  That,
> AFAIK is a NONAD (but it probably isn't, if you
> look beyond my knowledge! :-)

Indeed.  There probably is no language which *isn't* weird
in one way or another.  I have been told, for instance, that
non-coronal affricates are vanishingly rare, yet German (not
really what one would call an "exotic" language) does have
/pf/, and some dialects even /kx/, which puts Klingon's /qX/
into perspective!

> [...]
> Have you read "A Secret Vice" and "The Notion Club Papers"?
> The best statement I know of what the art ought to be.

Yes.

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