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So there's this start-up game company called Serpent's Tongue
(http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/500894669/serpents-tongue-a-new-magick-experience,
you may have heard about it on the Conlangery Podcast) which is
actually developing a real conlang for use in their game.

This has gotten me thinking about what the distinguishing features
might be of a language of magic / supernatural beings. E.g., when God
says "let there be light" and expects it to actually happen, what
would that kind of language be like. Seeing as how culture has an
influence on language, it seems to me that the fact that saying things
in a particular language inherently results in them coming true would
create some interesting social pressures. Those will of course be
largely influenced by *why* the language works for doing magic, so for
purposes of this thought experiment I'm going to go with an animist
model in which magic is done by giving instructions to an intelligent
and responsive world, and this happens to be the language that natural
elements understand and can respond to. This leaves open the
possibility of being disobeyed, which means you don't become Archmage
just by learning the language; unless the language is incredibly
difficult, this results in a more interesting story setting.
It probably also results in extreme long-term conservatism (a common
trope for magical languages anyway), just how much depending on how
good The Natural World is at recognizing different accents.

Since the primary use of the language is doing magic, and magic
consists of giving commands to the world, the most common expressions
are going to be imperatives or requests (informational questions can
be reformulated as commands: "tell me this"). Thus, it would make
sense for there to be no particular distinction between imperatives
and declaratives (I mean, why should a god go around putting "Let" at
the front of every sentence, when everyone knows that's what's meant
anyway?) The equivalent of a declarative statement would just be
command to make it so, with the implication to the hearer that it
therefore *is* so. This creates the interesting situation of having a
language in which it is literally impossible to lie; but it is
possible to be disobeyed, so one could get a corner case of making an
utterance which one *expects* to be disobeyed while intending to
communicate the implication that it wasn't. Assuming that Nature is
not fond of liars and therefore unwilling to follow there commands,
you then end up with a positive feed-back loop where the intent to lie
results in a statement being a lie that otherwise would not have been.

Anyway, that's all of my coherent thoughts on the subject so far.
Perhaps I shall have more later....


-l.