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On 9 May 2012 17:58, Gary Shannon <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> A thread from 2009 on the same subject you might find interesting:
> http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/cgi-bin/wa?A2=CONLANG;p7512Q;200907191435570700C
>
> My latest thinking on the subject is: If "reality" is a computer
> simulation then "magical" incantations and rituals are really just
> "cheat codes" for the game, or passwords granting higher permissions
> within the game's hierarchy of users. The ultimate in power being the
> discovery of The Creator's username and password. That would give a
> player the same power as the Giver Of Data (G.O.D.) Himself.

Aha! I see we thought along similar lines. Including the programming
language analogy, although I'll extend it to note that not all
programming languages are imperative. There's declarative and logic
programming as well, which I think goes to better show the blurriness
of the line in these sorts of situations, where the intended meaning
can be conveyed in either form. Ergo, there's no real need to
distinguish them.
The less intelligent the addressee of spells is, the more like
computer programming spellcasting would be. There could be a lot of
room for variation, there, between commanding individual molecules vs.
talking to tree-spirits. When it comes to higher-order
world-intelligences, though, I would assume they may have
conversational use for the language as well, which expands the sorts
of things the language needs to cover well beyond what one could get
structuring it entirely like a programming language. Whatever
conversational strategies are used by nature spirits, etc., would then
also be available for human employ.
If we assume an intelligent addressee, then it also follows that one
doesn't really need a special mood or register for instruction or
commentary, any more than we need a special register for quotes in
existing natlangs; one assumes that addressees know pragmatically when
you're quoting or talking about something as opposed to actually
*meaning* it. Unless there's a chance that it might be overhead by a
particularly 'dense' part of nature....

There's certainly room for historical derivation in that regard,
though! I could easily see it happening that *part* of the language,
reflecting the actual original native language of the world, would
remain very rigid because that's what water understands and if it
doesn't understand you it won't turn into Mountain Dew when you tell
it to, but other bits of the language getting added on and altered via
natural evolutionary processes. So there would be certain lexemes and
grammar that are only used by humans, and don't actually have magical
effect except insofar as you can train your local spirits to learn
them, but are still considered part of the language by magical human
culture.

Thinking about giving instruction actually gave me another idea: the
possibility of meta-magic. Giving instruction in magic in the magical
language involves saying true things about how magic works so that
other people will know it. If those things are already true, then
their statement in the magical language won't change anything, so
instruction is inherently safe. But one can imagine writing magic
textbooks in the magical language that were not previously accurate,
but become so because they are written in the magical language! Thus
bringing new spells into existence. Like writing LISP macros.

-l.