--- On Tue, 10/16/12, Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> From: Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets <[log in to unmask]>
> Subject: Re: [CONLANG] Solutions for Bad Romanizations
> To: [log in to unmask]
> Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012, 2:46 AM
> On 15 October 2012 21:54, R A Brown
> <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:
> >> It didn't occur to me that by putting romanizations under
> >> a magnifying glass I might be entering a minefield,
> >> because I can't imagine attaching ethnic feeling to
> >> orthographical quirks.

Well, it oughtn't take a PhD in linguistics to know that people in 
general hold fast to all sorts of things, be they religions or
nationalistic ideals or folklore or family legends or feet and inches. 
Language, and all of its aspects, including the written one, is one of 
those things that people hang on to with great tenacity. Even after it's
lost, they still sometimes try to get it back (Cornish) and commence to
start arguing over how it should be spelled.

> > I recall many years there was a proposal to drop the -x
> > plurals in French after -(e)au and sometimes after -ou, and
> > to form the plural uniformly with -s.  A French colleague I
> > knew at the time got very indignant; the -x plurals were
> > "part of the language" and to change this was, apparently,
> > an assault on the French language itself.

Vive l'ixe!

> I believe that we on this list tend to be somewhat "blinded
> by knowledge":
> we are so linguistics savvy that we have forgotten how the
> average Joe's idea of language is. 

It's a good thing that you lot have got a number of (only slightly above)
average joes around the place then to remind you! Our opinions are just
as valid as the linguists' even if we don't have the masters or doctorates
to back up that opinion.

And in any event, it's the average joes that actually make the language
that linguists can only hope to study -- perhaps the linguists ought to
take more notice of how the makers and users of the language feel about
it and not just their own ideas on how they'd like it to be.

> We think it's "obvious" that a writing system is just
> a representation of a language, not the language itself,
> that it's secondary to the spoken word. 

This non-linguist doesn't think that the writing system -- what you and
me are communicating with right now -- is a good representation of the
language at all. It is part and parcel of the language, though it is not
the whole language. Spelling conventions (write as opposed to wryt), printers conventions ("part and parcel" as opposed to "partandparcel"),
punctuation, style -- all of that is every bit as much a part of English
as a whole as is all the grammar and syntax you care to mention. But 
writing only rarely (and always circumlocutiously) encodes anything but 
the skeletal basics of message. There's no tone, no emotion, no passion, no
gesticulation, no body language, no supralinguistic wossnames, no eye 
contact, no interpersonal and unspoken *communication*. Language is so 
much more than mere conjugations and spelling rules. This writing doesn't 
even come close to representing everything that English is or does.

(Waits for the linguists to shout about "extralinguistic" stuff not
actually being part of the language. Well. Nyah!)

> We forget that most people have exactly the
> opposite conception of language: whether through an
> education that focuses
> strongly on the written word or simply because this flawed
> idea is still
> very much alive outside of linguistic circles, people
> believe that what
> defines a language is its written form, and that the spoken
> word is secondary, if it's mentioned at all. If the early
> philologists fell into
> that trap, you can't blame the average Joe, who knows no
> better, for
> falling for it as well. Why do you think most linguists
> still have to
> explain that their job isn't to teach others how to write
> well? Why do you
> think asking someone how to form the plural of nouns will
> often result with
> them answering "add an -s to the word", i.e. a question
> about morphology is
> answered by considerations of orthography?

Maybe he didn't ask the right question? Ask me that question and I'd
probably give you a smart-arse answer too! ;)

> Once you remember that for the literate but linguistic
> unsavvy, the written
> form of a language is often equated with the language
> itself, 

Makes sense. We each learn the spoken part of language from the womb on
up to the time we go to school. By then, we're already native speakers.
But writing is different -- we learn that in *English* class. And what
language do we learn? English! Therefore the language we learn in English
class, all that writing and spelling and sentence diagramming, is English!
So much emphasis is now placed on writing, reading and spelling and grammar
that it's no wonder that folks see that aspect of the language as *the*
language, while the spoken part is more or less ignored, since we're
already expert in that part of the language.

> it becomes much more understandable why matters of orthography can be
> taken so
> strongly: most people are taught from a very young age that
> their language
> is a strong part of their identity. Once you believe that
> the orthography
> of your language is the language itself, messing with that
> orthography
> becomes the same thing as messing with your identity! Hence
> the strong reactions.

There's also tradition coming into play there. Messing about with the
orthography really does a disservice to the backward compatibility of
the present reader and five hundred years of the English language. This is
the best argument against spelling "reform" (or, really, spelling DEform)
there is. It's not a terribly good or even phonetic system, but it works
perfectly and allows us to easily read anything written since Chaucer
without resorting to a Newspeak - Oldspeak dictionary.

You might as well tell me to get rid of all the strong verbs as tell me
to get rid of all the silent Es or sentence initial capitalisation!

> Christophe Grandsire-Koevoets.