Print

Print


Emil wrote:

>Padraic's remarks suggest to me that a language as an artistic product can be
>judged independently of real-world considerations. 
To a certain extent, I'd certainly agree with that. As a piece of art, a conlang
does not háve to be fully functional in order to be a good piece of art. Any
more than Dali's pocket watch has to be fully functional in order for Persistence
of Memory to be a good piece of art.

Conlangs, especially the artistic ones, the ones that are part of some larger
work of art, need not be judged according to primary world considerations.

>It seems to me that there are two routes to appreciating such an
>art-form. Both require a significant investment of time and
>effort up-front. First, one might attempt to learn the language
>fluently, which would give one a much deeper insight into it, but would
>be largely a one-shot deal. 

Significant investment, yes. But one that some people are in fact willing to make.
I think some folks here in the past have discussed their relationships with others
who decided to experience the art in just this way.

For what it's worth, I think this is probably about the best way to properly
experience conlang as art. As we all know, languages are integral parts of their
cultures, their speakers' mindsets and worldviews. The keen experiencer of this
art will be someone so curious about a language that he will learn it, internalise
the culture that goes with it and become intimately familiar with its turns of
phrase and modes of thinking. This kind of art experiencer would, in reality, expend
no more energy than someone who plans on living in another country and is undergoing
cultural and linguistic immersion. 

There are people who do this on a regular basis (Foreign Service workers, e.g.), and
so I don't think it must necessarily be a one time shot! I think the only draw back
to this kind of art experience is that, chances are good, the artwork itself -- the
conlang -- is probably not well enough developed for the experiencer to get much out
of the experience!

That said, I think for móst people, just letting
it roll through their unconscious is enough -- hear it when it's spoken (or sung),
read it when it's on a page. Intuitively integrate it within your overall experience
of the whole work.

>Second, one might attempt to learn about
>linguistics, and through that study, combined with exercises like
>translations, come to a general appreciation of languages as art-form.

This is certainly a valid (though I think, in some ways, far more sterile) way of
going about it. This is like the person who has heard of the Brandenburg Concertos
and decides, rather than just buying a CD, goes and takes a masters in classical
music and composition in order to appreciate the music from the inside out. To me,
this is a more clinical approach: more of a "brain approach" rather than a "heart
approach".

> Dirk says that testing a language, if it is to be like testing a
>bridge, is a practical impossibility. 

Well, a bridge is really only tested on opening day when you allow zillions of cars
and trucks to drive over it. Likewise, a language is only tested when people learn
it and use it. For practical purposes, yes, I think it is very unlikely that a
conlang will be so tested. But on the other hand, this kind of testing really doesn't
tell us anything. It would certainly tell us whether the conlanger did a good job of
creating a usable language. Ho-hum. Unless his góal was to produce a usable language,
the testing is pointless. It might be marginally interesting to an artistic conlanger
to know that he's created something useful; but I think he'd be more interested in
learning how others reacted to its artistry. Were they moved by its beauty or turned
away by its harshness? Did it add to or take away from their experience of his broader
work (a novel, a play, a song)? How did fit into that work, in the perception of the
experiencer? I.e., did he hit his mark, or did he shoot himself in the foot?

R A Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

>> So, how do you evaluate conlangs? Do you think there are some ways of evaluation that are better than others?
>
>As conlangs cover quite a variety, I'm not sure they can all
>be evaluated the same way.  

>

>But apart from that, it surely depends on _why_ a particular
>language was developed.  Does it meet the aims and
>objectives of its designer?   


I think, for most of our purposes here, this hits closer to the mark of good evaluation than looking into questions of
usability and in vivo mechanics. If I invent a conlang and intend for it to be a pretty sounding and visually engaging
enhancement for a friend's band's songs, then what difference does it make how usable it is? And even if I dó make
it usable and grammatically sound to boot, why would that matter? That is not its purpose.

For me, and I know not everyone here will agree, and in some quarters it might be a sacrelige to say, but the
creation of languages is become a secondary consideration to the understanding of the cultures that underlie them.
I'm certainly drawing on the understanding of the interrelation & interplay between language and culture in order to
discover the culture first and formost. Any language that gets conlanged is, in some respects, a byproduct. So for
me, a conlang is entirely successful if it opens doors into its own culture and the lives and histories of that people.
The language itself may or may not be usable: I'd argue that one could probably úse Avantimannish (but only
because I've written out so many stories in it in order to gain an appreciation for the culture that could come up
with those stories) to some extent; but for every conlang I've made that might could be usable, there are probably
half a dozen that exist only in theory or only in very rough form. Sketches that serve to illuminate the culture more 

than the language itself.

Some might say such languages are impossible to "test" and also that we can't even begin to know what could
be tested because we don't even know the overall shape of the language. Others might say the language fails
because it couldn't be used to say more than one or two specific sentences. Still others might fail it because
they can't even gauge its full aesthetics (for me, generally speaking, far more important than any actual usability).

I'd only ask: did it truly fail, if its very purpose in life was to throw back the sundering veil that separated our
vision out *here* from the vistas of a new and unexplored culture beyond *there*?


>I recall during my few years on Auxlang, some people were
>quite certain what criteria an auxlang should meet.  The
>trouble was that they not always agree with one another, and
>arguing over the criteria could itself lead to flames (I'm
>told Auxlang is more civilized now).  Interestingly, the
>current de_facto global auxlang, i.e. English, failed nearly
>all the different sets of criteria     :)


Well, to be honest, English fails utterly based solely on every auxlanger's (private or public) criterion, namely 

"I didn't invent the thing, therefore it is a stupid language, unworkable and an utter failure."


>To recap: it seems to me the important questions are "Why
>was the conlang constructed?  What were the aims and
>objectives of its designer?  How well does it meet those
>aims and objectives?>
>Ray


Padraic