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Herman Miller <[log in to unmask]> wrote:


> I think to some extent that depends on how you're defining "fully 
> functional". Klingon is functional enough for the needs of Star Trek 
> writers to write dialogue for Klingons. 

Largely that. "Functional enough". It doesn't necessarily have to express every
possible nuance of meaning or usage that a native speaker might need --- it
just has to be "functional enough" for the characters in the story to get through
to the end of the narrative without them having to turn to the Author, complaining 
of an insufficiency of tenses.

If I were making a conlang for a movie that involved some p.o.w. scenes, I
think, for the language of the captors, I'd focus on second person imperatives,
interrogatives, basic camp slang and terms of abuse. I'd not have to worry
about how the distant court poets distinguish devotion the Queen and devotion
to the High Goddess by a subtle shift in the now archaic mood-honorifics in
the old aorist. Just not appropriate to the task at hand. Not having to do all
that doesn't diminish the conlang as it is. I wouldn't claim it is a "complete
conlang" by any stretch. But if it does its task and it gets its artistic point across,
then I'd happily call it a "success" rather than a "failure", even though it might
fail by other criteria.

> (Maybe they get Marc Okrand to translate all the Klingon lines, I don't know. But 
> in principle they have what they need to do it on their own.) Tirelat and Jarda are 
> functional enough for me to use in translation relays, but the 
> documentation isn't good enough for someone else to translate something 
> into one of those languages.

That's okay. This is largely what I was getting at. I think one could form an
impression even with all those things lacking.

[snip]
>>  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".
> 
> I think you need both, especially with something as complex as a 
> language. You miss the details if you don't understand how languages are 
> put together. Even if you think of conlangs as a kind of music, just 
> sounds strung together, it helps to understand how they work. Conlangers 
> need linguistics in the same way that artists need to know anatomy. (Not 
> to the extent that physicians need to know anatomy!)

Fair enough. And I certainly don't disagree that some knowledge of how language
works improves one's appreciation of a conlang as a piece of art (just as this is so
for paintings or music or old buildings or needlework). Though, like music, in my 
opinion, we really don't ned to know much about how to string the sounds together 
in order to "feel" the language, or the music or whatever else. I certainly don't know 
how to put a concerto together. (And I found it quite interesting that, while writing
this sentence, I had the Brandenburgs in mind! -- though I had No. 2 in mind in
particular: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UJbkvmwUMkw) And while my 
"brain" appreciation for a concerto might indeed be deepened and improved by 
learning, I don't think my "heart" appreciation suffers in the least from my relative 
ignorance.

I of course am not 100% certain, but I'd be willing to wager that most people who
enjoy art or music or architecture or just about anything else are nt very aware,
even on anything more than a very elementary level, how those things really work!

> But you don't need theory to know that this is one of the best solos 
> ever in the history of music:
> 
> http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VxzY3tFTz9k

My point exactly.

>>>  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 gal 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?
> 
> Well, it might be useful information if a language passes such a test, 
> but if it fails, all you know is that the language isn't suited for the 
> users who tried to use it. That doesn't tell you whether the fault is 
> with the language, the learners, or the instruction method.

Well, I wasn't aiming these questions at "learners" so much as at "experiencers". I
guess maybe I wasn't entirely clear: I wasn't terribly interested in conlang as
"performance art" so much as the more passively "experienced art" such as one
might find in a book or movie or something. Learning a conlang in and of itself is a 
quite a bit different from being immersed in it as part of a larger work. The
questions of whether the conlang works "in the wild" and whether the students are
or are not up to the task and whether the teaching method was well or poorly done
are a little different, and more technical in nature. Valid line of questioning, just not
where I was heading! In other words, whether Quenya works as a usable human
language is quite a different consideration from whether this works in its given place:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7TU0hE47hS0

Padraic