As most of the reply below has nothing directly to do with
Bālaybalan, I've brought all under this new thread.

On 04/06/2014 20:15, David Peterson wrote:
> On Jun 4, 2014, at 11:21 AM, R A Brown
> <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
>> But this is like arguing that Quenya or Sindarin are
>> a_priori, which IMHO is nonsense.  If a language is
>> a_priori then it is *built from scratch from _first
>> principles_, without any reference to any natural
>> languages*.   Clearly Quenya and Sindarin are not so
>> built.
>> The grammar of both languages are original (though with
>> aspects that recall several natlangs that I will not
>> detail here) and their vocabularies are entirely
>> original.  But we know that Tolkien fashioned these
>> languages out many years of exposure to natlangs.
> This is, in my opinion, an absolutely useless
> classification,

'Absolutely' is a strong word.  It clearly misrepresents
what I was saying.  I did, in fact, say that IMO the
categorizing of conlangs as a_priori_ or a_posteriori_ makes
little sense and can be misleading when applied to artlangs
and engelangs.  They are, however, a useful categorization
of auxlangs.

> and I would say it is one that few if any conlangers
> agree with right now, nor would agree with—nor should.

Presumably most conlangers would at least agree with me
about a_priori and a_posteriori auxlangs.

> By this classification, the only theoretically possible a
> priori language is one built by machines, or by humans
> who have never been exposed to language.

... which is contrary to the facts.  The 17th century
conlangers Sir Thomas Urquhart (Logopandecteision), George
Dalgarno (Ars Signorum) and Bishop John Wilkins (An Essay
towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language) were
not machines and all grew up speaking English and would
certainly have known Latin and possibly some other
languages. The 19th century American, Rev. Edward Powell
Foster, who invented Ro, and the 20th century Japanese,
Fuishiki Okamoto, who invented Babm were not machines either.

What these people had in common was the notion that natural
languages were imperfect and flawed.  They eschewed
natlangs, and attempted to build a perfect "philosophical"
language from scratch, from first principles.  The languages
are in that respect a_priori; and I suspect everyone on this
list would agree.

This approach contrasts strongly with that of people like
Schleyer, Zamenhof and Jespersen who tried to craft auxlangs
out of natlang material.  I suspect everyone on this list
would agree that these are a_posteriori.

AFAIK the division of conlangs as a_priori and a_posteriori
was first applied to auxlangs.  There, I have said, the
division is a useful one.

> Any classification system that calls both Quenya and
> Esperanto a posteriori is, in my opinion, simply of no
> practical value whatsoever.

I agree that classifying all conlangs as either a_priori or
a_posteriori is of no practical value.  I do *not*, however,
agree that the classification itself is of no value for all

Both Esperanto and Quenya certainly draw their material from
natlangs.  If Tolkien had not been an English speaker with a
knowledge, inter_alia, of Latin, Classical Greek and
Finnish, Quenya would have been a very different language.

Therefore, IMO a classification system that calls both
Quenya and Babm a_priori is simply of no value whatsoever.

On 05/06/2014 03:13, Js Bangs wrote:

> Aside from that, I quite agree with David Peterson's
> assertion about the meaning of "a posteriori". To call
> Quenya and Esperanto a posteriori is to render the term
> meaningless.

No more meaningless IMO than calling Quenya and Babm a_priori.

On 04/06/2014 22:23, Chuck Haberl wrote:
> Ray, I agree that the problem is basically definitional
> and that your points are well taken

Thank you.

> (although characterizing other approaches to the schema
> as "nonsense" and "meaningless" is a bit over the top).

I did qualify "nonsense" by _IMHO_ (in my humble opinion).
As you see from the above, I have not been the only one to
use the term 'meaningless'; I certainly did not categorize
a_priori and a_posteriori as 'absolutely useless' (quite the
contrary).  However, IMO unless the terms are used with some
care they can lose meaning and usefulness

> would, however, dispute your claim that the terms are
> useful for auxlangs but not for any other forms of
> language, constructed or otherwise (but please stop me
> if I've misunderstood this claim).

I don't understand how the terms would apply to
non-constructed languages, i.e. natlangs.

What I argue, as you see above, is that they are a useful
categorization of auxlangs.  But if we try to categorize
_all_ conlangs as either a_priori or a_posteriori then we
run into problems and the results can be meaningless (see
above) or downright misleading.

That does not mean that some cannot be so labelled without
confusion.  No one would dispute that Brithenig is other
than a_posteriori. But does that really help?  Brithening is
a "what-if" language, in this case "What if Britain had
become Romance speaking."  I fail to see how any "what-if"
language could be a_priori - they must per_se be a_posteriori.

But as an example of meaninglessness or, at best, confusion
let me take the example of Lojban's lexicon. We know how it
was derived; we know the natlangs from which it was derived.
  The lexicon of Lojban is a_posteriori.  But it is certainly
not a_posteriori in the same way that the lexicon of
Esperanto, Novial or Glosa is. Therefore, I argue, to label
Lojban's vocabulary a_priori is contrary to fact, but to
label it as a_posteriori is misleading.

My argument is that where the two terms are helpful, let us
use them; but where they are incorrect or misleading then it
is better IMO not to use the terms.

> If we narrowly define "a priori" and "a posteriori"
> according to the epistemic conventions of philosophers,
> then we obviously run into the problem that David
> raised.

... and that I also raised.  But the two terms are both
Latin phrases and I am only too well aware what they mean.

> All of the so-called "first principles" and taxonomic
> systems assumed by these languages are environmentally,
> culturally, and even linguistically determined, and the
> approach to grammar that their designers take is
> invariably derived from the contemporary state of the
> art in the study of natural languages (often rather
> self-consciously so). Therefore, they are ALL undeniably
> "a posteriori," at least from an epistemological
> perspective.

They are indeed conditioned by the cultural milieu in which
they were derived.  That includes even the 'late-comers'
like Ro and Babm.  But the important thing IMO is that their
authors deliberately rejected natlangs and tried in their
own ways to build the thing from scratch.  Whether they are
epistemologically a_priori is, as I see it, rather like
arguing whether Cartesian philosophy is epistemologically
a_priori, with everything being logically derived from:
cogito ergo sum.

I think we can agree to call these languages a_priori.

> I guess what is needed is a shorthand for languages
> whose components are original to themselves rather than
> borrowed directly from another source or sources.

Well, yes, _directly_ is the interesting word. Zamenhof (and
others) took his vocabulary (with perhaps the odd exception
like the notorious _edz-_) directly from natlangs, whereas
Lojban derived its vocabulary indirectly by feeding the
natlang data into an algorithm.

I agree, however, that labeling Bālaybalan as a_posteriori
is as meaningless as to label Quenya  a_posteriori, and I
shall be amending the paragraph on Bālaybalan on my website
as soon as possible today.  But I equally hold, for reasons
argued above, that to term Bālaybalan as a_priori is equally

Of course Jörg is right:
"What this highlights is the sheer fact that conlang
classificatory terms are used differently among
interlinguists than they are used here."

So my classification and Jan van Steenbergen's differ;


Nid rhy hen neb i ddysgu.
There's none too old to learn.