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To me, "covert irregularities" means inconsistencies, and inconsistencies
are flaws.
I'm not a fan of naturalistic conlangs.

stevo

On Wed, Jun 3, 2015 at 12:14 AM, John Q <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> Jeffrey Brown wrote:
>
> >Recently, on the Conlang forum, there was a thread that mentioned, in the
> >midst of a different discussion, the question of whether or not the
> grammar
> >of a conlang was naturalistic. This is a question I have pondered for some
> >time, as I am much more fascinated with the syntax and morphology of a
> >language, than with its phonology or its conculture.
> >
> >When conlangers speak of naturalistic conlangs, it seems to me that they
> >speak primarily of the way the language sounds, and of whether the
> >phonology has the “feel” of having developed naturally over a period of
> >time, because of the judicious application by its creator of fictional
> >diachronic sound changes.
> >
> >I think that conlangs grammars can also have a naturalistic “feel” as
> >opposed to an artificial one. I cannot define what makes this so, other
> >than it is a personal, subjective, aesthetic sense of the language’s
> >structure, which I can perceive if I attempt to use the language for
> speech
> >or translation. So, what follows is purely my own personal opinions of the
> >naturalism of the grammars of various conlangs.
> >
> >I. Relexes
> >
> >Although everyone disparages relexes, one thing about them is that their
> >grammars are naturalistic. After all, it is just a relexification of a
> >natlang, and a natlang, by definition, has a natural grammar.
> >
> >II. Mathematical Grammars and Engelangs
> >
> >Any grammar based on predicate logic, or computer science, or any branch
> of
> >mathematics, does not have a naturalistic feel. Examples are Fith, Loglan,
> >Lojban, and Ithkuil (sorry JQ). This does not mean that these conlangs are
> >inconsequential or unworthy in any way, merely that when I try to say
> >something in that language, it doesn’t feel like I’m speaking a language,
> >it’s rather like I’m trying to solve an algebra problem in my head. I am
> >aware that are a some people who can speak Lojban more or less fluidly,
> but
> >there are also some people who can quickly solve algebra problems in their
> >heads and that doesn’t make algebra a language.
> >
> >I suspect that my perception is based on the fact (or supposition) that
> the
> >parts of the brain that handle language are different than the parts that
> >handle mathematics.
> >
> >You will note that these are all engelangs. In fact, I cannot think of a
> >single engelang that has a naturalistic grammar. But that’s not the point
> >of an engelang, anyway, is it?
> >
> >III. Auxlangs
> >
> >The most common auxlangs are based on European languages. Their grammars
> >are really a regularization and simplification of a Romance grammar, or at
> >least of an IE grammar. I find these extremely easy. I can read texts in
> >auxlangs I have never studied. And I find their grammars to have a very
> >naturalistic feel.
> >
> >Now, one could retort, that because English is my native language, or
> >because I speak several European languages, Esperanto and the like feel
> >naturalistic to me because their grammars are similar to English or
> >Spanish. But, I have also learned Arabic and Hawaiian, and the grammars of
> >those languages are decidedly not IE in structure, yet their grammars feel
> >natural to me. I have also studied Japanese, Chinese, and Blackfoot
> (though
> >I don’t claim more than a smattering of knowledge of them), and the
> >grammars of those languages, too, feel natural.
> >
> >There is something about natural language grammars, their combination of
> >features or their structure, which, in my opinion, “kicks” the processing
> >of the language into Broca’s or Wernicke’s area (or wherever), rather than
> >the part of the brain that handles general symbolic manipulation.
> >
> >IV. Minimalist Languages
> >
> >I love Toki Pona. Thank you, SL! But it doesn’t have a naturalistic
> >grammar. It’s a toy grammar.
> >
> >V. Exolangs, Written-only langs, or any Non-sequential lang
> >
> >Human language is oral/aural and is produced by a single channel (one
> >larynx, one channel). Any conlang that doesn’t conform to those
> >restrictions ends up with a non-naturalistic grammar, in my opinion. But,
> >maybe that’s part of the point of an exolang, to come up with an “inhuman”
> >grammar, isn’t it?
> >
> >VI. Really great conlangers
> >
> >Okay, this is totally subjective, but just as there are great artists
> among
> >composers and novelists, there are great artists among conlangers. Through
> >a combination of innate talent, linguistic-aesthetic sensitivity, and a
> >perseverance of effort, they have developed beautiful conlangs whose
> >phonology and grammar are both admirably naturalistic. I can think of only
> >two people in this category. One is Tolkien; the other is living and has
> >gone pro. But even if you’re not Mozart it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy or
> >create music.
> >
> >VII. How to create a naturalistic grammar for your conlang
> >
> >Let’s suppose you want to have a naturalistic grammar for your new
> conlang.
> >How could you go about it? Here’s a recipe that I’m pretty sure will work
> >(though there’s surely other ways to bake this cake):
> >
> >1. Study the grammars of natural languages and choose grammatical features
> >that you especially like. Make a list.
> >
> >2. Eliminate inconsistencies. If you like the head-final and SOV of
> >Japanese, but also the case affixes and free-form word order of Latin,
> >you’ve got to choose one.
> >
> >3. Cross off 40% of the remaining features. Almost for sure, you have too
> >many features on your list. We wouldn’t be conlangers if we didn’t like
> >interesting language features. Take out 2/5 of your features (or at least
> >1/3). You can incorporate them in another conlang.
> >
> >4. Now, build and describe your core grammar.
> >
> >5. Sprinkle with a few irregularities for that diachronic zest. Everyone
> >savors a few suppletions and portmanteaus. Don’t over-spice.
> >
> >6. Use your conlang. Speak in it. Write in it. If it doesn’t feel right,
> >then reflect on what went wrong and try again.
> >
> >And so, what I am saying here is that if you incorporate a grammatical
> >feature that isn’t present in any natlang, then you probably have
> >destroyed, or compromised, the naturalism of the grammar of your conlang.
> >If your objective is to engineer a really unusual grammar with heretofore
> >unseen features, that’s fine, but if you wish to produce a naturalistic
> >grammar, then it’s more prudent to stick with the tried-and-true features
> >of natlang grammars. This belief is based on my intuition (admittedly
> >unfounded) that the corpus of the world’s natural languages contain among
> >themselves virtually every possible natural grammatical feature of human
> >language.
> >
> >Comments? Opinions? Disagreements? (No rants, please)
> >
> >Jeffrey
> ----------------------------------------------------------------
>
> No need to apologize to me regarding Ithkuil not being naturalistic.  I
> myself on the Ithkuil homepage clearly state as such.  Ithkuil is an
> experiment addressing the idea "even though human language doesn't work
> this way, what if it COULD work this way . . . .". In actuality, Ithkuil
> qualifies as an exo-lang, since it's grammar does not work anything like
> natural languages.
>
> As for your list of features needed to make a language naturalistic, I
> would add two more:
>
> 1.  Develop a rich set of conceptual metaphors and cognitive frames (as I
> discussed in my LCC1 presentation), as cognitive linguistics has shown that
> natural human language is replete with such structures.  In fact, the
> famous cognitive linguist Dr. George Lakoff has been quoted as saying that
> the reason he doesn't consider conlangs to be real languages is because of
> the absence of these two phenomena.
>
> 2.  Develop subtle patterns of covert irregularities and cryptotypes (as I
> discussed in my LCC5 presentation), as again, natural human languages are
> replete with such phenomena yet very few conlangers have bothered to deal
> with such covert patterns.
>
> -- John Q.
>