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Hi Jeffrey,

I agree with most of this, so in the main, I'm only going to comment on the parts I disagree with, if I may.

Sent from my iPhone

> On 1 Jun 2015, at 19:28, Jeffrey Brown <[log in to unmask]> 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.

Yes, same here, which probably shows in my conlangs!
> 
> 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.

Algebra's a language, it's just that it's more like a programming language than a natural 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.

This is probably because of their irregularities. Turkish, on the other, is supposedly rather regular, though apparently even Turkish has weird features.
> 
> 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.
> 
Yes. 
> 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.

I disagree vehemently here. A lot of the "naturalness" of natural language is in its irregularities, not only 
> 
> 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