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> Esperanto would be the worst and most artless language ever created, if
judged solely by William Shatner’s performance in Incubus.

Inkubo aside, you could make the case Esperanto is pretty "artless" by
design, since Zamenhof's goal of ease of learning (which requires a certain
degree of naturalism) included complete regularity (which is not very
naturalistic at all).  Even if we stipulate that conlanging is an art,
auxlangs are not artlangs.  Writing is an art, and a well-written
instruction manual is both hard to create and a thing of beauty, yet an
instruction manual is not judged by the same criteria as literature.

On Sat, Jun 6, 2015 at 8:38 PM, David Peterson <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> > On Jun 6, 2015, at 10:22 AM, Jeffrey Brown <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> >
> > Instead of the lightbulb analogy, let's use playing the
> > piano.
>
> No, this is a poor analogy. If you’re talking about playing the piano, the
> analogy for conlanging is speaking the conlang (for example, is Actor A
> better and more convincing speaking Dothraki than Actor B). It’s definitely
> something that can be measured objectively and subjectively (did they
> pronounce every phoneme correctly? did they say every word?), but the
> resultant judgment says absolutely nothing about the conlang—just as if I,
> someone who can’t play the piano well, play a piece by Mozart badly, it
> doesn’t mean that the Mozart piece is a poor quality piece. It says nothing
> about the piece or about Mozart and everything about my ability to play the
> piano and play that piece of music.
>
> The only reason an analogy like this would work if there were absolutely
> no possible way to measure the quality of a piece without it being
> performed. We know that’s false in music (hence the academic study of music
> theory), and it certainly is false in conlanging. Plus, it would be kind of
> silly: The quality of a piece would change depending on who played it. That
> is, me playing Mozart would result in Mozart’s piece being considered a
> very bad piano piece; a professional pianist playing Mozart’s piece would
> result in it being considered quite good. By this measure, Esperanto would
> be the worst and most artless language ever created, if judged solely by
> William Shatner’s performance in Incubus.
>
> > The point being that process and result are different, and that any
> > assessment (whether objective or aesthetic) is based on the result, not
> on
> > the process by which it was achieved.
>
> I’ll agree with that, but disagree with what the result is, when it comes
> to a naturalistic conlang. Let’s say you had some sort of series of sound
> changes like this:
>
> *V > [-high] / q_
> *q > k
>
> Thus: *qile > kele; *kele > kele
>
> You may argue that the synchronic snapshot of the language presented at
> the end is the result. I say it is not: The whole thing is the result. The
> sound changes were chosen specifically, and the resultant homophony that
> would occur is something that was planned. You can’t ignore the diachrony
> the way you can in linguistics: The diachrony is itself part of the
> presentation, and the diachronics should be evaluated along with the
> conlang. With a naturalistic conlang, I feel the presentation is lacking if
> this element is lacking—and I usually give those conlangs that lack it a
> pass (after all, the results may just be the result of random noodling or a
> computer program, which isn’t interesting—or is interesting in precisely
> the way that it’s interesting if you dump out a bunch of children’s letter
> blocks and it randomly spells a word). That, though, is my choice as an
> evaluator, and is based on my definition of naturalism, which is why the
> definition is key. If you’re looking for something different, it’s going to
> change the evaluation radically.
>
> > I posited that utilizing a novel grammatical feature, one that was
> > present in no natlang whatsoever, would compromise the naturalism of the
> > grammar. This is like saying hitting the wrong notes on the piano will
> > compromise the beauty of the performance.
>
> Of course, if you talk about a wrong note in a piano performance, I
> immediately think of Thelonious Monk. He hits wrong notes all the time (I
> think we would be forced to agree with this), yet it’s part of the
> performance, and part of the performance’s charm—almost to the point that
> playing the piece absolutely correctly would damage the performance. The
> same is true of Bruce Dickinson’s singing.
>
> That aside, though, I’d suggest that this is a poor way to evaluate a
> conlang simply because of the way reality works. There are features present
> in natural languages that weren’t present in natural languages 2000 years
> ago. If a conlang uses some modern features, it gets a pass as naturalistic
> now, but doesn’t 2000 years ago? That’s a poor, poor metric by its very
> conception, which, to me, is enough to dismiss it entirely. After all, one
> could create a feature that doesn’t exist in any natural language at
> present, but evolve it as responsibly as possible, and it would fail this
> metric—until a natural language we speak now happens to evolve the same
> feature, then, presto-change-o, the conlang suddenly passes the test!
>
> Another problem with this is it doesn’t address how the feature happens to
> be present in the language, so the judgment will be meaningless. All these
> features, for example, are present in natural languages:
>
> Verb Stem: mana “to eat”
>
> Present Tense: manaa “eats”
> Past Tense: manab “ate”
> Hodiernal Tense: manac “ate earlier today”
> Distant Past Tense: manad “ate at some time in the distant past”
> Narrative Past Tense: manae “ate in the context of telling a story”
> Perfect Aspect: manaf “has eaten”
> Pluperfect Aspect: manag “had eaten”
> Imperfect Past Tense: manah “was eating”
>
> Etc. If a conlang that looks just like this passes the naturalism test,
> the test is meaningless—or at least as a sole metric of evaluation.
>
> One way to address this is to use the statistics Alex was talking about.
> With this example, the presence of a distant past tense *and* a narrative
> past tense would probably, on its own, be enough to raise a red flag.
>
> On the other hand, I expect this inventory would pass Alex’s test:
>
> Verb Stem: mana “to eat”
>
> Present Tense: manaa “eats”
> Imperfect Past Tense: manab “was eating”
> Perfect Past Tense: manac “ate”
> Future Tense: manad “will eat”
>
> So if the test wasn’t a stand-alone filter but was just a tool conlangers
> could use (e.g. run it through this and see how it scores), it might be
> useful—kind of like TurnItIn.com. TurnItIn.com maintains a large database
> of written material and professors paste their students’ papers into it to
> determine if they’ve been plagiarized. When you do that, it stores the
> paper, and also returns the percentage that matches other material in the
> database. Professors are instructed *not* to use it as a simple test of
> plagiarism, though. After all, enough students write position papers on
> abortion in the United States that someone is bound to accidentally write
> the same exact sentence twice. Plus, quotes from other sources are flagged
> as being identical. The professor, then, goes through the report, sees the
> quotes flagged and ignores them (provided they’re properly cited), and if
> an identical sentences pops up, the professor can look at the paper it
> matches and determine how likely it was that actual plagiarism happened
> (usually not likely).
>
> So yeah, if you could throw the conlang in and it returned a score, like,
> “74% likely to occur in the world”, that’s useful to the conlanger. It
> doesn’t mean anything on its own—and shouldn’t be used as a metric to
> either praise or critique a conlang—it just might be nice to know.
>
> > ​My original posting was mostly (d), but specifically about naturalistic
> > conlang *grammars*, and a little bit about (e), also specifically
> grammars.​
>
> Here I’d say the diachronics are a crucial part of the naturalistic
> conlang grammar.
>
> > I was looking at the categories of conlangs, and explaining why I felt
> that
> > some of the categories resulted more often in naturalistic grammars. In
> my
> > subjective opinion, that is. I think this was an initial attempt at a
> > framework.
>
> That’s not bad, actually. I’d propose a different model, but it’s nice to
> have multiple models.
>
> David Peterson
> LCS Member Since 2007
> [log in to unmask]
> www.conlang.org
>
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-- 
Mark J. Reed <[log in to unmask]>