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Hallo conlangers!

On 30.05.2016 18:15, Melroch wrote:

> I have thought a lot about the question whether it is desirable to 'finish'
> or 'freeze' a conlang. It of course depends on the purpose of the conlang,
> but also on whether you are primarily a maker or a user, i.e. whether you
> mainly get a kick out of the construction process itself or from producing
> texts in the conlang, whether original or translated. The best analogy I
> can think of is not surprisingly architecture. If you take a hobby interest
> in architecture there are at least the following possible approaches, not
> at all necessarily mutually exclusive or inclusive:
>
> 1)  Drawing plans and designs,
> 2)  Studying the plans and designs of others,
> 3)  Building structures from your own or other people's designs and plans,
> 4)  Watching existing buildings.
> 5)  Living in houses with a character of their own.
>
> The conlanging equivalents would be
>
> 1)  Constructing phonologies, grammars, and/or vocabulary.
> 2)  Exploring the phonologies, grammars and/or vocabs constructed by
> others, or by yourself in the past.
> 3) Writing texts in conlangs which were possibly constructed by others.
> 4)  Reading texts written in conlangs.
> 5)  Communicating with others in conlangs.
>
> At least the people most active on this list tend to focus on (1) and to a
> lesser extent (2). I certainly do, althogh I focus on (1) and (2) at
> different times and when I focus on (2) the object is usually Tolkien's
> languages.

I also tend to focus on (1) - making my own conlangs - and on (2) - 
examining other languages (though natlangs as much as conlangs). I so 
far haven't written anything substantial in other people's conlangs, and 
I haven't written much in my own, though I have plans for doing so. Nor 
do I often read texts in conlangs, or communicate with others in conlangs.

> I even have a clear bias towards phonology, being less
> interested in grammar and even less in vocabulary. Not surprisingly I also
> have a keen interest in scripts, orthographies and romanization of both
> conlangs and natlangs.
>
> There is no question that by "conlanger" we usually mean a person primarily
> engaged in (1). I identify as a (1) person even though the practice of (1)
> is a slow and painful process, yet something I would not want to forsake.
> This focus on (1) unfortunately leads to a neglect of (3), while (4) and
> certainly (5) remain beyond the horizon for most people primarily  engaged
> in (1), at least for one person projects. The extent to which people
> engaged in (2) foray into (3) of course varies, but IME they do (3) more
> than (1) people.

Fair. While many conlangs have their inner workings exposed in reference 
grammars and dictionaries on the Web or (rarely) in book form, some 
others don't. Tolkien never published _A Historical Grammar of the 
Eldarin Languages_, and it seems as if he never even wrote it but only 
had disarrayed notes which he worked from, and of which only parts have 
been published so far. So we must study the texts he has written in 
order to unlock the secrets of his conlangs, just as with extinct natlangs.

> I think (1) people neglect and even look down on people who are mainly
> interested in the other avenues, with the possible exception of producing
> texts in their own conlangs.

It is probably true that many conlangers take little heed of other 
people's conlangs, once they have laid down the foundations of their own 
conlang. Many conlangers, however, look at many conlangs and natlangs to 
mine them for ideas he could use in their own creations. But I don't 
know whether the "solipsistic" conlangers (those that don't study other 
people's conlangs) are the majority or not. I think not. At least, I am 
not one! But I have to admit that I read more grammatical descriptions 
of conlangs (and natlangs) than texts composed in them.

> I also think the main reason why most
> collaborative conlangs peter out is a heavy predominance of (1) people. A
> collaborative conlang needs people with a healthy interest in at least (5)
> and (2), if we assume documentation falls under (2), and I believe that (3)
> and (4) are also more important for collaborative conlangs than for one
> person projects. There is certainly an imbalance in that Makers can and
> often (usually?) do neglect Students and Users, at least when it comes to
> artlangs, while Students and Users depend on Makers. How lucky those are
> who are all three in the same person! How lucky the collaborative conlang
> which attracts all three kinds of people is!

Surely, the "solipsistic conlanger" is not the kind of person asked for 
in a collaborative conlang project, and it may be the case that many 
collaborative conlang projects fail because the collaborators do not 
show sufficient interest in their fellow collaborators' contributions. 
But there are probably many collaborative projects that fail not because 
of that but because the members cannot agree on a common style.

In my yesterday's contribution to the "Lighting Some Flames ..." thread 
(apparently, someone revived a thread that is 14 years old!), I 
speculated that the League of Lost Languages petered out for another 
reason: that it treated the conlangs too much as an end in themselves. 
As you will have seen, Padraic opines that conlangs are meant to be 
*used*, and I agree broadly with him. A conlang needs a purpose. For a 
fictional language, the purpose is that it is the language of an 
imagined ethnic group, and the way to present it is to use it in writing 
stories set in the fictional world, in the forms of names of characters, 
places etc., and quotations of sayings, songs, and the like. Like 
Tolkien did with his. The LLL may simply have offered too little room 
for such usage because its bylaws require the conlangs to be 
insignificant enough not to make a difference on the known history of 
our world. (Though it should be possible to write a novel set "in the 
real world" that features lostlangs.)

> Yet there is a tension, even a conflict, between Makers and the other two
> kinds of people. To a predominant Maker a project which gets finished is
> bound to seem dead or at least a lot less interesting, and a lang which
> gets codified is not much better, since the Codification will tend to
> inhibit Making. Tolkien felt bound by that which had been codified by
> publication, and in his later years seems to have spent quite some energy
> trying to reconcile the ongoing Making with the Codified.

A conlang is never truly finished, I think - languages are simply too 
vast things for that. And once you have "finished" your conlang, you 
should use it by writing texts in them - and discovering things that are 
still missing on the way!

> The User needs
> codification and to the Student codification is often the main activity,
> unless the Codifier isn't even another main rôle. The User and the Codifier
> are justified in craving standardization. It is hard to use or describe a
> language which morphs too much. To the extent that I've tried to use my
> conlangs as a prop when writing fiction, or even as a part of the plot, I
> have experienced that myself, but at the same time I have felt Tolkien's
> dread before the Codified.

I can understand this "dread before the Codified" quite well. There are 
several texts in outdated forms of Old Albic (such as some contributions 
to translation relays) in existence, and I feel it would have been 
better if they weren't there. All I can do about them is to declare them 
"premature drafts" or "non-canonical".

Yet, I wish to codify my language in order to have a solid foundation 
for texts, and to avoid creating more texts that become obsolete by me 
changing the language!

Also, I have plans for daughters and cousins of Old Albic, so there 
remains much language-making work for me to do once I have codified Old 
Albic. And even when the Hesperic family will be finished (if ever!), I 
can surely find new ground to explore elsewhere ...

> Although it is likely that a successful collaborative conlang needs people
> fulfilling all the rôles it is likely bound to reach a point where the
> creative impulses of Makers versus Users and Codifiers get at odds. Too
> much morphing is an obstacle to the latter, while too little morphing will
> alienate the Makers.

Well, making goes before using, but with conlangs, there is an overlap 
between the two as in using a conlang, you will always find things (and 
be it just words) that have not been made yet, and have to be added to 
the conlang. If you are using your own conlang, that's fine - you just 
add the missing piece to the edifice - but if you are using someone 
else's conlang, you need to ask the maker to make the addition, and when 
you can't (for instance, because he has died), you are flummoxed.

> Ironically the Users and Codifiers can largely do without the Makers beyond
> that point while we know from experience that a collaborative with only
> Makers will wilt on the wine. Yet those who want to use and/or codify
> Tolkien's languages are perpetually hampered by the fact that the maker has
> departed: the vocabulary is limited and the grammar is incomplete, or at
> least imperfectly known (though from what we know of Tolkien's creative
> process it is unlikely that completion, let alone quantitative completion,
> had the importance to him which Users would hope for). Since Tolkien is
> truly departed the issue of epigonic Making is highly controversial, and to
> some Students even epigonic Using is anathema. In practice even the most
> makerish users mostly agree that arranging what the maker left behind in
> new patterns is the limit of what is permissible.

Yes - the immortal "purists vs. reconstructionists" debate. The methods 
used by the "reconstructionists" are linguistically informed: they apply 
known sound correspondences, inflectional paradigms etc. in order to 
"predict" the missing word forms. This is essentially what, for 
instance, Cornish revivalists do. But in the study of ancient languages, 
it is not considered legitimate to fill in gaps of the known by 
inventing unattested forms even in linguistically informed ways (the 
word in question may have inflected irregularly, the cognate may have 
shifted its meaning or been lost entirely) - and this is how the 
"purists" argue against the "reconstructionists". Apparently, they have 
reached a ceasefire by labeling the language varieties expanded by the 
"reconstructionists" with the prefix "Neo-" before the language name.

> Thus the complete departure of either the Makers or the Students or the
> Users is not a good thing if a collaborative is to remain vital. To be sure
> a multi-maker project is probably more similar to a natlang when it comes
> to evolving and staying alive without strongly profiled Makers, but I think
> that the challenge still is to keep all kinds of people around.

I found the best way of collaborating consists in a group (or just one 
member of the group) making a protolanguage, from which each member 
evolves a daughter language using the diachronic method. There is a very 
successful collaborative project working on this principle:

http://akana.conlang.org/wiki/Main_Page

I tried to start a similar kind of thing in the League of Lost Languages 
a few years ago, though little has so far come out of it:

http://www.frathwiki.com/Second_Caucasus_Project

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