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Hallo conlangers!

On 31.05.2016 18:23, And Rosta wrote:

> If conlangers really were creating languages, then your characterization of
> glossopoesy would be right. But I have come to think that Jeffrey Henning's
> term 'model languages' (which are to languages as model railways are to
> railways) is apter for what conlangs are.

Yes, this is well known to me, and quite apt.

> If I build a model cathedral with
> plasticene, you don't laud me for having built a cathedral (much tho you
> may laud me for having built a model cathedral). My reasons for thinking
> that conlangs fall short of being languages, or at least never escape being
> model languages, are these:
>
> 1. Every published conlang is a non-working model [or almost every -- see
> (3)]. No conlang's published documentation is complete enough for the
> conlang to be usable (as a language, mapping between thought and
> perceptibilia). Since many conlangs are used, they are of course usable in
> some sense, but what happens is that the conlang is a sketch of parts of a
> language, and the users call on their tacit knowledge of natural language
> to complete the sketch into a working model. The conlanger has created the
> sketch, not the working model.

Surely, most conlangs are not sufficiently developed to be used as 
languages for general communication. Some, however, are at least nearly 
so (though even with Esperanto, some additions were made afterwards as 
the language was put to use), and "completeness" is probably something 
most conlangers wish to achieve in their main projects at least. Some 
conlangs, usually side projects, are indeed not meant to be "completed" 
for some reason, but rather serve to try out an idea, as a source of 
names, or whatever purpose that does not require a full language.

We are at the debate about conlang completeness again which was trodden 
loose by Jesse Bangs back in 2002. How much does "completeness" matter 
in the art of conlanging? Surely, a "complete" conlang (i.e., one 
developed enough to be capable of being used for general conversation) 
is a goal that many conlangers wish to reach and which many people 
appreciate; it is necessary for such things as IALs or machine 
translation interlinguae. But what about artlangs? Is an incomplete 
artlang therefore a bad artlang? No. A sketchy conlang with only a few 
hundred words can nevertheless be masterfully crafted, e.g. when it has 
an interesting phonology, or is a part of a good family of diachronic 
conlangs. Contrarywise, a fully developed conlang may be a drab and dull 
relex of a major European language.

> 2. Conlangs lack the richness, the depth, the complexity, the fullness of
> natlangs; they are miniature models of natural languages.

Indeed, natlangs are so rich that their full richness can hardly be 
duplicated (if at all) in a conlang. People have complained about 
Esperanto that it has "no history", "no life of its own", etc., and I 
think what these criticisms capture is that it lacks much of the depth 
and richness of a natlang.

> 3. While a working model is achievable (and indeed I aspire to produce most
> of one erelong), the workingness is easier to achieve, the simpler and more
> rudimentary, and so model-like, it is. Of conlangs I know of, Unlws is
> probably closest to being a working model in its documentation.

The kind of complexity one finds in a natlang is indeed hard to emulate 
in a conlang. Consider irregular inflections, such as the English strong 
verbs. What at first glance seems like random vowel substitutions 
actually has a regularity behind it that becomes more visible in 
Proto-Germanic and crystal-clear in Proto-Indo-European. Most conlangs 
either avoid such irregularities entirely, or, in trying to emulate 
them, sport utterly random irregularities. Of these, the perfectly 
regular conlangs are certainly closer to a working model than the 
randomly irregular ones where you really have to learn hundreds of word 
forms (while the English strong verbs actually involve only a handful of 
ablaut patterns that each occur in several verbs).

> 4. The criterion of having a speech community is oft cited as criterial for
> elevating a conlang to full languagehood, but I think that's neither
> necessary nor sufficient. I'll leave to another discussion -- one that's
> been had many times before -- why it's not necessary. As for why it's not
> sufficient, used conlangs are as described under (1); they are more like
> semi-consciously devised pidgins.

There are certainly a lot of great conlangs with no speaker community of 
appreciable size! Where are the real-world speakers of Quenya, Tsolyani, 
Kêlen, Verdurian? Nevertheless, all of them are considered important 
achievements in the art of conlanging.

So we have two opinions here: Padraic opines that conlangs are meant to 
be spoken (or written); And objects that conlangs are just models and 
not meant to be actually spoken. I think both Padraic and And are right 
on some counts, and wrong on others - the truth lies somewhere in the 
middle. A conlang can exist without actually being used; yet, to be 
appreciated beyond us language geeks who enjoy reading grammar sketches, 
it has to be placed in a context where it is "used", and be it a novel 
or a film featuring fictional people who speak it.

--
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