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> On 7 June 2016 at 01:37, [log in to unmask] <[log in to unmask]>
> wrote:

> 
> 3. Does a conlang maker invent a language?

> On Jun 7, 2016, at 10:21 AM, And Rosta <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> 
> Only if its inner workings are fully specified (which is currently feasible
> only for loglangs).

In this discussion, unless I’ve missed it, there’s only one thing worth stating that hasn’t been stated yet. It goes roughly thus: If a painter is painting a mural on a wall but dies before it’s completed, were they painting a mural, or a model mural? There’s no question that the mural itself is incomplete, and so isn’t the best example of a mural to show someone, but we’re talking about what the muralist was actively engaged in doing before they died. Same goes for an unfinished novel like Dead Souls, or an unfinished symphony, or an unfinished anything. There’s no argument about what it is once the artist has left off, either willingly or not. If it turns out that the work is never finished, though, it seems neither charitable nor accurate to say that they weren’t engaged in the creation of a full and complete work. If one includes the vast potential vocabulary of a language, it’s a task that likely is too time-consuming to complete for a single person living an ordinary life. But I’d argue that most language projects are sincere attempts to create a language even with the multitudinous vocabulary that will likely never be completed. Consequently, what the creators are engaged in is the creation of a language.

A conlang, like any other work, though, has certain levels of achievement after which time it can be appreciated. Dead Souls, for example, is one of my favorite works, despite the fact that it was never finished. There’s enough text there to be read and enjoyed. An unfinished novel that only has two sentences and maybe a couple of notes is probably not worth reading, even though it wouldn’t take but a minute (probably only of interest to a grad. student studying the author). Conlangs are the same way. A sketch that’s a day old has no meat. A conlang that someone has been working steadily on for several years is getting closer to something like Dead Souls, which can serve the purpose of a full novel in every sense of the term, despite its not being a full novel. Everything beyond that just brings the conlang closer to completion.

Within the community, there are certain unofficial benchmarks we’ve recognized when it comes to stages of completion of a conlang there are a bit haphazard. Completing the Babel Text is (or was) one. Celebrating arbitrary word counts is another (coining the 500th word, 1,000th, etc.). Being able to translate the 207 word Swadesh List. Participating in a conlang relay is one. Though it was a minor one, participating in an *inverse* conlang relay was a bigger benchmark. Aside from that, though, the standards are purely notional. We kind of rely on the conlanger to say, “Okay, you can use this for serious translation, outside of the need for specific vocabulary here and there”. It might be useful to actually come up with some criteria by which we can indicate how complete a conlang is, though I don’t know what those criteria should be. Gary Shannon had a list of graded sentences, I recall. That’s one thing, though it might lead to conlangers “teaching to the test”, so to speak (like how conlangs from a certain era had words for “mortar” and “confuse”). Perhaps it’s something that CALS could do. I don’t know. All I know is it might be useful, even if it’s just conlangers self-selecting (i.e. saying their conlang is Level 2.5 or Level 3, etc.). It’d be useful in evaluation to be able to know at a glance just how much meat is there, without having to refer to vague descriptions (e.g. that Quenya is more fleshed out that Sindarin [or is it the other way around?]).

David Peterson
LCS Member Since 2007
[log in to unmask]
http://www.artoflanguageinvention.com/

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