>Well, you talk about linguists as if we all used the word "language"
>in the same way, but that's not the case.

Whuich is why I noted that I was oversimplifying.

>In *my* branch of the linguistics biz, we tend to specify "natural human
>languages" as our object of study.  "Natural" in the sense of naturally
>evolving, as opposed to consciously developed languages - conlangs, computer
>languages, predicate calculus, specialised cants, and perhaps pidgins
>(but NOT creoles)

Sounds close to what I was aiming for.  It is safe to say that Esperanto has
reached this stage.  Its evolution is slow, as is that of other languages which
have large written canons anda standardized form available on mass media or
the Internet.  Its resistance to evolution seems no stronger than that
of prescriptivist English or Academy French, except that for the most part
the speaker base accepts and follows the prescription.  Given time this will
probably change.

Lojban usage is also evolving within the constraints of its prescription, but
it is far too soon to call what we have "natural", even if it is experiencing
what will probbaly be later seen as a kind of "natural" evolution.

>It seems that the linguists you've been talking to are using
>"language" to mean what I mean by "natural human language".  I don't care for
>that usage, inasmuch as it differs significantly from the everyday sense of
>the word "language".  "Natural human language" is less open to
>misinterpretation.  But to each his own.  As long as you define your terms...

My audience is more often a linguist than a member of Conlang List, and I
had a particularly bad spell when we got started tryinmg to get respect
when the Esperantists and every one else were carrying on flame wars on
sci.lang and incidentally influicting their limited knolwedge of language and
ideals about the World Language Problem on the linguistics community.

Lojban was founded to test the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis, already a somewhat
maligned goal among linguists, and Loglan/Lojban has suffered from poor
diplomacy towards established linguists throughout itts history.  Lojban
(Loglan/Lojban) cannot succeed at its goasl without gaining linguistic
respect, even in the face of its "unnaturalness", so we have to toe the
academically correct line of definition of language, while fighting for that
line to be broadened.

>With regard to your above criteria 1-5, point 3 (language must involve
>at least two participants, be bidirectional, etc.) mostly reflects the
>attitude of those linguists who work in functionalist frameworks (using
>the term "functionalist" broadly).  In more 'formalist' frameworks,
>such as Principles & Parameters, Minimalism, and generative linguistics
>generally, point 3 is generally downplayed:  Language is defined as
>a system of knowledge ("competence") which is in principle separable
>from actual instances of communication ("performance").  Thus you would
>find disagreement among linguists as to whether point 3 belongs to the
>*definition* of "language" or not.

I think that merely requiring language to be "natural" makes point 3
operative, as you have defined natural.  Languages with only one (remaining)
native speaker are studied for preservation purposes, but are considered
essentially dead, and certainly not subject to study for their
natural evolution, because it deosn't much happen at that point.  Languages
which do not yet have significant numnbers of native and/or fluent speakers
don't undergo anything like natural evolution.

As I said above, I think Lojban is alreadyt starting to have something like
natural evolutuion, and we have said that our prescription applies until
(and only until) we are convinced that a natural population of language users
has provided a more natural inertial force against language change and
unnatural "reform".

>Unfortunately, many formalists - and I say
>this as a formalist myself, a Chomskyan even (ooh! *shudder*) - do not
>make use of actual examples of spontaneous language use, but base their
>theories entirely around elicited data and speaker judgements.  Myself, I
>try to use both kinds of evidence, respecting the primacy of spontaneous
>textual material, while using elicited data to confirm or discount my
>hypotheses.  Nevertheless, I adopt the Chomskyan premise that language
>is best viewed as a system of knowledge rather than a system of
>behaviour (insofar as they can be separated), and thus I would not
>include your point 3 in a formal definition of "language", although I
>might use it as part of an informal characterisation of language.

A polite Chomskyan! What a pleasure %^).

Yet as I said, you exclude languages which do not have a natural speaking
community from languages.  Which as I said is what I was alluding to in

>Here I find the term "model language" useful and appropriate.  A model
>language is and is not a language in the same way that a model airplane
>is and is not an airplane.

I use that term also, and would live to see it adiopted by conlangers in
place of the other term.

>*my* interests and goals - namely to develop and describe as
>thoroughly as possible a hypothetical but naturalistic linguistic system,
>while not intending that system to actually be *used* for anything, and
>that it can never be as complex or complete as a 'real' language

And Lojban differs from this in that we hope that, by having a significant
user community, that the language will not only be used for something in the
manner of a "real language" that it will acquire the complexity and completeness
of such a "real language" in relatively short order, while preserving its
essential core in some way recognizable from the prescription (and presumably
offering maximal chance to actually TEST some of the Chomskyan andbehaviorist
theories of language by starting with something rather unlike the typical
natural human language and seeing if after undergoing natural human language
evolution it shows characteristics predicted by the various schools of

lojbab                                                [log in to unmask]
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane, Fairfax VA 22031-1303 USA                        703-385-0273
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