Right now I am looking at C "code" that is directly translatable to english.
But english would not be useful for instructing the computer how to behave,
because it is too wordy and ambiguous. "C" serves its purpose in a way
english cannot.

Someone please tell me what is wrong with a "code"? Who cares if your
conlang is a "real" language? Conlangs are invented with a purpose: whether
aesthetic purpose, purposes of clarity (like lojban), or whatever.

I am inventing a conlang that is only meant to be used in thought.
Specifically, my thought. It is never meant to be spoken, or shared. The
point is that it serves its purpose in a unique way, not that it's a
"language," whatever that means. The linguists are just bigots if they don't
like it. I am using very useful tools they've created to construct a conlang
serving a purpose. My labor is the fruit of their labor whether they like it
or not.

Go ahead an call my conlang a code, I don't care. Tell me if it serves its
ultimate purpose, and if there are criticisms in that arena, you have helped
me. If you want to banter about whether its a language or not, tell someone
who cares.

-----Original Message-----
From: Sally Caves [mailto:[log in to unmask]]
Sent: Saturday, November 07, 1998 12:31 PM
To: Multiple recipients of list CONLANG
Subject: Re: LUNATIC again

On Wed, 4 Nov 1998, Logical Language Group wrote:

> >Conlangs are artificial
> >languages.
> Etymologically, this is obvious.  The word may have been coined before,
> but has really taken root and gained some standing in the net-world only
> of this list.  But of course the question is whether an "artificial
> is a "language" at all.
> >Auxlangs are artificial languages that are meant to be spoken
> >and that are meant to facilitate global communication.
> I can accept this definition as accurate, though some use the term conIAL
> for this concept, noting that natlangs can be auxlangs.
> Note that you have two definitional clauses here joined by "and".  A
> that remains is to come up for a term where only one of the two clauses is
> satisfied.  You also need to be clear on the passive "meant".  Is it the
> attitude of the language inventor that matters in deciding what a conlang
> "meant" for?  If so, then Loglan/Lojban clearly is not an auxlang, no
> who you consider the language inventor(s).  Meant to be spoken seems to be
> a pretty much accepted goal, but not the facilitation of global

I wasn't really thinking in terms of Lojban in particular, Bob.  The
general discussion right now seems to be Auxlangs, and that's what I was

> > They have
> >different purposes, but it's entirely unproductive for an auxlanger to
> >denigrate a conlanger as not creating a "language," even if your
> >definition of "language" is something that serves a practical purpose.
> Hunh? "They" have different purposes?  You just gave a definition that
> makes auxlangs a subset of conlangs.  I can only guess you are comparing
> auxlang conlangs with non-auxlang conlangs.  But please don't compare
auxlangs with
> conlangs as if they are two different things when one is a subset of the

I have made myself unclear by mixing my terms up.  I'm sorry.  I really
prefer to see "conlang" as a term that can be further divided into
artlangs and auxlangs.  I believe that that was the original sense in
which it was used.  What I do is make a model language, a *fictional*
language as you suggest below.  You are doing something else.  All of us
are "conlanging."  The term "conlang," however, has acquired the meaning
at least on this listserv of one of its subsets, "artlang."  From now on
I'll use "artlang" to mean what I do to distinguish what you do.  Except
that Lojban is not really an auxiliary language.  I forgot.  A third
category is needed.  But whatever that is, it's not exactly a
ficlang/artlang or what have you.

> Now as to the denigration or disparagement, whether it is productive or
not depends as much on how it is taken as how it is intended.  I have
> regularly expressing such criticism because it seems almost universally to
> be taken personally rather than as an intellectual challenge.  that I am
> the most tactful writer and thus am at fault for people taking things
> personally cannot be denied.  But my intent in criticizing IS

Snipping the definition of language, which both you and I agree has to be
established; but because you have capitulated, it seems, to some of Matt's
sound criticisms of your definition, I'll pass on.

And also because, as Matt again points out, the definition of "language"
even among linguists is disputed.

> Given this definition, it seems clear that most conlangs are not
> languages and are not intended to be languages, in that their inventors
> never seriously expect them to be used by two or more people in
> communication, much less learned by a community.  This seems especially
> true of artlangs.  I don't see that this is necessarily a disoparagement
> of artlangs or artlangers - it merely recognizes that the goals are
> different from those linguists identify as the basic nbature of
> language.  I have no trouble forswearing criticism of anything labelled
> as an "artlang" because in using that label, the object is distinguished
> from that which is studied by linguists.

Artlang is my term of choice.  It seems that you and I are at odds here
only because of my clumsy misuse of "conlang."

> Languages which are used for world-building can be called "fictional
> languages"  without any problem.  By labelling them as "fictional" we do
> not expect them to have all the features and details of natlangs.

That depends, Bob.  Some fiction writers develop believable, fleshed-out
characters.  Even though they were never alive, we love them or hate them
as we do people we know.  Other fiction writers strive for a less
realistic depiction of character, or one that is bound by more formal
conventions, like Chaucer's Canterbury Pilgrims.  I'm a fiction writer,
and I know many world-builders who take the same attitude towards
depictions of countries/cities/languages.  Some of them map every single
street and building before they write about them.  A very few languages,
like Tolkien's Quenya, are worked out in detail, no matter how scarcely
they appear in the novels featuring them.  Most novelists, as I wrote
earlier on this list when I described my adventures at Albacon, are not
interested as we *artlangers* are in mapping every little linguistic
detail of their languages.  They don't intend to write poems or extended
compositions in them--just convey a sense of them with a few choice words
or phrases.  Ursula Le Guin is that kind of *artlanger* in contrast with
Tolkien, or maybe even Jack Vance.  Certainly Suzette Haydin Elgin.

> if the language in concept might have all the features, we understand
> that these details are not necessarily all described.  In most cases,
> the fictional nature of the culture using the language ensures that what
> we see of the fictional language is not a "code", since fictional
> authors tend to focus on what is different, and we see the differences
> in these languages more clearly.
> Alas, most conlangs that are not artlangs or fictional languages seem to
> to be "codes".

I think you need to take more of an interest in them and really study them
to see that this is not true in many cases.  What I understand of a
"code," as linguists use the term, is to do what Helene Smith did, who
claimed in the nineteenth century to be contacting Martians:  basically
she took French and found new words for each French word, so that it would
at least not look as though it was structured after English.  So her
"Martian" had pronouns like those in French, sentence structure like that
in French... etc.  My Teonaht, when I was ten years old, was a code.  It
structured itself rigidly after English, because I didn't know any better.
I even had the same homonyms in Teonaht that existed in English.  Now
THAT's a code with a vengeance.

What I and a number of other long-term artlangers are trying to do is to
make languages that aren't codes for our own; you can dicker with the
syntax and the morphology all you want, but the real trick, and this is
hard, is to allow the language to come up with ideas--through vocabulary
or idiom--that are unique to it.  Matt's "kemet," for instance, is a good
example of this attempt.

> I most often recognize a code by the fact that the lexicon
> is presented with single word English definitions.

You should see my own and Matt's lexicons.  Constructed languages often
give themselves away by having a one-on-one definition, making no
allowances for multiple meanings of words, or unique meanings.  It's very
VERY hard to break out of this habit.

 I find it hard to
> characterize a conlang like Glosa as anything other than "English with
> strange (regularized) grammar and odd-looking codewords".  In short, only
> one step removed from Pig Latin.  I cannot make this statement without it
> sounding disparaging - it IS disparaging.

Well, Bob, what can I say?  You have yourself said that you never log in
to any of my posts about T... I suppose I should be happy that my efforts
are at least a little more sophisticated than the conlangs you're
disparaging, intentionally or unintentionally; I just think that you
should beware of lumping ALL artlang/ficlang in the camp of "code."

Marina Yaguello made this same mistake, caving in to the same old
stereotypes about invented languages.  Only HER target was auxiliary
languages, which she attacks with a personal vengeance that is unsettling
(most inventors of language are middle-European; most of them don't know a
thing about linguistics--which she "corroborates" with the remark in a
note that professional linguists don't do this, despite Jespersen,
Saussure, etc. etc; most of them are dreamers; most of them are
middle-aged, wear glasses, have pointy beards !!! --in short, most of them
are Nikolas Marr, which is the main point of the invective in her book).
I love it, too, when she plays psychologist, going on and on about Marr's
fatherless childhood--right after she's accused inventors of languages to
be out their "depth."  But then, she never addresses artlangs.  Tolkien
never once makes it into either her book or her index, but she does go on
somewhat superficially about Jack Vance and Ian Watson, because of a
thread she wants to develop about sf and language invention.

 It seems not to recognize just how
> much of the variance in the world's language is not in phonology and
> but in semantics.  I should note that I have even criticized Esperanto in
> area - I have not found a definition of the Esperanto word for "morning"
> tells me what semantic definition of morning is intended, when among even
> European languages that spawned Esperanto, the range of definitions of
> "morning" is considerable (does morning start at dawn, before dawn, at
> does it end at dawn, after breakfast, upon the start of the typical
> at lunchtime, at noon?) - a language with a word for "morning" that gives
> hint of this question is begging for skepticism that the language inventor
> even realizes that there is an issue.  When a language inventor does this
> virtually ALL of his/her lexicon, I simply categorize the result as an
> code.  Unless of course there is text that indicates that the purpose of
> lexicon list is for gloss purposes rather than definition, and/or other
> commentary that makes it clear that the inventor understands the problem.

One advantage that a mature artlang has (like T, many years old), is that
it can begin to generate some of its own vocabulary.  Yes, as an inventor,
I DO understand the problem.  It's one that has been discussed with
frequency on this list.

> Now it seesm to me that it is almost impossible to serious look at the
> semantics of a language briefly, so when I hear of someone who has worked
> a language for a couple of months saying that this language is "complete",
> I instinctively classify the result as being at best an English code, and
> perhaps not even that.  Even Glosa took more than a couple of months to
> create.  A conlanger who has "invented many languages" immediately strikes
> me as naive or uninformed about the complexity of what s/he is trying to
> This is fine among our 16-year old conlangers, since they don't teach
> linguistics below college level, nor write books that identify these
complexities for pre college levels.

Most of the people who invent more than one conlang, like Tim or Nik or
Hermann, have NEVER to my recollection spoken of any of their conlangs as
"complete."  They have made forays into this idea, or experiments with
that.  Or they have mounted webpages giving samples of this Mizarian
tongue, or that.  I think the remark about the "sixteen year olds" is
uncalled for.  There are some sixteen year olds on this listserv who are
aware of this problem as well.  They read the list.

> >I also think I took some umbrage to "Lojbab" for implying in his
> >criticisms of new conlangs that Teonaht is not a language, only because
> >has a speaker of one,
> well, that does violate what I described in my definition above.  But you
> do not make it clear whether this is "one" or "only one so far", or
> yours is a fictional language with many fictional speakers besides
> (I won't attempt to dissect your prior posts on the language, which I
> I have not read).

Well... there it is.

 Your effort could still be a most reputable artlang, while
> not being an approprate subject for the scientific study of language.

Which is of course your intent, but not mine.  The creation is an end
in itself.  And the appreciation of other people doing like projects.
Which in some way obviates any objection you make to them, I guess.

> >and a small vocabulary (that is, compared to a real
> >language)
> Ah, here you have made the distinction yourself.  If you yourself
> T. from a "real language", why are you disparaged if I do so?

Lojbab.  Now who is forgetting whose argument? ;-)  My "umbrage," which
I'll admit was provocatively stated, was in your identification of most
con/art/fic/whateverlangs as non-languages.  All my responses below speak
to that objection.  My definition of a language, however, differs from
yours; I agree more with Matt in finding that under "language" as a
category we could put natural languages (a term I find problematic since
so much of what is considered "natural" has actually been constructed by
prescriptive grammarians in so many of the world's tongues), and
constructed languages for the reasons that have already been forwarded.
I never said that Teonaht was a natural or "real" language.

In my opinion,
> we should not call something a "language" unless it is a "real language"
> other than perhaps in metaphor or poetry - we now have perfectly good
> like artlang and conlang for things that resemble languages but are not
> "real languages".

Then what's the "lang" part doing in conlang and artlang, Bob?

> >Maybe I'm exempt from his criticism because T. is over thirty
> >years old.
> Well that certainly exempts you from the criticism that you thought the
> language was "done" after a couple of months and have therefore invented
> 2 dozen languages in your 45 years %^)

I have never thought it was done.  And it never will be.  Nor are REAL
languages really "done."

> >Over the course of the years, I have written prayers in T.  I
> >have written poetry; translations;  some people have even heard my
> >tentative voice in Peter Clarke's thoughtful Slova pages.  Some of you
> >might even have heard my songs (practice wav.files).
> Sounds like considerable evidence that you have developed a semantics
> for the language, presumably distinct from English semantics.  YOu may not
> have defined this semantics,

You may consult my very incomplete webpages anytime, Bob.  They are,
however, no real gauge for the extensiveness of Teonaht.

but it would not be T. poetry, but E. poetry if
> it were E. semantics.

You know, a lot of German and French poetry can have one-on-one
transference.  I can find an English semantic equivalent of _Der
Erlkonig_.  What's lost in a translation is something more profound;
the poeticness of the original text.  The double meanings of words;
their wealth of connotations; their music.  This seems like a flimsy basis
for judging the "code" status of an art/conlang.

> >Some of you have
> >responded in T., to my amazement.
> Ah, then it HAS been used communicatively in more than one direction,
> your original modesty.

Modesty is a topos.

> >It's being used like a language.
> So it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.  Is it
> duck?

No.  It looks like a LANGUAGE.

> It pretty much fits MY definition of a language.  The typical linguist
> thumb his/her nose at it though.

Matt hasn't, nor has And, but they aren't typical.  Mostly, these atypical
linguists have helped me.  I am indebted to them for their interest and
their many kindnesses.

> This probably doesn't much matter unless
> you are trying to gain the respect of linguists for your work.  I suspect
> you are not.

I am, in a manner of speaking, a kind of linguist.  Professionally, a
historical linguist (I teach college HEL), but firstly, a medievalist;  I
don't consider what I do here the main truck of linguistics except insofar
as I call heavily upon linguistic distinctions to help me deepen my
project.  In the process, I have considerably added to my knowledge of
linguistics and linguistic nomenclature, one of the true gains of posting
on and reading this listserv.  But no, T. has something more to do with

> I on the other hand AM trying

...don't beg the question.  You assumed before I answered that I have no
interest in gaining the respect of linguists(ics).  I have actually posted
a survey because I want to talk, in an academic setting, about the trials
of conlanging.  But this is a project very different from yours, as I
understand it.

... to gain the respect of linguistics for my work
> and for the field of conlanguistics in general.  Prior to the Internet
> the most contact linguists had with conlangs seems to have been being
> inundated intermittently by letters from language inventors seeking to
> have their language written up in academic publications as something new
> different (which it isn't), or more often, from auxlang partisans who feel
> slighted that their auxlang is not taken as seriously by linguists as by
> partisan.  Usually, such partisans invoke the specter of the "World
> Problem" referring to the lack of a single world language, when to
> the only world language problem is the wholesale disappearance of dozens
> not hundreds of languages and dialects every generation of the modern era,
> without them being recorded and studied.

As someone else has already said, your gripe is with them, and not us.
One of the inspirations for the survey was to find out if others felt as I
did; that casual mention of con/artlanging outside this list was met with
a number of negative stereotypes.  You are producing one right before my
eyes, without, you admit yourself, of checking your data.  I mean you jump
to all sorts of stereotypes about T. and my intentions for it, admittingly
having never looked at my posts.

> The success of MY effort depends on gaining the respect of linguists.
> success is threatened by other people who contact linguists and talk about
> their short term creations as "languages".  Maybe with this explanation,
> can better understanbd why I cringe when someone talks about their newly
> invented "language" that will never be completed, much less spoken by a
> community.  Would that we had an even richer vocabulary of terms for
> that are soemwhat of the form of a language but having decidedly different
> than that of natlangs or even auxlangs.

But where are they talking about them?  Here on this list where it's
licit???  If so, what's the problem?  This is a list for just that kind of
talk.  You needn't cringe at all.  What about tolerance?

> > But there's just no
> >point in taking umbrage.  So, again, apologies.

I repeat my apologies.  I was drawn into yelling at you a bit.

> No apology necessary to me.  I wrote undiplomatically, because the
> version is, as you have just seen, quite long-winded.  I hope you
> see where I am coming from when I post so undiplomatically, so that we
> better communication in the future.

That is my fervent hope, too, Lojbab! ;-)

> I will addres your auxlang questions separately, though I second John
> comment that there should not be an artlang/auxlang dichotomy - there are
> languages such as Lojban that do not fit in either category.  But I
suspect that
> your questions indicate that you would be more prone to calling Lojban an
> auxlang than an artlang,and I CAN answer some if not all of your questions
> for auxlangers.

Perusal of John's pages has made me understand that Lojban is not to be
considered an auxlang.  I would appreciate a clearer understanding of how
it differs from an auxiliary language.  Perhaps I don't understand what
is really meant by "auxiliary."

Sally Caves

Li fetil'aiba, dam hoja-le uen.
volwin ly, vul inua aiba bronib.

This leaf, the wind takes her.
She's old, and born this year.