What Kind of Conlanger Are You? 25th Post!

This is kind of a special post, cuz I realized it is my 25th post, so I wanted to digress a bit and post about conlangers, not conlanging, just for fun. This post is a little bit self-serving, but I won't do this often, I promise. Conlanging is something I do that I can honestly say I have no good reason for doing. It would make more sense for me to learn a third language than to make one up, wouldn't it? There are other hobbies I have that are kind of pointless, but have at least some merit to them. For example, I like to study and practice medieval sword fighting and martial arts. Now, sword fighting is not exactly a crucial skill to master, but I started it and have kept at it because 1) it helps keep me in good shape 2) I learn some history as I study it 3) I learn a martial art as I study it. Conlanging, I guess you might say that it is keeping my mind active and I'm learning some linguistic stuff... but really, I have no reason to do any of this stuff.

I just find it fascinating.

Thats it! I must have cumulatively spent at least a handful of days, if not a week or two of my life puzzling over linguistic concepts and agonizing over details of my conlang. And, to wax a bit patriotic after our Independence Day holiday, I think thats the glory of freedom. I don't have to have a reason for conlanging, and thats just cool. Digression over.


Éric Cadieux said...

Pointless is beauty. Usefulness is what is useful to life; if life is pointless then there is no such thing as a pointless hobby. Then I might be wrong.

Matthew Shields said...

Heh heh. :D

Jim Henry said...

I was just thinking about this recently, in terms of the conlang fluency survey I'm doing. Some conlangers just focus on creating a language -- more commonly many languages -- and don't use any of them extensively or try to become fluent in them. Others focus on one conlang and may even become fluent in it, or failing that, at least produce a respectable corpus of written text in it. There are others between those extremes, those who make many sketch languages but focus most of their attention on one main project (I'm that way).

I wrote this in a recent message to the CONLANG list,

>>....... Another point: it seems that many conlangers think of their conlangs
primarily in terms of *langue* rather than *parole*. I may be in a
minority in focusing on *parole* -- more and more in recent years, I
think. gzb is stabilizing, I'm becoming semi-fluent in it, and its
corpus is growing, so there's more scope to observe and describe my
usage and less scope to creatively make arbitrary, unconstrained
design decisions about how it's going to work. But my last few
sketchlangs have also been *parole*-oriented, almost all my notes on
them consisting of sentences in the language with general (not
interlinear) glosses, having little or no lexicon or analytical
description of grammar. Even with my engelang project säb zjeda,
there is more grammar implied by the corpus than what is explicitly
described in the grammar documentation. It may be that this
orientation is part of why I see artlanging as an inherently
open-ended process; the *langue* may at some point seem to be as complete
and expressive as necessary, but as long as *parole* is going on, it's
going to change the *langue* in various subtle ways.

Every natlang is a collaborative conlang in a sense, each speaker's
*parole* acts of speech and writing constantly modifying the *langue*
structures in their own and other speakers' brains, which influence
the form future *parole* will take, which determine the *langue*
structures that will eventually form in the brains of speakers yet
unborn. And it seems to me that something similar may take place on a
smaller scale in the interaction between a lone artlanger and his
conlang, if he works on it intensely enough for long enough, even if
not enough to become truly fluent in it. Once you get that kind of
positive feedback loop going, why would you ever want to stop?