17 February 2008


In recent months the issue of fluency has come up in several forums. Jim Henry took a poll asking people if they were fluent in their own langs; a recent ZBB thread asks people if they seek fluency in langs invented by others. Interesting questions, and there are some deep psychological issues lurking behind these questions.

If I only spend a few hours working on a sketch of a language, then I do not feel bad about never using it. On the other hand, if I spend hundreds of hours working on a lang but then decide not to learn it, speak it, write it, and sing it every day, then I do feel regret.

I do not know whether this regret is spontaneous and internally generated, or is the result of some value-system that I absorbed from the surrounding society– such as an guilt about "starting things and not finishing them."

But on the third hand, if I keep tinkering with the language, making frequent and significant changes, then I am making it impossible to learn the lang. And then I have to ask myself if all the changes are an excuse, a trick I am playing on myself. In other words I have to wonder if I don't really want to study my lang seriously, and perhaps my constant tinkering is an excuse I am creating to hide that non-desire from myself.

But clearly some langmakers do not have fluency as a goal. For them the construction process is its own reward, as an educational process and/or an artistic exercise. And some folks engage in langmaking for its medicinal values, mainly working on their langs during periods of stress or boredom. So, we must acknowledge that langmaking not aimed at fluency is a common and valid practice.

No comments: