31 August 2008

no resonances in newly-made languages? huh what?

In a blog called Shop Talk, cantueso expresses an old prejudice against constructed languages: "In a natural language almost all words carry a kind of ballast as if they were tied to each other from way back. Almost none are neutral, but some are more classy, others a bit old, others slangy or technical or only used by kids or typical of old men... And that is why a real language is not comparable to any artificial construct."

Cantueso is beating up on Esperanto, inaccurately, because Esperanto does have archaic words, new words, words that are no longer used due to political correctness e.g. lunatiko, swear words, idioms that some people use and others avoid– the whole nine yards.

But I would argue that even richer resonances exist within any artlang that one person has made solely for his/her own pleasure. In a personal language where each word has been handcrafted and carefully tuned so that it will sound right in a sentence, aesthetic resonances abound. Not the kind of resonance that makes you hate a word because your Phys Ed instructor in high school mispronounced it or because your least favorite politician overused it, granted, but internally generated resonances rather than extraneous ones.

Wouldn't you agree that the voluntary resonances built into an conlang by choice are to be preferred over those imposed upon our natlangs by vile people that we were forced to associate with?


cantueso said...

Of course!

I know language creators have a lot of fun and are very special people.

One of my main teachers also invented one. That has nothing to do with the redundancy of Esperanto as a world language.

michael farris said...

Planned languages (esp Esperanto as the largest and most well known) are one of the (or the) last remaining acceptable linguistic prejudice(s).

Otherwise reasonable people (who understand languages and linguistics even) feel free to say things about Esperanto (which does have some native speakers) that they would never say about ethnic languages.

michael farris said...

One recent example in my experience. I was at an Esperanto conference (concerning university level classes) where the name tags had people's names and the country they were from.

For some reason, the country names were all the fundamento versions, ending in -ujo (Germanujo, Polujo, Italujo etc). Apparently this was at the absolute insistence of one of the participants/organizers even though almost everyone I asked prefers the more modern forms Germanio, Pollando, Italio, which are problematic morphologically in thatthey appear to posit a morpheme -i- (which more traditionally minded speakers don't want to accept).

IME there's probably a dozen or so issues like that that inspire _strong_ opinions and lively rhetoric among partisans and many more minor ones.

Considering that Esperanto is mostly a second language that most speakers don't get to use every day (or every week) there's resonance to spare.

Jim Henry said...

I'm not sure it's true of all artlangs, but it's probably true of any artlang whose creator has used it for a while. In my own gzb the resonance comes both from the deliberate matching of the sound to the meaning, and from my memory of the circumstances under which I coined the word, and various ways I've used the word over time. I occasionally update the lexicon to document additional uses and connotations that I didn't have in mind when I first coined a word, but have developed over time since then in my use of it.

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