29 February 2008

ULD 2.7 update (and I heart plants)

A rough draft of chapter 10 (plant species and types) is online now. That makes 438 entries so far.

I like plants. For many years I was an avid gardener and sort of an amateur botanist. There are so many really cool plant species in the world that most people don't know about! The candlenut is good example.

When language inventors chat online about taxonomy they usually refer only to animal species, never saying a word about plants, which seems so shameful and so senseless to me! Look around in your house and your environment, how many F-ing animal species do you see compared to how many plant species and things made from plants?!?! Wake up and smell the coffee, non-plant-appreciators!!

26 February 2008

language design: art or craft?

A certain online forum has had another close encounter with the question: Is language design an art or a craft? One person said it "can be" an art, but can never be as emotionally impactful as other arts such as music, cinema and so forth.

Hmm. It's true that music and movies can cause a major mood swing. A well-written propaganda movie can change one's views of a social issue. Can contemplating someone else's constructed language lift you out of a depression (or plunge you into one), or change your viewpoint on any issue? Can a lang design hit you with the same impact as a beautiful painting, movie or symphony? I have no doubt that working on your own lang can be an exalting experience.

Don't be too quick to imagine what your response would be, if you were going to respond. This is the kind of question that should be mulled over for a few years.

Somewhat dated but vaguely related is this article about ikebana, the Japanese art of flower arrangement. "Many of her students have been reduced to tears by what they have created," says the article. Okay, but have they ever been moved to tears by anyone else's ikebana?

24 February 2008

Ultra Configurable Computer Keyboard

Back on 19 January I wrote, "Somebody should invent a keyboard optimized for people who need to use a broad variety of diacritical marks and unusual characters."

Well by gar they've done it, I think. Check out the Optimus Maximus keyboard. Each key on this keyboard contains a tiny display screen that shows the function you've assigned to that key. The advertising blurb even mentions an artlang by name:

Optimus’s customizable layout allows convenient use of any language—Cyrillic, Ancient Greek, Georgian, Arabic, Quenya, hiragana, etc.—as well as of any other character sets: notes, numerals, special symbols, HTML codes, math functions and so on to infinity.


23 February 2008

naming the new magazine

It occurs to me that the hardcopy zine I'm assembling is really not a continuation of Journal of Planned Languages. It ought to have a fresh new name.

Coming up with a new name that isn't already in use is harder than expected. Lang is already taken, as is Lingo.

I own the glossopoeia.com and glossopoeia.org domains, so I've considered calling the zine Glossopoeia, but really, I don't like the sound of that word. Something poetic like Tongues Ablaze might work... or maybe not.

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.

11 February 2008

I was up all night lexicographicating, so rough drafts of chapters 8 and 9 are now online. I'm getting a bit sleepy so I'm sure these two chapters have a lot of blanks to be filled in and errors to be caught.

I need to find an affordable source for the Tsolyani books, or find someone who is willing to lookup words and contribute them.

ULD 2.7 Update

I have added chapters 6 and 7 to the multi-lingual dictionary project known as ULD 2.7

I will be moving it to a new domain, uld3.org, in a few months.

I was just thinking, these days I am almost allergic to collaborative projects, but the ULD started out as a collaboration of participants in the Conlang mailing list, and it was great fun. (It still is great fun, but it is temporarily in a situation where only yours truly can edit or add to it.) I wonder what has changed so much in the intervening 16 years… me? or the environment?

06 February 2008

new research/buzzwords in language acquisition

ScienceDaily.com has an article about linguistic research into a phase of the early childhood language acquisition process. This article uses the trendy catchphrase "data mining" to describe how the brain of a 12-month-old child learns the meanings of words. There were lots of great sarcastic responses at Slashdot. The article at Science Daily links to several other interesting items about language acquistion.