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?

27 August 2008

language archives on glass disks

Recently several constructed language forums have had messages from conlangers who lost precious data due to drive crashes or corrupted files, and discussions of how rapidly digital storage media become obsolete. If your mother stored her conlang on 8-inch floppies back in the 1970s you would have to find someone who collects and maintains obsolete equipment to read the data now, if the disks are still readable.

Hard drives, burn-em-yourself CD-R disks, flash memory – all these media have limited lifespans.

SFGate has a news item regarding the Rosetta Project's efforts to save data about the world's languages, most of which are endangered. They are using glass disks with data micro-etched on them.

"The groups say the Earth's languages are rapidly disappearing and they are concerned with the fragility of historical recordkeeping in a digital age."

Interesting and inspiring.

25 August 2008

Latin's day in the sun

The 3sat television network has produced a 37-minute feature in Latin (with German subtitles). You can see it here. This is probably the biggest thing that will happen to Latin this year.

When I was 11 or 12 years old I went through a phase of thinking Latin should be the global auxiliary language. There are a few people scattered around the world who feel that way, and others who are keeping the language alive just because they find it aesthetically appealing. There is a new Yahoo group for Latino sine Flexione and there are also several groups for students of traditional Latin.

23 August 2008


If you don't know (or care) about the binaries groups on Usenet, you can skip this message.

Over on alt.binaries.world-languages the 2nd annual "Festival of Seldom Posted Languages" will be held August 29-31. There might (or might not) be a variety of interesting books and audio courses. Participation in the newsgroup has been fizzling out so I'm not super-optimistic, but if you watch the binaries groups anyway, it might be worth adding alt.binaries.world-languages to your subscriptions.

18 August 2008

Romulan language

Various news blurbs (such as this one) indicate that a linguist created a Romulan language for the upcoming Star Trek movie. Anybody know who the linguist is?

13 August 2008

Book of the Week #6: Quinto Lingo magazine

Our book of the week is actually a polyglot magazine, Quinto Lingo. This magazine existed from 1964 to 1980. It published short news articles, jokes, and occasionally a play or essay. Most items were published side-by-side in 5 languages: German, French, English, Spanish and Italian.

magazine cover

The particular copy in my collection (April 1967, which I recently purchased on eBay) also included Esperanto versions of a few of the texts.

Quinto Lingo made a deep impression on many young language-lovers and inspired a few of them to choose language-related careers. There are some reminiscences in this thread from Linguist List.

If you click on the thumbnails below, you can read two pages.

11 August 2008

books "free to a good home"

I'm giving away the following books. If you want one, send an email to rick at harrison dot net (Limit one book per person)

Quickhand, a self teaching guide. A method for rapidly writing English using systematic abbreviations.

Curs de limba romana. A textbook of Romanian written entirely in Romanian.

Essential World English by Lancelot Hogben.

Plansprachen. A compilation of auxlang essays in German.

09 August 2008

Conlang list archives 1991-1994

Have you ever visited the archives of the Conlang mailing list from 1991 to 1994? If you go there you can revisit the early days of online discussion of all things related to constructed languages. Auxlangers and artlangers co-existed in the same mailing list. Document scanners were scarce and there was no easy way to transmit images, so photocopies were shared via snail-mail. There were no wikis and there was no Google, in fact, there was no WWW, although there was an FTP server where files could be published.