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zompist bboard • View topic - The Problem with Conlanging

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PostPosted: Sat May 07, 2011 10:35 pm 
Avisaru
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Conlanging, the secret vice, is a noble sport. It is wonderful for the mind. It trains you to think critacally and creatively. It requires you to research, learn and study. I daresay it's much more challenging for the brain then, say, Sudoku or Crossword puzzles. A detailed conlang taxes your brain in a much different way. The problem with conlangs is twofold. There is the problem of context. Or better yet, lack thereof. Then there is the problem of presentation.

Conlangs require context. Some conlangs are created for the modern world, although those are becoming less and less frequent. Most conlangs made by ZBB members are artlangs meant for conpeople. But for a lot of us, creating the language is much more fun than creating the the people. That requires so much more thought and starts overtaxing your brain. Conworlding is very overwhelming. Especially when it isn't clear what the end-goal of the exercise is. Are you going to make a book using it? Are you going to make a movie? A game of some sorts? Or are you just making it for the sake of making it and presenting it on a website in encyclopedic format? Which brings me to the other problem.

No one likes reading grammars.

There. I said it. I mean, I love reading grammars. I love reading about natural languages. And well made conlangs can be a joy. But most of what we post here is nowhere near that stage. And most people don't have in depth knowledge to critique aspects of grammar besides phonology and maybe rudimentary morphology. In general, reading grammar scraps and notes isn't that much fun and it gets old. Which is why most threads about in depth grammars do not get many responses around here. I don't blame anyone for it. I get it. But it's also made me come to realise that writing them up publicly here is just as useful as just working privately.

And reading a grammar is a lot less interesting when it exists in a vaccuum. Zompist's grammar's, though not written in a style that I prefer for grammars (I like them dry and scholarly), are a joy because they not only teach us about the language, but also the culture that speaks it. And if I want to learn even more about that culture, he provides more information. But getting to this stage took years and years and I still don't understand how he does it. Where does he get the time? Othere people here have produced magnificent work, but in most cases, the presentation is pretty rag-tag and unorganised. To no fault of theirs or anyone elses; this stuff requires work and it's not like any of us are getting paid to do this . (Except my acquaintance David Peterson, who made the Dothraki language for Game of Thrones. How I envy him.)

So I wonder, is there a way to solve these problems? For context, we must work and work and work tirelessly. And the process usually ends up being private. This board is good for quick questions and socialising, but deep questions require outside research. For presentation, we must either have a lot of work already done, in order to get away with the website approach or we must set a goal for ourselves that goes beyond conlanging (and conworlding) for conlanging's (or conworlding's) sake.

Personally, I go back and forth with everything that has to do with this. Once I make a conlang, relatively in depth, I'm not easily willing to just discard it and not put it to use. I've gone through several main conworld settings, and I usually try to emigrate languages between them, because working on several conworlds at the same time is undoable for me. But often the case is, the languages don't fit the new setting. The words made for them, the feeling, the writing method etc. I'm not in love with my conworld, but I've had it in the back of my head for so long, I can't do away with it. Trying to move Uscaniv to a new setting seems pretty much undoable. It would negate so much work already done. But I love Uscaniv. So how do I reconcile the two? For that, I have no answer. Except maybe work and work and work. But that doesn't seem appealing when I have to make a living for myself and turn in school work. Sometimes I wish I had never gotten into this. What's the point? But as I said earlier, it's probably the best exercise your brain could ever get. Hence the work required.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 2:09 am 
Avisaru
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I did a test once, an impulsive one. I won't do it again. On my familys old computer I opened up notepad and wrote something random that resembled a phrase, then I left it. My mother was the first to see it, and I havn't seen her behavining like she did then before or after. She became suspisous and began asking me questions after questions, but never waiting for an answer. She didn't even reflect over what she did at that point and it was like an automatic mechanism.
I said that it was just something random that I found on the net and that it was worthless, then I closed it and after that episode I keep my conlangs to myself or post them here.

Most people don't give languages a second thought because they take them for granted, like water in most of the developed world. Eveytime I show people that I know more of language than average joe, I can see their eyes light up with intrigue like I opend a door they didn't know was there or something. It never fails.

Personally, I just want something that prevents people from snooping around too much.

The problem with conlangs as I see it is, if you don't plan to start an new ethnic group; it is fairly useless.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 6:23 am 
Sanno
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*shrugs*
It's called the secret vice for a reason. The fact that we get together and talk about it doesn't really change that.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 7:13 am 
Lebom
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I guess if you want both and still want it dry as the Atacama, you could write it as a transcript of a joint presentation of Jones the linguist and Smith the anthropologist about the Whatawhozits people, their culture and language.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 8:26 am 
Lebom
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This is sort of falling into the fallacy that if it isn't "productive"/monetizable/popular, it's "meaningless" and a "waste of time". This is untrue and is a symptom of the fact that in the corporate world, this is generally the case. Time is only money at work; free time is not money.

There doesn't need to be a "goal" for conlanging. Period. At all. If you want to make a dry, boring grammar that nobody will read, that's fine. If you want to make a boring website, that's fine. All that matters is that you find it fun; conlanging is generally a hobby and finding it fun is the essence of hobbies.

What would you be doing with the time you spend conlanging otherwise, anyway? Working more? (Unless you need the money or fear getting fired, not worth it. Nobody ever says they wished they spent more time at the office on their deathbed.) Doing something else for fun? (Then you're probably getting paid precisely $0.00 an hour for it, the same as you would conlanging.) Going out on dates? (Love is very overrated.)

The only time you need to manage is the time you're getting paid for. It is impossible to "waste" free time.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 9:26 am 
Lebom
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You have to understand, this whole guilt about freetime is fairly common in countries with a Protestant work ethic. If you enjoy it, especially if you don't get paid, it's not work but leisure and therefore you shouldn't be doing it. Before someone jumps on this, I am knowingly using this term in a broader sense than Weber would have to include countries such as Japan. In other words, characteristic of but not exclusive to countries dominated by Luther's spiritual children.

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Last edited by sirred on Sun May 08, 2011 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 9:28 am 
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Ultimately, I think, you just have to conlang for yourself and not for people to see. If you put stuff online and people like it, then great, but that shouldn't be your main aim - because you're unlikely to come away satisfied.

It's true that people don't tend to read in-depth grammars. It's frustrating when the average neither-good-nor-bad phoneme inventory can get more responses than a long grammar that took its creator a long time. Perhaps the key to success is to present one's language in short chunks - ideally in a original, readable style.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 9:36 am 
Lebom
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Maybe it's a skill thing? I mean I am not a linguist nor will I ever be one. So what is someone like me going to say about a conlang's use of relative clauses beyond, "Oh that looks neat"? However most people here can tell when a phonology looks off. The learning curve for that it so much lower.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 10:12 am 
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 10:42 am 
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 12:03 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 12:22 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 1:21 pm 
Avisaru
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Get a blog, put stuff in manageable chunks, and post bits that are as complete as possible so you don't get scraps laying around...

At least that's what I'm doing. No idea whether it's "working" in any real sense, but I do have a tiny sort of "audience", so...

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 2:04 pm 
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I guess most of what I intended to say when reading the topic post is already said. I may just add this...

My conlanging/conculturing has expanded far beyond every single one of my original intentions and has given me hours and hours of true fun. It has gone from being just a (dubious) hobby into becoming a device that keeps my mind in shape in every aspect. Without this hobby I guess I never would have known a thing about even rudimentary grammar and how we use our language(s) every day (I never finished senior high school, remember?!) Add to that it, stimulates my imagination and helps me to think outside of the box.

Xhaimera is with me every day. I love composing Xhaimeran music, making up folk tales and writing official documents for my world. It's the reward you get when you create something: it's yours to live with and you can do whatever you want with it.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 3:01 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 3:41 pm 
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With conlangs, like all hobbies it shouldn't matter if there is a point. There doesn't need to be a culture, a book, or anything in the end. It's a hobby. Like bulbaquil said, it's about free time and fun. IMHO there is no need for it to be secret. If l would put some random words down and make a phrase and my parents asked me questions I'd tell them I was constructing a language. If they asked why I'd ask why not?

It's a hobby, and like all hobbies, it should be done for your enjoyment. You can be happy to share it, that's why you're here right? To be among like minded individuals. For instance, if you race remote controlled boats (it happens that the western final for this is in my home town every year), many people might wonder why you do that in your free time. People like me, I would find no fun in doing that, but it's your hobby, so it only matters if you find it fun.

If your wanting critique, or comments at all, you might have to settle for one or two. I know I've read many grammars on here, of the types where they are wet or dry with cultures. I've never commented because I wouldn't know how. I'm new to studying languages, and while I could comment and say. 'that was nice' I'd rather give people why I liked it beyond I just did. Maybe that's my inner writer.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 3:48 pm 
Lebom
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I like conlanging because it's both mentally challenging and a creative outlet. It's an art and a science at the same time.

What I don't like is how when I tell people that "I'm making my own language", they always show one of these reactions:

One, they'll overestimate and think I'm out to create the next Esperanto or something, when in reality I have no sociopolitical ambitions and Bengedian is simply a pet project, a hobby.
Or two, they'll underestimate and think it's just a cipher of English or a word game like Pig Latin. I really wish linguistics was given more weight in mainstream communication channels. Then probably more people would understand.

It's only rarely that someone will be genuinely interested (chances are they know some linguistics too). The problem is that most of my peer contact currently comes through the American public schools, where compulsory attendance laws mean that I'm above 75% of my peers, who I can't talk to because they're not interested in/don't understand what I have to say.

But, that's just me going on tangents again.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 3:55 pm 
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 4:09 pm 
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What's the point? I have nothing better to do. Sometimes I'm not awake enough to dick around with obscure bits of political philosophy.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 4:37 pm 
Avisaru
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 7:36 pm 
Avisaru
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I want to write a science fiction novel or series of novels, I just need to get the ambition to do it. I have a whole epic Sci-Fi universe in my head that takes place around AD 4200 (symbolic astrological connotations, that is when the Age of Aquarius ends and the Age of Capricorn begins) and in which humanity has become a Kardeshev Type II civilization that has colonized several hundred star systems. My attempts at languages descended from English is part of this.


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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 7:58 pm 
Avisaru
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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 9:09 pm 
Smeric
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I think Count's case, as well as Weeping's comment on Tolkien, the experience with Klingon, suggests something.

Many people here conlang in order to conworld in order to write a novel. Conworlds are awesome for a lot of stuff: movies, videogames, novels, graphic novels, short stories, paintings, etcetera. Just imagine if someone like Luis Royo had a coherent, well developed, interesting conworld with depth, substance, and verosimilitude [not realism, but sort of] to it. His stuff would be awesome... well, awesomer.

My point is that the thing here is that the apparent thing is that conworlding can almost only be showcased as a supporting art: this is, something that gives a work of fiction added depth and value. Nevertheless, we have the case of Mark and his Verduria: it's fun to read the virtual verduria website for its own sake [the almeopedia not so much, at least for my tastes], this is, the work showcases itself with just a bit of web design and a working knowledge of other arts: the guy illustrates decently, does maps and models and stuff. That, and the fact that his writing is entretaining, clear, light-hearted and frankly fun to read. So that might explain it.

Myself, I'm discovering myself to be more of a conhistorian... who knows, maybe I'll end up producing a sort of illustrated historical atlas or something... I always loved reading about those as a child. faux non-fiction, so to speak.

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PostPosted: Sun May 08, 2011 10:09 pm 
Avisaru
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I, uh, usually admit this to nobody (in fact, I don't think I've admitted it to anyone, ever), but conlanging is an intensely personal, private thing for me, sort of a weird variety of introspection. The only reason I ever share my work with anyone (and even then I'm always somewhat apprehensive about it) is that there's no way for other people to see in my conlangs what I see in them when I make them, if that makes sense at all. It still feels like baring my soul at random strangers on the internet, though.

So its value for me is entirely separate from other people reading it and commenting on it. Sure, it's nice to have that, but it's entirely unnecessary for my partaking in the activity.

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PostPosted: Mon May 09, 2011 7:46 am 
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