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Hello, fellow linguist! Thanks for being a fan of my videos; hopefully there will be a new one in the next couple weeks. Hopefully. Anyway… yes,...
Hello, fellow linguist! Thanks for being a fan of my videos; hopefully there will be a new one in the next couple weeks. Hopefully. Anyway… yes, conlangs. Sadly, I haven’t been able to do any research on conlangs. At least not any well-planned and thought-out research because, honestly, I don’t want people to write me off. It’s easy to forget how negatively conlangs can be viewed within linguistics — at best they’re seen as a “funny hobby” — but I still encounter people who get deeply angry that I would even mention conlangs let alone teach a class on them (which I also do). From one perspective, yes, it’s absolutely true that the time I’ve spent talking about, learning, teaching, and playing with Klingon, Solresol, Esperanto, D’ni, etc. could have been spent with Navajo, Luiseño, Yupik, Breton, etc. Languages are dying and I’m not only not doing anything about it but I’m actively wasting my time somewhere else. From another perspective, conlangs make linguistics — as a field — look “silly” to outsiders, and the field is already misunderstood and, in many schools, in serious danger of being cut. So I’m basically the effete flaming queen at the otherwise respectable gay rights parade.
But y’know what? I like being the queen, so that’s fine by me. Bring on the prancing linguafag! And I don’t think it’s good for any field, especially one in the humanities, to only focus on real-world problems and applications. I think there is value in doing a thing simply for new ways of knowing it may allow us.
Anyway, no, I’m not doing conlang research. Not yet, anyway. But when I do, it will likely be pedagogical research. Yes, the social stuff is interesting (who plays with conlangs? why? how are they used in conlang communities? etc.), and yes, the linguistic stuff certainly has incredible potential to be interesting (is a variable head language learnable? can lexical categories be arbitrary? can you link language with numeracy or musicality?), but I think there’s something even more interesting…
I’ve recently come to the opinion that linguistics is one of the few fields of study without any artefactual culture. Linguists don’t create anything, we just study what’s already there. And I think that’s a huge oversight. So that’s where I’m going to start— I’m going to investigate how the conlang view of linguistics — seeing Language as a set of tools you can manipulate to create a language-artefact — impacts a learner’s ability to grok linguistic concepts (and maybe later language-learning ability). A kind of “conlangs as hands-on learning” study. Or something like that. I’m working on it.
As with any research, we have to ask: what can framing the question in terms of conlangs possibly tell us that we couldn’t figure out by framing the question in terms of natural language(s)? And that’s a pretty open area, I think, so there’s certainly a lot to be done if we ever get past the stigma.
But that just me. What about you? What kind of conlang research do you think we should/could do?
(I hate ending responses with a question; it sounds so teacherly! Gah!)
I don’t think the arguments against conlangs as an area of study are well-founded. Yes, you could focus on endangered languages, but so could the historical linguist studying medieval English church law. Or the neurolinguist studying acquisition patterns (surely these things can wait since there are dying languages!) I actually happen to be working on a revitalization project for a dying language AND a grammar for my conlang concurrently.
Though I think most of the studies would have to be sociological. Those linguistic questions are interesting, but one wouldn’t need a whole language to study them (e.g. you can just create enough grammar/vocab to study the acquisition of head variability, so is it really a constructed “language”?).
And that leads into what one classifies as a “complete” language. And this is what I want to study: constructed language typology among the conlanging community. What is the general consensus for language completion? etc. And then of course the big ones: why do people create conlangs? Why IALs? etc.
(Though I’ve actually been exploring a concept in my own conlang, Angos, with context-dependent verb ambitransitivity. I designed the language as an IAL so that people wouldn’t have difficulty getting to a level where I could test it reliably.)
One thing I’d like to do when I’m a professor is teach an introduction to linguistics (or linguistic typology) through conlangs, and show students that many of these languages are actually complete, original systems, and not just coded English.
I’m the genderqueer pansexual atheist feminist anticapitalist cousin.
I’m that cousin….
Satisfied with how it turned out :)
I laid weak in my caregiver’s lap. My eyes were shut tight.
The stern female voice began, “Professor, we have to find some way to cure him.”
A wizened male voice answered, “You can’t. There’s nothing we can do.”
It’s a disease that only affects my species. When we get older, we enter a biological process and our cognitive abilities degenerate rapidly. I coughed. My black, furred limbs stretched…
Minimal pairs do exist between Choctaw /i/ and /e/. Everything written about Choctaw linguistics is a lie.
And it’s so painfully obvious too. This 200 year old dictionary clearly shows minimal pairs and lays out a standard phonological set for English transcription. There’s no doubt at all.