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George finally gets Bianca’s last name right (it’s [mæŋgəm]) and we talk a little about people mispronouncing our names.  Then we get into what makes a language good or bad, and don’t come to much of a good conclusion other than the old “eye of the beholder.”  Then after Bianca leaves Will and George are left to sputter about the enigmatic Ithkuil — Well, George sputters, and Will is a little more lucid.


5 Responses to “Conlangery #03: The Good and the Bad”

  1. Peter

    First, could you post the link to Bianca’s conscript rant page?

    Second, a very interesting discussion on “judging” conlangs. Of course, this is an old discussion, and not one that is going to go away any time soon, but I would suggest that there’s an additional element that’s not often taken into account: effort. For example, most people, if they go into a museum of modern art, will say, “I could throw something like that in 10 minutes from the junk in my garage!” Yes, there’s the message that the artist may be wanting to convey, but it’s a (universal, I believe) human trait to devalue that which is mass-produced, quickly made, with (apparently) little thought or effort put into its execution., especially if it has little to no utilitarian value. So in the case of modern art (especially the worst excesses), any message will be lost to the knee-jerk reaction, “This is junk, and someone actually paid good money for this?”

    Now, very few conlangers are getting paid to create conlangs, and the Secret Vice is most likely to remain firmly within the realms of amateurs (in the best, original sense of the word) for a long time to come. However, I think that we can attach a fundamental value to effort when it comes to conlanging. It’s not about whether a conlang is “good” or “bad”, but the value we attach to it. I think it’s safe to say that generally speaking, a conlang “sketch” will be found to be of lesser value than something that has been a labor of love for years, decades even. We naturally find higher value in a conlang that has more detail and shows signs that a lot of time and mental energy has been invested in it; we might not like it for aesthetic reasons, but we can still admire it and find value in it, because the conlanger invested value into it. All a sketch can offer is a passing, “Oh, that’s clever.”

    That’s not to say that a sketch has no value, just lesser. The value of a sketch is precisely in it’s ability to make us pause and say, “That’s interesting, I’d like to see that idea fleshed out some more and put into practice.” But what we’re really doing is valuing the idea. A mature conlang (or maturing–are they ever finished?), on the other hand, will be valued for what it is, in and of itself.

  2. Josh

    On the ambiguity topic, I would point out that most Auxlans tend to manage that with ad fixes. Esperanto Belo could mean beautiful person, thing or the quality of beauty. Or without context they could be presented as Belulo, Belajxo and Beleco.

  3. Matthew McVeagh

    It doesn’t make much sense to criticise/judge phillangs or explangs for not being something they’re not meant to be. They’re not artlangs. They’re not meant to be cute, friendly, naturalistic, or culturally embedded. They’re intended to stretch the human mind in how it expresses thought through language. Generally with the purpose of getting you to think in new ways as a result of not being bound by the limitations of natural language – and of artificially naturalistic constructed language. They’re basically not intended to be ‘used’ in the sense of people having conversations in them. Not all conlangs are. It’s kind of comparing apples and oranges to judge all conlangs by the same criteria.

    • admin

      I would agree with you that different kinds of conlangs should be judged based on their own goals. Langauges like Lojban or Ithkuil or even John Wilkins’ Real Character can be interesting as thought experiments. But I do think it’s good to note that some conlangs would be exceedingly difficult to use the way langauge is actually used.


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