Thursday, January 3, 2013

Conlang



    The extraordinarily dull word "conlang" is the 'hip' or shortened form of "constructed language."  And I'd say the "con" in "conlang" is entirely accidental.  Of constructed languages the categories include secret communication and other modes of deviousness such as happy faces, 'have a nice day,' 'enjoy' and on into the plethora..  But also, constructed languages have been arranged around the idea that a language is a basis around which to think.  This means, for adherents of constructed language, that through a constructed language, better thinking, or more creative thinking, or more ecologically sound thinking, can be achieved.  Such minds conceive of a world in which words in sentences can be constructed in such a way as to advance the better part of us at the expense of those characteristics in us deemed "really very unattractive." However it often seems to me that constructed languages are prone to an error because the endeavor is essentially to see words as elements in an equation.  Or to put it another way, noble adherents to constructed languages try to conceive of a world where  a "therefore" or a "thus" should mean "=."  Which in my view is a bad misreading of the always suspicious adage that "man is the measure of all things."  And the equally insane assumption that language is just another form of algebra.

      This of course is one of the sadder consequences of an assumption  which claims, that underneath it all, our species, is essentially a rational  species, or as the Romans would have it a "thinking species," and quite able to live up to the title Homo Sapiens, a term with origins in Aristotle's, "animal with sapience."  And worth recalling Protagoras ended his "man is the measure of all things," with, "of what is, that it is; of what is not, that it is not."  Which, despite being hard to say out loud because of all the t's,  rightly impinges on any suggestion of objectivity in the  "measure of all things."  It puts "measure"  firmly in the political realm. The point about 'wise' in our world and it's universe, is to never conflate "wise" with "certainty," or "conviction," or with any of those solace ridden terms to which we sometimes cling as though they were life rafts.  Which is why in dreams of my own 'conlang' the first letter of the alphabet is "Am I still here."  And perhaps somewhere there is a fellow "con-linguist" mulling over Plato's or Socrates' term "featherless biped" which Plato of Socrates thought useful in exploring a description of us. And was much applauded by his audience, until the irritating and always serious and very theatrical Diogenes produced a plucked chicken and announced, "Behold! I bring you man."  Plato or Socrates listened to the laughter, realized "featherless biped" lacked a certain something, it had a certain inadequacy of meaning, so to shut Diogenes up he added the words "with broad flat nails."  Ancient Wittiness, I guess you can call it.

Picture: John William Waterhouse (1882) "Diogenes": http://www.artgallery.nsw.gov.au/collection/

 


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