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195279Re: On Creating Altlangs

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  • Jörg Rhiemeier
    Feb 21, 2013
      Hallo conlangers!

      On Thursday 21 February 2013 18:25:45 BPJ wrote:

      > On 2013-02-21 11:20, carolandray+ray wrote:
      > > I'm away from home & having to use webmail, so formatting
      > > may not be brilliant.
      > >
      > > On 20.02.2013 23:01, BPJ wrote:
      > >> On 2013-02-19 20:39, R A Brown wrote:
      > [...]
      > >> But that's what allows them to break out of the
      > >> bogosphere and into the altosphere (yes, intentiontally
      > >> ambiguous coinage!)
      > >
      > > _May_ allow them if:
      > > 1. the situation is a plausible one, e.g. applying Bantu
      > > phonological developments to Vulgar Latin is IMHO not a
      > > plausible scenario and no altlang, as I understand the word,
      > > will result.
      > OK, I should have added "if the scenario isn't all too outrageous.
      > > 2. the conlanger has the nous to allow such a break in a
      > > plausible situation.
      > OK, so maybe I'm expecting to much of the average newbie,
      > but essentially I agree with these points.

      Sure. Making a "bogolang" with a plausible scenario (I don't like
      this word, and prefer calling them "graftlangs", as grafting is
      what happens here) is a cheap and easy way of getting to a passable
      (though not really a good) altlang, or at least to a first draft
      of an altlang, which can be refined by tweaking the sound changes
      to make things make sense. (And we all know that language change
      is more than just sound change!) Yet, a really *good* altlang
      needs more work than just grafting sound changes of language A
      onto language B. You have to tweak the sound changes to match
      the phonology of language B, which always will be different from
      that of language A; you need to account for the morphology and
      syntax, etc.

      > >> so it's actually a good thing.
      > >
      > > Not necessarily IMO. Some bogolangs I've seen remain
      > > bogolangs & do not cross the threshold into the altosphere.
      > Surely. Did I say otherwise? "Allow" and "make" ain't the same thing.

      Indeed not.

      > > [snip]
      > >
      > >> yet you generally need to peg even an
      > >>
      > >> altlang on something, like what features of English and
      > >> Welsh are areal/Sprachbund features which perhaps could
      > >> have existed in a Brittanno-Romance language. It's
      > >> still essentially the same beast -- langauge A on
      > >> language B's turf,
      > >
      > > No - that is not the same as applying, say, Welsh or Irish or
      > > Germanic diachronic sound changes to Vulgar Latin. AIUI a
      > > bogolang is produced by:
      > > 1. taking language A;
      > > 2. forming a "master plan" from the diachronic sound of language B;
      > > 3. applying the "master plan" to language A.
      > >
      > > That is *not* the way I would develop, say, a Britanno-Romance lang.
      > No, but strictly speaking such a language, had it
      > existed, might or might not have any similarities to
      > Welsh or English at all; there is simply no way to
      > know, although the lack of influence from Gaulish in
      > French or from Brittonic in English makes "might not"
      > seem the safer guess.

      Indeed there is no way to know what kind of language would have
      evolved in Britain if Latin had survived there; assuming that
      it evolved in similar ways as Welsh is just an application of
      the "ceteris paribus" principle that is widely considered a
      "tool of the trade" among alternative history writers.

      But the ceteris paribus principle does not always work out well,
      and there are differences between British Celtic and a British
      Vulgar Latin, such as the latter being in contact with a
      continental dialect continuum while the former is not.

      And finally, the ceteris paribus principle in this case led to
      an *interesting* conlang. While one may be of the opinion that
      a Modern British Romance would be much like many other Romance
      languages, Brithenig shows a number of traits that set it aside
      from the usual Romance fare, such as its initial mutations.

      Surely, Brithenig is among the better among the many romlangs
      that have appeared in the last 15 years - it is quite plausible
      (as opposed to "Bantu-Romance" or "Sino-Romance" languages),
      and it shows some interesting departures from the Standard
      Average European structure of the Romance natlangs - and that
      in quite a plausible way (after all, Welsh shows that a
      language with those features could evolve in Britain)!

      > I see nothing wrong in donning a
      > Montesquieuan hat as a design strategy in doing an
      > altlang or a bogolang, but it's as arbitrary in either
      > case, the difference being that the 'weak' areal
      > traits/sprachbund version may actually produce
      > something plausible.

      Right. Brithenig is just *one* of many languages which *could*
      have evolved in Britain if Latin had prevailed there; there is
      nothing in it which could not have happened, I think.

      > However something entirely
      > arbitrary, on the "sound changes I like" principle,
      > might be just as plausible.


      > I actually created Rhodrese
      > on that principle, and it just turned out as something
      > which might possibly, if not probably, have arosen in
      > Gaul, so I located it there after the fact.

      The current location of Roman Germanech in the Odenwald is also
      after the fact. The language started as a language spoken in
      the entirety of Germany in a timeline where Varus defeated
      Arminius and Germany all the way to the Elbe river became a
      Roman province. This was considered for addition to Ill
      Bethisad, but never canonized and abandoned later. When I
      started the League of Lost Languages, I decided that Roman
      Germanech could be the Romance language that survived in the
      Mosel valley *here* until about 1100.

      The snag was that the sound changes of that Romance language
      variety are known (they just weren't known to *me*), and turned
      out to be utterly different from those of Roman Germanech
      (basically, Mosel Romance was just an "ordinary" northern Gallo-
      Romance language). Also, the sound changes of Roman Germanech
      did not match those of the *German* dialects of that area (most
      glaringly, the Mosel valley is north of the Speyer line, the
      northern limit of the /p/ > /pf/ change which occurred in Roman
      Germanech just as in Standard German).

      I needed to find a place in Germany where the Romans have once
      been, that had a more or less "fitting" dialect, and was
      sufficiently out of the way of the main traffic arteries to
      allow the survival of a Romance language pocket. The Odenwald
      at least got close enough to such a location and I could not
      find a better one (Thuringia, the homeland of Standard German,
      would have been perfect with regard to the local dialect, but
      it was utterly beyond the limits of the Roman Empire!), so I
      placed the language there.

      > >> with the difference that one tries
      > >> to create something which *might* have evolved under
      > >> normal conditions of language evolution as we know them
      > >> by humans like us, as opposed to something that absolutely
      > >> *could not* have so evolved.
      > >
      > > Of course.
      > >
      > >> My own Rhodrese is a case in point: it started out
      > >> decades ago as my 'ideal' mix between French and
      > >
      > >> Italian, which was certainly not realistic:
      > > I'm not sure what "ideal" means in that context.
      > Note the scare quotes! My personal predilections which my
      > youthful self regarded as 'ideal'. I was clear about the
      > subjectivity, but not about the semantics of "ideal"! :-)


      > > As this was a dialect _continuum_ from Sicily to Picardy, there
      > > was in reality a whole band of "mix between French and Italian"
      > > languages. Some may well still survive despite attempts of schools
      > > to impose the national languages of the two countries within their
      > > national borders.
      > > essentially
      > Several Gallo-Italian varieties live on to varying degrees
      > in the Alpine valleys of Italy, where the school system's
      > attitude to how the students speak out of class seems much
      > more relaxed than (it traditionally was) in France
      > <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vergonha>.


      > I see now that the particular mix of features of my
      > youthful "Roumain" (sic!), high mid diphthongization
      > *and* lack of intervocalic lenition, may perhaps be
      > found "sur la côte Sud-Est de l'Italie, depuis Molfetta
      > jusque dans l'intérieur des Abruzzes" which is an _ei_
      > area, but it still doesn't seem very interesting to my
      > present self. Something like the current Rhodrese --
      > **minus** i-umlaut -- is perhaps more *plausible* to
      > actually (have) exist(ed) somewhere in the continuum,
      > but it's not more *likely* in any way. First and last
      > its only raison d'être is as a reflection of my
      > personal lámatyáve, but I do also wish for it to
      > possess a modicum of plausibility which "Roumain"
      > didn't. There's no telling how my self thirty years
      > into the future will judge it of course.

      I now feel that Roman Germanech is a rather mediocre conlang,
      at any rate not getting anywhere near what I can achieve now
      in Old Albic; even the lesser members of the Hesperic family
      can at least compete with it. Yet, it has some strong points,
      such as the "leapfrogging" change of VL /E/ and /O/ to /i/ and
      /u/, respectively, which was not even intended that way but
      fell out of the combination of Western Romance /E, O/ >
      /ie, uo/ and German /ie, yø, uo/ > /i:, y:, u:/. It is not so
      decrepit that I feel like trashing it; but I do not have any
      further plans with it, other than finishing up and publicating
      a grammar sketch with a few sample texts and some vocabulary.

      > [...]
      > > ...the implausible (IMO) spelling of [v] as _f_ in a Romancelang.
      > > Implausibility may add spice, but then the thing passes from the
      > > altosphere into the artosphere.
      > Yes, at least unless VL /f/ were regularly lenited to
      > /v/, but then intervocalic /f/ was rather rare in
      > Latin.

      It was. Latin /f/ could occur word-internally only in the
      second members of compounds and in prefixed forms.

      > Actually a Britanno-Romance which coexisted with
      > Old English could have picked up the _f_ == [v] mapping
      > from OE; not very likely but possible.

      Yes. After all, Welsh somehow came up with this convention!
      Yet, if there had been a Romance continuity in Britain, there
      probably would have been a stronger continuity of *writing* in
      Romance Britain, and the orthography of British Romance more
      in tune with the rest of Romance.

      > I'd say spelling is a rather superficial aspect.


      > I
      > don't think the way Rhodrese uses the digraphs _ch gh
      > gn gl tx_ makes it anymore like Italian, Rumantsch or
      > Basque *as a language*, but nor do I think that the
      > presence or lack of linguistic similarity makes it more
      > or less likely that it would have those spellings
      > either, though its chosen geographical and cultural
      > position, and the way Latin GN, C'L and X developed and
      > some back vowels after /k g/ ended up as front vowels
      > in the language, might.

      My spelling of Roman Germanech is partly based on that of
      German, but it is not identical, after all, the phonologies
      are not the same, and I wanted Romance continuity to be
      respected in it. So, I have three letters for /s/, namely
      _s_ (for /s/ < Lat. /s/), _z_ (for /s/ < Lat. /t/) and
      _x_ (for /s/ < Lat. /ks/). The affricate /ts/, however,
      is always spelled _tz_.

      > >> Neither
      > >> is that much of an improvement over the bogolang unless
      > >> one keeps in mind that the main goal of conlanging is
      > >> aesthetic gratification and learning about Language,
      > >
      > > Is it? I agree with "learning about language", but is all
      > > conlanging about "aesthetic gratification"? Some auxlangers
      > > may want a result that is aesthetically pleasing, but I am not
      > > convinced that they all do. I'm not certain that aesthetics are
      > > a prime concern of engelangers.
      > >
      > > Aesthetic considerations certainly do not play any part in TAKE; it
      > > was just an experiment in trying to produce an "ancient Greek without
      > > inflexions." Nor I convinced that way back in the 17th century
      > > Dr Outis
      > > was concerned with aesthetics any more than his near contemporary
      > > Philippe
      > > Labbé was.
      > Perhaps not if you equate "aesthetic" with "beauty". I
      > don't. I think there is always an element of
      > consideration of artistic impact and appearance. How
      > much and in what way may differ of course, as do the
      > relevant preferences and concerns of the author and the
      > perceived audience. Surely even the most cacophonous
      > and/or mechanical engelang somehow reflects the
      > artistic preferences and sensibilities of its author,
      > or it would turn out differently.

      Probably. Few people want to create something they themselves
      find ugly; and I don't think that engelangers are an exception
      here. And often, beauty falls out of objective design goals.
      Perhaps the elegant shape of a wind turbine is a good comparison
      here - the wind turbine is shaped the way it is not because of
      some designer's whim, but because that shape makes for an
      efficient conversion of wind force into electric energy - but it
      is this efficiency that results in an elegant design. (Also,
      part of the beauty of a wind turbine is of course that it is a
      *clean* machine, producing energy without any toxic waste

      > All engelangs I've
      > seen have some sort of 'aesthetic coherence', as does
      > the Black Speech which Tolkien meant to reflect his
      > idea of ugliness (it isn't phonaesthetically or
      > 'morphoaesthetically' ugly to me, but the idea
      > expressed in its main extant text is no more or less
      > repulsive for that!)

      Black Speech is less ugly than Klingon, if you ask me ;)

      ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf
      "Bêsel asa Éam, a Éam atha cvanthal a cvanth atha Éamal." - SiM 1:1
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