"The growth of understanding follows an ascending spiral rather than a straight line." ~Joanna Field

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Other worlds, other languages

Remember how I apologised in advance for that rash of papermaking posts? The ones that never showed up? Yeah, I have a feeling this will be the same way, but just in case, I apologise for a rash of conlang/worlding posts to come.

Now that that is done, and I have a yummy banana ice lolly to eat, I thought I'd do a quick post about what I've been up to these last few days.

I'm a conlanger. Well, I prefer geofictionist...
A whosit? A whatsit?

If you don't already know, lemme throw some definitions at you. Stand still, this shouldn't hurt:

Conlang: A constructed language
Conlanger: A person who makes a constructed language
(Not to be confused with a canlang, or a Canadian language. Those are infinitely more frightening)
Geofiction: fictional worlds, geographic fiction
Geofictionist: A person who makes geographic fiction
Conworld: A constructed world
I'll let you figure out consports, conreligion, etc.

So yes, there, I've admitted to this oh so secret of vices. I know one other person, personally, that does it, along with a slew of internet folks, maybe two or three thousand as an upper guess (compiling all the numbers I know from a few forums and mailing lists, some of which are likely duplicated (like me!)), but I know there must be more lurking in the shadows.

So when you hear constructed language, what should you think of?

Well, think of Na'vi as a current example. The language spoken by the blue cat-people in Avatar? Yup. That's a constructed language. The people making that language hired a professor with a doctorate in linguistics to make a language for the movie. If you want to read more, wiki is a good start: Na'vi Language.

Want something a bit less current, but still alien? Reach only so far as Star Trek. The Klingons of that series have their own language which has become a major player in the field of conlangs. The language wasn't really intended, they mostly used nonsense "words" to get a feel of an alien tongue. But leave it to Trekkies to blow that up and out. Klingon is now a full fledged language with speakers around the world. You could even take classes at some point (This may still occur?) I unfortunately never really got into Star Trek, so my info is a bit dusty. However I have studied Klingon in a cursory manner, as it has structures similar to my conlang. You want to learn more, try the Klingon Language Institute.

So we want less current, but not alien. How about Tolkien? There's a reason that the secret vice quip was linked.
Tolkien made Elvish, and it seems that one reason he made the Lord of the Rings was to not seem crazy when putting forth the language. Neat, mm? Now Elvish I know as much of as anyone who never read the series (don't shoot!), but there are certainly a lot of resources about for it. So why don't we just direct you to the wiki, and you can put the knives down: Elvish Languages.

One more, then I swear I'll move on.

Esperanto. No, that's not some Spanish cowboy. It's a language developed by L. L. Zamenhof (Quite the mouthful, mm?) and his goal with this language was to have Esperanto be a politically neutral language spoken everywhere, allowing people of different nationalities to make an equal play towards peace.
A lofty goal.
And while it never reached that height (they don't teach you Esperanto in international business courses!) it is still the most widely spoken auxiliary language. There are 10,000 to two million fluent speakers, some of which are native speakers (that is, Esperanto is, or is one of, their first languages) Pretty big for something some guy just made up! Though, it has been around a while, the first book about it was published in 1887.
There is obviously tons of material about Esperanto out there, so I'mma leave you with just a Google search for Esperanto.

Now that you know a little bit about conlangs, I thought maybe I could share some information about how to go about making one, but I've kinda run out of space, plus you've probably wandered on to thinking about your dinner plans. That's okay, I ran out of ice lolly a paragraph and a half in, and I'm thinking about food too.

So I think I'll say:

ĝis la revido,
Mára mesta

or goodbye, in Esperanto, Klingon, Elvish and Na'vi respectively.

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