Glossopoiesis

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A short introduction to glossopoiesis

6. Scale-model languages

There are people that devote themselves to language creation as a form of hobby. The metaphor of model languages for their works has been used for the first time by the language creator Jeffrey Henning.

In this case, the author's profound motivation seems to be the pure pleasure of creation, as well as the wish to find one's own voice. It has already been noticed by many language creators and stated by Claudio T. Gnoli in his essay on constructed languages that the process of making a language is a discovery of the author's own view of the world, inclinations and taste. For those who made more than one tongue it is also clear that each constructed language has a character of its own, and that the creative work consists much more in the selection of the right features than in abstract construction.

For many projects, this seems to be enough as a starting point. Indeed, many languages that later assumed a more specific character started this way.

At times, however, there may be other immediate motivations which drive the creative impulse, bestowing a unique character to the resulting projects. These motivations are as widely varied as can be...

For example, some want to make a language as realistic as possible, one that could be disguised for a real natural language. One case when the author explicitly declared that linguistic likelihood was his aim is Matt Pearson's Tokana, which, in my opinion, is indeed a masterpiece of naturalism. Other constructed languages also attain this quality, or aspire to it. More examples of realistic languages are Dirk Elzinga's Tepa and David Bell's Amman Iar.

On the other hand, some want the exact opposite: their wish is to create a language that is not like any know human language. One distinguished and beautiful example of this is Sylvia Sotomayor's Kélen: she declares she wanted to make a non-human language. Another unusual language, although not one that the author advertises as non-human, is Maurizio M. Gavioli's Kinya. Both languages feature beautiful and richly elaborated scripts.

In other cases, the leading reason is to empower the language with features that the authors feel to be lacking in their own mother tongues, or in natural languages in general. Philosophical and logical languages, with their striving for exactness, are an example, but we will talk about them in the next instalment. Another example is Suzette Haden Elgin's Láadan, a language designed to fit the communicative needs of women.

Some scale-model languages develop as case studies on some linguistic point, just as there are musical, literary and poetical studies. As with their counterparts, the value of studying constructed languages vary widely...

Finally, another common kind of scale-model languages, in some way akin to a case study, is what I would like to call alternate history languages. Such tongues typically start from an existing language, present or past, and trace a what if scenario. The most renowned and applauded alternate history language is arguably Andrew Smith's Brithenig, a Romance language that could have evolved in Great Britain (along the same lines as p-Celtic tongues), if Latin speakers had been enough to displace Celtic speakers. Brithenig gave inspiration to a few similar projects, and constructed Romance languages, in various settings and shapes, seem to be the latest fashion at the moment I am writing...

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