Consciously Evolving Language – Workshop 3 – 24 Nov 2020

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Playing with language, watch excerpt from Conlanging: The Art of Crafting Tongues.


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My notes on ideas for developing our own conlang : I will make this a wiki so people can add or change stuff I’ve put into your mouths, virtually speaking !

Lisa : Speaking from wholeness? Johnny - Speaking from completeness - Godel completeness without consistency! Johnny - wholeness leads to part-whole thinking -
Marco : vibration - johnny - tones, overtones, undertones!
Geoffrey : integrating the integral [I didn’t say this but I thought it!]
Kate : expressions of archetypes [i.e. don’t reinvent the world, learn to rethink how the archetypes are expressed]
Marco : rethinking mythic as mountain, climax (and violence!) driven narratives vs non excitory non western narrative - but intensities and dips also (mountains and rivers go together) - mu wishima
Johnny : meta-level needs to be incorporated!
Marco : openess, completeness

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Thanks, Geoffrey, this will be fun. By the way, the name I forgot was Alexander Wendt, who authored Quantum Mind and Social Science. An interesting theory we once discussed a few years ago. I must look him up again and review his ideas.

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Well, I finally managed to watch the recording – not in one go, as it was produced, but I didn’t have to leave anything out. Some random thought-reactions:

  • The subtitle to the film from which Lisa showed clips says it all: the art of crafting tongues. What I saw was more about artistic expression to my mind than it is about language per se, whereby that doesn’t preclude that we might not find something more specifically (own) language relevant upon further reflection.

  • The breadth of approaches and media (e.g., knot-script, mask-script, etc.) was inspirational. We humans may be a questionable lot in many ways, but in terms of creativity, we still have a lot going for us.

  • Calligraphy and “word art” (which includes whole phrases or even sentences) is something that Muslims, due to their prohibition about representing nature in art, have been practicing for almost a millennium-and-a-half. It’s a rich practice, but the images produced have little relationship to “tongues” (made the subtitle just a tad misleading), though, and should be appreciated in their own right.

  • One question that I cannot shake is this: Why, of all the languages that have ever been created (and the film certainly makes clear how far back in history this activity goes) has nothing really significant flowed back into natural languages? Granted, many of them are not well-known and are the purview of enthusiasts, but whereas borrowed words and borrowed translations, for example, abound in natural languages, we don’t have anything from created ones, or do we?

  • When Lisa showed her first pair of glyphs (~@ 1:10:00) the first thing that sprung into my mind was “cosmic snowflake”. After a moment’s contemplation the notion “chaotic order” showed up. I didn’t realize (I’m a little slow on the uptake sometimes as most of you know) that these were separate glyphs. Being presented together created something of a context for me, so I interpreted them together. It was, however, even more fascinating to hear everyone else’s reactions and “hypotheses”. It was clear to me that the general hermeneutic process is still alive and well in all of us: each interpretation was highly individual and none of them linked in directly with what Lisa might have had in mind when creating them. We always start from where we are, but exercises like this can help us get a better handle on where that just might be.

  • Finally, I’d like to remind you of something my friend Julius (Caesar) used to say: abusus non tollit usum (or for those of you not up-to-speed on your Latin: abuse does not nullify proper use). English, an exceedingly young language in historical terms, has a very potted history, but it wasn’t the language that caused all the misery that colonialism, empire, and perpetual war has wrought, it was the speakers, the users of that language who abused it, if you will.
    The Romans were responsible for the most widespread miseries of their age, and the Roman Church, which still uses Latin to this very day every day (cf. ATMs in the Vatican) has a history every bit as potted as the Anglo-Americans. Different languages, but similar mindset, if you ask me. We have to look elsewhere other than the language to find the driver of actions.
    Truth be told, the whole notion of ownership and property which was the central theme of the article in my The Future of Democracy post is ultimately based on Roman law, but we don’t hold the Latin language as responsible for the misery.

  • I bring up the last point because in more than one of the clips Lisa showed, there was either the implicit or explicit assumption that their language was somehow broken or limited, hence the need to create a new one. That is simply an assumption that leads to a particular view of language. Obviously, that’s one way of looking at the phenomenon, but certainly not the only way. Do any of the creators themselves think that their creations are inherently broken and limited? Sure, they can now say things they think they couldn’t in their mother tongues, but is that actually the case? The assumption is that the medial configuration is closed, and the desired expression is not possible.
    It is possible, and even reasonable, to assume that languages are open, not closed, configurations. One of the key points of Chomsky’s revolution was that universal transformational grammar enable language users to generate an infinite (I’m not a mathematician so I’m going with the everyday meaning of unlimited) number of sentences. Some of these were nonsense (at first), such as his own grammatically correct “Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.” example, which in the meantime has taken on very rich meaning (it’s no longer nonsense, paradoxically, because it is a meaningful example of nonsense) in the meantime.
    This is not to say that people shouldn’t go off inventing or constructing languages if they want to. More power to them. Artists should do artistic things; creative souls should create. I still think, nevertheless, that the challenge lies in pushing the envelope of the given, in seeking ways to coax out more meaning from the language as we find it. To say something is impossible is, in a sense, to fulfill one’s own prophecy.

My two-cents’ worth.

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