tlhIngan-Hol Archive: Tue Nov 19 01:45:41 2002

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Re: QeD De'wI' ngermey

Paul, Paul, Paul. I used to think like you, way back. And in other 
avatars, in other fora --- in Lojban, say, or Esperanto, or when I'm 
lecturing in Historical Linguistics, I still do. But your talk of 
succession and evolution ignores how artificial languages really 
work; and that's dumb.

The point of a language is not that it live. It is not that it evolve 
naturally. The point of a language is that it do what the language 
community wants it to do. Usually these are the same thing. With 
artificial languages, they are not.

The Esperanto community is committed to Esperanto remaining backward 
compatible with the 1887 prescription. And so it always will. Which 
is why Esperanto will never be *allowed* to creolise. But then it 
won't become a real language, you might complain. Well it needn't. It 
needs to remain the Esperanto that the community wants it to be. 
That's what it's there for.

Ditto with Lojban and machine parseability. Ditto with Elvish and 
Tolkien's canon. Ditto with Klingon and Okrand's canon. The language 
community here wants to retain compatibility with Okrand's canon; you 
can't tell it not to. If you want to convey novel concepts, you can, 
using the resources of the language --- as long as you put big 
disclaimers and are prepared to be queried on them. This list has 
been doing so for the past decade. You are not proposing a solution 
to an unsolved problem.

There is a recognition that we don't know everything there is to know 
about Klingon, and never will (although we know a hell of a lot more 
than we did 5 years ago.) Some Klingonists decided that meant they 
should opt out, because they can never produce canonical Klingon; 
that's what happened to Ken Beesley, for instance. Some stuck around 
and helped form a community norm  of what is acceptable, 
questionable, and unacceptable; that's the status of the mailing 
list. Its norms are different to those of other Klingonists 
(Proechel's group being the only sizeable one), and it is 
purposefully conservative. But people do manage to use Klingon within 
those constraints. That's the game they've signed up for.

Over and above that, your comparison to BASIC is offensive. tlhIngan 
Hol as used here is not a trivial cipher for English, as is clear 
from usage here; it has a history and norms and trends. If Okrand is 
hit by a bus, the community will maintain a core of what is canon, 
and a penumbra of what is legitimately experimental but not certainly 
canonical, and a shadow of what is outside the bounds. Just as it 
does right now. This community does not accept the task that Klingon 
shall live unfettered. It accepts the task that Klingon shall be 
Okrandian. Which means, in all likelihood, no Okrandian Succession. 
No big deal; we only get a visitation from Okrand once a year as it 
stands, and the language has done fine without his invigilation. In 
fact, I fully agree that Okrand is standoffish about the language --- 
although he is not uninterested in it, I doubt he thinks about it 
every day. The community has dealt with that;  and if anything, it 
has displayed more resiliance than many an artificial language 
anchored to its creator.

That notwithstanding, the community has abided by Okrand's 
prescription, vigorously. But it's balderash that Klingon is 
stagnant. If you see that, you're not looking in the right places; 
look again (and look back to the 1992 archives).  You are expecting 
Klingon to behave like a creole; it won't, but that does not mean it 
has been static, and that linguistic norms autonomous of Okrand have 
not developed. If you want a creole, though, you know where to find 
it; Klingon ain't it.

Klingon could have formed an Academy; other artificial (and natural) 
languages have, and a big reason we haven't (let's be frank here) is 
the albatross of Paramount. But you can't harangue an entire language 
community out of its ideology.

If you're really desperate for an everyday word, bring it up with one 
of the Friends of Maltz. I've got to say, though, I was reluctant in 
the extreme to exercise my FoM privilege; I think a lot of the 
coolness of Klingon does indeed lie in trying to express yourself 
with limited resources.

(From what you've been saying, Paul, I'm not sure you're even aware 
of the Friends of Maltz, and why the vocab increments are so 
field-specific. It pays to do one's homework before making these 
kinds of statements. And we didn't *need* a word for 'big toe'? Of 
course we didn't. That's the joke, for Kahless' sake: this kind of 
thing goes a long way to making Klingon what it is.)
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* Dr Nick Nicholas,  French & Italian Studies *
   University of Melbourne, Australia   
*    "Eschewing obfuscatory verbosity of locutional rendering, the       *
   circumscriptional appelations are excised." --- W. Mann & S. Thompson,
* _Rhetorical Structure Theory: A Theory of Text Organisation_, 1987.    *
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