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Author Topic: The Pathetic New Tower of Babel: the Speakers of Dothraki  (Read 654 times) Average Rating: 0
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ialmisry
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« on: February 14, 2013, 01:04:02 PM »

Quote
These linguistic hobbyists call themselves “conlangers” (referring to “constructed language”) and hold an occasional conclave called the Language Creation Conference. It was at the second of those conferences, in 2007, on the campus of U.C. Berkeley, that I first met Quijada. Amid two dozen men and seven women dressed in kilts, top hats, and kimonos, the quietly aloof Quijada stuck out like an umlaut in English. Broad-chested and bearded, he sat by himself in the back row of the auditorium, wearing a camouflage trucker hat, a brown polo shirt, and cargo pants. “John commands respect,” I was told by David Peterson, the president of the Language Creation Society and the inventor of Dothraki, the language spoken by a race of pseudo-Mongol nomadic warriors in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” (Dothraki is now heard by more people each week than Yiddish, Navajo, Inuit, Basque, and Welsh combined.) In 2008, Peterson awarded Ithkuil the Smiley Award for the best invented language of the year. “Few have or, I’m sure, ever will, produce anything as complete and compelling as Ithkuil,” he proclaimed in the award presentation.
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/24/121224fa_fact_foer#ixzz2KtVjErdo

So people prefer to learn the languages of fictional characters like the Dothraki, instead of real humans like the Ashkenazi, Navajo, Inuit, Basques and Welsh.  Sort of like the Klingon translation of the Bible: who's being evangelized?
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« Reply #1 on: February 14, 2013, 01:32:30 PM »

Yes, people with time and money, like myself, often spend it on vain and absurd projects. The Internet is quite effective at extending and intensifying such vanity and absurdity.  Check out this project http://fullscalefalcon.com/ for another prime example.
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« Reply #2 on: February 14, 2013, 01:50:31 PM »

What happened to Esperanto?
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« Reply #3 on: February 14, 2013, 01:50:52 PM »

I prefer E-Prime.
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« Reply #4 on: February 14, 2013, 01:52:59 PM »

What happened to Esperanto?

Sadly too Euro-centric to fulfill its original purpose.
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« Reply #5 on: February 14, 2013, 01:57:50 PM »

Sela skellisert. Constructed languages are the best.
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« Reply #6 on: February 14, 2013, 01:58:07 PM »

What happened to Esperanto?

Sadly too Euro-centric to fulfill its original purpose.

And ugly.
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« Reply #7 on: February 14, 2013, 02:02:48 PM »

What is 'pathetic' about it anyway? Are you going to say Tolkein was pathetic? Its no more pathetic then people that like singing, architecture, painting or other constructive activities.

I used to be a 'conlanger' and (like every other conlanger) have a major interest in real languages as well. Probably more conlangers have learned minority languages than any other group of people.

You might be surprised that sometimes speakers of minority languages don't even want outsiders learning their language as I found out when I wanted to learn Muskogee (a native language of North Florida/Georgia).
« Last Edit: February 14, 2013, 02:16:37 PM by Jason.Wike » Logged
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« Reply #8 on: February 14, 2013, 02:05:51 PM »

Game of Thrones is a pretty good series, but this might be taking it too far.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2013, 02:06:11 PM by Cyrillic » Logged

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« Reply #9 on: February 14, 2013, 02:07:44 PM »

From the OP:

"In 2010, Quijada found himself in a position he’d long sought to avoid. In order to get time off to attend the conference in Kalmykia, he was forced to disclose to his boss and co-workers, some of whom had known him for more than two decades, that he had been concealing a hobby that had consumed his nights, weekends, and lunch breaks ever since college.

“People at work now held me in some sort of state of half awe, because this guy obviously has more going on in his head than being a manager at this dopey state agency, and half in contempt, because I’ve now proved myself to be beyond whatever state of geekery they might have previously thought about me,” Quijada said. “ ‘You’re a what? A con man?’ ‘No, boss, a conlanger.’ ” He was being sent halfway around the world on an all-expenses-paid trip, sponsored by a foreign government, to take part in a conference whose docket of speakers included philosophers, sociologists, economists, biologists, a logician, and a Buddhist monk. Not only had Quijada never been to Kalmykia; he’d never heard of it before."


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/24/121224fa_fact_foer#ixzz2KtkxYDSi
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« Reply #10 on: February 14, 2013, 09:11:13 PM »

Quote
These linguistic hobbyists call themselves “conlangers” (referring to “constructed language”) and hold an occasional conclave called the Language Creation Conference. It was at the second of those conferences, in 2007, on the campus of U.C. Berkeley, that I first met Quijada. Amid two dozen men and seven women dressed in kilts, top hats, and kimonos, the quietly aloof Quijada stuck out like an umlaut in English. Broad-chested and bearded, he sat by himself in the back row of the auditorium, wearing a camouflage trucker hat, a brown polo shirt, and cargo pants. “John commands respect,” I was told by David Peterson, the president of the Language Creation Society and the inventor of Dothraki, the language spoken by a race of pseudo-Mongol nomadic warriors in the HBO series “Game of Thrones.” (Dothraki is now heard by more people each week than Yiddish, Navajo, Inuit, Basque, and Welsh combined.) In 2008, Peterson awarded Ithkuil the Smiley Award for the best invented language of the year. “Few have or, I’m sure, ever will, produce anything as complete and compelling as Ithkuil,” he proclaimed in the award presentation.
Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/24/121224fa_fact_foer#ixzz2KtVjErdo

So people prefer to learn the languages of fictional characters like the Dothraki, instead of real humans like the Ashkenazi, Navajo, Inuit, Basques and Welsh.  Sort of like the Klingon translation of the Bible: who's being evangelized?

Whom does the Klingon Bible evangelize? Trekkies.
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« Reply #11 on: February 14, 2013, 09:42:11 PM »

Hahaha. How timely. That Game of Thrones guy is giving some kind of talk to a group of these nerds tonight at the Sheraton (?) here in Albuquerque. Somebody in one of my classes at UNM today asked if anybody would be going and willing to record it for her, since she can't make it. There were no takers. I don't have TV and find conlangs really silly, so I don't see what the big deal is (never seen the show in question, have no idea who the guy is).

As for Navajo...I don't know what you guys are talking about...I hear it all the time. Grin

You might be surprised that sometimes speakers of minority languages don't even want outsiders learning their language as I found out when I wanted to learn Muskogee (a native language of North Florida/Georgia).

This doesn't surprise me at all. As an undergraduate, I was blessed to take some classes with one Mrs. Virginia Beavert, one of the primary (perhaps only?) elders of the Yakama tribe of Oregon and Washington working to actively preserve and teach their native Sahaptin languages. She taught Sahaptin at UO and also in Washington, even to outsiders, in addition to helping to prepare some kind of grammar and dictionary back in the 1970s (which I never saw personally). Why was she maybe the only one to do this? Because the other elders of the tribe didn't want outsiders learning the language, or the language to be taught to outsiders. It is important to understand and not underestimate the tragic history of bad blood between Western/outsider linguists, ethnographers, and other so-called "scientists", who up until very, very, very recently treated any information that they gained from working with(in) a community as their personal property, or their university/funding agency's property, rather than the rightful property of the community. I was lucky myself to learn under the brilliant mind of one Spike Gildea, a prominent name in Cariban linguistics (particularly historical morphosyntax of the family), who taught an experimental course in fieldwork methods and ethics while I was at UO, and spent much of the time railing against this antiquated, often sorta racist, and also basically thieving approach to work with minority language communities. Interestingly, when I came here to UNM in 2011, one of the first courses I took was a course that included a unit on fieldwork methods for graduate students intending to write a thesis or dissertation. When I asked the professor what her opinion is about ownership of collected materials (corpora in video and/or audio format, mostly), and the related ethical and cultural questions that it brings up, she said "You know...I haven't really thought about that. I mostly work with Spanish, which does not have such sensitivities around it, usually." I was shocked. This was only about two years ago! I figured everyone would be like Spike Gildea and obviously in favor of giving the community full control over everything they produce...without them, after all, you as the linguist or other researcher have NOTHING to work with. They give you everything. And most people, particularly from minority language and cultural groups, are very protective of their language variety when it comes to its use or exposure by outsiders.

So it really makes sense to me why certain groups have this attitude. It is at least partially our fault, as language researchers. We've kind of ruined it for everyone by making people suspicious of the motives of outsiders.
« Last Edit: February 14, 2013, 09:56:48 PM by dzheremi » Logged

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« Reply #12 on: February 15, 2013, 10:02:46 AM »

What is 'pathetic' about it anyway? Are you going to say Tolkein was pathetic? Its no more pathetic then people that like singing, architecture, painting or other constructive activities.

I used to be a 'conlanger' and (like every other conlanger) have a major interest in real languages as well. Probably more conlangers have learned minority languages than any other group of people.

Quoted for truth.

I've never met a single conlanger who was not fluent in at least two 'real' languages, including their own. One can't possibly advance in a foreign language further than their own. Polyglots of all stripes are much more articulate in their mother tongue than their monolingual colleagues.

As for the 'why choose a conlang over a real language' issue... well, interest, of course! Tolkien enthusiasts learn Quenya and Sindarin, Star Trek enthusiasts learn Klingon, Martin enthusiasts learn Dothraki. We can count books sold and episode reruns. How many Basque culture enthusiasts are out there?

Not to mention that, depending on one's location in the world, they may have access to more conlang resources than 'real' language ones.
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« Reply #13 on: February 15, 2013, 02:07:17 PM »

Hahaha. How timely. That Game of Thrones guy is giving some kind of talk to a group of these nerds tonight at the Sheraton (?) here in Albuquerque. Somebody in one of my classes at UNM today asked if anybody would be going and willing to record it for her, since she can't make it. There were no takers. I don't have TV and find conlangs really silly, so I don't see what the big deal is (never seen the show in question, have no idea who the guy is).

As for Navajo...I don't know what you guys are talking about...I hear it all the time. Grin

You might be surprised that sometimes speakers of minority languages don't even want outsiders learning their language as I found out when I wanted to learn Muskogee (a native language of North Florida/Georgia).

This doesn't surprise me at all. As an undergraduate, I was blessed to take some classes with one Mrs. Virginia Beavert, one of the primary (perhaps only?) elders of the Yakama tribe of Oregon and Washington working to actively preserve and teach their native Sahaptin languages. She taught Sahaptin at UO and also in Washington, even to outsiders, in addition to helping to prepare some kind of grammar and dictionary back in the 1970s (which I never saw personally). Why was she maybe the only one to do this? Because the other elders of the tribe didn't want outsiders learning the language, or the language to be taught to outsiders. It is important to understand and not underestimate the tragic history of bad blood between Western/outsider linguists, ethnographers, and other so-called "scientists", who up until very, very, very recently treated any information that they gained from working with(in) a community as their personal property, or their university/funding agency's property, rather than the rightful property of the community. I was lucky myself to learn under the brilliant mind of one Spike Gildea, a prominent name in Cariban linguistics (particularly historical morphosyntax of the family), who taught an experimental course in fieldwork methods and ethics while I was at UO, and spent much of the time railing against this antiquated, often sorta racist, and also basically thieving approach to work with minority language communities. Interestingly, when I came here to UNM in 2011, one of the first courses I took was a course that included a unit on fieldwork methods for graduate students intending to write a thesis or dissertation. When I asked the professor what her opinion is about ownership of collected materials (corpora in video and/or audio format, mostly), and the related ethical and cultural questions that it brings up, she said "You know...I haven't really thought about that. I mostly work with Spanish, which does not have such sensitivities around it, usually." I was shocked. This was only about two years ago! I figured everyone would be like Spike Gildea and obviously in favor of giving the community full control over everything they produce...without them, after all, you as the linguist or other researcher have NOTHING to work with. They give you everything. And most people, particularly from minority language and cultural groups, are very protective of their language variety when it comes to its use or exposure by outsiders.

So it really makes sense to me why certain groups have this attitude. It is at least partially our fault, as language researchers. We've kind of ruined it for everyone by making people suspicious of the motives of outsiders.
sort of like the guy who sued the scientists that a few (or is it several now?) years ago patented his genes or some such thing.

btw, it is not only an issue for minority languages: studies on Arabic dialects are very sensitive issues.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2013, 02:10:51 PM by ialmisry » Logged

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« Reply #14 on: February 15, 2013, 02:18:04 PM »

From the OP:

"In 2010, Quijada found himself in a position he’d long sought to avoid. In order to get time off to attend the conference in Kalmykia, he was forced to disclose to his boss and co-workers, some of whom had known him for more than two decades, that he had been concealing a hobby that had consumed his nights, weekends, and lunch breaks ever since college.

“People at work now held me in some sort of state of half awe, because this guy obviously has more going on in his head than being a manager at this dopey state agency, and half in contempt, because I’ve now proved myself to be beyond whatever state of geekery they might have previously thought about me,” Quijada said. “ ‘You’re a what? A con man?’ ‘No, boss, a conlanger.’ ” He was being sent halfway around the world on an all-expenses-paid trip, sponsored by a foreign government, to take part in a conference whose docket of speakers included philosophers, sociologists, economists, biologists, a logician, and a Buddhist monk. Not only had Quijada never been to Kalmykia; he’d never heard of it before."


Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2012/12/24/121224fa_fact_foer#ixzz2KtkxYDSi

Better question, why does he care what his co-workers think?  Why doesn't he get a better job with the State Department or the Military?  Someone like this could probably learn languages quickly enough to get any translating job he wanted.  Or codebreaking, for that matter.
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« Reply #15 on: February 15, 2013, 02:26:50 PM »

sort of like the guy who sued the scientists that a few (or is it several now?) years ago patented his genes or some such thing.

How terrible!

Quote
btw, it is not only an issue for minority languages: studies on Arabic dialects are very sensitive issues.

Yes. Any dialectical study faces these issues, but I stuck with the example of minority languages since it was in response to a poster's observations about trying to learn a minority language.
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« Reply #16 on: February 15, 2013, 02:31:25 PM »

What is 'pathetic' about it anyway? Are you going to say Tolkein was pathetic?

In the radical sense of the term, yes, In the everyday sense, yes.
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« Reply #17 on: February 15, 2013, 02:34:58 PM »

What is 'pathetic' about it anyway? Are you going to say Tolkein was pathetic? Its no more pathetic then people that like singing, architecture, painting or other constructive activities.

I used to be a 'conlanger' and (like every other conlanger) have a major interest in real languages as well. Probably more conlangers have learned minority languages than any other group of people.

Quoted for truth.

I've never met a single conlanger. . . .

Another thing I can boast of, never having met a conlanger. Then again, I've met some "linguists" who take generative grammar seriously. So maybe, I've not been so fortunate after all.
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« Reply #18 on: February 15, 2013, 06:18:34 PM »

Conlanger, isn't that the mascot of some university or something?  Huh
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