Conlangs for expressing a philosophy

toki pona was supposed to be something about daoism, in my experience, it missed that design goal. I think the historical philosophical languages were supposed to be good for discussing philosophy in general, or approached derivational morphology in sort of the same divide and conquer approach of science and philosophy (e.g. John Wilkins’ Real Character) Don’t know if any fake languages so far have been useful for talking about philosophy (other than symbolic logic), but even Real Character, one must say, does seem to be inspired by a philosophical methodology of divide-and-conquer.

People are very good at using a language they are competent in for whatever– fart jokes, recipes, religion and philosophy. So after you construct a language, people will write about whatever and it won’t really feel like there is much connection to Rastafarianism or Nihilism as you had hoped. But let’s not give up home right away, let’s look for ways get some philosophy into language or use philosophy to make some languages.

Squashing a philosophy into a religion is sort of like trying to get culture into a language. We will want to go beyond just bare claims. Just says, “oh language x is so Nihilistic” strikes me as about as meaningful as when nationalists make outlandish claims about their favorite language.

Running Metaphors. E.g. sheep and nautical metaphors all over the place in Icelandic. I figure an Asatru new language would use a lot of traditional Norse mythology metaphors.

Transparent Derivational Morphology. If you can crack open a word as a user and see the parts, you can see the cultural implications, e.g. Goodbye (used to be God Be With You, compare to Icelandic sæll og blessaður which is something like ‘you are happy and blessed’– the Icelandic version feels more Christian)

In both cases, these can be dead metaphors– it’s the recommended and common phrase, but maybe no one thinks about what the implications are. Icelanders don’t really confuse sheep and paper and coin cash. Atheists say “goodbye” and don’t seem to care about the implications.

Obligatory Grammaticalizations The language we speak forces us to consider certain things for every verb or noun that requires a grammatical rule to be applied. In a philosophical language, one might try to create a language to express a philosophy of thankfulness and have users mark each verb for how thankful the speak is about the sentence and how thankful the subject is or should be. A proficient user of such a language would have to develop a metaphysical obsession with thankfulness and think about it so much that they can make those judgments subconsciously at a high speed.

Jargon (having a root word for something specific). It is easier to talk about Buddhism if you can resort to talking about nirvanna, ahimsa, dharma and so on. It’s nice to have nice short tidy words for something. I don’t think this actually requires a full language– you can add jargon to English too. Laadan had this problem– some of the lexicon had nice short tidy words for things that are useful when discussing a woman’s world, but if that was all that was going on, then why bother with a whole language, just to get some jargon? So handy as part of a full strategy, but not handy enough to warrant a new language if that is all there is.

Sapir-Whorf Inspirations. I think I read that one of these guys said something about how American Indian language were polysythetic so this made/reflected how Indians saw things holistically– just took everything in and understood it as an interconnected whole. Unscientific, but it might inspire you to do something. Maybe centipedes or gypsies that live on the rail system might prefer to speak an agglutinating language that symbolizes their chainlike-segmented bodies or the rail cars they ride on. Anyhow, from the user stand point– I’m pretty sure they will not notice the symbolism or experience any effects.

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2 Responses to Conlangs for expressing a philosophy

  1. Neicen says:

    I think new languages should be fusional more often, like Saiwosh. It’s not like any of the words should actually be decomposable, like the agglutinative affixes of Esperanto or isolating like English…but we should be able to contract nonce words conveniently all the time, like Japanese. Too many conlang creators lord it over the people who are wiling to speak their languages! And they have awful, long words that don’t roll off the tongue.

  2. Pingback: How not to put philosophy into a language | Fake languages by a fake linguist