Sai (saizai) wrote in ucb_lcs,

The call for speakers / attendees email

Hello, everyone.

I am planning a constructed languages symposium / conference on campus for late April / early May, on behalf of the newly-created UCB student group, the Language Creation Society (LCS). It will probably be in a fairly 'traditional' format - speakers on various topics, panel discussions, chats over canapés, etc.

For those of you who don't know: constructed languages - or 'conlangs' - are languages that are intentionally created. People do this for a wide variety of reasons and in an even wider variety of ways; Esperanto, Klingon, and Elvish (Quenya/Sindarin) are the most famous examples. I am teaching a DE-Cal about conlangs this semester, for the second time. If that's not clear enough or you find your mind boggling (in a good way, I hope), look it up on Wikipedia or email me w/ your questions.

The range of topics for this conference will be anything directly related to language design & creation, and created languages. For example: sociological issues about conlangers; how to spread a conlang; creating new vocabulary in a 'good' way (fill in what that means); creating linguistically-interesting languages to test or demonstrate some theorie(s); creating unusual languages (e.g. signed or written mode only); philosophical perspectives; etc. This is by no means intended as a specific list of topics - just some suggestions.

There are only two restrictions: it has to be related to conlanging (or adapted to fit the forum - eg to reuse a talk originally given to linguists or sociologists or Xists), and no proselytizing (i.e. no teaching of any *particular* language except for using it as an example of how to [not?] do X [like make a auxlang, or a women's lang, or whatever else of interest to the general conlanger]).

Aside from that no-proselytization part, I do not see any particular need to discriminate against auxlangers.

It is likely that I will have some funding available for event costs - and possibly even for honoraria (i.e. to pay someone to come out here). I don't know yet how much that would be, but if that's a significant consideration for you (and you think you have something cool to talk about), let me know.

So, what does this mean for you?

First: Would you like to be a speaker? Think you have an interesting topic to talk about? Know someone who does? TELL ME! I'm definitely open to suggestions. (And FWIW they need not be strictly from any particular perspective - e.g. if your 'thing' is linguistics, or computers, or sociology, or cog psych... as long as it would be of interest to attendees, have at it.)

For those of you who are into more traditional branches of linguistics or psychology, please consider that there are actually many topics that very directly relate; for example:

* language revitalization (all conlangs start with only 1-2 L2 speakers; how do you address the issue of keeping the language alive past its creator(s)?)

* language engineering (you want good, natural vocabulary with rich and unique meanings [not just glosses])

* cognitive psychology / cognitive linguistics (mini-conlangs are used in research into language acquisition, language processing, etc.)

* language universals / typology (can you create a conlang that breaks a universal? What are the real, hard limits of what languages are capable of, or the rules they must follow?)

* metaphor, frames, knowledge structure, & Sapir-Whorf (what are commonly overlooked aspects of language design that are carried over from L1 assumptions? What happens if you intentionally create languages to encode particular ways of looking at the world? How much can an unusual language affect thinking - longterm, shortterm, and for L1 speakers if any exist?)

... etc. I'm sure you can think of more.

I know that many of you are experts in your respective fields (or keen observers thereof at least); though conlanging may sound a bit odd at first, I think you'll see that we are interested in many of the same issues - so that paper you just wrote for some other conference or journal may well apply here as well.

Second: Do you have suggestions for the conference? Anything from pragmatics of running the thing (I'll have some help from the Office of Student Life people, but nevertheless I've not done this before), to whom to invite, to what to talk about, to what format to use, to when to hold it... whatever to help it be a worthwhile (and attended) event, let me know.

Third: Come! I'll be sending more info as it becomes available to those who have emailed me their prereg form (attached). Anyone interested in conlanging for whatever reason is welcome to attend.

If it sounds like something you're interested in but may or may not attend, send it to me anyway and tell me about your situation. I would like to get as many interested (and interesting!) people as possible, and the time I need to start planning the details of budget, scheduling, etc., is right now.... so the more (and more quickly) I know, the better.

Lastly: Tell others! Not everyone reads this forum, and I know there are plenty of 'closeted' conlangers out there, some of whom you know. So, spread the word. This isn't (alas) a topic that has a ready avenue for advertising, given that it's still somewhat taboo for academics to take seriously and etc... Feel free to copy this email to any forum you like. (Just please send me a link to your posting when you do.)

That's all for now.

See you in a few months!

 - Sai

P.S. One question I'd like to ask you all (under promise of anonymity - I know that some of you are closeted about it): Have you ever dabbled in language construction before? If yes, how has it impacted your academic or other interests, your life in general, or your perspective on the world?

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