[NetBehaviour] Fwd: <nettime> Syntactical Gothicisms of the Mind

Geert Dekkers geert at nznl.com
Sun Jul 3 08:13:09 CEST 2005

Looks interesting.... from the nettime list.

(Hope I didn't cross-post this -- didn't bother to check.)


Begin forwarded message:

> From: Wilfried Hou Je Bek <wilfriedhoujebek at yahoo.com>
> Date: 1 juli 2005 21:35:30 GMT+02:00
> To: nettime-l at bbs.thing.net
> Subject: <nettime> Syntactical Gothicisms of the Mind
> Reply-To: Wilfried Hou Je Bek <wilfriedhoujebek at yahoo.com>
> Syntactical Gothicisms of the Mind
> The OnlyOneNativeSpeaker survey of Constructed
> Languages
> http://socialfiction.org/onlyone
> Language is parasitic, not on the human body as
> William Burroughs suggested, but on the world around
> us: it feeds on the output of the sensory apparatus
> and leaves behind hideous carcasses. Language
> whiplashes the mind when we speak it, poisons our
> blood when we write it down and heats up the earth
> when we print it. Language is to reality what your
> lungs are to oxygen, but whereas growing a lung of
> ones own remains problematic, inventing a private
> language seems to be an option as viable as building
> your own backyard bunker to survive nuclear holocaust.
> Invented languages, implying a deep dissatisfaction
> with the world as-is, are grotesque creatures
> providing a unique instrument to create, understand,
> describe and manipulate private realities and dark
> sensibilities. The following classification of
> constructed languages, like half-opened Venetian
> blinds, give partial perspective to the mind-states
> that haunt the language inventor/innovator.
>     1) Utopian communications: transnational auxiliary
> languages are a typical late 19th century outcome of
> the dreams of universal brotherhood held by pacifists
> and free-masons. Esperanto, developed in 1887 by LL
> Zamenhof, still attracts followers, other once
> prominent examples like IDO, Volapuk and Interlingua
> have disappeared in the mist of time.
>     2) Language as linguistic laboratory: a
> constructed language as the anvil for philosophic
> reasoning blacksmith-style. The logical languages
> Loglan and Lojban were designed to test the theory
> that the structure of language sets limits on the
> thinking of those who speak it.
>     3) The languages of extrahuman intelligences
> revealed in trances: the Martian language of H?l?ne
> Smith, Enochian the angelic language revealed to
> Edward Kelley while communicating with the crystalline
> netherworld, the 'space-language' aUI was taught John
> Weilgart when he was a boy by a little green elf-like
> humanoid from outer space.
>     4) Pastime languages: a mad collection of amateur
> syllable-pilots constructing languages for fun and
> self-education, playing games with them and
> translating the classics in them.
>     5) Machine languages: languages to communicate
> with machines, for now this category consists solely
> of programming languages though this does not need to
> be so in the future. Programmers tend to be partisan
> about the language they program in and debates between
> them can reach the same irrational fierceness that
> accompanied Esperanto vs. Volapuk debates from a
> century ago.
>     6) Languages found or suspected: the search for
> extraterrestrial intelligence as it exists today could
> only emerge after it was established that the
> radio-spectrum could in principle transmit
> (intergalactic) messages. Once undertaking SETI the
> discussion soon led to problems concerning the
> boundaries of what kind of messages captured would
> still be considered as language. Valuable information
> about unacknowledged conditions for languages that
> could only come into view through practical
> experimentation. John C. Lilly, a brilliant brain
> scientist wasting his reputation on his attempts to
> decipher the language of dolphins, represents the dark
> side of this category.
>     7) Symbolic languages: dream interpretations are
> an essential part of folk cultures all over the world.
> Symbols are a concentrated pulse of meaning, the
> complexity of which need oracle power to be properly
> translated for the mere mortal. 19th Century symbolist
> literature created symbolic languages interwoven in
> ordinary language. Sign systems are a special class of
> symbolic languages.
>     8) Fictional languages: invented languages as
> adding colour locale to fictional alien words in books
> and films. Science fiction and fantasy (Tolkien
> developed several languages in and outside the world
> portrayed in the dreaded pages of his horrid trilogy)
> are traditional suppliers of languages that sometimes
> manage to gain a relatively large numbers of speakers.
> But in the 'serious literature' of Thomas Morus and
> Nabokov fictional languages are used for the same
> reasons.
>     9) Ad-Hoc languages: words made up during drunken
> games of scrabble, or on intent in word games like
> Epram's Game of Asparagus in which participants
> construct a language from words read in a jar filled
> with alphabet-vermicelli and then have to make polite
> party chit-chat in their new language.
>     10) Mathematics: a special-purpose rational
> language designed by humans to be complete and
> self-consisted has since long escaped human
> understanding.
>     11) Classifier languages: taxonomical systems and
> other scientific domain-transcendent naming schemes
> are not a language in the strict sense, but they are
> relevant in this context because the fill the gap left
> wide open by language inaptness to identify the
> individual in multitudes of similarity. Colours,
> insects, asteroids, compounds and particles would fall
> from the edge of the world of knowledge if they would
> remain unnamed. The benefit of these systems is that
> each name contains meta-information immediately
> understandable to those in the know of the underlying
> key. Classifier systems solve a problem inventors of
> languages out-of-thin-air run into: it provides a
> framework that enables systemised forward-compatible
> naming of objects yet to be named.
>     12) The recreation of a lost language and the
> search for the perfect language: the language of god
> disappeared from earth with the fall of Babylon some
> people believe. Each unspeakable sacred wisdom must go
> accompanied with a perfect language to match the
> divinity of its meaning is a parallel argument. Some
> people sought to reconstruct this perfect language
> lost from fragments found and the results are placed
> in this category. This is a muddled but well
> researched category including madcap geniuses like
> Bishop Wilkins and Giordano Bruno.
> All these efforts, dreams and visions are the
> materials from which Borges weaved his universe of
> tiptoeing thinkers inventing compasses and flashlights
> to guide them through the sunless black box of reality
> where uncontrollable finiteness is the sea, ordered
> infinity the beach and your sanity breaks down a
> little bit more with each wave hammering down on the
> coastline. Language, Paraphrasing T.E. Hulme, is a
> gossamer web that has entrapped us:
> Novalis, poet and mining engineer, firmly believed
> that "men travel in manifold paths: who traces and
> compares these, will find strange Figures come to
> light; Figures which seem as if they belonged to that
> great Cipher-writing".   Athanasius Kirchners thought
> he had deciphered the Egyptian hieroglyphs, but later
> it was discovered that his attempt though well
> executed and based on a reasonable hypothesis was
> entirely of the mark: unwittingly he had constructed a
> language by misinterpreting the source. Ever since
> Turing's tigers mathematicians have found biological
> shapes that can be produced by formula's to a level of
> stunning similarity, the question (despite claims made
> by some) what this means about both nature and
> mathematics is yet undecided. The perfect languages of
> Wilkinson and Bruno have fossilised the soft tissue of
> ideas. Jeremy Fodor postulated the existence of
> Mentalese, the native language of the brain (which is
> after all a symbolic processor) into which each
> incoming language is translated before being
> interpreted. Lincos by Hans Freudenthal is a thought
> experiment showing how an auxiliary language can be
> constructed from scratch in the process of
> communication with extraterrestrials. aUI, the
> established auxiliary language between space
> travelling communities from outer space, is (according
> to its only earth speaker Weilgart) due to its
> rational structure able to cure a person from
> irrational thinking patterns. Hildegard von Bingen, 12
> century nun developed a secret language called "lingua
> Ignota", she is best remembered for her advice to
> never drink water when there is beer available. The
> catholic priest John Martin Schleyer constructed his
> Volapuk because God instructed him in a dream to do
> so. Had he instead approached a psychoanalyst most
> likely he would have been told that the dream really
> contained symbols speaking of his unstoppable lust for
> catholic nuns. The popular programming language
> Python, named after Monty Pythons Flying Circus, has a
> mythical  version 3000 which is promised to sport a
> telepathic interface. Esoteric programming languages
> like Brain fuck or Ook! (meant for orang-utans) are
> wilfully obscure, impractical and frustrating to use;
> by aiming for the outer rim of possibility they reveal
> otherwise invisible norms of what constitutes a
> 'decent' language. Klingon, developed by a proper
> linguist is versatile enough to serve as auxiliary
> language during Star Trek conventions or to translate
> Shakespeare in. It is reported that one man tried to
> raise his child in English/Klingon bilingualism.
> Loglan was tailored for such an experiment, but
> Klingon is just as well suited for this job because it
> reflects the habits of a race quite different from
> humans. The Klingons equivalent to 'hello' is 'what do
> you want!' and you suspect this to create a unique
> Klingonian sense of reality in the speaker. Klingons
> have little awareness for interior design though and
> the bilingual experiment met with large practical
> problems: swearing is a fine art in Klingon, but
> ordinary things like 'table' go unnamed. To knock-out
> any last doubt about the seriousness of Klingonese:
> the name given to Klingon Worf certainly must be
> referring to Benjamin Lee Whorf, around whose
> hypothesis we are circumnavigating here:
> "Thinking itself is in a language - in English, in
> Sanskrit, In Chinese. And every language is a vast
> pattern-system, different from others, in which are
> culturally ordained the forms and categories by which
> the personality not only communicates, but also
> analyses nature, notices or neglects types of
> relationships and phenomena, channels his reasoning,
> and builds the house of consciousness."
> Self-engineering a language cannot escape the patina
> of weirdness: the stereotypical image of programmers,
> sci-fi enthusiasts and pacifists as social outcasts
> does not help to debunk this myth in the eyes of those
> with too much confidence in their own reality. Maybe
> priding yourself on speaking fluent Klingon will
> stigmatise you as a nerd, but natural languages are
> not value free either: speech tainted by accent or
> dialect can be a definite disadvantage in life, while
> oppressive imperialist regimes do not hesitate to make
> minority languages illegal. If a language is outlawed
> only outlaws will speak it.
> And why do you think that I write this in English
> instead of my native Dutch?
> When I hear Moroccan men talk Berber, an oral
> language, every sentence seems to contain at least one
> Dutch word. By looking at the nature of these borrowed
> words one can get an idea about the everyday live of
> the people with whom the language originated. Samuel
> Delaney in his cult sci-fi novel Babel-17 puts it
> likes this: "Learning a language makes you see the
> universe through other people's eyes", when the other
> is an intelligent fishlike entity from a different
> solar-system the way this works is more obviously
> observed than it would when learning a slavish
> language spoken 400 kilometres to the east where
> conditions are similar. One last question: to what
> extent does learning a language makes you become the
> people speaking it?
> In the light of all this, in search for experiences
> only experienced when twisting your mind and your
> tongue in gargoyle shapes, getting better in it with
> each new language you come up with, the collaborative
> Babylon bonanza of OnlyOneNativeSpeaker project
> radiates it's home brewed gothic tunnels of
> consciousness.
> Send us your language at: info [at] socialfiction
> [dot] org.
> Finding new Functions for the Sun.
> http://socialfiction.org
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