A Bit Of An Explanation

I am not a professional. Not anywhere near it. But I like to think that some little observations I have about language and the social construction of it are worthwhile.

Some of these notes were originally written for acquaintances with no linguistic experience whatsoever, so please be patient through the explanations of basic concepts, and the simplistic tone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

If Languages Were People...

For a long time, lately, I've been toying with the idea of writing a series of short stories using personifications of languages as main characters. (Mostly focused on the Uralic and Indo-European families.) Along the lines of Scandinavia-And-The-World applied to language. There would be two things that the languages' personalities, and the events of the stories, would be based on:

1.Actual historical linguistic fact. How have speakers of one language treated another at some points in time? Where did a language come from? Etc, etc.

And more importantly:

2.Stereotypes of different languages. Americans love stereotyping other languages, and other countries do the same thing. French is the "language of love", German sounds "angry", etc.

Occasionally there will be a crossover with historical fact, because language is a part of history.

Some traits I know I'm definitely going to have:

Hungarian is the one member of the Uralic family that everyone else thinks is adopted. When he tries to prove his relationship through his cousins (who look nothing like him), Khanty and Mansi, no one is convinced.

German is volatile, with a nearly non-existant fuse to her hostility.

French is sex-obsessed.

English is a rather selfish brat who obsessively steals from all the other languages.

Latin is a zombie.

Livonian is very (VERY) old, and living in the Uralics' attic. Everyone except Estonian thinks that she's dead, and Estonian only remembers because her room is close to the attic and she can hear Livonian singing occasionally (This will be explained if you don't get the joke - like Scandinavia And The World, there will be a quick explanation following each story. In the case of this specific joke, look up Tuļļi Lum, an Estonian band whose singer is one of the only speakers of Livonian.)

Finnish hates Swedish with every fiber of his body, and will attempt to strangle him every time he tries to set foot in Finnish's house.

Latvian and Lithuanian are twins, and completely seclude themselves from the rest of their family. They live in the house of their dead mother, Proto-Indo-European, and everyone who's met them says they look exactly like the pictures they've seen of her.

Võro is Estonian's younger sister, who Estonian completely ignores. There's a parallel situation with Karelian, Finnish's lonely younger brother. They just want your attention, guys!

I'm debating whether conlangs should be robots (because of their "constructed life" status) or Frankenstein-style creations. For a while I actually toyed with the idea of conlangs like Esperanto and Interlingua being vampires, because of how they leeched off other languages for their own life.

This won't be written any time soon, but I'm definitely considering (and liking) the idea.

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