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The Conlang SE has been closed deleted and I can't find a new one, so they're probably not restarting it for now. We get questions now and then and I don't really like closing them, but our FAQ is clear on this point: they're off topic.

Also, note that Esperanto is already on topic.

Considering that:

  • The users that committed cannot talk about them in existing sites at the moment.
  • It's a pool of audience that we could direct to our site.

Should we include these languages in our scope? Even if the Conlang proposal makes it into beta, we can always migrate the questions there.

If some of you have concerns, I'd ask you to share them and possibly we could elaborate some additional requirements for questions about Conlangs.

What do you think?

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I say let's permit questions about conlangs, for two main reasons:

  • Design features in conlangs are often inspired by those in natural languages, so a discussion of a conlang can be an opportunity to introduce discussions about typology.
  • When a conlang has an unusual feature, it can be a good point to discuss how popular conceptions about how languages work differ from scholarly opinion about the same.

Responding to a point made by @Cerberus, I don't think that the case can be made that we generally restrict questions to those studied by academic linguists. Discussion on this site does not really resemble discussion between academics, but instead it resembles discussions between curious undergraduate students and their TA's, and between graduate students who are looking for quick references when they get stuck in their work.

[something else I thought of]: Conlangs are usually ignored in linguistic publications, but one counterexample is Mel'cuk's five-volume Cours de Morphologie Générale, which contains some Esperanto examples.

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    I agree, for the reasons in DanVelleman's answer to this question that I asked a while ago. Thus true descriptively oriented questions about conlangs could be on-topic, whereas prescriptively oriented questions would not be. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 6 '12 at 5:46
  • @GastonÜmlaut Do you mind to formulate something that we could put in our FAQ? Examples would help along with the explanation. – Alenanno Oct 6 '12 at 9:34
  • I completely agree that we are not an academic site, but what happens in academia could be an argument for whatever policies we choose to formulate. – Cerberus Oct 6 '12 at 12:44
  • I was thinking of letting this stay here for a while but the tendency seems pretty clear. Let's allow them, but @GastonÜmlaut, why do you think that "Why was this feature constructed the way it was?" is a bad question? To me it looks OK, as long as the creator explained it publicly. – Alenanno Oct 7 '12 at 9:31
  • @Alenanno I think that question was intended for Cerberus (the one who made that statement), not me? – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 8 '12 at 7:38
  • @GastonÜmlaut What do you mean, intended for Cerberus? :D – Alenanno Oct 8 '12 at 9:14
  • @Alenanno It was Cerberus who said that 'questions like "Why was [this feature] constructed the way it is" should probably be off topic', not me. So your question would be better put to Cerberus. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 9 '12 at 0:02
  • @GastonÜmlaut Ah yes, but you also said "the first question you mention is prescriptive, so (in my view, see my comment to jlovegren's answer) not relevant to SE.Linguistics." and I was asking about it. – Alenanno Oct 9 '12 at 9:32
  • @Alenanno Ah, yes, sorry! Linguistics is about the human language faculty, not about arbitrary design choices (altho linguistics could inform these choices). But once those choices are made, the learnability of the constructed language, it's usability, etc, these things would tell us about the human language faculty. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 9 '12 at 10:44
  • @GastonÜmlaut Thanks for answering. I was thinking that questions like that wouldn't be that bad. I mean, let's say someone is genuinely interested in that choice and we happen to know why. But it's also true that we cannot be aware of every reason that triggered each and every decision. :P – Alenanno Oct 9 '12 at 10:48
  • @GastonÜmlaut See the CW answer I provided. Upvote it so it gets to the top. And of course, feel free to edit it, improve it, etc. :) – Alenanno Oct 9 '12 at 10:52
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    @GastonÜmlaut a minor quibble about Linguistics being the study of the human language faculty. that is the mentalist position advanced by Chomsky, and it is not accepted generally by linguists. I don't think it will be appropriate to base site policy on a definition of linguistics that is controversial within the field. – user483 Oct 9 '12 at 13:25
  • @Alenanno oops, that was GastonUmlaut who wrote that! – user483 Oct 9 '12 at 18:29
  • @jlovegren I've taken the liberty of changing the @ping in your first comment to address Gaston. :) – Alenanno Oct 9 '12 at 19:19
  • @jlovegren What then are we linguists studying, if not the ability of humans to acquire and use language? I use the term 'human language faculty' as I think it's pretty non-committal with respect to Chomskyan vs other positions on the nature of language. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 9 '12 at 23:07
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The community has voted to favor the questions about Constructed and Fictional languages. However, some conditions must be met. For example:

  • Off Topic: Why was this feature constructed the way it was?
  • On Topic: Let's compare Natural Language x feature A to Conlang y feature A.

Regarding the first example, it wouldn't be necessarily bad, but it's better for you to check the relevant site for such questions since we cannot be aware of every decision taken by the creator(s). In any case, as always, if you're in doubt, ask in Meta.

Concerning the second example. "Let's compare Natural Language x to Conlang y" would be too broad for a single question (less effective).

2

I would be against that. There are two main arguments:

  1. Constructed languages are normally not studied in academic linguistics.

  2. Constructed languages don't exhibit the same patterns as natural languages, because they were not formed in a "normal" way, and because they are not passed on from parent to child. If a constructed languages has indeed developed into a language naturally used by children as their first language in a fairly large cummunity, like Esperanto (or so I believe), then it should be allowed.

However, even then, questions like "why was feature x in Esperanto constructed the way it is" should probably be off topic, because they are about constructing languages, not using them.

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  • Your two points are exact, and I agree with them. Nonetheless, I've seen that many of our users here (many of which I believe to be researchers or students) know about Conlangs, so maybe, they're not that "off topic" in actual research either. Anyway, thanks for posting! Let's wait for more insights, I'd like to see many posts on this. :D – Alenanno Oct 5 '12 at 14:05
  • @Alenanno: I would personally not consider them fit for Linguistics, but I have no problem with allowing them, if that's what people want. – Cerberus Oct 5 '12 at 15:21
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    1. Constructed languages are studied in academic linguistics, but in a purely descriptive sense. I know of one current PhD being written on an indigenous conlang. 2. True, conlangs differ from natural languages, but then this gives rise to interesting questions about how people are able (or not) to use them, how they change, become more natural (or whatever) when in regular use; what are the limits of human language learning/acquisition, etc. There's lots of interesting linguistic questions in conlangs! – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 6 '12 at 5:48
  • @GastonÜmlaut: Right, I think we already allow the kind of questions you mention under 2! But not other kinds of questions, like "why was this feature constructed the way it was?", or "let's compare natural language x and constructed language y". – Cerberus Oct 6 '12 at 12:42
  • @Cerberus the first question you mention is prescriptive, so (in my view, see my comment to jlovegren's answer) not relevant to SE.Linguistics. I don't necessarily see a problem with your second example question, again, so long as it's descriptively oriented. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 6 '12 at 14:09
  • @GastonÜmlaut: Perhaps it is my personal opinion that interpreting a work of art should not be mixed with analysing the workings of nature, although I realise that there are no 100 % clean boundaries. – Cerberus Oct 6 '12 at 14:33
  • On the one hand there are some linguists that are vehemently against conlangs and conlangers, why being a good source of questions in and of itself. On the other hand, many conlangers wind up studying linguistics in order to make better (more naturalistic) conlangs and/or improve the description of conlangs. On the gripping hand, conlangs and the making thereof can be used to teach linguistics, and grammar, and antropology and a whole heap of other things. – kaleissin Oct 6 '12 at 17:22
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    @kaleissin I suspect that when linguists say they're 'against conlangs' they're referring to the modern game or novel/movie based conlangs (though I'd be surprised if there are many linguists who have such an attitude). If 'conlang' refers to 'constructed languages' geerally, then it would include ones such as Classical Sanskrit and Eskayan. I know a linguist writing a PhD on Eskayan so it's definitely acceptable to many linguists as an object of study, despite being a conlang. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 8 '12 at 7:42

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