Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Any questions or requests?

I did this once earlier in the history of my blog and got resounding silence, but I thought I might try again now that I have a few more regular visitors!

I invite you to ask me questions or make requests for topics in my comments area. Questions can be about any post in the archive, about linguistic or cultural topics, about my writing or about how I got my agent. I'll also consider suggestions for ridiculously close looks (though whether I do them will depend on whether I can access the book!).

I look forward to hearing from you.


  1. I would like a workshop/post/series of posts (however you like it) about how to write two different nonEnglish languages interacting. The current story I am writing involves not a single person that speaks English and the languages themselves don't translate to English as well as I would like. But the key to the section I'm writing is how language helps my main character understand that she isn't what her captors have said she is. (She has no memories.) Their two languages are at odds, though her captors don't realize it.

    And I'm having a challenging time writing it. Translating one language to English in comparison with English is tough. Translating two in comparison to each other is currently taxing my abilities.

  2. A couple quick questions, Megs. I like your question, and it won't take more than one post to say something useful. First, is there any English spoken in the story? Second, what point of view are you using?

  3. The story is written in English, but none is spoken whatsoever. Point of view is from the main character without her memories. She knows multiple languages, including Chirrith, but she thinks in Vas'her, her own native tongue. Whenever Chirrith is spoken to her, she keeps balking at the concepts.

    Hope that answers.

    And thank you so much! Yours is only the only blog that explores linguistics and culture in depth like this.

  4. Juliette, I'd love to hear your thoughts on folklore and its resonance within culture. I don't have anything too specific in mind, but I really love delving into cultural folklore (such as England's black dog myth, which became incorporated right into the identity of the town of Bungay, Suffolk) and how it resonates, becomes an influence on a culture as a whole (working into customs, rituals, etc), and the like. I'm hoping to work in more informed folklore research on my blog in the coming year, and I would love to hear your take on it from an anthropological standpoint (or heck, if you have any suggestions for good reading).

  5. Juliette, I'd like to hear more about (constructing) non-human languages. In particular, if Chomsky's idea of universal innate grammars is correct, does that mean there are only certain avenues down which humans can go, which might be different from aliens? That is, maybe there are some concepts or constructs that would be difficult for humans to truly conceptualize. Or the other way around. In short, I am interested in the possibility that communication may be very difficult.

  6. CWJ, thanks for the suggestion! I'm sure I can do something in that direction, though I confess to being rather skeptical of Chomsky's idea on many levels. I would in fact agree that communication with aliens would be very difficult. You may be familiar with the Xenolinguist stories of Sheila Finch; she follows Chomsky's ideas rather closely in the stories, but in person she typically says that communication with aliens would be next to impossible. Fortunately, there's lots of room to play around in the story medium.

  7. I don't believe in universal grammar being restrictive due to the fact that the first language I ever created was before I read a thing about what languages all had in common and how they were divided, and when I did read up and compared it, I found that I had created a language that had NO comparable structures in the real world. Yet, I parse it easily as a language, having spoken it and found it extremely usable. It just requires a different way of thinking.

    In fact, that's the language that I'm using in my current WIP: Vas'her.

    But I think it would be a fascinating post, Juliette. I hope you do write something about the difficulty in communication via different language constructs. I think about Ursula K. LeGuin's "Vaster than Empires and More Slow" when it comes to that and how the mind has to think in a different pattern, but that it is capable of doing so.

    As someone once said, "Humans are infinitely adaptable."

  8. Also a lovely post might be about how language feeds into culture and that a supposedly simple language construct can create aspects of culture and affect the ability to change them.