Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Logically Speaking: Loglan, Lojban and the Search for a Logical Language

Logically Speaking: Loglan, Lojban and the Search for a Logical Language

Dovie Jenkins

Constructed languages, or conlangs, run the gamut from the eminently practical to the fantastic and, like among those who tinkered with natural language, a belief that language has the ability to shape thought and behavior underwrites the reasoning behind many conlangs. Loglan and its descendant Lojban carry this belief to the extreme, asserting that irrational, illogical thought can be eradicated by adopting a perfect, logical language. The goal of this paper is to explore the metalinguistic beliefs which inspire the construction and learning of these logical languages, and the ways in which these beliefs connect to a larger network of metalinguistic attitudes in Western culture. This paper poses the following questions: what metalinguistic ideas about the purpose of language, the superiority of logical thinking, and the nature of rationality characterize the attitudes of Loglan/Lojban speakers, and do these attitudes diverge from those of mainstream America? This investigation combines a review of the existing scholarly literature on conlangs, Western metalinguistic views, and the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis with the analysis of content drawn from forums where Loglan and Lojban are discussed by fans and critics. This inquiry reveals that the metalinguistic beliefs of Loglan/Lojban speakers diverge significantly from the language ideology that inspired the languages’ construction, suggesting that the appeal of these languages does not stem from ideological agreement. The results also suggest limitations in the “speakability” of these logical languages. These findings have implications for future research into the functional limitations of spoken language and the formation of a language ideology within a speech community.

April 6, 2015 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. I think “speakability” is a difficulty with any created language that serves to be almost universally understandable. In attempts to make it as logical as possible, the ultimate goal of communication can be lost. This almost immediately reminds me of Wierzbicka’s NSM and the unlikeliness that it would ever be able to serve its intended purpose. I would also be very curious to see what you’ve found as far as speaker’s claims for linguistic relativity and what a logical language’s impacts on thought can really be. While I’m skeptical that it can be completely shown, I think your exploration from this angle is fascinating.

    Comment by Grace Pappalardo | April 20, 2015 | Reply

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