Tuesday, October 28, 2014

On Bringing Kids up in Conlangs (Index, Introduction and statement of purpose)

Time to invite some controversy, I guess.

During my stints on the facebook conlang group, one topic that has regularly popped up has dealt with children. Specifically, whether there is anyone teaching a conlang to their children.

Few do this, but it is, I feel, my obligation to present an argument why conlangers should avoid doing it - there should be even fewer doing it out there than there is. There are several partial arguments to why, each argument contributing different reasons to avoid it. There are arguments from a number of fields - just ethics in general, sociolinguistics, psycholinguistics, language acquisition-related, etc.

So, let me present to you the several partial arguments why you should not teach a conlang to your child.

2. You don't speak your conlang natively, reducing the ability to bond with your child

3. Introducing a child into a situation with an artificial lack of a speaker community to support its language learning seems rather peculiar (notice: this differs from teaching a child your native language if your native language's speaker community has dwindled away, due to reason #2)

4. Your child's language acquisition could be used for something more useful

5. Your child's language acquisition skills may be somewhat affected

6. Your child's hearing may be affected

7. Your child is not yours to do what you want with, a kid isn't an art project - unlike your conlang

8. Being an example to other conlangers, so as not to inspire linguistic ignoramuses from doing this in potentially harmful ways even if you could pull it off in a harmless manner

I will elaborate on each of these, probably giving each a post of its own, with literature to back most of the points up. However, it will be a slow going project, as I will have to fish up some sources - literature I have read years ago, etc. Other partial topics may appear as well.

However, I ask people who object to my reasoning to wait until the relevant post before responding with their objections.


  1. To me, 7 is the deal-breaker. That is to say, even if people had good, fact-based arguments to object to all your other arguments, argument 7 alone is sufficient to make it a *really bad idea* to teach your child your conlang (in fact, in the only documented case I know of, when a father tried to speak Klingon only to his child, the child eventually rebelled. I cannot imagine such an experiment didn't damage the child-father relationship). A child is not a possession. Treating them like one is abuse, pure and simple.
    Now if the child is old enough and actually *asks* to be taught your conlang, then that's a different matter altogether.

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Oh, well tell that to people who indoctrinate their children into their religion or raise them with their political views. In fact, no conlanger ever, has ever thought their child was a possession, and it's not any more abusive then teaching your child religion, such as beliefs that one is ultimately evil and worthless and needs to depend on some force for salvation or to say that one is sent to a pit of eternal torture for not doing what that force likes. Unless you condemn religious upbringing, I wouldn't talk about "abuse".
      And, I don't know if these arguments ever considered the child would be raised bilingually; the natlang and the conlang.

      As for the Klingon example: Klingon wasn't meant to be spoken by humans, but Esperanto is, and there are 1000s of native speakers, as Jonas Raaberg said and who are perfectly fine and happy with no "language acquisition problems", so number 5 is bunk nonsense.

      The argument of number 7 is just traditional stubbornness against testing new grounds.

  2. There's around 1000 native esperanto speakers, and as far as I know they're happy that they grew up learning esperanto. It really depends on the language, some conlangs are just fine for normal conversation, while others, like klingon, simply aren't suited for normal human use. With good reason too, it wasn't what it was designed for. Esperanto was designed to be used by humans, and is good at that.