While browsing this question, two of the answers deal about Lojban and Esperanto.

On the answer related to Lojban, there's an upvoted comment which states that Artifical Languages are not to be considered.

I am a bit confused and perplex:

  • For example, I don't know of any writing system that has not been artificially created.
  • I don't know of any Artificial Language that do not convey semantic
  • I don't know of any Artificial Language that does not comply with a grammar etc...

What are the reasons Artificial Languages should not be under the scope of Linguistics ?


The purpose of these images is ONLY to illustrate my statement (I have been asked about it in comments and answer) that writing systems are artificial.

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    That comment actually says that artificial languages are off-topic for that list (of languages "whose writing is 100% phonemic"), not for this site. – brass tacks May 5 '19 at 9:51
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    I think it is still a valid question! Some people may have the viewpoint that you mention in the title. I think whether "Artificial languages" are counted as part of linguistics depends on the situation, but I don't know enough to write a good answer to your question. The term "linguistics" may include a lot of different approaches: different people have different definitions – brass tacks May 5 '19 at 9:59
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    This should be moved to Linguistics Meta. – curiousdannii May 6 '19 at 1:17
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    The question asks "Why are AL not considered part of linguistics", not "Why are AL not considered within the scope of linguistics SE", so the question is about linguistics, not about the site, hence it belongs here and not on Meta. – lemontree May 6 '19 at 17:12
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    @Lemontree the question says that, but it's clearly reacting to site issues, specifically what is allowed for list-of-languages tagged questions. – curiousdannii May 7 '19 at 21:49

The question is "What are the reasons Artificial Languages should not be under the scope of Linguistics" (it's not a question about writing systems). As a question about personal opinion it is not suited for SE because it's not a question about fact, but that can be remedied: what reasons can be given that ALs are not within the scope of Linguistics? That is distinct (even if related to) a question about what is on-topic for LSE (such a question belongs on Meta).

The answer derives from a view of what the subject matter of linguistics is. If you define linguistics maximally broadly as being about any kind of communication and systematic transmission of information, then AL's would certainly be in the scope of Linguistics. Linguistics would encompass many disciplines, such as genetics (the grammar of DNA), bee dancing, bird song, maybe even how viruses work. Historically, the science called "linguistics" (Sprachwissenschaft, nyelvészet and so on) has been associated with a narrower set of questions, about human languages (yes, I know that we have not yet defined "language").

The dominant trend in linguistics has been to study those properties of language that occur universally and naturally, without conscious human intervention, and linguistics has been seen as a scientific discipline which asks "what is the nature of that {cognitive faculty/form of behavior}?". This narrows the scope of linguistics, so that the study of articulatory behavior of world-class opera singers is outside the scope of linguistics (Being Martti Talvela is not universally available and naturally available, it requires massive effort and inherent talent). Or, the study of theories of judicial interpretation w.r.t. what the words of a law are said to "mean" is not a part of linguistics. That does not mean that linguistic tools cannot be used in such studies, it means that the product of such research does not address the presumed central question of the science of linguistics. On those grounds, AL's would not qualify as within the scope of linguistics. You can use the tools of linguistics to construct an AL, but ALs don't inform you about the nature of languages (as defined). Of course the discussion changes once an AL is spoken so prevalently that children actually acquire it as their language.

You can disagree with the initial premise and offer an alternative statement of what you think the science of linguistics is about, and that statement could well include AL's, poetry, pheromone transmission and so on. ALs and writing systems are on the margins (both being artificial). The only argument for a particular definition of a pattern of human activity ("a study") is historical precedent. You could say, if you want, that "Linguistics" is a very broad discipline that includes DNA studies, and define the study of the universal naturally occurring human code of proposition-articulation as "nyelvészet". But there is no objective way to establish the "intrinsically correct" name for a specific field of study.

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    That makes me wonder, at which moment do one can separate animal communication, with gesture, colours modification, cries/screams, which some of them have been proven to convey meaning (aerial danger, terresrial danger for example), or even names (dolphins give a name to their babies at the moment of birth and this water-whistle is kept al life long), the moment when the homo species started using sounds to express more than anger and danger, and the moment where a danger scream quietly became a word decent for a linguistic analysis... Now I see the difficulty in definining the field of study. – Stephane Rolland May 5 '19 at 16:22
  • That is a question... my theory of language assumes a different evolutionary scenario where the evolution of language is driven by developments in volitional movement, i.e. it's neural, not functional. But that's another thread. – user6726 May 5 '19 at 16:36
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    When, or if, any ALs develop a stable user community and start behaving like real languages -- or if any ever look like getting close -- they'll be grist for the linguistic research mill. At the moment, though, there's nothing in Klingon or Lojban that hasn't been put there on purpose, with full documentation, so while many linguists enjoy conlanging, we all know that no conlang is remotely as complex or interesting as any real human language. – jlawler May 5 '19 at 16:36
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    @jlawler Esperanto is a community of millions of speaker if I remember well. I have a vague piece of memory like 5 millions in the world. I have not checked. – Stephane Rolland May 5 '19 at 16:40
  • @StephaneRolland, the issue is whether children learn the language in the natural way that they learn natural languages, but picking it up from their community. This incidentally points to another division in linguistics qua scientific discipline: the scientific study of natural language acquisition by children, versus the practical study of effective ways to instruct adults how to speak a second language well enough. – user6726 May 5 '19 at 16:48

Speculating about how people could better communicate doesn't seem relevant or useful to linguists, who seek to understand how people do actually communicate. Linguistics is a science, based on evidence collected from observations. That is a quite different activity from that of artificial language fans, who seem to think they already know how real languages work, but who actually know very little (even less than linguists).

Why do you characterize writing systems as artificial? Alphabetic writing approximates the phoneme systems of real languages, and it has been derived from careful observations of human speech over hundreds of years.

It is true that artificial languages conform to created grammars. This does not make artificial languages like natural languages, however. Natural languages do not conform to any grammars that have yet been devised. Much like the case with writing systems, grammars of human construction are but halting and incomplete efforts to describe some facts of human languages we have observed.

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    could you give any reference for your statement about writing systems being based on phonems ? All the writing systems I know of were originally glyphs that evolved slowly into alphabets or systems of ideograms, or a mix of the two: leading to a mix of loans, imitation and evoluationary stuffs. I may very well be wrong, that's why I would be grateful if you had a reference for your statement. – Stephane Rolland May 5 '19 at 13:52
  • Not the complete image of the origin of Latin ALphabet I have seen once, but this is illustrating my point of view. Notice the drawing of a cow for the origin of the letter A antikforever.com/Syrie-Palestine/Phenicien%20Cananeen/Images/… – Stephane Rolland May 5 '19 at 13:59
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    Wikipedia has a good article on alphabets with remarks on their phonemic status here: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alphabet – Greg Lee May 5 '19 at 14:08
  • You don't seem to answer to my statement about the letter A (Aleph, Alpha, at the origin of the word Alphabet) originnally being the drawing of the head of a cow with its horns. Any reason? Because it is literally an example of my statement,. – Stephane Rolland May 5 '19 at 14:48
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    I think "arrogance" was deserved, however, my point remains without it, so in the interest of amity and good will, I've removed it. – Greg Lee May 7 '19 at 12:28

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