partial transcript of Laádan / Klingon panel

Friday 1-2:15, Laádan vs. Tlhlngan Hol: Differential Diffusion of Created Languages. M.J. Hardman, Elizabeth Barrette, Suzette Haden Elgin, John M. Ford, Andre Guirard.

(I’ll clean this up a bit more and put it on the feministsf wiki)

The concept of the non-holiday, radiidin.

Suzette: poor mary after jesus was born. here come a whole bunch of shepherds and three kings, she’s got to leap up and clean the stable and fix snacks…this is not fun.

MJ: yup, christmas

Elizabeth: Laádan not pushed, thought experiment. Exposure is fan-created. star trek …[...]

[someone] : What grabs people’s imaginations? what is it about a world? Pern, MZB, lackey. tolkien’s elvish. Far more popular now.

greg rihn: start rumor that Laádan is the vast feminist conspiracy. then we’ll have the motion picture The Laádan Code… *laughter*

Suzette: has to catch on its own or it’s not real. if I had done a lot of promotion.. . but then it would not be real. It did not happen in large numbers. Or they would do one themselves that was a better one or a group one. none of those things happened. most of the interest in the language has come from men, oddly enough. I am barraged with letters from men “may I use your book in my class….” I don’t know what they’re doing… maybe making fun of it!

Andre: what conclusion do you draw from that?

Suzette: that women didn’t need it

audience: might it be possible that men needed it? maybe men can’t say the things they need to say. So it is useful to them [to have Laádan to understand themselves and/or women]

Suzette: Well, if so, it was by accident!!!!

audience: well that’s good!

Andre: *mild sarcasm* It seems to me men have no trouble expressing themselves. you’ve got football metaphors what more do you need?

John ford… (missed it)

MJ: what we need is a book where they use Laádan, a successful colony

Suzette: well there’s no beheadings or disembowlments… who wants to go there?

eliz b: gentle fiction: no sex, violence, no foul language. i wonder if i could write a story with that and make it really gripping? for people who get enough of that in the news and real life and who want something elegant and real life… and want something elegant and relaxing… i was rather fascinated from a literary perspective . I’ve had enough of people who mistake fuck for a comma. *general laughter*

Andre: jane austen was writing it

Gregory riihn: well maybe they didnt have a choice back then to write anything else

Me: um yes they did and they were obnoxious then too. elizabethan playwrights for one, poets [if you look for it you find it]

Someone: christian gothic

John m ford: stuff that wouldn’t embarrass beatrix potter vs porn w/out visual aids. book cover encodings tell you what level of stuff is in there. [I note this is a key idea that came up in the Uncomfortable Politics in Feminist Writing panel - that you know what you're getting, that there's labels or warnings]

john – question about languages. other than helping women to express to each other, what use is it for people to learn these other languages? are there other uses in addition? other fictional languages?

Suzette: there are linguists who will tell you there are no purposes whatsoever to learn constructed languges. a hobby, an art form esperanto is the only one with practical use.

andre: there’s…

Suzette: i’m not quite through but i will be in a minute. (finishes talking about esperanto)

andre: sorry, i have to talk about klingon…[...]

eliz: and…[...]

Andre: the practical purpse of esperanto

mj: to become aware of alternate grammar so as not to be bound by your own grammar, your thought is bound on the rails of your own language.

[you also become part of a cultural elite of one sort or another. ]

john m ford: don’t underrate the art form part of it. as a writer… if you’re going to deal with an alien culture. whorfian… i.e. writing a book, if their thought patterns are influenced by their linguistic structure then i want to know what that structure is. klingon… the KLI translated the gospel of st. john the divine into klingon.

Liz H: cultural elite.
- not willing to give up on it, it needs more chances. reach more audience and allow more chances for the spontanesou rhizomatic spreading to happen

Suzette: years of conferences etc, reporters, not once do they want to interview me about Laádan. They interview me about other things.

andre: you need to have other speakers… to want to speak it

rebecca : I disagree. You don’t need another language for that. [for communication btwn women, or feminist thought, i think] You just need to use the language you have differently . my experience in japan… I was there for a couple of years and i ended up just saying you know what, english is my language…. Childrens book… called (what?) [missed it]

Suzette: MILLIONS of people agree with you. *rueful, humorous*

Greg rihn: cooolness factor is big. signal to noise is huge. klingon… that first movie, klingons were only on screen a couple of minutes. just coincidental that they decided to remake the klingons.

Liz: we need a punk rock band with Laádan!

greg: we need a movie of native tongue. useful concepts. i use the word shifgrethor all the time! considering poplitics we find the word double plus ungood very useful!

audience: i just read it for the first time and i am super excited at learning Laádan but i am super bad at learning languages. and the thing that works is immersion… if i wanted to learn latin i could take immersion

Suzette: many years ago there was a Laádan group… stories and poetry and etc. in an APA? Do you even know what that is?

Andre: oh you mean like on paper?? *laughter*

Liz: *typing on computer* what’s paper???

Suzette: But you know, they fought a lot. they fought over things like whether there should be a high toned value on a new word or not and they’d ask me to RULE on it. and I said no, that I don’t do power trips. so it died out and didn’t happen. So it wasn’t needed.

Staci Straw: but look, even in the books where there is such an immense need it took generations for it to happen.

Liz: yeah! so there!

Suzette: well the experiment failed… but is nothing to do with how it would do if it had lucasfilms or whatever behind it. with that power behind it you could make anything a worldwide phenomenon whether it’s any good or not

john ford : well lucas alienated everyone after 6 movies

Suzette: *spiritedly* well he didn’t alienate me as i like them all. as a person who grew up with radio… i love the special effects. ….. [missed some stuff] people getting mad [...]

MJ: there are .. new words on my web site… that my students constructed…

John ford: Well there could be a borgesian story…

MJ: doroledhim: (sp?) average woman no control over her life, no resources of being good to herself, she has family, animals, etc who depend on her sustenance of many kinds, no opportunity to consider her own emotional needs. and cannot or does not choose to abandon her responsibilities. her only indulgence is food. and indulging in the food is doroledhim

woman from britain: talked about these books to my friends who are women: problem i have with the book is it’s not a book you can pick up off the shelf. i don’t think womens press is in existence anymore. i chased it down… there’s not things you’re going to come across if you haven’t been told about them. Those of us who need these languages, and i have a 6 year old and an 8 year old and was home schooling them. and i didnt’ have the neccessary time to find these things and follow through…

piglet: most women are very busy and very overworked. It takes a long time to get mad. It takes a lot of time and energy to get mad. and then … what are you admitting? you can’t use your primary languages to talk about these things? it’s a cycle that goes back into feminism. and we have to move forward and do something with it.

Suzette: but you know when it came to star trek, the busiest women found time. the people were marching in the streets. If I have been a good enough writer, they would have. it’s a measure of my skill, too.

audience: it’s television

Suzette: I’m not invisible. if there had been some enormous enthusiasm, the tv producers knew where to find me. and that is because evil is so much more attractive than good. Milton noticed this. Satan was the star of paradise lost. I couldnl’t figre out a way to make goodness and harmony appeal to human beings. and people seem to lust after violence.

MJ: ursula le guin used english a different way … to translate Kesh… but it is as far as i can tell the most unpopular of her works.

Suzette: that’s interesting

mJ: it was the languages of harmony and peace…

Suzette: well she’s ursula le guin, she can get away with that

MJ: [...]

Suzette: the fact that ursula le guin was able to do it in english means that we don’t need Laádan. we can do it with english.

MJ: [...]

andre: for you in the audience who are fans of Laádan, why not just use the paragraph in english? why do you need to learn a whole language?

Staci Straw: we could just put some Laádan into english and track it in…

Liz: ooo, that’s my plan! introduce some words, which would be useful and increase interest. not everyone will learn the whole language. [slower effect. but real.]

Michele L. : speaker of spanish… native tongue… we can mold the language and sculpt it… to be more fidel… it’s like a garment, you can go buy in rags, or you can clad your… feeling and your subtle feeling that has no words, you can clad them in very fine fitting garments and nice colours. and i try to learn Laádan and the internet web site and i found very very few… and i fond a few available on the internet and I will certainly try to buy the book. but it’s very complicated and it’s not the same currency. so i want to, but don’t sell yourself short. for me it is, a success for me.

suzette: thank you

john ford : all the academe francais has proved is that you cant legislate language

Stephanie Kader: english is not my first language and i learned it for my thesis. i learned it as a foreign language embedded in a foreign language. what’s the point? first of all i became aware that there were concepts i had no word for . and that was.. i identified rather strongly with nazareth because i’m a conference interpreter as well. people were like, don’t you know enough languages already? but no… it’s an effort you have to invest. and most women i talk to are not wiling to invest the efffort.

Suzette: if they were desperate for it they’d be willing.

marilyn : because you’ve percieved it witih your own senses… etc… navajo?

Suzette: that particular one.. evidentials, there are languages all over the world that use evidentials but for that case not navajo. you’re thinking navajo b/c …[...]

Suzette: polled women who don’t use Laádan. women complained it make them feel vulnerable, it made them feel naked. If you’re going to be gramatical you have to determine you know things from your sense. the reason english is so dominant is that you can lie in it more easily than in any other language in the world. Laádan, over and over and over in order to be grammatical you have to speak the truth. english allows you to weasel and wiggle and squiggle and say a thing and take it back at the same time, perfect for diplomacy and business. Laádan won’t let you do that and it makes people feel unsafe.

andre: can i respond to that?

Suzette: No.


andre: that occurred to me as well but i view it in a more positive light

Suzette: “lie” will do

andre: there are excellent reasons to lie. getting …[...]

Suzette: where ARE you going?

andre: [...]

Suzette: Now, you two gentlemen bellowed the entire panel.. it’s the way that men speak, you have these great big voices qwith muscles behind them.. if MJ and I spoke that way peopel would think we were very strange.

andre: um, okay

MJ: my experience with that… -wa, the personal knowledge suffix… in the [...] languages of south america you have to do this. you indicate the sources of knowledge in everything. of course people still lie. alll over the world people lie.

Suzette: yes but you don’t have to lie in english to lie, you can just pretend.

MJ: these seeds need this: and the personal experience, aymara thought people were lying, they just know it out of a book but were using the personal knowledge suffixes. jesuit priest who made first aymara dictionary declared the suffixes to be adornments. So the bible is a translation of a list of words… completely ungrammatical. Begats translated as… (seeds?) fruit of christ’s labor… abraham isaac … converts to jesus b/c of the begats without any grammar in them. It was a tremendous influence on me because i was the one who discovered these suffixes and this grammatical category. you CAN say things grammatically IF they are rude commands. people who learn aymara without the adornments are always speaking in rude commands. (general groan from audience)

Suzette: we have five minutes.

John Kim: about how that language influences it… going back to what john ford said about how learning a language can be part of taking on another mindset. how did … you had some idea for the books before you had the langugage. so how did the language influence the books as opposed to the …

Suzette: it didn’t. not any more than someone in a sf book with starship engines… brings theri knowledge of engines. I’m a linguist. if I make a planet I just kind of *handwave* put in a planet. i’m not a… I’m a linguist. I could construct 6 languages before breakfast now that we have computers. and you know, it was an alien language because it doesn’t have a lot of glottal stops. *laughter*

MJ: hey, my language has a lot of glottal stops

Suzette: except for little boys for whom eeheheheheheeheh [machine gun noise] is a word. *laughter*

John Kim: (something continuing question)

Suzette: two languages, the stupid language the women made for a cover… which fooled the men… and the one underneath. and the women didn’t know what effect it would have. they just thought the society they had didn’t work well and it was necessary to change something fundamental in order for the culture to have an opportunity to change . does that make sense? you have a blank look on your face.

john: i was wondering if you think klingon influenced the star trek world:

Suzette: terran male 14-26 for whom this language is god’s gift. you can spit and kill and hit and scream and pillage rape and it’s wonderful

me: you sound sort of wistful! *joking*

Suzette: I’ve never wanted to pillage or rape. *laughter*

MJ: I loved your… that they became so … to the men that they let them have their own way.

Suzette: there were women who thogut they are doing to have to flee through the deserts…

MJ: nazareth said oh no it won’t be that way…

John Kim: but what about klingon influecnidng star trek

John ford: i never had a documetn i could rpint out.. i had some words… i did some things in the book that were intended to indicate thought patterns. the suffix [] I deconstructed the word klingonese klin, gon, a-se tool, an obejct that’s useable as a weapon as a tool. a people whose attitude toward the universe was that it to be maniplulated. not trying to run roddenberrys idea t hat theyw ere like the russians…. from my exposure to o.’s language it doesn’t have much of a semiotic structure. they made up a bunch of words, they made anot very complicated rammar… it was clearly designed to be difficult enough to make you exert alittle effort, but not so hard it would turn peopel off.

woman in audience: enough of the booming voice.

john ford: i’m sorry but my lady friend is hearing impaired… i didn’t mean to be insulting… I am used to talking that way…

woman in audience: Yup, I’m sure.

*something else was said, but my hands hurt from typing*

- I talked with Staci and PIglet and Michele and some other people about wanting to put more Laadan on the web, the dictionary if not the grammar* Later, Suzette told me that someone has the Láadan dictionary all ready to go online in some kind of database structure, but she wants to make sure with SF3 that it would be okay with them. I hope it is. It would only help sales of the book. And millions of women would read it and use it, if it were online. It needs more chances, more instances to spread from.

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2 Responses to “partial transcript of Laádan / Klingon panel”

  1. oursin

    Someone who thinks that J Austen was the only game in town at her time has a) not read Northanger Abbey (‘Are you quite sure they are all horrid?’) b) heard of the Gothic novel in exactly the same time period c) encountered the still-influential at end of C18th novels of Richardson which were all about sexual harassment and rape, etc. Duh.
    Also, strong men who had won VCs in the Indian Mutiny and the Crimean War wept effusively over the gentle domestic novels of Charlotte Yonge, where the struggles are all spiritual and moral.

  2. Iris

    The current task for the UK ‘B1g Br0ther’ contestants is to learn 20 useful phrases in Klingon. This is the most watched mainstream programme on tv at the moment and I have never heard the Klingon language mentioned before except in more cult or youth type contexts.

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