Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

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Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Wed 18 Apr 2018, 04:38

Apologies for the long post to follow. The brief version of all that follows is: mustering interest/support in a project to resurrect the Rongorongo of Easter Island as a working proto-script.

The invention of writing has, as far as scholars know, occurred independently at least twice in human history, but possibly more times (the ambiguity stemming from several scripts which appear to be writing, but which nobody knows how to read). In all known cases, there has been a long evolution of the writing systems that originates in pictures and ends with a full representation of language. There are at least five major steps along the way (these are my own classifications):

1. Pictures, in which an entire concept or story is represented with an image. Cave-art showing hunters killing a mammoth is a good example. A modern version of the same is a movie poster. The ‘reader’ can get a general sense of what is going on, and even describe what is going on to others, but the words he chooses to describe the picture are his own. If you, for example, see a picture of three little pigs you can probably relate the entire story of the Three Little Pigs, putting the story into your own words.

2. Pictographic-Mnemonic, in which multiple pictures are presented to ‘tell’ different parts of one story. The Bayeux Tapestry is a good example of this (if you ignore the accompanying snippets of text), and a modern example would be a comic-book with no text. Both of these would allow a ‘reader’ to tell a detailed story, but supplying his own words to describe what he sees. Again, pigs: if you see a picture of a little pig infixed inside a house made of straw and picture of a wolf huffing and puffing with an arrow pointing at the house, you can probably relate that specific scene from Three Little Pigs, but again in your own words.

3. Ideographic, in which the picture elements are more or less standardized, with a clear structure to provide ‘reading’ order and abstract symbols to indicate non-pictorial ideas and express thematic links. Attested examples of these are hard to come by, since this seems to be a step that quickly moves forward. The Rongorongo of Easter Island may have fallen into this category, but theories abound, and it could have been either pictographic-mnemonic or substantially more advanced. A modern example of ideographic writing is warning symbols (e.g. a road sign with a ‘standardized’ image of a car behind a red cross can be read as “no cars here”). Pigs: imagine stylized symbols for pig, wolf, house and straw and abstract symbols for three, inside, 'huff-and-puff' and you might get something like -

WOLF -> HUFFANDPUFF -> PIG == (SMALL, INSIDE -> HOUSE == STRAW)

Well, something like that, but with symbols of course. At this stage, a reader can produce the writer's original idea pretty closely, with only minor variations: The wolf huffed and puffed at the little pig inside the house of straw.

4. Proto-Writing, in which the standardization and simplification of the ideographs becomes very vigorous and in which additional abstract symbols are introduced to represent grammatical elements (such as number, plurality, prepositions, tense). The writing does not, at this stage, represent the full language, so a ‘reader’ still needs to supply his own interpretations of the text. As with ideographic writing, there are few attested examples of this stage. Interestingly, when linguists gloss a text, they create a kind of proto writing: dog-PLURAL, mouse-PLURAL, fish-PLURAL all indicate the same function of a noun, but the reader needs to supply the knowledge that dog becomes dogs, that mouse becomes mice and that fish becomes fish or fishes. The writer's original idea is expressed almost perfectly, with only minor input from the reader.

5. Writing. The movement from Proto-writing to writing (where the full language of the writer is conveyed to the reader) can take many forms. Commonly, the proto-writing descends into the rhebus principle (attested in Chinese, Egyptian Hieroglyphics and Mayan Glyphs), with the ideographic link between shapes and meaning becoming supplanted by phonetic links. These then (in most cases) evolve into syllabic, abjad or alphabetic systems (except Chinese, which maintains a peculiar hybrid state and Japanese which just uses everything you can think of in some way). The writer's ideas (in the form of complete sentences) are transmitted perfectly to the reader, who is not required to supply anything himself.

6. Hypothetical Trans-Writing. This doesn't exist, but perhaps we are nearing this state in most modern languages. It's the concept that words can be represented along with stress, intonation, pauses, facial expressions, etc. giving a more complete picture of the writer's full meaning. Kids do this anyway on their Devil's trumpets:

PIZZA!?! Tonight.....? You bet ---- but you're paying :-P ^-^ xxx


Anyway, lesson over. What interests me greatly is stage 4 – proto-writing - before the transition to phoneticism occurs. What I’ve always wondered is, what if this simply didn’t happen? What if the proto-writing continued to develop without the introduction of a link between shape and sound? Could this even happen? Could a full writing system exist that accurately conveys the ideas of the writer without conveying the sounds associated with those ideas[* see below]? Now, I’m by no means the first person to wonder this, and several attempts have been made over the years to construct ‘universal’ symbolic languages. Most fail at some point or other, largely due to the enormity of having to find symbolic methods to express the myriad concepts and ideas present in a full living language. But, what if we deliberately restrict the range of expressible ideas? Instead of making a ‘universal’ symbolic language, we confine ourselves to a small (but interesting) geographical/chronological period? Do things then become much more achievable?

Well, clearly I’m heading towards something here. I’ve already mentioned the Rongorongo of Easter Island, which I’ve loved since I first saw them. There’s something fascinating about this unreadable script (which may or may not be a writing system – general consensus is that it probably represents a system that is in the transition towards phoneticism – we’ll also probably never know). For several years I was a contributor to the tiny group of dedicated scholars of the Rongorongo, but we all kind of knew that our efforts to ‘crack’ the writing were doomed to fail. Well, I say, why waste a nice script?

Thus I conceive of a project to resurrect the Rongorongo as a working symbolic language, aiming to make it (minimally) capable of expressing the known histories, legends and culture of pre-destruction Rapanui (for those who don’t know, Rongorongo was developed and used in a narrow period between contact with a passing Spanish vessel and the later self-destruction/cannibalism/enslavement of the entire island’s population – by the time anybody in Europe paid attention to the indigenous writing, nobody was left who knew how to read it). Of course, we cannot reconstruct the writing system, its forms and peculiarities being forgotten to time, but we can resurrect it in a form that is aesthetically the same and which can express the same things that the Rapanui probably felt the need to record for posterity (likely to be mainly stories about fishing, building big stone heads, eating neighboring tribes and genealogical records).

This cannot, I imagine, be an easy project, but I’m pretty sure it would be fascinating to work on. It can’t be a one-person show, because I think the conversations about how to do certain things would be extremely interesting too. So, simple question, who’s in?

Edit: I should add, that a working knowledge of the Rapanui language, or any related language, is not required (possibly an impediment). Additionally, I can supply any interested parties with extensive (out of print and very hard to get hold of) literature on the subject of the script, including complete corpuses and glyph catalogues, my own work on transcription protocols, etc. I envisage the project working on a consensus basis, where a glyph or structure is presented for approval (by any of the team members), and, if approved, worked into an expanding definition. Glyphs will initially be sourced from the ones attested in the Rongorongo corpus, but there is scope to introduce new glyphs as time goes on.

[* there is an argument that this happens anyway, even in alphabetic scripts, where readers learn to read by the general shape of a word rather than by spelling the word out, translating it into thought-sounds and then cross-referencing those sounds to find meanings. It can also be argued that Chinese characters do this to some extent. Although most contain a phonetic element and a radical, few native readers actually think about these when reading and just sort of 'know' what a word is by the shape of its character. In fact, having asked many a native speaker why a certain radical+phonetic combination exists, they have had to think hard about it and are often surprised by their own answer - if they have one]
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Salmoneus » Wed 18 Apr 2018, 17:52

The obvious objection here is that your steps 3 and 4 have never existed, and that this isn't how writing works.

The other objection is that you're not "resurrecting" rongorongo, you're appropriating another culture's artifacts to use as the raw material for your own conlang.
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Wed 18 Apr 2018, 23:21

Steps 3 and 4, as I said, are barely attested, but they have existed. Take Chinese, for example, which moved swiftly through a period where the oracle bone characters (presumed to be pictographic-mnemonic) were deliberately compounded and augmented to create new characters. Some were made by combining ideas, more were created by using the sound of an idea and mixing it with a radical to make "sounds like X, but is to do with Y" characters. If steps 3 and 4 didn't happen, we would have had people spontaneously switching from pictures to complete writing systems (without borrowing them from somebody else who has gone through steps 3 and 4). I simply have to contest your reply and state that this is precisely how writing evolves. People don't just wake up one morning and say "hey, let's start using an alphabet/abjad/syllabary from now on".

As for cultural appropriation... well, name a conlang based on a real language which isn't guilty of that? The only question is whether that appropriation is, in some way, offensive or whether it is a homage. If I 'appropriate' Anglo-Saxon to make a conlang have I insulted anyone? If somebody makes a conlang based on Old Persian, do modern Persians take umbrage? Has China declared war (recently) on the creators of the many related conlangs or, for that matter, on the Koreans and Japanese for appropriating their writing system? Did the West declare war on China for borrowing 'our' alphabet to write Pinyin? Hell, we're all humans and we all share our cultural heritage one way or another. If we go down the route of declaring each and every isolated geographical area, legend and period of history as belonging exclusively to one ethnic group or another (to the point where no other ethnic group is allowed to touch its stuff), that's a pretty sad outcome[*].

I also think the word 'resurrection' is perfectly valid in this context too, since I expressly stated that the intention was to confine the proto-script to the telling of Rapanui legends and history, which is what the Rongorongo were for.

[* And it's silly and embarrassing too. Rather like China's recent complaint to all the neighbouring countries for daring to call the CHINESE New Year things like the SPRING Festival or LUNAR Celebrations. It's OUR Festival. You can use it, but you can't use it if you don't make it clear that it's OURS].
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Keenir » Thu 19 Apr 2018, 04:23

Scytheria wrote:
Wed 18 Apr 2018, 23:21
As for cultural appropriation... well, name a conlang based on a real language which isn't guilty of that?
except that when it happens, the conlanger acknowledges it, and tends to rename their conlang to avoid confusion.
The only question is whether that appropriation is, in some way, offensive or whether it is a homage. If I 'appropriate' Anglo-Saxon to make a conlang have I insulted anyone? If somebody makes a conlang based on Old Persian, do modern Persians take umbrage? Has China declared war (recently) on the creators of the many related conlangs or, for that matter, on the Koreans and Japanese for appropriating their writing system? Did the West declare war on China for borrowing 'our' alphabet to write Pinyin?
Except thats not what you're doing. You're trying to out-Bliss Bliss himself: you aren't just using the symbols as a starting point -- your OP said you wanted to take the symbols, assign new sounds to them, and call it Rongorongo.

Thats like taking the Chinese scripts (Pinyin or otherwise), giving every sign a new meaning, and then calling the results "Chinese" or "Real Chinese". (or "Better Chinese")
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Thu 19 Apr 2018, 05:15

Well, as yet there is no name for this - I've only stated that it would be based on the RR script and used within the narrow context of Rapanui oral history. I have at no point stated that the result would be a reconstruction of the script/language, only an aesthetically similar thing that conveys the same sort of content. Let's imagine the project comes to fruition. Do you think I'd be saying "And Lo! This is now the official RR language!"? Of course not. I think I made it abundantly clear that this was an entirely speculative endeavor. There's no intention to open up schools on Easter Island and force the Rapanui descendants to learn a made-up language and no intention to pass it off as anything other than an interesting exercise. Given the nature of the conlanging hobby, I doubt the result would ever leave the forum.

As for assigning 'new sounds' to the glyphs. Not true, and nowhere in my OP have I said that. For one thing, nobody knows the original sounds or even if the glyphs represented sounds. I have clearly stated that the aim is to create a proto-writing that exists at the point before phoneticism.

I'm sensing some 'not brown enough for white man to approve' here. Pretty sure that if I was a descendent of the Rapanui, nobody would challenge my effort to pay homage to the RR glyphs and oral traditions of my distant ancestors. Let’s applaud the charming ‘ethnic’ on her island who wants to borrow the aesthetic of her poor oppressed ancestral script and make use of her ancestor's oral history. What a noble savage! What a lofty, worthwhile goal! White man stamps his seal of approval. Well, personally I don't buy into this. The world's cultural heritage is everybody's to share, and I don't need approval from a self-appointed white-arbitrator. Having spent a week on Easter Island, I can safely say the majority of inhabitants have little interest in the RR beyond putting it on mugs, T-shirts and witless tourists who want an interesting tattoo. It hardly has the contemporary sacred significance of Hebrew characters or Arabic script, and there's plenty of people toying with those in their conlanguages.

Anyway, the question I initially posed was who might be interested in working on this, not who wouldn't be. I appreciate the input, and any and all opinions are of interest, but I think we'll have to agree to disagree on a point or two (and that's the point of forums, I suppose).
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Keenir » Thu 19 Apr 2018, 21:21

Scytheria wrote:
Thu 19 Apr 2018, 05:15
Well, as yet there is no name for this - I've only stated that it would be based on the RR script and used within the narrow context of Rapanui oral history. I have at no point stated that the result would be a reconstruction of the script/language, only an aesthetically similar thing that conveys the same sort of content.
sounds like a very fine hair to split.
As for assigning 'new sounds' to the glyphs. Not true, and nowhere in my OP have I said that. For one thing, nobody knows the original sounds or even if the glyphs represented sounds. I have clearly stated that the aim is to create a proto-writing that exists at the point before phoneticism.
writing before language? what were you saying about the poor ethnic?
I'm sensing some 'not brown enough for white man to approve' here. Pretty sure that if I was a descendent of the Rapanui, nobody would challenge my effort to pay homage to the RR glyphs and oral traditions of my distant ancestors. Let’s applaud the charming ‘ethnic’ on her island who wants to borrow the aesthetic of her poor oppressed ancestral script and make use of her ancestor's oral history. What a noble savage! What a lofty, worthwhile goal!
hm, I need to combine Saxon runes with Hebrew script - that way I can use that excuse too.
White man stamps his seal of approval. Well, personally I don't buy into this. The world's cultural heritage is everybody's to share, and I don't need approval from a self-appointed white-arbitrator.
except you're not sharing - you're grabbing Rongorongo, and saying you don't care what they used to mean or say or anything else, because you're giving them new meanings.
Having spent a week on Easter Island, I can safely say the majority of inhabitants have little interest in the RR beyond putting it on mugs, T-shirts and witless tourists who want an interesting tattoo. It hardly has the contemporary sacred significance of Hebrew characters or Arabic script, and there's plenty of people toying with those in their conlanguages.
except nobody is taking Arabic or Hebrew scripts and saying they'll redefine the useage and grammar and everything else about the script because it doesn't matter what the original function or use of them was.
(I spent a week in Lydia - can I steal the Carian script?)

so, you spent a week there, and know all about their feelings that they don't neccessarily tell to the tourists about their ancestral writing system? even Mead and Everett didn't have that sort of good fortune!
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Thu 19 Apr 2018, 23:44

Okay... I'll attempt to re-explain my position. Perhaps I've done a bad job in the OP of expressing what I would like to do, and if that's the case its due to my phrasing of things. Perhaps the idea is grossly offensive and I should be ashamed of myself, but I still don't see it.

Several things I've said seem to have caused confusion/contention, so I'll deal with them one-by-one:

1. What do I mean by writing without sounds? All language has sounds, doesn't it?
Of course all spoken language has sounds. But writing does not have to carry that sound information. If I type this ( [<3] ), you can read this as heart, love, like or whatever your words are in your language for that symbol. The symbol expresses an idea, not a phonetic pattern. The phonetic pattern is supplied by the reader, not the writer. If I type (2 [:|] [<3] [->] 1 [:|] :?: ) you would be able to interpret that as do you love me? (especially if you know the system), and again the writer can transfer meanings and ideas to the reader without saying how to pronounce them. The reader can interpret those symbols into French, German, Latin, Nahuatl or whatever languages he speaks, and two readers with the same language might do so differently: is it true that you love me? You love me? Is your heart mine? etc. Either way, the idea is more or less expressed, but not the phonetics. So when I say that the RR in their original form may or may not have been used to convey sound information, I mean that we do not know if it was purely symbolic or en route to being phonetic (or, less likely, totally phonetic). Proto-writing is thus writing that has formal structures for presenting pictographic ideas, but which still lacks any inherent phoneticism. The reader supplies this. The writer can express general ideas, but not the full language of his or her thoughts.

2. You're going to assign new meanings to the RR glyphs and pass them off as a new/better/official version of RR.
Despite what the numerous 'mysteries of the world' and 'top 10 unsolved' websites may claim, the meaning of quite a large number of RR are known or suspected - the pictographic ones. Additionally, the function of many others is suspected, by which I mean that it is known certain symbols seem to act as connectors, phrase parsers, numbers, verbs, etc., but the specific functions can only be guessed at. The project I proposed would be based first and foremost on what is known. Then on what is suspected. Then on what is guessed. So, yes, I concede, there would be some inevitable reassignment of meanings. As to the claim that I would declare the result a new, better or official version of RR - I fail to see where and how I ever stated such a thing. If it helps, let me state the opposite now: BASED on the current consensus understanding of the RR's original meanings, but with considerable speculative input resulting in something aesthetically similar which can be used to convey the same sort of things.

3. How can you express the same sort of things as the RR when they can't be read?
The RR fall into a funny category of lost language. We know the old Rapanui language (or, at least, can reconstruct it well enough), and we know many of the oral histories of the old Rapanui people (as they were recorded). We also know (according to informants who had seen the talking boards being used in their youth) that the boards were used to recite those oral histories. It would seem that the perfect Rosetta Stone exists... except it doesn't. The bad luck of the whole thing is that none of the recorded oral histories seem to match what is seen on the few RR inscriptions to have survived. So, in short, the kind of content is known (oral histories, many of which have been recorded), so it is perfectly possible to make a conscriptlang that expresses the same sort of thing.

4. The race/ethnicity/appropriation thing.
Virtually all conlangs based on a real language borrow, change or otherwise bastardise the letters, sounds, words of that language. The question is why has this particular project been accused of cultural appropriation, which in turn carries an implied meaning of 'you have no right to do this because you're not ethnically entitled to do so'? These forums contain hundreds, perhaps thousands, of projects in which one, two or more real languages are twisted, extrapolated, fused with another, and so on. Why is this one (thus far) considered inappropriate? The only reason I can think of is the assumption that the smaller, rarer, more isolated a language is and the more historically oppressed its speakers were, the more precious those who have a hereditary link to it will be about it. And there's an inadvertent racism there, born of a superiority thing. Why would a modern inhabitant of Easter Island be outraged by this project any more than a larger ethnic group would be by a different conlang? Is this just a case of thinking that bigger, more cosmopolitan, wealthier people can put up with somebody playing around with their language, but that smaller, more remote, less 'advanced', poorer people must, by default, take vast umbrage to it? Are people seriously thinking along the lines of ooh, mustn't do that, they think their signs are sacred and if you do this, they'll think you've angered their gods. Yes, my week on Easter Island did not give me vast insight into the feelings of the 'natives', but I have corresponded with the few scholars who live there (and live internationally) over many years, have contributed to the literature myself on many occasions and have a well-informed sense that the RR mean no more to the modern Rapanui than the text of Beowulf means to the average Brit (e.g. he can't read it and isn't even interested in doing so). Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe there is a hidden sentiment on Rapanui that wishes the foreigners would go away and leave their sacred writing alone. Maybe the modern Rapanui sneak out of their huts (villas), climb up the side of the volcanos naked (drive up in their Hondas wearing brand-name clothes) and secretly chant the old songs in strange rituals (piss around on their iPhones). But I very much doubt it. Seriously, don't assume the RR have any more significance to the modern Rapanui than the Roman alphabet has to you.

5. Final note.
There have been some interesting words thrown around - grabbing, stealing - as if this is some furtive and underhand attempt to 'claim' a script as my own and pass it off as a decipherment. Nope. Not stated anywhere. As stated from the beginning, this is nothing more than an attempt to utilise the RR script to create an imaginary writing system that can minimally express the things it naturally depicts. Its for fun. It's for the interest value alone.

But anyway, I'm through with trying to justify this. I'm happy with the proposal. Maybe some people are not. That's fine. If you're not interested don't take part. Simple solution.
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Fri 20 Apr 2018, 01:51

Last ditch attempt at a rationale. Hope this clarifies/satisfies:

Disclaimer (apparently very important): This project outlines a symbolic written language which utilizes the glyph shapes attested in the Rongorongo of Easter Island. These glyph shapes are assigned meanings, sometimes those which are generally assumed (by academics and scholars of the Rongorongo) to be the ‘real’ meanings, sometimes those which can be reasonably guessed, and sometimes those which are entirely imagined. The grammar and syntax of the project is wholly imagined. The result is a proto-writing system which looks quite a lot like the original Rongorongo inscriptions, and which can express the same sort of ideas that they originally conveyed (i.e. oral histories of old Rapanui), but it is not and never will be actual Rongorongo (as a tool for representing the old Rapanui language). It must be stated for the record that the result of this project is in no way a ‘real’ reading or decipherment of the Rongorongo. Neither is it intended, through its use, to replace or otherwise supersede the original. It can be viewed as an aesthetically-similar homage to the original inscriptions, the real meaning of which has been lost to time.

If you prefer to think of things in terms of alternative histories – imagine that Easter Island has a small neighboring island (with the same flora and fauna) once populated by people with a similar culture and language. Let us call that place Island X and its people the X-ians. At some time, the two neighbors were in contact with each other, and through a process of amicable sharing (because sharing art and culture is nice, and the Easter Islanders and X-ians both knew this even if other people in bigger and more advanced cultures who had no relationship to them might suddenly object to their friendly behavior just to satisfy some superiority thing), the well-developed Rongorongo of Easter Island were adopted by the X-ians. The X-ians, however, did not adopt the grammar and syntax of the Rongorongo. Instead they used the glyph shapes in different ways, retaining some of the more obvious meanings but completely inventing others to suit their needs. Irrespective of where the Rongorongo was along the path to becoming a full writing system (which is unknown), we do know that the X-ians only ever managed to employ the glyphs in a symbolic way, where meanings and ideas were expressed independently of their language’s sounds. The X-ian glyphs thus served as aid memoires or mnemonic triggers to aid the recital of oral histories, not as true representations of the words spoken during those recitals.
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Keenir » Fri 20 Apr 2018, 09:29

Scytheria wrote:
Thu 19 Apr 2018, 23:44
4. The race/ethnicity/appropriation thing.
The question is why has this particular project been accused of cultural appropriation, which in turn carries an implied meaning of 'you have no right to do this because you're not ethnically entitled to do so'?
You are the only one who mentioned ethnicity.

okay, i admit i mentioned my own in reply to your accusation of ethnic-only claims you thought others were making.


ps: also, thats not what cultural appropriation means - or not entirely.
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Vlürch » Fri 20 Apr 2018, 16:27

Scytheria wrote:
Wed 18 Apr 2018, 23:21
As for cultural appropriation... well, name a conlang based on a real language which isn't guilty of that? The only question is whether that appropriation is, in some way, offensive or whether it is a homage. If I 'appropriate' Anglo-Saxon to make a conlang have I insulted anyone? If somebody makes a conlang based on Old Persian, do modern Persians take umbrage? Has China declared war (recently) on the creators of the many related conlangs or, for that matter, on the Koreans and Japanese for appropriating their writing system? Did the West declare war on China for borrowing 'our' alphabet to write Pinyin? Hell, we're all humans and we all share our cultural heritage one way or another. If we go down the route of declaring each and every isolated geographical area, legend and period of history as belonging exclusively to one ethnic group or another (to the point where no other ethnic group is allowed to touch its stuff), that's a pretty sad outcome[*].
This. Unfortunately, that's a minority view especially among conlangers, as paradoxical as it is. The more obscure and specific you get on your dig for inspiration and/or influences, the more offended people get, when it logically should be the exact opposite since it shows interest in languages/cultures other than one's own. But nope. If you're white, you're wrong. That's a big part of why so many white people are desperately grasping at straws to not be seen as white, and why I as a Finn have at times asked people accusing me of cultural appropriation whether they're Neo-Nazis since it was Hitler that declared Finns white; the usual reponse is that even asking that makes me a Neo-Nazi. Apparently questioning Hitler's authority is the #1 quality of Neo-Nazis...? :roll:

...and there, Godwin's law is proven true once again. Fucking hell.
Scytheria wrote:
Thu 19 Apr 2018, 05:15
I'm sensing some 'not brown enough for white man to approve' here. Pretty sure that if I was a descendent of the Rapanui, nobody would challenge my effort to pay homage to the RR glyphs and oral traditions of my distant ancestors. Let’s applaud the charming ‘ethnic’ on her island who wants to borrow the aesthetic of her poor oppressed ancestral script and make use of her ancestor's oral history. What a noble savage! What a lofty, worthwhile goal! White man stamps his seal of approval. Well, personally I don't buy into this. The world's cultural heritage is everybody's to share, and I don't need approval from a self-appointed white-arbitrator.
This is how I feel about all this stuff, too, but again, the minority of the majority who actually care about minorities (especially white Americans) are extremely overprotective of them. My theory is that it has a lot to do with them feeling like they need to compensate for the majority who wouldn't give two fucks if all minorities were genocided, or even actively seek to oppress them. Now, I don't know if that's really the majority view (I doubt it), but according to the people who feel like it's their responsibility to defend every minority even where no one belonging to said minorities is actually present certainly think it is. Where it gets ridiculous is that there is no global majority, and even if there was, white people wouldn't be it (as if white people were a unified group to begin with).

Especially on the internet, it shouldn't matter where someone is from or what their skin colour is, what language they speak, etc. except in cases where a native speaker of a language corrects someone on something they got wrong about that language or their culture or something like that when the person who first made claims about said language/culture was incorrectly stating them as fact. Even then, people lie; both the "appropriator" and the "appropriatee" are just as likely to lie, the former for sensationalism or whatever and the latter for nationalism or whatever...

...or just for fun. I mean, an online friend of mine is half-Japanese and never misses a chance to teach incorrect Japanese, and there are people on Reddit, Unilang, etc. popping up from time to time who claim to be native speakers of previously undocumented languages; they pretty much always have all the dead giveaways of conlangs. While that's not proof that they're lying, it certainly seems at least as likely as them being speakers of languages that no one has ever heard of and/or went extinct anywhere between decades or millennia ago... and like, I've trolled people on Omegle with my conlangs; some of them haven't been too happy when I revealed that it's actually a conlang, but did I stop conlanging? Of course not. I haven't trolled people on Omegle with my conlangs in years but that doesn't mean I wouldn't do it in the future, especially for fear of offending someone over "cultural appropriation".
Scytheria wrote:
Thu 19 Apr 2018, 23:44
Perhaps the idea is grossly offensive and I should be ashamed of myself, but I still don't see it.
Neither do I, but we're the minority on this. Heh, minority...

As for the project itself, I don't have enough interest or dedication to commit to something like this but I look forward to whatever comes out of it. [:)] Reminds me of when I wanted to make a conlang using Linear A; no one claimed to be offended over that idea, but that was like two years ago...
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Davush » Fri 20 Apr 2018, 19:27

If you want to use Rongorongo as inspiration for a conlang just go ahead and do it, I’m sure it would be interesting. I think people are just puzzled (and being slightly pedantic) by the wording of ‘resurrecting’ it - as you said it’s a conlang project and was probably the wrong choice of words.
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Reyzadren » Sat 21 Apr 2018, 06:57

I am not interested in proto-language projects, but do you have any pictures of those symbols on tourist souvenirs from your Easter Island trip? [:D]
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Keenir » Mon 23 Apr 2018, 03:36

If I have misstepped, I apologize in the interests of forum peace; it is entirely possible (and likely) we all spoke past one another in our initial conversings, and things escalated from there.
Scytheria wrote:
Wed 18 Apr 2018, 04:38
Well, clearly I’m heading towards something here. I’ve already mentioned the Rongorongo of Easter Island, which I’ve loved since I first saw them. There’s something fascinating about this unreadable script (which may or may not be a writing system – general consensus is that it probably represents a system that is in the transition towards phoneticism – we’ll also probably never know). For several years I was a contributor to the tiny group of dedicated scholars of the Rongorongo,
I freely admit I missed that last line there -- though I think we'd all love to see what was learned by these scholars.
Davush wrote:
Fri 20 Apr 2018, 19:27
If you want to use Rongorongo as inspiration for a conlang just go ahead and do it, I’m sure it would be interesting. I think people are just puzzled (and being slightly pedantic) by the wording of ‘resurrecting’ it - as you said it’s a conlang project and was probably the wrong choice of words.
Scytheria wrote:
Wed 18 Apr 2018, 04:38
Edit: I should add, that a working knowledge of the Rapanui language, or any related language, is not required (possibly an impediment).
I think that line, in conjunction with the resurrecting, was what triggered my reaction and the ensuing replies from me.


EDIT: if I may offer a suggestion?...
With this project, I aim to use the Rongorongo script (though it may end up being a variant by the time we're done) and all that is known of how the script was used - that being my guiding principle in this project.
At work on Apaan: viewtopic.php?f=6&t=4799
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Mon 23 Apr 2018, 11:28

Well, I'm more than happy to steer things back on track. All of the above goes to prove the old adage that the meaning of any communication is found in how it is interpreted, not in what is said or written. I've made mistakes with some word choices (e.g. resurrect), and the word 'appropriate' was used in response, perhaps with the intended meaning of 'use' but interpreted by me as 'using without the right to use'. A mistake or two all round, and nothing that we can't get past.
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Re: Collaborative Resurrection of Rongorongo

Post by Scytheria » Tue 24 Apr 2018, 08:46

Concepts/ideas to batter around...

Since the proposed proto-writing is used solely to aid the recitation of oral-histories, a limited range of expression is required. There is no need, for example, for any grammatical person other than the third since the histories simply state who did what to whom and who begat what. Tenses are thus unnecessary, since everything described is a completed past event. Ideally, I would like to get the range of expressible 'verbs' as wide as possible with the fewest actual 'verbs'. As such, I've been playing around with a system of very generic verbs which cover a wide range of meanings:

AGREE he/she agreed, conceded, decided
COPULATE he/she copulated, he joined together
DIE he/she died, slept
DO he/she did, used, processed, prepared, cooked
GIVE he/she gave, bestowed, put, placed
GO he/she went, came, walked, ran, climbed, swam, flew, travelled, sailed
HAVE he/she had, owned, was in possession of
KILL he/she killed, destroyed, ruined
KNOW he/she knew, thought, understood
MAKE he/she made, begat, issued forth
SAY he/she said, spoke, told, asked, chanted, declared, announced
SENSE he/she sensed, saw, smelled, touched, found, discovered
TAKE he/she took, seized, captured, stole
WANT he/she wanted, needed, desired, loved, liked
CONSUME he/she ate, drank, consumed, burned, used up

These 15 seem to cover a lot of ground. Each would be a variant of the anthropomorphic glyphs, where body and hand position, along with connectivity to preceding/following glyphs, indicates (generally) what is happening:

AGREE - kneeling position (interaction), right hand holds the person agreed with
COPULATE - standing position (action), phallus affix
DIE - seated position (state), missing head
DO - standing position (action), right hand raised or attached to tool
GIVE - running position (transition), right hand raised or attached to thing given
GO - running position (transition)
HAVE - seated position (state), right hand holds the thing possessed
KILL - standing position (action), right hand holds weapon, patient in the DIE position
KNOW - seated position (state)
MAKE - standing position (action), left hand holds tool, right hand holds thing produced
SAY - kneeling position (interaction), right hand raised with open palm
SENSE - kneeling position (interaction), followed by eyes, ears, hand, etc.
TAKE - running position (transition), left hand holding object taken
WANT - seated position (state), right hand pointing towards mouth
CONSUME - standing position (action), right hand pointing towards mouth

There's scope for more of these, so if you spot a glaring verbal omission do let me know! I'll try to get images of what the above proposes at some point soon.
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