Serena wrote:1) Is it unfairly biased against Chinese people to have a sound that Chinese doesn't have? Absolutely not. Every single phonology is 100% unbiased if you chose it just because you wanted to, and 100% biased if you chose it because you, as an individual, are comfortable with it.
How do you convince people that one isn't the other? I think people are trying to avoid sentiments like, "Isn't it just like the Man
to make me have to say a /θ/!" If a majority of the world's speakers supposedly have difficulty producing, say, [θ], including it is taken by many auxlangers as a gigundous "F*ck you!" to would-be learners.
2) You can not look at a phonology and say: "Ow, that's really biased!", because biasedness is not a property of the product itself, it is a property of the production process.
I think you're playing with the pragmatics here. If someone looks at a phonology and says, "Ow, that's really biased!
", what they mean
is the production process was biased. No, there is nothing inherently biased about sounds an sich
, but if an auxlang has Czech <ř>, Georgian-style clusters, and contour tones, "Ow, that's really biased!
" means "Wow, how did you get here
As you've noted, you could assemble a bunch of sounds for an auxlang (use a lotto machine to generate them, for all I care) and say, "C'mon, sh*t or get off the pot. Let's learn
this!". Even if you get a sizeable group to say, "Fine, I'll learn your damn auxlang!", that's not enough. Many auxlangers don't just want you speak their auxlang, they want you to want
to speak their auxlang. You can't spell "damn" with the letters of "kumbaya".
3) Why do people keep worrying about phonologies at all? Grammar is where the real biasedness lies.
I would guess it's because phonology is a more tangible aspect of language. You can ask a Japanese to say "lalapalooza" and get immediate results; you can bean-count how many languages of record have /θ/; you can measure vocal chord pulsations; you yourself can try your hand at [ʘ͡qʼ] and see in the mirror if it looks like you're having a stroke; and working with phonology, you can feel like you're actually doing
something. Far easier to point at [ɸʷ] as the downfall of an auxlang than to discuss how to get learners beyond the chronic-advanced-beginner stage, how to balance the appeal to good will and altruism with on-the-ground self-interest, how to convince a Michelle Obama to learn it and make it "sexy", how to get conlangers to stop tinkering, and how to make an auxlang, if it hails from the First World (and who can afford to armchair auxlang?), seem less like cultural imperialism with a twist (and I suspect that's more meta than /θ/, SVO, or case endings) and within the First World, less like tilting at windmills.
I'm still rather enamoured of: