language use on Fling

Megan Crowhurst mcrowhurst at MAIL.UTEXAS.EDU
Tue Nov 9 21:06:25 UTC 1999

Postings to Fling on the subject of the use of different languages
have been interesting.  Thanks to everyone who has responded so far!
To clarify:

>Megan voiced a worry that if the language was spoken and understood
>by only a >small minority of people on the list, then the list would
>no be fulfilling its
>function.  (from Anna Livia)

This was not expressed as a "worry", and isn't one of mine, in any
case.  I was observing that the purpose of any list like this is
communication between members of some community.  Communication
requires the use of a common code, and it is obviously true that if a
code understood by a subset of the members of the larger community is
used in some posting, then the posting is accessible, and possibly
relevant to the smaller community of members who can use that code.
My point was only that on any list like this, people will post using
a code that lets them be understood to whichever community of users,
whether more general or more circumscribed is relevant for the
purpose of the message.  I don't think that every message has to be
accessible to everyone; this often not the case anyway, even if the
"surface" language used is English, the code may really be a
metalanguage that isn't accessible to all speakers of English.  So,
if I'm on a bus, I don't have to understand the conversation going on
next to me, if it isn't relevant me.  If someone decided to post in,
say Malayalam, and no-one else understands Malayalam, then presumably
it would defeat the *poster's* purpose, if her purpose is to
communicate something to the list.  (Of course, if her purpose is to
make a political point about Malayalam being underrepresented in the
electronic world of communication, then that's a different thing--but
then, we still wouldn'tget the point.) Not to make a big deal about
this, I would just like my concerns to be clear.  Later in Anna's

>...What happens typically is that a new character speaks in, say
>Italian. Those who only speak English and are following a different thread,
>simply continue their discussion in English ignoring the "interruption."
>Other Italian speakers who are also logged on, reply to the Italian thread.
>There tends to be no overlap between the threads and no translation, but
>each community can use AlphaWorld technology to chat...

Now, this is really neat, and could work, I think...why not?

Megan Crowhurst, PhD			Phone: 512-471-1701
Department of Linguistics		Fax:   512-471-4340
The University of Texas at Austin
Austin, TX  78712-1196

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