i'm reading the art of language invention and 90% of the IPA stuff is going right over my head (I'm 16 and also dumb) and i have to read a page twice to actually try to get it but i LOVE IT SO MUCH thank you for making something so cool
I don’t want to straight up tell you you’re wrong, but I sincerely doubt you’re dumb. First, remember that intelligence and knowledge are different things. For example, I have absolutely no idea who the kings/queens of England are. I know some of the names, and I know the queen right now, but honestly, even going back one monarch is not something I can do with confidence. This is because I never learned it. It doesn’t mean I’m dumb: It just means I don’t currently possess that easily googleable information.
Like take IPA. I know the IPA pretty well now. I didn’t know the IPA at all when I was 18 years old. It didn’t mean I was dumb then and am smart now, it just meant I had literally never even heard of it. Like, never. I know I’d seen some of the symbols, because they were in a pocket French dictionary my grandfather’s ex-wife’s new boyfriend bought me for Christmas one year, but I had no idea what they meant, or that they were part of a larger system. In fact, I thought it was a system just used by that dictionary (Langenscheidt), and didn’t give it another thought until my introductory linguistics class I took in my second year of college.
Knowledge is just a thing. Think of it like food. Like I’m staring at this piece of candy right now. I haven’t eaten it. At the moment that’s all I can say about it. If I eat it, then I will have eaten it, and I can say I ate it, and I will know what it’s like to have eaten it. So take England in, like, what’s an old year…? 1322. I have no idea who the king or queen of England was in 1322. I’m going to go look it up right now on Wikipedia.
Looks like it was Edward II. He ruled until he was deposed in 1327. What a bummer. Now I know that. I may remember it; I may not. But frankly, my day-to-day life doesn’t hinge too much on knowing who ruled England at random times. It does on knowing the IPA, so that’s knowledge I retain. Of course, it’s also constantly reinforced, because I use it literally every single day. Like, I could never forget [ħ] or [ɘ] or [ʏ] or [ʂ] because these cats are my life. I see them everyday and greet them like friends (or enemies. Looking at you, [ɮ]). I could no more forget them than I could forget my literal, actual cats.
Anyway, at the start, it’s a lot of info, but remember: it’s a book. It’s not going anywhere. It can be read from beginning to end, sure, but it’s also intended to be a resource you can return to whenever. If it doesn’t all imprint on you straight off, you can always come back to it later. No pressure at all! Also, when it comes to reading, I’m also the type of person that needs to read things both slowly, and several times to feel like I get them. In fact, in graduate school at UCSD, already with a BA in linguistics under my belt and a good five years of language creation experience, I took a morphology class taught by Farrell Ackerman that was so good and so formative, that I actually took it again the next quarter. Not because I didn’t pass it, or anything (I did fine), but because I needed to hear/experience it again to really get it, and I knew it was something that was going to be very, very important to me. There was actually another class I should’ve taken (that we were supposed to take to move on for our Ph.D.) only offered once a year that I skipped just because I felt like I really needed to understand that material on a deep, intuitive level. And I do not regret doing that one bit, because it completely changed the way I create languages, and changed the way I understand language, period.
Anyway, I realize I may be making a mountain out of a molehill here, but I think it’s important to know that when you see someone who knows a lot of stuff you don’t know, it’s not that they’re smart and/or you’re dumb: it’s merely that they’ve spent more time learning that stuff. That’s all. Knowledge is the product of time and effort. All we can do is humans is decide where to expend that time and effort since there’s a lot to learn and a fixed amount of time to learn it.
Glad to hear you’re enjoying the book! I had a lot of fun writing it, so I always hope it’s fun to read, and not a slog. <3