Archive for April, 2011

Interview with Paul Varkuza

Wednesday, April 20th, 2011
 

David interviews Paul Varkuza about his language Varkuzan. We discuss his language, its name—his name—and the role his synesthesia played in the process of his language’s creation.

.mp3 recording


Before I talked to Paul, I was pretty sure that synesthesia was fake.
And by “fake”, of course, I mean “real, but likely to be exaggerated”. That is, if one asks in an online forum, “Is anyone synesthetic?” there’ll be a flood of positive responses, which always led me to believe synesthesia was an internet-transmitted disease spread by asking the question, “Is anyone synesthetic?” or by simply posting about one’s own synesthetic experiences.

But…I guess I was wrong. There are true synesthetics out there, and Paul Varkuza is one of them. Oddly enough, one of the things that made this concrete in my mind was the fact that a good friend of mine—without ever having heard of Paul or his talk—explained to me a relationship between the number line and spatial relations that very closely matches what Paul describes in this interview. For me, that was a truly bizarre experience—perhaps something akin to seeing someone hypnotized for the first time.


I can get down with classifying things as either mellow or harsh.
In fact, if you come up with any binary classification system, I think I can put all the world’s objects and concepts into either one or the other category. Here’s a quick thought experiment: Put all the following languages into either the “straight” or “curved” category.

  • Georgian
  • French
  • Japanese
  • Swahili
  • Arabic
  • Swedish
  • Polish
  • Quechua

What do you think? I’ve got my answers (and it’s not all one category or the other; there’s a mix).


As we head into LCC4
I’m reminded how enjoyable Paul Varkuza’s LCC3 talk was. It was really different from what we see a lot in various conlang discussion groups, and it’s always nice to see the work of (to the extent that such a thing exists) an outsider artist within the medium of conlanging. Natural languages never cease to amaze, and neither do conlangers.

Audio edited by Jeff Burke; music by Gary Shannon.