Short version. Just for the purposes of this proposal, what criteria does a language have to satisfy to be considered a natural (i.e. on-topic) language?
I have a vested interest in the answer of this question, because although I am interested in linguistics on an amateur level, my principal interest in committing is to contribute by asking unusual questions (and picking some linguists' brains) on a topic which seems to me to be the proper domain of linguistics, but outside of what one would normally consider a natural human language in the wild. Therefore I'm interested to know whether my idea is on-topic for this proposal.
What are the criteria for determining whether a language is natural? We can come up with some clear exemplars on either side:
- The different flavours of English as it is commonly spoken or written in various places are considered natural; so are Italian, Cantonese, etc.
- Latin, though now dead, was a natural language.
- Esperanto, though synthesized from elements of natural languages, is typically described as an artificial language.
- Klingon is most certainly an artificial language.
But surely there are some grey areas. Certain classic proscriptions of English grammar, once a core component of English education, were derived from Latin; those who adopt these recieved rules of grammar are (or at least the first generations to do so were) speaking a not-entirely natural dialect of English. American Sign Language and many others were initially designed; but is it regarded as an artificial language, or does it have a status similar to a creole, where it has organically evolved from an un-natural beginning? If "naturalness" of a language is measured by continual usage by large numbers of people, is Latin any more a natural language than Esperanto, neither of whom have many native speakers to speak of?
I'm not looking for definitive answers to these questions right now (though I may ask them again once the beta is live). I ask these as an interested outsider, as test-cases for the real question: for the purposes of this proposal, what properties does a language have to have in order to be considered natural-in-practise? Does it have to have authors who are invested in its continued usage and development? Does it help if not all these authors know one another, nor agree perfectly on meanings/pronunciation/orthography?