Even if it did eliminate 'nationalism' (whatever we mean by that term), it certainly cannot eliminate conflict. I am interested though to know more about the type of people who speak Esperanto today and teach it to their kids.
You should read the book referred above. The native Esperanto speaker interviewed by the author, if I remember correctly, is (disappointingly to many I guess) normal. No trauma done.I am interested though to know more about the type of people who speak Esperanto today and teach it to their kids.
Because choosing an existing language as a common language would give an unfair advantage to the native speakers of that language.If it’s about creating a community of people united by a common language, there are plenty of existing natural languages that can be jointly learned for that purpose.
For one, they made me study theoretical linguistics.What purposes do constructed languages serve?
I think Esperanto was created on the premise that European nationalisms were based on linguistic divisions and that if everyone spoke one language these divisions would cease to exist and there would be peace on earth.
Skimming through Zamenhof's biography it looks like the initial spark was indeed being frustrated at the division between language groups in his native town, however I don't think he ever aimed to supplant natural languages but rather act as a bridge between them. Surely this was part of an ideal of peace and brotherhood among nations but I'm sure he was under no delusions and didn't think that his language could put an end to nationalistic conflicts.I agree that it sometimes is. However, the notion that a common language will somehow eliminate nationalism is an illusion. That's utopian to the point of absurdity.
the most beautiful thing about the creation of languages is the personal process, one in which those who create them gradually learn concepts related to linguistics and differences among languages
Indeed, conlanging and the study of "natural"* languages seem to go hand in hand. There's a lovely passage in Arika Okrent's book, about a conlanger who ended up being an expert on the Iroquoian languages:For one, they made me study theoretical linguistics.
For these language inventors, language was not an enemy to be tamed or reformed but a muse. And they bowed down before her. [...] [H]e had been inspired to build his own family of "Central Mountain" languages by the incredible beauty he found in Mohawk when he took a course on it in college. [...] His talk didn't focus so much on his own creation as on the real languages that inspired it. He wanted us to understand where his artistic vision had come from. As he went over the complicated details of the Mohawk pronominal system, he spoke softly, but with such love and wonder in his voice that I thought he might burst into tears.
I was energized by the proceedings, reminded of the reason I had gone into linguistics in the first place—my own heart-fluttering fascination with languages. Over the years that visceral feeling had been somewhat dampened by the intellectual focus that an academic track demands. All linguists begin with that spark of love for language, but they sometimes end up so involved in supporting a theory or gathering evidence against someone else's theory that they forget it.
In general it's poorly algorithmizable, syntax in particular. But there surely are various assisting tools, like Mark Rosenfelder's word generator (a rather simple program, in fact, which still can be really helpful).Is there like some kind of software or SimCity-type program for people to create new languages with?
That's how "theoretical" languages like Ithkuil are born. However, for a true linguistic artist the language's grammar is just a way to express his mental image of the language's speakers, together with the language's phonetics and vocabulary ("There is no word for thank you in Dothraki" - a rather naive and generally extreme approach, but still a good illustration). Languages like Quenya or Klingon were invented with Elven and Klingon cultures in mind.I can understand the appeal of inventing specific linguistic features.
However, for a true linguistic artist the language's grammar is just a way to express his mental image of the language's speakers, together with the language's phonetics and vocabulary
I'm sure it made some sense at the time ... if language is dividing us, maybe if we all spoke one language we won't be so divided. People have had similar ideas about religion ("let's come up with a unified religion so we're not divided anymore") and that's how some syncretistic religions arose but needless to say they were no more successful at bringing peace than Esperanto.
Me too.I’m averse to the whole concept of constructed languages. In fact, I find it almost offensive.
I probably agree, but I don't know what you mean by "auxiliary languages" as a subset of "all artificial languages".So you seem to imply auxiliary languages only. I just find the concept rather naive, but it doesn't even remotely cover all the artificial languages.
Languages that have been specifically designed to serve as a neutral or superior mean of real world communication. Esperanto, Slovio, Interlingua, Volapük, Lingua Franca Nova... It's a totally different kettle of fish to artistic artificial languages like Klingon or Quenya mentioned above. And then there are those "theoretical", engineered languages like Ithkuil, created solely to prove or test something.but I don't know what you mean by "auxiliary languages" as a subset of "all artificial languages"
I’m averse to the whole concept of constructed languages. In fact, I find it almost offensive.
That presumes millions and billions of people will make considerable efforts just to "dethrone English". Doesn't look like a realistic scenario to me, unless we're all going to live under some totalitarian dictatorship which would be actually capable to enforce it.just to dethrone English
I think there are good reasons to be opposed to the concept, especially when the purpose is political and, possibly, not necessarily benign. For example, if it is motivated by the desire of (self-appointed) elite groups to manipulate the masses, to “unite and mobilise” people for a subversive agenda.
as far as languages are concerned, many of them are disappearing very fast and there seems to be a growing possibility that within the next few decades there will be just a handful of languages that will dominate most of the world, with English (or different forms of it) probably remaining at the top of the hierarchy for the foreseeable future.
Not only that, but who would you be speaking with and what literature would you be reading in constructed languages?
Only when your language is really small.It's quite possible that you find works translated into Esperanto that haven't been translated into your language
It's not like you have nothing to read in Esperanto, but it's about competitiveness. The Game of Thrones, for instance, was originally produced in English and then dubbed in many major languages, but I doubt it will be ever dubbed in Esperanto. And it's just one and relatively small single example. Take Paradox Games, for instance - a Swedish company which doesn't even produce Swedish versions of its games. The reason is simple: Sweden is a small country where most people have a decent knowledge of English, so making video games in Swedish is simply unprofitable. What about profitability of translating anything into Esperanto? Mostly negative, I believe. Russian holds chiefly because the Russian-speaking communities have limited knowledge of English, relatively large cultural demand and relatively good generative capabilities, so overall culture in the Russian language forms a stable market. For Esperanto you would need endless centralized investments (and not small ones at all) to achieve the effect that mostly comes naturally in the case of Russian. And in the case of scientific literature the situation is even worse. Even some important major books, like Shopen's Language Typology and Syntactic Description in 3 volumes, simply don't exist even in Russian, because in all of Russia there are too few people who are theoretically capable to translate it properly and Russian science is underfunded. And who will ever translate it into Esperanto?..Besides that, an original literature in Esperanto has been written for more than a century
In any case, the main purpose seems to be to control people through control of language and if the aim is to supplant existing languages, then it is certainly subversive.
But it won't happen, because there's no political or economical interest behind. After all, 'global' languages are global because they've been politically imposed by the elites of a certain Empire.
If we’re talking about Esperanto, then that is certainly not the aim of Zamenhof or the language’s adherents. It was designed to be used alongside existing natural languages, to assist in communication.
I don't have Fabian Socialists down as megalomaniacs. Not everyone who believes in "world government" wants to exercise power. Some believe in universal kinship. The UK recently succumbed to narrow nationalism and is now sinking under the weight of its own folly.The fact is that at the time Esperanto was in vogue there were many intellectual radicals with megalomaniac tendencies: Marxists, Nazis, Fascists, Anarchists, Fabian Socialists, Liberal Imperialists, etc. Although these ideologies were mutually incompatible, many of their adherents aimed to establish a United States of Europe as a step towards world government controlled by themselves, etc.
English is widespread as an L2 language. That may be a trend that is "steadily increasing". But I am not sure that English is replacing other languages as an L1 language. So I'm not sure that "dominance" is the correct term.The reality on the ground is that the dominance of a few "global languages", especially English, is steadily increasing.
I don’t think I said any of that. First of all, there is a difference between “megalomaniac” and “megalomaniac tendencies”. And I didn’t say ALL Marxists, Nazis, Fascists, Anarchists, Fabian Socialists, Liberal Imperialists, etc. were guilty of harbouring them. Many of them were probably just plain, ordinary people who were seduced by their respective ideologies for different reasons. However, those ideologies were (a) radical and (b) what they all had in common was the idea that if THEY ruled the world, the world would automatically be a better place.
The fact that “the EU produces reams of information in Irish that very few will ever read” does not mean that Irish doesn’t continue to be replaced by English or that it hasn’t got the status of endangered language according to UNESCO itself.
I think English has already replaced many native languages in places like Ireland, Scotland and North America. German used to be the language of science in the 1800s before being replaced by English. English is the main official language of the European Union (EU) even though Britain is not a member and English is the most widely spoken language in Europe, at about 50% (compared to German 32% and French 26%).English is widespread as an L2 language. That may be a trend that is "steadily increasing". But I am not sure that English is replacing other languages as an L1 language. So I'm not sure that "dominance" is the correct term.
I agree that Esperanto is much easier than English.In today's world it seems to me people who promote it dislike the role of English as a lingua franca and would prefer an easier language which sets everybody on an equal footing.
This is really not true - in the case of anarchists, it’s an outright contradiction in terms.
I’m not sure English is any more dominant in Ireland now than it was in the 1890s, to be honest.
But does not everyone want the system they favour to be dominant?
The question is whether domination is achieved by force or persuasion
Only when your language is really small.
It's not like you have nothing to read in Esperanto, but it's about competitiveness. The Game of Thrones, for instance, was originally produced in English and then dubbed in many major languages, but I doubt it will be ever dubbed in Esperanto.
What about profitability of translating anything into Esperanto? Mostly negative, I believe.
So when we come to the choice of learning some foreign language, Esperanto is invariably a sub-optimal decision, and if you'll ever learn it, it will happen not because you objectively need it but because of some subjective factors - which, however, are unable to make Esperanto a globally popular language.
That boils down to two facts: (a) global languages are imposed by imperialist elites and (b) constructed languages have not (yet) been imposed because global languages (e.g. English) already exist.
I think English has already replaced many native languages in places like Ireland, Scotland and North America. German used to be the language of science in the 1800s before being replaced by English. English is the main official language of the European Union (EU) even though Britain is not a member and English is the most widely spoken language in Europe, at about 50% (compared to German 32% and French 26%).
English also dominates the international book market and, increasingly, the entertainment industry and social media.
It probably depends on a number of factors such as age group, area (urban/rural), country, etc. But from personal experience over the last few years, I’ve noticed people using English words more and more frequently. In Greece, for example, you hear English words like “OK”, “sorry”, “cool”, “social”, etc., on a daily basis, including on TV shows and in the press. Definitely in Germany and most Scandinavian countries, though perhaps less so in some places like France, Italy or Poland.
English replaced lots of languages in North America, the UK and Australia.This is all true. But see how you're mentioning places in which English is directly official. There's no country in which it's not official and it has replaced a native language. Not even Sweden or the Netherlands.
A constructed language would have some problems, if used world-wide: local dialects, local pronunciations, local slang, local idioms. But it might not have as many problems as English has.Only a constructed language can be free of those seven Egyptian plagues: clear in pronunciation, spelled in a logical manner, stable and unequivocal in meaning.
Thank you for a balanced comment on my post! I admit, I have deliberately exagerated the weak sides of English, but I did it to shed some light on its suitability as a lingua franca. Of course, there are hundreds of languages in the world even less suited to be a vehicle of international communication, but none of them is. My description has been founded by many years work with English as a working language in international standardization, and as an editor of translations from and to English. This experience of problems is real, not a phantasmagoria.I disagree with most of the 7 criticism of English. Either other languages have similar problems (I know that Mandarin Chinese shares #1-#5), or I disagree that English has them. It doesn't have #5. #6 only happens to 0.03% of the words or less, since you can't count "new terms for new things", which in English might be a new phrase using existing words. I agree that #7 happens in politics, but only a subset of people use the new meanings, and it isn't a permanent change to English. Unless you are discussing political issues, you don't use those words. But enough: I don't want to off-topic this thread.
I agree with most of @Ben Jamin's comments. Even among natural languages, English isn't the best lingua franca. Maybe that's why several other languages are used as a lingua franca today: Mandarin Chinese, French, Spanish, Classical Arabic, Portuguese, Hindustani, Indonesian, Swahili, Persian, and Hausa. They are all used by peoples whose native languages are not mutually intelligible.
A constructed language would have some problems, if used world-wide: local dialects, local pronunciations, local slang, local idioms. But it might not have as many problems as English has.
My biggest concern is "enough meanings". Humans need to express tens of thousands of different meanings. They won't use a language that doesn't have them. So a constructed language can't replace a human language.
But wait -- does a lingua franca only need a subset of those meanings? If so, a language like Esperanto might work well as a lingua franca.
Nobody says English is perfect. But what some seem to be proposing is the imposition on the world of an invented language that very few people desire to learn .... 🙂