Constructed languages

Apollodorus

Senior Member
English UK
You say that as if the millions of children having to learn English as a subject at school were delighted to do it. :rolleyes:
Well, to my knowledge some certainly are delighted to learn English. Nowadays, children pick up languages from the social media, anyway. Even adults take up English classes all over the world. Incidentally, at a language school in Spain where I attended Spanish classes, there were Spanish school children learning English because they felt that their teacher at school was teaching them English with an incomprehensible Spanish accent. 🙂

Plus, Esperanto doesn't seem to have made much progress since the 1920s ....
 
  • Stoggler

    Senior Member
    English (Southern England)
    Plus, Esperanto doesn't seem to have made much progress since the 1920s ....

    I can’t disagree with that at all. I suspect that the internet has brought Esperantists together much more easily and the health of the language may be as strong as it ever has been, but it’s still not made any real inroads into public consciousness beyond the odd reference here and then*.

    (*I can only recall seeing it in Red Dwarf, a BBC comedy set in the future on a spaceship, where Esperanto is an official language and the odd sign in the background is in Esperanto)
     

    Apollodorus

    Senior Member
    English UK
    It might be expected for speakers of Polish to be enthusiastic supporters of a language invented by somebody from Poland. But even in Poland few are particularly interested in learning Esperanto, 0.0352 per cent according to estimates.

    In addition, it appears that Zamenhof saw Esperanto as part of a larger and more ambitious project based on the belief that humanity must have “one language and one religion”.

    According to Wikipedia,

    “Besides his linguistic work, Zamenhof published a religious philosophy he called Homaranismo (the term in Esperanto, usually rendered as "humanitism" in English, sometimes rendered loosely as humanitarianism or humanism), based on the principles and teachings of Hillel the Elder. He said of Homaranismo: "It is indeed the object of my whole life. I would give up everything for it."

    It looks like people weren’t too impressed by his religious philosophy either. And anyway, with only two million speakers worldwide (most of them in Europe), I think Esperanto can be safely ignored for the time being. But I don't want to prevent anyone from learning or speaking it should they so wish.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    Only a constructed language can be free of those seven Egyptian (sorry, English) plagues: clear in pronunciation, spelled in a logical manner, stable and unequivocal in meaning.
    Asking for a global language to be stable is asking of the impossible. The only languages that are truly stable are dead languages.

    As for pronunciation, I find American English one of the clearest languages to understand.

    2. The blurred pronunciation and dropping of the parts of the words' endings by speakers of most of the English dialects places them far down on the list of easily understandable languages, only surpassed by Danish and European Portuguese. English has also too many vowels, all squeezed together in the middle of the famous vowel four angled figure, and as a consequence almost identical.

    It only looks this way because English textbooks use fake phonemes that don't actually exist. Take American English ʌ, ə, ɚ and ɝ. In reality it's ə, ə, ɚ, ɚ. Students are asked to hear a difference that isn't there.
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    English has also too many vowels, all squeezed together in the middle of the famous vowel four angled figure, and as a consequence almost identical.

    "Almost identical" seems ridiculous to me, a native English speaker. Different dialects may pronounce vowels differently, but every dialect of English clearly distinguishes all of the different vowel phonemes in English, and English uses these differences to distinguish words.

    The "dividing line" between different vowel phonemes is different in every language (and every dialect). That is a problem for people learning a new language. If my language uses 2 sounds as different phonemes, and they are the same phoneme in your language, they will sound "identical" or "almost identical" to you. In reality, they sound like "the same phoneme" to you. We are all used to a single "phoneme" using a variety of sounds.

    A very common example is Spanish speakers of English. Spanish has the /i/ sound but not the /ɪ/ sound. So to a Spanish speaker, the words "hit, bit, sit, fit" sound the same as "heat, beat, seat, feet". This is true about anyone learning a foreign language. Chinese has different phonemes that I cannot distinguish. English is that it has more vowel phonemes than many languages. But I think that learning Cantonese, or Thai, or Hindi will present the same problem to you.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Plus, Esperanto doesn't seem to have made much progress since the 1920s ....

    That depends on what one understands by progress. If we only consider the main original goal, what the creator had in mind, it obviously didn't reach it and I don't think it will in the coming years. At least not in this period of history we're beginning now.

    However, to me it will always be the only constructed language that has been successful. Among all constructed languages, it's the only one which has ever been regarded as a serious candidate by intellectuals, the only one ever to be supported by such institutions as UNESCO or used in an academic congress, the only one which a number of important writers and figures from different languages has ever learned or even written in it... In other words, the only one which has created a consistent original wideworld network of culture, history and speakers, even native ones, for more than a century. There have been hundreds of auxiliary languages throughout history, but none can compare.

    Well, to my knowledge some certainly are delighted to learn English. Nowadays, children pick up languages from the social media, anyway. Even adults take up English classes all over the world.

    No doubt some are, me included. But the segment of the population who do is minimal. Most do it just because they have to, not out of personal pleasure. Only much later in life many of them get to see that it was useful in many a way --or they regret not paying more attention.

    As for pronunciation, I find American English one of the clearest languages to understand.

    You can't be serious there.

    There's a reason why most auxiliary languages tend to choose the five simple vowels of Spanish, Serbian or Japanese.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    It only looks this way because English textbooks use fake phonemes that don't actually exist. Take American English ʌ, ə, ɚ and ɝ. In reality it's ə, ə, ɚ, ɚ. Students are asked to hear a difference that isn't there.
    I agree with @Red Arrow: the problem is the way English is taught more than the language.
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    You can't be serious there.

    There's a reason why most auxiliary languages tend to choose the five simple vowels of Spanish, Serbian or Japanese.
    It's true that Spanish has 5 vowels, always pronounced the same way.

    But it is not true in Japanese, where "o" and "o-o" (the same vowel held for 2 beats instead of 1 beat) are considered different vowels, that distinguish countless pairs of words. English speakers have a lot of trouble correctly speaking Japanese, because English speakers can't always "hear" the difference. In Japanese a "beat" is called a "mora", and the language is based on moras instead of syllables. For example Japanese "n" is a separate syllable, using 2 moras.

    So that is another decision that goes into the creation of a constructed language. Is it "mora-timed" (like Japanese) or "stress-timed" (like English) or "syllable-timed" (like Chinese) or what? Stress is another major difference: it isn't the same in all languages.

    That is not an argument against constructed languages. It is just pointing out some decisions that must be made, and that "like most European languages" is not a world-wide standard, and might not be the easiest thing for non-Europeans to learn.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    It's true that Spanish has 5 vowels, always pronounced the same way.

    Well, Spanish hasn't always got the same five vowels either. There are minor changes due to phonological context, as well as depending on the variety, etc. But I think you got my point. Change Japanese for modern Greek, if you prefer.

    The fact is, there's a reason why the realization of these five vowels is considered as the most simple -even if languages with as many vowels as English may not have them- and why they're preferred. Probably too because they allow for a variety of realizations, as it won't really matter if your e's and o's are more open or more closed, if your a's are more cat-like or star-like, or your u's more Spanish or Japanese.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    The fact is, there's a reason why the realization of these five vowels is considered as the most simple -even if languages with as many vowels as English may not have them- and why they're preferred.
    I agree. Historically, English got one set of vowels (and words) from Latin languages and another set of vowels (and words) from Germanic languages. So English got twice as many vowel sounds as most languages have. It also has more words.

    Probably too because they allow for a variety of realizations, as it won't really matter if your e's and o's are more open or more closed
    That makes perfect sense. Fewer phonemes = fewer "dividing lines" in the wide variety of sounds the human mouth can make.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    10-11 monophthongs is clearly too much. I think most non-natives speakers have trouble telling apart at least one pair, maybe except for Scandinavians.

    Historically, English got one set of vowels (and words) from Latin languages and another set of vowels (and words) from Germanic languages. So English got twice as many vowel sounds as most languages have.
    That's not the reason though, land bath lot thought sit let nut foot meat moon make goat mind boy mouth have all possible 15 stressed vowels in RP and are all of native Anglo-Saxon origin.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    10-11 monophthongs is clearly too much. I think most non-natives speakers have trouble telling apart at least one pair, maybe except for Scandinavians.
    I'm not surprised. I have similar trouble with some Chinese consonants. Chinese has 21 syllable-starting consonants. Out of those I can't distinguish (by listening) four pairs: q/ch, x/sh, j/zh, and c/t. And I still hear B/D/G as English voiced B/D/G, even though those three Chinese consonants are unvoiced. Re-training hearing is hard.
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I'm not surprised. I have similar trouble with some Chinese consonants. Chinese has 21 syllable-starting consonants. Out of those I can't distinguish (by listening) four pairs: q/ch, x/sh, j/zh, and c/t. And I still hear B/D/G as English voiced B/D/G, even though those three Chinese consonants are unvoiced. Re-training hearing is hard.
    Tones in Chinese are relatively recent. A few thousand years ago Chinese languages had no tones.

    Also don’t forget that it’s not just the sounds, but the combination of sounds that may cause grief. I am told that Japanese and Italian use vowel + consonant or consonant + vowel combinations, in other words two consonants with no intervening vowel are not allowed. Thus German is a nightmare for the Japanese, and poses issues even for English speakers in words such as stress and spreche.

    "Almost identical" seems ridiculous to me, a native English speaker. Different dialects may pronounce vowels differently, but every dialect of English clearly distinguishes all of the different vowel phonemes in English, and English uses these differences to distinguish words.
    Two sounds may sound almost the same to a non native speaker of the language, but to the native speaker they will sound quite distinct. To understand why we have to understand how the brain processes sounds. When we are young, we create a representation for each sound in the language we hear, and then we learn how to control the mouth and throat to reproduce those sounds ie we create muscle memory. When we hear novel sounds from a foreign language, we automatically try to map them to the existing sounds in our internal map of consonants and vowels. Many speakers of a foreign language never master the new sounds, and continue to substitute their own.

    I am a beginner at German, and I find it hard to hear what native speakers are saying when presented with simple phrases. For example, durch and dunkel are confusing. When a friend who speaks fluent German says durch it leaves me baffled. What makes matters worse is that there are many accents, thus nedrig has at least two forms where the final consonant varies. I have had my prononciation of numerous simple phrases checked by native speakers, and apparently it is quite good, but it is very hard work, and some sounds such as the soft ch drive me spare.

    However, the adult brain can learn to hear and articulate new sounds in a foreign language. I learnt the Welsh ll and ch sounds and the French guttural r, and the two oo sounds in my twenties. The first stage is to listen, listen and listen until you can distinguish the sounds. Only then can you try to articulate them. It can take a long time, with continual practice, as you are using muscles in a new way, and you need to practice to build up the fine motor control associated with making the sounds, and using them in combination. In my experience most learners do not spend anywhere enough time mastering, or approximating, the target language sounds. I suspect traditional classroom teaching is part of the reason.


    In truth a person does not need to exactly reproduce all sounds, as long as they are understood. (A Russian Lithuanian friend of mine is very hard to understand due to his accent.) And I bet German speakers of Esperanto carry over their stress timing, whereas French speakers carry over their syllable timing. English speakers will tend to carry over dipthongs, whereas Italians will tend to use pure vowels. And of course the verb conjugations are new to Chinese speakers and anyone else whose language lacks such a concept.
    The "dividing line" between different vowel phonemes is different in every language (and every dialect). That is a problem for people learning a new language. If my language uses 2 sounds as different phonemes, and they are the same phoneme in your language, they will sound "identical" or "almost identical" to you. In reality, they sound like "the same phoneme" to you. We are all used to a single "phoneme" using a variety of sounds.

    A very common example is Spanish speakers of English. Spanish has the /i/ sound but not the /ɪ/ sound. So to a Spanish speaker, the words "hit, bit, sit, fit" sound the same as "heat, beat, seat, feet". This is true about anyone learning a foreign language. Chinese has different phonemes that I cannot distinguish. English is that it has more vowel phonemes than many languages. But I think that learning Cantonese, or Thai, or Hindi will present the same problem to you.
    I think the main problem with English is not the sounds, but the orthography which must be a total nightmare. Welsh, despite its reputation, is so simple to pronounce compared to English.

    In my opinion artificial languages are pointless, yes even Klingon, simply because they lack a culture, and a clear purpose for learning. And they will always benefit one group of speakers eg Indo European. A huge number of people speak English as a second language because America is the dominant economic and cultural force today, and English has become the lingua franca for business and science. I remember speaking to some Belgians at a scientific conference, and being astonished that they spoke Flemish and English, but not Walloon. Like Greek and Latin, English will eventually cede its role to another language, such as Mandarin.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    In my opinion artificial languages are pointless, yes even Klingon, simply because they lack a culture, and a clear purpose for learning.

    Do they lack a culture? Communities are formed around them, and the more time passes the more a culture of its own develops around it (a literature, audiovisual production, idioms/slang, an idiosincrasy of its own...). That is at least true with Esperanto and I'd say with other conlangs with a community large and long enough to create it.

    As for the purpose, I'd say the one for auxlangs is clear enough: to be used as auxiliary means of communication.

    And they will always benefit one group of speakers eg Indo European.

    There have also been attempts to create auxlangs based on several language families. The problem here is obvious: those words which have become more 'international' have become so because of the spread of Indo-European languages over the world. So there will always be doubts about whether it's better or not to create new words for those who are already known in a majority of the main world languages (taxi, chocolate, golf, radio, etc)

    Yet, I partly agree with it, and this is why I've always thought an auxlang like Esperanto would fit better for Europe, or Europe and the Americas, rather than for the whole world.

    Like Greek and Latin, English will eventually cede its role to another language, such as Mandarin.

    I'm not that convinced about that. If there's always been a sharp divide between two ways of seeing the world, that's been between the West and the Far East. The Chinese have never been enthusiastic about others learning their language. The fact that Classical Chinese was a lingua franca in Eastern Asia was more a product of cultural and diplomatic ties than of actual conquest. I'm convinced English will eventually cede its role indeed, although it will still be the global language for years after the influence of the US is finally gone. I'm rather prone to think that there'll be a long transitional period of several regional major languages in dispute for a global supremacy.
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Do they lack a culture? Communities are formed around them, and the more time passes the more a culture of its own develops around it (a literature, audiovisual production, idioms/slang, an idiosincrasy of its own...). That is at least true with Esperanto and I'd say with other conlangs with a community large and long enough to create it.
    I should have said they lack extensive culture. I doubt there is much in the way of Esperanto podcasts, radio stations, web forums for photograph, birding etc, TV stations, films and books. English is easier to learn because of the massive cultural content readily available online. I listen to French podcasts and they are very helpful, and enjoyable. And countless apps support English learning with extensive courses.
    As for the purpose, I'd say the one for auxlangs is clear enough: to be used as auxiliary means of communication.
    That assumes that American English, French (in parts of Africa) and Mandarin (in China) are insufficient as lingua francas.
    I'm not that convinced about that. If there's always been a sharp divide between two ways of seeing the world, that's been between the West and the Far East. The Chinese have never been enthusiastic about others learning their language. The fact that Classical Chinese was a lingua franca in Eastern Asia was more a product of cultural and diplomatic ties than of actual conquest. I'm convinced English will eventually cede its role indeed, although it will still be the global language for years after the influence of the US is finally gone. I'm rather prone to think that there'll be a long transitional period of several regional major languages in dispute for a global supremacy.
    You may be right. It surely depends on how economic power is distributed around the globe in years to come. At least English is unlikely to fragment as per vulgar Latin in Europe.

    Interestingly India adopted English as an official language due to the British Empire, but they retained it because it solves the problem of having to choose and hence promote one native language over others.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    However, the adult brain can learn to hear and articulate new sounds in a foreign language.
    One language-learning expert believes that once you can hear (distinguish) the new sounds, you can pronounce them (at least well enough to be understood). Humans are good at imitating. I can't say much in French, but when I say something I am sometimes mistaken for a fluent speaker (their reply is 34 words, not 3).

    It seems like a contructed language can be learned by anyone. "Easier" or "harder" just depends on your language. If you are a native of East Asia, anything has to better than English, right? Esperanto? No problemo! Volapuk? Sehr gut! Klingon? Qer-plagh!
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    One language-learning expert believes that once you can hear (distinguish) the new sounds, you can pronounce them (at least well enough to be understood). Humans are good at imitating.
    I can hear trilled [r] very clearly, but I can't say it in words.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I should have said they lack extensive culture. I doubt there is much in the way of Esperanto podcasts, radio stations, web forums for photograph, birding etc, TV stations, films and books. English is easier to learn because of the massive cultural content readily available online. I listen to French podcasts and they are very helpful, and enjoyable. And countless apps support English learning with extensive courses.

    That's right but unfair. I mean, you can find what you mentioned for Esperanto too, but obviously you can't expect to find the same number as you will for languages spoken by hundreds of millions. After all, we're talking about a language without a country behind, spoken almost by all of its speakers as a second (or third, fourth...) language. But this is because we're talking from a present statu quo. Only a century ago, there was more stuff for learning French, or even Latin, that there was for English. Nowadays there's a myriad of possibilities to learn Mandarin that just weren't there only three decades ago. Necessity and demand create most of the content. A new policy in the European Union that decided, from 2025 onwards, to make of Esperanto the only working language, so as to avoid much of the high expense on translation/interpretation and implement its learning as a second/third language in European schools, would make the availability of the things you mentioned change in a matter of two generations. A teenager in the 2050s would already find posting or watching videos in Esperanto the most common of things.

    That assumes that American English, French (in parts of Africa) and Mandarin (in China) are insufficient as lingua francas.

    There are and have been attempts in some African countries to make the colonial language stop being the lingua franca, specially in those where one native language is understood by most of the population. And Swahili works as a lingua franca for the whole Eastern Africa region. Mandarin for China is a different story, because we're talking about one single country.

    The thing about supraregional or international lingua francas is that they are so because of a colonial or imperialistic past that forced it to become so. A language associated to no country or colonial action is free from that historical burden.

    At least English is unlikely to fragment as per vulgar Latin in Europe.

    I wouldn't be that sure either. If by 2100, the worldwide influence of England and the US is gone and an emerging African power like Nigeria, with Lagos being three times more populated than New York, becomes more and more influential, what could prevent 22nd-century Naija from being the new 'English' to learn?
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Asking for a global language to be stable is asking of the impossible. The only languages that are truly stable are dead languages.
    Yes, dead languages are stable. The same is true for constructed languages. It is the lack of native speakers that makes them stable. Native speakers can turn any living language into a mess of confused meanings and non-orthodox pronunciation, which makes them unsuitable for being lingua franca. Europe had a fantastic lingua franca between ca. 600 and ca. 1700 AD. It was Latin. Later codified French and to some extent German overtook. When English, in the codified British form, took over, the situation was temporarily livable, until hundreds of local native versions broke the codification limits . Today there is little left of stability in English.

    As for pronunciation, I find American English one of the clearest languages to understand.
    Compared to what? And what American dialect? And which speakers?

    It only looks this way because English textbooks use fake phonemes that don't actually exist. Take American English ʌ, ə, ɚ and ɝ. In reality it's ə, ə, ɚ, ɚ. Students are asked to hear a difference that isn't there.
    I disagree. The notation is not the culprit here. It is the vowels themselves. The English vowels are just too many and to similar to each other. Besides, the articulation of vowelse vary so much between dialects and individual speakers. And don't forget the stress timing, that practicaly removes over 30% of speech out of the understandable spectrum, and makes parts of words or whole words into grunts.

    "Almost identical" seems ridiculous to me, a native English speaker. Different dialects may pronounce vowels differently, but every dialect of English clearly distinguishes all of the different vowel phonemes in English, and English uses these differences to distinguish words.
    I think it is ridiculous to judge a language intended to be a vehicle of international communication from the perspective of a native speaker.
    The English vowels do sound almost identical to most non native speakers, and this is the fact.

    The fact is, there's a reason why the realization of these five vowels is considered as the most simple -even if languages with as many vowels as English may not have them- and why they're preferred. Probably too because they allow for a variety of realizations,
    To the point!
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    Yes, dead languages are stable. The same is true for constructed languages. It is the lack of native speakers that makes them stable.
    This is a fallacy. Any healthy language is or will get native speakers. If a constructed language ever gains enough friction and starts being used as a lingua franca, then people will start using it in big cities to speak to speakers with another native language. And then eventually there will be children that grow up in a household where the constructed language is spoken, because their parents have always communited with each other in the constructed language. They will be native speakers.

    Similarly, only 5% of Indonesia spoke Indonesian/Malay in 1945, so about 3.5 million native speakers. By 2010, there were 43 million native speakers, mostly living in urban areas (and 156 second language speakers).
    The English vowels do sound almost identical to most non native speakers, and this is the fact.
    I am not a native English speaker and these words don't sound alike to me: bat, bet, bit, bot, but, bate, beat, bite, boat, boot, bout, Bart

    Neither do these words: fee, foe, few, far, fair, fear, for, fur

    Or these words: lack, lick, lock, look, lake, leek, like, Luke, Loic, lurk
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I can hear trilled [r] very clearly, but I can't say it in words.
    I assume you have looked for tutorials on YouTube? I have found some very good ones for German sounds that I am trying to master. It took me a long long time to learn the guttural r sound of French and German (and at least one English dialect) as it is so alien for most English speakers.
    Yes, dead languages are stable. The same is true for constructed languages. It is the lack of native speakers that makes them stable. Native speakers can turn any living language into a mess of confused meanings and non-orthodox pronunciation, which makes them unsuitable for being lingua franca. Europe had a fantastic lingua franca between ca. 600 and ca. 1700 AD. It was Latin. Later codified French and to some extent German overtook. When English, in the codified British form, took over, the situation was temporarily livable, until hundreds of local native versions broke the codification limits . Today there is little left of stability in English.
    There never was a codified British form of English, rather there was a form of English that was spoken by the ruling classes which was propagated through public (private) schools and social mixing. The vast majority of British people would have spoken English dialects, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Scots and even Cornish. Anyone who did not speak ‘posh’ would most likely have been looked down on and treated with disdain.

    What has happened is that English dialects have come closer to Standard Southern British English, and the latter has become less aloof, and more mainstream. I believe the same sort of process has happened in France, although I am not a fan of the high brow French accent.
    This is a fallacy. Any healthy language is or will get native speakers. If a constructed language ever gains enough friction and starts being used as a lingua franca, then people will start using it in big cities to speak to speakers with another native language. And then eventually there will be children that grow up in a household where the constructed language is spoken, because their parents have always communited with each other in the constructed language. They will be native speakers.
    There are an awful lot of implied ifs in the above. The reality is that today constructed languages are very limited in their usefulness. I can listen to fantastic music in French, such as Lisa Leblanc and Jean Leloup, and there’s plenty too in German. Hebrew came back from the dead because of an underlying ideology ie Judaism and Zionism. Latin is pretty much dead. Cornish is struggling to gain traction. Irish is dying. Manx is barely out of a coma. Learning a language is hard work.

    I disagree. The notation is not the culprit here. It is the vowels themselves. The English vowels are just too many and to similar to each other. Besides, the articulation of vowelse vary so much between dialects and individual speakers. And don't forget the stress timing, that practicaly removes over 30% of speech out of the understandable spectrum, and makes parts of words or whole words into grunts.
    What about French which uses syllable timing? People such as myself who are used to stress timing find syllable timing a nightmare, and when you throw in l’enchaînement, I start nibbling the soft furnishings. How on earth do you know where words start and end? How do you know if someone said le manteau élégant or le manteau et les gants when they sound the same? I got a translation wrong in a French course because I wrote down exactly what I heard, and the different but accepted answer sounded identical. Both were grammatically correct and semantically plausible. As a beginner at German I can at least distinguish the words when someone speaks German. I don’t know if Spanish and Italian which are also syllable timed have the same problem as French for speakers of stress timed languages.

    Plenty of people learn English as a second language and have an acceptable accent. All languages have accents. Look at Arabic, speakers from Iraq and Libya will not understand each other.

    All languages have issues for some people, even artificial ones. They all require hard work to achieve fluency.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    There are an awful lot of implied ifs in the above. The reality is that today constructed languages are very limited in their usefulness. I can listen to fantastic music in French, such as Lisa Leblanc and Jean Leloup, and there’s plenty too in German. Hebrew came back from the dead because of an underlying ideology ie Judaism and Zionism. Latin is pretty much dead. Cornish is struggling to gain traction. Irish is dying. Manx is barely out of a coma. Learning a language is hard work.
    I think you misquoted me :) I never said constructed languages are or ever will be useful. I said that if one ever becomes a lingua franca, then it will inevitably get native speakers and it will inevitably change.
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think you misquoted me :) I never said constructed languages are or ever will be useful. I said that if one ever becomes a lingua franca, then it will inevitably get native speakers and it will inevitably change.
    Well I did just quote the entire paragraph without any editing. How would one become a lingua france if it were not useful? Isn’t this a chicken and egg situation? Hebrew was revived exactly because it had deep cultural significance for one group of people, who previously only used it in a liturgical manner, so it wasn’t truly dead, or nailed to its perch. It would be quite amusing to hibernate for 500 years, and on waking hear Klingon spoken as the world language.
     

    Red Arrow

    Senior Member
    Nederlands (België)
    How would one become a lingua france if it were not useful?
    Read my posts as: "if we lived in a fantasy world where Esperanto was successful in some places..."

    I am not arguing that Esperanto is useful. My argument is that Esperanto would become as imperfect as English if it were to dethrone English. (Well, maybe not with regards to spelling)
     
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    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Read my posts as: "if we lived in a fantasy world where Esperanto was successful in some places..."

    I am not arguing that Esperanto is useful. My argument is that Esperanto would become as imperfect as English if it were to dethrone English. (Well, maybe not with regards to spelling)
    Ah okay, that sounds eminently reasonable.

    English orthography badly needs reforming …
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    The same is true for constructed languages. It is the lack of native speakers that makes them stable. Native speakers can turn any living language into a mess of confused meanings and non-orthodox pronunciation, which makes them unsuitable for being lingua franca.
    If a constructed language ever gains enough friction and starts being used as a lingua franca, then people will start using it in big cities to speak to speakers with another native language. And then eventually there will be children that grow up in a household where the constructed language is spoken, because their parents have always communited with each other in the constructed language. They will be native speakers.

    Esperanto has a few hundreds of native speakers, although most of them have always been children with more than one native language, as obviously they had to acquire the local natural language as soon as they left home. This means that the changes studied on those children -with regard to how different their native Esperanto was from that of L2 speakers- had to do with influence from their other native languages above all. But some common things detected in many of them as well as in very fluent L2 adult speakers, such as not using the accusative ending or creating new understandable words from the productive affixational system (like mal- for opposites), are a hint to what might possibly happen if it ever were to become a lingua franca.

    My argument is that Esperanto would become as imperfect as English if it were to dethrone English. (Well, maybe not with regards to spelling)

    It probably would but in the very long run. Local languages would exert an influence on the way the language would be spoken in that country's capital and eventually change it. But the regular nature of the language, an easier phonology and spelling, and the comprehensibility of the new lexicon could help it last even longer than Latin did before either the dethronement, or the split into several creolised idos ('descendants').
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I strongly suspect that the English used nowadays as a lingua franca (to communicate with each other by native speakers of Malay and Vietnamese, for example) is a small subset of English, using a subset of its sounds -- and pronouncing these sounds in a way that sounds natural in Malay or Vietnamese, not in the US or UK.

    In my mind, there are two different issues:

    (1) Esperanto as a lingua franca, used by people in addition to their native language, much as Latin was used in Europe by scientists and scholars from 600 to 1700. I think Latin was used much more in writing than in speech.

    (2) Esperanto as a primary language, that people speak instead of some language like English.

    The "too many sounds" issue is an issue for English used as (2), but not as (1).
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I strongly suspect that the English used nowadays as a lingua franca (to communicate with each other by native speakers of Malay and Vietnamese, for example) is a small subset of English, using a subset of its sounds -- and pronouncing these sounds in a way that sounds natural in Malay or Vietnamese, not in the US or UK.

    Even in Europe there's a postulated Euro English. English as spoken by the British or Irish is very different from the one used by, say, three Erasmus students from Greece, Poland and Spain trying to communicate.

    (2) Esperanto as a primary language, that people speak instead of some language like English.

    As far as I know, its aim has always been to be an international auxiliary language, never a primary one.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    You mean that I could learn (in addition to my native language) Esperanto, instead of Spanish and French and Greek and Russian and Chinese and...

    Sounds great! Where do I sign up?
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    You mean that I could learn (in addition to my native language) Esperanto, instead of Spanish and French and Greek and Russian and Chinese and...

    One should always be free to learn as many languages as one can!

    One thing I can guarantee: you'd learn in a year what it'd take three or four to learn in the ones you mentioned.
     

    Apollodorus

    Senior Member
    English UK
    No doubt some are, me included. But the segment of the population who do is minimal. Most do it just because they have to, not out of personal pleasure. Only much later in life many of them get to see that it was useful in many a way --or they regret not paying more attention.
    I’m not entirely convinced that kids are naturally disinclined to learn new languages. My guess is that a lot of it has to do with the culture or environment they’ve been brought up in. If parents encourage their children to learn languages and speak some foreign languages themselves, then presumably there will be less resistance on the children’s part.

    However, to me it will always be the only constructed language that has been successful.
    I don’t deny that Esperanto has been relatively successful (in comparison with other constructed languages). However, in terms of the purpose of constructed languages I’m not sure it is fully justified to believe that speaking one language will necessarily make the world a better place.

    I think it’s fair to say that individual Esperantists seem to have been rather more successful than the language itself. See, for example, George Soros who apparently has an Esperanto surname meaning “will soar” (List of Esperanto speakers – Wikipedia).

    My main reservation though, is that Esperanto seems to have been compromised by its earlier religious and political connotations. According to Wikipedia it found many adherents among religionists with an universalist outlook like the Baha’is, including Zamenhof’s daughter Lidia:

    “Around 1925 she became a member of the Baháʼí Faith. In late 1937 she went to the United States to teach that religion as well as Esperanto. In December 1938 she returned to Poland, where she continued to teach and translated many Baháʼí writings …”.

    So, the language itself appears to have played more of an auxiliary role to a larger religious and political project at least from the late 1880s to the 1930s.

    Besides, as has been noted before, Esperanto is essentially a European language which raises the same issues of cultural imperialism as English. IMO a truly universal language ought to be more inclusive and contain a broader range of linguistic elements. And it should be chosen by the general public, not by self-appointed elite groups bent on “improving the world” according to their own definition of the concept.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Esperanto has a few hundreds of native speakers, although most of them have always been children with more than one native language, as obviously they had to acquire the local natural language as soon as they left home. This means that the changes studied on those children -with regard to how different their native Esperanto was from that of L2 speakers- had to do with influence from their other native languages above all. But some common things detected in many of them as well as in very fluent L2 adult speakers, such as not using the accusative ending or creating new understandable words from the productive affixational system (like mal- for opposites), are a hint to what might possibly happen if it ever were to become a lingua franca.
    This just confirms that a constructed language without native speakers is more stable. As I said: it is the native speakers that can destabilize a constructed language. Without native speakres nobody will hav authority or authorization to introduce changes to the language. The second language speakers will have to conform to the language spoken and written by other non native speakers. There will occur situations when new words will have to be invented, but this should be handled by a regulation committee of the given conlang.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    There never was a codified British form of English, rather there was a form of English that was spoken by the ruling classes which was propagated through public (private) schools and social mixing. The vast majority of British people would have spoken English dialects, Welsh, Scots Gaelic, Scots and even Cornish. Anyone who did not speak ‘posh’ would most likely have been looked down on and treated with disdain.
    Really? And what kind of English was taught in schools in Britain and in English as second language classes all over the world (except for places where American language was taught). All English for foreigners manuals and dictionaries presented a highly standardized form of British English, in pronunciation, spelling, lexis, grammar and style. They still exist, and are in use, even if (allegedly) all standardization of English in Britain has disappeared.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    This is a fallacy. Any healthy language is or will get native speakers. If a constructed language ever gains enough friction and starts being used as a lingua franca, then people will start using it in big cities to speak to speakers with another native language. And then eventually there will be children that grow up in a household where the constructed language is spoken, because their parents have always communited with each other in the constructed language. They will be native speakers.

    Similarly, only 5% of Indonesia spoke Indonesian/Malay in 1945, so about 3.5 million native speakers. By 2010, there were 43 million native speakers, mostly living in urban areas (and 156 second language speakers).

    I am not a native English speaker and these words don't sound alike to me: bat, bet, bit, bot, but, bate, beat, bite, boat, boot, bout, Bart

    Neither do these words: fee, foe, few, far, fair, fear, for, fur

    Or these words: lack, lick, lock, look, lake, leek, like, Luke, Loic, lurk
    Then you are an exceptionally talented second language speaker, and probably only exposed to a little group of selected native speakers. I wrote about the ordinary people who constitute 90% of users of English as second language.
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Really? And what kind of English was taught in schools in Britain and in English as second language classes all over the world (except for places where American language was taught). All English for foreigners manuals and dictionaries presented a highly standardized form of British English, in pronunciation, spelling, lexis, grammar and style. They still exist, and are in use, even if (allegedly) all standardization of English in Britain has disappeared.
    You were referring to a period hundreds of years ago, and schooling in Britain would have been rather limited. Around 1800 my ancestors were living in slums with rudimentary sanitation. Even in the nineteenth century schooling for the masses was limited, and they went out to work full time at a young age. Most people were working class and would have spoken dialect. My ancestors worked in cotton mills and mines. There is a famous example of a northerner speaking on either radio or TV sometime in the first half of the twentieth century and he was accompanied by a ‘translator’ who spoke RP or so called standard English. As I said, the ruling classes would have spoken a so called standard English, and the middle classes would aspire to imitate them. British English today is a lot more standardised, though there is still a clear north south divide, and of course Scots and Welsh English can be distinct. And many posh accents have come closer to everyday speech. Look at King Charles (old style posh), and his sons (new style posh).

    I didn’t realise how different American English is from British English until I kept mistranslating English phrases on Duolingo, because they didn’t mean what I thought they meant.
     

    LeifGoodwin

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I’m not entirely convinced that kids are naturally disinclined to learn new languages. My guess is that a lot of it has to do with the culture or environment they’ve been brought up in. If parents encourage their children to learn languages and speak some foreign languages themselves, then presumably there will be less resistance on the children’s part.
    I suspect you are right. A Welsh friend tried to teach her two sons Welsh. They are now 11 or 12. I think they understand some of it, but they won’t speak it and say it is too hard. Their father is monoglot English, which does not help. And yet I’ve met countless people who grew up speaking two, three or even four languages. I suffered five years of French at school, from the age of 11, and I loathed it. Old style language lessons kill the joy, for some of us anyway. I have a feeling the learning environment is key, make it fun and natural and they learn.
    I don’t deny that Esperanto has been relatively successful (in comparison with other constructed languages). However, in terms of the purpose of constructed languages I’m not sure it is fully justified to believe that speaking one language will necessarily make the world a better place.
    I recently read a bit about Esperanto, and to me it feels like Latin made easy, and I can now see the appeal. However, part of the appeal of French, in my case, is learning how another nation thinks, and how they live.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I’m not entirely convinced that kids are naturally disinclined to learn new languages.
    I think it is more accurate to say that some kids are and some kids are not, rather than lumping all kids together. And I don't think it is usually parental pressure, although that might true in some cases.

    My US high school had optional courses in Latin, French, and Spanish (4 years of each). My high school had no language requirements, and in my region everyone spoke English. So it seems likely that the kids who chose these courses were not disinclined. I was unusually interested in languages, so I took 2 years of Latin and 3 years of Spanish, and audited the French 4 class. My friends did not take any language classes. My sister and brother had no interest in languages -- we shared other things: musicality, religion, groaning at dad's corny jokes, etc.

    It's just like music -- some kids are eager, some kids are interested, and some kids are disinclined. It's a mistake (in my opinion) for schools to make language study mandatory.

    Old style language lessons kill the joy, for some of us anyway. I have a feeling the learning environment is key, make it fun and natural and they learn.
    I agree. Stephen Krashen's "comprehensible input" theory says the same thing, and is popular nowadays among foreign language teachers.

    Stephen Krashen's Theory of Second Language Acquisition
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I’m not entirely convinced that kids are naturally disinclined to learn new languages.
    I didn't say so. Some are, some aren't. I think dojibear has just explained it quite well above.

    My main reservation though, is that Esperanto seems to have been compromised by its earlier religious and political connotations. According to Wikipedia it found many adherents among religionists with an universalist outlook like the Baha’is, including Zamenhof’s daughter Lidia:

    “Around 1925 she became a member of the Baháʼí Faith. In late 1937 she went to the United States to teach that religion as well as Esperanto. In December 1938 she returned to Poland, where she continued to teach and translated many Baháʼí writings …”.

    So, the language itself appears to have played more of an auxiliary role to a larger religious and political project at least from the late 1880s to the 1930s.
    I don't think that's fair. The concept of a universal religion or rather of a spiritual philosophy called Homanarismo 'Humanitism' died almost as soon as the language became trendy among some French secular intellectuals. Linking it to Bahaism would make just as much sense as linking English to slavery. The sacred texts of the Bahaists are in Persian and Arabic.

    Besides, as has been noted before, Esperanto is essentially a European language which raises the same issues of cultural imperialism as English.
    I don't think so. Cultural imperialism is the result of an Empire imposing its culture upon others. Esperanto doesn't belong to any Empire and hasn't ever imposed its culture, which can be associated to an international community but not to a specified place. At most, one could call it Eurocentric, there I'd agree. But not really a 'Western imperialistic' thing, otherwise it'd had never had such coverage in countries like China.

    IMO a truly universal language ought to be more inclusive and contain a broader range of linguistic elements. And it should be chosen by the general public, not by self-appointed elite groups bent on “improving the world” according to their own definition of the concept.
    I totally agree with the first part. But I don't think it should be chosen by the general public, but by a world-wide widespread section of the population who were knowledgeable about language. I'm not talking about elites, or politicians, but by linguists, teachers, writers, journalists, etc. I'm being a bit utopian here, granted.

    There will occur situations when new words will have to be invented, but this should be handled by a regulation committee of the given conlang.
    The creator himself suggested that there should be a language committee since the very first world Esperanto congress at the beginning of the 20th century. So the language has been officially regulated for more than a century.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    Getting the ball rolling is the most difficult part. It's not something that could ever be done if it depended on the people alone. I'm sure there would need to be at least some strong encouragement from international institutions, like the EU, to gain traction. If it's not something that has happened nationally or regionally (no conlang is a regional lingua franca), it's unlikely to happen on a global scale. That doesn't mean people are against it, it's just that there are no incentives to learn Esperanto as of today.
     
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    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    Esperanto is essentially a European language... IMO a truly universal language ought to be more inclusive and contain a broader range of linguistic elements.
    I agreed initially, but I am having second thoughts. What linguistic elements? In general, I think excluding elements (from various human languages) is more important than including elements (from various human languages).

    Sounds: I don't think we should include sounds from everywhere. Instead, we should use sounds that most people can hear and speak. Esperanto probably already does that. Spanish and Japanese come close. English does not.

    Some features exist in different forms. You have to choose one form. Word order (Japanese/Korean or Spanish/French or something else?). Singular/plural. Past/present/future. Noun declension (endings? particles? word order?). Proper names. Quoted text.

    Some features are difficult to understand, if your native language lacks them (articles; subjunctive mood; continuous verbs). An interlang should avoid these if possible. And it should avoid idioms. On the other hand, the interlang needs to express ideas. So it needs a lot of features.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    Post 102 sets out the difficulties faced by anyone setting out to devise a conlang with universal appeal. There are two basic approaches to devising a conlang which are not mutually exclusive:

    A posteriori: This is essentially a language which combines elements of existing languages removing perceived difficulties such as irregularities and inconsistencies. A conlang which is a synthesis of Romance languages is not going to be attractive to someone who does not know a Romance language or English. Something like an economic report in such a language will probably be understood by anyone knowing a Romance language, but more mundane texts are likely to be problematic. Consider the following French/Spanish pairs:

    Table: table - mesa
    Fork: fourchette - tenedor
    Floor: plancher - suelo
    Chair: chaise - silla
    Tap: robinet - grifo
    Pencil: crayon - lápiz
    Leg: jambe - pierna
    Head: tête - cabeza
    Yellow: jaune - amarillo
    Bed: lit - cama

    The wider the range of languages chosen the less intelligible the conlang is going to be.

    A priori: This is a conlang not based on any existing language. Unless created for amusement, a priori languages tend to be based on a system of classification devised by their creators. The idea is that you can proceed from the simple to the complicated by logical steps. The snag is that any system aiming to cover human experience as expressed in language will find that it far too messy to be neatly packaged.

    A conlang may take as a starting point that many natural languages use affixes, enclitics and particles to impart different meanings to roots. However, natural languages are conventions which have evolved. Inconsistencies abound reflecting what speakers need to express. If a conlang assigns a specific task to an affix it may be faced with a number of options which it can express. Any natural language has by convention decided what the effect will be of combining a root and an affix or two roots. It may go further and decide the word so formed should have both a literal and transferred meaning. It may go on to abandon the literal meaning so that the transferred meaning is not apparent from the elements which make it up.

    If you have a conlang which allows you to construct a word which means "place where sick people are" you have to decide what it is going to refer to if it is to be precise rather than generic. The likely choice is that it means "hospital". However, what you have done is impose a meaning when the whole idea was that the meaning should have been apparent. You are also faced with the problem of finding words for places other than hospitals where sick people are to be found.
     

    Dymn

    Senior Member
    I don't think it's difficult at all to devise a language that's easier to learn than most languages. It may not be perfect, as if it was some sort of mathematical language, but we can't let perfect be the enemy of good.

    Grammar should be an average taking into account the most spoken languages worldwide, and without irregularities. Phonology should be a bit more conservative than average so most of the world can tell apart all of the phonemes.

    Vocabulary is the thorny issue. There's a trade-off between easy (which would necessarily mean Eurocentric, with some scatterings of Arabic), and culturally neutral (which would mean making it equally difficult for everybody, with made up morphemes). In both cases though, it's a good idea to make ample use of affixes and compounds. "Sick-house" for "hospital" is a good idea, and it already is the case in a couple of natural languages. Other places with sick people can get other names.

    As for how that language would evolve, I'm sure there would be new words, changes in meaning, however if the vast share of the speaker base is non-native, it wouldn't change that much. It would deviate from perfect, but as I said it wouldn't have been perfect in the first place.

    Anyway, the main problem an auxiliary language faces is not internal but external. It's the same thing for natural languages, of course. English is not the global lingua franca because it's easy but because it happens to be the language of the global superpower.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    I don't think it's difficult at all to devise a language
    I think it's difficult to devise a complete language. But by "difficult" I mean "a huge amount of work", not "insurmountable challenges". Even after you devise the linguistic rules (several man-years) there are tens of thousands of words to create.

    a language that's easier to learn than most languages.
    I agree that is not difficult. After all, you have so many a posteriori examples to choose from. What does everybody struggle with when learning English, Russian, Arabic, Chinese, Korean? Those are 5 lists of things to avoid.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    The creator himself suggested that there should be a language committee since the very first world Esperanto congress at the beginning of the 20th century. So the language has been officially regulated for more than a century.
    My comment was about a new conlang for international communication, not Esperanto. Esperanto was a good try, but it has some flaw and weak points. The author was a genius, but he was a hobby linguist.

    A new conlang should be created using more scientific methods for optimizing all the features. The first role it could play is a hub for translations between various languages. We can see what weird results we get when English is used as a hub for translation between e.g. Chinese and Spanish. The hub language must have words for all concepts, and be based on one to one principle: one word one meaning, one meaning one word.
     

    Ben Jamin

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I don't think it's difficult at all to devise a language that's easier to learn than most languages. It may not be perfect, as if it was some sort of mathematical language, but we can't let perfect be the enemy of good.

    Grammar should be an average taking into account the most spoken languages worldwide, and without irregularities. Phonology should be a bit more conservative than average so most of the world can tell apart all of the phonemes.

    Vocabulary is the thorny issue. There's a trade-off between easy (which would necessarily mean Eurocentric, with some scatterings of Arabic), and culturally neutral (which would mean making it equally difficult for everybody, with made up morphemes). In both cases though, it's a good idea to make ample use of affixes and compounds. "Sick-house" for "hospital" is a good idea, and it already is the case in a couple of natural languages. Other places with sick people can get other names.

    As for how that language would evolve, I'm sure there would be new words, changes in meaning, however if the vast share of the speaker base is non-native, it wouldn't change that much. It would deviate from perfect, but as I said it wouldn't have been perfect in the first place.

    Anyway, the main problem an auxiliary language faces is not internal but external. It's the same thing for natural languages, of course. English is not the global lingua franca because it's easy but because it happens to be the language of the global superpower.
    A very good list of important qualities for the new language. But I don't think that we should emphasise "easiness" so much. The conlang should be transparent, congruent and systematic, without irritating irregularities, but we should not exagerate structural simplicity. A language must have a minimum of features that make the message precise and unambiguous, and this indicates that words should have suffixes indicating its relation to other words.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    English is not the global lingua franca because it's easy but because it happens to be the language of the global superpower.
    I would rephrase that as: English is not the global lingua franca because it's easy but because it happens to be the language of a former global superpower. English was spread across a significant part of the globe by the British Empire. This map shows the territories that were at one time or another part of the British Empire. The rise of the USA as a global superpower has consolidated the position of English and helped to expand its influence.
     

    Hulalessar

    Senior Member
    English - England
    A language must have a minimum of features that make the message precise and unambiguous, and this indicates that words should have suffixes indicating its relation to other words.
    Many languages do not have suffixes with syntactic functions and are capable of being precise and unambiguous. English has fewer than ten and gets along nicely.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I agreed initially, but I am having second thoughts. What linguistic elements? In general, I think excluding elements (from various human languages) is more important than including elements (from various human languages).

    Exactly. In fact, that's what creoles do for the sake of easiness.

    Sounds: I don't think we should include sounds from everywhere. Instead, we should use sounds that most people can hear and speak. Esperanto probably already does that. Spanish and Japanese come close. English does not.

    Esperanto does... for a general European ear. But it includes many sounds and combinations that are difficult for many speakers from other language families.

    The logical thing would be to reduce it to A-I-U + P-T-K-M-N-L-S + Y-W. They seem to be the most common among most main languages, although you will still see one of them missing in one major language or another. Most notably P in Arabic.

    Some features exist in different forms. You have to choose one form. Word order (Japanese/Korean or Spanish/French or something else?).

    The most common thing is subject before object. That is, S+V+O or V+S+O.

    Noun declension.

    Avoid it. You won't see creoles with it. Even English and most Romance languages got rid of it. And most languages with declensions tend to use some of them less and less.

    Consider the following French/Spanish pairs:

    Table: table - mesa
    Fork: fourchette - tenedor
    Floor: plancher - suelo
    Chair: chaise - silla
    Tap: robinet - grifo
    Pencil: crayon - lápiz
    Leg: jambe - pierna
    Head: tête - cabeza
    Yellow: jaune - amarillo
    Bed: lit - cama

    One must always bear in mind, though, possible connections a speaker might do. A Spanih speaker might relate table to tabla, lit (lect-) to lecho, and even tête to testa/testuz, or jambe to gamba/jamba (door's "leg")/jamón, depending on the speaker's linguistic ability.

    The wider the range of languages chosen the less intelligible the conlang is going to be.

    In my opinion, it should be a good balance. Not more than twenty, and I'd reduce it to the five macrocultural ones, the six or seven macroregional modern ones, and a few major representatives from other families which are also spoken by more than fifty millions.

    The hub language must have words for all concepts, and be based on one to one principle: one word one meaning, one meaning one word.

    That's always a starting point for most conlangs. But I guess one can't help attributing meanings of the native language to some words, or even idioms from time to time. If some become majoritarian, I don't see why not accepting them eventually, after consensus. We must not forget that sometimes shortness prevails over clarity in all languages of the world.
     
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