Constructed languages

nizzebro

Senior Member
Russian
As I mentioned above, the Ancient Greeks had many different ideas about reality in this sense. The same observation can be made about philosophies recorded in Chinese, a language quite different from Greek. And if talking about the Far East, Chinese and Japanese are as different from each other as each is from English.
Of course they had a lot of different ideas, so what? Physicists have a lot of different ideas about reality as well, but ultimately they consider as true ideas only those that can be expressed through math equations, and here, both a Chinese and Greek scientist would use the same syntax and so share absolutely the same vision - note, I mean vision.

There are popular videos explaining things like relativity, space-time and causality and how time slows down near an object - and, while they tend to use the ordinary language, they anyway involve graphics which, in its dynamics, actually just follow the essence of the related equations - and so are using the same syntax but another "lexical elements" - instead of capital letters, they use images, and instead of operators, they use motion of these images, but, anyway they need the same operands and operators that are part of the equation.

But somehow you can't do translation between two human languages using the same operands and operators. People can mean the same thing, but describe it in different way, which sometimes doesn't allow any element-wise translation: you bring it to the the analogy on the sentence level only, but every inside component of the structure is ignored - so maybe they do not mean the same thing?

The fact that English does not require you to distinguish between male and female neighbours does not mean that a native speaker cannot conceive of a neighbour as being male or female.

Well, I didn't mean they cannot, of course. But, they can leave it indefinite for the hearer/reader in communication - which makes me personally feel uncomfortable as I'm lacking an initial imagery to which my mind is accustomed, which like suggests that for an English speaker, that imagery is not that necessary.

I have worked a lot as a cabinet-maker, and when I used to visit some new friend of mine at their home, my attention immediately focused on the furniture, so I could tell many things about how it is made and so on. With that, I could to lose sight of the whole room, which could have something like interesting coloring of walls, or pictures on them, or curtains, or something else. Now suppose, that shortly after my entering the room I was invited to the table: there is no chance for me to notice all these things, as my mind is already occupied with the furniture details, and what comes the next is eating, drinking, talking, and after some time I am drunk and saying them goodbye.

One can make the same points about any aspect of grammar. English lacks classifiers, ergative alignment, evidential markers, inalienable possession marking and conjugating adjectives, amongst other features. Does anyone natively speaking a language with any of those features perceive the world differently from a native English speaker?
They do, I believe. This doesn't mean that in the real world there are things that people speaking in some specific language are unable to see, or, they are the only ones who are able to. Rather they focus on one aspects of that thing and put other in the shade.
 
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  • Uncreative Name

    Member
    English - United States
    I find them offensive, as they amount to an attempt to destroy cultures and languages.
    I think this goes back to the misconception (which I mentioned earlier) that all constructed languages are auxiliary languages - even then, auxiliary languages aren't "an attempt to destroy cultures and languages," but rather an attempt at enstating a common language to make communication easier (though this has never worked before, and I doubt it ever will).

    Again, there are many types of constructed languages (I explained this in more detail in post #141) which serve many purposes. Auxiliary languages just happen to be some of the most well-known.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    aren't "an attempt to destroy cultures and languages," but rather an attempt at enstating a common language to make communication easier
    But actually it would turn to be a destroyer - even if the developers had no such intent.
    The thing is that any colang is destined to be close to English in spirit and even go further in the direction of a modular set of ready-to-use items, as a product of modern rational thinking. Esperanto, in respect to verb system, is a projection of English that only is pretending to be something Romance-like.
    though this has never worked before, and I doubt it ever will).
    I agree, it won't - just because it is too regular. A real language cannot be something linear, because of phonetic ambiguity. Irregular forms, like those of verbs in European languages, exist just because these forms are frequently used, so there is a need for them to be as much distinguishable as possible. Thus the matrix of language forms cannot be homogeneous in its structure - it is more detailed in the commonly used areas.

    Take, again, Esperanto (I'm not familiar with other constructed languages but pretty sure the situation is similar): it has a marker of the accusative, so it like allows word reordering with preserving the roles, but, it as well doesn't look distinguishable: I'm not sure that in a fast speech I could tell "hundo mortis caton" from "hundon mortis cato" and so know who killed whom with such minimalist approach to marking. (In Russian, there is also stress shift for the cat's acc. ending, and, gender that inflects in the verb: sobaka ubila kotA vs sobaku ubil kot). Therefore, the promising ability to change the order and so apply even such a surrogate of topicalization is in practice untenable - and you would end up with the English approach to syntax where the subject is the king of the Universe.
     
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    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    I think this goes back to the misconception (which I mentioned earlier) that all constructed languages are auxiliary languages - even then, auxiliary languages aren't "an attempt to destroy cultures and languages," but rather an attempt at enstating a common language to make communication easier (though this has never worked before, and I doubt it ever will).

    Again, there are many types of constructed languages (I explained this in more detail in post #141) which serve many purposes. Auxiliary languages just happen to be some of the most well-known.
    We have a common language, English. And in point of fact, languages are not just vehicles for communication, but bearers of history and culture.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    and so a colang aimed to be an intermediate, is simply impossible without being biased towards a certain language - as no concept is there that could be an in-between in respect to genders and stuff. The same is true for verbs in Germanic and Romance families - if you want an intermediate colang between two languages from these groups, you have to choose either the Germanic or the Romance approach to verbs. So it appears that the probability of a truly unbiased solution is in direct proportion to the similarity in grammar, and actually things can work only for the same family - ideally, with the syntax/morphology almost coinciding, at least in function - and the trick is that in such cases, the vocabulary as well appears so close that the speakers understand each other well and just do not need a colang.
    That is why conlangs -or more specifically, auxlangs- do not attempt to be 'intermediates' but rather tend to choose the most simple solution, similarly to the process of a creole but trying to show more logic and consistency. The verbal system in the Romance languages is a highly complex one, so it is just logical that this feature is avoided.

    However, given that there'll usually be a tendency to favour the Romance languages when it comes to choose the 'common' vocabulary -mainly due to the role in Europe of Latin and later French-, one may perhaps be tempted to see in this a sort of counterbalance.


    Take, again, Esperanto (I'm not familiar with other constructed languages but pretty sure the situation is similar): it has a marker of the accusative, so it like allows word reordering with preserving the roles, but, it as well doesn't look distinguishable: I'm not sure that in a fast speech I could tell "hundo mortis caton" from "hundon mortis cato" and so know who killed whom with such minimalist approach to marking. (In Russian, there is also stress shift for the cat's acc. ending, and, gender that inflects in the verb: sobaka ubila kotA vs sobaku ubil kot). Therefore, the promising ability to change the order and so apply even such a surrogate of topicalization is in practice untenable - and you would end up with the English approach to syntax where the subject is the king of the Universe.
    That happens, even among native Esperanto speakers, who apparently are unstable in their use of the accusative marker and tend to use it more clearly in the case of directions. I don't think this means trying to adjust the language to English, though. Esperanto was created long before English was a thing in most countries. English just happens to be the European language which has undergone the fastest process of simplification since the Middle Ages, to an extent in which it has been sometimes recurrent to call it a sort of creole language. The fact that some features of an auxlang look closer to those of English are therefore rather logical.
     

    Uncreative Name

    Member
    English - United States
    any colang is destined to be close to English in spirit and even go further in the direction of a modular set of ready-to-use items, as a product of modern rational thinking. Esperanto, in respect to verb system, is a projection of English that only is pretending to be something Romance-like.
    Again, this argument assumes that conlangs are only ever created for international communication. There are other reasons that conlangs are made. See my explanation in post #141.

    Irregular forms, like those of verbs in European languages, exist just because these forms are frequently used, so there is a need for them to be as much distinguishable as possible.
    There is actually a strong tendency in linguistic history for irregular words to become regular (compare old Englsh "help" > "holp" to modern English "help" > "helped"). The commonly-used words have a higher tendency to be irregular because people use them more often, and remember them better. A regular word for "to be," for example, wouldn't hurt a language; in fact, I'd say that regularity would be helpful.

    where the subject is the king of the Universe.
    Does this mean subject-initial languages? Or languages where the subject is unmarked? Both of these features are very common, not inherently English.
     

    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    However, given that there'll usually be a tendency to favour the Romance languages when it comes to choose the 'common' vocabulary -mainly due to the role in Europe of Latin and later French-, one may perhaps be tempted to see in this a sort of counterbalance.
    This is normal, I think - even as related to an attempt of a world-wide lang; vocabulary is not that important (at least that related to stems and not morphemes): it is bound to certain final notions; some of them could be replaced, altered or ignored. But the grammar is another deal.
    There is actually a strong tendency in linguistic history for irregular words to become regular (compare old Englsh "help" > "holp" to modern English "help" > "helped"). The commonly-used words have a higher tendency to be irregular because people use them more often, and remember them better. A regular word for "to be," for example, wouldn't hurt a language; in fact, I'd say that regularity would be helpful.
    Yes, languages become more rational and, you know, aimed at ready-to-use fully defined notions. And this is not so good, I believe. English is like that: it has a rich vocabulary with a huge set Latin and Germanic stems, for all occasions, and you just use a suitable stem - in the manner you choose a product in a modern food store. This is brilliant when you need to share some information, and I prefer many tech-related things in English - everything is laconic there, while in my language it is all a little like smeared. But, such discreteness in a modern language moves a human away from a pure perception. This is a long topic, I cannot fit in this post/thread....
    Does this mean subject-initial languages? Or languages where the subject is unmarked? Both of these features are very common, not inherently English.
    I rather mean topic-oriented vs subject-oriented, When I put things like "cat-ACC, killed dog" in Russian, I'm not just doing some sort of emphasis (dog, not elephant), I start off with the cat in the same manner as I would start off with 'my room' if I said "In my room, ..." so the cat is a topic. If I said "The cat was killed by the dog", it would be also the topic but as well the subject, so these sentences are not the same. The Japanese do the same thing, but they use markers for that and so keep the word order static.
    But if we go further, the topic-oriented-ness also correlates with tendency to impersonality, and comes from the good old times when individuality was making much less sense that today.
     
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    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    languages are not just vehicles for communication, but bearers of history and culture.
    Yes! Thank you! You’ve summed up my thoughts in 13 words. As a matter of fact, for me if anything languages are more so bearers of history and culture, and markers of identity, than mere vehicles of communication.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    This is correct (I think the number of true native speakers living in Irish-speaking areas is nearer the 50,000 mark). However, the overall picture is somewhat more complicated. While Irish has withered as a native language, it is now spoken by hundreds of thousands of people as a second language (particularly those who are educated through the medium of Irish in Gaelscoileanna). It has also experienced a new lease of life in Northern Ireland thanks to the importance attached to Irish culture in Nationalist communities.

    We therefore have very many people who speak Irish Gaelic with Irish English accents. Whether this is a healthy development is debatable. There are ongoing exchanges between Irish and Scottish Gaelic speaking areas (including between BBC Alba and TG4), which is a good thing. For too long both languages evolved in relative isolation despite being broadly mutually intelligible (particularly Ulster Irish and Scottish varieties).
    You are right in all you say, Pedro de la Torre. Let's put it this way, the Gaeltacht speakers do not regard the Irish spoken by learners as good Irish. The actual native speakers believe they have better accents than the learners, that the thousands of made-up words used by the learners are not real Irish, and that the fact that the learners insert thousands of phrases that are calques of English is not good Irish either. There is a gulf between Radio Lífe (non-native speakers speaking with comically heavy accents, poor grammar and made-up words) and Radio na Gaeltachta where the actual native speakers speak natural Irish.

    Tá an ceart agat sa méid a deireann tú, a Pheadair den Túr! Cuirfimíd mar sin é, ní cheapaid muíntir na Gaeltachta gur Gaelainn mhaith ar fad é an rud a labhraid na foghlamóirí! Tá's ag na cainnteóirí dúchais gur acu-san atá an blas agus ní hag an lucht foghlamtha. Agus nách Gaelainn cheart na mílte focal ceapaithe suas ag na foghlamóiríbh, agus nách Gaelainn cheart ach oiread na mílte frásaí lom-aistriúcháin cóipeáilte ón mBéarla a húsáidthar sa Ghalltacht. Tá ana-bheárna idir Raidió Lífe (mar a bhfaighimíd na nua-chainnteóirí le blas greannmhar trom, gan aon bheann ar ghramadaigh agus le focail déanta suas) agus Raidió na Gaeltachta, mar a labhraid na fíor-chainnteóirí dúchais as Gaelainn go maith nádúrtha.
     
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    Stoggler

    Senior Member
    English (Southern England)
    I find them offensive, as they amount to an attempt to destroy cultures and languages.

    I’m sure that was exactly what Tolkien and Okrand had in mind when inventing Quenya and Klingon respectively!

    Flippancy aside, that hasn’t not been the goal of international auxiliary language proponents either, as has been discussed here.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Perhaps. But Ireland made the English language its own, as did Scotland. I imagine the same is true of Russian-speakers in Central Asia. It's certainly true of Spanish in Latin America.

    Any language that spreads beyond its original confines will be shaped, moulded and "owned" by new populations, whether those languages are artifically-created or otherwise.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    I imagine the same is true of Russian-speakers in Central Asia.
    Central Asia is highly non-uniform in that regard. Obviously, ethnic Russian retain Russian; as for other ethnicities, it depends (a lot). Indeed, in many cities of Northern Kazakhstan local Kazakhs may barely speak Kazakh, especially the Soviet generation; however, in the south the youth, on the contrary, hardly speaks Russian. In other Central Asian countries potential extent of knowing Russian among the non-Russians varies greatly (from a native tongue to a language which one can barely speak), but it never supplants the local languages - that's mostly either a Ukrainian/Belarusian thing or something that occurs inside the Russian borders.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    Perhaps. But Ireland made the English language its own, as did Scotland. I imagine the same is true of Russian-speakers in Central Asia. It's certainly true of Spanish in Latin America.

    Any language that spreads beyond its original confines will be shaped, moulded and "owned" by new populations, whether those languages are artifically-created or otherwise.
    Is Hiberno-English weakening? I mean the form of Irish that says "do be". My impression is that constant exposure to US TV is having an effect on Irish English. Dublin 4 is said to be the most Anglified postcode.
     
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    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    I don't think it's weakening but it is changing. Rural dialects of Irish English are alive and well. The English spoken in Donegal (Ulster) and Kerry (Munster) are still very distinctive. There is a pan-urban accent known as New Dublin English however (which has spread far beyond the confines of Dublin City).
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Rural dialects of Irish English are alive and well.
    Not so well as they used to be, it seems, and it's not like they necessarily die out directly - but they approach the more common varieties more and more. The same process has been attested for Russian dialects and quite early: rural dialects of the late 19th century had percievably more syntactical peculiarities than those written in the same areas in the mid 20th century (those must have been the first features to go under the influence of the language of the army, the school and the radio).
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    Yes, I think that's fair. What's surprising in Russia's/the USSR's case is that Ukrainian and Belorussian survived to any serious extent at all (though I suspect that they've been heavily Russified in comparison with earlier versions of both languages).
     
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    nizzebro

    Senior Member
    Russian
    What's surprising in Russia's/the USSR's case is that Ukrainian and Belorussian survived to any serious extent at all (though I suspect that they've been heavily russified in comparison with earlier versions of both languages).
    They survived because for some some reason were maintained by the cursed totalitarian commies, and the local national language was obligatorily at school.
    As well the Russian Empire didn't suppressed it until they started publishing extremist literature at the end of the 19 century. But today you can see this disinformation everywhere about "Russification", even in Wikipedia (which is now totally under control of Western services). Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian are actually rather dialects than languages when compared to each other - and in China, I believe these would be dialects and so there would be no any pseudo-self-identification. It is like to talk about Germanization of dialects in Germany.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    We have a common language, English. And in point of fact, languages are not just vehicles for communication, but bearers of history and culture.
    That's the point. Learning a language goes along with learning its history and culture. And when it is a natural language, then it is always going to bear an imperialistic origin at its root.
     

    Pedro y La Torre

    Senior Member
    English (Ireland)
    They survived because for some some reason were maintained by the cursed totalitarian commies, and the local national language was obligatorily at school.
    As well the Russian Empire didn't suppressed it until they started publishing extremist literature at the end of the 19 century. But today you can see this disinformation everywhere about "Russification", even in Wikipedia (which is now totally under control of Western services). Russian, Ukrainian and Belorussian are actually rather dialects than languages when compared to each other - and in China, I believe these would be dialects and so there would be no any pseudo-self-identification. It is like to talk about Germanization of dialects in Germany.
    I wasn't making a political point per se when referring to Russification (which would be outside the scope of this subforum in any event). It's more that Russian was the language of power and could reasonably be expected to strongly influence related languages and dialects.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    and the local national language was obligatorily at school
    Which guarantees nearly zero knowledge by itself (a foreign language was also obligatory; and... well... here's Mutko, whose knowledge is sufficiently close to the average). Still, the prestige of Ukrainian and Belarusian was at least above zero, there was some Ukrainian and Belarusian literature, and a lot of rural native speakers; it's noteworthy that while in Belarus the local variety of Russian is now for the most part indistinguishable from that spoken in most Russian cities (Lukashenko and other rural people aside), the Russian language of Ukraine is hugely influenced by Ukrainian phonology even when the speaker himself doesn't speak Ukrainian at all.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    What do you mean by this? Could you elaborate?
    English is not nowadays the most spoken language in the world because of some inherent superior qualities. This is due to a history we all are aware of, the result of an age of empires. So, whether a European country decides to teach it in schools or an African country decides to make it the only official language because the local ones are too many, the root, the origin of it, is the same one: a privileged position with regard to the propagation of a determined culture.

    Obviously this can get diluted with time. Two people speaking Naija in a district of a town in Mars in 2143 may have little trace of that past in what they're speaking and thinking. But it definitely takes some time.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    You're talking about one particular language and one particular example. Yes, one of the biggest reasons for the spread of English is imperialism, but that's obviously not the case for all natural languages. As a matter of fact, quite a large number of them have not spread at all and are endangered.

    You can't say none of the 7000+ languages in the world are any good as lingua francas -- and we need to invent new ones -- because an exceedingly small number of natural languages have spread through imperialism.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    You're talking about one particular language and one particular example. Yes, one of the biggest reasons for the spread of English is imperialism, but that's obviously not the case for all natural languages. As a matter of fact, quite a large number of them have not spread at all and are endangered.
    Sure. But those are not lingua francas anywhere.

    You can't say none of the 7000+ languages in the world are any good as lingua francas -- and we need to invent new ones -- because an exceedingly small number of natural languages have spread through imperialism.
    So you think that, if we chose now one endangered language -say, Tsuut'ina- as a global language, people would accept it, complicated as it is, instead of a more simple constructed one just because it is natural?
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    There are many languages with simple grammars. Indonesian is usually given as a prime example. I'm sure that many of the world's endangered languages also have simple grammars.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    There are many languages with simple grammars. Indonesian is usually given as a prime example. I'm sure that many of the world's endangered languages also have simple grammars.

    I'd say it's the opposite. Grammars tend to simplify the more they're used as lingua francas. Mainly because many people from different backgrounds and languages begin to speak it. That's what happens with Indonesian too, after all.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    Are you saying that every single one of the world's endangered languages is complex? Somehow I doubt that's true.

    Norwegian has never been a lingua franca, and it's grammatically very simple. The pronunciation is also pretty easy (much easier than Danish and Swedish, but also generally pretty easy). The spelling is also easy. Maybe we should all learn Norwegian!
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    Are you saying that every single one of the world's endangered languages is complex? Somehow I doubt that's true.

    Norwegian has never been a lingua franca, and it's grammatically very simple. The pronunciation is also pretty easy (much easier than Danish and Swedish, but also generally pretty easy). The spelling is also easy. Maybe we should all learn Norwegian!
    That depends on whether we're talking about the most Western-like Norwegian or the one that is almost like Danish.

    Anyway, I thought you were talking about an endangered one, one that nobody associates to a country or even a region. Norwegian is not endangered at all.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I'm talking about Bokmål or Standard Norwegian.

    Of course Norwegian is not endangered. I was just giving that as an example of a simple language that has not spread globally. I was responding to what you said about endangered languages or languages of limited diffusion being complex and languages becoming simple through widespread usage. I don't know much about endangered languages, so I can't give a specific example of a simple one, but what I know about Norwegian makes me think that odds are there are endangered languages with simple grammars.
     

    WadiH

    Senior Member
    Arabic
    Maybe it's a matter of contact. Norwegian is not a lingua franca but it has been in contact with a lot of other languages.
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    It certainly helps, in terms of being a global language, that English has an initially easy learning curve: you study for a few hours and you can already have a basic conversation. (L2 speakers very often appear unaware that at the advanced level English is much trickier, and many learners overrate their language level.) As far as basic-lower intermediate language goes, English is easy (if you ignore the spelling and the pronunciation, of course!!).
     
    an example of a simple language that has not spread globally. I
    If I could put in my two cents, isn't English even "easier" than Norwegian? The former has no gender (Norwegian has feminine, masculine and neuter ) adjectives never change, fewer articles, English may have more verb tenses but in terms of pronunciation I reckon that the two languages are at the same level of difficulty: both languages boast plenty of vowel sounds but Norwegian also has two different tones. Afrikaans is certainly more "simplified" than Norwegian and Swedish, grammatically. Besides, you are a native speaker of English, your German is beautiful and you probably speak some Dutch, I wonder whether a Chinese or a Farsi speaker would also share your opinion.
    Furthermore, no language is easy if you wish to speak it at an advanced level. In my view, even constructed languages would develop idioms, colloquialisms, fixed espressions and irregularities, if they were spoken on a daily basis. Most of us tend to associate difficulty with complex morphology but there are several elements to take into account in a language.
     
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    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    If I could put in my two cents, isn't English even "easier" than Norwegian? The former has no gender (Norwegian has feminine, masculine and neuter ) adjectives never change, fewer articles, English may have more verb tenses but in terms of pronunciation I reckon that the two languages are at the same level of difficulty: both languages boast plenty of vowel sounds but Norwegian also has two different tones. Afrikaans is certainly more "simplified" than Norwegian and Swedish, grammatically. Besides, you are a native speaker of English, your German is beautiful and you probably speak some Dutch, I wonder whether a Chinese or a Farsi speaker would also share your opinion.
    Furthermore, no language is easy if you wish to speak it at an advanced level. In my view, even constructed languages would develop idioms, colloquialisms, fixed espressions and irregularities, if they were spoken on a daily basis. Most of us tend to associate difficulty with complex morphology but there are several elements to take into account in a language.
    I think some of the tenses (synthetic tenses) in English can be tricky to master. In some circumstances, you could say "he will have been doing that all day by then", although the future perfect continuous isn't the most common tense, and to get to the level of English where you can use that is quite a feat. I ran into a Russian on Youtube once, in the comments, who proudly informed the others in the thread that the future perfect continuous is obsolete, because he had lived in Canada for 20 years and had never heard it. (No, it's not obsolete.)
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    @WadiH, I imagine most of the world's languages are in contact with other languages. But let's assume it is about language contact. Do we have evidence that languages with little to no contact with other languages are always complex, and that only languages that have had (significant) contact with other languages are simple?

    @Olaszinhok, yes, English may be simpler than Norwegian, but English is also a global language. My intention was to give an example of a simple language that is not a global language / lingua franca / a language that has spread significantly.

    You are of course right that the languages one already knows impact how easy a new language is going to be, but that applies equally to constructed languages. I don't think it's possible for a constructed language to not have anything at all in common with any natural language.

    You are also right that there are numerous factors that determine how "complex" a language is. However, I believe the argument for "simpler" constructed languages is predicated (mostly) on simpler morphosyntax and phonology -- which is why I brought up Norwegian as an example. I've never really thought about this, but I would probably say that if we don't consider English, and assuming a learner has no measurable advantage due to the languages they already speak, Norwegian is probably the easiest major European language to learn in terms of morphosyntax and phonology.

    I suppose an important question that is relevant to the idea of a significant community of people "learning" a constructed language and using it as a lingua franca is what exactly do we mean when we speak of the ease of "learning" the language? Are we talking about just getting to a solid communicative level, or are we talking about more advanced levels, where one is knowledgeable of colloquialisms, idioms, fixed expressions, nuances, subtleties, figurative language, etc.? If we consider English, there are many, many non-native speakers who are very communicatively functional in English but are lacking in that more advanced knowledge. If we're talking about truly mastering a language, then yes, I agree that we would need to consider more than morphosyntax and phonology.

    (Thank you for your compliment on my German. 🙏 And yes, I do know some Dutch.)
     

    pimlicodude

    Senior Member
    British English
    @WadiH, I imagine most of the world's languages are in contact with other languages. But let's assume it is about language contact. Do we have evidence that languages with little to no contact with other languages are always complex, and that only languages that have had (significant) contact with other languages are simple?

    @Olaszinhok, yes, English may be simpler than Norwegian, but English is also a global language. My intention was to give an example of a simple language that is not a global language / lingua franca / a language that has spread significantly.

    You are of course right that the languages one already knows impact how easy a new language is going to be, but that applies equally to constructed languages. I don't think it's possible for a constructed language to not have anything at all in common with any natural language.

    You are also right that there are numerous factors that determine how "complex" a language is. However, I believe the argument for "simpler" constructed languages is predicated (mostly) on simpler morphosyntax and phonology -- which is why I brought up Norwegian as an example. I've never really thought about this, but I would probably say that if we don't consider English, and assuming a learner has no measurable advantage due to the languages they already speak, Norwegian is probably the easiest major European language to learn in terms of morphosyntax and phonology.

    I suppose an important question that is relevant to the idea of a significant community of people "learning" a constructed language and using it as a lingua franca is what exactly do we mean when we speak of the ease of "learning" the language? Are we talking about just getting to a solid communicative level, or are we talking about more advanced levels, where one is knowledgeable of colloquialisms, idioms, fixed expressions, nuances, subtleties, figurative language, etc.? If we consider English, there are many, many non-native speakers who are very communicatively functional in English but are lacking in that more advanced knowledge. If we're talking about truly mastering a language, then yes, I agree that we would need to consider more than morphosyntax and phonology.

    (Thank you for your compliment on my German. 🙏 And yes, I do know some Dutch.)
    @elroy, and part of the reason why Norwegian is considered simple is that it is related to English. As hundreds of millions are familiar with English, they should be able to pick up thousands of Norwegian words quite easily. I once studied Swedish, but only did one book (Colloquial Swedish) and it made it easier for me to think of the cognates: eller ("or") related to "else"; på ("on") related to "upon", etc. But someone who had never learnt a single word of English might not find Norwegian as easy as all that.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    However, I believe the argument for "simpler" constructed languages is predicated (mostly) on simpler morphosyntax and phonology -- which is why I brought up Norwegian as an example.
    👆 I was only thinking of morphosyntax and phonology.
     

    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Cross-linguistically, "simple phonology" is something Polynesian-like. I don't think Russians or Chinese would find Norwegian phonology simple.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    If anything this discussion just shows that any language is simple(r) in some ways and (more) complex in others. I'm sure that there's at least one natural language of limited diffusion out there that is on the whole as simple or as complex as any given constructed language.
     
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    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    If anything this discussion just shows that any language is simple(r) in some ways and (more) complex in others. I'm sure that there's at least one natural language of limited diffusion out that is on the whole as simple or as complex as any given constructed language.
    There is no simple language, be it constructed or not. However, I very much doubt there's a simple natural language out there, whether major or almost extinct, without its share of irregularities, exceptions to the rules and lots of intricate nuances related to the cultural history of its speakers. Something which has typically been avoided as much as possible in auxlangs.
     

    elroy

    Moderator: EHL, Arabic, Hebrew, German(-Spanish)
    US English, Palestinian Arabic bilingual
    I would not consider the loss of "intricate nuances related to the cultural history of [a language's] speakers" an advantage.

    I'm not sure that the loss of irregularities and exceptions is an advantage either. They give a language character.

    As I said earlier, I don't see a language as just a communication vehicle.

    Additionally, what I said earlier about what level of proficiency we're talking about is relevant here. A non-native English speaker who says "I speaked" or "five childs" will be understood, so overgeneralization is generally not an impediment to communication.
     

    Penyafort

    Senior Member
    Catalan (Catalonia), Spanish (Spain)
    I would not consider the loss of "intricate nuances related to the cultural history of [a language's] speakers" an advantage.
    Maybe not an advantage, but definitely a more neutral start for everybody. It goes without saying that, after only a few decades, the constructed language would have developed many of them all the same. Esperanto itself has developed a few along its history without being a widespread lingua franca.

    I'm not sure that the loss of irregularities and exceptions is an advantage either. They give a language character.
    Here I disagree. What makes me love languages is that each of them has its character, as you say. Being easy when it comes to some things that are so troublesome in others also shows a character. People who are very easy to deal with have their personality too.

    As I said earlier, I don't see a language as just a communication vehicle.
    Neither do I. At all.

    Additionally, what I said earlier about what level of proficiency we're talking about is relevant here. A non-native English speaker who says "I speaked" or "five childs" will be understood, so overgeneralization is generally not an impediment to communication.
    Well, I somehow disagree, but that may just be me because of personal experience. I remember being misunderstood in my first visit to London. I was only eleven and my English was definitely at an early stage (one or two years) but even so it annoyed me as it certainly hindered me from communicating what I wished. I still recall that experience as a turning point for trying to be as perfectionist when learning the phonology of a language as possible.

    At least there definitely may be a language with the simplest phonology and an entirely regular grammar.
    A natural one? I don't think so or at least I'm not acquainted with any. Polynesian ones are certainly easy in their phonology but I don't consider their grammar to be easy or regular.
     

    dojibear

    Senior Member
    English (US - northeast)
    At least there definitely may be a language with the simplest phonology and an entirely regular grammar.
    Simple phonology for everyone is doubtful. Different languages have different phonetic features.

    For example, some languages distinguish (use to distinguish different words):
    - plosive vs. non-plosive consonants
    - voiced vs. non-voiced consonants
    - retroflex vs. non-retroflex consonants
    - short-duration vs. longer duration vowels
    - different kinds of consonants (harsh, lax, doubled, emphatic...I don't know the linguistic terms)
    - syllable timing: stress-based or syllable-based

    If your native language lacks a distinction, it is difficult to even hear that distinction in a new language, much less reproduce it clearly. I've noticed the issues listed above in just 4 languages (including English). Imagine how many other distinctions other languages have!

    So "simple/easy phonology" varies widely around the world.
     

    rarabara

    Senior Member
    Kurdish
    hahahaha :) :) :) , hey lols , you miss many many details.
    of course, I won't be able to respond all the queries (if it happens)
    but, I wonder really : why does not anyone consider any secret gateways between such an interesting query?? (What I mean is both simple and difficult when we point the case out to the topic)

    consider this: do birds or cats have their own language??
    I think yes.
    one another question: do or should we really say that a problematic thing should be considered a natural and NOT a problem when it scientifically NOT resolved??
    ah, humans (by default many of them !) are limited (cannot do everything)
     
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    Awwal12

    Senior Member
    Russian
    Simple phonology for everyone is doubtful. Different languages have different phonetic features.

    For example, some languages distinguish (use to distinguish different words):
    - plosive vs. non-plosive consonants
    - voiced vs. non-voiced consonants
    - retroflex vs. non-retroflex consonants
    - short-duration vs. longer duration vowels
    - different kinds of consonants (harsh, lax, doubled, emphatic...I don't know the linguistic terms)
    - syllable timing: stress-based or syllable-based

    If your native language lacks a distinction, it is difficult to even hear that distinction in a new language, much less reproduce it clearly. I've noticed the issues listed above in just 4 languages (including English). Imagine how many other distinctions other languages have!

    So "simple/easy phonology" varies widely around the world.
    The thing is, the Polynesian languages mentioned above (at least for the most part, I cannot vouch for all of them) have none of those distinctions. :) And they also have the simplest phonotactics, to that matter.
     
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