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Languages. Artificial languages, background

Historical background

First of all, I will begin from the legend of the Tower or Babel, which says that a long time ago all mankind talked the same language until Nimrod suggested building a tower, which had to reach heaven. However, the Lord in order to impede the building of the tower ‘created a diversity of speech among people, so that they could not finish their work’ [2, 456 p.]. This legend has a figurative meaning because it says that if all the mankind talked the same language it would work in complete harmony and there would be peace in the world. Consequently, the people in Classical times (when new continent was discovered and many new languages were brought to light) began to think of creating a universal language. As there were lots of international languages used: Latin in the Middle Ages, French in the 17-19th centuries then English and American ‘due to their leadership in commerce, science and industry’ [2, 457 p.]. So in order not to use one language because of the discontent of different nations, it was decided to create an artificial language as lingua franca.

The three most popular Artificial Languages
There were certainly not one or two ALs created since the 17th century. In fact, in the last quarter of the 19th century a ‘new enthusiasm of competing and inventing’ new ALs arose (Crystal 355p.). The three most successful have been Volapük (which appeared in1880), Esperanto (1887) and Idiom Neutral called Ido (1902). The first, Volapük, introduced in 1880, was created by Johann Martin Schleyer, a Roman Catholic priest of German extraction. Schleyer worked out for Volapük an alphabet, a grammar, and a vocabulary based chiefly on Latin, the Romance languages, and the Germanic languages [3].  The second one, Esperanto, was the invention of a Polish oculist, Ludwig Lazarus Zamenhof, and this AL is the best known in all over the world. The inventor of Esperanto used a pseudonym ‘Doctoro Esperanto’ (‘Doctor Hopeful’) so the name Esperanto quickly caught on. Nowadays, even radio broadcasts in some countries are transmitted in Esperanto and the Bible and the Qur’an are translated in this AL. The third, Idiom Neutral or Ido, was created by the members of Volapük Academy and the most marked feature of Idiom Neutral is that its vocabulary is based on the principle of the maximum of internationality for the roots.
A systematic examination of the vocabularies of the seven chief European languages—English, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Russian, Latin—showed that the number of international roots and words was much greater than had been supposed (Rosenberger 1902).

  Adjectives Adverbs Verbs Examples
Word formation They are formed by the suffix -ik, normally follow the noun they modify. They are formed by suffixing –o, either to the root or to the adjectival –ik; they normally follow the verb or adjective they modify. The verb carries a fine degree of detail, with morphemes marking tense, aspect, voice, person, number. A Volapük verb can be conjugated in 1,584 ways …

The Lord's Prayer

O Fat obas, kel binol in süls, paisaludomöz nem ola!
Kömomöd monargän ola!
Jenomöz vil olik, äs in sül, i su tal!
Bodi obsik vädeliki govolös obes adelo..!
Esperanto (there are 16 rules of Esperanto, here are some of them):
  Nouns Adjectives Numerals Examples
Word formation All nouns end in –o; plurals add –j.
All adjectives end in –a
Numerals do not change their forms
E.g.: Hello: Saluton
What is your name?:Kiel vi nomi─Łas?
Idiom Neutral (Ido):
  Nouns Adjectives Verbs Examples of some verbs
Word formation Unlike Esperanto and Ido, nouns can end in any letter. There is no inflection for case. The plural is formed by adding the letter i at the end of the word.
Adjectives can also end in any letter. They normally appear after the nouns they modify and do not agree in number with their nouns, e.g. kaset grand big box, kaseti grand big boxes.
Verbs are conjugated as follows. Examples are shown for the verb amar to love in the active voice; the endings do not change for person or number, except in the imperative.
Infinitive: amar to love
Present: mi am I love
Imperfect: mi amav I loved, I was loving
Future: mi amero I will love
Present perfect: mi av amed I have loved
Pluperfect: mi avav amed I had loved

An ideal Artificial Language and the main problems of learning it

To continue, an artificial language would be an easy one to learn if it has simple and not difficult grammar. Also the phonetic system should be based on clear principles, so there should be no difficult sounds. However, most ALs are based on Indo-European languages and this is a crucial thing for the speakers of other languages. Another very important aspect is that AL should fulfill all the needs of its users, beginning from religion and science to international communication such as media, television and radio. Unfortunately, the main problem why people do not want to learn an artificial language is because of the motivation. This is because they begin to doubt why to learn the language which is used among very little people and the idea of ‘one world, one language’ (Hall 459p.) seems unbelievable and even ridiculous.

Summing everything up, artificial languages were invented in order to unite the mankind and to reduce the language barrier among different nations. Some of the ALs had a very great success, for instance, Esperanto, Volapük and Idiom Neutral (Ido) mainly because of their simple grammar and sound system. However, ALs did not become very popular so now other natural existing languages dominate in the world, especially the English language.

  1. Hall, Robert Fr. 1964. Introductory Linguistics. Philadelphia: Chilton Company . 355-358 p.
  2. Crystal, David. 2000. The Cambridge Encyclopedia of language. Cambridge: Cambridge  university Pres. 456-461 p.
  3. The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed [book online]. Columbia: Columbia University Press, accessed on 10 April 2007
  4. Morris, Richard E. 2000. A Brief History of Constructed Auxiliary Languages [book online]. Accessed on 10 April 2007
  5. Sprague, Charles E. Handbook olapük [text html version]. NEW YORK:
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