Thursday, May 29, 2014

International Languages, A New One Every Day

Some people just can't agree on a common language
When I started to learn Esperanto, I was unaware that it was one of a large number of international languages that had been proposed over the years. There are hundreds of known artificial languages, some of which are assumed to have not gained any adherents beyond their originators. More than a year before Zamenhof published the first book on Esperanto, the Daily Yellowstone Journal of Miles City, Montana, in their May 28, 1886 edition, carried a short piece from the Chicago Times which poked some fun at the international language schemes recently announced. 

Two of the languages (according to some perfunctory research) were recent inventions, both released in 1885 or 1886. Neither of these were familiar names to me. One was Pasilingua, and the other was Nal Bino. Both were creations of former advocates of the third international language mentioned in the article, Volapük.

Volapük had been introduced about five years before, and it was already spawning reformist factions, although these might have been factions of one. Neither of these two managed to topple Volapük, which was looking quite successful in 1886, though within a few years many of the Volapük clubs would turn to Esperanto instead.
Three Developed "Universal Languages"
Another universal language has been invented. There are now three well-developed systems, "Volapuk," "Pasilingua," and the last, "Nal Bino," and if philologists continue their inventions there will be more trouble in learning all the "universal languages" than in acquiring acquaintance with the languages now existing which do not profess so much.
It's not quite fair to pin this one on philologists, although I suspect the term is used to mean "amateur linguists," though I suspect a few linguists might object to that.

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