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Artificial languages

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Artificial languages

This article is about the creation of planned or artificial human languages. For information about the linguistic field of language planning and policy, see language planning.


A planned or constructed language (short: conlang) is a language whose phonology, grammar, and/or vocabulary has been consciously devised for human/human-like communication, instead of having developed naturally. It is also referred to as an artificial or invented language.[2] There are many possible reasons to create a constructed language: to ease human communication (see international auxiliary language and code), to give fiction or an associated constructed world an added layer of realism, for linguistic experimentation, for artistic creation, and for language games.

The expression planned language is sometimes used to mean international auxiliary languages and other languages designed for actual use in human communication. Some prefer it to the term "artificial", as that term may have pejorative connotations in some languages. Outside the Esperanto community, the term language planning means the prescriptions given to a natural language to standardize it; in this regard, even "natural languages" may be artificial in some respects. Prescriptive grammars, which date to ancient times for classical languages such as Latin and Sanskrit are rule-based codifications of natural languages, such codifications being a middle ground between naive natural selection and development of language and its explicit construction. The term glossopoeia is also used to mean language construction, particularly construction of artistic languages.[3]

An ad hoc July 2011 LinkedIn search by Gary Dale Cearley, blogging as Hyperglot, found the three most widely-spoken constructed languages in his extended network of colleagues are Esperanto, Interlingua and Klingon.[4] As a quantitative example of use of conlangs within a country, the Hungarian census of 2001 found 4570 speakers of Esperanto, 10 for Romanid, 4 for Esperantido, 2 each for Interlingua and Ido and 1 each for Idiom Neutral and Mundolingue.[5]

Planned, constructed, artificial

The terms "planned", "constructed", and "artificial" are used differently in some traditions. For example, few speakers of Interlingua consider their language artificial, since they assert that it has no invented content: Interlingua's vocabulary is taken from a small set of natural languages, and its grammar is based closely on these source languages, even including some degree of irregularity; its proponents prefer to describe its vocabulary and grammar as standardized rather than artificial or constructed. Similarly, Latino sine Flexione (LsF) is a simplification of Latin from which the inflections have been removed. As with Interlingua, some prefer to describe its development as "planning" rather than "constructing". Some speakers of Esperanto and Esperantidos also avoid the term "artificial language" because they deny that there is anything "unnatural" about the use of their language in human communication.

By contrast, some philosophers have argued that all human languages are conventional or artificial. François Rabelais, for instance, stated: "C'est abus de dire que nous avons une langue naturelle; les langues sont par institution arbitraires et conventions des peuples." (It's misuse to say that we have a natural language; languages are by institution arbitrary and conventions of peoples.)[6]

An artificial language can also refer to languages which emerge naturally out of experimental studies within the framework of artificial language evolution.

Overview

Further, fictional and experimental languages can be naturalistic in that they are meant to sound natural, have realistic amounts of irregularity, and, if derived a posteriori from a real-world natural language or real-world reconstructed proto-language (such as Vulgar Latin or Proto-Indo-European) or from a fictional proto-language, they try to imitate natural processes of phonological, lexical and grammatical change. In contrast with Interlingua, these languages are not usually intended for easy learning or communication; and most artlangers would not consider Interlingua to be naturalistic in the sense in which this term is used in artlang criticism.[7] Thus, a naturalistic fictional language tends to be more difficult and complex. While Interlingua has simpler grammar, syntax, and orthography than its source languages (though more complex and irregular than Esperanto or its descendants), naturalistic fictional languages typically mimic behaviors of natural languages like irregular verbs and nouns and complicated phonological processes.

In terms of purpose, most constructed languages can broadly be divided into:

The boundaries between these categories are by no means clear.[8] A constructed language could easily fall into more than one of the above categories. A logical language created for aesthetic reasons would also be classifiable as an artistic language, which might be created by someone with philosophical motives intending for said conlang to be used as an auxiliary language. There are no rules, either inherent in the process of language construction or externally imposed, that would limit a constructed language to fitting only one of the above categories.

A constructed language can have native speakers if young children learn it from parents who speak it fluently. According to Ethnologue, there are "200–2000 who speak Esperanto as a first language" (most famously George Soros).[9] A member of the Klingon Language Institute, d'Armond Speers, attempted to raise his son as a native (bilingual with English) Klingon speaker.[10]

As soon as a constructed language has a community of fluent speakers, especially if it has numerous native speakers, it begins to evolve and hence loses its constructed status. For example, Modern Hebrew was modeled on Biblical Hebrew rather than engineered from scratch, and has undergone considerable changes since the state of Israel was founded in 1948 (Hetzron 1990:693). However, linguist Ghil'ad Zuckermann argues that Modern Hebrew, which he terms "Israeli", is a Semito-European hybrid, based not only on Hebrew but also on Yiddish and other languages spoken by revivalists.[11] Zuckermann therefore endorses the translation of the Hebrew Bible into what he calls "Israeli".[12] Esperanto as a living spoken language has evolved significantly from the prescriptive blueprint published in 1887, so that modern editions of the Fundamenta Krestomatio, a 1903 collection of early texts in the language, require many footnotes on the syntactic and lexical differences between early and modern Esperanto.[13]

Proponents of constructed languages often have many reasons for using them. The famous but disputed Sapir–Whorf hypothesis is sometimes cited; this claims that the language one speaks influences the way one thinks. Thus, a "better" language should allow the speaker to think more clearly or intelligently or to encompass more points of view; this was the intention of Suzette Haden Elgin in creating Láadan, the language embodied in her feminist science fiction series Native Tongue.[14] A constructed language could also be used to restrict thought, as in George Orwell's Newspeak, or to simplify thought, as in Toki Pona. In contrast, linguists such as Stephen Pinker argue that ideas exist independently of language. Thus, children spontaneously re-invent slang and even grammar with each generation. (See The Language Instinct.) If this is true, attempts to control the range of human thought through the reform of language would fail, as concepts like "freedom" will reappear in new words if the old vanish.

Proponents claim a particular language makes it easier to express and understand concepts in one area, and more difficult in others. An example can be taken from the way various computer languages make it easier to write certain kinds of programs and harder to write others.

Another reason cited for using a constructed language is the Propaedeutic value of Esperanto).

The ISO 639-2 standard reserves the language code "art" to denote artificial languages. However, some constructed languages have their own ISO 639 language codes (e.g. "eo" and "epo" for Esperanto, "jbo" for Lojban, "ia" and "ina" for Interlingua, "tlh" for Klingon and "io" and "ido" for Ido).

A Priori & A Posteriori languages

Main article: A priori (languages)

An A Priori language is a language where the vocabulary is not based on an existing language. An A Posteriori language is the opposite.

History

Ancient linguistic experiments

Grammatical speculation dates from Classical Antiquity, appearing for instance in Plato's Cratylus in Hermogenes's contention that words are not inherently linked to what they refer to; that people apply "a piece of their own voice...to the thing." Athenaeus of Naucratis, in Book III of Deipnosophistae, tells the story of two figures: Dionysius of Sicily and Alexarchus. Dionysius of Sicily created neologisms like menandros “virgin” (from menei “waiting” and andra “husband”), menekratēs “pillar” (from menei "it remains in one place” and kratei “it is strong"), and ballantion “javelin” (from balletai enantion “thrown against someone”). Incidentally, the more common Greek words for those three are parthenos, stulos, and akon. Alexarchus of Macedon, the brother of King Cassander of Macedon, was the founder of the city of Ouranopolis. Athenaeus recounts a story told by Heracleides of Lembos that Alexarchus “introduced a peculiar vocabulary, referring to a rooster as a “dawn-crier,” a barber as a “mortal-shaver,” a drachma as “worked silver”...and a herald as an aputēs [from ēputa “loud-voiced”]. "He once wrote something...to the public authorities in Casandreia...As for what this letter says, in my opinion not even the Pythian god could make sense of it.” While the mechanisms of grammar suggested by classical philosophers were designed to explain existing languages (Latin, Greek, Sanskrit), they were not used to construct new grammars. Roughly contemporary to Plato, in his descriptive grammar of Sanskrit, Pāṇini constructed a set of rules for explaining language, so that the text of his grammar may be considered a mixture of natural and constructed language.

Early constructed languages


The earliest non-natural languages were considered less "constructed" than "super-natural", mystical, or divinely inspired. The Lingua Ignota, recorded in the 12th century by St. Hildegard of Bingen is an example; apparently it is a form of private mystical cant (see also language of angels). An important example from Middle-Eastern culture is Balaibalan, invented in the 16th century.[3] Kabbalistic grammatical speculation was directed at recovering the original language spoken by Adam and Eve in Paradise, lost in the confusion of tongues. The first Christian project for an ideal language is outlined in Dante Alighieri's De vulgari eloquentia, where he searches for the ideal Italian vernacular suited for literature. Ramon Llull's Ars Magna was a project of a perfect language with which the infidels could be convinced of the truth of the Christian faith. It was basically an application of combinatorics on a given set of concepts. During the Renaissance, Lullian and Kabbalistic ideas were drawn upon in a magical context, resulting in cryptographic applications. The Voynich manuscript may be an example of this.

Perfecting language

Renaissance interest in Ancient Egypt, notably the discovery of the Hieroglyphica of Horapollo, and first encounters with the Chinese script directed efforts towards a perfect written language. Johannes Trithemius, in Steganographia and Polygraphia, attempted to show how all languages can be reduced to one. In the 17th century, interest in magical languages was continued by the Rosicrucians and Alchemists (like John Dee and his Enochian). Jakob Boehme in 1623 spoke of a "natural language" (Natursprache) of the senses.

Musical languages from the Renaissance were tied up with mysticism, magic and alchemy, sometimes also referred to as the language of the birds. The Solresol project of 1817 re-invented the concept in a more pragmatic context.

17th and 18th century: advent of philosophical languages

The 17th century saw the rise of projects for "philosophical" or "a priori" languages, such as:

  • Francis Lodwick's A Common Writing (1647) and The Groundwork or Foundation laid (or So Intended) for the Framing of a New Perfect Language and a Universal Common Writing (1652)
  • Sir Thomas Urquhart's Ekskybalauron (1651) and Logopandecteision[15] (1652)
  • George Dalgarno's Ars signorum, 1661
  • John Wilkins' Essay towards a Real Character, and a Philosophical Language, 1668

These early taxonomic conlangs produced systems of hierarchical classification that were intended to result in both spoken and written expression. Leibniz had a similar purpose for his lingua generalis of 1678, aiming at a lexicon of characters upon which the user might perform calculations that would yield true propositions automatically, as a side-effect developing binary calculus. These projects were not only occupied with reducing or modelling grammar, but also with the arrangement of all human knowledge into "characters" or hierarchies, an idea that with the Enlightenment would ultimately lead to the Encyclopédie. Many of these 17th-18th centuries conlangs were pasigraphies, or purely written languages with no spoken form or a spoken form that would vary greatly according to the native language of the reader.[16]

Leibniz and the encyclopedists realized that it is impossible to organize human knowledge unequivocally in a tree diagram, and consequently to construct an a priori language based on such a classification of concepts. Under the entry Charactère, D'Alembert critically reviewed the projects of philosophical languages of the preceding century. After the Encyclopédie, projects for a priori languages moved more and more to the lunatic fringe. Individual authors, typically unaware of the history of the idea, continued to propose taxonomic philosophical languages until the early 20th century (e.g. Ro), but most recent engineered languages have had more modest goals; some are limited to a specific field, like mathematical formalism or calculus (e.g. Lincos and programming languages), others are designed for eliminating syntactical ambiguity (e.g., Loglan and Lojban) or maximizing conciseness (e.g., Ithkuil).

19th and 20th century: auxiliary languages

Already in the Encyclopédie attention began to focus on a posteriori auxiliary languages. Joachim Faiguet de Villeneuve in the article on Langue already wrote a short proposition of a "laconic" or regularized grammar of French. During the 19th century, a bewildering variety of such International Auxiliary Languages (IALs) were proposed, so that Louis Couturat and Leopold Leau in Histoire de la langue universelle (1903) reviewed 38 projects.

The first of these that made any international impact was Volapük, proposed in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer; within a decade, 283 Volapükist clubs were counted all over the globe. However, disagreements between Schleyer and some prominent users of the language led to schism, and by the mid-1890s it fell into obscurity, making way for Esperanto, proposed in 1887 by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof and its descendants. Interlingua, the most recent auxlang to gain a significant number of speakers, emerged in 1951, when the International Auxiliary Language Association published its Interlingua-English Dictionary and an accompanying grammar. The success of Esperanto did not stop others from trying to construct new auxiliary languages, such as Leslie Jones' Eurolengo, which mixes elements of English and Spanish, or He Yafu's Mondlango, which introduces more English roots instead of Latin ones.

Loglan (1955) and its descendants constitute a pragmatic return to the aims of the a priori languages, tempered by the requirement of usability of an auxiliary language. Thus far, these modern a priori languages have garnered only small groups of speakers.

Robot Interaction Language (2010) is a spoken language that is optimized for communication between machines and humans. The major goals of ROILA are that it should be easily learnable by the human user, and optimized for efficient recognition by computer speech recognition algorithms.

Artlangs

Artistic languages, constructed for literary enjoyment or aesthetic reasons without any claim of usefulness, begin to appear in Early Modern literature (in Pantagruel, and in Utopian contexts), but they only seem to gain notability as serious projects beginning in the 20th century.[3] A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs was possibly the first fiction of that century to feature a constructed language. J.R.R. Tolkien was the first to develop a family of related fictional languages and was the first academic to discuss artistic languages publicly, giving a lecture entitled "A Secret Vice" in 1931 at a congress. (Orwell's Newspeak is considered a satire of an IAL rather than an artistic language proper.)

By the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, it had become common for science-fiction and fantasy works set in other worlds to feature constructed languages, or more commonly, an extremely limited but defined vocabulary which suggests the existence of a complete language, and constructed languages are a regular part of the genre, appearing in Star Wars, Star Trek, Lord of the Rings (Elvish), Stargate SG-1, Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Game of Thrones (Dothraki language and Valyrian languages), Avatar, Dune and the Myst series of computer adventure games.

Modern conlang organizations

Various paper zines on constructed languages were published from the 1970s through the 1990s, such as Glossopoeic Quarterly, Taboo Jadoo, and The Journal of Planned Languages.[17] The

Collaborative constructed languages

The Villnian draws on Latin, Greek and the Scandinavian languages. In its syntax and grammar it is reminiscent of Chinese. The core elements were created by a single person and its vocabulary is now enlarged by suggestions from the internet community.

While most constructed languages begin as did Talossan, having been created by a single person, a few are created by group collaborations; examples of these are Interlingua, which was developed by the International Auxiliary Language Association, and Lojban, which was developed by a breakaway group of Loglanists.

Group collaboration has apparently become more common in recent years, as constructed language designers have started using Novial 98 languages were both worked on by mailing lists, though neither was issued in final form.

Several artistic languages have been developed on different constructed language wikis, usually involving discussion and voting on phonology, grammatical rules and so forth. An interesting variation is the corpus approach, exemplified by Madjal[24] (late 2004) and Kalusa (mid-2006),[25] where contributors simply read the corpus of existing sentences and add their own sentences, perhaps reinforcing existing trends or adding new words and structures. The Kalusa engine adds the ability for visitors to rate sentences as acceptable or unacceptable. There is no explicit statement of grammatical rules or explicit definition of words in this corpus approach; the meaning of words is inferred from their use in various sentences of the corpus, perhaps in different ways by different readers and contributors, and the grammatical rules can be inferred from the structures of the sentences that have been rated highest by the contributors and other visitors.

See also

Constructed languages portal

Notes

References

"Babel's modern architects", by Amber Dance. The Los Angeles Times, 24 August 2007 (Originally published as "In their own words -- literally")

External links

  • DMOZ
Software
  • LingoJam - Translator Maker A free tool for creating online translators.
  • Conlang Lexicon Generator (Paid) Customizable Random Word generator
Scholarship
  • Language Arts Outpost preserves several articles from the paper zine Journal of Planned Languages
  • The Language Lab, Rick Harrison's site, also reprints several such articles on specific languages
  • Language Creation Conference
Communities
  • Language Creation Society
  • The Conlang Mailing List, whence the term "conlang". Primarily discusses artlangs, but also engelangs sometimes.
  • The AUXLANG Mailing List, split from Conlang; primarily discusses international auxiliary languages.
  • Zompist Bulletin Board, a highly active online forum devoted to conlangs (and conworlds in general).
  • LiveJournal Conlangs community
  • Conlanger Bulletin Board, a multilingual forum primarily for conlangers.
  • #conlang, the IRC channel #conlang on Freenode.
  • CWNC.Net, A place to post news articles about your conworlds. Writing in conlangs is permissible.
  • Is a logically perfect language possible?
How to
  • ISBN 098447000X) by Mark Rosenfelder
  • How to Create a Language by Pablo David Flores.
  • Essays on Language Design by Rick Morneau, primarily on creating efficient and unambiguous engelangs but also on how to create a realistic fictional language.
  • Paul Frommer)
Directories
  • Conlang Atlas of Language Structures, a typological database of conlangs, based on the World Atlas of Language Structures.
  • Blueprints For Babel, focusing on international auxiliary languages.
  • Garrett's Links to Logical Languages
  • Austrian National Library.
  • The Conlanger's Library
Wikis
  • FrathWiki, collects information about conlangs, conworlds and linguistic subjects in general.
  • Conlang Wikia
  • IAL Wiki, a wiki for the Auxlang community.
  • Unilang.org, a database of language- and linguistic-related information.
  • Conlangs at WikiVerb—conjugate verbs of conlangs on-line.
Dictionaries
  • Dictionary for conlangs All dictionaries are published under GNU Public License.

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