The Digital Way To Spread Conlangs

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Information about The Digital Way To Spread Conlangs

Published on July 20, 2007

Author: goberiko



Presented at ICIL2005

The Digital Way to Spread Conlangs Federico Gobbo Universit` degli Studi dell’Insubria a

Outline Introduction How many conlangs? Conlangs and Internet Case-studies Evaluation

Introduction A page from John Wilkins Essay Towards a Real Character, 1668.

What is a conlang? Constructed language (conlang) Artificial language Invented language (Bausani, 1970) Planned language Kunstsprache (Art language) ... A lot of terms for a controversial linguistic phenomenon.

Defining a conlang Conlang A complete language system written by one people, the langmaker. Primary modeling system in Lotman’s terms. A posteriori languages in the terms of Couturat and Leau. A conlang is potentially (or actually is) spoken by people. Here, we don’t deal with a priori systems such as John Wilkins’.

Types of conlang Literary conlang Languages for literary purposes, i.e. conlangs built according to some literary background. Auxiliary conlang Languages for auxiliary purposes, i.e. conlangs built to make people speak across native tongue boundaries. We call them auxlangs. The conlang paradox: once launched, the only speaker of the conlang is the langmaker itself.

How many conlangs? Cover of the Esperanto translation of The search of the perfect language by Umberto Eco

Before the Web Era In 1994 the Italian dictionary of invented languages descrives almost 3,000 conlangs and a priori secondary model systems. Every conlang was launched before 1993, when the Web started becoming a mass phenomenon. A langmaker had to publish a book with base grammar, dictionary and sample texts.

Conlangs and Internet Logo of the web site

After the Web Era In September 1998, the first post to the Constructed Languages List, based in Brown University. In October 2005, more than 1,400 conlangs have been indexed by the unofficial repository Now, a langmaker had to read a HOWTO web page and write a blog.

The Memory Loss Effect More than 2,000 conlangs referred in the Italian dictionary are not indexed by Mostly these conlangs are Esperanto offsprings and a priori systems. As happened in other fields of knowledge, the web doesn’t keep memory of conlangs published before the Web Era.

Case-studies Let’s see the most important conlangs in the web

The Klingonian The Klingon Language Institute Logo

A specimen of the Klingonian From: Wikipedia in English

The Klingonian as a marketing tool for Star Trek In 1985 the linguist Mark Okrand created the language of Klingon race, as a tool of scripwriters and actors of Star Trek series. Copyright and financial support from Paramount Pictures In October 2004 the first documentary about Klingon language and culture, Earthlings: Ugly Bags of Mostly Water was presented at Denver, Colorado. Director: Alexander Philippe. Star: Michael Dorn (‘Worf’ in Star Trek films). What happened in 20 years to the Klingonian?

The Klingonian became a Human Language People started using in the Internet and in informal meetings, they create neologisms, finally “humanizing” this alien language. Only a minority of the Klingonists consider themselves as trekkers and by the modernization of Klingon that gives tha language more vocabulary not related to Star Trek concepts (Wahlgren 2004: 16) Remark: conlangs are considered as a value in themselves, regardless of the background and scopes of launching.

The Elvish Languages Vinyar Tengwar logo, the official review about “Tolkien linguistics”, indexed by the Modern Language Association.

A specimen of Quenya Pater Noster and Ave Maria inn Quenya, by Sir J.R.R. Tolkien.

The Elvish Languages as ground for Tolkien’s mythopoiesis As a philologist, Tolkien wanted to build an ancient dead language family, not to create something suitable for using in the contemporary world. What happened in the Web Era to Tolkien’s languages?

Elvish Linguistic Scholars Just For Fun In 2005, the 50th anniversary of the complete publication of The Lord of the Rings, the Tolkien Society organized the first international congress of E.L.F. (Elvish Linguistic Fellowship) devoted to study scholarly these languages. People still consider these languages as Sanskrit or Ancient Greek: ancient dead languages. Remark: Tolkien’s conlangs are considered as a value, but in this case no one discussed the background and the scopes of launching.

Auxlangs: the Golden Age 1879–1951 1879: Schleyer launched Volap¨k u 1887: Zamenhof launched Esperanto 1894: the referendum of the review La Esperantisto refused to apply reforms to the language 1905: First Esperanto Congress in France: it enters its “semiological life” (F. De Saussurre) 1908: De Beaufront-Couturat launched Ido, the first reform of Esperanto. Many others will be proposed after Ido. 1922: De Wahl launched Occidental 1928: Jespersen launched Novial 1931: Arie de Jong launched the only reform proposal of Volap¨k u 1951: Gode-Blair launched Interlingua sponsored by IALA How to measure the language vigour of an auxlang in the web?

Wikipedia as a possible metrics The Wikipedia web page with its 207 languages, October 2005.

How Wikipedia works Wikipedia is a one of the most advanced software engines, realising the “collaborative brain” (De Keckerkove). Its contents are under a strictly copyright-free licence. Wikipedia entries are not-authored, made by volunterees. Wikipedia is a web place which reflects the engagement of a linguistic community supporting a language.

Auxlangs: Wikipedia entries, 25 October 2005 786,293 entries in English (en) 115,780 entries in Italian (it) 71,581 entries in Spanish (es) 28,892 entries in Esperanto (eo) 9,700 entries in Ido (io) 2,830 entries in Interlingua (ia) 218 entries in Interlingue (ie; ex Occidental) 45 entries in Volap¨k (vo) u Every language listed here has its own two-letter ISO code!

Volap¨k: the very phoenix of auxlangs u An article from a Usa newspaper in 1898 about the new “world language”

A specimen of Volap¨k u O Fat obas, kel binol in s¨s, paisaludom¨ nem ola! u z K¨mom¨d monarg¨n ola! o o a Jenom¨z vil olik, ¨s in s¨l, i su tal! o a u Bodi obsik v¨deliki govol¨s obes adelo! a o E pardol¨s obes devis obsik, o ¨s id obs aipardobs debeles obas. a E no obis nindukol¨s in tendadi; o sod aidalivol¨s obis de bas. o Jenos¨d’ ! o Pater Noster in Volap¨k, from Wikipedia u

Volap¨k, an auxlang copyrighted by its langmaker u The autocrative personality of Schleyer, who didn’t accept changes proposed by the authority of the Academy of volap¨k, started u declining the language. The final straw was done by the rising of Esperanto. In 1931 Arie de Jong proposed a reform in the direction of Esperanto and Novial, but it failed. The survival of the last volap¨kist periodical dates 1960 (Large u 1985).

Wikipedia gives life to Volap¨k again u Today Volap¨k is only a language divertissement, esp. for u Esperantists. Volapop! is a web site devoted to the translation of pop culture into Volap¨k, whatever this may mean... u Remark: at least, internet has given less successful auxlangs the opportunity to demonstrate the tenacity of their supporting movements.

Ido: the unwanted Esperanto offspring The presentation of the first number of Progreso, the Ido review, 1908.

A specimen of Ido Ostwald, president of the Commission of the D´l´gation pour ee l’adoption d’une Langue Auxiliaire Internationale, comments the langmaking principles of Esperanto (translation in Progreso, 1, 1908, from German).

Ido was saved by Esperantists In 1929 there were only 29 speakers of Ido in the world (Carlevaro 1989). After the Second World War, the first Ido Congress occurred in 1960 in Swizerland (50 people), the second one in 1980 (35 people). Invariably Idists were Esperantists with a ‘double IAL’ identity.

Internet gave strenght to Ido From 1990s Ido Congresses are one per year, according to Wikipedia. Some people come directly, not through Esperanto, as previously. Remark: the web may become the main medium for organizing congresses: internet is a facilitator.

Interlingua: Standard Average Romance Language The cover of the Interlingua English Dictionary by Alexander Gode, 1951.

A speciment of Interlingua Colonisation del Nove Anglaterra (Alexis de Tocqueville) (Extracto de: DEL DEMOCRATIA IN AMERICA) Traducite del texto original francese per Erich Berger. Il es in le colonias anglese del nord, melio cognoscite sub le nomine de Statos del Nove Anglaterra, que se ha combinate le duo o tres ideas principal que forma le base del theoria social del Statos Unite. Le principios del Nove Anglaterra se ha in le comenciamento expandite in le statos vicin; postea illos ha ganiate pauc a pauc le plus distantes, e finalmente, si il es permissibile exprimer se assi, illos ha ’penetrate’ le confederation integre. From ‘Appendix 3 - sample texts’, Interlingua English Dictionary.

Esperanto, the most developed auxlang Home page of, the free wiki-way-made e-learning Esperanto course for young people, now in 24 languages.

A specimen of Esperanto Liza pentras bildojn. Liza paints images Longe for de mia mond’ Long away from my world Mi portiˆis per etera ond’ I let myself go by an ethereal wave g Al loko stranga tre To a very strange place Fore de l’amika rond’ Away from my friends Plene je demandoj sen respond’ Full of questions without answers Kaj motorpane’ My car got broken Marso a˘ Aldebaran’ Mars or Aldebaran u Stelo sen samidean’ A star without ‘samideano’ Vere mankis ies akompan’ Really it lacks someone with me From: ...sed estas ne, CD by Persone, Esperanto rock band. pentras bildojn 1min.mp3

Esperanto: one century of continuos public life Esperanto is the most successful auxlang: 1905-2005: one century of public life. It survived two World Wars. It has even a pop culture by its own. Internet plays two roles in the Esperanto movement: a socializing medium, i.e. a medium to get new people involved a facilitator, i.e. a medium to keep contacts and to organize congresses.

Evaluation Letters of Giuseppe Peano and Louis Couturat about the adoption of an auxlang.

Evaluation Literary conlangs. Main remark: the main phenomena in literary conlangs are conlangs well supported by a culture. An other remark: Internet is a condition not sufficient to make a conlang interesting beyond its langmaker.

Evaluation Auxlangs. Main remark: Internet may be the main medium to (re)vitalize auxlangs. Final remark: in the special case of Esperanto, Internet plays a role of visibility – supporting the reasons of auxlang fans.

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