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Results of Poll by Email No. 2

From:Peter Clark <pc451@...>
Date:Saturday, March 2, 2002, 19:53
Hash: SHA1

        Once again, we had a lively response this week concerning auxlangs, with 30
responses. The choices (and number of responses) were:
- ---
        A. Not only is auxlanging a good idea, but I believe that it's necessary and
beneficial. (Please state why.) - 1 vote, 3%

        B. Auxlanging is a nice hobby, but I don't believe that the goals (better
communication, cultural neutrality, world peace, etc.) are reachable by means
of an auxlang. - 16 votes, 53%

        C. Who needs an international auxiliary language when we have English? - 3
votes, 10%

        D. Auxlangs are useless / idle curiousities / a waste of time /
add-your-own-negative-adjective. - 4 votes, 13%

        E. Other - 6 votes, 20%
- ---

        Apparently, the number of auxlangers on the Conlang list is pretty small, or
else they are all in the closet, because only one, David Starner, stepped
forward to vote for (A). Not that he _directly_ said so, but the content of
his message left little doubt:
        "I'll let you box it where you want. I believe that an international
auxlang (an aulang?) would be a nice thing to have that would improve
the world. I also believe that Esperanto is that language, and that it's
good enough that all competitors can give up and go home. (I'm sort of
inclined to go with C but with Esperanto instead of English. Not that
Esperanto will beat English in the foreseeable future.)"

        Far and away the popular opinion swayed toward (B). Padraic Brown, in a
short but sweet message, claimed, "Auxlanging is just conlanging with a
political agenda."
        The Aquamarine Demon was feeling a little pink, er, piqued, when he said:
        "Auxlangs have good intentions behind them, but in our world, it's an
entirely unrealistic goal. Why invent a language and have to build up a
speaker base when there are scores of other languages that already have
large amounts of speakers? Not that I'm saying that the entire world
should have to learn English or anything. It's just that there are so many
other languages out there that are already well-developed and active, and
I think that it would be easier if everyone learned at least one other
language fluently."
        Clint Baker likewise answered:
        "Auxlangs have their uses--eg an aid in translating between diverse
languages--but to force a lingua franca (including English) strips humanity of
the richness to be found in cultural diversity.  Every language is able to
convey ideas that others can't. Therefore, why should we choose to be cultural
        Mia Soderquist best summed up the general attitude of the (B) respondants:
        "I'm not one to discourage people from any particular flavor of conlanging,
and if you can get a bunch of people to speak your favorite conlang, I'll be
your cheerleader... BUT... I am not sure that any auxlang is the best
solution to the sort of problems auxlangs are supposed to solve, and on a
global scale, I think that everyone will agree on a single auxlang right
after we all agree on a single religion and political system (ie. never).
Still, people need a cause and a dream, and maybe they'll prove me wrong in
the end."

        While no one actually came out and championed English (or Mandarin Chinese,
or whatnot) as the de facto lingua france, (C) managed to get a couple of
weak yeas. Doug Ball almost fell into (D) (although he hedged on (B) or (C)),
except that he had this to say:
        "However, I feel that the political goals of auxlangs cannot and will not be
reached with auxlangs. First, I'm not convinced that auxlangs will actually
solve the problems they are designed to solve. Many of these issues behind
these problems are complex, and I have hard time believing, with our present
level of understanding, that anyone can solve these problems, let alone a
person or a group of people who want everyone to speak a particular
language. Also I think, given the "success"* of English and other western
European languages in becoming worldwide lingua franca, that if and when a
world-wide lingua franca will develop, it will be from a natural language,
since they are, in some sense, "more perfect" for that than even the most
regular and otherwise "easy-to-learn" auxlang."
        Another fuzzy thinker, Jan van Steenbergen, tried to elude classification,
but was pegged on (C) for this comment:
        "Theoratically it seems like a good idea, but when it comes to numbers,
there will always be more people speaking English (French, German, Spanish,
Russian, or whatsoever), even with the natives omitted. Of course, those
belonging to the world-wide community of Esperanto-speakers can successfully
spend their vacations in far and strange countries speaking their own lingua
franca, but they could have used any language chosen for that purpose. As
long as you can't enter an ordinary shop and buy your bread in it, I believe
any auxlang is a failure."
        He also had a couple of words to say about the ugly appearance of auxlangs,
saying, "a language without a fairly complex grammar and a certain amount of
exceptions is unnatural, anorganic and dead." That would make for a nice (D)
vote, but sorry, one conlanger, one vote.

        Fortunately, we were not deprived of a few good flames. Soundly voting (D),
Bryan Maloney shared a couple of choice phrases:
        "Time wasted on diddling with auxlangs actually takes away from and
damages the ultimate goal.  Instead of getting people to learn to
*communicate* with each other in the REAL world using whatever tools at hand,
Auxlangers indulge in intellectual group masturbation and then whine when
people who are shooting at each other won't just play nice and learn their
little auxlang."
        Tero Vilkesalo was of a similar opinion:
        "The entire world will never agree to begin using one single auxlang. No
auxlang could possibly be neutral enough for everyone. There are so many
different cultures in the world that cultural neutrality can never be
achieved. And why should cultural neutrality be a positive thing? People
should learn natlangs in an increasing number to be able to communicate with
others. Hopefully they will then learn valuable things about different
cultures. This might also be a good way to decrease racism and other
backwardness. I could refer to natlangs and auxlangs as trees. Natlangs are
real trees, they have stemmed from the ground, they have their own roots and
a certain lifetime. There are a lot of things for a biologist to make
research of in a single tree. Auxlang, however, is made of plastic. It's a
plagiation of a number of real trees. It has no roots, no history to be
plunged into. With this logic, I could add that a conlang would be a plastic
tree somebody keeps in his back yard. Its appearance shares some
characteristics with natlangs. It's just a work of art or decoration for your
own eyes, and as such it is an idle curiosity, but - who cares. At least it
doesn't pretend to try to substitute real trees."

        And then there were the (E) people. And Rosta, who is starting to make a
very bad habit of being a moving target, said:
        "For the goals of cultural neutrality and world peace, I answer (B). For
the goal of better communication, I answer (C). However, for such texts
as legal documents, product specifications, etc., there is a need for
a loglangy auxlang, and even though it won't get used (-- hence (B)
again), it is still instructive to design it, so in that very limited
respect, I answer (A).
        "I guess you'd better count me as (E) again!"
        Several others had similar problems, which thus artificially inflated (E).
However, David (DigitalScream@aol) raised an interesting point that
(amazingly enough) counts as a soundly "Other" opinion:
        "I don't care whether or not an auxilliary language will bring world
peace.  To even hear the arguments bores me to tears.  What I do no, though,
is that if you are willing to try to speak Esperanto, there are people
worldwide who will without question take you into their home and offer you
room and board for anywhere from a week to six months.  This is an immediate,
practical use that speaking an auxilliary language (in this case, Esperanto)
has.  It's nothing more than being a member of a club who share a "secret

        Well, there you have it! Thanks for all your comments and participation.
Stay tuned for Poll by Email No. 3!

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