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Unilang: the Lexicon

From:Oskar Gudlaugsson <hr_oskar@...>
Date:Saturday, April 21, 2001, 4:05
Lexicon, good old lexicon... Probably the biggest issue argued over by
auxlangers. "Every educated person has some knowledge of a Romance
language" was apparently the working principle of many auxlangers back
then. Otto Jespersen, the author of Novial, simply had it in his premises
that the language were only intended as an auxlang for the Western world. I
don't blame him, for that was back in the late 20's, way back in colonial

I've never seen a unilang created by anyone from the domain of a non-
Western lingua franca. All auxlangers I know of have lived in a part of the
academic world where Greco-Latin still rules all, giving them the illusion
that this somehow applies to _all_ of the academic world.

The problem with an a priori ("out-of-thin-air") lexicon is its
basic "unattractiveness" to the layman. Who wants to speak this "nonsense"
language? This hasn't appealed to the general auxlang community, who wants
the world speaking Unilang _now_; find something marginally acceptable and
sell it, fast!

So that's it then, a posteriori ("same-old-tired")? Not quite. The result
would be one of following:

* if only one general source of words is taken, that's cultural bias, and
probably reduced functionality (due to overly localized concepts).
* if we collect words from a selected list of "major languages", we'll end
up with a hashed-up, hardly recognizable, lexicon that might as well be a

So what to do?

Once again, I think the key-word is _balance_. Something like "a mediori"
(in pig-Latin :p). The basic items in the lexicon would probably best be a
priori, while more specific concepts, and certainly all local/culture-
specific items, would be borrowed. But we must also consider the inner
structure of the language; words like "democracy" and "philosophy" might be
tempting to borrow, but perhaps some fairly logical constructions from
native morphemes would do better. What are "long nonsense words" good for,
even if they're Greek?



Nik Taylor <fortytwo@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>
Raymond Brown <ray.brown@...>Ease of learning (was: Unilang: the Lexicon)