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CHAT: A Story

From:David Peterson <digitalscream@...>
Date:Wednesday, April 11, 2001, 21:00
    I just recalled this story last night, and thought I'd tell it you all
not to get responses, but just because it's interesting.
    A couple years ago (before I'd ever even thought of creating my own
language, or had heard of it outside of Esperanto), this high school kid sent
me an instant message asking me something about Arabic (I list a few of the
languages I speak on my AOL profile, so people always ask me questions, and
if I don't know the answers immediately, they say, "I knew you didn't speak X
language!", and apparently that really makes their day).  Anyway, I got to
asking him why, and he told me that he had thought, one day, that someone
should create a language that everyone on Earth spoke.  When he thought of
the idea, he was shocked that no one had thought of it before.  Of course, he
was even more shocked when I told him that not only was his idea unoriginal,
but was well over a century old.
    Anyway, he got to telling me about his "universal auxilliary language" (a
term I apparently introduced him to), and, my goodness, it was possibly the
worst idea I've ever heard.  A summary of some of the things I could remember:
    *There was no regularity between nouns of any type nor adjectives.  To
make a noun definite, one would add the suffix [ka].  I asked him what he
would do if the noun ended in [g], and he said they would just have to try
really hard to pronounce it to preserve the regularity of the definite
    *This language included many letters from many different alphabets, all
preserving their original graphs.  One of the more puzzling inclusions was
the soft sign in Russian, which was used to mark the first person ending in
the present tense for a verb, as well as the infinitive.  I asked if he knew
what the soft sign did in Russian, and he said he just assumed it made no
sound, and it wouldn't make any sound in his language; it would just sit
there to mark the endings.
    *Aside from having odd conjugations for first, second and third person
(singular and plural) in the past, present, future, conditional and
subjunctive tense, there were also three registers, corresponding loosely to
informal, kind of formal and very formal (not like Hungarian: More like if
Spanish also had a pronoun for talking to the president of Earth).  He
assumed that everyone would use these different register whenever appropriate.
    *This, however, does not take the cake.  He said that his language would
have one overarching dialect (a world dialect), but would also have different
dialects for every single language, dialect, culture and country on Earth.
So, for instance, in America (the ' is the soft sign), one might say: "Aj Em'
titSerka" for "I am the teacher".  When I asked him why people would actually
speak an odd, adapted version of his language amongst themselves when they
all spoke English anyway, he had no reply, and said he assumed they wouldn't
want to speak English anymore.
    Anyway, this fellow was so sincere, that I didn't want to say anything
like "This is possibly the worst idea I've ever heard in my entire life".
However, then he said that he planned to spread his language worldwide when
he signed up for the American Navy, like his father before him, and his
father before him, and so forth (this guy was from Texas, I should say).  I,
being the liberal that I am, said that it might not be such a good idea since
America is already seen as a sort of world police that pokes their noses
where they're not wanted.  I also said that it might be taken a little amiss
if he, an agent of a force that, when it comes down to it, merely kills
people or destroys things, tried to spread his version of a universal
language to all the people of the world.  His response to this was that I was
a very narrow-minded person, and that I should try to see things from
different points of view more often.  We didn't talk much after that.
    The last thing I heard from Seaman Puddles (this was a nickname his high
school friends gave him, and he made his screenname, for some odd reason),
was from his girlfriend, who sent everyone on his buddylist an e-mail saying
that he had joined the Navy and was aboard the U.S.S. somethingorother
sailing for the Persian  Gulf.  So, he's actually closer to a lot of you than
he is to me right now.  Anyway, I just remembered all this last night and
thought I might share it with some who would appreciate it.



Barry Garcia <barry_garcia@...>
Patrick Dunn <tb0pwd1@...>