Theiling Online    Sitemap    Conlang Mailing List HQ   

Futility of auxlangs (was Re: Aesthetics)

From:Jörg Rhiemeier <joerg_rhiemeier@...>
Date:Tuesday, October 23, 2007, 15:25

On Mon, 22 Oct 2007 19:02:47 -0500, Chris Peters wrote:

> > > From Jorg Rhiemeier> > Add to this that the race is practically > > > already run, and English is the winner. > > Agreed. All Auxlangs aspire to the international status that English > already holds, due to the dominance of English speakers in world affairs > over the last few centuries. (Brits first, Americans more recently.) > Take as a perfect example this very mailing list, which consists of many > international, multilingual members -- the language of discussion is > English.
Yes, exactly that. I remember a prediction made some time in the 1990s that by 2007, Chinese will overtake English in the Internet, but that did not happen. It failed to take into account that English is widely learned by non-native speakers, while Chinese is not. The Chinese learn English rather than treating foreigners to learn their language. Similar predictions were made about the future role of Japanese in the 1970s - they failed to come true for the same reason.
> And a very distant second in terms of public recognition is Esperanto. > Ask anybody outside of the linguistic community if they can name one > constructed language, and if they can answer at all, they'll name > Esperanto.
Yes. Esperanto has a huge head-start over all the other artifical auxlangs - but it still has less than 1% of the speaker base of English.
> Not necessarily because it was the best designed (that's > a different debate), but just because it had good enough timing to > establish a bit of name recognition. First-to-market counts for > a lot ...
Yes. Esperanto was the first artificial IAL that became widely known and wasn't as deeply flawed (as Volapük and the 17th-century "philosophical" languages were) as to be unusable. It has its weak points, but none are crippling, and the improvements (if any) made by later designs were not substantial enough to win over significant numbers of Esperantists.
> (not to mention, so the legend goes, the fact that Zamenhof > relinquished any copyright to Esperanto, but left it out to common > usage, thereby avoiding one of Dr. Schleyer's biggest mistakes with > Volapuk.)
Yes, Volapük failed not only because of its grotesque, overly complex grammar and difficult sounds (while Schleyer decided not to use /r/ because he thought the Chinese would have trouble with it, he had no qualms including the front rounded vowels of German, with which the majority of the world's population would have at least as much difficulty as the Chinese may have with /r/), but at least as much because of Schleyer's proprietary attitude towards "his" language.
> And for the even smaller percentage of people who can name two > conlangs, the second one would most likely be either Klingon or > Quenya.
Apparently, there are now people who know of Klingon or Quenya but not of Esperanto. The public interest in Esperanto has been waning lately, it seems. Who needs Esperanto in a world where almost every educated person speaks English?
> But neither of those was ever intended as an auxlang. > No other conlang that I'm aware of has any reach whatosever > into popular culture -- which is necessary to get any public > use at all. And public use is the entire point of an auxlang, > methings ...
> All this tells that I'd have no place to be an auxlanger. I don't > have enough ego to think I could even compete with Esperanto, > let alone supercede it (and then overcome the dominance of English, > to boot).
Nor do I. Auxlanging is such a futile game these days. The supply of usable, practical artificial IALs far exceeds the demand.
> The next Klingon or Quenya? Sure. There's my ideal, then. :)
Well, I don't really care whether Old Albic, Germanech or any other project of mine will ever reach that kind of popularity. Perhaps the novels I am planning to write about the British Elves become the next fantasy smash-hit wonder, but I don't expect that. ... brought to you by the Weeping Elf