World Auxiliary Language

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brettz9
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World Auxiliary Language

Postby brettz9 » Wed Dec 01, 2004 4:02 am

I wanted to address a post made by one of the "Guest"s earlier in <a href=http://bahai-library.com/forum3/viewtopic.php?t=59>this thread.</a>

I felt that it showed a lot of wisdom in addressing polarization and the need to progressively address issues according to the receptivity of the people, the root causes, and so on, which my previous post tried to support with quotations from our Writings.

However, there was also one side issue which I really wanted to address which was regarding the use of a universal auxiliary language as an example:

There are many ills needing to be healed in due time, but to focus on one or another issue prematurely would have its drawbacks. For example, we know that one of the Teachings is the adoption of a universal auxillary language, which will truly assist in uniting the peoples of the world. If the Baha'i Community were to put extended energy into promoting this Teaching at present many seekers of truth would view the Faith as impractical, as such a Teaching can only be established when the conditions are right.


Although I realize your intention was surely not to detract from promoting this principle (I apologize if the following seems like a diatribe), I wanted to emphasize how this thinking can be made harmful, especially in connection with this principle of a world language.

It is true that we do not want to put too much energy into any single teaching to the detriment of the whole package, but on the other hand we are told that pursuing God through just one of His virtues or laws will have a profound effect.

World government might be an example of our not putting TOO much energy into it (since we alone can spread this Cause), because our Writings (and the House of Justice) have made clear that, at lesat with the "Lesser Peace", it will not be brought about by us anyways (though we can, should, and really must do our part to encourage this process).

In either case (of a world government or world language) as Ruhiyyih Khanum stated, if I may paraphrase her words, although certain things may have been destined to happen (such as the suffering of the Holy Family), might we not consider whether things could have gone much more smoothly if we had been more active or loving, and so on. (my own adjectives). I think we can often use this as an excuse (even if we say that we are not doing so), by failing to put sufficient energy and forethought into it.

On the other hand, in a letter on the issue of a world language, as I recall, the House of Justice emphasized the urgency of training institutes but still encouraged that we help spread the idea of such a language.

In any case, here are a few quotations which I think indicate that it is incumbent on us to realize that we must play a much more active (and not negatively fatalistic) part in promoting the concept of a world AUXILIARY language being democratically chosen. I ask that each of us both read the quotations carefully (I have deliverately chosen the passages (even each sentence to include) to deal with the urgency and PRESENT timeliness of the matter) as well as to contemplate them as addressing not just someone who disagrees with the idea, but as addressing ourselves as individuals already convinced of their desirability, but perhaps lacking in motivation to strive duly to implement them:

The day is approaching when all the peoples of the world will have adopted one universal language and one common script. When this is achieved, to whatsoever city a man may journey, it shall be as if he were entering his own home. These things are obligatory and essential. It is incumbent upon every man of insight and understanding to strive to translate that which hath been written into reality and action.... That one indeed is a man who, today, dedicateth himself to the service of the entire human race. The Great Being saith: Blessed and happy is he that ariseth to promote the best interests of the peoples and kindreds of the earth...Be anxiously concerned with the needs of the age ye live in, and centre your deliberations on its exigencies and requirements."

(Lawh-i-Maqsud (Tablet of Maqsud) in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Pages 166-167) (also partially in The Proclamation of Bahá'u'lláh, Pages 249-250)

"The spread of the known facts of the human world depends upon language. The explanation of divine teachings can only be through this medium. As long as diversity of tongues and lack of comprehension of other languages continue, these glorious aims cannot be realized. Therefore, the very first service to the world of man is to establish this auxiliary international means of communication. It will become the cause of the tranquility of the human commonwealth. Through it sciences and arts will be spread among the nations, and it will prove to be the means of the progress and development of all races. We must endeavor with all our powers to establish this international auxiliary language throughout the world. It is my hope that it may be perfected through the bounties of God and that intelligent men may be selected from the various countries of the world to organize an international congress whose chief aim will be the promotion of this universal medium of speech.

(The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Pages 60-61) (also partially in#1138 Lights of Guidance, Page 340)

"What Bahá'u'lláh is referring to in the Eighth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise is a far distant time, when the world is really one country, and one language would be a sensible possibility. It does not contradict His instruction as to the need immediately for an auxiliary language."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 16, 1946) (Lights of Guidance, Page 341)

"Regarding the whole question of an International Language.... We, as Bahá'ís, are very anxious to see a universal auxiliary tongue adopted as soon as possible; we are not the protagonists of any one language to fill this post. If the governments of the world agree on an existing language, or a constructed, new tongue, to be used internationally, we would heartily support it because we desire to see this step in the unification of the human race take place as soon as possible." Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian. (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust.) p.39.

In addition to projects to be initiated at the World Centre, these ideas include:... Calling upon local and national Bahá'í communities to sponsor a wide range of activities which will engage the attention of people from all walks of life to various topics relevant to peace, such as...the adoption of a world auxiliary language... Mounting a publicity campaign which will make use of such themes as ..."world peace through world language," ...--a campaign which could lead to discussion of these subjects in small or large gatherings, at local or national levels, and perhaps in collaboration with organizations promoting such ideas... (Universal House of Justice, A Wider Horizon, Pages 31-32)



I think from these quotations it can be seen that Baha'u'llah has stated for us to "strive to translate that which is written into reality and action"....The conditons are right when we assist to make them right. And the fact that He has given us this directive now is even further indication that the condition is right.

It is because of such quotations as above that http://onetongue.org was born, where we seek, through a each-one-teach-two word-of-mouth campaign (bolstered by a website which tracks its progress), to better spread the idea. Already volunteers have joined in to help translate the page (now into Spanish, and beginning in French, Dutch, and Esperanto). We could use more volunteer translators, incidentally (hint, hint)...We'd love to have as many language as possible if we are going to reach and involve enough people.

Let's get passionate about this!

Brett

(Edited a few typos)

Dawud
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Postby Dawud » Wed Dec 01, 2004 5:52 am

A few suggestions, if I may...?

Brett, if there is ever a future World McLanguage, I hope to dear God that it will not allow every word and every sentence to be underlined, as you have done on your site. :?

Have you considered having both "for" and "against" columns? Maybe side-by-side, so there could be dialogue...? Certainly many people are likely to regard the continued existence of their own languages and cultures as distinct entities, as more of a priority than utopian schemes of world unity (or the pretense of it).

I suspect that people who don't know about the Baha'is will be wondering what sort of "global representatives" you had in mind. This should probably be on the FAQ site. (Personally, I do not think that I could possibly trust such people to represent me.)

Oh yes, I should let you know that your "response" e-mail form is very long and cumbersome. I think only the most dedicated Spiritualists, Trotskyites, and Esperantists are likely to make it to the end of your questionnaire!

brettz9
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world auxiliary language site

Postby brettz9 » Wed Dec 01, 2004 4:50 pm

A few suggestions, if I may...?


Please...

Brett, if there is ever a future World McLanguage, I hope to dear God that it will not allow every word and every sentence to be underlined, as you have done on your site. icon_confused.gif


I imagine that is for the FAQ page that you experienced this? It doesn't happen in my browser...Can you tell me what system/browser you are using or if possible, where the underlining problem begins?

Have you considered having both "for" and "against" columns? Maybe side-by-side, so there could be dialogue...? Certainly many people are likely to regard the continued existence of their own languages and cultures as distinct entities, as more of a priority than utopian schemes of world unity (or the pretense of it).


We have a bulletin board at http://onetongue.com/board1 . See if one of the columns fits, and if not, I can add a forum. There is a "related issues" forum where you might raise the issue of language preservation. I don't think everything needs to be a hostile debate format. One can be equally concerned about both issues, and as I have suggested before (I forget here or there), such a world convocation might even be tied to addressing such issues as linguistic rights and local language education (where this is a concern). You are right that it is quite a sensitive issue for people (though not EVERY group is concerned about the preservation of their language--just as not every Commodore 64 or Apple IIe user would appreciate being told that they must keep their computer because someone else thinks it is quaint to do so). But there are sadly people killing or dying over this issue, but it is a reflection of the importance given to it by people, especially when they are forced against using it.

There was an interesting documentation at a U.S. English site (of all places) documenting the linguistic situation in other countries, which is unfortunately not showing up now. It had a lot to say, as I recall, about the negative policies and attitudes in other countries toward certain linguistic minorities.

But if you have concerns about the world language implementation on the other hand (such as suggesting ways to resolve issues of fairness in the final decision), we can address that in a separate forum.

I suspect that people who don't know about the Baha'is will be wondering what sort of "global representatives" you had in mind. This should probably be on the FAQ site. (Personally, I do not think that I could possibly trust such people to represent me.)


All of the other people so far (besides Jonah who is assisting with the programming) are not Baha'is. OneTongue is not a Baha'i site, and my appeal in this forum, while using Baha'i quotations, is only intended to invite participation among Baha'is in addition to all others.

As Baha'is, our Writings do not elaborate in great detail about the voting scheme such a decision would involve. Our Faith (and the campaign as well) leave this to government leaders to hash out. I am confident that in order for there to be the consensus required for such a decision to be made and carried out, that the necessary compromises can be made to ensure a more-or-less just system.

But if I did not address it already in the FAQ, it is not a bad idea to mention some possible venues where such a decision could be made (the U.N., the Inter-Parliamentary Union, etc.).

But this would only be to satisfy the curiosity...The real question we are trying to address is spreading the idea of such a language being chosen, and let our political representatives determine the best means and methods as to how to make it happen, once there is a sufficient public awareness and demand to prompt such actions.

Oh yes, I should let you know that your "response" e-mail form is very long and cumbersome. I think only the most dedicated Spiritualists, Trotskyites, and Esperantists are likely to make it to the end of your questionnaire!


Yes, that is kind of a quandary. I've thought of making a smaller form to meet the need. But I would also like to see, once the site is more completely programmed, whether the incentive to supply the additional data will be given, as people see how the statistics are being used (e.g., demonstrating how quickly the idea is spreading, what countries our supporters are from, who is telling the most people, and so on--which we need the form data to determine).

best wishes,
Brett

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Dec 03, 2004 12:08 am

The per country assessment that I had referred to (of the language situation according to US-English people) is at http://us-english.org/foundation/research/olp/

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sun Dec 05, 2004 3:44 pm

Dawud,

You write: “Certainly many people are likely to regard the continued existence of their own languages and cultures as distinct entities, as more of a priority than utopian schemes of world unity (or the pretense of it). “

Have you ever considered that an official international auxiliary language might actually strengthen and improve your mother-tongue because the slangy, pidgin, cross-cultural element is likely to find more of a home in the IAL?


Brett,

Although “Guest” was referring to the Baha’i Community rather than to those of us who feel “called” to the IAL cause I would fully endorse your reply. The need for an IAL is an important principle of the Baha’i Faith.


I have just revised and extended the LangX website published here several months ago. It’s now at http://langx.org

Baha’is might like to look at it in conjunction with:

http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html

Dawud
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Postby Dawud » Mon Dec 06, 2004 5:04 am

I use Internet Explorer, and the underlining effect happens in the FAQ file.

Ha ha, and you could call the group the "Universal Language Auxiliary"!

Your assumption that language usage can or should be legislated from on high (government or religious body or supranational entity) rather than evolving naturally from below, is a very statist / central-planning perspective. In this respect I often note how Baha'i, like Esperanto, has much in common with early Communism.

As an illustration, consider the languages of the E.U.. Should one of its governing bodies issue a directive commanding businesses and universities to use certain languages? Or should they sit back and let everyone decide for themselves?

Is the choice really between having a common language, or killing each other? One could just as easily view globalists as the aggressors. As an aside, I recall reading that Stalin briefly considered Esperanto as the language of world socialism, but found it too difficult to learn.

Baha'u'llah seems to view the existence of multiple languages purely as a negative. (That Turkish minister had "wasted his life" learning so many.) Yet, he seemed to appreciate the not-purely-practical benefits of Arabic and Persian, at least.

I realize that World McLanguage enthusiasts claim that other languages would continue to exist (just as ethnic "blenders" claim the same for local cultures in the future world state), but experience shows that ghetto-ized languages do suffer--as do the communities that speak them--from being thus displaced from the mainstream of society. A language once used for statecraft can all to easily degenerate into a song-and-dance show--literally.

Perhaps the solution will come from a direction we have not considered yet--reliable machine translation.

guest

Postby guest » Mon Dec 06, 2004 11:57 am

:) Hello there. I am new to your forum and would like to post an observation, if that is alright?
I have noticed that English seems to be a very popular second language for many around the world.

The Dahlia Lama speaks English. Many Muslim clerics speak English. The President of Pakistan, and dignitaries from several other countries, speaks English. Many, many, many people in foreign chat rooms speak English. The Spanish TV channel advertises programs all day on ESL (English as a Second Language) classes. China will allow missionaries into the country as long as they teach English to the people as well as religion. The international business language seems to be English. Many foreign athletic superstars and hopefulls speak English. Famous actors / actresses the world 'round speak English. And the list continues.

From an observation perspective, it seems that English may have already put down roots and begun the transformation process of helping to unify mankind through a single language.

Wishing you all a lovely day! Thank you for allowing me to post. Cheers! & Happy Holidays to All from All religions!

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 06, 2004 1:49 pm

Your assumption that language usage can or should be legislated from on high (government or religious body or supranational entity) rather than evolving naturally from below, is a very statist / central-planning perspective. In this respect I often note how Baha'i, like Esperanto, has much in common with early Communism.

As an illustration, consider the languages of the E.U.. Should one of its governing bodies issue a directive commanding businesses and universities to use certain languages? Or should they sit back and let everyone decide for themselves?


Maybe we (or I) have conveyed the wrong impression about the nature of our support for a world auxiliary language.

While Baha'u'llah does advocate that eventually steps should be taken to reduce languages to just one, our Writings make clear that this is for the distant future. Also, it is not by forceful means at all that this is proposed (including for the world auxiliary language).

While His advocacy of a uniform system of weights and measures (as in the metric system since the U.S. is one among the very few of the remaining holdouts) might need to be (progressively) mandated for businesses (domestic and trading from abroad, or otherwise companies outside of the U.S. would have an unfair advantage marketing to an American public still used to the old standard), a world auxiliary language would not need to be implemented in such a mandatory fashion (though governments might initially stimulate its advancement perhaps through funding of media produced in this language once it had been taught in public schools).

But education in public schools from an early age should be sufficient to ensure that there was the CAPACITY for people from different parts of the world to communicate.

It is not like we would advocate some kind of language police that would go around enforcing Newspeak on artists, businesses, and so on.

The only mandatory aspect being called for is instruction in this language in public schools, so that all students would have the opportunity to learn the language.

This would provide opportunities for even the poorest students who would not be likely to be given state-issued machine translators, no matter how technically advanced they could become. (And it would enable all to communicate unhampered by the inconvenience of intermediary devices.)

As far as universities and businesses, if the decision were made by global consensus and they knew that this language were in fact being taught in public schools, I am quite sure any reasonable university or business would jump on the opportunity to begin instruction in a language which would give their students (or company) unfettered access to all the markets (and ideas) of the world.

If language diversity without the opportunity to communicate were so positive, why even participate in this discussion? Why not block our ears to anything besides classical Arabic, old English, or whatever other language our ancestors spoke? The fact is, I would say, that it is LESS natural to not take advantage of the possibility for increased standardization in communication, in order to reach and be reached by a wider audience.

China, as a smaller scale example, I think most wisely, decided upon a standard language for its country where it did not have one before (even those in many neighboring villages could not communicate). They teach the standard, Mandarin, now alongside the native languages, and I don't think there is a sense of loss at all from the people I have spoken with, of being given wider access to the rest of the nation. On the contrary, it has surely been an important prerequisitie to that country's advancement.

To take an analogy, it might be "natural" to allow businesses to develop their own computer programming languages and see how they fare, but if the companies (or in some cases perhaps, the government), did not step in to ensure there was some standardization in protocols (not to mention the infrastructure of the country), we wouldn't be able to take advantage of the degree of intercommunication the internet affords, as we are now doing in this discussion board.

My point is that a world language is not going to simply evolve on its own. Pidgins form only when there is an absolutely essential need for them (as in trade when people don't share any common language). What kind of conditions could see the development of a world pidgin?? The only other possibility is this prolonged war of attrition some hope English will win, and if the world language is to be English, this approach is too passive (and perhaps some would say too destructive).

Baha'u'llah permits (or one might say recommends) the study of diverse languages while 'Abdu'l-Baha even describes a method of foreign language instruction which might be used in order to give children wider access to the thoughts and peoples of the world (before such a world language would be chosen).

Baha'u'llah was speaking to a statesperson, and I think, by the fact that the statesperson initially agreed to even promote the idea within his government, that Baha'u'llah's advice was probably in reference to the relative waste of resources for one person to be learning al these languages when he could have been ensuring that his people could be given a similar access to thoughts and ideas around the world.

Brett

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 06, 2004 2:11 pm

Dear Guest,

Your comments and participation are most welcome here.

From the perspective of our Faith, the Prophet-Founder of the Baha'i Faith, Baha'u'llah, supported the idea of some language being chosen by global political consensus to be taught in all the schools of the world in addition to the country's mother tongue(s).

Although He mentioned that the language could be an invented one, He also stated it could be an existing one (such as English perhaps).

English is being used by a number of personages and countries to express very different ideas (as any human language is capable of doing), and if that is the choice of the people (of the world), then having such an agreement by the countries to teach English from an early age in all the schools of the world, will only ensure that English will be able to reach the many millions (or rather billions) which it currently does not.

And if it is not the will of the people of the world (as shown by a global represenative meeting to decide the topic), then it will not be too difficult to progressively begin teaching this one language within schools throughout the world. We might not be hearing very much from the people who disagree with English because they are not speaking it to us!

My point was that simply voicing our preferences is not going to make it happen, even though, there may be good reasons behind peoples' personal preferences (whether English, Esperanto, Klingon, or whatever). Nor will waiting for English or some other language to "take over". If we believe in democracy, giving a choice should be the way to go. And our campaign (at http://onetongue.com ) is trying to enlist people to spread this idea, so that our children or at least grandchildren can benefit from our world having such a language--whether its benefits for peace, simplifying and expanding trade, science, and so on.

take care,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Mon Dec 06, 2004 4:19 pm

Some may have seen the poll “Which language should be the world’s offiicial common language?” It’s going quite well - over 1000 votes in a few days. Here are the results:

http://multivote.sparklit.com/poll.spark/3142

Anyone can vote (once only) at:

http://www.freewebs.com/international-languages/

I chose the final option: “Newly Developed Language”, for four reasons - two of which might be of particular interest to Baha’is.

(1) The hypothesis set out in http://langx.org (which may, or may not, be valid).

(2) The Commission determining the issue is likely to be concerned to assert its independence, for obvious reasons. It might best do this by forming a new language.

(3) Words such as “adopted, selected, chosen” are often used, but a close examination of the Baha’i Writings might suggest that “a new constructed language” rather than “an existing constructed language” was intended.

In this context, here are three quotes from Bruce Beach’s comprehensive list:

http://www.webpal.org/a_reconstruction/ ... blang4.htm


Our conversation turned to topics profitable to man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: "You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world....."

                                    Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p 137

One of the great steps towards universal peace would be the establishment of a universal language. Bahá'u'lláh commands that the servants of humanity should meet together, and either choose a language which now exists, or form a new one..... An international Congress should be formed, consisting of delegates from every nation in the world, Eastern as well as Western. This Congress should form a language that could be acquired by all, and every country would thereby reap great benefit.

                                                Paris Talks p 155

"Regarding the subject of Esperanto; it should be made clear to the believers that while the teaching of that language has been repeatedly encouraged by 'Abdu'l-Bahá, there is no reference either from Him or from Bahá'u'lláh that can make us believe that it will necessarily develop into the international auxiliary language of the future. Bahá'u'lláh has specified in His writing that such a language will have either to be chosen from one of the existing languages, or an entirely new one should be created to serve as a medium of exchange between nations and peoples of the world. Pending this final choice, the Bahá'ís are advised to study Esperanto only in consideration of the fact that the learning of this language can facilitate inter-communication between individuals, groups and Assemblies throughout the Bahá'í world in the present stage of the evolution of the Faith."

      (From letter written on behalf of the Guardian
      to the National Spiritual Assembly of the United States and Canada,
       June 4, 1937: Bahá'í News, No. 109, July 1937, Page. 1)
        (republished in Lights of Guidance, Page 341)

NB the use of the words "create" and "form". For the first two quotations the translation might possibly be an issue, but the last was written in English.

(4) ‘Abdu’l-Baha stated that a revised Esperanto was required. Did He mean, in effect, a new language? It seems very possible.

Here are some relevant quotes:

We must endeavour with all our powers to establish this international auxiliary language (Esperanto) throughout the world. It is my hope that it may be perfected through the bounties of God and that intelligent men may be selected from the various countries of the world to organize an international congress whose chief aim will be the promotion of this universal medium of speech.

       Washington, 25 April 1912   Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 61

Esperanto has been drawn up with this end (universal language) in view: it is a fine invention and a splendid piece of work, but it needs perfecting. Esperanto as it stands is very difficult for some people.

                                Paris, 13 November 1911   Paris Talks, p 156

Thou hast written regarding the language of Esperanto. This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal.
                                                                  
                                  Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol III. p 692

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Postby Dawud » Mon Dec 06, 2004 6:02 pm

Brett says:

And if it is not the will of the people of the world (as shown by a global represenative meeting to decide the topic)...


If we believe in democracy, giving a choice should be the way to go.


A key question becomes, who are to be the electorate? (If territorial-based, what is the voting district--the whole world?) And what are the rules for voting decisions? (Simple majority? High majority? Consensus?) And who decides the above two questions? (UN decisions? The Baha'i writings?) Objective answers to these are not possible--different people simply have different views about these things, and we cannot expect (for example) fifteen million Jews to humbly submit their fate to the decision of one billion Indians, or however many there are in the future.

Actually, the Baha'i system doesn't actually say that the "representatives" will be elected at all. They could be appointed by the world state.

Hmmm, it looks like the Esperantists have discovered the poll site, and are beating out English due to their superior sense of evangelism. There is no poll option for "Do not believe a world language is needed."

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 06, 2004 9:35 pm

A key question becomes, who are to be the electorate? (If territorial-based, what is the voting district--the whole world?)


If it is by territory (see below), yes, the whole world would be the voting district--our Writings specifically advise that the East as well as the West should be invited to participate.

And what are the rules for voting decisions? (Simple majority? High majority? Consensus?) And who decides the above two questions? (UN decisions? The Baha'i writings?)


As we hope this would be addressed as soon as possible, it clearly could not be the Baha'i Writings/institutions if this were to happen. I think a lot of these questions, while they would need to be addressed, could be worked out by the countries themselves, as bargaining and compromises would probably take place where though each country could try to maximize its own stake, they would need to do so in a manner which the other countries leaders (reflecting in most cases the will of the people to whom they were accountable) would be willing to submit to the decision.

Objective answers to these are not possible--different people simply have different views about these things, and we cannot expect (for example) fifteen million Jews to humbly submit their fate to the decision of one billion Indians, or however many there are in the future.


I think the principles of federalism would need to apply (as our Writings suggest would need to be applied to the world government of the future--though a world language would not need a (permanent) world government). Just as the U.S. Constitution was designed to give some due regard for the total population of each state (i.e., through the House of Representatives) while also protecting the interests of smaller states by mitigating the proportionailty on population (through the Senate), such a meeting could be arranged in such a fashion. Thus, while it would only be reasonable and fair (not to mention necessary for gaining support among those who would be called upon to implement it) that India and larger countries like China, the U.S., etc. DID have a larger say than smaller countries, smaller nations would still have a significant voice.

Unlike in security questions (and even these can still can be resolved by such a weighting, if it does not require absolute consensus or, as the U.N. currently does, give absolute veto power to certain member-states), what language is chosen, while of some relevance to each country, is not going to be THAT important. This would be gradually implemented by inclusion in school instruction and become taken up by future generations. It's not like it's going to ask those leaders and their citizens to learn the language immediately. (And if this would be perceived as giving too much comparative advantage to the country(ies) of whatever existing language would be chosen, there is of course the invented language option to break a possible impasse.) Besides, the whole idea is that it would be in the interest of each country (including the smaller countries such as Israel in your example) to come to some SINGLE langauge choice which would be better than the status quo of not having any language to comprehensively fill that role.

Actually, the Baha'i system doesn't actually say that the "representatives" will be elected at all. They could be appointed by the world state.


In the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh puts the summons to "members of parilaments throughout the world" (par. 189), but this would not be a necessary requirement (the Bahá'í International Community has appealed to the United Nations to take up the issue, for example, which would be as you suggest). It is even mentioned as a possibility for the House of Justice to decide, but that would be obviously, in our beilef, for the distant future (though such a mention could refer to the decision to reduce the languages to one instead).

I should say again, Baha'u'llah was quite clear that the decision was up to the leaders of the world, and we are not trying (not to mention our small numbers) to agitate for a particular way this would be carried out. My personal involvement in this project is simply to spread the idea of such a language, and leave it up to the public--once they are aware of the idea and given adequate arguments as to its potential benefits to decide how--and even if--they will implement it.

Brett

Guest

"Guest's" Reply

Postby Guest » Wed Dec 08, 2004 6:42 pm

This is the "Guest" here :) I would've signed on before, but I was at work as I am now so I apollogize in advance if this reply jumps around alot and I'll have to depend on those interested in verifiying what I have to say that they'll be able to do this independently because I just don't have the time to go quote hunting.

First, I just wanted to say that, as a Baha'i, I whole-heartedly support the principle of an UAL. Not only will it manifest in the ways the quotes already posted predict, but it is also one of the two final signs marking the complete entry of humanity into the Most Great Peace. The other, as stated in the "Notes" or "Q&A" sections of the Kitab-i-Aqdas is the discovery of a radical approach to the transmutation of elements. However, no one has any way of knowing what that language will be so that's really a matter of conjecture. What we can be certain of is that it will eventually come. Therefore, what we might want to focus on for now is promoting the idea itself so that it becomes a comfortable proposition first. If we Baha'is start adding all kinds of as of yet unwarranted specifics we might give folks the wrong idea of what we're trying to do.

Second, I predict this matter will not be so contreversial when the time comes to actually take the step of adoption. It will actually be quite necessary because by then the energy currently being wasted in wars, disease ect. will have been reallocated into the sciences of communication and transportation to such a degee that most people will already have grown up in the framework of a world civilization due to the fact that they will have universal access to methods of transport that will take them from one side of the earth to the other in less than an hour if not less than a 15 minutes and universally instantaneous communication capabilities. For that matter most people will have blended culturally, ethnically ect. to such a degree that such discinctions will really be moot.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Wed Dec 08, 2004 10:22 pm

I believe the quote you are seeking is note 194 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas:
"The first sign of the coming of age of humanity referred to in the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh is the emergence of a science which is described as that "divine philosophy" which will include the discovery of a radical approach to the transmutation of elements. This is an indication of the splendours of the future stupendous expansion of knowledge.

" Concerning the "second" sign which Bahá'u'lláh indicates to have been revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Shoghi Effendi states that Bahá'u'lláh, "...in His Most Holy Book, has enjoined the selection of a single language and the adoption of a common script for all on earth to use, an injunction which, when carried out, would, as He Himself affirms in that Book, be one of the signs of the `coming of age of the human race'".

" Further insight into this process of mankind's coming of age and proceeding to maturity is provided by the following statement of Bahá'u'lláh:

" One of the signs of the maturity of the world is that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship. Kingship will remain with none willing to bear alone its weight. That day will be the day whereon wisdom will be manifested among mankind.

" The coming of age of the human race has been associated by Shoghi Effendi with the unification of the whole of mankind, the establishment of a world commonwealth, and an unprecedented stimulus to "the intellectual, the moral and spiritual life of the entire human race".

(Kitab-i-Aqdas, notes 194)


However, I think it is VERY important in regards to the world language to understand this in conjunction with the following quotations, as they indicate that the above is in reference to the reduction of languages to one--NOT to the world auxiliary language:
"The word of God which the Supreme Pen hath recorded on the eighth leaf of the Most Exalted Paradise is the following...

" We have formerly ordained that people should converse in two languages, yet efforts must be made to reduce them to one, likewise the scripts of the world, that men's lives may not be dissipated and wasted in learning divers languages. Thus the whole earth would come to be regarded as one city and one land."

(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, 8th leaf of the Exalted Paradise)

"What Bahá'u'lláh is referring to in the Eighth Leaf of the Exalted Paradise is a far distant time, when the world is really one country, and one language would be a sensible possibility. It does not contradict His instructions as to the need immediately for an auxiliary language."

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, March 16, 1946)


best wishes,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Thu Dec 09, 2004 3:26 pm

Are you sure you're right about that, Brett? Let's look at some of the relevant quotes, can we?

"O members of parliaments throughout the world! Select ye a single language for the use of all on earth, and adopt ye likewise a common script. God, verily, maketh plain for you that which shall profit you and enable you to be independent of others. He, of a truth, is the Most Bountiful, the All-Knowing, the All-Informed. This will be the cause of unity, could ye but comprehend it, and the greatest instrument for promoting harmony and civilization, would that ye might understand! We have appointed two signs for the coming of age of the human race: the first, which is the most firm foundation, We have set down in other of Our Tablets, while the second hath been revealed in this wondrous Book."

                                         (The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Page 88)

Here Bahá'u'lláh makes it clear that members of parliaments should be responsible for the selection of the common language and script. Shoghi Effendi affirms this in his history of the Bahá'í Faith:

"Some of the weightiest passages of His Epistle to Queen Victoria are addressed to the members of the British Legislature, the Mother of Parliaments, as well as to the elected representatives of the peoples in other lands. In these He asserts that His purpose is to quicken the world and unite its peoples; refers to the treatment meted out to Him by His enemies; exhorts the legislators to "take counsel together," and to concern themselves only "with that which profiteth mankind"; and affirms that the "sovereign remedy" for the "healing of all the world" is the "union of all its peoples in one universal Cause, one common Faith,' which can "in no wise be achieved except through the power of a skilled and all-powerful and inspired Physician." He, moreover, in His Most Holy Book, has enjoined the selection of a single language and the adoption of a common script for all on earth to use, an injunction which, when carried out, would, as He Himself affirms in that Book, be one of the signs of the "coming of age of the human race.""

                                           (God Passes By, Page 211)

And here's the related reference in the "Notes":

"Bahá'u'lláh enjoins the adoption of a universal language and script. His Writings envisage two stages in this process. The first stage is to consist of the selection of an existing language or an invented one which would then be taught in all the schools of the world as an auxiliary to the mother tongues. The governments of the world through their parliaments are called upon to effect this momentous enactment. The second stage, in the distant future, would be the eventual adoption of one single language and common script for all on earth."

                                       (Notes: Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Page 250)

The "Notes" therefore seem to make it plain that "the governments of the world through their parliaments" are involved in the first stage of the process, but not the second. Adib Taherzadeh confirms this:

"It is interesting to note that in the Tablet of Bisharat Bahá'u'lláh enjoins upon the governments of the world to adopt the international language. These two statements, which seem to be contradictory, may be regarded as two different stages in bringing about a world auxiliary language. The first stage will be the adoption of a universal language by the governments, while the second will have to wait until such time that the Universal House of Justice has emerged as the supreme institution of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and its authority is recognized. It is only then that it can possibly reconsider the choice of the language so as to either retain the one chosen by the governments or alter it altogether."

                  (The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol 4, Pages 159-160)

If this is the correct interpretation, we might assume that the other two "signs" will also come to pass in the near rather than the distant future. And to me, at least, this does not seem at all far-fetched, since technology now has the capability of producing awesome pressures and temperatures, and has powerful electromagnetic fields etc. at its disposal, should the transmutation of elements depend on such things; and it is also evident that absolute monarchy is coming to the end of its life: in all the larger countries where a monarchy exists a large part of the burden of government has been taken over by a semi-autonomous aristocracy, or a democratically-elected parliament, or both.

Guest

Guest Again

Postby Guest » Thu Dec 09, 2004 6:11 pm

Guest here again. Just a couple of quick replies:

Brett, Just to rehash and condense the previous point on the final outcome of the UAL principle: I predict reduction will be a process that will happen through scientific consultation at first, but over time, with advances in communications and especially transportation leading to the mixing of all cultures, ethnicities and languages the UAL will just naturally replace all remnants of what's left of previous languages until the homogenized people of the world gradually decide to use it all of the time.

Antony, "near" and "distant" are very subjective perceptions wouldn't you say? If by near you meant 300+ years for the final actualization of the Golden Age I'd agree, but less than that I think we're pushing it.

My thoughts are mostly just predictions though and therefore conjecture.

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Postby brettz9 » Thu Dec 09, 2004 9:45 pm

Ok, Guest, I see your point. However, I think the fact that Bahá'u'lláh states that "efforts must be made to reduce them..." implies that there will need to be some effort made in this direction. I think we can see this principle to some degree even now. For example, if we are bilingual and are with some guests, some of whom do not speak another language, it may take some effort to avoid speaking in a language with other bilinguals present, due to whatever reasons.

Antony, I do agree with you about the parliaments being called upon for the first stage, and the House of Justice possibly for the second stage, further confirmed in this statement:

"the choice as to which language will ultimately be selected as the international auxiliary language has been left by Baha'u'llah, in His Book of Laws, to the leaders of the nations or possibly to the House of Justice to decide." (On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, email to an individual
10 February 1998 )


However, the following statement mentioned earlier in reference to a world commonwealth, which Shoghi Effendi in World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, describes as being, unlike the Lesser Peace which will be the conditions forcing the nations into a FEDERATION, a feature for the Golden Age (in the far future), I think indicates that the other accompanying "signs" such as a SINGLE world language, are also for the distant future:

" The coming of age of the human race has been associated by Shoghi Effendi with the unification of the whole of mankind, the establishment of a world commonwealth, and an unprecedented stimulus to "the intellectual, the moral and spiritual life of the entire human race".

(Kitab-i-Aqdas, note 194)

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Postby brettz9 » Thu Dec 09, 2004 10:05 pm

I also wanted to add one further point regarding "Guest"'s comments.

In addition to Bahá'u'lláh referring to efforts needing to be made to reduce languages to one, there is the mention of the possibility of the House of Justice choosing a DIFFERENT world language in the future. So, if this would be the case, then although you are right that other languages may have been abandoned by that time, it does not necessarily mean that there would not be a change in the language.

Although the following is not authoritative text, it certainly comes from a reliable individual:
" In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh praises the Arabic language for its expressiveness and eloquence, and remarks that no other language can match its vast possibilities. He further states that God would be pleased if all the peoples of the world were to speak the Arabic language. But He does not require humanity necessarily to adopt it as the international language; rather He leaves the choice to the appropriate institutions."
(The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh,
Vol 4, Page 160)


Another interesting tidbit is that our Writings indicate that Arabic will not be chosen for the (auxiliary) language:
"He was invited later to the Golden Circle Club where He was asked whether Arabic might become the universal language. He said that it would not. He was then asked about Esperanto. He replied:

"A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter from New York to one of the promoters of Esperanto telling him that this language could become universal if a council of delegates chosen from among the nations and rulers were established which would discuss Esperanto and consider the means to promote it."
Golden Circle Club,
Boston 24 July 1912
Mahmúd's Diary p 179 - 180
(Mahmúd's Diary is counted as Baha'i Scripture)


So perhaps the maturity or coming of age of the human race will be evident in its being receptive enough to adopt one of the languages of Revelation and the language preferred by the Manifestation of God (not to mention being associated with Islám and its beleagured peoples). Actually as Persian is mentioned also, this could be hinting to a future bilingual community:

"The Persian language shall become noteworthy in this cycle; nay, rather, the people shall study it in all the world."
(Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol. II, p. 306)


Also, though I think the context here is different, I even wonder whether this draws further attention to this possibility:
"Speak in the Persian tongue, though the Arab please thee more;
"A lover hath many a tongue at his command."

([The Mathnaví] cited by Bahá'u'lláh in the Four Valleys)


Although this speculation is interesting, I think, the issue immediately at hand of a universal auxiliary language of whatever is chosen by our governments demands the most attention, lest we become confused by others as promoting a specific language or language type (as our Writings leave it open to existing or invented languages) and that we do not fail in our duties to spread the idea of this urgent issue--an issue I might mention was also referred to by the House of Justice in its Peace statement to the peoples of the world as one of the prerequisites of world peace.

Yes, we need (sufficient) unity to get a world language, but it is also a prerequisite for further unity.

best wishes,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Fri Dec 10, 2004 5:04 pm

Brett - You write:

Antony, I do agree with you about the parliaments being called upon for the first stage, and the House of Justice possibly for the second stage, further confirmed in this statement:

"the choice as to which language will ultimately be selected as the international auxiliary language has been left by Baha'u'llah, in His Book of Laws, to the leaders of the nations or possibly to the House of Justice to decide."

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, email to an individual
10 February 1998 )


No, I think you have misinterpreted this, Brett. It is the House of Justice DEFINITELY for the second stage - as the quote from Adib Taherzadeh makes clear:

"It is interesting to note that in the Tablet of Bisharat Bahá'u'lláh enjoins upon the governments of the world to adopt the international language. These two statements, which seem to be contradictory, may be regarded as two different stages in bringing about a world auxiliary language. The first stage will be the adoption of a universal language by the governments, while the second will have to wait until such time that the Universal House of Justice has emerged as the supreme institution of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and its authority is recognized. It is only then that it can possibly reconsider the choice of the language so as to either retain the one chosen by the governments or alter it altogether."

                  (The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol 4, Pages 159-160)

The “possibly” in your quote from the UHJ refers, not to whether the UHJ will inaugurate the second stage of the international language (it certainly will), but to whether the governments of the world fail to institute the first stage by selecting a suitable language - in which case the UHJ will effectively have to start the process again.

I actually see this as a distinct possibility. As we all know, modern-day secular politicians are not always noted for investigating the truth of every issue before them, and voting accordingly. Too often they are content to let others do the thinking for them on difficult issues - hence the proliferation of lobbyists around the corridors of power.

Why should it be any different when it comes to choosing the international language (i.e. the first stage - which Bahá'u'lláh revealed would be by “members of parliaments throughout the world”)?

In “Lango”, written 8 years ago, Robert Craig and I quoted some Esperanto PR material listing the names of 183 Members of the British Parliament in the “Esperanto Parliamentary Group”, very few of whom actually spoke much Esperanto http://www.alexander.iofm.net/lang17.htm#g

Today the Esperantists remain highly-organised, and therefore a formidable force in public relations and lobbying capacity. The running total in the poll (URL above) probably demonstates this. So - when the world’s politicians choose the IAL - which is it likely to be?

BTW, are they likely to choose English, as so many expect?

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4080401.stm

I don’t think so - the backlash Mr Graddol warned of seems well under way:

<a href=http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,11504235%255E1702,00.html>www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,11504235%255E1702,00.html</a>

http://www.theglobalist.com/DBWeb/print ... oryId=4281

http://usa.mediamonitors.net/content/view/full/11839/

http://www.rense.com/general60/ticket.htm

Anyway, to return to the question of Esperanto - what’s wrong with it, one might well ask - since 'Abdu'l-Bahá repeatedly praised Esperanto and encouraged Baha'is to learn it and to associate with its members. Very true - but He also said that Esperanto needed perfecting and was very difficult for some people. And not only that, but some Baha'i quotes (see my posting above) seem to indicate that no less than an entirely new language was intended.

“But the Fundamento allows for Esperanto to be radically revised once it has been officially adopted as the IAL!”

Again, very true, but we’d have to see what happened. If a proper revision DIDN’T take place then the possibility mentioned on behalf of the UHJ at the top of this posting might well come to pass, I think.

Actually I don’t believe that a realistic revision of Esperanto could now take place. It’s much too late. A basic revision should have been initiated long ago, so as to proceed in incremental stages. The sort of reform now required to prepare the language for global use would now be necessarily so drastic and radical that it would be resisted by the great majority of existing Esperantists - with the result that an insufficiently-reformed language would be foisted on the world.

I could be entirely wrong about that, of course, but long acquaintance with the Esperanto phenomenon has led me to that conclusion, and from then to an alternative first “Lango” http://www.alexander.iofm.net
(now repudiated as a concept) and now LangX http://langx.org LangX (nothing to do with the Baha’i Faith, BTW) projects a seamless transition from the first to the second stage of the international language, and beyond. Actually I think a more likely scenario is the wrong language being chosen by the world’s politicians (via a packed Commission) and the UHJ at the “second stage” - but now in effect the two stages in succession - having to redeem the situation.

Brett - I’m going to have to finish this, but first I’d ask you to look again at the quotes in my last post. Don’t the Baha’i Writings make it clear that the FIRST stage in the implementation of the universal language is one of the three signs of the “coming of age” of the human race? Perhaps you think the phrase “coming of age” denotes “maturity”? But the PROOF is the linking of “coming of age” with the two (or three) signs - one of which is the FIRST stage of the international language (chosen by the world’s parliaments).

Guest - By “near” I meant “soon” as in “within the next ten years” - I was referring to the FIRST stage, of course - which the UHJ has stated is “long overdue”.

Also, you write:

“However, no one has any way of knowing what that language will be so that's really a matter of conjecture. What we can be certain of is that it will eventually come. Therefore, what we might want to focus on for now is promoting the idea itself so that it becomes a comfortable proposition first. If we Baha'is start adding all kinds of as of yet unwarranted specifics we might give folks the wrong idea of what we're trying to do.”

I think there are certain specifics re this subject in the Baha’i Writings, e.g.:

Esperanto has been drawn up with this end (universal language) in view: it is a fine invention and a splendid piece of work, but it needs perfecting. Esperanto as it stands is very difficult for some people.

 An international Congress should be formed, consisting of delegates from every nation of the world, Eastern as well as Western. This Congress should form a language that could be acquired by all, and every country would thereby reap great benefit.

                                        Paris, 13 November 1911   Paris Talks, p 156

Ninth, a universal language shall be adopted and be taught by all the schools and institutions in the world. A committee appointed by national bodies of learning shall select a suitable language to be used as a medium of international communication. All must acquire it. This is one of the great factors in the unification of man.

                               The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 182

In order to facilitate complete understanding between all people, a universal auxiliary language will be adopted and in the schools of the future two languages will be taught - the mother tongue and this international auxiliary tongue which will be either one of the existing languages, or a new language made up of words from all the languages - the matter to be determined by a confederation met for the purpose which shall represent all tribes and nations. This international tongue will be used in the parliament of man - a supreme tribunal of the world which will be permanently established in order to arbitrate international questions.

                                  'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, p 84

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Postby brettz9 » Fri Dec 10, 2004 10:25 pm

Yes, I see your point about the "possibly" referring to the failure of our leaders to implement the first stage, especially as I notice now that it is referring to the "auxiliary" language in that passage. However, as Mr. Taherzadeh is, however respectable, not immune to err (as with any Baha'i scholar), I don't think we can take his statement as absolute truth about the House of Justice necessarily implementing a future decision. An alternative might be as "Guest" suggest that it takes place on its own (assuming probably that the world language was the same as the one initially chosen). But I think it is more plausible as you suggest.

Don’t the Baha’i Writings make it clear that the FIRST stage in the implementation of the universal language is one of the three signs of the “coming of age” of the human race? Perhaps you think the phrase “coming of age” denotes “maturity”? But the PROOF is the linking of “coming of age” with the two (or three) signs - one of which is the FIRST stage of the international language (chosen by the world’s parliaments).


I'm sorry, but I don't see things the same, and I did review your posts several times.

I think Baha'u'llah can be referring to a process here. There is no requirement that it is the auxiliary language stage to which He is referring (although He clearly is as far as the addressing the Parliaments, I agree). Rather, as I said the "coming of age" in reference to a world commonwealth (cited in the same notes dealing with the world language question) would say otherwise. I think that the confusion of the unity of nations and the Lesser Peace is perhaps a parallel example.

But we can agree to disagree, particularly as this point is, I think, not that critical to be debating. If you want an official opinion, the House can be asked for clarification, But in my mind, the important thing, on which we already agree, is that this is important for us to be ardently working on!

Brett

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Postby brettz9 » Fri Dec 10, 2004 10:43 pm

I might add that the reconciliation of verses dealing with the House of Justice and the governments of the world which Taherzadeh had attempted could, as far as I can see, be alternatively seen through the very statement you proposed: that the world auxiliary language could be decided by the House of Justice.

Thus, quotations such as the following, could be referring not to an inevitable future distant role, but to a conditional one if the governments had failed to do it:

In former Epistles We have enjoined upon the Trustees of the House of Justice either to choose one language from among those now existing or to adopt a new one, and in like manner to select a common script, both of which should be taught in all the schools of the world. Thus will the earth be regarded as one country and one home.


Also, Bahá'u'lláh's appeals do not need to be seen as unequivocally stating that this is the way it will happen. In other Tablets, it is not the parliaments that He calls upon, but the sovereigns or their ministers. As I mentioned before, the Bahá'í International Community urged the United Nations to do this, and the United Nations is hardly a parliament let alone parliaments.

"Hei mao bai mao" It doesn't matter if it is a black cat or a white cat, as long as it catches the mouse... (From a Chinese expression)

Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sun Dec 12, 2004 4:34 pm

Brett,

Re your last posting - unfortunately I can’t get “Ocean” on this eMac, and don’t have Adib Taherzadeh’s book to hand. However, I did look at the whole of the relevant passage a few years ago and, from memory, the contradiction he refers to:

"It is interesting to note that in the Tablet of Bisharat Bahá'u'lláh enjoins upon the governments of the world to adopt the international language. These two statements, which seem to be contradictory, may be regarded as two different stages in bringing about a world auxiliary language. "

                  (The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh, Vol 4, Pages 159-160)


is the differing means apparently prescribed by Bahá'u'lláh for the inauguration of the international language, e.g.:


The sixth Ishraq is union and concord amongst the children of men. From the beginning of time the light of unity hath shed its divine radiance upon the world, and the greatest means for the promotion of that unity is for the peoples of the world to understand one another's writing and speech. In former Epistles We have enjoined upon the Trustees of the House of Justice either to choose one language from among those now existing or to adopt a new one, and in like manner to select a common script, both of which should be taught in all the schools of the world.

          Ishraqat (Splendours) in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Pages 127-128)


The third Glad-Tidings concerneth the study of divers languages. This decree hath formerly streamed forth from the Pen of the Most High: It behoveth the sovereigns of the world - may God assist them - or the ministers of the earth to take counsel together and to adopt one of the existing languages or a new one to be taught to children in schools throughout the world, and likewise one script. Thus the whole earth will come to be regarded as one country. Well is it with him who hearkeneth unto His Call and observeth that whereunto he is bidden by God, the Lord of the Mighty Throne.

              Bisharat (Glad-Tidings) in Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Page 22


Our conversation turned to topics profitable to man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: "You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world. They would, in this way, be acquiring only two languages, one their own native tongue, the other the language in which all the peoples of the world would converse.

                    Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Pages 137-139


All the above Tablets were revealed after the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, which prescribes:


O members of parliaments throughout the world! Select ye a single language for the use of all on earth, and adopt ye likewise a common script.

                                    The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, Page 88


In “Ishraqat” and “Bisharat” I think it significant that Bahá'u'lláh uses the words “former” and “formerly” - suggesting that the Divine Guidance regarding this subject had changed.

Thus, when Bahá'u'lláh’s “former Epistles” were revealed it is perhaps possible that the kings and rulers had not yet rejected “The Most Great Peace” - which would have allowed the temporal sovereignty of the UHJ within a victorious Baha'i Faith’s jurisdiction at that time, and therefore the ability to legislate re the international language issue at its inaugural stage.

Of course, we know that “The Most Great Peace” was rejected and this scenario couldn’t take place, even as the kings and rulers ignored Bahá'u'lláh’s Summons; so “The Lesser Peace” was offered instead, in the process of which the “sovereigns of the world” lost their power to legislate on the international language issue (see “Bisharat” above).


Frankly, I’m a bit puzzled by Adib Taherzadeh’s comment because he sees the role of the House of Justice as either confirming or replacing the international language previously chosen by the world’s parliaments, whereas “Ishraqat” refers to the Trustees of the House of Justice at the initial stage of adopting either an existing language or a new one. Then again, I may be misinterpreting him - not seeing the full context, and for all I know “Trustees of the House of Justice” means something other than what one might expect - such as “secular governments acting on behalf of the House of Justice in its absence”.


Brett - I was interested in your response to the posting about the website of the “Native American Baha'i Institute, Houck, AZ”. In fact the posting itself was a very curious coincidence because I had just emailed Bruce Beach about finding more about the century-old Native American prophecy that a Great Treasure of the world would be discovered at the Universal Language Institute site at Horning’s Mills, Ontario.

http://www.webpal.org/a_reconstruction/ ... ctures.htm

As a fellow promoter of this magnificent edifice (though without the wherewithal to build it, I hasten to add) I concur with Bruce in the hope that the Universal Language might be the Great Treasure.

I have been collaborating with Bruce since 1997, when we were introduced via the “SSS Journal”. Many will have seen Bruce’s comprehensive collection of Baha’i international auxiliary language quotations:

http://www.webpal.org/webpal/a_reconstr ... blang4.htm

The World Language Process, the organisation which Bruce heads, has achieved some notable technical advances peripheral to the testbed promotion of its ITM (Initiail Teaching Medium) ANJeL TUn. The WLP hasn’t yet formally identified its own IAL vehicle, but when it does the said technical advances will certainly be transferable to that medium.


As I referred in my website http://langx.org/langx-theworldla.html, the idea of the “LangX IAL Hierarchy” came to me “out of the blue” on the afternoon of 1 August 01 in my apartment in Douglas, Isle of Man. But that’s not to say “without preparation” - nine weeks earlier I had been pleased to fulfil a surprise invitation to attend the Official Opening of the Terraces in Haifa, where the whole subject greatly occupied my thoughts, particularly as we were circumambulating the Shrine of the Báb on the Anniversary of His Declaration. It also seemed to be impressed upon me that I should collaborate with Prof. Beach.

Another curious coincidence was that the LangX Hierarchy was conceived in me as beginning in 2005 (next year), and I later discovered that the Laying of the Foundation Stone of the Universal Language Institute had also been planned for 2005, and that this date had been determined back in the 1980s.

Not only that, but the Universal Language Institute is presently a vast edifice without a specific purpose, since ANJeL TUn - the WLP’s testbed language - is essentially an Initial Teaching Medium for English, and could as such be accommodated if necessary within any University English Department. LangX, on the other hand, has sufficient scope to easily fill such a huge building - and its development is projected to last at least seven centuries, so a durable construction would also be required!

And yet another “miracle”: earlier this year a composer named Christopher Marshall posted a report of his oratorio “U Trau” (“A Dream”) on “Auxlang” http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/cgi- ... &S=&P=1012 See the translation at the foot of the page (does it remind one of anything?), and read his comment that “After months of exploring Esperanto, Ido, Glosa and Lojban a new
language seemed to start growing spontaneously as I wrote the text - a very peculiar experience!” and from his website’s “Breaking News” http://www.vaiaata.com/news.html note that:

July 16, 2005: At Blue Lake MI, Kent Krive will direct the Blue Lake Choir and Wind Ensemble in the US PREMIERE of 'U Trau'. For more information contact Kent Krive.

In fact the full oratorio with up to three choirs is scheduled to perform at several venues not far from the Great Lakes (i.e. in the vicinity of Horning’s Mills) around the time the Foundation Stone of the Universal Language Institute was due to be laid. Not only that, but Christopher Marshall has agreed in principle to the whole show being brought over for the Official Opening, if conditions permit. How's that for coincidence!

Well, one might ask - who is going to fund a complex of buildings costing perhaps fifty or a hundred million dollars? The answer, of course, is that nothing is impossible if God looks fovourably on a project! Even if all the protagonists are penniless (as seems likely in this case) foundations exist for whom such a sum of money is small change. In fact I am thinking of a very wealthy Foundation right now, whose principal benefactor has stated that he would like it to fund only massive, very ambitious projects that no other foundation would touch. And it so happens that the Trustee writes and performs Native American music....


Let me emphasise once again that neither LangX, nor the World Language Process nor the projected Universal Language Institute should be regarded as “Bahá’í “ in any way, shape or form. Having said that, I would also hazard the opinion that there is every reason for Baha’is to interest themselves in such projects (should they feel “called” to so do}, precisely because the Bahá’í Faith contains so much guidance on these things. Similarly, there seems to be little doubt that Baha’is had much to do with the setting up of the League of Nations, United Nations etc., and for essentially the same reasons.

Of course, many Baha’is are in the Baha’i Esperanto League and suchlike, and good luck to them I say. Perchance they can bring their influence to bear in order to ensure a credible revision, should Esperanto be selected as the international language.

But here I am presenting an alternative, for what it is worth. And - who knows - the remarkable coincidences that have occurred, not all of which I have mentioned here, might not impossibly be Divine confirmation - or so I like to think. And just now I am looking again at the Lawh-i-Maqsud:

Likewise He saith: Among the things which are conducive to unity and concord and will cause the whole earth to be regarded as one country is that the divers languages be reduced to one language and in like manner the scripts used in the world be confined to a single script. It is incumbent upon all nations to appoint some men of understanding and erudition to convene a gathering and through joint consultation choose one language from among the varied existing languages, or create a new one, to be taught to the children in all the schools of the world.

  Lawh-i-Maqsud (Tablet of Maqsud) Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, Pages 165-166


Does this Tablet suggests an auxiliary language initially chosen by the world’s governments on the basis that it will, in the distant future, become one universal language (having incorporated all other languages)? If it does, this is the central LangX principle, even as it has been the perhaps unwitting principle behind successful creole developments on a lesser scale.


Anyway, I’ve got all that off my chest and will await developments. How about yourself, Brett, for a start? It’s all very well promoting the IAL concept, but then - what? (The Guardian, writing many years ago, affirmed that thinking people had caught up with the Baha’i principles - including this one.)

If pressed, many people will cite English as the solution, or possibly Esperanto. The various drawbacks of both have been fairly well covered, but for good measure here’s another rather neglected one re English, which I happened to see today on Auxlang: “...His opinion was that Esperanto had passed its “use by” date and that English was rapidly becoming the world’s universal language. Having had experience in teaching in international colleges, I find that the English spoken in one country may have such differences as to be almost incomprehensible in another. In written English the chaotic spelling is a real barrier, even to British children.”

So - time for the “third way” of a new language - which, moreover, the Bahá’í Writings seem to endorse.

And, to return to the problem I posed at the beginning of this rather lengthy posting, I would still like to contact the Native American community about the old prophecy re the Horning’s Mills site (Bruce Beach has agreed that I should do so). However, according to your note, Brett, one needs to have an American Bahá’í ID, but I have a UK Bahá’í ID - evidently no good!

I wonder, therefore, if you might be kind enough to contact them on our behalf - and in whichever way you deem appropriate.

Thank you and God Bless.

Tony

Dawud
Posts: 97
Joined: Mon Jun 14, 2004 11:59 pm

Postby Dawud » Mon Dec 13, 2004 3:02 am

Setting aside my natural skepticism for a moment, and looking at this as an engineer would (although I'm not one), how could a project like this work?

First, there is the matter of procedure. A lot of people have had the feeling of being divinely inspired--including the creator of Volapuk, which was one of the inspirations behind Esperanto. (Perhaps his error lay in viewing the details of his grammar, and not just the idea of an international language, as the inspired part.) Unless God is willing to assist in the implementation phase as well, I'm afraid this is not going to take us very far. Apologies to Messrs. Alexander and Beach.

On the other hand, suppose that one largish religion were to adopt some language as its official working language. I realize the Baha'is have decided in principle to await the decisions of that future world council. But picture, if you will, an Esperantist pope who decides that adopting Esperanto is easier than dealing with a church divided into various Romance languages (primarily). That right there would put one-sixth of the world's population behind Esperanto, in theory anyway. Maybe George Soros (an Esperantist, by the way) would be an alternative source of funding and organization.

My point is not to support Esperanto (it could be anything, really--most international religious bodies currently make use of English plus perhaps some other language special to their religion) but to point out how the "facts on the ground" can be radically changed, given enough desire. On a slightly smaller scale, Bahasa Indonesia didn't really exist a century ago, but now has 100+ million speakers.

So the answer to "who is writing the future?" is actually wide open. Any number of actors could potentially intervene, wielding whatever political clout or divine backing they can muster. Which is fine and inevitable, I think.

An important early challenge will be to find a niche that this language can fill better (or earlier!) than its rivals. Probably it will be a niche that is presently being filled by some of the common "international" languages.

This ought to largely determine the phonology. Presumably we would be looking at a fairly simple phonetic palette, which could be represented using the character set on the standard keyboard, and nothing weird like tones or clicks.

Most languages become more and more complex--"encrustated" with grammatical flourishes, difficult spelling, obscure cultural allusions, etc.-- with time. Native speakers learn these things with more or less difficulty; non-natives, rarely. Our language planners would have to postpone this maturation process until the entire world would be in a position to absorb it from childhood, as native speakers.

A big decision would be whether to isolate or not. (Esperanto doesn't, so it can mark the parts of speech.) This would help determine what other languages could be comfortably absorbed into it.

Another would be, whether the language should be based on existing natural languages, and if so which ones. On one hand such ties can help the process of accepting and learning the new language. On the other, they can interfere with the language's internal "logic," and what helps some language groups wouldn't help others. I do admire the "Language X" thinking about this, with its plans for basically never-ending modifications.

So far a lot of the discussion has focused on modifications to English, or else of a menu of artificial languages. I would focus more attention on widely-spoken tongues with growing populations such as Spanish, Hindi, Bahasa Indonesia, or Turkish. Extensive borrowings from Mandarin would almost require an isolating language.

An important stage, I think, would be testing. A language should not be loosed upon the world with the imprimatur of some world government, before it has proven that it is capable of serving as a medium of international communication. This means, among other things, attracting a genuine community of speakers. If this sounds like a big hurdle, it is meant to be--but then, look at the scope of you're aspiring to accomplish, and then tell me I'm being unreasonable!

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Tue Dec 14, 2004 12:06 am

Dear Tony,

Thanks for your discussion on the potential reconciliation of the quotations. Although I think there are different possibilities, it is interesting to consider.

As far as Nabi's information, I just see from their public website that the following contact information is available:

The Native American Bahá'í Institute
PO Box 3167
Houck, AZ 86506
nabi@usbnc.org
928-587-7599

As far as your question "Then what?", I have a few comments.

Several years ago in the IAL email list, an individual, I seem to remember the first name being Michael, posted a question to the House of Justice I think to the effect of the timeliness of gathering or listing the potential features which a world auxiliary language might have. Their response--which I did not keep but which I have for some time been looking for--stated that due to the urgent needs of training institutes, this was not advised, but that we should rather be dedicating ourselves to spreading the idea of it.

As far as your point about the thinking world having caught up with some of the social principles, first of all, I don't think this means EVERY thinking person is aware of it (I certainly run into lots of intelligent people who haven't), and also why should we stop at thinking people? :) Certain Western democracies don't seem to care who gets to vote for national leaders (the electoral college (rubber stamp) notwithstanding), so we have a lot more to convince than the thinking world if we want leaders to feel the public's interest in the issue (as well as to have a public willing to implement the final decision).

As far as "then what?", I think by the time there is sufficient awareness of the issue (and the idea of it being politically chosen), it will reach a critical mass where the issue will be raised at such institutions as we have discussed.

By becoming tied down to a specific language at this stage, I think we risk alienating people who are slanted against that language or type of language. I think our resources would be better spent, as I recall the House letter suggested, on spreading the idea and when the implementation actually becomes directly relevant, as in the committee or convocation asking "hey folks, what ideas have you got?", then the debate can begin. This is not to say that the experience of the Esperanto community and others is irrelevant, as their testing out the alternatives to existing languages is a valuable experience which such a future conference/committee could consider. But, as far as where I think from a strictly logical point of view, the bulk of our limited resources should be going, I think we could get a lot more bang-for-our-buck if we concentrated on spreading the idea (without getting tied down to specific languages or expecting that those we tell will drop everything in the absence of such a world decision and learn our proposed language).

And that is why we are working on http://onetongue.com and invite others to join it.

best wishes,
Brett

p.s. To respond to the quote on the disadvantages of English, without in any way necessarily siding with English, I think there are a couple of ways that those problems could be circumvented.

1) A reformed spelling could be the new script. Even native writers (if you can permit the expression) can at least understand phonetic spellings (some maybe better than conventional spellings). (It'd require at least some sacrifice from the English speakers...) :) Although some would argue that certain connection would be lost on a phonetic spelling (e.g., the end "b" in bomb and bombadier would leave the word "bombadier" seeming less related to "bomb"), we get by just fine with the ambiguity in speaking and have our share of homographs anyways.
2) As far as multiple pronuncations around the world, I think that is an issue any proposal will have to deal with. There could be an "official" pronunciation, but I think with increasing intercommunication (e.g., media, voice chats on the internet, etc.), some standardization would occur on its own, as it has within countries.

These counterarguments are not just potentially valid for defending English, I think, but for other options as well. (There are other disadvantages which can't be countered entirely, though, but any decision will surely have to be made on finding the best rather than a perfect solution--whatever that consensus may end up being)...

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Thu Dec 16, 2004 4:28 pm

Divine Inspiration, Dawud?

No, I wouldn’t have put it like that. This is what I actually wrote:

“And - who knows - the remarkable coincidences that have occurred, not all of which I have mentioned here, might not impossibly be Divine confirmation - or so I like to think.”

There is a difference. It might seem subtle but it’s very important all the same.

As Bahá’ís, we believe that only the Manifestations of God and their Authorised Interpreters and Interlocutors within defined spheres of operation are recipients of Divine Inspiration. Thus, within the Bahá’í Faith, The Báb and Bahá’u’lláh are regarded as recipients of Divine Inspiration to the extent that every verified Utterance and Writing is deemed none other than the Voice of God and Word of God. And for all practical purposes the same is true of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as Authorised Interpreter, and of the Guardian (Shoghi Effendi) within his role as set out in ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Will and Testament. And since the Guardianship came to an end with the passing of Shoghi Effendi in 1957, the sole recipient of Divine Inspiration has been the Universal House of Justice.

This refers to the body of the Universal House of Justice, when in session and coming to a decision, and not to individuals. For instance, Brett suggested that the late and lamented Adib Taherzadeh - a former member of the Universal House of Justice - might have erred in his exposition of future contingencies pertaining to the international auxiliary language. And Mr Taherzadeh would surely have been the first to reject any notion of his infallibility, though whether he erred in this particular instance is another matter (under the circumstances, I would tend to doubt it).

(A great benefit of the Universal House of Justice being the recipient of Divine Inspiration in collective decision-making is that the unity of the Bahá’í Faith will be maintained for at least a thousand years until the next Manifestation of God.)

For everyone else, or so the Bahá’í Faith teaches, there is no promise of Divine Inspiration. The individual has no certain way of knowing to what extent the inspiration he or she receives is from the illumination of a reflected shaft of “light” from the Holy Spirit or from the “fire” of satanic suggestion. The only guide can be the collective standard of “The Four Criterions of Truth” (see, for instance, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s talk “The Four Methods of Acquiring Knowledge” on p. 297 of “Some Answered Questions”). The last of these criteria is, of course, the Bahá’í Faith itself. But, however valuable as a guide, the “Four Criterions” can only show the absence of obvious error - not at all the same as truth by the standard of “He doeth whatsoever He willeth”.

All that is by way of a prelude to answering your comment:

“Setting aside my natural skepticism for a moment......how could a project like this work?......Unless God is willing to assist in the implementation phase as well, I'm afraid this is not going to take us very far. Apologies to Messrs. Alexander and Beach.”

No need to apologise. Neither of us are under the illusion of being Divinely Inspired; and, as I have also explained, the skein of coincidences accompanying LangX should not necessarily be regarded as Divine confirmation. However, your implication that such a project could not possibly succeed without Divine Assistance in the implementation phase is absolutely correct.

And you are right that George Soros and the Pope might accomplish a great deal were they to combine in order to promote Esperanto. But truth is very expensive: beyond even their means. What price a language that everyone will carry in their hearts, via the Word of God?

So let us consider this question from the standpoint of conformity to the Four Criterions of Truth - fulfilment of which would seem to be the precondition of Divine Assistance and Confirmation.

(1) Plato - whom Bahá’u’lláh called “the Divine Plato” - had something to say on this. In Cratylus he pointed out that rho is a sign of motion, found in words such as "tremor, tremble, strike, crush, bruise, tremble and whirl" because it is linked to the physical activity of pronunciation, and that according to Socrates, the tongue was "most agitated and least at rest in the pronunciation of this letter" and therefore it was originally used to express motion. Aspirated phonemes requiring expenditure of breath, likewise find themselves in windy, tempestuous words such as "shivering, seething, shock and shaking". Lamda, with its liquid smoothness produced by the slipping of the tongue, is found in words like "slip, level, floor, flood, sleek" (when combined with another syllable it denotes easy but repetitive motion as in "handle, swivel, anvil, paddle"); gamma, in which the tongue is detained, combines with lamda to express the notion of stickiness, as in "glue, glutinous, glucose".

Zipf’s Law states that the older a word is the shorter it tends to be. This is related to ease of articulation. Thus the Chinese vocabulary, the world’s oldest, has the shortest common words on the whole. There are also other linguistic phenomena relating directly to the senses - all of which favour “natural” over “artificial” vocabularies. This statement requires some qualification, but the overall result nevertheless is that Esperanto and its ilk are inferior to languages whose words have been proved in centuries or millennia of usage by entire societies.

(2) Obviously the rational or scientific approach can only relate to a new constructed language capable of being formed. The Esperanto model of an entire language being created by a solitary linguistic genius has been widely imitated within the constructed language movement, but it doesn’t have sufficient successful historic precedent to earn it the appellation “scientific”. Indeed, we find the following statement by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in "‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London" p 94 - see note at http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html -“The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost, but no one person can construct a Universal Language”.

And this leads back to the question of Divine Inspiration, for we read in “Gleanings” p. 172: “Later, Abraham, the Friend of God, appeared and shed upon the world the light of Divine Revelation. The language He spoke while He crossed the Jordan became known as Hebrew ('Ibrani), which meaneth "the language of the crossing.””

LangX, on the other hand, purports to be based upon a repeatedly demonstrated linguistic phenomenon, which I have termed “the contact language ~ pidgin ~ creole progression (CPCP)”. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá specified that a scientific approach to the problem was necessary, and I’d claim that LangX fulfils this condition, if the possibility of extending the historic and regional to the contemporary and global is permitted.

Moreover, all I am offering is an outline blueprint, and a few suggestions. I certainly renounce ownership of the idea and any formal authority. Anyone is welcome to change any feature of LangX, including the name, and to develop it in any way they want.

(3) For “tradition” we return to existing languages once again, and so far as the international auxiliary language is concerned, it is the dominant language that has always counted historically. Today of course this still means English, though both the positive and negative aspects of the English-speaking world - and particularly of the predominant power within it - are inevitably part of the package. And whether or not reports such as http://www.democracynow.org/article.pl? ... 09/1526251
are true, the point is that they are widely believed to be true, and - historically-speaking - financial strength is the final strength of a declining empire. In any case, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá warned that America would become a “storm center” in the future, and many of us will have seen disturbing predictions relating to the future of the US ascribed to Shoghi Effendi, as in Ramona Brown’s recollections. The latter are classed as “pilgrim’s notes” but there are also some very ominous warnings in the Guardian’s published letters, e.g.:

http://www.webpal.org/webpal/c_renewal/ ... trophe.htm

(note, especially, letter at foot of page). And so far as “economic warfare” is concerned the tide has already turned, by many accounts. Thus, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá predicted that China would be the country of the future, and the signs of this are clearly apparent already.

All these things, however distressing, have to be mentioned in this context due to the intimate connexion between national language and political culture. (Also it is perhaps best to know the worst in case we can help to mitigate these horrors.)

I also think that the rise of China to a position of leadership among the nations of the earth would encourage the promotion of a new constructed language, since Chinese is not really suitable as a global language in its present form.

(4) And here we come to the actual prescriptions for a new constructed language within the Bahá’í Faith. Probably the most specific is the quote in "‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London", but its provenance cannot be guaranteed. However, there are several others. For instance, there are calls for Esperanto to be revised, even to the extent of an entirely new language, and I have posted the quotations here before - though perhaps not this particular one:

“Therefore appreciate 'Esperanto', for it is the beginning of the carrying out of one of the most important of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh, and it must continue to be improved and perfected.”

                                                                     Paris Talks p. 162

And with reference to present-day Esperanto, here is a very telling quote from the Bahá’í Writings:

"In order to facilitate complete understanding between all people, a universal auxiliary language will be adopted and in the schools of the future two languages will be taught--the mother tongue and this international auxiliary tongue which will be either one of the existing languages, or a new language made up of words from all the languages--the matter to be determined by a confederation met for the purpose which shall represent all tribes and nations. This international tongue will be used in the work of the parliament of man--a supreme tribunal of the world which will be permanently established in order to arbitrate international questions. .

'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, Page 84

Interestingly, this quote confirms the statement in "‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London" about “words from different languages” (see below).

A friend enquired concerning Bahá'u'lláh's prophecy in the Words of Paradise, that a universal language would be formed, and desired to know if Esperanto would be the language chosen. "The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost," he answered, "but no one person can construct a Universal Language. It must be made by a Council representing all countries, and must contain words from different languages. It will be governed by the simplest rules, and there will be no exceptions; neither will there be gender, nor extra and silent letters. Everything indicated will have but one name. In Arabic there are hundreds of names for the camel! In the schools of each nation the mother tongue will be taught, as well as the revised Universal Language."

                                         'Abdu'l-Bahá in London, Page 94

(This requirement is not met by Esperanto, or by any other constructed language with an artificial vocabulary, though it will be by LangX).

So let George Soros and the Pope, and anyone else, pour money into Esperanto. It would help the whole movement, even as a rising tide lifts all boats. And I don’t think the obvious defects of Esperanto, in relation to its stated aspiration, would long resist such sustained attention. Most probably there would soon be calls for a new language......

I shall have to close now, but thanks for the constructive comments in the remainder of your letter.

Antony Alexander http://langx.org

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sat Dec 18, 2004 6:23 pm

Dear Brett,

Thanks for your reply.

Yes, “Mike M” posted the UHJ’s response a few years ago on “Interlang”, the Bahá’í IAL Forum. And my recollection of their reply would agree with yours, except that I don’t remember them advocating promotion of the IAL principle separately from the other Bahá’í principles.

As always the UHJ response was absolutely correct of course. Let’s remember that they normally address the entire Bahá’í community, and therefore tend to focus on subjects of universal interest and application (such as Training Institutes) which operate wholly within the confines of the Bahá’í Faith. As a corollary, I expect they would be loath to offer public guidance on complex, politically-sensitive issues relating to the outside world (such as the IAL) - apart from reiterating the Bahá’í Teachings on the subject (in this case, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s call to promote the IAL principle). Also, it’s perhaps significant that the UHJ didn’t call upon Bahá’ís to learn Esperanto, as anyone coming across ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s encouragements for Bahá’ís to support the language might have expected. I offered a possible explanation at
http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html

And on this subject, Brett, I wonder whether you have noticed that http://onetongue.org might seem to support Esperanto orthodoxy rather than the Bahá’í Teachings in one or two places. Thus, about halfway through the FAQ you list the following three pro-Esperanto sites (the last of which I haven’t been able to open, incidentally):

http://www.esperanto.net/veb/faq-9.html
http://ttt.esperanto.org/us/USEJ/world/kontraux.html
http://infoweb.magi.com/~mfettes/psyres.html

I do realise that you are at pains to point out, here and elsewhere, that “our campaign does not endorse a specific language or kind of language”. And yes, I know that http://onetongue.org is not intended to be a “Bahá’í” site, and I believe you are absolutely right about that. The IAL will be a gift to everyone, not just Bahá’ís or religious people, and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá Himself emphasised that a scientific approach to the problem was required.

There are several examples I could cite, but this one from http://www.esperanto.net/veb/faq-9.html stood out

Should we create a language with words from all around the world?

Manuel M Campagna:

The International Auxiliary Language Association (IALA) researched this point scientifically, and came up with the conclusion that while there are 6 170 languages in the world (not including dialects) at this time, there is no evidence that a language with one word from each language would be more popular. Indeed it would be an unworkable hodgepodge.

David Poulson:

This objection has been handled at length by Prof. Pierre Janton. In brief, there are two major facts to take into account. First of all, there are thousands of languages in the world and if Esperanto attempted to create its vocabulary from even 10 % of them you would simply get a language which would be very difficult to learn for everybody instead of the real Esperanto which is relatively easy for all.

Secondly, the world-wide spread of Euro-American science, commerce, technology, geopolitics, entertainment, etc., has meant that many technical terms from "Western" languages have entered the vocabulary of many other languages too. So, in fact, the European basis for Esperanto's vocabulary is a lot more international than appears at first sight.

However, the whole argument is really irrelevant because the internationalism of Esperanto -- or of any other planned language -- cannot reside in its vocabulary for the reason just mentioned.

In fact, what makes Esperanto a truly "international" language (as distinct from a "world" language like English) is its extraordinary semantic flexibility which allows speakers from different language families to translate their own thought patterns directly into Esperanto and produce something which is perfectly intelligible and grammatically correct.


Frankly, I don’t think Bahá’ís should accept this (just my personal opinion, of course). Firstly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that there are over 800 languages (“Paris Talks” p. 161). So there are hundreds rather than thousands of languages in the world, and all the rest are dialects. Also, it would probably be generally acceptable - and, I think, in conformity with the Bahá’í Writings - to begin with the much smaller number of language families, and to work towards the inclusion of words from every individual language at a much later date. Secondly, there is a lot of post hoc justification going on here as to why Esperanto couldn’t have a truly international vocabulary (it certainly couldn’t without the language being totally revised and recast). Thirdly, nobody is claiming that words should be chosen at random, and without consideration of the particular specialisation and expertise of each culture. And fourthly, it is suggested that different cultures might find their individual voice in the choice of grammatical expression rather than vocabulary - again, a notion contrary to the Bahá’í Teachings, not to mention sociology etc..

Don’t get me wrong here, Brett. I greatly admire the spirit that has impelled you to set this site up, and am merely trying to offer some constructive criticism. In fact, I wish that some Bahá’í would have taken me to task seven or eight years ago when I was publishing “Lango” under rather difficult circumstances. For in my ignorance I thought that my resolution was being tested, and the possibility that "someone” was attempting to tell me that I was on the wrong track simply didn’t enter my mind - so most probably I wouldn’t have appreciated contrary advice at the time in any case! Then, one day in 1997, it suddenly struck me that the central thesis of “Lango” - though apparently “rational”, and a compromise between two routes to the IAL - was nowhere mentioned as a possibility in the Bahá’í Writings. The change of course that led to http://langx.org began there and then, even though Bruce Beach had only just published “Lango” on his site.

If you laid you own views on the line - whether expressed as scientific hypothesis or religious belief - I don’t think it would matter at all if contrary opinions were expressed on your site. In fact such generosity might be regarded as the magnanimity of victory, even as the Bahá’í Faith and its teachings will surely prevail.


You write:

“By becoming tied down to a specific language at this stage, I think we risk alienating people who are slanted against that language or type of language. I think our resources would be better spent, as I recall the House letter suggested, on spreading the idea and when the implementation actually becomes directly relevant, as in the committee or convocation asking "hey folks, what ideas have you got?", then the debate can begin. This is not to say that the experience of the Esperanto community and others is irrelevant, as their testing out the alternatives to existing languages is a valuable experience which such a future conference/committee could consider. But, as far as where I think from a strictly logical point of view, the bulk of our limited resources should be going, I think we could get a lot more bang-for-our-buck if we concentrated on spreading the idea (without getting tied down to specific languages or expecting that those we tell will drop everything in the absence of such a world decision and learn our proposed language). “

Well, I’d aver that the Bahá’í Writings have been slanting very firmly towards the option of a new constructed language since the Ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Again, this is only my own personal opinion, but I’d challenge anyone to actually look at some of His predictions in the authorised Bahá’í Writings and point out the "ifs" and "buts".

So why is the “existing language” option always placed first in that case? Naturally my opinion has no validity whatsoever, but for the sake of argument I think the answer might be that this option was God’s “Primary Will” - an existing fully-developed language being much more satisfactory in so many ways (including as a starting-point for further development) - but that the refusal of the kings and rulers to unite in “The Most Great Peace” unleashed the forces of imperialism and nationalism and necessitated the adoption of “Plan B” instead.

So why have the Bahá’í Writings up to and including the pronouncements of the UHJ in the present day continued to present a choice of alternatives if the new constructed alternative is destined to be fulfilled? With the same qualification, may I offer the following thoughts on this? Firstly, Bahá’u’lláh’s order of alternative options is preserved in recognition of His station. Secondly, “God doeth whatsoever He willeth”. Thirdly, there is still a choice from the human point of view, even though the outcome has been prophesied in advance. Fourthly, it might be a sign of Divine Wisdom: for a period of 70 years during the 20th Century communism was triumphant over large parts of the earth, and Esperanto and the constructed language movement were often linked with it. Fifthly, in the same vein - and nothiing more than a wild guess - there might conceivably be a swiftly-aborted attempt to impose an existing language.

OK, I am sticking my neck out and am probably guilty of imposture for even daring to offer such interpretations, but I do so in order to question your implication that the odds are about 50/50 between an existing "natural" language and an existing "constructed" language. A superficial perusal of the Bahá’í Writings might certainly lead to that conclusion, but I believe that closer examination points to more like 100% certainty of a new language. Of course it's only my opinion and I could be entirely wrong, but that is where long acquaintance with these Writings has got me, and I don't like to see other trying to reinvent the wheel.

And believe me, Brett, the people up there holding the levers of power know about the IAL issue. It isn’t as though the Esperantists haven’t been bombarding them with propaganda for over a century! But I don't think The Powers That Be care very much for either alternative. So far as Esperanto and its ilk are concerned, there is significant opposition to either the concept, or the type of language, or both. And nationalist hostility to existing languages is hardly lessening. Here is an article published 22 October 04 in the "Daily Telegraph" http://www.telegraph.co.uk:

Gallic outrage over call for all pupils to learn English

by Colin Randall   in Paris

English should be made compulsory for all French schoolchildren, according to an official report which has appeared to howls of outrage from politicians and teaching unions.

Claude Thélot, the former president of France's Higher Council of School Assessment, said that pupils should learn English automatically, as they do with French and mathematics.

But his conclusion that children should leave school having mastered English as "a language of international communication" was sufficient to cause indignation in a country that is troubled by its waning influence in the world.

Mr Thélot's findings fly in the face of the views of President Jacques Chirac, who said recently that nothing would be worse for humanity than for it to be limited to one language - by which he meant English. Officials suggested that other views needed to be heard before a decision was taken.

The prime minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, and his education minister, François Fillon, were said to support Mr Thélot's conclusions, part of a report on the future of schools.

Jacques Myard, an MP from the ruling UMP party, said English would be displaced as the world's most-spoken language because of growing competition from Spanish and Chinese. "If we must make a language compulsory, it should be Arabic," he said.

However, Mr Thélot's report noted that standards of English in French schools are poor and worsening.

Jean-Paul Nerrière, an education expert, pointed out that the international language of today is a rudimentary dialect which he calls "globish", comprising no more than 1,500 words but "used more and more by the 88 per cent of the world's population who are not English-speaking".

A cartoon in Le Monde made a similar point. "If they force us to do English, then we'll speak only in French," one student says defiantly. "Yeah," his friend replies. Le Monde found opposition to Mr Thélot from unions, French nationalists, champions of the Francophone world, and even "Anglicists" who fear children will be taught only "airport English". The paper's own view was that "the imperialism of Anglo-American" would provoke less irritation if EU education ministers agreed that all children in member states should learn two foreign languages.


Please note the penultimate paragraph. I do believe Mr Nerrière has identified an incipient wave towards the future: an emerging "universal core vocabulary" which will first become "pidginised" into the official IAL, and then gradually "creolised".


And I sincerely believe this could be the pattern of the future. And that at some point the politicians will be forced by political and economic necessity to resolve the issue, and will bypass the intractable disagreement among themselves by appointing a Commission (as the Bahá’í Writings predict, of course).

Also, there seem to be all manner of reasons why this Commission would tend to come up with a new rather than an existing language. For instance, it would demonstrate that the Commission was truly independent and not in anyone's pocket. And politicians would be likely to prefer a language without an existing power-base, so that they knew exactly what they were dealing with. Also, as I have pointed out, this also seems to be the favoured outcome in the Bahá’í Writings: so may I humbly suggest that your website gives preference to this option too?

Of course, there is an inherent danger - of the “Newspeak” variety - in a new language developed under the aegis of global politicians, hence the LangX program to develop, and allow the development of, the IAL into a truly global language in the distant future. Perchance the appointment of the Commission will occur at the right time on the LangX trajectory. The LangX Project would also require persons of integrity in order to ensure a real rather than just a theoretical progress.

Sincerely,
                               Tony





                                                                    

Dawu d

Postby Dawu d » Sat Dec 18, 2004 11:26 pm

Let's take a simple issue. What should be the future word for "book"?

Arabic: kitab
Hindi: kitab
German: das Buch
Mandarin: (yi ben) shu
French: le livre
Tibetan: be-cha
Russian: kniga
Esperanto: libro

Going purely by population, we might be tempted to choose the English or Mandarin. However, unless one of those were chosen as the future language, these words would probably have to at least be modified. (Few languages have the "oo" sound from "book," while Mandarin uses tones which only Asian languages have, but without which the word is not understandable.)

Baha'is might prefer "Kitab" on aesthetic grounds. However, the Arabic is based on a complex grammar which allows k-t-b to be yield "writer" "writing" and many other related words. Presumably any new language would have its own logic (although Hindi took in "kitab" as a loan-word with no ill effects). Esperanto, for instance, would insist on adding an -o ending to show that it is a noun--a practice which helps identify parts of speech, but plays havoc with loan-words such as people's names.

Or if we decide to choose vocabulary from as many languages as possible, then "book" might end up being "be-cha" or something. Perhaps we could weight it by number of speakers, but would "kniga" be that much of an improvement? Especially when you consider what the plural should be--knigi? knigan? knigas? knigoi?

A pidgin will only work if there is no already-existing, more-suitable language occupying that role (or alternately, if a repressive government forces them to switch). Right now the world is learning and speaking English--if not fluently, then at least well enough to get things done. Are you going to be the one to tell them to switch to Newspeak? Well, good luck.

brettz9
Posts: 1366
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
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Postby brettz9 » Sun Dec 19, 2004 12:01 am

Yes, “Mike M” posted the UHJ’s response a few years ago on “Interlang”, the Bahá’í IAL Forum. And my recollection of their reply would agree with yours, except that I don’t remember them advocating promotion of the IAL principle separately from the other Bahá’í principles.


Well, to my recollection, it was only speaking of this principle because that was the question raised, not that it should have higher priority than the others. (Though I personally think there is signficance to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement that it would be the "first service to the world of man".)


Also, it’s perhaps significant that the UHJ didn’t call upon Bahá’ís to learn Esperanto, as anyone coming across ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s encouragements for Bahá’ís to support the language might have expected. I offered a possible explanation at
http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html


Although I follow your line of reasoning, I think, I don't think there has been any change.

Although you argue persuasively about the plausibility of a reformed Esperanto or new language by your selective highlighting of quotations, I think that the rest of the sentence, both in the beginning and at the end, give added weight to our (still) being encouraged to learn the language....(I've already been pressured enough by Esperantists assisting our campaign to want to learn!...)

We feel that, within the framework of their efforts for the promotion of peace, the Bahá'ís of Europe would do well to increase their collaboration with the Esperanto Movement, and we encourage Bahá'ís who feel the urge to assist in this area, to learn Esperanto and take an active part in the activities of the Movement. As you know, although both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi have made it clear that it is by no means certain that Esperanto will be chosen as the international auxiliary language of the world, 'Abdu'l-Bahá encouraged the friends in the east and the west to learn it as a practical step in the promotion of the concept of the adoption of an international auxiliary language to break down the barriers to understanding between peoples.

Universal House of Justice 17 September 1986 letter to NSAs in Europe


In another letter (to an individual), the House states in a letter on their behalf:

"...as you are no doubt aware, the involvement of the friends in the study of Esperanto has also been deemed praiseworthy."

(On behalf of the Universal House of Justice, email to an individual 10 February 1998 at http://bahai9.com/World_auxiliary_language_quotes#no105 )


Anyways, it is clear that it is not for EVERYBODY, but it still advocates as recently as 1986 at least, that the community (at least of Europe) should increase their collaboration.

And on this subject, Brett, I wonder whether you have noticed that http://onetongue.org might seem to support Esperanto orthodoxy rather than the Bahá’í Teachings in one or two places. Thus, about halfway through the FAQ you list the following three pro-Esperanto sites (the last of which I haven’t been able to open, incidentally):

http://www.esperanto.net/veb/faq-9.html
http://ttt.esperanto.org/us/USEJ/world/kontraux.html
http://infoweb.magi.com/~mfettes/psyres.html


I have also cited U.S. English too! My inclusion of items at the links section is solely because they have addressed the issue of an international auxiliary language in some manner (or learning about the present situation of languages of the world). Those links (one of them I should check on as I've had problems with it too), I thought addressed aspects of the issue of a world auxiliary language in a succinct and persuasive manner. It had nothing to do with their total position on the issue....If you see at http://onetongue.com/board1 or http://groups.yahoo.com/group/onetongue I have attempted to convince Esperantists to leave the decision open.

Frankly, I don’t think Bahá’ís should accept this (just my personal opinion, of course). Firstly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that there are over 800 languages (“Paris Talks” p. 161). So there are hundreds rather than thousands of languages in the world, and all the rest are dialects.


'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements were not meant, I would say, to be an exact taxonomy. For example, just because He speaks of the plant, animal, and human kingdoms, does not mean that scientists considering fungi or cyanobacteria or whatever as being distinct kingdoms is scientifically invalid.

His inexactness on the details is, I would venture, evident in other areas. For example, after describing a system of taxation with specific figures (described in other Tablets with differen percentages), He then states, "What hath been stated is only an example and this doth not mean that it should be enforced exactly in this manner." ('Abdu'l-Bahá, from a Tablet dated 25 July 1919 to an individual believer -- provisional translation from the Persian, quoted in Economics compilation, sel. 10 at http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.compila ... cs.html#10 ).

A linguist's definition of language relates to mutual unintelligibility, and even if you took into account instances of spectra of dialects (which at the extremes were not mutually intelligible) as one language, I doubt you could reduce it to 800. But, I don't disagree there could be some other meaningful classification. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's point of the discussion was not to speak about the number of languages of the world.

Also, it would probably be generally acceptable - and, I think, in conformity with the Bahá’í Writings - to begin with the much smaller number of language families, and to work towards the inclusion of words from every individual language at a much later date.


While I don't disagree that this could be considered, I also don't think that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's apparent references to being selected from all the languages would need necessarily to be fully literal either.

Don’t get me wrong here, Brett. I greatly admire the spirit that has impelled you to set this site up, and am merely trying to offer some constructive criticism.


This is much welcomed...

In fact, I wish that some Bahá’í would have taken me to task seven or eight years ago when I was publishing “Lango” under rather difficult circumstances.


Well, as 'Abdu'l-Bahá stated that the love put into Espernato would not be lost, I most definitely think it is the same in your case, whatever its practical impact on the eventual outcome. It is a testament to your detachment that you, while holding opinions, are able to revise them as the Writings become available and your consideration of them changes.

If you laid you own views on the line - whether expressed as scientific hypothesis or religious belief - I don’t think it would matter at all if contrary opinions were expressed on your site. In fact such generosity might be regarded as the magnanimity of victory, even as the Bahá’í Faith and its teachings will surely prevail.


Although I don't doubt that a Baha'i-oriented site would do well in promoting the idea and the Faith, I really would be concerned for this particular campaign that certain people could be deterred, just as perhaps some have been deterred from Esperanto for communist associations.

And as far as scientific opinions, I also don't want to get side-tracked into my own views (though I have some) because even if it is not prejudice people against the idea with whatever association I bring to it, I think it detracts from the impulse toward spreading the idea, as we get caught in too much theoretical (and premature) hair-splitting.

Well, I’d aver that the Bahá’í Writings have been slanting very firmly towards the option of a new constructed language since the Ministry of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Again, this is only my own personal opinion, but I’d challenge anyone to actually look at some of His predictions in the authorised Bahá’í Writings and point out the "ifs" and "buts".


Yes, I do think one could argue that persuasively. On the other hand, one could argue just as well that the inclusion of "invented language" was intended to ensure that the consideration of a perceived neutral solution could draw attention to the issue and bring certain people to the table who wouldn't be willing otherwise. I'm not claiming that this is a strong case, just pointing out another possible side.

So why is the “existing language” option always placed first in that case? Naturally my opinion has no validity whatsoever, but for the sake of argument I think the answer might be that this option was God’s “Primary Will” - an existing fully-developed language being much more satisfactory in so many ways (including as a starting-point for further development) - but that the refusal of the kings and rulers to unite in “The Most Great Peace” unleashed the forces of imperialism and nationalism and necessitated the adoption of “Plan B” instead.

So why have the Bahá’í Writings up to and including the pronouncements of the UHJ in the present day continued to present a choice of alternatives if the new constructed alternative is destined to be fulfilled? With the same qualification, may I offer the following thoughts on this? Firstly, Bahá’u’lláh’s order of alternative options is preserved in recognition of His station. Secondly, “God doeth whatsoever He willeth”. Thirdly, there is still a choice from the human point of view, even though the outcome has been prophesied in advance. Fourthly, it might be a sign of Divine Wisdom: for a period of 70 years during the 20th Century communism was triumphant over large parts of the earth, and Esperanto and the constructed language movement were often linked with it. Fifthly, in the same vein - and nothiing more than a wild guess - there might conceivably be a swiftly-aborted attempt to impose an existing language.


Interesting speculation...Only time will tell for sure....

OK, I am sticking my neck out and am probably guilty of imposture for even daring to offer such interpretations, but I do so in order to question your implication that the odds are about 50/50 between an existing "natural" language and an existing "constructed" language. A superficial perusal of the Bahá’í Writings might certainly lead to that conclusion, but I believe that closer examination points to more like 100% certainty of a new language. Of course it's only my opinion and I could be entirely wrong, but that is where long acquaintance with these Writings has got me, and I don't like to see other trying to reinvent the wheel.


Well I appreciate that. I didn't mean to imply that the odds are 50/50 though. But since the decision has been left up to the leaders, and since we are not there yet, I think that is what is worth focusing on. Besides, I think that leaving it open to either also makes those leaning to either side feel more comfortable coming to the table to spread the idea (or, in the case of leaders, to vote on the idea).

And believe me, Brett, the people up there holding the levers of power know about the IAL issue. It isn’t as though the Esperantists haven’t been bombarding them with propaganda for over a century! But I don't think The Powers That Be care very much for either alternative. So far as Esperanto and its ilk are concerned, there is significant opposition to either the concept, or the type of language, or both. And nationalist hostility to existing languages is hardly lessening.


Well, they may know about the issue, but I'm not so sure they've considered it as a possibility where it was left open, including to existing languages. I think if it is left open, it should also be easier for leaders, I would imagine, to raise the issue with their constituents, as they would not be seen as siding with something which could alienate some potential voters who held strong opinions one way or another!

Basically, to Esperantists, I urge them to leave the decision open for this reason. I think most Esperantists and invented language proponents, while feeling their solution is more neutral and not abandoning their preferences, are forced to admit that democratic values as they espouse, entail being open to a decision against their own wishes (not to mention first working with those with whom they might not presently agree).

And to English supporters, I argue that if it will be English, it should be more universalized, so that it really can be an international language, where immigrants will come speaking English and emigrants will find English speakers elsewhere. Making the decision democratic at a global level would allow for political measures to be taken at the national level (where these decisions take place) to ensure its universality. If it is as popular people think, it should have no problem "winning", and if not, then we can get started on learning that language, whatever it may (including the possibility of an invented langauge). I find most who believe English already is or that it should be, after hearing this are open to it (and whereas they wouldn't be if it were only associated with an invented langauge).

As far as the points some raised in the article, I would use these arguments to English proponents who feel smug that English will inevitably and quickly take over. Changes in economics and the like could lead to a change in the predominant defacto international langauge, as it had before with French. On the other hand, to those who would feel that disagreeableness by one or a handful of countries could prevent an official world decision from taking place (including were a decision to be made by the majority to adopt an existing language), I would point out that economic and practical necessity (not to mention the pressure to accept democratic principles and the rule of international law or at least the rule of the international will) would force a few holdouts eventually into it, if the other nations started to carry it out.

And that at some point the politicians will be forced by political and economic necessity to resolve the issue, and will bypass the intractable disagreement among themselves by appointing a Commission (as the Bahá’í Writings predict, of course).


Although it seems probable that this commission would be the at least ideal way that this would be solved, I think you yourself even pointed out, that this might not be the case (which would be very unfortunate, as it would certainly entail a longer wait than was necessary).

Also, there seem to be all manner of reasons why this Commission would tend to come up with a new rather than an existing language. For instance, it would demonstrate that the Commission was truly independent and not in anyone's pocket. And politicians would be likely to prefer a language without an existing power-base, so that they knew exactly what they were dealing with. Also, as I have pointed out, this also seems to be the favoured outcome in the Bahá’í Writings: so may I humbly suggest that your website gives preference to this option too?


I raise some of the arguments in favor of an invented language in the FAQ in the event that some are not familiar with this possibility. (Some people give up on the idea because they ONLY think of existing languages as being possible--these people are usually satisfied when they hear of the possibility of a constructed language.)

However, regardless of what language seems to me to be favored (actually, my failure in predicting other things in the past lends me to not make any guesses), I am concentrating in this campaign on practical considerations. And while I see it is practical to point out the possibility of an invented language for those who have not considered it, I see the largest barrier right now to the spread of the idea being those that presume English is the world language already and who have not considered its consolidation (or an alternate if it is not amenable to the world's people) through political means. I really am in no way suggesting that a political decision should be a pretext for imposing English (if at all); rather I am arguing that I think that the more people who think that a global decision could solve the issue (however they think this would eventually turn out in their minds), the better. And I think very few people have heard of the idea being conveyed along with the possibility of an existing language, so I have put some attention to this (particularly for the Esperantists).

Of course, there is an inherent danger - of the “Newspeak” variety - in a new language developed under the aegis of global politicians, hence the LangX program to develop, and allow the development of, the IAL into a truly global language in the distant future. Perchance the appointment of the Commission will occur at the right time on the LangX trajectory. The LangX Project would also require persons of integrity in order to ensure a real rather than just a theoretical progress.


Well, humans can modify languages pretty well, whatever is chosen, just as we see with our own language(s) usage between groups and individuals. It is more of a question I would say as to whether they can accept the decision and in a peaceable manner. With the fractiousness of society, I think that Orwellian possibilities (in whatever realm, besides corporate) are quite nonexistent at present at a global level, despite the love of Western media (and paranoid people) to dwell on this possibility.

take care,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sun Dec 19, 2004 1:40 pm

Dawu d

You write:

“.....while Mandarin uses tones which only Asian languages have, but without which the word is not understandable.)”

Is that so? I thought the four Mandarin tones were used to distinguish words that would otherwise be pronounced identically. The tones are high or low, and level, rising or falling - but there surely has to be a fixed standard sound for the tones to be rising or falling against. So is there any practical or theoretical objection to using that standard sound (without a tonal overlay) as a word - and does that sometimes happen in Asian tongues using tones? I know very little about it, but I should imagine that, even if that standard sound without tones is never used in practice, Asians are capable of categorising “toneless” languages as existing on its level, and might well allow the tonal overlay to be removed from an “international copy” of some of their words for the sake of inclusion in a global core vocabulary. Am I right?


“.....Esperanto, for instance, would insist on adding an -o ending to show that it is a noun--a practice which helps identify parts of speech, but plays havoc with loan-words such as people's names.”

In my view the Esperanto practice of putting inflections on the end of most words is superfluous to the requirements of an initial IAL. It’s a useful way of economising on grammar in more advanced languages, but even then not absolutely necessary, as Chinese and many other languages have shown.


“Or if we decide to choose vocabulary from as many languages as possible, then "book" might end up being "be-cha" or something. Perhaps we could weight it by number of speakers, but would "kniga" be that much of an improvement? Especially when you consider what the plural should be--knigi? knigan? knigas? knigoi?”

All interesting and worthwhile speculations, Dawu d - not sure about the “kn” consonant cluster as a preliminary, though (silent letters being out of the question of course).

The question of a core international vocabulary is beyond my expertise but, having no academic reputation to lose, I offered the following suggestions in my former website a few years ago in the hope of provoking some debate:

(1) When most words from most languages can be rendered into the same orthography, most of the world's words will become available to the discriminating speaker or writer, who will then be able to choose the best synonym for a particular purpose - for no reason except its sound. In this way the ideal word might emerge - as it has in the past. (Ultimately, for the sake of simplicity there should be no synonyms within the IAL.)

(2) A suitable word already existing in a living language should always be chosen in preference to a neologism. The latter might be more logical, etymologically speaking, but only the test of time proves euphony.

(3) The extant original form of a word should be used rather than transliterated versions in other languages.

(4) Justice demands that the IAL's vocabulary be selected from all languages. In fact this is not a limitation, since things and ideas tend to originate in different countries - and often the best of them in small nations, within minority tongues. The other side of this coin is the requirement to maximise phonetic range and depth, so as to minimise the number of homographs in an orthographic script.

(5) It might happen that a word chosen for the IAL eventually failed: perhaps because most people disliked its sound, or its historical associations. However, synonyms would continue to exist in the remaining mother-tongues for centuries, so replacing a word in the IAL should not be too difficult.

(6) The globalisation of commodities and ideas is not taking place wordlessly. Thus the same processes that have raised one synonym above others within national tongues have begun to work internationally. In this way the best words for the IAL might appear.

(7) Where synonyms of equivalent pedigree exist, it is probably better to choose the older word, or, where that cannot be established with certainty, the shorter. In many cases the shorter word, or - more exactly - the word requiring less effort to articulate, will be the older word (Zipf's Law).

(8) Whereas the IAL is unlikely to borrow Chinese characters for its script, it might adopt the Chinese system of word-formation - as imitated by progressive constructed languages.

(9) Where it is impossible to choose between alternative words, and a compromise word has failed, it may be necessary to return to first principles. (Here I alluded to Plato’s theory of sound-based semantics - see my 16/12/04 posting on this thread.)


“A pidgin will only work if there is no already-existing, more-suitable language occupying that role (or alternately, if a repressive government forces them to switch). Right now the world is learning and speaking English--if not fluently, then at least well enough to get things done. Are you going to be the one to tell them to switch to Newspeak? Well, good luck.”

On this thread (10/12) I posted a recent article http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/education/4080401.stm which seems to endorse your view. However, there is little doubt that the current status of the English language is based upon an unsustainable economic prosperity. Historically, the success of essentially national tongues as common languages has always been based upon economic rather than linguistic factors - even if that prosperity has very obviously come about through religion, as was the case with Arabic during the heyday of Islam. Anyway, the present financial structure of the English-speaking world is a lot more precarious than many people think, e.g. see http://www.financialsense.com/Market/al ... /1217.html (why-oh-why do Americans persist in writing dates as month/day/year - it’s so illogical, and also potentially confusing up to the 12th of each month! I think we need some Bahá’í standardisation on this - as well as on currency, weights and measures etc.!)

And no, Dawu d, I don’t even like the idea of “Newspeak” (if we are referring to the Orwellian idea of a rigidly-controlled language). Brett may think I’m simply being paranoid but I consider it a real possibility. “Newspeak” would correspond to the global contact language ~ pidgin ~ creole progression I have called LangX being halted at the pidgin stage of development. This potential but hopefully avoidable state of affairs might arise if the future world superstate (which Bahá’ís endorse in principle) became too powerful, centralised, and primarily interested in the comfort of its élite. I don’t want to write a dystopia at this point, but anyone who has read Orwell and Huxley, or even if they haven’t but have kept an eye on modern trends, might well imagine this malign scenario and its potentially horrifying consequences for human dignity.

And I think this is just the sort of situation where the UHJ might step in and alter the IAL, many millions of people having joined the Bahá’í Faith amid the tyranny and oppression of the age, and the standing of the UHJ having risen in the eyes of the world as a result.

Antony Alexander    http://langx.org

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Wed Dec 22, 2004 5:03 pm

Brett, you wrote:

“Well, to my recollection, it was only speaking of this principle because that was the question raised, not that it should have higher priority than the others. (Though I personally think there is signficance to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement that it would be the "first service to the world of man".)”

'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement that (the establishment of the international auxiliary language) would be the "first service to the world of man" is indeed very interesting and significant. I think that means "first in time" rather than "first in priority", don't you agree?

I never used the phrase “higher priority”.


“Although you argue persuasively about the plausibility of a reformed Esperanto or new language by your selective highlighting of quotations, I think that the rest of the sentence, both in the beginning and at the end, give added weight to our (still) being encouraged to learn the language....(I've already been pressured enough by Esperantists assisting our campaign to want to learn!...)”

Yes, I used selective highlighting of Bahá'í quotations in
http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html , but only in order to bring out a theme which I feel may have been missed in the past. For instance, anyone who has read “Star of the West” may have seen Rufus Powell’s strongly argued pro-Esperanto article, which selectively quotes the Bahá'í Writings by omitting all references to the language being imperfect and needing to be revised. Sure, that was about ninety years ago, but how much have things changed? I received quite a vehement letter about 25 years ago from a member of the Bahá'í Esperanto League urging me to desist from all thoughts of revising the language and join them in supporting the status quo. Again, his letter was selective in its quotation, and might have been written by Rufus Powell himself. Briefly, I’d say that selective highlighting is fair enough so long as the actual choice of quotations is not selectively biased.


“Anyways, it is clear that it is not for EVERYBODY, but it still advocates as recently as 1986 at least, that the community (at least of Europe) should increase their collaboration.”

I didn’t deny that Bahá'ís are still encouraged to collaborate with Esperantists and learn the language; I merely pointed out that the force of Bahá'í encouragement to learn Esperanto might seem to have declined since the days of 'Abdu'l-Bahá.


“'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements were not meant, I would say, to be an exact taxonomy. For example, just because He speaks of the plant, animal, and human kingdoms, does not mean that scientists considering fungi or cyanobacteria or whatever as being distinct kingdoms is scientifically invalid.

His inexactness on the details is, I would venture, evident in other areas. For example, after describing a system of taxation with specific figures (described in other Tablets with differen percentages), He then states, "What hath been stated is only an example and this doth not mean that it should be enforced exactly in this manner." ('Abdu'l-Bahá, from a Tablet dated 25 July 1919 to an individual believer -- provisional translation from the Persian, quoted in Economics compilation, sel. 10 at http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.compila ... cs.html#10 ).

A linguist's definition of language relates to mutual unintelligibility, and even if you took into account instances of spectra of dialects (which at the extremes were not mutually intelligible) as one language, I doubt you could reduce it to 800. But, I don't disagree there could be some other meaningful classification. 'Abdu'l-Bahá's point of the discussion was not to speak about the number of languages of the world.”


I think you are sailing close to the wind here, Brett, if you consider yourself a Bahá'í. 'Abdu'l-Bahá said 800, not 900 or any other number, and - as you probably know - “Paris Talks” is counted as part of the Bahá'í Writings. Also, you should believe that science - which is essentially nothing but a cumulative series of modified hypotheses - will advance until it confirms the Teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, and not the other way around. And in your economic quote 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that He is only giving an example - so where is the discrepancy?

And although it adds nothing to the veracity of His statement, 800 + languages sounds about right to me. Every people wants to assert its independence and every region its own unique identity. The common delusion that a tongue is a separate language rather than a dialect of a greater language stems from this. Even assiduous efforts to use a different orthography, phonology and set of loan-words cannot disguise a common origin.


“It is a testament to your detachment that you, while holding opinions, are able to revise them as the Writings become available and your consideration of them changes.”

Thank you too, Brett. We’ve always to bear in mind we might be wrong, eh?


“Yes, I do think one could argue that persuasively. On the other hand, one could argue just as well that the inclusion of "invented language" was intended to ensure that the consideration of a perceived neutral solution could draw attention to the issue and bring certain people to the table who wouldn't be willing otherwise. I'm not claiming that this is a strong case, just pointing out another possible side.”

Don’t follow you here, Brett. A new language surely means an invented language by definition.


See the last paragraph in this post on AUXLANG today (Eo = Esperanto):
http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/cgi- ... F=&S=&P=73

"But what all this overlooks is that Eo is not a project anymore. It is a
language, complete with user base and a very extensive corpus. You can
change a project, but reforming a language is generally limited to cosmetic changes. All the other auxlangs may be reformed, but changing Eo other than in some very superficial way would involve putting a gun to probably hundreds of thousands of heads simultaneously."

This is exactly the point I was making about Esperantists not being interested in their language being revised, never mind an International Commission forming a new language.

But if we are faithful to the Bahá'í Writings we have to be open to that possibility.

So I hope you will preserve and enhance the value of your excellent initiative by confirming its Bahá'í roots, whether in a scientific or religious manner - otherwise I fear you may get sucked into an Esperantist orbit, or worse.

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Postby Dawud » Wed Dec 22, 2004 6:51 pm

AA:

I thought the four Mandarin tones were used to distinguish words that would otherwise be pronounced identically.


Yes, that's fair.


The tones are high or low, and level, rising or falling - but there surely has to be a fixed standard sound for the tones to be rising or falling against. So is there any practical or theoretical objection to using that standard sound (without a tonal overlay) as a word - and does that sometimes happen in Asian tongues using tones?


The problem is that without tones, there wouldn't be enough legal sounds in Chinese in order to accommodate the needed vocabulary. Where English has a number of sounds with two or perhaps three meanings, toneless Chinese character strings would end up with many more. You could "homage" a Chinese word by incorporating it into your language, after a fashion, but the result wouldn't be of much help to Chinese speakers.

For comparison's sake, Tibetan has a lot of silent letters which were once pronounced, but started being dropped about 1000 years ago. At the same time they picked up rudamentary tones. All this in a eonomic and political context of shifting away from (newly Islamic) India towards China.

(1) When most words from most languages can be rendered into the same orthography, most of the world's words will become available to the discriminating speaker or writer, who will then be able to choose the best synonym for a particular purpose - for no reason except its sound. In this way the ideal word might emerge - as it has in the past.


You're better off starting with the phonetic dimension, rather than the orthographic, I think. The basic problem is, if you eliminate all the sounds that are "hard" for somebody, you won't have enough.

(Ultimately, for the sake of simplicity there should be no synonyms within the IAL.)


Good luck. Esperanto had the same aspiration, and came up with about twenty words for "gay." Your world state is going to have to police people's linguistic behavior!


(2) A suitable word already existing in a living language should always be chosen in preference to a neologism. The latter might be more logical, etymologically speaking, but only the test of time proves euphony.


Standards of euphony vary a lot. The big problem will be picking which language will contribute which word. What's "book" again?


(3) The extant original form of a word should be used rather than transliterated versions in other languages.



I keep telling people that that cartoon shouldn't be called "Aladin." It's "Allah-i-Din"!

(4) Justice demands that the IAL's vocabulary be selected from all languages.


Goodness, why? One word each from 6000 or so languages? That would help absolutely nobody.

The other side of this coin is the requirement to maximise phonetic range and depth, so as to minimise the number of homographs in an orthographic script.



Well, then you could just use the international phonetic alphabet, with 300 or so different letters. The result of course would be a very difficult language, since you're including all the hard sounds from every other language.

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Postby brettz9 » Wed Dec 22, 2004 8:06 pm

Brett, you wrote:

“Well, to my recollection, it was only speaking of this principle because that was the question raised, not that it should have higher priority than the others. (Though I personally think there is signficance to 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement that it would be the "first service to the world of man".)”

'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement that (the establishment of the international auxiliary language) would be the "first service to the world of man" is indeed very interesting and significant. I think that means "first in time" rather than "first in priority", don't you agree?

I never used the phrase “higher priority”.


Ummm..I wasn't implying it was the first in priority, either. At least in regard to reducing the languages to one only, Bahá'u'lláh gives higher priority to agriculture (Tablet to the World, p. 89 ) On the other hand, I do think that when there is something easy to accomplish and it will have an enormous benefit, that it is wise to prioritize it first. As Bahá'u'lláh states in "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf", immediately before introducing the world auxiliary language: "How often have things been simple and easy of accomplishment, and yet most men have been heedless, and busied themselves with that which wasteth their time!" (p. 137).

“Although you argue persuasively about the plausibility of a reformed Esperanto or new language by your selective highlighting of quotations, I think that the rest of the sentence, both in the beginning and at the end, give added weight to our (still) being encouraged to learn the language....(I've already been pressured enough by Esperantists assisting our campaign to want to learn!...)”

Yes, I used selective highlighting of Bahá'í quotations in
http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html , but only in order to bring out a theme which I feel may have been missed in the past.


I wasn't criticizing your doing this, by the way. That is a good thing to do, I think, to draw attention to forgotten elements of passages.


I think you are sailing close to the wind here, Brett, if you consider yourself a Bahá'í.


Antony, I don't think that is fair to say, especially without undertaking to understand my position further. Moreover, although you may feel that this is not subject to interpretation, only the House of Justice can state so unequivocally. If it troubles you, we can refer to them.

As with Bahá'u'lláh's use of the term "Fourth Heaven", as explained in a letter on behalf of the House of Justice, some writings are written in accordance with the understanding of the people of that time. In the Íqán Bahá'ulláh states that Noah's companions were either "forty or seventy-two" (Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 8). He is not being precisian, nor was His reference to language in the context of an elaboration of the subject:

" * The elucidations of both 'Abdu'l-Bahá and Shoghi Effendi and the clarifications provided by the Universal House of Justice are often not intended to be a comprehensive treatment of a subject but were written as responses to specific queries of believers.

* In attempting to resolve a seeming contradiction between two statements, it is often illuminating to consider each statement in the context in which it appears."

(at http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_reco ... tions.html )


And in your economic quote 'Abdu'l-Bahá says that He is only giving an example - so where is the discrepancy?


As far as the quotation I supplied at http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.compila ... cs.html#10 , He does mention it is only an example, yet He does not make such a disclaimer in the passage at http://bahai-library.com/unpubl.compila ... ics.html#9
And yet that passage mentions that 1/3 of the treasure trove will go to the (Local) House of Justice, whereas in Question and Answer 101 of the Aqdas, Bahá'u'lláh sets it at 2/3. Now, I could be missing something here, but I think it is possible for us to look too closely to the passages in a way that they were not intended.

'Abdu'l-Bahá said 800, not 900 or any other number, and - as you probably know - “Paris Talks” is counted as part of the Bahá'í Writings. Also, you should believe that science - which is essentially nothing but a cumulative series of modified hypotheses - will advance until it confirms the Teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, and not the other way around.


Yes, I have no doubt about this, but we should also keep in mind that there is the "spiritual science" of our understanding of the Writings thesemvles that must also change with time.

And although it adds nothing to the veracity of His statement, 800 + languages sounds about right to me. Every people wants to assert its independence and every region its own unique identity. The common delusion that a tongue is a separate language rather than a dialect of a greater language stems from this. Even assiduous efforts to use a different orthography, phonology and set of loan-words cannot disguise a common origin.


I don't want to belabor this discussion, but my sense is that there are only a few cases where dialects have been considered separate languages for political reasons (e.g., Serbo-Croatian). I doubt that the figure would side with the politics. Now, for Chinese, one could reduce the number somewhat if one gave primacy to the written language.

(By the way, there is a fifth neutral tone in Mandarin Chinese; I'm not sure whether this was clear, also, but tonal languages, which are the majority in the world (including Native American, Asian, and African), do not mark tones by an absolute pitch (though those with such linguistic backgrounds do have a much higher likelihood of having perfect pitch)--the tone is relative to the speaker. Also, though there is a great potential for confusion, in context Chinese can figure out the mixed-up tones used by foreigners, as they are used to many homophones even those with the same tone.)

“It is a testament to your detachment that you, while holding opinions, are able to revise them as the Writings become available and your consideration of them changes.”

Thank you too, Brett. We’ve always to bear in mind we might be wrong, eh?


Absolutely.

“Yes, I do think one could argue that persuasively. On the other hand, one could argue just as well that the inclusion of "invented language" was intended to ensure that the consideration of a perceived neutral solution could draw attention to the issue and bring certain people to the table who wouldn't be willing otherwise. I'm not claiming that this is a strong case, just pointing out another possible side.”

Don’t follow you here, Brett. A new language surely means an invented language by definition.


I meant that the solution could be an existing language, and the discussion of an invented one in our Writings was simply to leave the options open and attract people to the idea who might not have been (initially) with an existing language.

So I hope you will preserve and enhance the value of your excellent initiative by confirming its Bahá'í roots, whether in a scientific or religious manner - otherwise I fear you may get sucked into an Esperantist orbit, or worse.


Well, again, our site attempts to be neutral, and our inclusion of links to other sites should not be seen as an endorsement of all their views. I think that is reading too much into it.

best wishes,
Brett

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Postby Dawud » Thu Dec 23, 2004 2:50 am

Brett:
Now, for Chinese, one could reduce the number somewhat if one gave primacy to the written language.


That's a bit like saying that the number of European languages could be reduced if we focus on the fact that most of them use the Roman alphabet.

The difference between "dialect" and "language" is notoriously murky, and analogous to the difference between "denomination" or "sect", and "independent religion". It's hard to separate out the political element (which insists on conclusions like, Uygur and Uzbek are two different languages, but Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka and Amoy are dialects of just one).

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Postby brettz9 » Thu Dec 23, 2004 4:33 pm

That's a bit like saying that the number of European languages could be reduced if we focus on the fact that most of them use the Roman alphabet.


What I am referring to is the fact that languages such as Cantonese and Mandarin, while having mutually unintelligible pronuncations, did manage to preserve their mutual readability, since the one-to-one correspondence was apparently sufficiently preserved for this to be possible. With the influence of Central Asian languages, I would imagine that the minority languages like Uygur do not have this one-to-one correspondence. I was therefore not referring to reducing them.

The difference between "dialect" and "language" is notoriously murky, and analogous to the difference between "denomination" or "sect", and "independent religion". It's hard to separate out the political element (which insists on conclusions like, Uygur and Uzbek are two different languages, but Mandarin, Cantonese, Shanghainese, Hakka and Amoy are dialects of just one).


Well, though I do not know (anybody know?), I would, again, guess that the former do not have the one-to-one written correspondence (with the meaning preserved), whereas the latter perhaps do...I dunno..

Brett

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Postby Dawud » Thu Dec 23, 2004 7:24 pm

It's like this: neither Stalin nor the People's Republic of China wanted to encourage pan-Turkism, so they insisted on dividing mutually intelligible dialects of what was once called "Turki". Several different orthographies (Roman, Cyrillic, Arabic) have been promoted at different times and places.

The various Chinese languages that I listed are mutually unintelligible, and except for Mandarin and Cantonese, are primarily oral. Writing systems do exist for the others, but are neither standardized nor widely used. You may be thinking of languages like Japanese, which use Chinese characters as part of a very different writing system. In that case a good Western analogy would be to compare two Romance languages--say, Spanish and Romanian.

Back to the original subject, if some world language is going to arise naturally, then why all the bother about an international language council? Is the purpose of the council to simplify or regulate that language which may arise naturally, or to choose between competing systems? (I keep thinking of that international council which chose Ido as the world language.)

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Postby brettz9 » Fri Dec 24, 2004 4:06 pm

My point of languages being reduced if writing was given primacy was that since Cantonese speakers and Mandarin speakers can READ the same script and since their oral languages maintain the meaning correspondences with the characters, they can thus understand, for example, the same newspaper. Since most linguists do not consider writing to be primary, though, this is not a likely solution (and probably not for many other langues, if any).

As far as the need for legislation, I don't think the Bahá'í Writings indicate that a world language will arise fully naturally (though 'Abdu'l-Bahá did encourage that Esperanto should be perfected). I think Antony is maintaining that it may need an official boost later on as it gains momentum but faces obstacles from the establishment. But I think he has even said that the Writings don't state that is WILL happen this way.

Brett

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Postby Dawud » Mon Dec 27, 2004 6:11 pm

While we're mulling over a hypothetical language council, in Taiwan the government is mulling over real-life decisions related to language choice. You probably think your council would be different / better; I'm not so sure.

Some background: Prior to the 1980's, Taiwan was a one-party dictatorship--the one party being the Kuomintang (KMT), which officially claimed to be the government not only of Taiwan but all of China (hence the official name, "Republic of China"). Accordingly it promoted Mandarin Chinese as the official language, suppressing Japanese as well as the other most widely-spoken Sinic language here, known locally as "Taiwanese" (but also as Minnan, Amoy, or Hoklo).

Recently another party, the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) has gained power, emphasizing a more Taiwan-centered political consciousness. To that end they have sought to promote the Taiwanese language. This has exascerbated ethnic conflict between descendents of the "mainlanders," who immigrated to Taiwan with the KMT after World War II; and the "Taiwanese" whose ancestors arrived here several centuries earlier from Fujian province. In addition there are several other ethnic/linguistic groups including the Hakka and various aboriginal languages (which are entirely unrelated to Chinese).

I should mention that this conflict is not violent, but mainly takes place in the political arena. The red / blue division in the U.S. somewhat resembles the blue / green (as they say--KMT being blue) division in Taiwan.

The current linguistic situation looks like this:

Mandarin is the language of education, business, and government. It is spoken by almost everybody under a certain age, and preferred by the mainlanders (at about 15 percent of the population) as well as the Hakka and aboriginals (who distrust the Taiwanese). These also form the core support for the KMT.

Taiwanese is spoken by some 85 percent of the population. Perhaps one-third of these are hard-core supporters of a Taiwan identity, which could include Taiwanese replacing Mandarin. A major drawback is that Taiwanese has not really developed a tradition of writing. (There are several competing systems which few people learn.) The president speaks Taiwanese in his public appearances.

Hakka and about 12 to 20 aboriginal languages are struggling for survival. Young people tend not to learn them, unless they live with grandparents.

The current DPP government, or elements thereof, have proposed the following changes: Making all languages mentioned above "official" (without specifying what this means). Adding questions to the civil service exam, which only Taiwanese speakers would understand (thus rewarding them for their linguistic ability). Requiring Taiwanese and/or the other languages to be taught in school. (Mainlander parents prefer more English and Mandarin instead.) Promoting a single writing system for Taiwanese, and perhaps some of the other languages, based on Chinese characters (a controversial choice) mixed with some romanization.

I apologize for going into so much detail, but this is actually very compact compared to the situation of the entire world. Now imagine that the president were to call a language council. Who ought to be on the council, and what ought they to conclude?

It is easy to say that "neutral", "objective" scholars should make the decision. Such people do not exist in Taiwan, though they could perhaps be imported for the occasion. It is also easy to say the council should have representatives of each language group--the hard part is deciding which of them should concede, and on what points.

Perhaps you will remind me that the Baha'i religion avoids partisan political questions. This would tend to disqualify you from discussing language policy (or ethnic / race relations, for that matter). Or will you postpone the solution for that glorious day when everyone sets aside their differences...? I wouldn't hold my breath on that one.

So, what advice do you have for Taiwan? Based on this we can see whether you're ready to take on the world. (Or would you prefer another example?)

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 27, 2004 7:40 pm

I apologize for going into so much detail, but this is actually very compact compared to the situation of the entire world. Now imagine that the president were to call a language council. Who ought to be on the council, and what ought they to conclude?


Well, as you know this is partiuclarly a sensitive political question, given the question of Taiwan's status relative to the Peoples Republic. I don't believe we can say anything on this, though the Baha'i institutions would surely be amenable to being approached for advice, if that was really sought out.

So, your situation includes this other thorny dynamic. In any case, our Writings suggest that "The only way that society can function is for the minority to follow the will of the majority." and the U.N. Charter, on the other hand, also advocates self-determination, but of course the question then becomes what are the boundaries to be considered (not to mention some degree of preferential representation for the minority, as occurs in all bi-cameral "democracies"). Some in Taiwan might maintain that the island is the border to be considered, and thus they believe that a referendum on that island is a sufficient determiner, whereas many in mainland China/People's Republic consider that they and Taiwan together are the border to be considered for self-determination within themselves (actually semi-autonomy).

As to border questions, the official Baha'i stance also avoids prescribing specifics (again due to our present concentration on avoiding the present-day entanglements which would only disunify our own community), though there have been some general recommendations made to the U.N. on resolving such questions: see here

Now, should any individual or family be automatically allowed to declare their own national sovereignty? I don't think so. So since sovereignty cannot be simply determined by a strictly voluntary basis of an association of individuals on whatever basis, though it is an ideal obviously for self-determination and some degree of autonomy (our Writings condemn over-decentralization at whatever level), these questions are left up to those in authority--national and international.

As with other situations, our Writings may highlight some principles, but they do not get steeped iinto politics, as other groups have done, often to their own moral if not physical demise.

It is our belief that the changing of hearts and their unity at the local level precedes administrative concerns, and really determines them. So, although our Writings state that we would "welcome" such a decision for a world auxiliary language, we do not agitate for it.

It is easy to say that "neutral", "objective" scholars should make the decision. Such people do not exist in Taiwan, though they could perhaps be imported for the occasion. It is also easy to say the council should have representatives of each language group--the hard part is deciding which of them should concede, and on what points.


Though I will not, and believe we cannot answer this for other regions, as far as a world auxiliary language decision, I believe that can be worked out by the various parties.

As it is mentioned above, it is really necessary for the "majority" to ultimately rule, but again, practical politics would also see to it that linguistic/national minorities would have some added say in a decision on a world auxiliary language, but not so much as to override the will of the majority of peoples and countries.

Bascally, this is a question which we hope and trust that world leaders can resolve, particularly if there has been an effective campaign of raising awareness of this idea among the masses as well as leaders. How it is to be done exactly, is simply not for us to answer.

Brett

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Postby Dawud » Mon Dec 27, 2004 8:20 pm

Brett, your link just leads to a statement that there should be some kind of council devoted to studying national borders. It doesn't say who should be on it (or in what proportions), or on what basis they should make their decisions.

The meaning of "autonomy" is profoundly unclear to me. Does it stand for a cluster of rights, or privileges granted from above?

You can already perhaps see why the Baha'i model would not likely be attractive to any group except the majority.

If China / Taiwan is too politically awkward, perhaps the situation of English, Spanish, and so on in California would be less so...? Given that no changes to the political borders or sovereignty are contemplated, and that this is simply a question of identity and practicality.

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Dec 27, 2004 9:13 pm

Brett, your link just leads to a statement that there should be some kind of council devoted to studying national borders. It doesn't say who should be on it (or in what proportions), or on what basis they should make their decisions.


Well, I think it gives some guidance as to the general issues to consider, but no, it does not get into details. However, their statement was addressed to the General Assembly to decide.

The meaning of "autonomy" is profoundly unclear to me. Does it stand for a cluster of rights, or privileges granted from above?


For your first question, I'd ask "In what context?". For your second, "What is the difference?" I would think that rights have to be protected by an authority which in a sense may be "granted from above", but as authorities are to be accountable to the people, this is I think, a false dichotomy.

But, if by your question you are asking in referring to "privileges granted from above" whether minorities will be especially constrained and are fully dependent on the majority, then no, that is not how our Writings envisage an ideal society at all.

You can already perhaps see why the Baha'i model would not likely be attractive to any group except the majority.


Well, any rule that is not by the majority, is either an oligarghy or a dictatorship, and neither of these are too popular with anybody besides the one(s) in charge.

In the Bahá'í system, preferential treatment is nevertheless to be given to the minority (as in the case of a tie vote, and also a general preference to have diverse committees), and the rights of minorities are to be vigorously protected, but ultimately, except where basic rights would be trampled (thus the check on power provided by courts in secular systems, or the Universal House of Justice in the Bahá'í system), any system has to ultimately, I would say, in most questions rely on the will of the majority.

If China / Taiwan is too politically awkward, perhaps the situation of English, Spanish, and so on in California would be less so...? Given that no changes to the political borders or sovereignty are contemplated, and that this is simply a question of identity and practicality


Well, I think the first real order of business, is the world auxiliary language. Trying to solve the problem on a local, state, or national level is not adequate. However, as the following citation from the Bahá'í International Community is not calling here for the reduction of even national languages, it is possible that some countries (or states) would have their own official language or languages while also learning the world one:

In making this proposal, we wish to call attention to the term "auxiliary." The Bahá'í teachings value and promote cultural diversity, not uniformity. At this point in history, then, we do not envision imposing a single language worldwide. Rather, what we imagine is that peoples and nations would keep their own local and national languages -- while at the same time be encouraged to learn a universal language. Certainly such a universal language should ultimately be taught, as a required subject, in all of the world's schools. But this should in no way detract from legitimate expressions of national and local linguistic and cultural diversity.

(Turning Point For All Nations, footnote 17)


As somewhat of an aside, I thought you might also be interested in the following:

We foresee that eventually, the world cannot but adopt a single, universally agreed-upon auxiliary language and script to be taught in schools worldwide, as a supplement to the language or languages of each country. The objective would be to facilitate the transition to a global society through better communication among nations, reduction of administrative costs for businesses, governments and others involved in global enterprise, and a general fostering of more cordial relations between all members of the human family. [18]

This proposal should be read narrowly. It does not in any way envision the decline of any living language or culture.

(Turning Point for All Nations, sec. III.A.4)


But the issue as to whether English should become official or not within states or the country, thereby reducing, at least in the interim, both access (whether for voting, safety, etc.) as well as costs (and the presumable yet perhaps debatable result of promoting the learning of English), is I think a political question (unless our institutions would put forth an opinion). However, for more extreme measures of prohibiting language use on a personal level, thereby violating basic rights, would be surely condemned, while on the other extreme, I'm sure it is recognized that some standardization within a state or country is necessary (e.g., It would not be practical obviously for say the state of California to be expected to publish all of its documents in all possible languages). But beyond that, where there is the grey area--and which calls for open consultation rather than divisive partisanship or political opportunism--I think it is not for us to say.

best wishes,
Brett

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Postby Dawud » Tue Dec 28, 2004 2:55 am

A key problem with a centralized world state is that it would be dominated either by the largest ethnic populations (Chinese and Indians), if voting is allocated that way; or by those parts of the world with the most voting districts (Europe), if each country is to have one representative. Either way, the rulers are unlikely to view the needs of minority languages or peoples with as much concern as the peoples themselves.

Imagine an appeal by Tibet to the world government, for autonomy and cultural protection of some sort. Odds are that the world government would have several Chinese representatives, but no Tibetans. Even under optimal conditions hundreds of years in the future, the Chinese are unlikely to see why Tibet should be protected from them.

If autonomy were couched as a right, then this should not matter. But if autonomy were a privilege, then the world state would have the right to refuse it, and the Chinese would win. That's the difference. It boils down to whether one thinks that cultural protection is more important than cultural ties and economic openness, and on this point Chinese and Tibetans are likely to have opposite viewpoints, even if this happens in some weird future world where both groups have converted to Baha'i.

On the selection of a world auxilliary language, the U.N. has already chosen five and a half official languages (English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic) for its General Assembly, but relies on the first two as working languages. Any vote would pit arbitrary numeric considerations (the number of countries using or supporting x or y language) with power politics (the choices of certain familiar countries being likely to carry extra weight). There is no room in this sausage factory for debate among experts, whoever they may be.

Possibly the E.U. would provide a better model for language selection, since its members are somewhat more collegial towards one another. At 25 members the E.U. recognizes 20 and a half (the "half being Gaelic) official languages. Rather than hire a mathematically impossible number of translaters (Maltese to Finnish?), they obviously rely on certain predictable ones more than others. Many urge choosing one or several of these to serve as the EU's REAL official language(s), if you see what I mean.

Britain prefers English as the E.U's sole official language. France urges two official languages: English and French. Germany supports three (take a guess), and Spain and Italy waver between four and five. The smaller countries tend to support English only, except for the ones bordering Germany.

Now if a decision is made on the basis of one representative per country, English will win, unless the Romance-language countries can pool their support behind a single rival (Esperanto, perhaps!). German might still prevail on a numerical basis, though it has lost a lot of second-language speakers to English. Either way, Finns will be left complaining that their language can no longer be used for anything except calling the dog.

Now I can see perfectly well why it might be in the interest of Finns to support English, or a language council, etc.. However, the fact remains that whatever decision is made will be based on power and money, period. There is no room for utopianism.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sat Jan 01, 2005 5:23 pm

Dawud - Re yours of 22/12 - I think it seems to be generally believed that a new constructed IAL (or the initial stage of a new constructed IAL) will have to dispense with prescribed tones and intonation. So if words from languages such as Chinese (i.e. with intra-syllable tones) are to be included there is certainly a potential problem.

You seem to be quite knowledgeable in this area, so can I pose a question? Are all common Chinese words multiple toned homographs of the “Mama ma ma” (“Mother scolds horse”) variety, or is there a significant number where the word itself is unique (irrespective of its tone) or is a dual-homograph with one meaning much rarer than the other? If the latter case exists I’d suggest that “homaging” a due proportion of such words into the IAL core vocabulary would be a straightforward exercise.

But even if multiple homographs are the norm I don’t see an insuperable difficulty - mainly because people would presumably be quite clear as to whether they were speaking Chinese, say, or the IAL. Thus, knowing that the IAL forbade homonyms, homographs and homophones, it would be quite clear that the Chinese-derived word only had one meaning in the IAL. Similarly, non-tonal languages successfully manipulate homonyms etc. by using context.

And yes, the adopted word would necessarily sound different - though not unrecognisably different - without its tone but, again, I don’t see this as fatal. English words are routinely “moidered” by those oblivious to any orthographic standard - let alone the RP ideal - but who really minds in the face of a sincere attempt at communication? And since no single nation or political tendency will “own” the IAL (however much they might try to) I would expect an even greater latitude in pronunciation at the initial stage.

As Brett correctly stated, most of the world’s languages are tone languages, so there’s obviously a serious issue here. And in addition there are many pitch-accent languages (including Serbo-Croat, Japanese and Swedish) and every variety of stress-pattern. However, it's still widely held that all this might be dispensed with in the case of the IAL, at least at the initial stage. Esperanto places the stress on the penultimate syllable of each word - but for what reason other than the preference of its Polish author?


“The basic problem is, if you eliminate all the sounds that are "hard" for somebody, you won't have enough.”

Agreed - which is why I suggest the 20 consonants identified by UPSID and 5 vowels (“a e i o u”) as a basic minimum. Some peoples will find it a challenge to attain this minimum but mankind is one race and their children certainly have the inherent capacity if cultural reinforcement is forthcoming. At the other extreme, many peoples use a much more precise phonetic differentiation, so there might be moves to restrict a desirably broad phonetic range and wide set of phoneme segments in terms of narrowly-defined allophones. To counter this I would recommend a published IPA chart and associated audio record of the full range of permitted allophones within each of the defined phoneme segments. In theory this would grant a great deal of latitude - no insistence on open or closed, or rounded or unrounded, vowels for instance - but in practice people will mostly use the IAL in order to be understood as widely as possible (otherwise they will generally prefer to remain within their own linguistic ghettoes) so they will learn to adapt their pronunciation (I think it far better - long-term - if IAL pronunciation develops in this democratic way rather than being exactly specified in advance - as in the case of Esperanto vowels).


“Well, then you could just use the international phonetic alphabet, with 300 or so different letters. The result of course would be a very difficult language, since you're including all the hard sounds from every other language.”

Perhaps we could start by asking why nothing approaching the IPA level of phonetic categorisation has been adopted in any of the world’s popular scripts, in spite of the existence of complex languages capable of being divided into a large number of phoneme segments according to everyday usage.


Brett - you wrote (23/12):

“I don't want to belabor this discussion, but my sense is that there are only a few cases where dialects have been considered separate languages for political reasons (e.g., Serbo-Croatian).”

No, I think the point is worth belabouring, Brett. There are not only many recent examples - e.g. Serb & Croat, Hindi & Urdu, Bengali & Assamese, Xhosa & Zulu, Twi & Fante - but countless historic examples - Danish & Norwegian (& Swedish) is not so far back - of dialects being turned into “separate languages” by power politics. Research this further and you will see that 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s figure of 800+ languages is correct.


Dawud - you wrote (24/12):

“Back to the original subject, if some world language is going to arise naturally, then why all the bother about an international language council? Is the purpose of the council to simplify or regulate that language which may arise naturally, or to choose between competing systems? (I keep thinking of that international council which chose Ido as the world language.)”

A good question, in my opinion. And the answer, also IMHO, is that the purpose of the fully representative international council or commission will be to form a new language. I have previously provided quotations from the Bahá'í Writings which seem to substantiate this theory.


Brett - you wrote (24/12):

“As far as the need for legislation, I don't think the Bahá'í Writings indicate that a world language will arise fully naturally (though 'Abdu'l-Bahá did encourage that Esperanto should be perfected). I think Antony is maintaining that it may need an official boost later on as it gains momentum but faces obstacles from the establishment. But I think he has even said that the Writings don't state that is WILL happen this way. “

Well, Brett - what do you think? You’ve seen the quotes. Do they or do they not seem to indicate that a new language will be formed by the international commission?


Dawud - you wrote (28/12):

“However, the fact remains that whatever decision is made will be based on power and money, period. There is no room for utopianism.”

Since language evidently pertains to practically everyone and not just utopians, Dawud, I think you’re on to something here. And if so, you must realise by the same logic that the current status of the English language is on very shaky ground - given the enormous financial liabilities of its two main players, and that the meteoric and apparently unstoppable rise of China will soon begin to manifest itself linguistically as well as economically and politically. 'Abdu'l-Bahá stated that China would be the country of the future - which may arrive sooner than we expect.

....I’m fairly sure I recently read about a massive Chinese purchase of oil reserves in Canada. It’s a certain fact, though, that the Bank of China now permits Chinese citizens to buy gold - a new privilege (or not) of which they are starting to take advantage. We know from the Kitab-i-Aqdas that the global currency of the future will be redeemable in precious metals (the $US is of course the epitome of a fiat currency - backed by nothing except a promise to pay). The Chinese seem to be making all the right political/economic moves, at least.

Anyway, I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: if the mantle of the global language passes to the Chinese for political and economic reasons (not an impossible prospect, at present) they might just find that their language - Chinese (Putonghua) - is totally unsuitable for the purpose. However, it just so happens that “An International Commission” would be likely to adopt - for scientific linguistic reasons - an initial IAL quite amenable to Chinese usage, so a suitable compromise for an initial IAL should be achievable.

However, even though China might be the dominant superpower for a time, the other nations, religions etc. will hopefully be able to contribute a due influence through the dark interregnum before the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh. I designed LangX to be open to such influences.

Happy Old New Year!

Antony Alexander

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Postby Dawud » Sun Jan 02, 2005 8:08 pm

Chinese has a mixture of one-character "words" and two- or more character "compounds." (The definition of "word" is a point of debate.) As an analogy, how many English words are of only one syllable? Most of them if you go by frequency of usage, much less if you look at the word-list in a dictionary.

I recommend John DeFrancis' book "The Chinese Language: Fact and Fantasy," with the cautionary note that not everybody agrees with him on the nature of Chinese writing.

My sense is that Neo-Eo (ha!) might "homage" Mandarin words, but that wouldn't be of much real help to Chinese speakers, who wouldn't necessarily understand that "la shu-o" ("book") was a loan-word from their language. Just as English-speakers don't know that the name of the language "Volapuk" is really derived from English ("world speech").

I would rather see a few hundred characters retained as an optional flourish, say, for artistic or formal writing purposes. That would make the East Asians happier, and wouldn't be such a burden on everybody else.

China's star may indeed be rising (three out of four newsweeklies can't be wrong, can they?) and more and more people are inspired to study Chinese. But the result will just be a different-arranged but similarly-conceived political order. Based on past precedent, rather than Sinic languages spreading, a likely result would be a pidginized English (or other languages?) following Chinese grammar.

On the number of languages in the world, this is a bit like measuring the coast of England--the answer could legitimately vary by whole orders of magnitude, for conceptual reasons. I don't see what's so terrible about Hindu and Urdu, etc. growing apart--nationalist enthusiasms are no more bloodthirsty than internationalist ones, and you could look at this as a kind of cultural preservation.

I've found that most discussions of language policy turn out to be based on dissatisfaction with *other people's* language choices.

P.S. After re-reading AA's question I think I may have misunderstood. Yes, practically all Chinese "characters" are pronounced in the same way as other characters. (The context solves ambiguities.) If we ignore tones, things would be roughly four times worse.

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Jan 03, 2005 12:40 am

A key problem with a centralized world state is that it would be dominated either by the largest ethnic populations (Chinese and Indians), if voting is allocated that way; or by those parts of the world with the most voting districts (Europe), if each country is to have one representative. Either way, the rulers are unlikely to view the needs of minority languages or peoples with as much concern as the peoples themselves.


Our Writings do not proposed an overcentralized world state, by the way. They refer to the ceding of "certain" rights. Its watchword is "unity-in-diversity".

As far as your point about representation, again, the Bahá'í International Community, as with various progressive groups, suggests that the U.N. be made more proportional to population, not to make it absolutely proportional to population. It is only just that more heavily populated states receive a greater say in decisions that will affect more people. However, our Writings, and the iea of federalism which it is promoting (actually it also proposes the commonwealth model be considered--perhaps to emphasize the states' interdepedence?) such as is applied in the U.S., and is being proposed for the U.N., dictates that (nation)state distrcits also receive a somewhat disporportional share (i.e., to prevent their peoples' votes from being flooded by larger populations elsewhere). I think this system of compromise has worked well in the past, and ought to work well in the future.

Imagine an appeal by Tibet to the world government, for autonomy and cultural protection of some sort. Odds are that the world government would have several Chinese representatives, but no Tibetans. Even under optimal conditions hundreds of years in the future, the Chinese are unlikely to see why Tibet should be protected from them.

If autonomy were couched as a right, then this should not matter. But if autonomy were a privilege, then the world state would have the right to refuse it, and the Chinese would win. That's the difference. It boils down to whether one thinks that cultural protection is more important than cultural ties and economic openness, and on this point Chinese and Tibetans are likely to have opposite viewpoints, even if this happens in some weird future world where both groups have converted to Baha'i.


Ok, yes, autonomy is to be a right. But as the Bahá'í International Community also states, there are moral (if not legal) responsibilities corresponding to each right. (e.g., right to marry with one's responsibility to family, etc.). Our Writings also sympathize with the fact that EVERY country oppresses its minorities to some degree. On the other hand, I'm sure even you would find that for society to function, there needs to be some balance between cultural protection (which is strongly encouraged in our Faith, except on a moral level where certain customs conflict with our Writings, and thus, we believe, the opportunity for this culture to harmonize with others and develop its own potential) and cultural ties and economic openness as you put it.

On the selection of a world auxilliary language, the U.N. has already chosen five and a half official languages (English, French, Chinese, Russian, Spanish, and Arabic) for its General Assembly, but relies on the first two as working languages. Any vote would pit arbitrary numeric considerations (the number of countries using or supporting x or y language) with power politics (the choices of certain familiar countries being likely to carry extra weight). There is no room in this sausage factory for debate among experts, whoever they may be.


As I mentioned earlier, I don't think countries would enter into such a gobal decision if they perceived that it would be unjust to them. And this is not a vote to eliminate minority languages! We're only talking abot the democratic choice of a world auxiliary language. I'm sure there will be such a hoopla raised by certain countries that an invented language probably will be the only possiblle deal-breaker. However, even if there were somehow some power politics swaying the decision, what's the big deal, really? I think it is preferable to the U.N. wasting our taxes which ultimately go to it on needless translation.

However, the fact remains that whatever decision is made will be based on power and money, period. There is no room for utopianism.


Perhaps, but to gain sufficient consensus to be implemented by national governments world-wide, it will be based on a kind of balance of power and money, which tends to work itself out, particularly in this case, when whatever decision is made, it will benefit everyone ultimately (even if it could end up giving a RELATIVE advantage to some, but this is assuming that an existing language could gain sufficient support, and if it did, it would mean that a sufficient balance of the world's population was willing to accept this)...

Brett

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Jan 03, 2005 1:07 am

Brett - you wrote (23/12):

“I don't want to belabor this discussion, but my sense is that there are only a few cases where dialects have been considered separate languages for political reasons (e.g., Serbo-Croatian).”

No, I think the point is worth belabouring, Brett. There are not only many recent examples - e.g. Serb & Croat, Hindi & Urdu, Bengali & Assamese, Xhosa & Zulu, Twi & Fante - but countless historic examples - Danish & Norwegian (& Swedish) is not so far back - of dialects being turned into “separate languages” by power politics. Research this further and you will see that 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s figure of 800+ languages is correct.


You are assuming here that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's reference to "language" must be the same as a present-day linguist's definition. As Dawud mentions, you can group languages in an infinite number of conceptual ways. If He was intending an exact taxonomy by His statement, I don't know of any Tablet where He has defined "language" to allow us to make sense of what this is to be...

On a side note, are Hindi and Urdu really fully mutually intelligible dialects? There is quite a bit of Farsi mixed in with Urdu, or no?

In any case, since you are so confident in the 800 figure fitting the current linguist's definition of "language" (if not their objectivity in counting them), I am curious whether you have grouped them yourself to verify this...

Brett - you wrote (24/12):

“As far as the need for legislation, I don't think the Bahá'í Writings indicate that a world language will arise fully naturally (though 'Abdu'l-Bahá did encourage that Esperanto should be perfected). I think Antony is maintaining that it may need an official boost later on as it gains momentum but faces obstacles from the establishment. But I think he has even said that the Writings don't state that is WILL happen this way. “

Well, Brett - what do you think? You’ve seen the quotes. Do they or do they not seem to indicate that a new language will be formed by the international commission?

If it is a new language, then why this concern with a world pidgin preceding it?

All I've seen is that "A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue." (World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 203). Since our Central Figures have left the decision open, I don't feel qualified to restrict it further.

Brett

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Postby Dawud » Mon Jan 03, 2005 3:53 am

Brett:

Our Writings do not proposed an overcentralized world state, by the way. They refer to the ceding of "certain" rights. Its watchword is "unity-in-diversity".


It's hard to imagine anybody advocating an "over-" centralized state, any more than they would declare their religion to be the world's third-best. However the fact is that as a group, you do champion a world government. The question of whether this is "over" centralization is inevitably a point of opinion, divine revelation aside.

I find "unity in diversity" by itself to be a meaningless slogan. When you refer to "certain" rights, this does not make me feel much better. Another issue is, based on what criteria would a group enjoy such "rights"? (Could gays in the Netherlands declare their own autonomous zone?) And who would be deciding / implementing?

All told, I would not trust any world state to do this. While we could imagine ways in which such a system could be made more paletable, I think the superior possibility would be for the various cultures to decide for themselves the degree to which they desire to interact with one another. I'm afraid that your religion often encourages you to think you have the one right answer for everybody...

On a side note, are Hindi and Urdu really fully mutually intelligible dialects?


If you put it that way, English is not fully intelligible with English! Fo' shizzy, peace out.

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Jan 03, 2005 4:16 pm

I find "unity in diversity" by itself to be a meaningless slogan. When you refer to "certain" rights, this does not make me feel much better. Another issue is, based on what criteria would a group enjoy such "rights"? (Could gays in the Netherlands declare their own autonomous zone?) And who would be deciding / implementing?

All told, I would not trust any world state to do this. While we could imagine ways in which such a system could be made more paletable, I think the superior possibility would be for the various cultures to decide for themselves the degree to which they desire to interact with one another.


We are not talking about running the world government. And how would YOU definte cultures? Don't you see that there can certainly be a greater PROTECTION of minority cultures with a world government than under the present conditions? Why did Malcolm X want to bring the case of the plight of African Americans to the U.N. instead of the U.S.? Why are local tribes in Central America appealing to transnational courts for the protection of their cultural rights? Why do lawyers seek to bring cases outside of their immediate area. There can be a greater objectivity (not to mention a greater proportion of those of a minority race) when there is some distance from the situation.

It does not help to speak of cultures as though there is some easy way to define them and say that they can "decide for themselves". Decide what? What defines the culture? Can I define my culture as wife-beating and then apply it with no repercussions to my family? Is this what you want people to decide for themselves without outside "interference"? We are not talking about a world government that will run everything. We are simply talking about the ability for the peoples of the world to express their voices, appeal to, and coordinate on a global scale just as they can and should be able to on local and national scales. So if a nation tries to deprive its minorites of rights, there is somewhere else to turn. That's all.

I'm afraid that your religion often encourages you to think you have the one right answer for everybody...


Yes, we've heard you remind us of this thought you have many times.

take care,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Mon Jan 03, 2005 4:26 pm

Dawud - you wrote, 3/1:

“My sense is that Neo-Eo (ha!) might "homage" Mandarin words, but that wouldn't be of much real help to Chinese speakers, who wouldn't necessarily understand that "la shu-o" ("book") was a loan-word from their language. Just as English-speakers don't know that the name of the language "Volapuk" is really derived from English ("world speech").”

So all the Chinese loan-words which have entered other languages - and will presumably enter the IAL - are unrecognisable to Chinese speakers? What about Chinese words such as “tea, tycoon, kumquat, lychee, chop-suey, chow-mein” which have entered English?

In any case I don’t follow your Volapük analogy. Do you mean that the word “Volapük” is an unrecognisable distortion of “Worldspeech”? It's surely the juxtaposition of two Volapük words: vola = world & pük = language. Here’s a nice scanned edition of the “Volapük Handbook”

http://personal.southern.edu/~caviness/ ... oV/hbv.htm

The name of the author Charles E. Sprague seems to ring a bell. Unless I am mistaken he was one of the early American Bahá’ís featured in “Star of the West”.


Brett - you wrote, 3/1:

“You are assuming here that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's reference to "language" must be the same as a present-day linguist's definition. As Dawud mentions, you can group languages in an infinite number of conceptual ways. If He was intending an exact taxonomy by His statement, I don't know of any Tablet where He has defined "language" to allow us to make sense of what this is to be... “

No. I am assuming that if 'Abdu'l-Bahá says there are 800+ languages, then that is the global number, and that the actual definition of a language might be worked out on that basis.


“On a side note, are Hindi and Urdu really fully mutually intelligible dialects? There is quite a bit of Farsi mixed in with Urdu, or no?”

I’d second Dawud here: dialects are not fully mutually intelligible by definition (“fully” being the operative word). The Farsi loan-words resulted from deliberate “Islamisation”: the newly-Pakistani sector of the Hindustani-speaking population on the Indian sub-continent woke up one day to discover that they were now speaking Urdu.


“In any case, since you are so confident in the 800 figure fitting the current linguist's definition of "language" (if not their objectivity in counting them), I am curious whether you have grouped them yourself to verify this...”

But there is no “current linguist's definition of "language"” - which is why estimates of the number of “languages” in the world vary so widely. And why should I attempt to work the number out for myself, if I have faith in the Bahá’í Writings? No - I am confident that a constantly-evolving science, which is linguistics, will eventually come around to endorsing the definition of “language” (cf “dialect”) resulting from 'Abdu'l-Bahá’s stated figure.



“If it is a new language, then why this concern with a world pidgin preceding it?

All I've seen is that "A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue." (World Order of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 203). Since our Central Figures have left the decision open, I don't feel qualified to restrict it further.”

A pidgin - a historical concept nowadays - was essentially an auxiliary language with simple rules. So if a new language is chosen - i.e. "formed" or "created", as the Bahá’í Writings seem to indicate - it will necessarily start as a "global pidgin" - if we mean by that a basic auxiliary language with no mother-tongue speakers.

And I've just had a new thought - let's look at that quote again: "A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue."

If it were an existing "national" language such as English it couldn't be "taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue" - simply because, in many nations and countless schools, it would be the same as the mother tongue! Did you spot that one before, Brett? I certainly didn't.

Regards,
                          Antony Alexander

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Postby Dawud » Mon Jan 03, 2005 7:22 pm

AA:

What about Chinese words such as “tea, tycoon, kumquat, lychee, chop-suey, chow-mein” which have entered English?


These are good examples, except "tea" (cha, chai) which is not any form of Chinese that I know of. "Lychee" sounds completely different in English than in Mandarin (li-chr). "Chop-suey" I believe is from a kind of pidgin that flourished around Shanghai a few centuries ago. "Chow-mein" is Cantonese, and means "fried noodles." (Does that mean "chow" is going to be the word for "fry" and "mein" for "noodles" in your language, or will you accept the inconsistency?)

Another would be "ketchup" or "catsup," which was originally Cantonese (but unrecognizable in that pronounciation) and means tomato sauce.

"Tycoon" is actually Japanese for a kind of dignitary, and in Mandarin would be "Tai-kong." (A similar example would be "typhoon," which you know, versus "tai-feng, the Mandarin equivalent.)

In any case I don’t follow your Volapük analogy. Do you mean that the word “Volapük” is an unrecognisable distortion of “Worldspeech”?


Yes. "Vola" and "puk" are taken from English, but transmogrified in order to fit with Volapuk's morphology. (Its inventor was concerned that Japanese wouldn't be able to pronounce "r", for instance.)

Brett:

We are not talking about running the world government.


It doesn't matter who runs it, I still don't want one.

And how would YOU definte cultures?


I can't. I think of the process as more Darwinian. Realistically, a culture can only survive if it can protect itself from predators. (Or predate.)

Don't you see that there can certainly be a greater PROTECTION of minority cultures with a world government than under the present conditions?


Who wants to be a minority in somebody else's country? Most people want a country for themselves, where they can live their own way of life--that is, unless some other country has more money.

Which level of the court system one turns to, depends on circumstances. There's no reason to suppose the UN would be more reliable for everybody, or even most people.

Can I define my culture as wife-beating and then apply it with no repercussions to my family?


To be honest, I don't care how you live. Or how your whole country lives. As long as it doesn't affect me. This may seem harsh to you, but unlike you, I refuse to get into the business of running other people's lives, which is what your religion stands for.

We are not talking about a world government that will run everything. We are simply talking about the ability for the peoples of the world to express their voices, appeal to, and coordinate on a global scale just as they can and should be able to on local and national scales.


You are talking about a transfer of sovereignty, so that ultimate power and right would rest with the world state.

Yes, we've heard you remind us of this thought you have many times.


It's a basic objection which you would hear much more often if you listened to people outside the game that you're playing. Do you have any idea how all this talk of world government and never-ending new esperantoes sounds to ordinary people?

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Postby brettz9 » Tue Jan 04, 2005 1:33 am

No. I am assuming that if 'Abdu'l-Bahá says there are 800+ languages, then that is the global number, and that the actual definition of a language might be worked out on that basis.


Though it would be flouting Grice's discourse maxim of quantity, 'Abdu'l-Bahá's 'more than 800 languages' figure could still be technically 6000...

Even if one starts with the 800 figure, this does not lead naturally to any one definition of language (especially one agreeable to everybody). Since we might see all languages as on a spectrum from "Proto-world" (if it literally existed, as our Writings seem to me to confirm), breaking it up is somewhat arbitrary, except to serve a certain purpose (e.g., to group languages together associated with ethnic groups (bringing to mind the national associations as 'Abdu'l-Bahá stating that Afghanistan had always been a part of Persia (Traveler's Narrative, p. 89)), defining a "language" by morphological types, etc.).

“On a side note, are Hindi and Urdu really fully mutually intelligible dialects? There is quite a bit of Farsi mixed in with Urdu, or no?”

I’d second Dawud here: dialects are not fully mutually intelligible by definition (“fully” being the operative word). The Farsi loan-words resulted from deliberate “Islamisation”: the newly-Pakistani sector of the Hindustani-speaking population on the Indian sub-continent woke up one day to discover that they were now speaking Urdu.


I meant "unintelligible" in my original statement, I apologize.

And I've just had a new thought - let's look at that quote again: "A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue."

If it were an existing "national" language such as English it couldn't be "taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue" - simply because, in many nations and countless schools, it would be the same as the mother tongue! Did you spot that one before, Brett? I certainly didn't.


I think there is a reason why the grammarian is picked on in mystical works.... :)

Clearly, as the House of Justice refers to seeming contradictions appearing due to the limits of language (unless perhaps one would insist, as the grammarians did, for the Writings to be turned into legalese), could be an overgeneralization, since the reerence to existing languages presumes that in some cases, there would not need to be an additional language taught.

Brett

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Postby brettz9 » Tue Jan 04, 2005 2:05 am

Dear Dawud,

Who wants to be a minority in somebody else's country? Most people want a country for themselves, where they can live their own way of life--that is, unless some other country has more money.


But if you think that cultures cannot be defined, then doesn't that mean that people will possess multiple cultures and inevitably be a minority in some sense in their own country?

Which level of the court system one turns to, depends on circumstances. There's no reason to suppose the UN would be more reliable for everybody, or even most people.


So, you don't think there should be another level of choice (or opportunity at least) then?

Quote:
Can I define my culture as wife-beating and then apply it with no repercussions to my family?

To be honest, I don't care how you live. Or how your whole country lives. As long as it doesn't affect me.


To pararaphase (or quote?), Martin Luther King, Injustice anywhere soon becomes injustice everywhere. I tend to think that the idea of fully autonomous people is a rather male and mistaken understanding of human beings. I mean, regardless of what you may assert, I am obviously affecting you right now (as you are affecting me) by the fact that you have had to adjust your words and possibly your thinking to engage in this conversation (as with any other conversation) So, if nothing else, if there are a lot of people around you who believe that their culture includes the idea of destroying or denigrating your culture, then it is ultimately going to impact you. A spiritual Gaia hypothesis if you will.

This may seem harsh to you, but unlike you, I refuse to get into the business of running other people's lives, which is what your religion stands for.


If by "running other people's lives" you mean prescribing general patterns of behavior for human beings, then can you honestly say you are not doing the same thing by saying that the idea of this religion is a bad one?

You are talking about a transfer of sovereignty, so that ultimate power and right would rest with the world state.


In certain spheres for power, yes. As with other Constitutions, however, the government is not intended as an end, but a means to the protection of the rights of its citizens.

Quote:
Yes, we've heard you remind us of this thought you have many times.

It's a basic objection which you would hear much more often if you listened to people outside the game that you're playing. Do you have any idea how all this talk of world government and never-ending new esperantoes sounds to ordinary people?


Not sure what you mean by "never-ending new esperantoes". As you know, apparently, we only hope for one world auxiliary language.

The idea of national government was perceived as threatening to a lot of people during the formation of the U.S. as an entity, for example, yet despite a degree of ongoing tension between federal and state levels, most people do not express any desire to be withdrawn from a national union and revert to full state autonomy (in most countries where there has been a modicum of regional autonomy and where unity has been promoted amongst its people). People who do express such sentiments for full state autonomy within the U.S. today are hardly seen as "ordinary".

I understand that fears of overcentralization are very real and in many cases justified, but I do not think this is a problem which cannot be solved to the satisfaction of most such people, once they are assured that the system (and its operation) begins to work in a way where there is a reasonable balance for their legitimate diversity to continue and be even appreciated, just as occurred for the states in this country being welded together.

best wishes,
Brett

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Postby Dawud » Tue Jan 04, 2005 3:57 am

But if you think that cultures cannot be defined, then doesn't that mean that people will possess multiple cultures and inevitably be a minority in some sense in their own country?


I think they are defined through national struggle--through blood, if you will. Any group of fools can start their own country, or religion, or even make up their own language. But in order to fight to keep it, they have to have something else--something I can't define, but which is nevertheless very real.

Whether I appeal to the UN depends largely on whether I think they are likely to support me. They may do so under some circumstances, but in general, I see them as a threat. Anything that encourages nation-states, or elements thereof, to invite UN intervention would exascerbate this situation.

Martin Luther King's appeals to the "international" community were motivated by this--a hope for intervention by outside powers. I don't think a nation-state should allow this. If King thought himself a second-class citizen in the USA, then he and his followers should have been told to immigrate to Africa or the USSR.

You and I influence one another by mutual consent. (Otherwise you are free to ignore this, or anything else that displeases you on the internet.) If we were involved in the same political controversy in the same region, then who knows, perhaps our interaction would take a more coercive form. Certainly others around us will fill these roles, and so we must constantly guard against allowing our enemies power over us.

I do not believe in Gaia. If we influence one another, that says nothing about the nature of this influence--it may be consensual, or coercive, or something more nuanced. In any case nature rewards those who fight for their rights and privileges, not those who wait for others to grant them on the basis of social justice.

I concede that your religion must work well enough for some people, or else it would not have survived so long. What I reject is your pretention to universality. Fortunately your talk of world government etc., seems to be more of a sectarian identifier, and not a serious potential which could impact many other people.

Not sure what you mean by "never-ending new esperantoes". As you know, apparently, we only hope for one world auxiliary language.



Er, sorry--I must have confused you with Anthony Alexander.

The U.S. practice of federalism is not really a good analogy for world federalism, since the U.S. states don't really have separate cultures as do the nations of Europe and so on. In the U.S., inter-group conflict tends to take place along racial lines, and I do expect this to grow much worse in the future. How many white Americans would prefer a lower population of Negroes, or less immigration? The same could be said of Europeans and Muslim immigration, of course. I suppose you think this will dwindle away in the future. I see such conflict (not necessarily racial, it could also take other forms) as a fundamental aspect of human nature. The best solution is the orderly division of our societies into ethnically-based nation-states.

The example I keep coming back to is that of Serbia. The "international community" (basically the U.S.) was offended that the Serbs didn't want to join their trans-national groupings, and so invaded them. We shall see who lasts longest!

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Tue Jan 04, 2005 4:19 pm

Dawud - you wrote, 4/1

“These are good examples, except "tea" (cha, chai) which is not any form of Chinese that I know of. "Lychee" sounds completely different in English than in Mandarin (li-chr). "Chop-suey" I believe is from a kind of pidgin that flourished around Shanghai a few centuries ago. "Chow-mein" is Cantonese, and means "fried noodles." (Does that mean "chow" is going to be the word for "fry" and "mein" for "noodles" in your language, or will you accept the inconsistency?)”

Thanks - and is “kumquat” also reasonably close? And do you now admit that words can be recognisably transliterated from tone languages to “non-tone” languages?

Of course, I am assuming that the IAL (or the initial stage thereof) will not be a tone language - thereby following the dominant consensus among would-be IAL authors, who are themselves mainly products of “tone-free” languages! However, and if the current trend continues, it’s not impossible that China will have more influence on the make-up of the IAL than we might now expect - even so far as the introduction of tones. But I don’t believe that tones would be used in the IAL to differentiate homonyms - they might be used instead as tense markers, or something like that.


OK Brett - how about this quote, which I have just found myself looking at:

"Regarding the whole question of an International Language.... We, as Bahá'ís, are very anxious to see a universal auxiliary tongue adopted as soon as possible; we are not the protagonists of any one language to fill this post. If the governments of the world agree on an existing language, or a constructed, new tongue, to be used internationally, we would heartily support it because we desire to see this step in the unification of the human race take place as soon as possible."

                                                             Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian. (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust.) p.39.

Doesn’t this seem to tell us that “existing language” = “existing *national* language” rather than “existing *new constructed* language”?

I think it does - and therefore seems to confirm that the choice of a (major) existing language would tend to make some Bahá'í quotations meaningless or nonsensical. Let’s look at that one of yours again:

"A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue."

                                                                                “World Order of Bahá'u'lláh”, p. 203

I am wondering whether God is setting us a little puzzle here - to see whether we are paying attention. I surely can’t be the first to notice that the statement would be absurd if an existing mother tongue such as English were chosen.

BTW Brett, I don’t have “World Order of Bahá'u'lláh” and don’t recognise the quotation. Who is it by? It’s unusual in that the “chosen” option is normally given before the “invented”.

Here are some similar quotes:

“According to this each nation should acquire the universal language in addition to its native tongue.”

                                                                                 (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 232)

How could it do this if the universal language was the same as its native tongue?!?

“Each person will require training in two languages: his native tongue and the universal auxiliary form of speech.”

                                                                                (The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 300)

How will this be possible if his native tongue and the universal auxiliary form of speech are one and the same!?!

“The first stage is to consist of the selection of an existing language or an invented one which would then be taught in all the schools of the world as an auxiliary to the mother tongues.”

                                                                                               (Notes: Kitabi-Aqdas, Page 250)

ditto


"We foresee that eventually, the world cannot but adopt a single, universally agreed-upon auxiliary language and script to be taught in schools worldwide, as a supplement to the language or languages of each country."

                                                                           (Bahá'í International Community, 1995 Oct, Turning Point For All Nations)

ditto again. I’m wondering whether the BIC understood the implications of what it was writing here.

And yes, Brett, I’m fully aware of the objection to all this - that the “existing” language would be immediately taken away and modified, and generally prepared for use as the global auxiliary. I even co-authored a book about such an alternative procedure (“Lango” http://bahai-library.com/books/lango). However, as I now realise, that is not an option given in the Bahá'í Writings - in which there are only two alternatives: the choice of an existing language and the selection or formation of a new language (the selection of Esperanto being conditional upon its revision). There is no mention anywhere of an existing language being chosen and then reconstituted prior to its implementation.

So I think we must draw the conclusion that the two alternatives - the choice of an existing language and the selection or formation of a new language - are more apparent than real. (With due qualifications, I suggested possible reasons to this in a previous posting in this thread.)

Moreover, the predictions of a new constructed language appear quite definite, e.g.:

“Therefore appreciate 'Esperanto', for it is the beginning of the carrying out of one of the most important of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh, and it must continue to be improved and perfected.”

                                                                                            Paris Talks p. 162

Thou hast written regarding the language of Esperanto. This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal.
                                                                  
                                                                                                Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol III. p 692


The following quote also seems to suggest that the new language will have a new script:

"Our conversation turned to topics profitable to man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: "You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world.....""

                                                                                                  Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p 137

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Postby Dawud » Tue Jan 04, 2005 8:44 pm

AA:

Thanks - and is “kumquat” also reasonably close?


I have no idea what language that's from. It couldn't be Mandarin.

P.S. I looked it up. One site says it IS from Mandarin, but the Mandarin sounds like "jin ji" or 'jin jie" (golden small-tangerine?) or "jin guo" (gold fruit). Another says it comes from Cantonese, which is more believable to me. That site gives the phonetics as "kam gat shu", which (since "shu" here means "tree") gives us "kam gat."

And do you now admit that words can be recognisably transliterated from tone languages to “non-tone” languages?


Not enough to really help speakers of tonal languages. If "shu" is chosen as the word for "book," a Mandarin speaker would recognize the connection after the fact, but couldn't look at "la shu-o" and reason out the meaning, even if he knew that it was from his own language.

A big problem with tones is that they interfere with the pitches that speakers of non-tonal languages use to indicate grammar or emotion. (Yes. Yes? YES!!! Yes....)

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Postby brettz9 » Wed Jan 05, 2005 4:49 pm

OK Brett - how about this quote, which I have just found myself looking at:

"Regarding the whole question of an International Language.... We, as Bahá'ís, are very anxious to see a universal auxiliary tongue adopted as soon as possible; we are not the protagonists of any one language to fill this post. If the governments of the world agree on an existing language, or a constructed, new tongue, to be used internationally, we would heartily support it because we desire to see this step in the unification of the human race take place as soon as possible."

Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian. (Wilmette, Ill.: Bahá'í Publishing Trust.) p.39.

Doesn’t this seem to tell us that “existing language” = “existing *national* language” rather than “existing *new constructed* language”?


I don't see that it needs to be in such a linear fashion. I would still consider Esperanto a "new" language, even though it TECHNICALLY has been existing for a while. I think that the point being conveyed, in as simple language as possible, is to highlight the possibility of an existing language being chosen (for those who hadn't thought of this as a possibility) and to highlight the possibility of a constructed language (for those who hadn't thought of this as a possibility).

I think it does - and therefore seems to confirm that the choice of a (major) existing language would tend to make some Bahá'í quotations meaningless or nonsensical. Let’s look at that one of yours again:

"A world language will either be invented or chosen from among the existing languages and will be taught in the schools of all the federated nations as an auxiliary to their mother tongue."

“World Order of Bahá'u'lláh”, p. 203

I am wondering whether God is setting us a little puzzle here - to see whether we are paying attention. I surely can’t be the first to notice that the statement would be absurd if an existing mother tongue such as English were chosen.


Can't you allow for someone to speak in generalities with certain things being assumed?? I mean if they are offering the possibility of an existing language, then it should be clear that if that were chosen, some people would simply not have to learn an additional language.

I haven't seen any quotation emphasizing that it will necessarily be "in addition" in every single case.

Does the House of Justice or Shoghi Effendi really have to actually spell out the fact that some people would not have to learn an additional language if an existing mother tongue were chosen? Isn't that obvious? And why would they bother to mention an "existing" language if it did not allow for existing mother tongues? Don't you think it would have been made explicit otherwise that our Writings were only allowing for existing constructed languages (in addition to new ones) if that is the way you see out of this reference to "existing" langauges?


BTW Brett, I don’t have “World Order of Bahá'u'lláh” and don’t recognise the quotation. Who is it by? It’s unusual in that the “chosen” option is normally given before the “invented”.


It is Shoghi Effendi writing (not citing), online here: p. 203.


Here are some similar quotes:

“According to this each nation should acquire the universal language in addition to its native tongue.”

(The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 232)

How could it do this if the universal language was the same as its native tongue?!?

“Each person will require training in two languages: his native tongue and the universal auxiliary form of speech.”

(The Promulgation of Universal Peace, Page 300)

How will this be possible if his native tongue and the universal auxiliary form of speech are one and the same!?!


Again, I think it is simply easier to convey the idea in such a manner without having to sound like a lawyer. I think if anything this is a case of "exaggerated emphasis", a technique Shoghi Effendi said 'Abdu'l-Bahá had used (though I don't think this is a particularly exaggerated statement as much as it is simply expecting the reader to make an inference).

And yes, Brett, I’m fully aware of the objection to all this - that the “existing” language would be immediately taken away and modified, and generally prepared for use as the global auxiliary. I even co-authored a book about such an alternative procedure (“Lango” http://bahai-library.com/books/lango). However, as I now realise, that is not an option given in the Bahá'í Writings - in which there are only two alternatives: the choice of an existing language and the selection or formation of a new language (the selection of Esperanto being conditional upon its revision). There is no mention anywhere of an existing language being chosen and then reconstituted prior to its implementation.


I wasn't referring to this, but I don't think this would necessarily be excluded either.

Moreover, the predictions of a new constructed language appear quite definite, e.g.:

“Therefore appreciate 'Esperanto', for it is the beginning of the carrying out of one of the most important of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh, and it must continue to be improved and perfected.”

Paris Talks p. 162


The second part of this statement, I think, could be simply to gain the experience for the world-wide community to be able to make an informed decision and the first part I think is simply encouragement for an effort being made in that direction.

Thou hast written regarding the language of Esperanto. This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal.

Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Vol III. p 692


Although this is an older translation for which I'd like to see a revised version, I think this is the most persuasive one which you've presented so far. However, this could, I think, still be referring to a modified existing language.

But even if this can be clearly taken to be a prediction regarding the future, it does absolutely nothing to negate the fact that our Writings have left this fully open in virtually all cases when communicating the idea to the public (certainly not in a manner which clearly and consistently precludes an existing mother tongue). Even Bahá'u'lláh Himself insisted it was for the world's leaders to decide. When promoting the idea, if we do anything less than present both options in an open manner, I think it is making us seem partisan, and as I have pointed out before, I think it will cause us to miss out on other people, not initially inclined to a constructed language (or confident in its possibility), being deterred from coming to the table and joining in on the idea of a democratically chosen language. If it will end up happening in a certain way, then God doesn't need us to promote it in the manner predicted, especially if He has not made a practice through the Central Figures of His Cause of promoting it in an exclusive manner.

The following quote also seems to suggest that the new language will have a new script:

"Our conversation turned to topics profitable to man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: "You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world.....""

Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p 137


Again, I don't know how you are explaining away the reference to "existing scripts"...

Brett

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Postby brettz9 » Wed Jan 05, 2005 5:53 pm

Anything that encourages nation-states, or elements thereof, to invite UN intervention would exascerbate this situation.


Well, I agree to some extent to the degree that people have not embraced a world citizenship identity, and to the extent that the U.N. is not perceived as justly structured (veto domination by certain powers, dictatorial and oppressive countries not controlled in any real way by their people having a vote, a total lack of population proportionality, etc.), and where the U.N. is seen as a first stop rather than last stop for local conflict reslution. In many cases, thouh, the appeal to what is seen as the higher authority leads to a resolution of the issue (just as some nations willingly cede judgement along with another nation with which they are having problems to the International Court of Justice). Force is not inevitable when a people have internalized the rule of law (e.g., in the U.S. when the Supreme Court makes a judgement, they have no army of their own to enforce it, yet people have come to accept its decisions).

Martin Luther King's appeals to the "international" community were motivated by this--a hope for intervention by outside powers.


In his case, I think his references to "Injustice anywhere..." was more of a moral appeal to the white majority of the country to realize its interdependence with the welfare of blacks. I suppose you meant Malcolm X, though, where he did want to appeal for some outside intervention.

I don't think a nation-state should allow this. If King thought himself a second-class citizen in the USA, then he and his followers should have been told to immigrate to Africa or the USSR.


Why? He was sadly surely told to emigrate by some bigots in the country, but thankfully enough people had the good sense (often after a good amount of unrest) to change the laws to be more just (including the intervention of the higher national authority which included but transcended the southern localities where there were particular problems in this area)...

By your endorsement of this, does that mean if you are unhappy with your own country's government, that you will be willing to emigrate somehwere else? What if there is nowhere else you want to emigrate? And if you are so strongly defensive of cultural rights, as it seems, what if a culture is not defined by geography? Are you saying they should emigrate to some remote island or something?

You and I influence one another by mutual consent. (Otherwise you are free to ignore this, or anything else that displeases you on the internet.)


To some extent this is true, but you should know from physics that every single atom exerts a force on every other single atom (even our observing of something changes it, according to Heisenberg)...If people were so autonomous, then why would anyone ever CHOOSE to get frustrated with someone else....Clearly human beings are not normally fully capable of controlling their responses...

If we were involved in the same political controversy in the same region, then who knows, perhaps our interaction would take a more coercive form.


Not if I were a Bahá'í remotely worth my words.

Certainly others around us will fill these roles, and so we must constantly guard against allowing our enemies power over us.


Not sure of your meaning here...

I do not believe in Gaia. If we influence one another, that says nothing about the nature of this influence--it may be consensual, or coercive, or something more nuanced. In any case nature rewards those who fight for their rights and privileges, not those who wait for others to grant them on the basis of social justice.


It depends what you mean by "fight", but yes this is true to a good extent; however, convincing appeals for social justice, for example as expressed through the arts undoubtedly can have a "power" of their own", albeit a moral one, and can do much to assure rights as "fighting" can (the latter can also be quite counterproductive when done in an amoral manner if public sentiment rejects and resists it).

A pilgrim's note attributed to Shoghi Effendi admiring blacks for their fighting for their rights. (If they emigrated, they really wouldn't be doing this, I think...)

I concede that your religion must work well enough for some people, or else it would not have survived so long. What I reject is your pretention to universality. Fortunately your talk of world government etc., seems to be more of a sectarian identifier, and not a serious potential which could impact many other people.


Time should tell on both counts...

The U.S. practice of federalism is not really a good analogy for world federalism, since the U.S. states don't really have separate cultures as do the nations of Europe and so on.


Well, they did initially (and still do to a good extent). It took a very proactive effort by Benjamin Franklin
and other "Founding Fathers" to promulgate the idea of national unity amongst the different states (through public education on the subject, etc.).

In the U.S., inter-group conflict tends to take place along racial lines, and I do expect this to grow much worse in the future. How many white Americans would prefer a lower population of Negroes, or less immigration? The same could be said of Europeans and Muslim immigration, of course. I suppose you think this will dwindle away in the future.


I think it will take a lot of proactive effort because, though I think it has in many ways improved, it is also still a great challenge, and in some ways, things can get worse. Shoghi Effendi spoke about the influx of many immigrants in Europe preceding the world war as one of the factors contributing to the war. He also referred to the difficulties that opening the borders would have for those of differing standards of living. We are not blind to these problems, or we should not be; the Universal House of Justice in its Promise of World Peace statement explains that solving these problems requires a candid recognition of humanity's involvement with conflict:
"A candid acknowledgement that prejudice, war and exploitation have been the expression of immature stages in a vast historical process and that the human race is today experiencing the unavoidable tumult which marks its collective coming of age is not a reason for despair but a prerequisite to undertaking the stupendous enterprise of building a peaceful world."

(The Promise of World Peace, emphasis added)



I see such conflict (not necessarily racial, it could also take other forms) as a fundamental aspect of human nature.


To quote this statement again, if you will:

...so much have aggression and conflict come to characterize our social, economic and religious systems, that many have succumbed to the view that such behaviour is intrinsic to human nature and therefore ineradicable.

With the entrenchment of this view, a paralyzing contradiction has developed in human affairs. On the one hand, people of all nations proclaim not only their readiness but their longing for peace and harmony, for an end to the harrowing apprehensions tormenting their daily lives. On the other, uncritical assent is given to the proposition that human beings are incorrigibly selfish and aggressive and thus incapable of erecting a social system at once progressive and peaceful, dynamic and harmonious, a system giving free play to individual creativity and initiative but based on co-operation and reciprocity.

As the need for peace becomes more urgent, this fundamental contradiction, which hinders its realization, demands a reassessment of the assumptions upon which the commonly held view of mankind's historical predicament is based. Dis- passionately examined, the evidence reveals that such conduct, far from expressing man's true self, represents a distortion of the human spirit. Satisfaction on this point will enable all people to set in motion constructive social forces which, because they are consistent with human nature, will encourage harmony and co-operation instead of war and conflict.

To choose such a course is not to deny humanity's past but to understand it....

(Promise of World Peace)


A recent "Scientific American-Mind" issue, I might add, has cited experimental evidence for social or biological tendencies toward cooperation (in the right circumstances), (and moreover even claiming this willingness to extend charity to the whole species to be unique to human beings).

The best solution is the orderly division of our societies into ethnically-based nation-states.


Our Writings, in pointing to the arbitrary borders assigned historically by colonial powers within Africa as a cause of strife there, would I think tend to give some support for this idea. However, adhering to this strictly would not only be undesirable to many ethnic groups which happily live amongst one another, but it would be difficult or even impossible to separate people. With intermarriage (if that is even a fair term given that we all go back to a common ancestry), it is not always possible (not to mention desirable) to make concrete divisions. But in general, I agree, people do want, and work best, when there is some geographical independence for a populous group to control its affairs in a manner consonant with its outlook, temperament, etc.. (This is not to say, however, that borders ought to thus be impermeable or remain in their state forever...)

best wishes,
Brett

Dawu d

Postby Dawu d » Fri Jan 07, 2005 7:23 am

Brett, I object to the world government idea in principle. It doesn't matter what reforms the UN, or any other body, undertook--this would change nothing. People from other cultures cannot represent me.

I think you misunderstand my point about coercion. All law is necessarily coercive, otherwise it becomes mere suggestion. The question of whose laws, whose sense of justice shall prevail, is impossible to answer in the abstract, and boils down to the result of worldly struggle. (You Baha'is see your laws and authorities as laid down by God, but to me, they look suspiciously like the random outcomes of wordly power-struggles.)

All communities must struggle for power, otherwise they disappear. If they give in to the demands of outsiders, this is a recipe for cultural annihilation. The U.S. is already experiencing this (and I see M L King in this context). It has become more of a multinational empire than a nation-state properly so-called. Other countries, such as Serbia, continue to resist, and preserve their way of life for themselves and their children.

Is it so much to ask simply to be left alone, to follow one's own culture without interference? This probably makes you think of wife-beating or whatnot. I look at it this way. I don't agree with how my neighbors raise their children, but I do not want to raise them in their place. And I would not want a government which intruded into our lives enough to try to protect us from "unfairness." Love is unfair, and yet, no one cries out for the government to regulate it.

And who will regulate the world state when it is unfair? Who watches the watchmen?

No, I do not suppose that immigration to another country would be a realistic option for every malcontent. But the world does not owe us a place where we can be happy. Instead, it is our responsibility to make one for ourselves. And this means being able to protect it as well. (I do not think it is realistic to expect to always be able to do so nonviolently.) Whether nation-states or a Baha'i model prevail will, too, be the result of struggle. (Of course the Baha'is are just one more competing group, rather than a trans-group principle as you sometimes paint yourselves.)

I see human beings as having both cooperative and competitive tendencies. Both serve useful purposes, depending on the circumstances. Your religious history illustrates this very well.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Mon Jan 10, 2005 4:33 pm

Thanks for your reply, Brett. You are concerned to point out that the matter is by no means certain, and could turn one way or the other. Essentially I have to agree with this since “God doeth whatsoever He willeth”. However, as with all wholly or partly mundane issues, I think the question can be framed in terms of probabilities. Clear-cut spiritual issues pertaining to the Divine realm and the progress of the soul can be affirmed one way or the other with total assurance, but those such as this which are conditional upon the vagaries of world opinion cannot be treated likewise. The pre-knowledge of God is definite, of course, but from our perspective there must be a measure of doubt.

With that in mind, I should like to offer an apology for overstating the case in my last posting. Although I still regard the probability of a new constructed language being selected for the IAL as approaching 100%, I must admit to getting rather carried away by a new insight apparently confirming this, and consequently to using the sort of expression not really appropriate when discussing the Word of God.

Having said that, I would wish to comment on your reply, Brett. You wrote:

“Can't you allow for someone to speak in generalities with certain things being assumed?? I mean if they are offering the possibility of an existing language, then it should be clear that if that were chosen, some people would simply not have to learn an additional language.

I haven't seen any quotation emphasizing that it will necessarily be "in addition" in every single case.

Does the House of Justice or Shoghi Effendi really have to actually spell out the fact that some people would not have to learn an additional language if an existing mother tongue were chosen? Isn't that obvious? And why would they bother to mention an "existing" language if it did not allow for existing mother tongues? Don't you think it would have been made explicit otherwise that our Writings were only allowing for existing constructed languages (in addition to new ones) if that is the way you see out of this reference to "existing" langauges?”


Yes, your interpretation is by no means impossible, but still unlikely in my view (i.e. from the perspective of human probability). ‘Abdu’l-Bahá advised us to study the Bahá’í Writings “word by word”, and I think you’d agree that redundancy, ambiguity and inconsistency are notable by their absence therein. Thus, if ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has repeatedly used a word or phrase which has been translated as “mother tongue”, I think there is a strong probability that a new constructed language was intended (for the reason I overstated in my last posting).

Just now I have looked through most of Bahá’u’lláh’s quoted Writings re the international language issue, since I didn’t remember Him using the expression “mother tongue”. And I discovered something very interesting - at least to myself. It will be "old hat" to those who know the Bahá’í Writings well, but it was certainly a new one on me. I refer to the following quote from His “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf”:

“Our conversation turned to topics profitable to man. He said that he had learned several languages. In reply We observed: "You have wasted your life. It beseemeth you and the other officials of the Government to convene a gathering and choose one of the divers languages, and likewise one of the existing scripts, or else to create a new language and a new script to be taught children in schools throughout the world. They would, in this way, be acquiring only two languages, one their own native tongue, the other the language in which all the peoples of the world would converse. Were men to take fast hold on that which hath been mentioned, the whole earth would come to be regarded as one country, and the people would be relieved and freed from the necessity of acquiring and teaching different languages." When in Our presence, he acquiesced, and even evinced great joy and complete satisfaction. We then told him to lay this matter before the officials and ministers of the Government, in order that it might be put into effect throughout the different countries. However, although he often returned to see Us after this, he never again referred to this subject, although that which had been suggested is conducive to the concord and the unity of the peoples of the world.

We fain would hope that the Persian Government will adopt it and carry it out. At present, a new language and a new script have been devised. If thou desirest, We will communicate them to thee. Our purpose is that all men may cleave unto that which will reduce unnecessary labor and exertion, so that their days may be befittingly spent and ended. God, verily, is the Helper, the Knower, the Ordainer, the Omniscient.”

                                                                                       (Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Pages 137-139)

Brett - Do you notice anything particularly different about this passage when compared with His other quoted Writings on the subject? Well - it seems to be unique (at least among Bahá'u'lláh's translated Writings I am aware of ) in that there is a reference to “native tongue” (cf “mother tongue”), and the corresponding inference - and explicit statement in this case - that the international language would be of the new constructed variety (whether or not Esperanto was being specifically referred to).

And it’s surely of interest in this connexion that “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” was - if memory serves - Bahá'u'lláh's last major Tablet. Is it possible, then, that He changed His mind on this issue - as He evidently did with regard to the languages being reduced to one?

Once the kings and rulers had refused “The Most Great Peace” by rejecting the Divine Summons, and mankind thenceforth had no alternative but “The Lesser Peace”, was there also a corresponding switch from first to second alternative in the type of international language - even as the “First Will” had been rejected for the “Second Will” in the realm of polity?

And did Bahá'u'lláh have Arabic in mind as the universal language of “The Most Great Peace”. His "Tablet of the International Auxiliary Language and Script" seems to suggest the possibility, I would think. For some reason I can’t now find the provisional translation of this Tablet previously obtainable on this site, but here is Adib Taherzadeh's accurate summary:

 "In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh praises the Arabic language for its expressiveness and eloquence, and remarks that no other language can match its vast possibilities. He further states that God would be pleased if all the peoples of the world were to speak the Arabic language. But he does not require humanity necessarily to adopt it as the international language; rather He leaves the choice to the appropriate institutions."

                                                                                Adib Taherzadeh "The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh", Vol 4, p 160


Anyway, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated that the international language would not be Arabic:

“He was invited later to the Golden Circle Club where He was asked whether Arabic might become the universal language. He said that it would not. He was then asked about Esperanto. He replied:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter from New York to one of the promoters of Esperanto telling him that this language could become universal if a council of delegates chosen from among the nations and rulers were established which would discuss Esperanto and consider the means to promote it.”

   Golden Circle Club, Boston 24 July 1912 "Mahmúd's Diary" p 179 - 180 ("Mahmúd's Diary" is counted as Baha'i Scripture)


It might also be noted that this meeting was similar to every recorded public occasion whereon He mentioned the international language issue, inasmuch as the constructed language alternative was the only one expounded and elaborated upon.

How many times did ‘Abdu’l-Bahá publicly discuss English, or French, or some other major existing language as a possible candidate for the IAL? Not at all, so far as I am aware! On the contrary, on every occasion he focussed on at least one of four main themes:

(1) the excellence of Esperanto within certain limits

(2) the defects of Esperanto as a universal solution, and the consequent need for it to be revised

(3) the necessity for the issue to be resolved by a repesentative international committee

(4) some hints for the said committee in forming a new language

And let’s not forget that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is the Authorised Interpreter of the Bahá’í Faith. So it’s not really correct to imply that the IAL question is 50 / 50, or completely undecided, based only on Bahá’u’lláh’s early Writings. On the contrary - any acquaintance with ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s Writings and recorded utterances will conclusively demonstrate that His favoured option is a new constructed language. And I am suggesting the possibility that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is hereby following and interpreting Bahá’u’lláh’s final guidance on the matter, as set out in “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf”.

As you well know, Brett, one of the most curious features of this entire question is that the very quotation which would put the matter almost beyond dispute has had doubts expressed concerning its authenticity:

"The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost", he answered, "but no one person can construct a Universal Language. It must be made by a Council representing all countries, and must contain words from different languages. It will be governed by the simplest rules, and there will be no exceptions; neither will there be gender, nor extra and silent letters. Everything indicated will have but one name. In Arabic there are hundreds of names for the camel! In the schools of each nation the mother tongue will be taught, as well as the revised Universal Language."

                                                                                                        "'Abdu'l-Bahá in London", p 94

In fact it was you yourself who referred to “'Abdu'l-Bahá in London” as "Pilgrim's Notes" in an email to my friend and colleague Prof. Bruce Beach some years ago; and since the Universal House of Justice has approved the Bahá'í Publishing Trust's statement that the translation of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's words cannot be verified, because the original is no longer available, this is fair comment. However, in view of this quotation's potential importance, it might also be borne in mind that the expression "Pilgrim's Notes" covers a spectrum of material from the dubious to the very probably authentic, and that "'Abdu'l-Bahá in London" was published in 1912, well within 'Abdu'l-Bahá's lifetime, and was presumably the object of close attention, given that not much Bahá'í literature was then translated into English. Moreover, Lady Blomfield, the compiler of "'Abdu'l-Bahá in London" and "Paris Talks", was an intimate friend of 'Abdu'l-Bahá and His family, as testified by her book "The Chosen Highway". Did anyone object at the time that the text of "'Abdu'l-Bahá in London" was inauthentic in any way?

Also, there is the following extract from a letter by Mirza Ahmad Sohrab, dated 17 December 1912:

This morning 'Abdu'l-Bahá spoke about America and the probability of his return to that country. He said: "God willing! If I go to America another time I will go differently; but it is very difficult. This first trip was made with great exertion." As I was reading one of his addresses delivered in America, he said it would be well if all his addresses in that country could be printed in one or two volumes. At present, he declared, they are all scattered and not collected. He called attention to how quickly the Paris and London addresses delivered last year were printed; and this was done through one woman, Lady Blomfield. Some one mentioned the name of a prominent wealthy woman and he said: "One of these poor, sincere and honest women is more beloved by me than a thousand millionaires; just now this Lady Blomfield is dearer to me than all the queens of the world."

Where do we go from here? You might counter that Ahmad Sohrab is unreliable, but then I might point out that “’Abdu'l-Bahá in London” is published by the Bahá’í Publishing Trust and that part of the quote at issue is in Esslemont’s “Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era”.

And in any case there are a number of wholly authentic quotations which corroborate some of the listed details, such as that the new constructed language should be

“.........a new language made up of words from all the languages......”
                                                             
                                                                                        "'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy", p 84


As I have mentioned previously on this thread, it might well be asked: why do the Bahá’í Writings consistently give a choice between two alternatives, if only one is going to happen.

My guess is that this is following the alternatives given by Bahá’u’lláh, in respect to His station as Manifestion of God, and also through Divine Wisdom. For instance, I suppose it is still possible in this world for a nation to borrow colossal amounts of money on the basis of future tax receipts from its citizens, bilateral trade agreements, military services rendered and the like. (Unfortunately we are still some distance from the type of universal treaty outlined in “Promise of World Peace”.) Therefore it might even be possible for a certain nation or group of nations to impose their language on the world. However, such an imposition could never be more than temporary, for the human spirit would resist it. A commonly-held association between the constructed language movement and the Left might be another reason why Divine Wisdom has retained alternatives in this matter.

Guest

Postby Guest » Wed Jan 12, 2005 5:02 am

I found a Baha'i book from 1923 (!) in which Abdul-Baha is quoted as basically endorsing Esperanto. He urges everyone to use it and promote it, and seems to basically assume that Esperanto = the International Auxillary Language. At least here.

Maybe he changed his mind (before or after?), maybe there is some kind of context, maybe the author misquoted him. I dunno. I'll copy the relevant passages in a few days.

Just out of curiosity, did he ever say what the defects of Esperanto were, that need to be corrected?

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Postby brettz9 » Wed Jan 19, 2005 12:56 am

As far as the defects of Esperanto, the only one I know of in which He specifically refers to it is:

"Esperanto has been drawn up with this end in view: it is a fine invention and a splendid piece of work, but it needs perfecting. Esperanto as it stands is very difficult for some people.

An international Congress should be formed, consisting of delegates from every nation in the world, Eastern as well as Western. This Congress should form a language that could be acquired by all, and every country would thereby reap great benefit. "

(Paris Talks, p. 156)


Antony, again, I think that such quotations as the Epistle to the Son of the Wolf one you cited could be referring to a _relatively_ new (or revised) language.

As far as changing His mind, I don't see this happening at all, including with the languages being reduced to one. He, as Shoghi Effendi mentions, intended this reduction of languages to one for a distant future, as opposed to the auxiliary language which was an immediate need.

If you find the provisional translation of the Tablet on the auxiliary language, please let me know. As far as what language He had in mind, it seems that He had invented one Himself (see here and here) which unfortunately, no one asked Him about! I guess Arabic was the next best choice! :)

'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement could possibly be referring to the fact that the AUXILIARY language would not be Arabic, especially since that seems to me to be the context.

I don't think discussing any existing language would be very neutral from the perspective of promoting the concept before a decision would be ready to be made.

As far as probability, I really do not feel that I can judge whether it is 50/50 or not or ascertain the reason why either existing or invented languages were discussed. And even if the 'Abdu'l-Bahá in London quote is accurate, that is only a PREDICTION, and it is not, I would say, a proscription for how we should normally advocate the principle.

As far as your statements attempting to buttress the degree of the reliability of this work, I included your argument in our wiki site (now off-line) for that book, as I thought they were quite helpful.

As far as 'Abdu'l-Bahá on Divine Philosophy, this is NOT a reliable translation (see the notes at the top of the page on site here), but yes, it is another interesting reference.

take care,
Brett

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Postby brettz9 » Wed Jan 19, 2005 1:38 am

Brett, I object to the world government idea in principle. It doesn't matter what reforms the UN, or any other body, undertook--this would change nothing. People from other cultures cannot represent me.


Have you not settled on an arbitrary definition of culture then?

Can people from outside of your city/province belong to a collective national body (including representtaive(s) from your city/province) which represents you? If so, then why don't you object that the other representatives from outside your city/province can't represent you? Or beyond your neighorhood, etc....Certainly there are differences of culture geographically on whatever scale you look, so unless you reject any kind of republican system, one necessarily accepts that someone from another "culture" will represent them (and will work with others from even more distant "cultures" to represent the greater unit).

I think you misunderstand my point about coercion. All law is necessarily coercive, otherwise it becomes mere suggestion. The question of whose laws, whose sense of justice shall prevail, is impossible to answer in the abstract, and boils down to the result of worldly struggle.


As far as the issue of power, I highly recommend section 6 of the document already cited earlier in our discussion for a nice discussion of power in its other manifestations of means to influence (i.e., it is not only about laws, e.g., the power of persuasion). I'm not sure what kind of issues you'd think would lead to something more combative. Bahá'ís are pretty agreeable unless you aim to force us to recant our Faith or to deny us our basic rights, and in the latter case, we would simply aim to exhaust legal national, and if necessary, international means to support our community. I don't think this is a big problem for anyone besides certain clergy who fear that we might succeed in winning others to our beliefs through persuasion if our interaction is unchecked by a lack of outside intimidation.

I also might point out that there are also "coercive" spiritual laws (which are voluntary from the community perspective) which foretell a penalty in the future or the next world (e.g., par. 97 of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas in enjoining Huqúqu'lláh, spiritually obligatory tithes which cannot even be accepted by the official representative if it is sensed that it is given without full willingness, mentions in the context of this law that God will deal faithlessly with him who deals faithlessly with God).

But back to the main thrust of this particular discussion, although Bahá'ís do foresee greater numbers of people accepting our Faith and eventually, through constitutional means, incorporating this gradually into law, we do not aim to "coerce" even at this level, particularly for religious minorities, whom would certainly be judged on a different standard (except for offenses any secular government would deal with such as murder, etc.).

All communities must struggle for power, otherwise they disappear. If they give in to the demands of outsiders, this is a recipe for cultural annihilation.
The U.S. is already experiencing this (and I see M L King in this context). It has become more of a multinational empire than a nation-state properly so-called. Other countries, such as Serbia, continue to resist, and preserve their way of life for themselves and their children.


Can you give some concrete examples of how you see Serbia aiming to preserve their way of life? Are you talking about some desire to forcibly "purify" themselves from Muslims?

Isn't it possible that while certain tribal customs may be lost (how far back do you want to preserve or resurrect your "culture"?), if it is not done forcibly, one can transmit the essence of one's culture to posterity even if the form does not remain the same?

Is it so much to ask simply to be left alone, to follow one's own culture without interference? This probably makes you think of wife-beating or whatnot. I look at it this way. I don't agree with how my neighbors raise their children, but I do not want to raise them in their place. And I would not want a government which intruded into our lives enough to try to protect us from "unfairness." Love is unfair, and yet, no one cries out for the government to regulate it.


Divorcees might disagree with this, but...

No one is talking here about interfering to a degree which has some legitimate cultural nuance. For example, spanking might occur in some cultures and in other cultures not. And an outsider should not attempt to impose their view of parenting to the degree of imposing such a law on others. However, I think we could (hopefully) agree that extremely aggressive behavior toward a family member (such as genuine beating) should be interfered with. Are you against the notion of police? I would hope that, for your sake, if the mayor of your town (if you accept him as being from your "culture") decided to grossly oppress the basic rights of his citizens, that another force, ideally of greater proximity to your own culture (e.g., a nationwide force rather than international) (ideally for the sake of decentralization), would come to assist you.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was passed without dissent at the time of its passing, and which has been supported by further Covenants, serves as a good basis for general guidelines which are accepted as rights for all, yet which allow for some flexibility in local interpretation.

And who will regulate the world state when it is unfair? Who watches the watchmen?


Who watches a national government? There is a balance of powers within that government (at least a secular government). There would be a World Court and a World Parliament as well as a World Executive. Not to mention the likely fourth "branch", the media (and NGO's).

No, I do not suppose that immigration to another country would be a realistic option for every malcontent. But the world does not owe us a place where we can be happy. Instead, it is our responsibility to make one for ourselves. And this means being able to protect it as well. (I do not think it is realistic to expect to always be able to do so nonviolently.) Whether nation-states or a Baha'i model prevail will, too, be the result of struggle. (Of course the Baha'is are just one more competing group, rather than a trans-group principle as you sometimes paint yourselves.)


As far as your latter point, I think our Writings would agree with both assessments. There is a common culture, and we clearly do encompass people who have and maintain differing ways of life.

As far as your latter point about owing us, although as per the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and especially the covenant on Social, Economic, and Cultural rights, there is some duty of society to provide for its members (as well as protect them), e.g., public education, yes, it is up to us to a large degree to make our own happiness.

As far as nation-states, we are not talking about abandoning them. But yes, we too, think it will unfortunately largely come about through suffering, just as the U.N. came about after two horrendous world wars.

I see human beings as having both cooperative and competitive tendencies. Both serve useful purposes, depending on the circumstances. Your religious history illustrates this very well.


Yes, it does. Our Writings do not reject competition, they only reject that it is manifested with arrogance or attacks of others.

best wishes,
Brett

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Jan 20, 2005 8:29 am

Here it is (Abdul-Baha on Esperanto). This is from a book called "Unity Triumphant" by Elizabeth Herrick (London: Unity Press, 1923) and records a speech by Abdul-Baha before the Paris Esperanto Group on Feb 12, 1913.

After praising the idea of a universal auxilliary language, and using Arabic as an example from a previous period of history, he goes on:

"Praise be to God that Dr. Zamenhof has constructed the Esperanto language. It has all the potential qualities of universal adoption. All of us must be grateful to him that in his noble efforts in this matter he has served his fellow man well. He has constructed a language which will confer divine benefits on all peoples. With untiring effort and self-sacrifice on the part of its devotees it gives promise of universal acceptance.

"Therefore every one of us should study this language and make every effort to speak it, so that each day it may receive a wider recognition, be accepted by all nations and Governments of the world, and become a part of the curriculum in all the public schools. I hope that the business of the future conferences and congresses will be carried on in Esperanto. In the future two languages will be taught in the schools, one the native tongue, and the other the International Auxilliary Language." (pp. 70-71)

He then mentions his previous request for teachers of Esperanto to travel to Persia.

I notice the "potential" from the second sentence could be interpreted in several ways: as referring to the potential of the language in having all the necessary characteristics to be adopted as the UAL, or the political / social potential of the people to adopt it as the UAL. For example, possibly he supported Esperanto as the UAL, but not that it has failed, would support some new choice. Just a thought.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Thu Jan 20, 2005 4:54 pm

Brett, you write:

“As far as the defects of Esperanto, the only one I know of in which He specifically refers to it is:

"Esperanto has been drawn up with this end in view: it is a fine invention and a splendid piece of work, but it needs perfecting. Esperanto as it stands is very difficult for some people.

An international Congress should be formed, consisting of delegates from every nation in the world, Eastern as well as Western. This Congress should form a language that could be acquired by all, and every country would thereby reap great benefit. "

                                                                                               Paris Talks, p. 162

But at the end of this Talk He said:

“Therefore appreciate 'Esperanto', for it is the beginning of the carrying out of one of the most important of the Laws of Bahá'u'lláh, and it must continue to be improved and perfected.”

                                                                                                Paris Talks p. 162

Also, are there not a number of other quotes of the same import? e.g.

"We must endeavour with all our powers to establish this international auxiliary language (Esperanto) throughout the world. It is my hope that it may be perfected through the bounties of God and that intelligent men may be selected from the various countries of the world to organize an international congress whose chief aim will be the promotion of this universal medium of speech."

                                                                                Washington, 25 April 1912   Promulgation of Universal Peace, p 61

"Thou hast written regarding the language of Esperanto. This language will be spread and universalized to a certain degree, but later on a language more complete than this, or the same language will undergo some changes and alterations and will be adopted and become universal."
                                                                                          "Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá", Vol III. p 692

"The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost", he answered, "but no one person can construct a Universal Language. It must be made by a Council representing all countries, and must contain words from different languages. It will be governed by the simplest rules, and there will be no exceptions; neither will there be gender, nor extra and silent letters. Everything indicated will have but one name. In Arabic there are hundreds of names for the camel! In the schools of each nation the mother tongue will be taught, as well as the revised Universal Language."

                                                                                                "'Abdu'l-Bahá in London", p 94 (see previous qualification)



“If you find the provisional translation of the Tablet on the auxiliary language, please let me know.”

I’ve just had another look, Brett, but still can’t find the provisional translation of “The Tablet of the International Language and Script” on this site. Either I’m looking in the wrong place or the item has been removed. I know it was here a few years ago because I printed off a copy. However, locating that among my voluminous files might take a long time, and in any case there is presumably a reason why this provisional translation has been withdrawn (if that is what has happened). From memory, the translator was Stephen Lambden, and the Tablet didn’t contain anything startlingly new - in fact Adib Taherzadeh summarised it well:

“In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh praises the Arabic language for its expressiveness and eloquence, and remarks that no other language can match its vast possibilities. He further states that God would be pleased if all the peoples of the world were to speak the Arabic language. But He does not require humanity necessarily to adopt it as the international language; rather He leaves the choice to the appropriate institutions.

                                                                               “The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh”, Vol 4, Page 160

And I think a quote just before this from Adib Taherzadeh’s book would help in providing an answer to your comment re the following excerpt from “Mahmúd's Diary”:

“He was invited later to the Golden Circle Club where He was asked whether Arabic might become the universal language. He said that it would not. He was then asked about Esperanto. He replied:

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter from New York to one of the promoters of Esperanto telling him that this language could become universal if a council of delegates chosen from among the nations and rulers were established which would discuss Esperanto and consider the means to promote it.”

                                                            Golden Circle Club, Boston 24 July 1912 "Mahmúd's Diary', p 179 - 180”

                
“'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement could possibly be referring to the fact that the AUXILIARY language would not be Arabic, especially since that seems to me to be the context.”

Yes, I agree - since the word “universal” is here being applied to both Arabic and Esperanto in a way that confirms that a universal AUXILIARY language is the context.

But I think you’re implying that the SINGLE universal language of the distant future might be Arabic, am I right? Anyway, it’s an interesting idea, and nothing I have seen in the Writings would seem to rule it out.

Indeed, Adib Taherzadeh’s summary might appear to place Arabic above all other languages:

“In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh praises the Arabic language for its expressiveness and eloquence, and remarks that no other language can match its vast possibilities. He further states that God would be pleased if all the peoples of the world were to speak the Arabic language.”

But just before this Adib Taherzadeh writes:

“It is interesting to note that in the Tablet of Bisharat Bahá'u'lláh enjoins upon the governments of the world to adopt the international language. These two statements, which seem to be contradictory, may be regarded as two different stages in bringing about a world auxiliary language. The first stage will be the adoption of a universal language by the governments, while the second will have to wait until such time that the Universal House of Justice has emerged as the supreme institution of the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and its authority is recognized. It is only then that it can possibly reconsider the choice of the language so as to either retain the one chosen by the governments or alter it altogether.

                                                                        “The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh”, Vol 4, Page 159

to my mind this means that the UHJ will either retain (confirm) the AUXILIARY language chosen by the governments or alter it (exchange it for another AUXILIARY language). Or do you think the UHJ will be in a position to impose a SINGLE language on the world? Anything is possible, and I certainly wouldn’t rule that out. From historical precedent I don’t happen to favour the idea of a language being imposed (which is why I have suggested an alternative means, as outlined in my website http://langx.org ) but maybe I’m wrong. Anyway, God can do whatever He wants, and the UHJ is His mouthpiece in this Day.



Guest - You’re very fortunate to have a copy of "Unity Triumphant" by Elizabeth Herrick! This must be a rare and possibly quite valuable book. A while ago Jonah was looking for someone to transcribe it on to this site - I guess that’s the only way most of us would ever get to read it!

The quote was formerly in “Star of the West” and I included the following longer extract in http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html

“.....Praise be to God, that Dr Zamenhof has created the Esperanto language. It has all the potential qualities of universal adoption. All of us must be grateful and thankful to him for his noble effort, for in this matter he has served his fellowmen well. He has constructed a language which will bestow divine benefits on all peoples. With untiring efforts and self-sacrifice on the part of its devotees it gives promise of universal acceptation. Therefore everyone of us must study this language and make every effort to spread it so that each day it may receive a wider recognition, be accepted by all nations and governments of the world and become a part of the curriculum in all the public schools. I hope that the business of the future conferences and congresses will be carried on in Esperanto. In the future two languages will be taught in the schools, one the native tongue, the other the international auxiliary language. Consider today how difficult is human communication. One may study 50 languages and yet travel through a country and still be at a loss. I, myself, know several of the Oriental languages, but know no Western tongue. Had this universal language pervaded the globe, I should have studied it and you would have been directly informed of my thoughts and I of yours and a special friendship would have been established between us.

Please send some teachers to Persia, if you can, so that they may teach Esperanto to the young people. I have written asking some of them to come here to study it.

I hope that it will be promulgated very rapidly - then the world of humanity will find eternal peace; all the nations will associate with one another like mothers and sisters, fathers and brothers, and each individual member of the body politic will be fully informed of the thoughts of all.....”

                                                                 Paris Esperanto Society 12 February 1913 Star of the West, Vol 4, No 2

I’d suggest that 'Abdu'l-Bahá, unfailingly tactful, is here using the word “potential”, whereas to an audience of non-Esperantists He sometimes spelt out the “potential”, i.e. “unrealised”, condition of the language more clearly.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Thu Jan 20, 2005 10:19 pm

I found the Tablet from a Google search on Dr. Lambden's personal site: http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.u ... nguage.htm

Since the reduction of languages to one is to be for the "distant future", I tend to think that this responsibility would come for the Universal House of Justice to decide. However, I don't think "impose" would be an appropriate word. For one, Bahá'u'lláh has simply encouraged that "efforts must be made to reduce them to one". Two, by such a time, it is expected that the peoples of the world will have willingly accepted this divine system. The House of Justice's authority by that time would be turned to by the peoples of the world.

Yes, it was my thought that the language (Arabic?) could be changed to only one (though if a change were made, it would first need to be an auxiliary language anyhow).

best wishes,
Brett

Guest

Postby Guest » Fri Jan 21, 2005 9:56 pm

This is fascinating to me. From the links above, it appears that Baha'u'llah left the choice completely open, but hoped the choice would be Arabic. Abdul-Baha also left the choice open, but had high hopes for an (as-yet uncreated) reformed version of Esperanto which would be simpler and have a more international vocabulary.

These seem to be contradictory recommendations, but I think the spirit of them could be reconciled. What if we were to create an "Esperanto" based on Arabic? It could use a lot of the same vocabulary as Arabic (like "kitab" for "book"), but have a simpler grammar, and maybe switch to the Roman alphabet too. Other vocabulary could represent "all the languages of the world." That way we could follow the gist of Baha'u'llah's and Abdul-Baha's preferences.

One question would be, in what sense would this be a "version" of Esperanto rather than a completely new language? I think that would depend on what type of grammar was chosen. An Esperanto-style grammar could be made to work, but we'd have to think carefully about whether we really want this.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Jan 21, 2005 10:45 pm

Dear "Guest",

Again, there is also the possibility of it being reconciled (if it needs reconciling) by Esperanto being for the auxiliary language and Arabic for the time in the future (anticipated in our Writings) when it is expected that all languages be reduced to one only.

best wishes,
Brett

Guest

Postby Guest » Sat Jan 22, 2005 12:41 am

I don't understand. You mean, the world picks Esperanto now as a temporary auxilliary language, with the idea of later switching to Arabic instead? That seems counter-productive.

I mean, why bring Esperanto back from the dead only to kill it again? Especially when Arabic already has millions of speakers and a lot of literary prestige.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Sat Jan 22, 2005 1:20 am

Yes...But this is only speculation as far as the specific languages...

But perhaps only an constructed language such as Esperanto could gain the support at present with its neutrality and in the far distant (as this second stage is envisioned), humanity may be willing to make a change. (In the case of Arabic, it would be to a language of revelation, thereby facilitating the study of the Bahá'í Writings (and Qur'án) in the original.)

best wishes,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sun Jan 23, 2005 10:09 am

"I found the Tablet from a Google search on Dr. Lambden's personal site: http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.u ... nguage.htm "

Well done finding that translation, Brett! It’s only provisional, of course, but Bahá'u'lláh’s Statement about Arabic strikes me as of momentous importance if Dr Lambden’s translation is subsequently verified:


“That proposition which is especially beloved,
when presented before the Heavenly Throne,
 is that all should converse in the Arabic language.
This, inasmuch as it is the most comprehensive of all languages
(absat az kull al-lughat).

If a person were to become truly aware of the comprehensiveness
and the broad scope of this most eloquent language,
they would assuredly select it
[over other languages as an international language of the future ?].

The Persian language is extremely sweet.
The tongue of God in this dispensation has revealed in both Arabic and Persian.

Persian, however, does not, and will never have, the magnitude of Arabic.

Indeed, relative to it, all languages have been, and will remain, circumscribed.

This is the most-gracious state of affairs which has been mentioned.”


I am particulary thinking of the sentence:

“Indeed, relative to it, all languages have been, and will remain, circumscribed.”


If both the translation and my reading of it are correct, Bahá'u'lláh seems to be saying here that Arabic will surpass all other languages in the future, even as it has in the past. This goes beyond Adib Taherzadeh’s summary:

“In this Tablet Bahá'u'lláh praises the Arabic language for its expressiveness and eloquence, and remarks that no other language can match its vast possibilities. He further states that God would be pleased if all the peoples of the world were to speak the Arabic language. But He does not require humanity necessarily to adopt it as the international language; rather He leaves the choice to the appropriate institutions."

                                                                                     “The Revelation of Bahá'u'lláh”, Vol 4, Page 160

which does not refer to Arabic surpassing all other languages in the future as well as the present.

Your comment, Brett:

“Yes, it was my thought that the language (Arabic?) could be changed to only one (though if a change were made, it would first need to be an auxiliary language anyhow).”

No, I don’t follow this. Why would Arabic need to be an auxiliary language first? I thought you agreed that it wouldn’t, since you wrote, Jan.19:

“'Abdu'l-Bahá's statement could possibly be referring to the fact that the AUXILIARY language would not be Arabic, especially since that seems to me to be the context.”

And I still believe you are correct in this assumption, not only because of the context in this particular instance ('Abdu'l-Bahá's Statement at the Golden Circle Club in Boston), but also because the wider context of 'Abdu'l-Bahá's exposition of Bahá'í principles before public audiences suggests that the use of the expression “the international language” on such occasions always meant “the international auxiliary language” rather than “the single language of the distant future”.

So for this reason, among others, I think we can rule out the possibility that Arabic will be the international auxiliary language (as chosen by the designated international commission). However, whether Arabic will become the single language of the distant future is another question entirely - and a particularly important one in view of Bahá'u'lláh’s fulsome praise and recommendation of it, and more especially if His “Tablet of the International Language and Script” really means that it will ALWAYS surpass other languages.

Anyway, we are agreed that the “introduction” of Arabic as the single language of the whole world in the distant future is at least a possibility (and a desirable one too if Bahá'u'lláh has indeed stated that no language even in the distant future will ever match it).

As for the means of implementation, you wrote:

“Since the reduction of languages to one is to be for the "distant future", I tend to think that this responsibility would come for the Universal House of Justice to decide. However, I don't think "impose" would be an appropriate word. For one, Bahá'u'lláh has simply encouraged that "efforts must be made to reduce them to one". Two, by such a time, it is expected that the peoples of the world will have willingly accepted this divine system. The House of Justice's authority by that time would be turned to by the peoples of the world.”

Yes, I agree that it would be much better if “impose” were not the appropriate word. Bahá'u'lláh prophesies:

“When the victory arriveth, every man shall profess himself a believer and shall hasten to the shelter of God’s Faith. Happy are they who in the days of world-encompassing trials have stood fast in the Cause and refused to swerve from its truth.”

                                                                                                        ”Gleanings” p. 318

If this means that everyone in the world will become a sincere believer, faithful to the Covenant and obedient to the UHJ, then, yes, there would be no hint of imposition or compulsion involved.

But in any event it is, and would be, very difficult if not impossible to introduce a language as the single world language if the requisite linguistic receptivity is not present. Robert Craig and I discussed this in “Lango” (1996) with respect to phonology (though the same applies to grammar, vocabulary etc.):

“.....it might be asserted that, since the international auxiliary would be the only language children anywhere in the world would need to learn in addition to their mother-tongue, enough time might be devoted to it to master difficulties like unfamiliar phonemes, which should not present too much of a problem if introduced to children at a young enough age. An extended range of phonemes might thus be inducted into every population by means of child education. Another argument which might well be advanced is that, if the auxiliary is to be truly international with words from different languages, there is ultimately no alternative to a comprehensive range of phonemes.

However, present social conditions would present a fatal drawback to this idea. For although most children may well develop an inherent capacity to differentiate and articulate phonemes, so that by a certain age they have the theoretical ability to speak any language with an extensive range of difficult speech sounds, the capability is gradually lost through childhood as the process of ethnic acculturation reinforces some phonemes but entirely neglects others. New speech sounds are not normally heard, i.e. distinguished from familiar phonemes, except by those who have learned to say them; but when the speech sounds corresponding to the "missing" phonemes are seldom if ever heard, the child's confidence and ability to say them tends to atrophy, as does eventually the capacity to even hear them.

This shows that using education alone to transform the phonology of a society would be as useless as similarly attempting to promote morality or religious revival. The willingness of children to learn, and to actually use, unfamiliar phonemes in everyday speech must also depend upon the confirmation of a global society that still does not exist for the great majority. It is for this reason that confident expansion of the global auxiliary language requires the reinforcement of a world civilisation: final consummation of the same process whereby an increasing majority have chosen to live and express themselves in "national" rather than "minority ethnic" cultures.

This global civilisation, prophesied by the great religions of the world and projected by communists and materialists, should not be regarded as chimerical. However it is clearly not here yet, unless in an embryonic stage, so the communal endorsement necessary for the introduction of an extended range of phonemes is still more or less absent.”


Because “Lango” was intended for a general rather than a Bahá'í readership, linguistic symptoms rather than spiritual causes are described. But it will only be as universal Bahá'í culture reaches a certain critical mass (in scientific terminology) that a single language will be possible. When this occurs, it will happen because the world is ready for it, whether or not a planet entirely populated by nominal believers wholeheartedly assents in every part of every country.

And I’m sure this is part of the reason why the UHJ has used the phrase “in the distant future” with regard to a single language and script. Thus, even if the World Order of Bahá'u'lláh and the sovereignty of the UHJ were established before this time, the UHJ would be unable to introduce or impose a single language language and script - simply because the requisite degree of global culture and civilisation was still absent.

My own opinion (like all my views expressed here, merely a barely informed guess with no official authority whatsoever) is that the single language will probably arise by “fait accompli”, following historical precedent. In other words, I think it very possible that the UHJ will endorse an existing situation, rather than go to the enormous trouble and expense of introducing a new or radically modified language. Robert Craig and I described a possibly analogous process re English in “Lango” http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang16.html#f

LangX is intended to illustrate the concept of a gradually evolving IAL making a relatively painless transition towards a single language in the distant future. And if it turns out that Bahá'u'lláh has really stated that Arabic is the best possible language not only in the present but at any time in the future then I will certainly designate Arabic as the summation of the LangX progression, to which certain modifications would have to be made.

Also of interest in Stephen Lambden’s provisional translation:


“It is thus the case, as a result of the Divine Bounty and Grace,
 that all have been commanded to select a language
-- whether newly created or from among the existing languages of the earth --
that everyone may converse therein.


Unusually, Bahá'u'lláh has placed the “newly created” alternative first in this Tablet (I am wondering whether it was revealed about the time of "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf"). And in the following excerpt:


“Every community speaks its own language;
the Turk, for example, in Turkish;
the peoples of Iran, in Persian and the Arabs in Arabic.
In addition, the people of Europe speak their own diverse languages.
Such multifarious languages are traditional among, and specific to,
these aforementioned communities.


Yet, a further language has now been decreed
such that all the people of the world would converse therein;”


Here Bahá'u'lláh seems to imply “a further language” in addition to “national languages” (a new constructed language?).


“Likewise, in place of the particular scripts of diverse peoples,
a single script should be adopted and all mankind write therein.

Thus will all scripts ultimately be seen as a single script
and all languages a single language.”


This is also very interesting (let me now eat my words about finding nothing startlingly new in this Tablet!). I think He might be saying here that a single language could (or will) proceed from a single script

To me this makes absolute sense, since script is so much easier to change than language. For instance, peoples living in the newly-independent states previously within the Southern border of the Soviet Union have coped with successive switches between Arabic, Cyrillic and Roman script during the Twentieth Century, whilst the languages remained much the same.

And so far as an international core vocabulary is concerned, very many common words in most languages fall within a phonetic restriction of 20 broad consonant phoneme segments and 5 vowels of a similar description. Following transliteration into a common script according to this definition, a host of words from all languages would come into international purview, and would thus be subject to the choice of the mass market (in addition to the considered selection of the international commission). And this would be just the beginning of such a process, which would also extend into other linguistic areas such as grammar. I wonder whether the IAL would start with words from “all languages” for obvious reasons but eventually end up looking much like Arabic.

Guest - I hope that answers your question. I don’t like to use the phrase “political correctness”, but there it is. And I think quotations hitherto presented suggest that a new language is called for, rather than “a version of Esperanto”, even though the new language will be largely based upon Esperanto’s genius.

Guest

Postby Guest » Tue Jan 25, 2005 9:39 am

A technical question: how hard would it be to start with a language like English or Esperanto, and gradually morph them into Arabic? (Parallel to Anthony Alexander's "Language X" proposal.) Each generation replaces a few more vocabulary words and grammar patterns with more standard Arabic forms until...voila! And then the tenth manifestation comes and tells the world to switch to Polish.

I see a big, big problem for anyone intending to change the language of international communication. It's one thing to suggest this for humanities projects such as newspapers, but quite another to interfere with deadly serious subjects like business or medicine, for example. Are you or the future language council going to invent non-English equivalents of everything a doctor needs to say? And then move on to the computer engineers? I suspect this sort of practice would be a profound mistake, something on the order of the Soviet Union's attempts to make agricultural policy subject to Marxist theory.

I realize the idea is for people to embrace the auxilliary language voluntarily. Well, okay. But the problem is that there are competing auxilliary languages, with English well ahead of the others, and you can't just change this by making a decision in council, no matter how well-intended.


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