World Auxiliary Language

All research or scholarship questions
brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Tue Jan 25, 2005 5:28 pm

Dear Anonymous,

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 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.


Assuming that an existing language is not chosen by a council (or even if it is), it is future generations which will gradually learn the language. If a decision were made by global consensus tomorrow, it is not that present-day doctors would be expected to start using the new terminology (or the newly endorsed language if it is an existing language) during their surgeries! The idea is that the accepted language would begin by being taught to children in all the schools of the world, alongside the native language(s). As proficiency began to be built, presumably, scientific journals, for example, might be produced in the newly accepted language alongside those in preexisting languages or some journals might be done bilingually for a while (as abstracts are now translated into various languages). At some point, it could become expected in certain areas that this language would be used (e.g., as English has become the standard for air-traffic). This would not mean that people would stop speaking in their ntaive language during medical procedures, for example, but even in this case, having a common spoken language should allow international teams of doctors to communicate.

You are right that these are serious areas, but it is because of this reason that an international language would be an IMPROVEMENT over the existing situation, assuming it is not transitioned prematurely (as one could safely assume such a commission would recognize would be necessary).

There have also been precedents for language in fact being successfully legislated. Hebrew was not in use as a spoken language (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_Hebrew#Revival (and the following section)) when it was resurrected and built upon. China successfully mandated Mandarin as the standard spoken variety for all of China, functioning as an auxiliary to local spoken languages.

So a council which had authority given to it by its member states should be able to successfully legislate an international auxiliary language as well, assuming there is sufficient support amongst the public for it to be implemented. (That's what we're trying to promote at http://onetongue.com as is the Bahá'í community in general)

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.


Although there may be Orwell-inspired fears of "Newspeak", an international auxiliary language would not force or even cause a replacement of native languages. And this proposal for a world auxiilary language does not depend on assuming a particular view of human nature.

best wishes,
Brett

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Tue Jan 25, 2005 6:00 pm

Dear Antony,

No, I don’t follow this. Why would Arabic need to be an auxiliary language first?


I meant in this context that if things were to be changed in the future by legislation to just one language, it would have to BEGIN as an auxiliary language for some time. I mean, let's say the whole world was speaking Esperanto++ in addition to their native languages. If Arabic were then chosen, one couldn't expect that schools would immediately begin instruction only in Arabic...But I still agree that it seems that it would not be chosen as an auxiliary language (though I still don't think it is productive to become partisan because of this apparent PREDICTION in excluding it, since some people may wish to advocate it as a candidate for an IAL, which is their prerogative).


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.


Even if there are religious minorities at the time of such a possible future decision, the recognized authority of a government acting to legislate a standard does not imply "imposition" to me (though it may be compulsory, in the sense that we advocate universal compulsory education).

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.):


True, but it is kind of a catch-22 in that we need its adoption (as with a world government) to further promote world harmony and identification with world citizenship for such a receptivity to come about. I think your idea of critical mass solves this. However, too often such ideas are used as an excuse for inaction. The thing is that we don't know if the critical mass is there or not at a given moment, so we have to persevere to find out! (as long as we are not aggressive in this, as we are not supposed to be). But we do know as Bahá'ís at least, as Bahá'u'lláh assures us (if not by an assessment of the times), that by His prescription of this remedy, that the world is ripe for it now.

As far as phonology, it is interesting that our Writings do not promote any particular pronunication for Arabic. See http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_pron ... rabic.html , though if the House were to adopt it in the future, it would presumably need to choose some standard at that time! :)

“.....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.


Well, if words were to be drawn from more languages, I would think that this could still be compatible with language universals (or relative universals, since as I understand it, only the "a" in "father" is a genuine universal across all languages) in that I don't think it would be necessary to have each possible phoneme be represented (and they could be approximated). And would about phonemes not in use in any language (e.g., the raspberry)? :) It'd be a lot harder to teach the language (negating its supposed simplicity) if a comprehensive range of phonemes were insisted on. (The even easier learned syllabic system for languages such as Japanese might be a better candidate, even if more homonyms would be forthcoming (especially if tones were not used).)

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.


Yes, but again, this is a kind of Catch-22. The Bahá'í International Community has also promoted that moral education and development (not excluding religion in the process, as they state separation of church and state should not be used to exclude it from this essential process) become a focus of the international community. Its existence would promote receptivity among future generations.

But, you are correct, I think, in that policy alone will not be sufficient if we do not build it up with a corresponding change in culture.

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.


Shoghi Effendi did (too?).

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?).


I would agree it does seem to imply this...

“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


I don't see where it says that it could "proceed" from a single script, simply that a script is also called for, no? However, as perhaps implicit in your Soviet independent states example, I would think that the idea of transitioning to a global script (using existing languages) could be more feasible than transitioning with spoken language (assuming it is not a graphic one!).

best wishes,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Tue Feb 08, 2005 1:42 pm

Guest - you wrote:

 ”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.).....”

Quite hard and, yes, I did once advocate something not entirely dissimilar:
http://www.alexander.iofm.net/lang11.htm#z , starting from a simplified and orthographically-reformed version of English (and not with Arabic as the intended end result). Also, as the author of “Anthony Alexander's "Language X" proposal” I can state with confidence that LangX http://langx.org/ would not begin from an existing language in a parallel manner, but rather from words and grammar selected from different sources, analogously to the historic formation of pidgins.

Moreover, the two processes are entirely different. The transition from one language to another would be from complexity to complexity. So far as I know this is a rare occurrence, if not unheard of, and would never be more than partially successful. Languages, like cultures and individuals, are organic processes that pass through defined stages: conception, gestation, birth, youth, maturity, senescence and death. So one mature language does not normally morph into another, much less an older language into a younger one, though any language beyond a certain stage of development can of course give rise to dialects and to contact languages and pidgins through an interplay with other languages. Indeed, in this way the journey from simple pidgins to complex languages has occurred countless times. The LangX Project, which is affiliated to the World Language Process (whose revised and extended website has just gone online at http://www.worldlanguageprocess.org/ ), presents this historic localised IAL development - the contact language ~ pidgin ~ creole progression - as a prototype for the future global IAL, which itself is likely to pass through stages such as “international core vocabulary” and “global pidgin” (if anyone is interested I recently posted 10 messages or replies on AUXLANG http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/auxlang.html - weeks 4 & 5 of Jan. - further discussing the theory behind LangX).


“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.”

Who is talking about changing the language of international communication? The great languages of the world will continue to exist for a very long time, and will be used in those areas where the gradually developing IAL is still found wanting or lacking. Also, you seem to be assuming that accepted commercial, medical, scientific and technical lexicons (to say nothing of philosophical and religious terminology) will not be incorporated wholesale into the IAL. Why ever not? Certain cultures have always specialised in particular facets of life, and existing vocabularies reflect this. For instance, many scientific and medical words in various languages are of Greek or Latin origin. How much more is this likely to be true of the IAL, which will have a better and more direct access to the riches of global culture! And it will not take place through force, as you suggest (and which would obviously be entirely counter-productive anyway), but simply through consumer choice and popular demand - in the same way that a number of Indian philosophical words and Russian political words have entered English in recent decades.


“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.”

There is evidence that the world-wide knowledge of English has actually declined over the past half century. More people might claim to speak it than before, but average competence is low. Ten years ago Prof. Randolph Quirk, an acknowledged expert, estimated that less than 10% of the world’s population could speak English well enough to order a cup of coffee. For many foreign students English is a very hard language to master - and not just because of its notoriously irregular spelling. Also, competing auxiliary languages have many of the same problems. Even Esperanto is very difficult for some peoples, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated - which is why the Bahá'í Faith advocates a new language formed by an international commission, through which the ideal aspects of Esperanto might be realised at a later date.


Brett - you wrote:

“I meant in this context that if things were to be changed in the future by legislation to just one language....”

You didn’t like me using the word “imposition”, Brett, but this prospect is positively draconian - is it not? Could you see the Universal House of Justice doing that in the future? Of course, God can do whatever He wills, but it strikes me as an extreme course of action all the same. Extirping all extraneous languages in favour of a single language by means of legislation has been effected in the past, but only through oppressive measures, such as banning any use of certain prohibited languages in schools, even in pupils’ free time. And in practice the policy has never been wholly successful, and in due course has always engendered a reaction. The many examples of failure in this regard include Basque and the “Celtic Fringe” tongues of the British Isles and France.

In this, as in so many other areas, “the carrot” would seem to be much more effective than “the stick” - as well as being closer to the Bahá'í way of doing things IMHO. And this seems to have been proven already by the innumerable speakers of minority tongues who have encouraged their children to switch to one of the major languages, not as a result of external compulsion, but rather from a realistic understanding of the educational and economic benefits.

Similarly, if the IAL were correctly managed (a complex subject possibly beyond the scope of this forum), there is no reason why the inestimable potential advantage of being the global conduit for advertisers, pop singers, film makers etc. should not translate itself into a “happening” and increasingly prosperous culture that would attract the creative and entrepreneurial, and eventually the scholarly, to such an extent that mother tongues would be gradually voluntarily abandoned (in the assurance of meticulous preservation) as the IAL developed and became “creolised” (i.e. “took on a life of its own”).


“....it would have to BEGIN as an auxiliary language for some time. I mean, let's say the whole world was speaking Esperanto++ in addition to their native languages. If Arabic were then chosen, one couldn't expect that schools would immediately begin instruction only in Arabic...But I still agree that it seems that it would not be chosen as an auxiliary language (though I still don't think it is productive to become partisan because of this apparent PREDICTION in excluding it, since some people may wish to advocate it as a candidate for an IAL, which is their prerogative).”

Well according to the Baha’i Faith it won’t be Esperanto - or at least not Esperanto in its present form, which is essentially the same as when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called for it to be revised. And, for the reason given above, I don’t see Arabic being chosen and imposed on the world at any stage. (Also, let's not forget that this is a Bahá'í forum, Brett. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's Statement excluding Arabic as the IAL was more than an "apparent prediction". It was Scriptural - i.e. in the authenticated Bahá'í Writings - and should be defended on a Bahá'í forum as such.)

However, I could see the possibility of Arabic arising in the distant future - i.e. as the single universal language (a different phenomenon entirely, as we have established) - in one of two ways. The first might be as I have outlined in LangX, with the “creolisation” stages beyond Lang25 starting to produce a language with Arabic elements, with the final result being Arabic itself.

Were this to happen, it would not be via compulsion or fiat, since the “creolisation” process is essentially intuitive. Thus the nature of the IAL in its later stages would be an expression of the culture and mentality of the people speaking it. So if they had the capacity it is quite possible that they would be speaking Arabic, or a language very much like it.

The other possibility I can see is that the IAL might fail to develop beyond a certain point due to the culture behind it having entirely lost its way, in which case Arabic might - in the distant future - replace it by default, were it the dominant mother tongue at the time.


“Even if there are religious minorities at the time of such a possible future decision, the recognized authority of a government acting to legislate a standard does not imply "imposition" to me (though it may be compulsory, in the sense that we advocate universal compulsory education).”

Imposition and compulsion have much the same meaning, don’t you think? Or do you see imposition as arbitrary and compulsion as according to law?


“Well, if words were to be drawn from more languages, I would think that this could still be compatible with language universals (or relative universals, since as I understand it, only the "a" in "father" is a genuine universal across all languages) in that I don't think it would be necessary to have each possible phoneme be represented (and they could be approximated). And would about phonemes not in use in any language (e.g., the raspberry)? :) It'd be a lot harder to teach the language (negating its supposed simplicity) if a comprehensive range of phonemes were insisted on. (The even easier learned syllabic system for languages such as Japanese might be a better candidate, even if more homonyms would be forthcoming (especially if tones were not used).)”

Actually I am agreeing with you here, Brett. I was using a “straw man” argument: “it might be asserted that....” simply because it is so often pointed out that children possess the inherent capacity to master difficult phonemes. For instance, there are two or three notoriously difficult Russian phonemes that tend to defeat most adult learners (or, at least those from certain countries), but generally present no problem to their children. Much the same is true of grammar and other linguistic features. It is argued from this that more or less any difficult national language might be quite easily introduced as the IAL by teaching it to students at a young enough age.

In theory such logic might be unassailable, but in practice it has serious drawbacks, as I mentioned. One advantage of a new constructed IAL nearer to “linguistic universals” is that this "home/school divergence" (previously referred to) is greatly lessened.


“I don't see where it says that it could "proceed" from a single script, simply that a script is also called for, no? However, as perhaps implicit in your Soviet independent states example, I would think that the idea of transitioning to a global script (using existing languages) could be more feasible than transitioning with spoken language (assuming it is not a graphic one!).”

Let's look at that translation of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet again, shall we:


“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.”


OK, the translation doesn’t explicitly say that - but it amounts to the same thing, don’t you agree? If words from different languages are to be transliterated into the agreed IAL script, then I think they may be said to proceed from the script, since the script will presumably be orthographically regular.

To begin with, I guess it would be unnecessary for the published IAL script to denote speech sounds outside a prescribed phonetic restriction (e.g. 20 specified consonant phoneme segments and 5 vowels), but eventually the IAL script might be sufficiently elaborate to denote any spoken tongue (though whether it would even need to reach the IPA level of complexity is another question).

When it reached this level, any mother tongue in the world might be written entirely in the IAL script and spoken by anyone using this orthoepic guidance, effectively uniting all languages and scripts and thereby fulfilling Bahá'u'lláh's prophecy:

“Thus will all scripts ultimately be seen as a single script
and all languages a single language.”

Changing a spoken language is very difficult, but changing a script is relatively easy, requiring as little as the touch of a key on a computer. The “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” mentioned a new script, but even if the IAL were initially written in English, Cyrillic or Arabic script it could be switched over very simply if the existing and new characters (letters of the alphabet) were equivalent. Re a new script I have wondered whether Kingsley Read’s script (or a version thereof) might eventually find favour http://www.spellingsociety.org/journals ... wread.html

Regards,

Antony Alexander

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Feb 11, 2005 1:35 pm

Brett - you wrote:

“I meant in this context that if things were to be changed in the future by legislation to just one language....”

You didn’t like me using the word “imposition”, Brett, but this prospect is positively draconian - is it not? Could you see the Universal House of Justice doing that in the future?


Certainly not. As this is for the "distant future", as Shoghi Effendi states, and as the phrasing of Bahá'u'lláh is that "efforts must be made to reduce them to one" (Tablets of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 68) (and not even that 'laws should be passed to prohibit additional language use' or the like), and as the Universal House of Justice assures us that the rights of minorities (including religious ones) would be protected under a Bahá'í system (see this unpublished letter, for example), I have absolutely no doubt this would not be something forcibly imposed.

Of course, God can do whatever He wills, but it strikes me as an extreme course of action all the same. Extirping all extraneous languages in favour of a single language by means of legislation has been effected in the past, but only through oppressive measures, such as banning any use of certain prohibited languages in schools, even in pupils’ free time. And in practice the policy has never been wholly successful, and in due course has always engendered a reaction. The many examples of failure in this regard include Basque and the “Celtic Fringe” tongues of the British Isles and France.


Yes, you are right. But such failures have been due to either forcible measures against linguistic minorities and/or reactionary prejudice and antagonism of those minorities. The possible change brought by the Universal House of Justice in the future would surely be of the nature of an authority, respected by the majority of the world's inhabitants (we're not going to impose a Bahá'í state as the earlier referenced letter also mentions), encouraging use of a single language, and possibly, when a critical mass is reached, only providing instruction through schools in that language.

In this, as in so many other areas, “the carrot” would seem to be much more effective than “the stick” - as well as being closer to the Bahá'í way of doing things IMHO. And this seems to have been proven already by the innumerable speakers of minority tongues who have encouraged their children to switch to one of the major languages, not as a result of external compulsion, but rather from a realistic understanding of the educational and economic benefits.


No doubt it should and will be by encouraging means. But again, there may need to be added effort to also see the MORAL benefits of not being exceedingly insular (just as happens today in some cases when people speak their language not out of necessity or even comfort but to simply distinguish themselves from others).

Similarly, if the IAL were correctly managed (a complex subject possibly beyond the scope of this forum), there is no reason why the inestimable potential advantage of being the global conduit for advertisers, pop singers, film makers etc. should not translate itself into a “happening” and increasingly prosperous culture that would attract the creative and entrepreneurial, and eventually the scholarly, to such an extent that mother tongues would be gradually voluntarily abandoned (in the assurance of meticulous preservation) as the IAL developed and became “creolised” (i.e. “took on a life of its own”).


Not sure what you mean by "assurance of meticulous preservation"...I guess you mean for historical purposes, the cataloguing of each language for the sake of future access and understanding?

Well according to the Baha’i Faith it won’t be Esperanto - or at least not Esperanto in its present form, which is essentially the same as when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá called for it to be revised. And, for the reason given above, I don’t see Arabic being chosen and imposed on the world at any stage. (Also, let's not forget that this is a Bahá'í forum, Brett. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's Statement excluding Arabic as the IAL was more than an "apparent prediction". It was Scriptural - i.e. in the authenticated Bahá'í Writings - and should be defended on a Bahá'í forum as such.)


Antony, I don't know why you keep phrasing things as though I am deliberately (if at all) advocating things against the Writings. It wouldn't matter where or what type of forum this was. A Bahá'í should not be hypocritical.

Again, it is not I think a question of imposition (I certainly don't recall that phrasing used anywhere in the Scriptures), and my point is simply that the references in the Writings to Arabic not being the auxiliary language may be reference only to it not being the auxiliary language in the sense of the first stage envisioned, where the language is not intended to become more than an auxiliary language.

Though one may argue that references in the Writings to the importance of ease of use at this stage suggest an invented language (and not Arabic), doesn't mean it couldn't change once the world was sufficiently united.

However, I could see the possibility of Arabic arising in the distant future - i.e. as the single universal language (a different phenomenon entirely, as we have established) - in one of two ways. The first might be as I have outlined in LangX, with the “creolisation” stages beyond Lang25 starting to produce a language with Arabic elements, with the final result being Arabic itself.

...

The other possibility I can see is that the IAL might fail to develop beyond a certain point due to the culture behind it having entirely lost its way, in which case Arabic might - in the distant future - replace it by default, were it the dominant mother tongue at the time.


I think it would be too literal of a reading to exclude the possibility that Arabic could be legislated at a future stage as the intended new one world language. Just because it would, except in the cases you cite (though for some people even in the second), need to start out as an auxiliary language, does not mean that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements would need to be referring to this possible second stage in the far future.

“Even if there are religious minorities at the time of such a possible future decision, the recognized authority of a government acting to legislate a standard does not imply "imposition" to me (though it may be compulsory, in the sense that we advocate universal compulsory education).”

Imposition and compulsion have much the same meaning, don’t you think? Or do you see imposition as arbitrary and compulsion as according to law?


Yes, compulsion in the sense I am referring to would be by law instituted by a democratically recognized authority. Also, imposition implies an excessive intrusion, such as by the prohibition of one's native language anywhere.

“I don't see where it says that it could "proceed" from a single script, simply that a script is also called for, no? However, as perhaps implicit in your Soviet independent states example, I would think that the idea of transitioning to a global script (using existing languages) could be more feasible than transitioning with spoken language (assuming it is not a graphic one!).”

Let's look at that translation of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet again, shall we:

“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.”


OK, the translation doesn’t explicitly say that - but it amounts to the same thing, don’t you agree? If words from different languages are to be transliterated into the agreed IAL script, then I think they may be said to proceed from the script, since the script will presumably be orthographically regular.


My meaning is that it would not mean necessarily that existing languages would first be taught in the new script.

When it reached this level, any mother tongue in the world might be written entirely in the IAL script and spoken by anyone using this orthoepic guidance, effectively uniting all languages and scripts and thereby fulfilling Bahá'u'lláh's prophecy:

“Thus will all scripts ultimately be seen as a single script
and all languages a single language.”


Yes, it is reasonable to assume that at some point at least means would need to be taken to represent other sounds.

Changing a spoken language is very difficult, but changing a script is relatively easy, requiring as little as the touch of a key on a computer.


Except for graphic languages where there is no one-to-one mapping with sounds...

The “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” mentioned a new script,


This was apparently, according to the references I cited earlier, in reference to the Badí script of His own which no one asked Him about, so we cannot use that then.

best wishes,
Brett

Guest

Postby Guest » Fri Feb 11, 2005 10:56 pm

About that Badi script--couldn't some of the Arabists, Persianists, and artlangers out there put their heads together and figure out how it worked? Since we actually have a sample of it, with its translation, how hard could it be?

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Feb 11, 2005 11:12 pm

Hi Guest,
I think that is a different Badí' script which you are referring to. The one was by Mírzá Muhammad 'Alí which does exist, and the other by Bahá'u'lláh which He only referred to. See http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_aspe ... g.html#s14

Brett

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Feb 17, 2005 8:13 pm

Oops! Never mind. I guess we can keep using our Roman script keyboards during the Golden Age, then, as long as they have the right diacriticals.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sun Feb 20, 2005 3:41 pm

".....But again, there may need to be added effort to also see the MORAL benefits of not being exceedingly insular (just as happens today in some cases when people speak their language not out of necessity or even comfort but to simply distinguish themselves from others)."

Long term you are no doubt right, Brett, but short and medium term the main direction of movement seems to be in the other direction. Where mass culture is degraded, and becoming increasingly so (as many passages in the Bahá'í Writings describe), people tend to see the MORAL benefits of being exceedingly insular! Most of them don’t know about the “Ark” of the Bahá'í Faith, so to escape from the rising tide of excess and degeneracy emanating from the global mass-market they seek the “uplands” of their familiar traditional cultures, and associated languages.

Bahá'u'lláh seems to have anticipated this problem by decreeing that everyone shall use two languages - their own mother tongue and the IAL. Of course we know that in the distant future the languages will be reduced to one, but that is a long way off, and everyone in the civilised world will know at least two languages in the short to medium term after the official IAL is established. Thus it will not matter unduly if people choose to be insular by using their mother tongue more or less exclusively among their compatriots, since they will also have a means of international communication - the IAL - at their command.

Long term, of course, global social integration and linguistic progress should be such that it will not be necessary to use any language apart from the fully-developed IAL. (As followers of this thread will know, I have suggested a means and an illustrative timescale for a voluntary transition from “two languages” to one, after a brief period of necessary duopoly, at http://langx.org/langx-theworldla.html. My former website has very recently been removed by iofm.com, so the links to it are dead, but the site is mirrored (thanks to Jonah) - with an additional “Introduction for Bahá'ís” at http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/.)


"Not sure what you mean by "assurance of meticulous preservation"...I guess you mean for historical purposes, the cataloguing of each language for the sake of future access and understanding?"

Yes, that’s right - so that even in the material sense people know that nothing is lost if they give up their mother tongue and use the developing IAL exclusively. Of course, this kind of recording process has been in progress for many decades, and is well tried and tested. In fact it has recently accelerated, along with public awareness of the concept of threatened languages on the verge of extinction, thanks to timely philanthropy and the increasingly availability of portable AV equipment to supplement traditional transcription methods. There is no reason to suppose that this trend will not continue.


"Antony, I don't know why you keep phrasing things as though I am deliberately (if at all) advocating things against the Writings. It wouldn't matter where or what type of forum this was. A Bahá'í should not be hypocritical."

My apologies, Brett, but I can hardly be blamed for misunderstanding you if your expressed and intended meaning are so much at variance (you wrote “because of this apparent PREDICTION in excluding it” - i.e. Arabic as the IAL - but what you evidently meant was “because of this PREDICTION apparently excluding it”).


"Again, it is not I think a question of imposition (I certainly don't recall that phrasing used anywhere in the Scriptures), and my point is simply that the references in the Writings to Arabic not being the auxiliary language may be reference only to it not being the auxiliary language in the sense of the first stage envisioned, where the language is not intended to become more than an auxiliary language."

Where in the Bahá'í Writings does it say that the first stage international auxiliary language is not intended to become more than an auxiliary language?

OK - you might toss the question back at me, and ask where the Bahá'í Writings say that the first stage international auxiliary language IS intended to become more than an auxiliary language.

Fair enough, and I’m not aware that the Bahá'í Writings say this either, however:

(1) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá stated that a scientific approach to the IAL should be pursued (sorry, I don't have the exact quote to hand - could you possibly find it on "Ocean", which I can't access?).

(2) Historically, successful international auxiliary languages have always become more than auxiliary languages (in scientific parlance, pidgins that haven’t died out have eventually become creolised http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang24.html#n ).

(3) There is no reason to suppose that this historic process, observed many times, will not prefigure the transition from the IAL (with characteristics suggesting an “international pidgin”, according to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá's account in “’Abdu’l-Bahá in London”) to a single global tongue in the distant future.

(4) If there is to be no process of transition between the two (the first stage international auxiliary language and the single language of the distant future) then we must assume that the single language of the distant future will not arise from the IAL but rather in some other way - and how else except by imposition or compulsion?


"Though one may argue that references in the Writings to the importance of ease of use at this stage suggest an invented language (and not Arabic), doesn't mean it couldn't change once the world was sufficiently united."

Yes, I agree that the induction of an existing language (not Arabic) as the IAL remains a possibility.


"I think it would be too literal of a reading to exclude the possibility that Arabic could be legislated at a future stage as the intended new one world language. Just because it would, except in the cases you cite (though for some people even in the second), need to start out as an auxiliary language, does not mean that 'Abdu'l-Bahá's statements would need to be referring to this possible second stage in the far future."

You seem to be quite happy with the prospect of the single language in the distant future being introduced via legislation (i.e. compulsion). Looking at parallels from today and recent history I would regard this as failure, and a last resort. The great common languages of the past - e.g. Arabic, French and English (some scholars acknowledge the possibility that English - at least - may have had a pidgin ~ creole origin) - did not arise through legislation so much as from a desire to partake of the culture associated with them. So why shouldn’t the single language of the distant future arise though a desire to partake of the culture associated with the developing IAL, without the need for legislation or imposition?


"Yes, compulsion in the sense I am referring to would be by law instituted by a democratically recognized authority. Also, imposition implies an excessive intrusion, such as by the prohibition of one's native language anywhere."

So compulsion is fine so long as it comes via a democratically recognised authority? Presumably you mean this in a Bahá'í context, Brett, since there are countless historical examples of a “democratically recognized authority” making extremely bad decisions.


The “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” mentioned a new script,

"This was apparently, according to the references I cited earlier, in reference to the Badí script of His own which no one asked Him about, so we cannot use that then."

No, I didn’t mean that one, Brett. There are two references to a new script in the passage - http://bahai-library.com/?file=bahaulla ... f.html#153 pp 137-9:


“......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!

One day, while in Constantinople, Kamál Páshá visited this Wronged One. Our conversation turned upon topics profitable unto 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.”


Please note the difference: the first “new script” is to accompany a yet-to-be-created language; but the second “new script” was for a new language - the Badi language - which had already been devised - http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_aspe ... g.html#s14. I was referring to the first “new script”.


"Oops! Never mind. I guess we can keep using our Roman script keyboards during the Golden Age, then, as long as they have the right diacriticals."

I don’t think so, Guest. I could be entirely mistaken, of course, but for reasons presented on this thread previously a new constructed language formed by an international commission seems to be the most likely outcome - and, according to the passage from “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” quoted above, a new script would appear to be involved too.

However, I think you would have plenty of notice to replace your keyboard - for the simple reason that the initial IAL is likely to have a restricted core phonology (of about 25 speech sounds, perhaps) such as is already signified by most existing alphabets. This would mean in effect that the initial IAL could be written in any major script, and simply transliterated from one script to another by pressing a button. Therefore the new script might not be an especial priority, and might be introduced just as easily by swiching electronically from existing scripts.


Finally, here's another reminder the IAL question is a "warming" political issue as well as a Bahá'í principle: an article in the "Daily Telegraph" http://www.telegraph.co.uk "Talk isn't cheap as EU minds its 20 languages" by David Rennie in Brussels. A few interesting facts from the article: Romania and Bulgaria join the EU in 2007, raising the number of member countries to 27. Total EU costs for oral interpretation and written translation will rise from £464 ($877) million in 2004 to £741 ($1400) million after 2007. Translators fluent in Estonian, Latvian, Slovene and Maltese can earn up to 10p (19c) a word for written translations.

Antony Alexander

Dawud
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Postby Dawud » Sun Feb 20, 2005 7:44 pm

It looks to me like Baha'i writings, taken together, give vague and confused advice about this language thing. (Esperanto or Arabic? Auxillary or sole surviving language?) Some specifications even appear contradictory.

In any case, I thought the choice was to be made (according to the Baha'i scenario) by a committee chosen by secular governments. That means the opinions of Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha would not carry any special weight, unless this takes place in some far future where the Baha'is have converted hundreds of millions.

hihellowhatsup
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Postby hihellowhatsup » Sun Feb 20, 2005 7:46 pm

Jeez, is this topic gonna end anytime this century? I mean really, it's not that interesting.

Dawud
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Postby Dawud » Sun Feb 20, 2005 10:38 pm

I feel the same way about race unity!

I think your feeling is shared by many, perhaps most, Baha'is, who are no longer enthusiastic about Esperanto or any other world language scheme (though they of course believe in the idea in principle). I've heard many say that English will inevitably become, or already is, the world language. We shrug our shoulders to this practical reality in much the same way as we do to the existence of television, which our ancestors would have marveled at.

Perhaps this is wrong of us (as Baha'is and Esperantists will probably assure us) to dismiss our ability to make radical changes to the linguistic order, or shrug off the question as uninteresting. I agree that we are likely to see great changes in the ways various languages are used. I also suspect that future developments will not fit neatly with Baha'i expectations. (Effective machine translation? A permanently multipolar world?)

Guest

Postby Guest » Tue Feb 22, 2005 4:26 am

http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.u ... nguage.htm

From this holy tablet, it is as evident as the sun that not only Baha'u'llah but also God yearn that the whole world may at a certain moment in time embrace and adopt the most comprehensive and melodious language Arabic as an international language.
Indeed, nowadays, with nationalistic feelings at its' acme albeit at the cost of other languages, races, colours, etc, it may seem far from reality.
However, God assist us in shedding any iota of vicious discrimination.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sat Mar 05, 2005 12:33 pm

“It looks to me like Baha'i writings, taken together, give vague and confused advice about this language thing. (Esperanto or Arabic? Auxillary or sole surviving language?) Some specifications even appear contradictory.“

Dawud - Here are many of the Bahá'í Writings concerning the international language issue: http://www.worldlanguageprocess.org/ess ... blang4.htm (thanks to Prof. Bruce Beach). Which do you find vague, confused, or even contradictory?

You do, of course, differentiate between the Bahá'í Writings and our more or less feeble attempts to fully understand them? But in any case, would you take issue with anything in the following brief summary, which I would consider fairly representative of the Bahá'í Writings?

(1) The need for an international auxiliary language (IAL) to be used at all interantional conventions and learned by every child in addition to the mother tongue is one of the important principles of the Bahá'í Faith. According to the Universal House of Justice the implementation of this principle is “long overdue”.

(2) An International Commission will choose the IAL. The Bahá'í International Community has proposed “the appointment of a high-level Commission, with members from various regions and drawn from relevant fields, including linguistics, economics, the social sciences, education and the media, to begin careful study on the matter of an international auxiliary language and the adoption of a common script.”

(3) The said Commission will choose either an existing language or a new constructed language.

(4) Certain Statements in the Bahá'í Writings, including some by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá concerning Esperanto, would seem to indicate that a new constructed language - though not Esperanto in its present form - will be the alternative chosen.

(5) The Bahá'í Writings also specify that, in the distant future, the number of languages will be reduced to one. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has stated that the international language (IAL) will not be Arabic but, in view of a provisional translation of Bahá'u'lláh's Tablet concerning the International Language and Arabic, it may be that Arabic should be regarded by Bahá'ís as the ideal single language of the distant future.


“In any case, I thought the choice was to be made (according to the Baha'i scenario) by a committee chosen by secular governments. That means the opinions of Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha would not carry any special weight, unless this takes place in some far future where the Baha'is have converted hundreds of millions.”

Yes, the decision will be made by a Commission appointed by secular governments, but this does not mean that the “opinions” of Bahá'u'lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá carry less weight. The Word of God is not “opinion” but pure truth, and as such contains all science, including linguistic science.

It follows that if the said Commission makes a decision on a proper scientific basis the result will be successful, but if it makes a bad decision - for whatever reason - it will stand condemned in the court of scientific opinion and its decision will ultimately come to nothing.

It would be a shame, and a waste, if this happened - whether through prejudice, corruption, or any other human frailty. And this is one of the potential circumstances, I would think, of the IAL issue having to be determined in the future by the UHJ (the other being where secular governments were negligent in appointing a representative Commission in the first place).

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Postby Dawud » Mon Mar 07, 2005 7:16 pm

The two big problems are

(1) apparently contradictory, but equally authoritative, recommendations on behalf of Arabic and (reformed) Esperanto; and

(2) apparently contradictory descriptions of a future linguistic order featuring one auxilliary language, in which other tongues continue to flourish; or one in which these are whittled down to a sole surviving universal language.

I realize that some of you have worked out an explanation in which these represent multiple stages. I find this implausible, either as future history or as an explanation of what Baha'u'llah and Abdul-Baha had in mind. I think it is simpler and more persuasive to say that they (accidentally, no doubt) disagreed with one another.

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Mar 07, 2005 9:06 pm

Dear Dawud,

As far as point #2, Bahá'u'lláh Himself addressed both the issue of the auxiliary language and the single language, so it seems far-fetched to say that He wasn't aware of His own former statement on the subject.

I think you are failing to give enough credit here to the Faith's Central Figures. I think one will be able to find a remarkable internal consistency between as well as within each Figure's Writings, as one investigates more in depth on a paricular subject and in multiple subjects. The more a person reads, the more they should become convinced of the great intelligence and vast breadth covered and understood by these Figures, regardless of whether the person agrees with the point of view presented.

Brett

Salivanto
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Postby Salivanto » Thu Jun 30, 2005 6:43 am

Hello Folks, Thomas Alexander here...

I realize this thread is already several months old, but it was brought to my attention by Anthony Alexander, whom I affectionately and with respect like to call "Cousin Anthony" even though as far as I know, we are not directly related. It seems he's known as "Tony" here.

By way of introduction, and to reveal my prejudices, I am a non-Baha'i, Esperanto speaker, atheist, and former born-again Christian / Fundamentalist. I have had the honor and pleasure on a few occasions to speak to the local Baha'i community about Esperanto and the language problem in general, and I have taken full advantage of the resources that the community has available to find out what I can about what the Baha'i prophets have said about the topic.

I suspect that my background makes it difficult for me to see the Baha'i writings the way the believers do, since my fundamentalist habits tend to seek out consistency in scripture even if they might seem inconsistent on the surface, and an Atheist accepts contradictions as a reflection of the simple fact that different people have different opinions. The Baha'i, I think, are able to see through contradictions and accept them, while at the same time seeing the two different statements as equally valid examples of the Word of God. I have not learned to do this.

For the sake of this discussion, I am going to try to understand the Baha'i position and assume that the scriptures are indeed the Word of God (and not just the word of some guy, as an atheist would conclude) but I make no promise that my other prejudices won't show through.

When Cousin Anthony pointed me to this discussion, he indicated that the topic was "comprehensively covered", but from my point of view, it's far from exhaustive. None of my observations or questions even seemed to come up. That is why I am writing now.

One last disclaimer before I get to the subject at hand - I can also appreciate why God wouldn't want to reveal to us the specific language in question if the world wasn't ready to accept it, but I think there are enough hints to indicate what we can do now to help prepare the soil.

My first observation is that Baha'u'llah clearly indicated that the auxiliary language would be a newly created language, and not an existing language like English or Persian. There was a time when I hardly believed it was possible to "invent" a language, and a lot of people hold this view, so it's significant that He even brought up the possibility in the first place. I cannot fully guess why He would mention "choosing an existing language" (unless simply to make the idea easier to swallow), but it cannot be to make it possible for English or Persian to be selected -- since he said that the children of the world will be learning TWO languages -- their native language, and the international language. If English were to become "the" language, the English speaking children would not be learning two languages, and Baha'u'llah's commandment will not be fulfilled

Some Baha'i have said to me (based on the same passage regarding the conversation with Kamal Pasha) that the directive was made to the leaders of the world to do this. They see this as a way to avoid the need to do anything about this now. I appreciate that Brett has done his best to dispel this idea. To what he has already said, I'd like to point out that in this same well known passage from Baha'u'llah, He says that if "men" (presumably this means "people in general" keeping in mind that the quote is a translation) "[were] 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." So, the governments have a role, but so do all men. I don't believe that the governments will do this unless there is great popular support for the idea. One clear way to show your support for the idea is by learning and using Esperanto.

Cousin Anthony mentions that one of the Baha’i Writings might suggest that “a new constructed language” rather than “an existing constructed language” was intended. I am willing to accept this. I first encountered this idea in the booklet: Bahaismo kaj Esperanto - Festlibro okaze de la 25-jarigho de la Bahaa Esperanto-Ligo. This could reconcile the original comment to Kamal Pasha by allowing the selection of a language which is both “existing” and “newly constructed” at the same time.

What is difficult for me to accept is that Cousin Anthony and the author of the article in the above mentioned booklet see a contradiction in this idea and with the structure of the existing movement for Esperanto. I see no contradiction, since the most fundamental document about Esperanto explicitly states that at the time when the governments accept Esperanto, they are to appoint a council to review the form of the language and to determine what changes are necessary. Cousin Anthony anticipated this objection in his note of December 10, 2004, but he didn’t really address it, but spoke in terms of reforming the language *before* it’s accepted by the governments.

It is within our power as individuals to do something about this. Brett is correct. It’s not enough simply to voice an opinion on the matter. Voicing opinions will not make it happen. By learning and using Esperanto you can demonstrate to the world that a “newly created language” can work. You will also be demonstrating to the governments that its constituents value the idea of an international language. If there are details about the language which you do not like, you can demonstrate that it’s possible to put differences aside. (No language will please everybody in every detail.) After writing much gushing praise for Esperanto (e.g. in 1913 saying that all Baha‘i “must“ learn it), ‘Abdu’l-baha indicated that Esperanto would need to be revised since he felt it was difficult for certain people. Somehow, Cousin Anthony has come to the conclusion that this revision was supposed to be immediate, even though a later revision would be consistent with both the Fundamento of Esperanto, Baha’u’llah’s initial description to Kamal Pasha, and with ‘Abdu’l-baha’s requirements. Specifically illustrative of this last point is the following quote which has already been mentioned in this thread:

“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

This is exactly the path put forward in the “Fundamento” (the ‘foundation’ of Esperanto): at such time when the governments have accepted Esperanto, they will appoint a council who will review the experiences and lessons learned over the years and make any changes deemed necessary (even starting over from scratch, I suppose). At that time, this new “Esperanto” will be accepted and will become universal. The first step, however, is for enough people to start learning and using Esperanto (as it currently is) to demonstrate to the governments that this idea has support and is feasible.

Another quote, which Cousin Anthony brought up as a reason *not* to support Esperanto, also seems to support this idea of spreading Esperanto as a “proof of concept” and then revising it when it is adopted by the governments:

Regarding the “perfecting” of Esperanto: “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

This is also consistent with the future reworking of Esperanto as described in the Fundamento.

As a side note, I’d like to correct a factual error of Dawud, even though it‘s tangential to this discussion. In his note of 13 December, he wrote that Volapük was “one of the inspirations behind Esperanto.” If this is true, it is true in only the most trivial manner. Work had begun on Esperanto with no knowledge of Volapük and vice versa. Some Esperanto scholars have argued that one of the draft versions of the language (from 1881) was influenced by Volapük, but that language was never put into practice and few if any of those elements were included in the version which served as the basis for the language as it is spoken today.

Cousin Anthony, in his note of 16 December, made some other potentially misleading comments about Esperanto. He spelled out various reasons for preferring words from “natural’ rather than “artificial” languages, and then concluded that as a result, “Esperanto and its ilk are inferior to languages whose words have been proved in centuries or millennia of usage by entire societies.” This ignores the fact that Esperanto’s vocabulary comes from these very languages.

In the same note, Cousin Anthony cites the Universal Baha’i Escape Hatch Verse: "The love and effort put into Esperanto will not be lost, but no one person can construct a Universal Language". This comment, consistent with human nature, is used by many a Baha’i to absolve themselves from ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s earlier exhortations to learn and promote Esperanto with all their might. They don’t notice that when they look at the entire message - even within one verse - that ‘Abdu’l-Baha is talking about Esperanto. The man often referred to as the “author” or “inventor” of Esperanto repeatedly refused this credit. What he did was to sketch out the language, give it its first 900 words, and then turned the language over to the community. It was the community who created the language and gave it life. It is the community who makes it a language today.

‘Abdu’l-Baha is right. One man cannot construct a language. It takes a community. In that same passage, though, He describes the qualities of a “Universal Language”, all of which are qualities of Esperanto: It contains words from different languages. It is governed by the simplest rules, and there are no exceptions, gender, or extra and silent letters. Furthermore, why do we think that “effort put into this will not be lost” means “stop putting effort into this”? To me it means put MORE effort into it, since you know that the effort will not be lost. He then talks about how the one final language will be constructed by a council. Is this not the same council which I mentioned above; the one referred to in the Fundamento? Is not the scenario which I sketched out above? We put effort into Esperanto now. This effort is not lost, since it serves to draw attention to the idea. Then the governments convene a council and create a new language based on the lessons learned? This is the message in the Baha’i scriptures. It’s also the plan spelled out in the Esperanto documents.


To summarize, I am curious whether I am the only one who has looked at the Baha’i scriptures an seen that the universal language has to be an “artificial” one? I’ve never heard that idea expressed by anybody else. (I see that Cousin Anthony in this thread does come to the same conclusion, but without going into the reasons.) Although the call was put out to the world leaders to do something about the language problem, there is plenty of individual accountability in the Baha’i scriptures to go around. In other words, we are all encouraged to do something about it, even if we’re not world leaders. Finally, there are plenty of misconceptions (or at least misleading statements) about Esperanto, even by people who profess to be experts on the subject. In the spirit of the “individual search for the truth”, I encourage everybody to dig into this for themselves, and not just to accept what this person or that person says about it -- and by “this person or that person”, I include our own superficial interpretations of what the Baha’i scriptures say, as well. Finally, consider putting some of your love and effort into something where will not be lost -- learn and use Esperanto.

P.S. Thanks Jonah (whom I will call "Not My Son Jonah" in the same way I call Tony "Cousin Anthony" - since my son is named Jonah) for helping me get this message re-posted - which gave me the opportunity to delete some extranious text and correct numerous spelling errors.
Amike salutas,
Thomas Alexander.

Daw ud

Postby Daw ud » Thu Jun 30, 2005 9:45 pm

I wonder whether Baha'u'llah wouldn't have thought first of Volapuk, rather than Esperanto (which was then new)? The former had a lot of international support, which later withered away because the language was so hard.

I think a useful experiment would be for a group like the Baha'is to start an "Esperanto 2.0", which would attempt to overcome problems of 1.0. I don't mean a reform like Ido (which is really more of a dialect), but the sort of whole-scale changes that would be needed to make the basic auxlang project plausible (and not merely keep E-o alive). It would have to be a new auxlang, I think, and not just a reboot of the old. We've already learned a lot from E-o's shortcomings and successes, and as time goes by the point in perpetuating them all together gets lost.

Oh, by the way--anybody remember the Khatt-i-Badi (the alphabet of M. 'Ali, Baha'u'llah's brother)? I think I've got it figured out. It's based on the "visible speech" system of Alexander Melville Bell (father of the telephone guy). Vertical marks are vowels, and it looks like M. 'Ali has incorportaed the consonants into these.

Salivanto
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Postby Salivanto » Fri Jul 01, 2005 7:13 am

Hello All,

I'm composing this message off line, so pardon me if I quote the old fashioned way, rather than using the quote feature of the board.

Daw ud wrote:

> I wonder whether Baha'u'llah wouldn't have
> thought first of Volapuk, rather than
> Esperanto (which was then new)? The former
> had a lot of international support, which
> later withered away because the language
> was so hard.

I have a real difficult time with this way of thinking since Baha'u'llah was speaking the Word of God. Would God speak out in support of something and then later retract this support because He found out that the language wasn't all it was cracked up to be? For me, at least, the answer is plainly "no." If Baha'u'llah was thinking about Volapük, then he was just a man with no credible divine influence and there's really no point in even having this conversation.

Beyond this, however, the facts of history don't support this viewpoint. The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf was written in 1891. Volapük was published in 1880 and Esperanto in 1887. I recently read an article from 1892 or so in which the author said that he'd been planning to write a series of articles about why Esperanto is better than Volapük, but ended up not doing so since Volapük ended up doing away with itself. It's difficult to imagine that a genuine Manifestation would not know that Volapük was already on its last legs.

I am also not so sure that it is true that Volapük was "so hard." I have never tried to learn it myself, but based on the experience of others and what I know about it, I dare say that it would probably be easier for me than Croatian (a language which I've had some success learning - and which is, in some ways, easier than German) in spite of the fact that I currently have almost no success trying to read the language having never studied it. What did the language in were two factors -- dictatorial control on the part of Father Schleyer [sp?] and -- ironic to this part of the conversation -- constant reforms.

So, Volapük has shown us that one man cannot create a language -- it takes a community. Also, it has shown us that reforms can destroy a language. What would you think if you woke up one morning and someone told you that the words "the" and "and" were not to be used in English any more? Let's say the new rules required you to say "het" and "nad"? Do you think you'd be able to speak nad write English without using het old words by mistake. Do you think that the English speaking world would have het resources to reprint its entire literature? Now imagine that these changes were happening every few months or even every few years. If these changes were going on in a constructed language, nobody would be willing to learn it since nobody could keep up with the changes.

[Note my mistake in the above paragraph -- using THE English speaking world and HET resources in the same sentence. It is hard to make changes in a language you already know, even when you're paying close attention.]

To repeat, the Esperanto movement is not opposed to changes per se. I have detailed this in my last message. However, in order to demonstrate to the governments of the world the need and desire for such a language, we need a language which we can learn and use NOW. History has shown that reforms work counter to this need.

> I think a useful experiment would be for a group
> like the Baha'is to start an "Esperanto 2.0", which
> would attempt to overcome problems of 1.0.

I gather from this comment that you are not a Baha'i, since (as I understand things, as a non-Baha'i) the idea is that the *world* needs an auxiliary language, and the *world* should be involved in its adoption. Therefore, any effort in this direction should be done independent of the Faith. I applaud the Baha'i involved in projects like OneTongue and LangX for putting their Faith into action, while at the same time taking steps to avoid limiting the involvement of others by making their projects Baha'i specific.

I also gather that you are not an IAL history buff, since there already was a projected called "Esperanto 2.0" along with dozens if not hundreds of reforms -- including the type which you describe below"

> I don't mean a reform like Ido (which is really more
> of a dialect), but the sort of whole-scale changes that
> would be needed to make the basic auxlang project
> plausible (and not merely keep E-o alive). It would
> have to be a new auxlang, I think, and not just a
> reboot of the old.

There have been many of these as well - including a well financed one which published a dictionary in 1951 - and many not-so-well-financed ones, including Cousin Anthony's "LangX" project. I suspect that these will provide useful information to any council who will create the final version of the IAL once Esperanto is accepted (in accordance with the Fundamento of Esperanto and the Baha'i scriptures), and none of them take away from the glowing praise 'Abdu'l-Baha heaped onto Esperanto, nor from the fact that Esperanto is the only constructed language which is immediately useful to the point where it has attracted a significant number of speakers - that is, anywhere near enough that we can begin to claim that we’ve reached the point where the IAL idea can be demonstrated.

> We've already learned a lot from E-o's shortcomings
> and successes, and as time goes by the point in
> perpetuating them all together gets lost.

I contend that there are a lot of lessons learned which are not yet seen by the vast majority of people who express an opinion on this matter. Many of these lessons were clear even in 1894, but we’re still trying to convince people of them today. I think your comment here, though, ignores the thrust of what I was saying in my last note. Namely, that the Baha’i scriptures talk about Esperanto having a degree of success and then it will be reformed and learned by all. (This is said in many different ways.) Also, that the basic documents of Esperanto say the same thing -- that Esperanto will need to grow and spread, and then, once the idea has been demonstrated and has gained enough support to the point where the governments take notice, a council will be formed who will have the power to decide the actual form of the language which will be accepted and taught to the students of the world. Since ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the authors of the “Fundamento” say the same thing, I humbly submit that now is not the time to obsess about reforming Esperanto, but rather to get involved in spreading the IAL idea in general by learning and using Esperanto.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

Dawu d

Postby Dawu d » Sat Jul 02, 2005 2:52 am

The Epistle to the Son of the Wolf was written in 1891. Volapük was published in 1880 and Esperanto in 1887.


So, the first E-o book was four years old when Baha'u'llah uttered the word "auxlang"? Didn't it need some time to catch on (and reach Palestine)? That's why I say Volapuk influence is more likely. (No, I don't believe Baha'u'llah was divinely influenced.)

Yes, there have been many attempts to improve upon E-o. I struggle to think of a credible one--i.e. one which has at least as great a chance of success. THAT'S the challenge facing the next-generation "Neo-Eo" (as I call it).

I'm not convinced that any auxlang project would succeed in this sense, but would love to see such projects attempted, as I'm sure people would learn a lot from trying--much as the Klingon Bible Translators must have learned a lot from their project despite the non-existence of their mission field! Not only on the language creation side (produce development, as it were) but also the marketing. If somebody can send representatives of their auxlang to knock on my door and give me literature--or better yet, convince everybody's kids to download pirate copies of its grammar from the internet--then I'll be impressed!

Other major future linguistic possibilities include international English, easy/reliable machine translation, or a resurgent Spanish. I don't forsee the involvement of any international committees in this process.

Salivanto
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 6:19 am

Postby Salivanto » Sat Jul 02, 2005 6:54 am

(No, I don't believe Baha'u'llah was divinely influenced.)


Then there's no sense for us to have this conversation here. If you want to want to discuss the potential forms of a constructed international language, you could try the Auxlang forum at Brown, which has a mirror here:

http://groups.yahoo.com/group/auxlang/messages

I came to this board trying to get a believer's point of view on my observations.

So, the first E-o book was four years old when Baha'u'llah uttered the word "auxlang"?


I don't think he ever said "auxlang". If we believe that Baha'u'llah was accurately reporting the facts in 1891 (which the Baha'i surely believe, but I'm not sure you do) then this conversation with Kamal Pasha happened well before the publication of Volapük or Esperanto. It was in his letter of 1891 when he said that a new language and script have already been invented.

I also need to correct a factual error which I made in my last post. When I said there was already an "Esperanto 2.0", I was apparently thinking of "Esperanto 2" by René de SAUSSURE, from 1937.

Amike Salutas,
Thomas Alexander.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

Salivanto
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 6:19 am

Postby Salivanto » Sun Jul 03, 2005 9:31 am

Hello again folks,

I finally understand what Cousin Anthony meant when he said that this discussion was 4 pages long (even though it was closer to 40 when I tried to print it.) I was only seeing the first quarter of the discussion. (I guess that would make the whole thing something like 160 pages if I tried to print it.) I feel a little foolish now, since I've said that the conversation was not as "comprehensive" as Cousin Anthony said and now, having discovered the last three quarters of the conversation, I already see that some of my questions and observations have indeed been touched upon, at least in some detail - and this is only after spending a short time reviewing the thread. It will take me some time to read through and think through all this, but I will be back.

Sorry for the confusion and thanks for your patience.

Thomas Alexander
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

Salivanto
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 6:19 am

Postby Salivanto » Mon Jul 04, 2005 9:36 am

Hello Again Folks,

I finished reading through the rest of this discussion - skipping a bit over the more general issues of a world language and tangential issues of a world government. My main purpose in coming here was to focus on one issue: what do the Baha’i scriptures say about a world language, and what can we do today to help make that come to pass?

It’s tempting to comment on the mechanics of constructing a language, but I suspect that doing so would detract from the above-mentioned issue. Nevertheless, I cannot say that I will be able to resist this temptation. :-)

It was nice to see that some of the thoughts I have had / have been having did come up in the discussion. For example, if I’m reading it right, that Brett wrote in his note from 19 December that he doesn’t think there has been any change in the Baha’i position toward Esperanto. It might be too great a leap, however, to go from there and conclude that Brett necessarily agrees with me concerning the potential interpretation of certain scriptures as being extremely supportive of Baha’i involvement in the Esperanto movement.

I’m also glad that the topic of "existing or new" came up. From my point of view as an outsider, it’s impossible to read the Baha’i scriptures and not come to the conclusion that the auxiliary language is going to be a constructed one, since:

- All children will be learning two languages.
- ‘Abdu’l-Baha says that a universal language will have certain qualities - which only a constructed language can have. (Phonetic spelling, regularized grammar, words selected from many languages, etc..)
- The one explicit objection to Esperanto (that it is difficult for certain people) is even more true for the national languages.

Later on, Brett says in contrast that "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." If anything, it seems that the opposite would be true -- that "existing language" was included to help bring those people on board who see a constructed language as something just as lifeless as a "constructed squirrel."

I did not see any mention in the thread of the idea presented by Bernhard Westerhoff (and perhaps others) that if the IAL turns out to be a "reformed Esperanto" (reformed at the time of adoption, in accordance with the "Fundamento" of Esperanto), then the selection will be both an existing and a new language. Not to mention, many other apparently contradictory statements will be resolved, as I mentioned in my first long message here. (As a consequence of this idea, I think it’s fair to say that Cousin Anthony’s repetitions that “according to the Baha’i Faith” the language won’t be Esperanto, and that ‘Abdu’l-Baha called for an immediate reform are in error.)

I believe it was Anthony who asked rhetorically:
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?


To me, the easiest answer is that God is unchanging... and that there are still people today who think - without even looking into the matter - that a constructed language must be as lifeless as a constructed squirrel. In order to get these people to listen, the initial proposition has got to be believable.

One of the answers given to this rhetorical question, though, leaves me wondering:

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.


This was certainly true in the time of McCarthy here in the US, but the opposite was also true at times in the communist world. The issue, it seems to me, is that when the "outside world" is suspect, then any attempt at international friendship will be suspect -- whether this is on the part of an American parent buying childrens’ books from China, or Russians receiving newsletters from Western Europe.

Brett once again:
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).


On the contrary, the fact that we don’t know can bring them to the table (i.e. the individual search for the truth), but once they start to dig into it logically, the various indications that it would have to be a constructed language can move people to the right action. Saying "it’s a great idea; too bad it never caught on" (as many non-baha’i have said to me) doesn’t help. Writing crazy-sounding letters to the editor (not that I think all letters fall into that category) doesn’t help. What helps is learning a language which demonstrates the idea, and using that language in the way it was intended. As you use Esperanto, the idea can be said to be "catching on" -- and whether this idea is specifically Esperanto or the IAL idea in general is another question -- but at least you’re actually *doing* something. If you can accept that the scriptures, taken as a set, suggest that it will be a new language, and that effort put into Esperanto is effort well spent, then people can make this good choice.

Cousin Anthony in his message from 22 December:
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.


Wow! At first I hardly thought that this time frame could be possible, but this 25th anniversary booklet from BEL is already seven years old. I also wonder whether I shouldn’t start calling you UNCLE Anthony. If you were at this 25 years ago, I wonder what I can dare to think I can teach you with my limited experience of eight years. On the other hand, to read easily refuted categorical statements such as "Esperanto has an artificial vocabulary", I start to suspect that you’ve spent the last 25 years involved in more than trying to learn as much as you can about Esperanto.

Cousin Anthony:
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.


I see this quite differently.

First, the person you quoted is hardly one of Esperanto’s biggest supporters. Ironically, in the parts of his note which you don’t quote, he mentions many things about Esperanto which he would like to change. It would be wrong to see his point of view as representative of all Esperantists - especially to conclude from his comment that "Esperantists are not interested in their language being revised."

More importantly, however, is that the idea which you quote above is not new. The same arguments were made in 1892, quite possibly based on lessons learned with the failure of Volapük -- and if my math is correct, this same community 13 years later explicitly discussed the circumstances under which an International Commission could be drawn up to form a new language. This is part of the Fundamento, as you well know. It is an easy mistake, but a mistake nonetheless, to jump from the disinterest in current reforms (for reasons which Steve Rice spelled out in the Auxlang quote above) to the idea that all Esperantists have rejected the Fundamento and the fact that the Fundamento has an allowance for the creation of an international council to create a new language.


This is one of those tangents which I can’t resist. Dawud wrote (02 Jan):
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").


Perhaps it’s more like not knowing that "birdo" means "bird" because Esperanto doesn’t have the "R-vowel" sound which English has (“bird“ without the final D sound can be written “brr” or “burr”.) In other words - it’s not a problem. It’s easy to remember that "birdo" means "bird" even if the pronunciation is nothing like it is in the English word. Still, from a learning point of view, even "vol" is easy to remember -- if we know that the phonology of Volapük prohibits consonant clusters and changes R’s to L’s.

And in a later note:
"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.)


For the record, it’s "vol" and "pük". The "a" is like a little bit of glue to stick the words together ... and it was the Chinese, not the Japanese, who, according to Schleyer, couldn’t pronounce R’s.

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


I always heard it as "fish sauce". (I just checked my dictionary, it’s believed to come, through Malay, from Chinese "ke-tsiap" = brine of pickled fish.") Yes, I’m being pedantic, but the devil is in the details, and one needs to pay attention to them.

Later still:
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.


If a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, you should be registered as a lethal weapon. Have you ever asked a Mandarin speaker this? With a little bit of context, it’s not that hard. If the Mandarin speaker perceives what we would call “the same vowel with different tones” as “different vowels”, he would only have to learn which of his vowels become which vowels in the international language, and then context will fill in the gap.

Here’s an example. Imagine a language which treats B and V as one letter, forbids consonant clusters, and changes all vowels and vowel groups (as written, not as pronounced) as either A, E, I, O, or U as pronounced in Spanish. If you were told that the word “bet” comes from English, it could conceivably vest, best, beast, breast, beet, vet, bet, and perhaps many more. Still, to say he’s the “bet” singer in the world or that she’s taking her cat to the “bet” makes it very clear. In fact, it’s not unlike what I face every day when talking to my three year old. I often don’t even notice that she says pish, yite, or fuada. (Fish, light, fraga - although now she says “fish.”)

Back to the topic, in his 03 January note, Cousin A wrote:
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 pointed this out to the community here when I gave my first presentation there as a fairly new Esperantist (maybe two years after starting to learn) and brand new to the Baha’i scriptures. I got lots of ooh’s and aahs as if nobody had ever noticed that before -- not in a lifetime of being a believer. How can so many people miss such an obvious point? My only thought is that they aren’t giving enough thought to this issue -- or to be more fair, that they have given priority to other important issues to the neglect of this one.

Cousin Anthony:
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.


It’s only slightly less tricky than the one whose solution is the reconciliation of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and the Fundamento. :-) I’m still trying to figure out, though, what “potential qualities” are (e.g. ‘Abdu’l-Baha, 12 Feb 1913). After checking my dictionary, I’ve concluded that it’s not good English. As soon as I can find someone to explain the original language to me, I might be able to solve yet another such “little puzzle.”

Another one which has come to mind while reviewing this thread is the “new script” question. I always wondered “why the obsession with the script?” Lately I’ve started thinking “wouldn’t it be neat if the ‘new script’ idea had to do with the ‘special characters’ in Esperanto?”

In response to one of Cousin Anthony’s puzzles, Brett replied:
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?


Yes, so obvious that people don’t even notice it -- much in the way that you never notice your own nose. Maybe it was obvious to me because that’s one of the cornerstones of Esperanto -- that it’s meant to be neutral.

Let’s also not forget that ‘Abdu’l-Baha never said that “English as it stands is very difficult for some people” -- perhaps because that too is 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?


So that people who aren’t ready to believe that a new language can work can still embrace the idea of an IAL by allowing themselves to look past their own noses without seeing them.

Again, I think it is simply easier to convey the idea in such a manner without having to sound like a lawyer.


If only once one of them had said something simple like “in this way it would possible for people to go anywhere if only they knew the auxiliary language” without saying at the same time that *all* people or *each* nation would have two languages. It doesn't sound like lawyerese to say that "children in schools throughout the world could in this way be able to communicate with each other without losing their native language" -- yet somehow, the emphasis is always on *two* languages.

On 25 January of this year (2005) someone identified only as "Guest" wrote:
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.


This is why I encourage anybody interested in the IAL idea to learn -- really learn -- Esperanto. Creating a new language at one time seemed to me like an impossible task. I remember reading that Esperanto, the idea of creating a new language, came only after the thought of reviving a classic language like Latin or Greek. It was determined that it'd be easier to make a new one. When I first read that, I thought "how audacious." Apparently you still think that - and it’s understandable. After all, how can anybody, even a whole committee, think they can create an entire language!?

Ironically, though, (and this becomes most clear only after learning another language to the point of fluency) it’s exactly these fields where you foresee the most difficulty where things are actually most simple. The vocabulary of science is already fairly well unified around the world. Many languages will share the same vocabulary using the same or similar words built with little variation from the same Greek or Latin roots. For example, if you learned enough Italian to carry on a conversation, you’d have little trouble understanding their word for appendix or appendicitis. Other languages sometimes have their own words for these things, which often are literal translations of the Latin or Greek words. A language like German, which has its own native word for appendix (Blinddarm, literally “blind intestine”) also have a borrowed term like “der Appendix.”

Knowing what I have spelled out above and without checking in a dictionary, I can guess that these words in Esperanto are “apendico” and “apendicito” -- which I just looked up and verified.

Guest also wrote:
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.


I don’t imagine that such a council could be made up today, but as the IAL idea catches on and spreads, perhaps it could happen in the future. The council, of course, could not be put together till the idea has great support. Then, the language would be taught in schools around the world. Everybody would be free to continue using whichever language they please, but the next generation, having been taught the easily learned language invented by the council will find this the easiest solution.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

brettz9
Posts: 1365
Joined: Wed Dec 31, 2003 12:12 pm
Contact:

Postby brettz9 » Mon Jul 04, 2005 2:51 pm

Dear Thomas,

Welcome!

I am sorry not to have responded so far, and I probably will not get a chance to for a while, as I am going out of town for a few weeks. But, I appreciate your inquiries and comments, and look forward, God willing, to discussing our common interest in a world auxiliary language at some point in the future.

best wishes,
Brett

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Fri Jul 22, 2005 9:07 am

After a rather hectic few weeks, I am now able to offer at least a partial response to Cousin Thomas (“C Thom”), to whom I should first like to apologise for giving inadequate information (“4 pages”) about the length of the discussion on this thread (I then went away and didn’t have chance to examine his initial posts and correct the error).

The revival of this discussion originated on AUXLANG:
http://listserv.brown.edu/archives/auxlang.html
a month ago with a posting from Don T., to which I replied as follows:

> Also, I can't think of many examples of support by religious groups.
> There is, of course, the famous example of Baha'ism and Esperanto, which
> dates from the 1920s (I believe), but never went anywhere.

Baha'i endorsement of Esperanto actually preceded WW1, but 'Abdu'l-Baha also stated that
Esperanto would have to be revised, because it was too difficult for some people.

As recounted in Wendy Heller's biography, Zamenhof's daughter Lidia (who was a Baha'i) often
heard requests for a revision when she lectured in Europe and America during the 1930s.

However, she was either unable or unwilling to make the necessary arrangements - so the major
impediments for non-linguists of certain nationalities remained.

Unfortunately, the concept of a language effectively constrained by a central committee loyal to
the ideas of a sole author wasn't conducive to the aftermath of WW2 - popularly seen as a
potentially democratic era after "The Age of the Dictators". English having discovered a second
wind via the victory of the Allies, Esperanto gradually lost the high media profile that had given it
"household word" status during the 20s and 30s - a trend reinforced by Orwell's "Newspeak" and a
perceived association with Red China and other totalitarian regimes.

Anyway, 'Abdu'l-Baha, evidently knowing in advance that a satisfactory reform of Esperanto would
never take place, also specified before WW1 that a new language should be formed by an
international committee - and that the hopes of Esperantists would be realised in this way.

Antony Alexander http://langx.org


Now follow excerpts from C Thom’s replies to AUXLANG, with my comments. (The complete postings can, of course, be read on AUXLANG. I directed AUXLANG readers to this forum, and subsequently informed them that I would be responding to C Thom’s specific points re Esperanto and the Baha’i Faith here rather than there):

(June 25) "....The local Baha'i community has been kind enough to have me in to speak on several occasions over the last few years, so I
have had an opportunity to dig into this topic.

Baha'u'llah actually described Esperanto - although not by name - and called on the leaders of the world to make it happen. This was in his "Epistle to the Son of the Wolf." This was written, according to
the best source I could get on short notice, a year before Baha'u'llah's death in 1892. It's interesting to me that quite often, the Baha'i will look at this same passage for justification for *not* getting more
involved with Esperanto.

One detail I'd like to have clarified is when did the conversation between Baha'u'llah and Kamal Pasha (which he writes about in the Epistle of the Wolf) take place? I'd always assumed that it took place before 1887, but thinking about it now, I have no real reason to think that."


Well. let’s look at the relevant passage in “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” (p 137-9):

http://www.sacred-texts.com/bhi/esw.htm

"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!

One day, while in Constantinople, Kamal Pasha visited this Wronged One. Our conversation turned upon topics profitable unto 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."


As can be seen, there are two separate references to a new language and script: the first, in a conversation between Bahá’u’lláh and Kamal Pasha, would have taken place about the end of 1863, but the second contemporaneous account- written in 1891 - would certainly fit in with Esperanto chronologically.

However, apart from this coincidence there is no evidence that Bahá’u’lláh was actually referring to Esperanto. On the contrary, one might wonder why He didn’t refer to Esperanto (or Dr Zamenhof etc.) by name, given that the language was already published and freely available; also it’s questionable whether Esperanto has a new script - it would probably be more accurate to describe it as a modified Latin script.

For such reasons it has been suggested that Bahá’u’lláh was referring to another language entirely. The Research Department at the Baha’i World Centre responded to this suggestion as follows (see Item 21 - - Khatt-i-Badí’):

http://home.wanadoo.nl/arjen.nandita2/UHJ-6-8-1997.htm


".....the leaders of the world should either choose an existing language or create a new one. He then goes on to explain that this would mean that ALL people would then be learning two languages. Since an existing language would not need to be learned by its native speakers, I conclude that he really saw "the one language" to be a new language and not one of the existing ones."

Yes, I agree.

"Occasionally, a baha'i will tell me that this falls upon the governments and not individuals. (That is, they don't have to learn Esperanto till it is pronounced official). To that, I point out that governments rarely do anything which hasn't been demonstrated by the people first. Also, Baha'u'llah says that if "men" (presumably this means "people in general"
keeping in mind that the quote is a translation) "[were] 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." So, the governments have a role, but so do all men."

Actually I think your Bahá’í is correct. Nothing with a mundane aspect - including language with script - is realisable without the consent of government. That isn’t to say, of course, that the private, voluntaristic approach shouldn’t be encouraged too (as you rightly point out, the Bahá’í Writings would seem to support this). In reality the two approaches - public and private - are complementary, and harmonisable through proper consultation.


"If Baha'u'llah didn't mention Esperanto by name, his son and successor sure did -- although he seemed to slowly change his thoughts on the topic over the years. This makes it easy for followers of the Baha'i faith to pick the one quote they like and follow that one. As with most things in life, the reality is more complex. At the very least, I have no problems telling the Baha'i that I meet that Abdul Baha wanted them to get involved with Esperanto and to associate with Esperantists."

Yes - a valid point which you do well to point out. Bahá’ís believe that God can, and does, change His Will (or Mind, if you like) whenever it pleases Him to do so - perhaps influenced by how humanity responds to Divine Revelation. For instance, Bahá’u’lláh originally required everyone to learn two languages (the IAL and the respective mother tongue) but afterward decreed that all the languages in the world should be reduced to one (see the UHJ interpretation in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas). Certainly there is a potential source of division here, but what unifies everything is the Bahá’í Covenant, of which the arbiter is the Universal House of Justice. Personally I have found such differences to be of emphasis rather than substance, and that being made to view the same Teaching from various angles and perspectives can greatly help in understanding it.


> Unfortunately, the concept of a language effectively
> constrained by a central committee loyal to the
> ideas of a sole author wasn't conducive to the
> aftermath of WW2

"This sounds familiar. Was it 'Abdu'l-Baha who said that "one man" cannot create a language? Did one man create Esperanto? I don't think so. One man started it, but Zamenhof repeated frequently in his life that
he doesn't own Esperanto - that he has no power to change it any more than any other individual Esperantist. Zamenhof published the first book of Esperanto with just 900 words. Many many people have added to this over the years. Still, I've heard many Baha'i use this "one man cannot create a language" line from 'Abdu'l-Baha as their excuse for not doing anything to promote linguistic equality by actually learning another language."

Well, it’s a two-way thing. Zamenhof may have disclaimed ownership of Esperanto and renounced its copyright, but that didn’t stop his readers regarding him as the author. There have been cosmetic changes and additions - new words etc. - but the structure of the language itself has been fundamentally unchanged for a century.

As is well known, Zamenhof decreed at the First Congress at Boulogne-sur-Mer in 1905 that the 16-rule Fundamento should remain unchanged until Esperanto had been officially adopted as the IAL. He may have introduced this constraint with the best of intentions, in order to preserve the unity of the movement, but - in the absence of the hoped-for endorsement by the appropriate world authority, and consequent fundamental revision - he was effectively left as the sole author of the language. Thus it is absolutely true to state that Esperanto was created by one man.


"By the way, what's this "central committee"? I'll guess that you're talking about the Akademio, but I don't see how it fits the description you've applied."

> Anyway, 'Abdu'l-Baha, evidently knowing in advance
> that a satisfactory reform of Esperanto would
> never take place, also specified before WW1 that
> a new language should be formed by an international
> committee - and that the hopes of Esperantists would
> be realised in this way.

I think what has actually happened is that the other parameters have altered, because the language itself has not fundamentally changed. Thus you are quite right: the function of the Central Committee (‘Akademio”) is no longer the same as it was seventy years ago. In those days it might still have been possible for the Akademio to organise a fundamental revision, but now it is much too late.

One evidence of this is two letters I received in about 1979, one from a member of the Academio de Esperanto and the other from the Secretary of the British Esperanto Association. Both were in much the same vein, and one read, in part:

"...no one, repeat no one, now can possibly propose changes in Esperanto which would have the slightest effect on the use of the language all over the world."

"We are constantly receiving proposals from old and new Esperantists for "improvements" to the language, any of which would have as much chance of success as trying to improve the English language - of which there have been many projects, all of which have been, and will always be, ineffective."”

Similarly, an Esperantist wrote on AUXLANG a few months ago:

“.....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.”

When Zamenhof stated that Esperanto should remain fundamentally unchanged until after it was officially adopted, he surely didn’t envisage the process taking more than a century. The remarkable, albeit short-lived, success of Volapük, and the progress of Esperanto to date, probably suggested a time-scale of no more than a few decades at most. Indeed, he was very possibly aware that an over-extended wait might lead to the language “growing roots”, and subsequently being impossible to radically alter.

In any case, this is what has evidently happened, with the result that there is now no chance of Esperanto being substantially revised - whether it were officially adopted or not. A new “radically reformed Esperanto” might be formed by the appropriate commission, but it wouldn’t be Esperanto, which would carry on as before. Even a compulsory change of name wouldn’t alter the reality.

The way I see it is something like this: there will be an International Language Commission, which will form a new constructed auxiliary language for the world, which won’t be Esperanto. However, Esperanto - which remains an excellent language, though not ideal as the initial IAL - will continue to exist independently, and will probably gain many more speakers too. Then, at a later date (perhaps at about the Lang29 level, according to my illustrative scheme) Esperanto will effectively begin to merge with the developing initial IAL


"One reason why I think I would never be able to become a good Baha'i is I'm still programmed from my fundie Christian days to expect the Word of God to be internally consistent. My understanding of progressive
revelation and individual search for truth is that scripture doesn't necessarily have to be internally consistent to have the power to instruct. 'Abdu'l-Baha lived a fair amout of time and the world around him
changed. Perhaps that explains (with no contradicion) why he was able to act on the Divine Knowledge to which you refer above, and yet at other times of his life, write such glowing praise for Esperanto that
it's difficult to imagine how any serious Baha'i would doubt that all Baha'i should learn Esperanto and be actively involved in the Esperanto community."

There are two aspects to the Word of God. One is essential and unchanging; the other changes over time. The first consists of those timeless verities common to every Divinely-revealed religion; the second indicates that these different religions really constitute the progressive revelation of one religion. But there may also be a varying revelation, or difference of emphasis, within each religion (or progressive unfoldment of religion). Bahá’u’lláh's aforementioned Statement re the languages being reduced to one is one example. For another, the Universal House of Justice may alter punishments for certain crimes as it sees fit, influenced no doubt by the prevailing social conditions. And likewise ‘Abdu’l-Bahá made varying statements concerning Esperanto, according to the nature of the audience He was addressing.

A piece I wrote about four years ago: http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html gives examples of themes that might be thought contradictory, but only if considered in isolation. Yes, it’s undoubtedly true that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged Bahá’ís to study or learn Esperanto, but there was also an obligation for the language to be revised or reformed - or for a new language to be formed by an international committee. The two aspects are really inseparable. Thus, the absence of a fundamentally revised or new language caused Esperanto to become more or less extinct in large areas of the world, with the result that it became very unrewarding for Bahá’ís to learn the language. I think the Statement of the UHJ in the above piece might be understood in this context.

Again, the question of internal consistency is vital. Although the differences have been apparent rather than real, every Divinely-revealed religion has been pulled apart as each denomination or sect has clung on to a particular verse or interpretation without understanding the whole. And the same would no doubt happen to the Bahá’í Faith but for the existence of the Covenant, or line of authoritative interpretation, now residing with the UHJ - whose exposition, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas and elsewhere, pulls apparently diverse threads in the Bahá’í IAL Teachings together into an internally consistent and unified form.


(28 June, AUXLANG) "In your essay, you cite 'Abdu'l-Baha as saying that he hopes that Esperanto may be "perfected through the bounties of God" and from that, you conclude the he "required" an immediate reform of the language. I believe this to be a bold jump, unsupported by the facts. I'm curious about the words used in the original (not that I'd understand them), but I will point out that even in English that "to perfect" can mean "to complete or finish." My reaction to this sentence is that he hopes that the work of Esperanto should be MADE COMPLETE -- that is, it should be spread and accepted by the world -- through the bounties of God.

Of course, the alternative is supported by the fact that a year earlier, he said that Esperanto "needs perfecting" and that it is "very difficult for some people." (Still, I'm left wondering why that would matter if it's supposed to be taught to children - see Pei - and eventually become a universal mother language.)

Here and in other postings, C Thom, you interpret my essay: http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang10.html as indicating that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá required an “immediate” reform of the language. Well, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá never used the word “immediate” and neither did I. On the contrary, He was probably well aware of Zamenhof’s 1905 decree that fundamental revision of the language should not proceed without official endorsement, and specified the intervention of an official internationally-appointed committee for that very reason.

Which brings us back to the point made earlier: that Esperanto is now so old and deep-rooted that a radical revision to improve its global accessibility of would now prove impossible. Consequently, the international commission would in effect be forming a new language, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá predicted.

Mario Pei was quite correct that children can learn any language, but it’s also true that they learn basic and regular language more quickly and easily. Robert Craig and I provided some examples of this in “Lango” (1996): http://bahai-library.com/books/lango/lang26.html#p


(30 June, this thread) "This is exactly the path put forward in the “Fundamento” (the ‘foundation’ of Esperanto): at such time when the governments have accepted Esperanto, they will appoint a council who will review the experiences and lessons learned over the years and make any changes deemed necessary (even starting over from scratch, I suppose). At that time, this new “Esperanto” will be accepted and will become universal. The first step, however, is for enough people to start learning and using Esperanto (as it currently is) to demonstrate to the governments that this idea has support and is feasible."

Since you write “(even starting over from scratch, I suppose)” we evidently agree. However, I don’t see that your “first step” is absolutely necessary. The utility of Esperanto and other IALs, including pidgins and existing national languages, has already been comprehensively demonstrated. In fact there is already a great deal of relevant linguistic research out there, which just needs to be collated and synthesised. There is easily enough information for an International Commission to be set up immediately.


"Cousin Anthony, in his note of 16 December, made some other potentially misleading comments about Esperanto. He spelled out various reasons for preferring words from “natural’ rather than “artificial” languages, and then concluded that as a result, “Esperanto and its ilk are inferior to languages whose words have been proved in centuries or millennia of usage by entire societies.” This ignores the fact that Esperanto’s vocabulary comes from these very languages."

I’m well aware that Esperanto vocabulary was derived from existing languages, but - rightly or wrongly - I’d still call it artificial because the inflectional (word class) system has usually distorted the original word. This view is predicated on the supposition that language is primarily a
spoken rather than a written phenomenon - so euphony proved over time should take precedence over everything else.


"‘Abdu’l-Baha is right. One man cannot construct a language. It takes a community. In that same passage, though, He describes the qualities of a “Universal Language”, all of which are qualities of Esperanto: It contains words from different languages. It is governed by the simplest rules, and there are no exceptions, gender, or extra and silent letters. Furthermore, why do we think that “effort put into this will not be lost” means “stop putting effort into this”? To me it means put MORE effort into it, since you know that the effort will not be lost. He then talks about how the one final language will be constructed by a council. Is this not the same council which I mentioned above; the one referred to in the Fundamento? Is not the scenario which I sketched out above? We put effort into Esperanto now. This effort is not lost, since it serves to draw attention to the idea. Then the governments convene a council and create a new language based on the lessons learned? This is the message in the Baha’i scriptures. It’s also the plan spelled out in the Esperanto documents."

Yes, I’d agree with most of that, apart from: “It contains words from different languages. It is governed by the simplest rules”. Esperanto does indeed contain words from different languages, but they are usually modified by its synthetic grammar (word-class inflections); also its vocabulary is European-based to a degree that would probably now be considered unacceptable. And by no stretch of the imagination can Esperanto be described as being governed by the simplest rules. For instance, it has the plural adjective, accusative case inflection, and separate reflexive pronoun and intransitive verb form, all of which English generally manages without.


"Oh, by the way--anybody remember the Khatt-i-Badi (the alphabet of M. 'Ali, Baha'u'llah's brother)? I think I've got it figured out. It's based on the "visible speech" system of Alexander Melville Bell (father of the telephone guy). Vertical marks are vowels, and it looks like M. 'Ali has incorportaed the consonants into these."

Could you provide more information or a link for this, Daw ud?


(back to C Thom) "I did not see any mention in the thread of the idea presented by Bernhard Westerhoff (and perhaps others) that if the IAL turns out to be a "reformed Esperanto" (reformed at the time of adoption, in accordance with the "Fundamento" of Esperanto), then the selection will be both an existing and a new language. Not to mention, many other apparently contradictory statements will be resolved, as I mentioned in my first long message here. (As a consequence of this idea, I think it’s fair to say that Cousin Anthony’s repetitions that “according to the Baha’i Faith” the language won’t be Esperanto, and that ‘Abdu’l-Baha called for an immediate reform are in error.)"

Yes, I can accept the possible validity of this interpretation, which I seem to remember Bernhard Westerhoff suggesting to me some years ago. (For reasons already explained I don’t agree that the last sentence in brackets is fair.)

"Back to the topic, in his 03 January note, Cousin A wrote:

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 pointed this out to the community here when I gave my first presentation there as a fairly new Esperantist (maybe two years after starting to learn) and brand new to the Baha’i scriptures. I got lots of ooh’s and aahs as if nobody had ever noticed that before -- not in a lifetime of being a believer. How can so many people miss such an obvious point? My only thought is that they aren’t giving enough thought to this issue -- or to be more fair, that they have given priority to other important issues to the neglect of this one."

I find that interesting, and wonder if it is because you have approached the Bahá’í Writings on the IAL issue directly, rather than via the normal induction process for Bahá’ís - in which the need for an IAL tends to be presented in terms of a choice between an existing language and a new invented language. Nothing wrong with that - it’s the choice the Bahá’í Writings clearly present - except that people naturally jump to the conclusion that the choice is between an existing “national” language and a new invented language such as Esperanto.

This in turn produces the well-known psychological effect that a statement to the contrary is glossed over by the mind, even though it is read by the eyes. I think this is why this passage in “Epistle to the Son of the Wolf” has escaped the attention of so many Bahá’í, whereas you - approaching from a very different perspective - spotted it immediately.

"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."

I must have read this passage a number of times over the years without “seeing” what it actually said. And yes, it certainly does seem to confirm the possibility presented by Mr Westerhoff that the choice will really be between an existing “previously-invented” language such as Esperanto and a “brand new” invented language formed by an international commission.

Anyway, at this stage it seems to me that the latter alternative will be chosen - but that the excellence of Esperanto and all other languages will be incorporated in due course, perhaps along the lines I have sketched at http://langx.org

The Bahá’í Writings don't endorse such a mechanism, of course, but it is at the very least a concrete route from the many tongues of the present to the single universal language of the distant future.

Antony Alexander

Salivanto
Posts: 9
Joined: Thu Jun 30, 2005 6:19 am

Postby Salivanto » Fri Jul 22, 2005 10:13 pm

Dear Cousin Anthony,

Not only "thinking outside of the box", but disagreeing without even the hint of a flame war. Very nice. I still, however, have a lot of difficulty with many aspects of this point of view. While my area of expertise centers more around Esperanto, other projects, and "reform", what stands out in your letter is the notion that God can "change His will whenever it pleases Him to do so." Again, I normally think of myself as an atheist, but this way of thinking is totally alien of the way I normally think of God: I have always understood "eternity" not as "existing forever" but "existing outside of time." Sure, I can imagine the idea of progressive revelation and that God would appear to changing men in different ways as they change, but it is very difficult to imagine (even in a "what if" kind of thought experiment) that this could play out so strongly in the lifespan of 'Abdu'l-Baha. That is why I try to seek out a consistent thread within the Baha'i scriptures, even if this thread must be seen within the historical contexts (which have indeed changed from 1887 till today) to be understood.

It's good to see that we agree on many points -- that a careful reading of the scriptures suggests that "the" language will be a "new language", for example. I'm not sure, however, what you mean when you wrote "I think your Bahá’í is correct." Did you mean that my understanding of the Baha'i teachings is correct on this point, or that the Baha'i believers I talked to were correct in saying that they had no responsibility to learn and promote the idea presented by Baha'u'llah since that responsibility was given to the
governments? I understood it the first way, since it's all but obvious that he said that "were men to take fast hold" to the IAL idea, then the world would become as one country.

On the other hand, there are still many areas of disagreement. Much of it, I'll grant, comes down to personal taste and differences in opinion. There are other areas, however, where I must insist in saying that you have either made errors in fact, or have chosen to present the facts in a way which is misleading. Some of these are quibbles. Some of these have more substance and import. I will respond to these equally below.

In the quibble department, I question whether it makes sense to refer to Steve Rice as "an Esperantist" (in the English sense of an advocate of Esperanto) as you did in your recent post. Certainly you could find plenty of Esperanto advocates to say similar things, but that is not the point. You seem to have latched onto this quote as particularly typical of the way of thinking among advocates of Esperanto, yet I am not comfortable with the choice of Steve Rice for this role, considering that he would not be well described as an advocate for Esperanto.

As can be seen, there are two separate references to a new language and script: the first, in a conversation between Bahá’u’lláh and Kamal Pasha, would have taken place about the end of 1863, but the second contemporaneous account- written in 1891 - would certainly fit in with Esperanto chronologically.

However, apart from this coincidence there is no evidence that Bahá’u’lláh was actually referring to Esperanto. On the contrary, one might wonder why He didn’t refer to Esperanto (or Dr Zamenhof etc.) by name, given that the language was already published and freely available;


To me, at least one potential answer is plain to see. He didn't mention Esperanto by name because he knew that 'Abdu'l-Baha would and it was not the "right time" in 1891 to do so. He may well have been referring to something else entirely (such as the Khatt-i-Badí’, more or less lost to history), but that doesn't change the numerous other clear references to Esperanto as a potential fulfillment of Baha'u'llah's call.

also it’s questionable whether Esperanto has a new script - it would probably be more accurate to describe it as a modified Latin script.


I'll grant that. Frankly, I don't see what's with the many references to "and script." To a person living in 19th century Persia, where the confusion of scripts is plain to see, it makes perfect sense, but to imagine God saying this is very difficult for me. The script is the easiest part of a language to learn, and the easiest to fix with a simple computer program. I learned to read the Russian script in a few days. I don't think I'll ever get to learning to read Russian. This strikes me as the "language is written language" fallacy common to many lay people. Saying that we need a new language AND a new script is kind of like saying that you have a problem with your car - it needs a new engine and a new tank of gas.

Still, within the context of simply accepting the Baha'i scriptures as is and trying to understand them, I think it's significant that Esperanto has its own alphabet. Ironically, this is often presented as one of Esperanto's biggest faults -- a "fault" which would only be greater if the entire alphabet was new -- yet this seems to be what Baha'u'lla was calling for. How "new" does a "new script" have to be?

Well, it’s a two-way thing. Zamenhof may have disclaimed ownership of Esperanto and renounced its copyright, but that didn’t stop his readers regarding him as the author. There have been cosmetic changes and additions - new words etc. - but the structure of the language itself has been fundamentally unchanged for a century.


It has arguably changed more in that time than English or Persian has. Still, change is not necessarily the point. One man may have planted a seed, but he did not make that seed grow. One man did not create Esperanto. It is created every time someone learns it and exists as a living language because of its community of speakers.

Thus you are quite right: the function of the Central Committee (‘Akademio”) is no longer the same as it was seventy years ago. In those days it might still have been possible for the Akademio to organize a fundamental revision, but now it is much too late.


At least three objections spring to mind.

First, to my knowledge, the function of the Akademio is the same today as it was 70 years ago.

Second, Esperanto is as reformable (or unreformable) today as it was 70 years ago.

Third, I think you're starting to get stuck in your own kind of "box" -- to think that 'Abdu'l-Baha intended that Esperanto should be reformed immediately and then accepted, and using this "inside the box" thinking to interpret other events.

The letters you cite as "evidence" do not counter the first and second points above.

When Zamenhof stated that Esperanto should remain fundamentally unchanged until after it was officially adopted, he surely didn’t envisage the process taking more than a century.


This may very well be true. It doesn't change the fact, however, that even in 1894, seven years after the first book on Esperanto was published, it was seen that a reform without the backing of an authority, such as a council appointed by the governments would only cause confusion. It also doesn't change the fact that Esperanto is here today because people who learned it had the assurance that what they learned on Monday could still be used on Friday.

Indeed, he was very possibly aware that an over-extended wait might lead to the language “growing roots”, and subsequently being impossible to radically alter.


I find this harder to accept. The fundamental concern was that in order to change the language, the change would have to be made by a group with suitable authority. Not some Jewish eye doctor who happened to be fluent in the language. Not the Akademio. Not Cousin Thomas or Cousin Anthony. The only way that Esperanto could be changed (and this was clear to Zamenhof in 1894) is for a group of governments to get together and appoint a council, the decision of the council to be binding, and for the governments to finance the teaching of this language to large numbers of people.

In any case, this is what has evidently happened, with the result that there is now no chance of Esperanto being substantially revised - whether it were officially adopted or not. A new “radically reformed Esperanto” might be formed by the appropriate commission, but it wouldn’t be Esperanto, which would carry on as before. Even a compulsory change of name wouldn’t alter the reality.


Here's one way it could play out:

Regular men and women take fast hold of the IAL idea, associate with Esperantists, and learn the language. Esperanto continues to grow. The more people who speak it, the more useful it becomes. More and more people start to notice. Eventually, the people in various countries demand that the governments do something along these lines. The governments get together, form a council. The council makes a new language (which may or may not bear a direct resemblance to Esperanto) and this language is taught in schools around the world. Hundreds of thousands of Esperanto speakers learn this new language on their own. Depending on how radically the new language departs from Esperanto, many Esperantists say "humbug" to this new language and stubbornly continue using Esperanto - either because they simply enjoy it, or because they want to see it replace the language which the world is now using. Regardless, the rest of the world ignores these stragglers and eccentrics and continues on enjoying the benefits of a common tongue which would not exist if people in 2005 did not show their support for the IAL idea by learning and using Esperanto.

Yes, it’s undoubtedly true that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged Bahá’ís to study or learn Esperanto, but there was also an obligation for the language to be revised or reformed - or for a new language to be formed by an international committee. The two aspects are really inseparable. Thus, the absence of a fundamentally revised or new language caused Esperanto to become more or less extinct in large areas of the world, with the result that it became very unrewarding for Bahá’ís to learn the language.


I am convinced that it is far more rewarding for anyone to learn Esperanto today than it was 100 years ago. Today we have e-mail and jet planes bringing the world to our doorstep, whereas in 1905 they had paper and steamboats. I also have to confess that I remain unconvinced of your interpretation that 'Abdu'l-baha was necessarily calling for an immediate reform, and that the way your repeat this as a proven fact strikes me as somewhat presumptuous. I have said this before, and I remain unconvinced now.

Well, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá never used the word “immediate” and neither did I.


To clarify, by "immediate", I really mean one that is necessary beforehand - before people will get on board and support the IAL idea by learning and using the language. If this is not what you meant, then this is the first time I have understood. this.

On the contrary, He was probably well aware of Zamenhof’s 1905 decree that fundamental revision of the language should not proceed without official endorsement, and specified the intervention of an official internationally-appointed committee for that very reason.

Which brings us back to the point made earlier: that Esperanto is now so old and deep-rooted that a radical revision to improve its global accessibility of would now prove impossible. Consequently, the international commission would in effect be forming a new language, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá predicted.


That's fine. My point, however, is that it is essential that as many believers as possible put their faith into action by doing a whole bunch of good things, and one of these good things should be learning and using Esperanto. Nowhere in your writings have I seen where you have called people to learn Esperanto now.

One quibble, though. It's misleading to call the Fundamento "Zamenhof's decree." It would also be more accurate to say that a "fundamental revision of the language COULD not proceed without official endorsement." The Fundamento simply acknowledges this and puts it in black and white.

Since you write “(even starting over from scratch, I suppose)” we evidently agree. However, I don’t see that your “first step” is absolutely necessary. The utility of Esperanto and other IALs, including pidgins and existing national languages, has already been comprehensively demonstrated. In fact there is already a great deal of relevant linguistic research out there, which just needs to be collated and synthesised. There is easily enough information for an International Commission to be set up immediately.


On the contrary. The world is not ready. I laughed out loud when I heard that there were people who spent their free time speaking Esperanto, and now I'm one of them. My initial reaction, though, is not atypical. More common, though, are people who don't even know what Esperanto is, or who insist that the idea can't work. We need to continue showing to people that it can. It would be pointless to set up an international commission now. It would not have the necessary authority to implement the language since there still isn't enough popular support. This is why I'm harping on the need for people who believe in this idea to learn and use Esperanto, even if there are details of it which they would like to see changed.

And by no stretch of the imagination can Esperanto be described as being governed by the simplest rules. For instance, it has the plural adjective, accusative case inflection, and separate reflexive pronoun and intransitive verb form, all of which English generally manages without.


A detailed justification of these specific features would be too wide a tangent for this discussion at this time, I think, but I'll quickly point out that a "separate reflexive pronoun" is fairly common in national languages. English does not manage without it but rather introduces another way of indicating the same meaning. A "separate intransitive verb form" simply follows from the idea that "each word has but one meaning", which I think was also one of the requirements of 'Abdu'l-Baha.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Fri Jul 29, 2005 3:44 pm

Dear Cousin Thomas,

Yes, we seem to agree about the need for an International Commission to determine the IAL issue.

And we might also agree that a major stumbling-block to this International Commission is the widespread belief that English is already the de facto International Auxiliary Language.

Well, English is most certainly a very important world language, and will continue as such for a long time to come. Here is a fairly recent Bahá’í statement about English:

“The need for it (unity of language) is now recognized on all sides, as reflected in the circumstances that have compelled the United Nations and much of the non-governmental community to adopt several "official languages". Until a decision is taken by international agreement, the effect of such developments as the Internet, the management of air traffic, the development of technological vocabularies of various kinds, and universal education itself, has been to make it possible, to some extent, for English to fill the gap.”

“Century of Light” (2001), p. 128, (commissioned by The Universal House of Justice)

However, “stopgap IAL” is not the same as “de facto IAL”. Robert Craig and I challenged the latter notion in “Lango” (1996): some of the statistics we used are in FAQ No 4 near the end of

http://langx.org/langx-summaryfaq.html

Since then the relative decline of English has evidently continued. A personal note may be illustrative. I have visited Israel on two occasions: in 1994 and in 2001. On both occasions I spoke to many locals and, in 1994, discovered that everyone - with one or two exceptions - spoke good English. I even saw graffiti written in English. In 2001 I found the situation to be very different.

For similar reasons the use of English in the former British Colonies has continued to decline since independence about half a century ago. At the Conference on Language and Global Communication at Cardiff University three weeks ago a Malaysian Professor confirmed that this trend was continuing in her own country.

However, the same Conference, while featuring a number of lectures implicitly criticising English for all the usual reasons (imperialism, neo-colonialism etc.), scarcely provided an alternative, apart from:

http://www.worldlanguageprocess.org/wal ... erence.htm

Briefly, the world’s powers may soon decide that the defects of English as the principal mode of global communication have started to outweigh its advantages, and that it is time to look for a replacement. Moreover, the “tipping point” might well be closer than we think. There have long been numerous complaints about the linguistic difficulties of English as a world language but, historically speaking, such things have always followed the money - which by the reckoning of most observers is currently moving from West to East, with probable long-term consequences detrimental to the world-wide use of English.

Not everyone agrees with this view. Only this morning I received an email from a correspondent which states, in part:

“Here I admit to uncertainty about the decline of English. My own observations are quite different, and in Japan quite the opposite is happening: there is a growing sense of urgency and seriousness about mastering English, much of (it) coming from an immensely frustrated business community. Several major companies in Japan now use English only (sic) in their headquarters. And both Korea and China are pushing very, very hard for first-rate English education. Just the other day, also, I read that in many parts of India, parents are very forcefully demanding the former colonial language be taught to their children so they won't be disadvantaged in the global market.”

But this I would put down to the trend identified by Prof. Sir Randolph Quirk in 1990: "Despite the persistent and glib assumptions in Britain and America, we are witnessing a significant relative decline (perhaps even an absolute decline) in the currency of English worldwide. This may come as a surprise to those who think of English as the medium of high-tech skills, international conferences, and professional journals: here indeed continued growth is doubtless the order of the day. But these are relatively slim and specialized lines of communication."

He might have added “international business and finance”, of which English is still the medium. But how long will it remain so? The products might all be manufactured in low-wage countries, but what price ownership in the West if the products and processes are simply copied? Moreover, the status of the $ US as the world’s reserve currency has bestowed upon America a certain financial and linguistic privilege - what if that should disappear too?

In “The Promise of World Peace” the UHJ wrote, nearly twenty years ago:

http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_prom ... d_peace#15

“A fundamental lack of communication between peoples seriously undermines efforts towards world peace. Adopting an international auxiliary language would go far to resolving this problem and necessitates the most urgent attention.”

Well, perhaps the situation will resolve itself in an unexpected way. Last week witnessed the long-awaited revaluation of the Chinese Yuan. If the revaluation continues, as the astonishing Chinese commercial success leads many to expect , it would be a very significant development - given the observed parallel between currency strength and cultural and linguistic influence. Indeed, according to historic precedent Mandarin (Putonghua) could well be propelled into the role of global language. However, Mandarin has even fewer prospects than English as an international language, mainly due to the limitations of foreign speakers - and it’s questionable whether the Chinese would wish to sacrifice their precious language for this purpose anyway. In fact there is every reason to suppose that a new language would be their favoured option.

A new language should not be thought of as an unprecedented step. Many successful new languages have been formed in the past - via deliberately introduced pidgins - and in a real sense every one of us has started out in life by learning a new language.

There is also the happy accident that an initial pidgin-type IAL would conform to Chinese usage in important respects. For instance, it would probably be analytic (isolating - without inflections); and it would also be like Putonghua, English and most other major languages in having a subject-verb-object syntax, and in generally putting the adjective before the noun.

Here is a corresponding quotation from “Turning Point for all Nations”, published October 1995, exactly ten years after “The Promise of World Peace”. As can be seen, guidance is given concerning the personnel required for the International Language Commission:

http://bahai-library.com/?file=uhj_turn ... nt_nations

“The United Nations, which currently uses six official languages, would derive substantial benefit from either choosing a single existing language or creating a new one to be used as an auxiliary language in all its fora. Such a step has long been advocated by many groups, from the Esperantists to the Bahá'í International Community itself. In addition to saving money and simplifying bureaucratic procedures, such a move would go far toward promoting a spirit of unity.

We propose the appointment of a high-level Commission, with members from various regions and drawn from relevant fields, including linguistics, economics, the social sciences, education and the media, to begin careful study on the matter of an international auxiliary language and the adoption of a common script.

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.

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


(July 7, Auxlang)
"One point of which which I have not yet been convinced
(and perhaps this is my fault for not reading all of
your web pages) is the implied statement that a
"simple pidgin-type language" can be learned more
easily than an Esperanto-type language - or more
easily than the same number of words taken from an
Esperanto-type language."

A posting from Auxlang I missed, C Thom, which I’ll reply to here. I think the issue here is the mother tongue. If the Esperanto-type language is more complex in some ways than the mother tongue the average student will find it difficult to learn. The idea of an initial “simple pidgin-type language” is that it will represent a sort of lowest common denominator, so that the average student in every culture around the world can learn it quite easily.

"I'm also convinced that if the IAL idea ever succeeds,
it will succeed because the language which becomes the
IAL will have been immediately useful at every phase
to most of the people learning it, without the need
for universal adoption ahead of time. A global pidgin,
while less ambitious than a global language, still
requires universal adoption to be useful, doesn't it?"

If the language is formed by an International Commission, universal adoption will happen anyway.

"I'm confused by your comparison of language
acquisition by an infant to the PCPC (=CPCP?). That
sounds like nice poetry, but it could hardly stand
up to scrutiny, since individuals and groups are
very different things. Groups don't acquire language
the way babies do, do they?"

Yes they do. A group is an organism just as much as an individual, if not more so. You’ve probably read about the many experiments with group animals - ants, pigeons etc, - who “know” where the missing part of the group is, when separated from them. Even plants grow much better in close proximity to each other. How much more is it true of human societies and groups.

"At this point, what interests me (and maybe this
is a topic better suited for the other board) is
how you see your idea as falling in line with what
has been said in the Baha'i scriptures about the
Universal Language. The pattern described there
seems to have to do with a council creating a
language, or a new language coming into existance
and then becoming universal. I'd hate to be
accused of putting God into a box, but your
"outside the box" idea seems to follow a different
pattern - namely, a language becoming universal, then
undergoing changes, then becoming universal, then
undergoing changes, etc.. I'm also not sure how the
idea of a council creating a language and the language
evolving "naturally" at the hands of the users can be
done at the same time."

A very pertinent observation. I think the right balance will be difficult to achieve, and not without constant consultation and reflection. The council will have to be neither too prescriptive nor too descriptive, neither too active nor too passive. If the council were properly constituted I’ve no doubt that the right balance could be found.

"I've also been unable to find reference from
'Abdu'l-Baha saying that a "scientific" approach
to the language problem was the way to go."

“But regarding the universal language: Ere long significant and scientific discussions concerning
this matter will arise among the people of discernment and insight and it will produce the desired
result.”

(Tablets of 'Abdu'l-Bahá Vol. III Page 596)

I took this from Prof. Beach’s comprehensive list of Baha’i quotations (translated into English) re
the IAL issue at:

http://www.worldlanguageprocess.org/ess ... blang4.htm

(July 10, Auxlang)
"This could be the start of a potentially interesting
thread. We could discuss what conclusions, if any,
we could take from this story (true or otherwise.)
My recent digging into the 1894 story and also into
the Baha'i scriptures (*) has convinced me that what
is needed is not a perfect language which can be
justified by current "scientific" thinking, but
rather unity behind one language which is "good
enough" and can demonstrate the "Esperantist idea"
(as defined by both Zamenhof and Gode and refered to
by 'Abdu'l-Baha). If IALA in its early days was not
able to pick one of the projects as clearly better
than the others, this suggests to me that all of them
are more or less equally good - better in some ways
and worse in others.

(*) Note: I am not necessarily saying that the Baha'i
scriptures actually support this conclusion, but
rather that I found this conclusion not to be
inconsistent therewith, and that giving thought to
the teachings served to strenghten my own conviction
to this conclusion."

Yes, more or less any language could be made to work - and bananas could be grown on the moon, given enough money! Proper scientific methodology should lead to the language that can be taught most easily, efficiently and cheaply, according to the cultural requirements.

Busy weekend ahead so I’d better leave it there. If I have time next week I may respond to one or two points from your last posting on the thread above.

Antony Alexander


[text][/text]

Salivanto
Posts: 9
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Postby Salivanto » Sat Jul 30, 2005 6:39 am

Dear Cousin Anthony,

Yes, we seem to agree about the need for an International Commission to determine the IAL issue.

And we might also agree that a major stumbling-block to this International Commission is the widespread belief that English is already the de facto International Auxiliary Language.


We can certainly agree that the Baha'i scriptures call for one. I hope we can agree that Esperanto allows for one. My personal conviction, however, is that such a commission might not be necessary since I have much more faith in "bottom-up" promotion of the IAL idea.

As for English, we may agree, but I think that in many areas of knowledge, people shut out new ideas very quickly if you push the wrong buttons and the "English is already the universal language" button is a hot one for many people, so I generally try not to push it, and when I do, it's very carefully.

.
However, the same Conference, while featuring a number of lectures implicitly criticizing English for all the usual reasons (imperialism, neo-colonialism etc.), scarcely provided an alternative, apart from:

http://www.worldlanguageprocess.org/wal ... erence.htm


Hey, nice. We even LOOK like cousins.

Moreover, the “tipping point” might well be closer than we think.


Hard to imagine ... but I guess that's what you're saying.

You quoted me:
(July 7, Auxlang) "One point of which I have not yet been convinced (and perhaps this is my fault for not reading all of your web pages) is the implied statement that a "simple pidgin-type language" can be learned more easily than an Esperanto-type language - or more easily than the same number of words taken from an Esperanto-type language."


and replied:
I think the issue here is the mother tongue. If the Esperanto-type language is more complex in some ways than the mother tongue the average student will find it difficult to learn.

I take it as a given that there is no such thing as a language being more complex over all than another one. (I have read opinions to the contrary, e.g. John McWhorter, but even in that case, the kind of complexities which are discussed are basically absent from *all* constructed languages.) It follows from this given that it is impossible to make a language more like the native tongue of one person without making it less like the native tongue of another. So, from that point of view, the overall difficulty spread over the world is fixed.

What I was trying to get at, though, is that the only way to make a language simpler than Esperanto (by orders of magnitude and not by minor degrees) is to cut expressiveness -- and I understand this to be your suggestion. That is, the “Lang1” would be more or less a word list with minimal grammar. Why that would be easier to learn than “Survival Esperanto” or “Survival English” is not at all clear to me.

Yes, more or less any language could be made to work - and bananas could be grown on the moon, given enough money! Proper scientific methodology should lead to the language that can be taught most easily, efficiently and cheaply, according to the cultural requirements.


That wasn’t what I was saying. Yes, any language could be made to work. Sanskrit could be the IAL in one generation (even on the moon) given time and money -- but I was talking about what can be done without money - by people who believe that a Universal Auxiliary Language would be a good thing for the world. I don’t believe that talking about ideas will make them happen. Learning and using Esperanto, to demonstrate in a tangible way that a universal language can bring people closer together, is one thing which can be done to promote this idea.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Wed Aug 03, 2005 3:39 pm

Dear Cousin Thomas,

Just now I happened upon the following quotation from a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, the beloved Guardian of the Baha’i Faith. And this 70th anniversary seemed reason enough to post it here, with the additional bonus that it so exactly addresses what we have been discussing:

http://reference.bahai.org/en/t/se/LDG2 ... light#pg37


A few points from your last two posts:

“Second, Esperanto is as reformable (or unreformable) today as it was 70 years ago. “

A language or culture has often been compared to a human being passing through distinct life stages: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence, death. So, even as a person is more easily influenced and changed in their youth, radical structural changes in a language tend to take place early on.

Correspondingly, as the mind tends to grow narrower with age and the waistline broader, a language will usually become fixed in its basic structure after a certain period of time - even though its vocabulary may continue to increase.

English is a good example: numerous attempts have been made during the past two hundred years to alter its irregular spelling, but they have all got nowhere. Many new words have been added but the spelling of the old ones has not changed. The grammar and spelling became more or less fixed long ago.

Esperanto is a much newer language of course, but it too will have started to become rooted and inflexible, especially since the first mother tongue speakers appeared. For this reason Esperanto is unlikely to be “as reformable (or unreformable) today as it was 70 years ago”.

Of course, it’s still possible that it might be reformed by the appropriate Commission, with most or even all Esperantists going along with the reform, but experience of other languages would suggest that the process would be more difficult, the longer it were delayed.


> And by no stretch of the imagination can Esperanto be described as
> being governed by the simplest rules. For instance, it has the plural
> adjective, accusative case inflection, and separate reflexive pronoun
> and intransitive verb form, all of which English generally manages
> without.

"A detailed justification of these specific features would be too wide a tangent for this discussion at this time, I think, but I'll quickly point out that a "separate reflexive pronoun" is fairly common in national languages. English does not manage without it but rather introduces another way of indicating the same meaning."

No, I have to disagree, Thomas. Marking the reflexive in English - using auxiliary words such as “own” and “self” - is optional (more or less). Most of the time the reflexive simply isn’t marked. Let’s have an example: “John told Peter about his car.” As you rightly say, many languages will use a reflexive if John’s car is being referred to. However, there are many other languages - including English of course - which leave it up to the context to make the meaning clear.

There is an important issue here. The IAL is likely to start off as a primarily spoken phenomenon focused upon mundane necessities in circumstances where context will provide most of the grammar - just as it has always done with pidgins generally. Thus I would argue that this primacy of context will not only be able to dispense with the plural adjective, accusative case inflection, separate reflexive pronoun and intransitive verb form, as in English, but also (for instance) with plurals and articles as in Chinese and Japanese.

Would the result equate to what 'Abdu’l-Bahá may have referred to as “the simplest rules”? I don’t know - but “simplest” does tend to mean “the simpler the better”.


"A "separate intransitive verb form" simply follows from the idea that "each word has but one meaning", which I think was also one of the requirements of 'Abdu'l-Baha."

With respect, I think you’re looking down the wrong end of the telescope here, Thomas - as in “each meaning has but one word”!


"I take it as a given that there is no such thing as a language being more complex over all than another one. (I have read opinions to the contrary, e.g. John McWhorter, but even in that case, the kind of complexities which are discussed are basically absent from *all* constructed languages.) It follows from this given that it is impossible to make a language more like the native tongue of one person without making it less like the native tongue of another. So, from that point of view, the overall difficulty spread over the world is fixed."

Yes, but isn’t an auxiliary language used in adjunct to the mother tongues in an entirely different category, whether or not the mother tongues are of equivalent complexity?


"What I was trying to get at, though, is that the only way to make a language simpler than Esperanto (by orders of magnitude and not by minor degrees) is to cut expressiveness -- and I understand this to be your suggestion. That is, the “Lang1” would be more or less a word list with minimal grammar. Why that would be easier to learn than “Survival Esperanto” or “Survival English” is not at all clear to me."

But it isn’t just the expressiveness, or grammar, which is at stake, but the character of the words themselves, and within them the phonemes from which they are constructed.

Antony Alexander

Salivanto
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Postby Salivanto » Thu Aug 04, 2005 7:33 am

Dear Cousin Anthony,

I think one problem we will have in finding more areas of agreement is that we are using very different paradigms. If we can't agree there, then we will keep talking in circles as we discuss details.

I've lost track of which 70th anniversary we're talking about, but I did take a peek at that letter from the Guardian and it seemed familiar. I think I've seen it before. At any rate, it's totally consistent with my present understanding of some of the shifts in message from the Baha'i leaders over the years. We've already discussed potential reasons for this, but I suspect you'll agree that at least on the surface it would look to an outsider as if God is just kind of changing his mind as he changes prophets or even as individual prophets age. Finally, though, even though I am an atheist, the idea of God "hoping" that something will happen is totally alien to my understanding of what it means to be God.

But concerning some slightly less esoteric paradigms, I do not accept the "language is a living entity" in more than the most superficial way.

A language or culture has often been compared to a human being passing through distinct life stages: birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, maturity, senescence, death. So, even as a person is more easily influenced and changed in their youth, radical structural changes in a language tend to take place early on.


I do not believe that science supports this analogy, nor does history support its conclusions. Latin, for example, a fairly mature language, underwent many changes as it became French, Spanish, Italian, and so on. You could reply that these were then new languages undergoing new changes, but surviving references to very early French (or late Latin in the French areas) show that in this middle time, people spoke a language which was neither fully French nor fully Latin, but was somewhere in between.

English is a good example: numerous attempts have been made during the past two hundred years to alter its irregular spelling, but they have all got nowhere. Many new words have been added but the spelling of the old ones has not changed. The grammar and spelling became more or less fixed long ago.


This is another red herring. English spelling became fixed, to a large part, due to technological advances in printing, not due to the age of the language itself. Even so, certain groups of English speakers have managed to break with some of these patterns when given a reason to do so. One of these groups is now called “Americans” and have adopted their own ways of spelling words such as tire, center, and color (tyre, centre, colour) largely for reasons of national pride. In the years since Webster established these new patterns, other languages as old as English or older have undergone major changes in spelling -- some switching alphabets entirely.



You quoted me:
A detailed justification of these specific features would be too wide a tangent for this discussion at this time, I think, but I'll quickly point out that a "separate reflexive pronoun" is fairly common in national languages. English does not manage without it but rather introduces another way of indicating the same meaning.


And replied:
No, I have to disagree, Thomas. Marking the reflexive in English - using auxiliary words such as “own” and “self” - is optional (more or less). Most of the time the reflexive simply isn’t marked. Let’s have an example: “John told Peter about his car.” As you rightly say, many languages will use a reflexive if John’s car is being referred to. However, there are many other languages - including English of course - which leave it up to the context to make the meaning clear.


And I must insist that you are guilty of the sin of "thinking in English."

You can keep telling you that marking the reflexive is optional in English. Even as I ignore the rule I make a liar of me by showing that sentences can be clear without it. Still, the greatest sin, however, is the assumption that such marking or non-marking makes the language easier. This is only an assumption, after all. It is an assumption which ignores the fact (and I’m choosing the following words carefully and intentionally) that for many people whose native language is not English, the system in Esperanto in which the concept of the reflexive is represented by but one word is much easier to learn an use than the corresponding system in English, where the reflexive is sometimes represented by a third-person non-reflexive pronoun and other times represented by the same pronoun appended with the ending “-self” depending on context.

And context is often a major bugbear in these situations. John may well be telling Peter about his car - perhaps clear if we’d already known that John was waiting for news about a repair for his own car, but no bit of context can make “John told Peter that he hates him“ into a description of John’s own self-loathing.

The IAL is likely to start off as a primarily spoken phenomenon focused upon mundane necessities in circumstances where context will provide most of the grammar - just as it has always done with pidgins generally.


Again, I cannot agree. A language to be invented and then taught in schools so that each child is learning two languages, his own native language and the international language, certainly sounds like a language which will be written first.





Yes, but isn’t an auxiliary language used in adjunct to the mother tongues in an entirely different category, whether or not the mother tongues are of equivalent complexity?


I’m not sure what you mean. Seen a certain way, I can agree with this. That is, I would claim that all ethnic levels are about equally complex and all constructed languages are more or less equally complex. I’m not sure this is what you’re saying, though. It is, however, consistent with my claim that there are ways to make Esperanto simpler by degrees, but not by orders of magnitude. (When I say "Esperanto" here, I mean any artificial language, including LangX.)

But it isn’t just the expressiveness, or grammar, which is at stake, but the character of the words themselves, and within them the phonemes from which they are constructed.


Again, this is a matter of degrees. People can carry on about the phonetic details of Esperanto and how that makes it difficult for certain people to pronounce, but in practice I’ve rarely encountered a situation where this has lead to a misunderstanding. People have complained, and perhaps rightly so, about the word “scias”, which looks great on paper (literally, since it means "knows" and is related to the word science) but which is difficult for many people to pronounce. In practice, though, you can pronounce it “sias”, “cias“, “scias”, or even “satsias” and “sasias” as I recently heard a Texan say, and people will understand you with no problem.

Just about the only misunderstanding which comes to mind as I think about this was the time I heard an African say that the ball (dance party) was "tro blua" (too blue) instead of "tro brua" (too noisy). This was apparently a lapsus linguae, since he ordinarily had little or no trouble pronouncing L’s and R’s differently.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that it’s not worth trying to find out more about how to make these improvements by degrees. This could be very valuable information for a commission put in charge of drafting a final version of the language. In the meanwhile, however, it is far more important to get more people invested in the idea of an Auxiliary language. I contend that the best way to do this is (get ready for the broken record) by learning and using Esperanto.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Fri Aug 05, 2005 8:14 pm

Dear Thomas,

Hello...I'm very sorry that I have not responded thus far...I wrote a very long response the other night, but I really realized that, if you don't mind, I wish to bow out of this conversation because I really do not have the energy to sustain it, at least in as thorough a manner as you and Antony have discussed it. If you care to correspond on any specific items via email though, you are most welcome. (brettz9 a-t yahoo DOT com)

anis masomian

world auxiliary language

Postby anis masomian » Sun Aug 21, 2005 6:00 pm

My belief is that the world auxiliary language that Baha'u'llah envisioned could in fact be music which contains 13 notes like an alphabet and is the language of love understood by peoples of all races all over the world. It communicates more effectively to the spirit than idle talk.

anis masomian

world auxiliary language

Postby anis masomian » Sun Aug 21, 2005 6:00 pm

My belief is that the world auxiliary language that Baha'u'llah envisioned could in fact be music which contains 13 notes like an alphabet and is the language of love understood by peoples of all races all over the world. It communicates more effectively to the spirit than idle talk.

brettz9
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Postby brettz9 » Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:17 am

It is an interesting speculation; however, I think you will find that the Writings are clear that it does refer to speech and writing.

Although the Bahá'í Writings do refer to the great power of music and the arts, and often refer to deeds over words (though this may be more in reference to not excessively promising things or bragging, etc.), they also quite clearly refer to the usefulness of language. We require it in every area of our lives (see this talk of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, for example, where He emphasizes it). The Bahá'í Writings are themselves expressed in it (though in this too, it is encouraged to put them to music).

Take this passage for example from Bahá'u'lláh's Most Holy Book which expressed language's importance:

Promote ye the development of the cities of God and His countries, and glorify Him therein in the joyous accents of His well-favoured ones. In truth, the hearts of men are edified through the power of the tongue, even as houses and cities are built up by the hand and other means. We have assigned to every end a means for its accomplishment; avail yourselves thereof, and place your trust and confidence in God, the Omniscient, the All-Wise.

(Kitáb-i-Aqdas, par. 160, emphasis added)

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Postby brettz9 » Mon Aug 22, 2005 1:30 am

The talk I referred to is even more explicit than the quotation I gave in referring to language as speech (or writing)...

On a different note, regarding the topic we have discussed before of the laissez-faire attitude taken by some Bahá'ís in not appreciating the action required and called for in our Writings to establish a world auxiliary language, this line from the above-mentione talk seemed particularly helpful and succinct in expressing it:

"We must endeavor with all our powers to establish this international auxiliary language throughout the world."

Salivanto
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Postby Salivanto » Fri Sep 02, 2005 7:05 am

Dear Brett,

You wrote:
Hello...I'm very sorry that I have not responded thus far...I wrote a very long response the other night, but I really realized that, if you don't mind, I wish to bow out of this conversation because I really do not have the energy to sustain it, at least in as thorough a manner as you and Antony have discussed it.


Well, I do mind ... at least so far as one stranger can expect another stranger to go out of his way for him. I see e-mail (public and private) as a gift of time. I really have no right to "mind" in any real sense if you do not decide to make this kind of gift to me, but I would not have responded to your notes if I wasn't interested in what you had to say.

What I regret most of all is that my tendency (and Antony's) to respond at length and in detail has apparently frightened others away from this discussion -- including you, Brett, who clearly has at least above-average interest in this topic, considering your involvement with onetongue.org.

If your "very long response" is still available (saved to disk), I'd love to see it - here or in private e-mail, even if the understanding must be that the note is not an invitation to a long, drawn out discussion.

You did invite me to contact you if there were any specific items I wanted to discuss. I don't remember. As a first step, however, I did scan through my postings for the times I mentioned you by name. Here's one:

It was nice to see that some of the thoughts I have had / have been having did come up in the discussion. For example, if I’m reading it right, that Brett wrote in his note from 19 December that he doesn’t think there has been any change in the Baha’i position toward Esperanto. It might be too great a leap, however, to go from there and conclude that Brett necessarily agrees with me concerning the potential interpretation of certain scriptures as being extremely supportive of Baha’i involvement in the Esperanto movement.


I'd be curious to know whether you do agree with me that the Baha'i scriptures are "extremely supportive" of Baha'i involvement in Esperanto, and if not, how you reconcile some of the more enthusiastic comments from 'Abdu'l-Baha with this view.

I'm also curious whether the following comment caused you any reflection and whether this reflection may even have caused you to change your view (and if not why not?):

Later on, Brett says in contrast that "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." If anything, it seems that the opposite would be true -- that "existing language" was included to help bring those people on board who see a constructed language as something just as lifeless as a "constructed squirrel."


Above all, I’m curious what your thought is on my idea (which I think I mentioned in all of my posts to the forum) that the best way to support the Auxiliary Language idea is to learn and use a language which demonstrates this idea, even if you don’t necessarily think that this language you are learning is the final form with Baha’u’llah spoke of. Obviously, the language I have in mind is Esperanto, and given the assurance from Abdu’l-Baha that effort spent on Esperanto is good effort, I’d think more Baha’i would agree with me.
Amike salutas,

Thomas Alexander.

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Postby brettz9 » Fri Sep 02, 2005 11:37 am

When I am at that computer where I believe the file is saved, I may be able to dig it up.

Briefly, on point 1 you make, I do very much agree that we should be "extremely supportive" of Baha'i involvement in Esperanto. The letter (supplied by I believe Antony) of the House of Justice to the Bahá'ís in Europe I believe states this.

As far as point 2, My original intention was not that the argument I was making was equally plausible or weighty as the argument you spelled out. I'm just saying it to be fair. Both could even be true, but if so, probably to different degrees...

As far as point 3, I do basically agree with you. Having a living example (and one which has the greatest momentum) is a great way to demonstrate this. I don't think it is the only way (as our onetongue.com campaign wishes to show), but learning the language is certainly a very tangible way (not to mention having the benefit of encouraging the Esperantists themselves in this most important work).

Many times when discussing the idea of a world language, when I mention the possibility of an invented language, people quite often wonder whether there is such a language already, and when I mention that there are such languages (giving Esperanto as the prime), I can tell that many people gain a much greater interest in the concept as a whole, especially if I share with them a few words of Esperanto and its no-exceptions grammar, as an example--even if not all of them are ready to run out and study it).

On the other hand, by not bringing up Esperanto or invented languages immediately in order to ascertain their predisposition on the subject, finding many people who are disinclined to it (mostly because they think it has not worked--though I often point out with political support (if that were the majority language of choice) it could succeed moreso, as well as the fact that there is nevertheless a vibrant community of users), I find that the emphasis on a political decision to establish (or consolidate) a language can renew their interest in the subject, as they do not feel it depends SOLELY on the success of--what they see as a utopian--grass-roots movement.

Americans in particular nowadays seem to only believe such things can be achieved by political consensus, and it is that mindset that I address (I think there is some truth to it too, if not to such a degree).

My question to you is whether you see wisdom in the onetongue approach (potentially complementary to your approach) of leaving the decision open and enlisting help in spreading the idea even among those who will not or cannot take the time to learn Esperanto (or another such language).

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Thu Jan 19, 2006 6:27 am

I think the following article is of interest to Baha’is, not least the final paragraph, which I quote below:

http://www.gold-eagle.com/editorials_05 ... 11806.html

“By 1995, at the demand of the patent office, Hudson was able to demonstrate the reverse process. From a sample that registered as iron, silica and aluminum, there emerged an ingot that analyzed as pure gold. The alchemists, to include Newton himself as modern scholars have uncovered, were apparently pursuing an ancient possibility that was once quite well understood. But Hudson's story ends predictably. He refused the advances of an "investor" who was traced to the DOD. He was told that his projects would never be allowed to complete, and eventually was shut down via "natural" (OSHA, EPA, fines) red tape. As Gardner, notes, "...it is now destined to become a science of big league players at government and corporate levels. Consequently, the stakes are high and the precious metals markets have moved on to a new platform of strategic operation. As oil begins its downward slide to become the fuel of yesteryear, the future masters of the globe will be those who control the gold and PGM supplies." Gold is the new oil. Rather than being produced from the soil of earth through Hudson's process, the decision has been made: the source of the monatomic powder and its vast profits will be controlled by those who hold the existent stores and control the mining operations. A case can be made that it was to this end - control in the "proper hands" - that, beginning in 1999, gold was devalued and systematically sold off by the Bank of England and other central banks.”


Let’s turn now to 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)


IS THIS THE BEGINNING OF THE REALISATION OF THE “FIRST SIGN”?

If so, it might be reasonable to expect that the realisation of the “second sign” - the international auxiliary language - is also at hand. Certainly there has been great progress in this area of late. I’ll mention just two new projects:

Mulivo http://mulivo.pbwiki.com/ and Dunia Patwa http://patwa.pbwiki.com/

As for the other sign of the maturity of the world: “that no one will accept to bear the weight of kingship”, I suggested a process of realisation in my 9/12/04 posting on this thread: “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.”

Recently the absolute monarch of Bhutan has also relinquished his power in favour of a variant of the constitutional monarchy cum parliament model.

shm
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Feb 05, 2006 6:40 pm

Postby shm » Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:46 am

I was just wondering,

since the language in which all the important writings of the faith was written in was persian/arabic, shouldnt the international language also be persian/arabic so that the language persian can both serve as a means of communication between all people and it allows all people to view the writings in there original language.

The reason why I think that persian/arabic is so important is because Ive heard that when the writings of Bahaullah and AbdulBaha are read in there original language, they have a sweet, poetric tune to them, which is not present in the translated writings. Also at the beginning of the english versian of the Kitabi Iqan, Shoghi Effendi who tranlated it says "This is one more attempt to introduce to the West, in language however inadequate", this shows that the original arabic/persian reveals it much better, whether in terms of how sweet/poetric the language is, or how the point or the arguments are made are sound much better

For this reason I believe that the International language should be persian/arabic

onepence
Posts: 473
Joined: Sat Feb 04, 2006 2:44 pm
Location: Longwood, FL, USA

Postby onepence » Thu Mar 23, 2006 9:45 pm

Hi shm,

I am glad to see you making progress in understanding all things,
and I hope you find your studies fascinating. imho you are correct in stating "that the International language should be persian/arabic" but its application into the world of being is a whole nother matter ... ... ...

If the "Lesser Peace" is in essence an Islamic Superstate then all matters of "state" will be in Arabic and major theological discussions in persain{Farsi} and most likely common law/text taught/written in English.

oneness
dh

Antony Alexander

Postby Antony Alexander » Sat Mar 25, 2006 5:27 am

shm - I acknowledge the spirit that prompted you to express this opinion, but if you’d read the previous discussion (yes, I know it’s very long, but this is an involved and complex subject!) you’d have seen that this question has come up more than once before, and has been examined in some detail. Here are a few salient quotations:

[1] From Dr Stephen Lambden’s provisonal translatiion 
http://www.hurqalya.pwp.blueyonder.co.u ... nguage.htm

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.

The purpose however, is that the people of the earth should select a single language and that all humanity converse therein.

(note the “however” in the last sentence.)


[2] ‘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 Bahá'í Scripture)


[3] As for Persian being chosen, the Bahá'í Writings state in many places that all the people of the world will converse in two languages, thus implying that a mother tongue will not be officially selected. Also, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá strongly implied (if not explicitly stated) on many occasions that a new constructed language would be the solution, 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

shm
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Feb 05, 2006 6:40 pm

Postby shm » Wed Mar 29, 2006 4:09 pm

Ive read somewhere that Bahaullah said that learning a new language is a waste of time, I have one question concerning this

Lets say someone first language is english but they are persian and grew up in a persian family and know little bit of persian
Is it okay for a person like this to pursue to learn the persian language better meaning that they go learn how to read and write for the reason that many of the Bahai writings are originally in persian and sound better in the persian language. Or would this be considered a waste of time?

I dont know if Im imagining this or if it really happened: I remember hearing that the House of Justice encouraged persian youth outside of Iran to learn and strengthen there persian so that they could be able to read the writings in persian and since the mother country of the Bahai Faith is Iran. Is this true?

Guest

Postby Guest » Thu Mar 30, 2006 1:03 pm

NO THIS IS BLATANT CHAUVINISM.
AS A MATTER OF FACT IT IS BETTER TO LEARN MANY LANGUAGES TO BE ABLE TO ADDRESS AND TEACH THE FAITH IN OTHER LANGUAGES. PEOPLE WILL APPRECIATE THAT MUCH BETTER.

WE CANNOT FORCE THE WORLD TO LEARN ARABIC SINCE MOST OF THE WRITINGS ARE IN ARABIC OR PERSIAN OR WHATEVER LANGUAGE.

LET US RESPECT ALL NATIONS, THEIR CULTURES AND TONGUES.

LOVING REGARDS,
JAMAL

shm
Posts: 50
Joined: Sun Feb 05, 2006 6:40 pm

Postby shm » Thu Mar 30, 2006 1:24 pm

I did NOT mean that Bahaullah said that learning a language other than arabic is a waste of time, I read somewhere that Bahaullah told a man who was planning on learning many languages that it was a waste of time to learn other languages, this was not in favour or against any specific language

But I believe Bahaullah said this to promote the fact that an international language must be adopted rather than to say that its a waste of time to learn other languages than the one u know, or it may be otherwise, I am not sure?

EdHughes

World Auxiliary Language

Postby EdHughes » Mon May 15, 2006 7:39 pm

I attended a few services at the local Baha'i House of Worship and was surprised at the TOTAL lack of interest in a Worldwide Auxiliary Language and the metric system. They'd rather pray and beat drums. Not my thing. I was told if I wanted to tell people about my improved alphabet I'd have to get permission fom the national org. Maybe this isn't interesting to Hihellowhatsup but it is fascinating to some of us.


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