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Posted by Dawud on November 28, 2101 at 20:33:55:

In Reply to: Re: Weird connection posted by anon on November 26, 2101 at 20:45:52:

The oft-heard criticism that E-o's vocabulary isn't drawn from enough languages is, to my mind, rather naive. Imagine a language which included about ten words from each of the world's several thousand languages. Would such a language be easy to learn? No, to start with you'd need a several-hundred letter alphabet just to fit all the odd sounds the language would have to include (Xhosa clicks, Chinese tones, those weird glottal coughing things Arabs do).

However, I easily could imagine a rival language with vocabulary drawn mainly from Arabic, Persian, Hindi, and Malay. Hell, just Malay by itself would probably work well enough.

I realize Baha'is are committed to having a council pick the language, maybe even tweak it some, but this is in my opinion a horrible way to decide something so momentous. The last time such a council was convened (the Delegation for the Adoption of an International Language, Paris, 1906), they picked Ido--a kind of reformed Esperanto--to no noticable effect on anybody but the Idists (who were pleased) and Esperantists (who were furious).

Ask youself--who would sit on such a council? Professional linguists? (God help us.) End users--ordinary folks picked at random, without regard to whether they were good at languages? (Well, they'd probably do better than the linguists.) Elite types such as politicians and businessmen? (They'd just pick an elite language, or menu of elite languages.) Baha'iyyatollahs? (I believe English and Persian are your working languages at present.) Of course you expect appointments to be decided by the UHJ and/or the future world government, so let's race to see which comes first--a Baha'i world government or Esperanto as a universal auxilliary language! ;-)

More broadly, choosing a language is not something that can be simply legislated from on high by experts, like the metric system. Language is unavoidably complex, like economics, and doesn't much benefit from state planning. The fact that Esperanto has evolved through extended usage, separates it from the countless schemes for an international language which have remained mostly theoretical. Still, even Esperanto would need to develop into the universal language naturally, and not try to get recognized by fiat as a shortcut. It's easy for some expert or council of experts to think they know what the world needs, but the world as a whole is a lot smarter than any council.

BTW Esperantists aren't too worried about Volapuk anymore, since its speakers number in the triple digits (at most), and most of them are probably also E-ists. The current chief competitor is English, and the future one is probably going to be easy machine translation which would make learning other languages unnecessary (kind of like the odd folks today who take the time to learn how to do math without a calculator!).

But in general, E-ists are a lot less ideological and gung-ho than they used to be. Like the Baha'is, they've gone from being a triumphal new source of world salvation to (depending on the people) a forlorn hope, lost cause, righteous remnant, or quasi-ethnic subculture with diminished expectations.

In any event, about this alphabet--we shouldn't be asking what 'Abdul-Baha thought, that's anachronistic. In the early 1890's, Volapuk was certainly in the air in the West, and...what else might Baha and his companions have been exposed to? Earlier systems? Leibniz, for instance? (Still trying to get ahold of a 19th-century "beansprout alphabet" for phoneticized Chinese--invented by an E-ist--which sounds like this alphabet looks!)

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