Re: Required readings for those interested in an international auxilliary language

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Posted by Dawud ( on June 19, 2002 at 02:06:58:

In Reply to: Re: Required readings for those interested in an international auxilliary language posted by Brett Zamir on June 17, 2002 at 00:02:16:

That would be a valuable contribution, if you could get it going. (Something like "" for those who want to know how many followers of religion X there are.) Besides Esperanto and its cousins, some quasi-governmental bodies are devoted to the international use of English, French, Spanish, and German. I doubt the Goethe Institut is as serious about German taking over the world as its U.S. and British counterparts are for English, though.

One dilemma with respect to the actual choice is that generally speaking, only linguists will have a good idea about the range of possible solutions. Esperanto in particular is often dismissed out of hand as a cause for cranks, but some people innocently think that Chinese would be a good solution. (God help us.) On the other hand, linguists are often very bad at teaching languages, or relating to the limitations of ordinary people. I'd rather have various language proposals tested formally, to establish how long it would take for speakers of representative other languages to learn the proposed auxlangs, and what problems they have with them.

Some more considerations:

I. Generally speaking, which languages are easiest?

EASY:Esperanto, Spanish, Turkish, Hindi, Bahasa Malaysia.

MIDDLING: English, German, French, Korean.

HARD: Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic.

II. Which modern languages are at present most often studied by non-natives?

TOP: English

SECOND-TIER: Spanish, French, German, Italian, Portuguese, Russian, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Hindi.

THIRD-TIER: Polish, Swahili, Korean, Hausa, modern Hebrew, Tibetan, Persian, Esperanto, Scandanavian, Bahasa Indonesia, etc.

FOURTH TIER AND BELOW: Sub-national languages without institutionalized sponsorship (Hakka, Mordvin, Quechua, Javanese), struggling languages (often aboriginal).

III. Which languages are most neutral?

Too difficult to decide. For example, English may be neutral in an Indian context, but not in one involving the U.S. or Britain. In theory, this consideration would suggest preferring a small language to a large one, or an ancient tongue to a modern.

Esperanto is neutral in some ways, but not in others. For example it uses mostly European roots, and is associated with a particular subculture which not everyone will identify with.

IV. Which languages would be best at integrating cultural concepts from around the world?

WORST: Chinese. A character or set of characters has to be selected for each foreign word or name. The process is clumsy and often inconsistent.

BAD: Japanese, Korean, Arabic. For phonetic and grammatical reasons, none of these languages handles loan words very well.

MIDDLING: French. For nationalistic reasons, many French speakers resist the use of loan-words.

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