A Prequel to "Esperanto"?

Why has the return on the effort expended upon the constructed IAL movement in general, and Esperanto in particular, been so meagre? An opponent of the concept might answer that these languages are generally seen as too artificial, and that the culture evinced by alien vocabularies and grammatical structures is too contrary to established patterns of thought to allow for public acceptance, at least in some countries.

Such mutterings have echoed from Orwell's "Newspeak" to the proscription of Esperanto by various régimes, with much low-level prejudice in between. However, they may be countered by the observation that existing languages are themselves largely artificial, as a result of having been subject to partial or sectional influence throughout their histories, and that in any case the IAL of the future should be formed from the best existing words and grammatical elements, such as have proved most efficient within various languages over the course of centuries.

Esperantists would moreover repudiate any affiliation to special interests, and would claim that after World War 1 the League of Nations had a golden opportunity to promote Esperanto worldwide through its member nations, but was deterred by prejudice from certain quarters, and that such an official endorsement - still possible today under the UN - would permit revocation of the "inviolability of the Fundamento" clause Zamenhof invoked over a century ago in order to ensure that a root-and-branch revision were conditional upon the unity and integrity of the language.

Most of us in the constructed IAL movement, whether "Esperantists" or not, would not only accept the neutrality of Esperanto but would expect a great deal of its genius to enter the IAL of the future. However, Zamenhof wasn't superhuman, and so could hardly have been expected to see that his attempt to preserve the unity of Esperanto would act as a double-bind during the extended hiatus consequent upon absence of endorsement by the relevant global authorities. This happened because the political and economic landscape radically changed and Esperanto was not allowed to change with it: a long-established Eurocentrism opened out into more of a balance between West and East, with the lingusitic nexus shifting accordingly, even as languages continued to lose inflections and move towards the "Eastern" analytic style. And with Esperanto's grammar being much closer to the synthetic grammar of most of Continental Europe than the analytic grammar of most of Continental South-East Asia, there was a resultant imbalance in the relative numbers of successful Esperanto students from different parts of the world (and also from different social strata, since Esperanto is a fairly challenging language for "non-linguists" generally).

It would now seem to be very difficult if not impossible for Esperanto to escape from this double-bind of mutually-reinforcing negatives. Even if the UN were to endorse it tomorrow as the new second language for all the world's schools, the reforms considered necessary to make it acceptable in all countries would be such as to render it almost unrecognisable to present-day users, some of whom would probably ignore the reforms anyway - as they have already asserted. A better plan would therefore entrust the formulation of a new IAL to a representative international committee, in open consultation with all interested parties and guided by the latest linguistic science. Such transparency would also prove to a sceptical world that the new IAL were beholden neither to sectional interest nor sinister agenda.

Our present committee should be regarded as no more than a precursor to a properly qualified and funded successor, the members of which would have the latest information and research facilities at their disposal. But even now it might be confidently asserted that there should be no conflict at all between employing the linguistic resources of the worlds' peoples equitably within the IAL and using a scientific approach. This happy coincidence is possible because the different languages have specialised in different areas, whether in aspects of grammar or lexical niches. There would therefore be no excuse for a committee creating an IAL in an arbitrary manner according to political expediency alone, and without regard to the history and provenance of linguistic elements.

The evidence presented on this site is intended to suggest that the language formed - here code-named "LangX" as an "unknown language" - would be something of a "prequel" to a suitably revised Esperanto. Following the JPVP precedent, and the shift from synthetic towards analytic grammar already referred to, the LangX solution would prescribe the simplest type of "pidgin" grammar - analytic with subject-verb-object syntax - to initiate its "grammatical" phase. Such a prescription is possible because the LangX hypothesis would anticipate the operation of the same process as has produced the same initial grammar within not only the historic pidgins but every infant learning to speak.

In line with this process, the JPVP precedent would start before the grammatical level with speech sounds and then "mere words" as a jargon or global core vocabulary. Beginning at the less-controversial level of words would also use the advantage that more or less every culture uses words to identify objects or concepts. (The main exception to this use of words is in polysynthetic languages, where they tend to be used in fixed sequences with other words, or with several morphemes per word - to use a more technical definition. However, although the mother-tongues of these cultures may continue to be polysynthetic, their indigenous populations are becoming well aware of the wider world which ascribes cash value to individual separable objects and therefore treats words accordingly.)

The phrase "less-controversial" is used because foreign words are sometimes subject to political opposition, albeit much less so than is a foreign language complete with grammar. Moreover, even though certain words may still be officially discouraged or prohibited in favour of local equivalents, this is rarely done with much rigour nowadays, since it is known very well that words cannot be suppressed in the same way as entire languages. Indeed, suppression is likely to have the opposite effect, and on the whole foreign words or their transliterations find no resistance or are actually prized: the very mechanism that is already establishing the beginning of an international core vocabulary through words like "hotel, taksi, dolar, banco" etc.. Moreover, the very concept of a properly-constituted and equitable IAL should continue to allay suspicion, and gradually banish the very notion of "foreignness".


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