A simple FAQ about the “advantages” of Esperanto and other conlang religions: “easy”, “neutral” and “number of speakers”

This is, as requested by a reader of the Association’s website, a concise FAQ about Esperanto’s supposed advantages:

Note: Information and questions are being added to the FAQ thanks to the comments made by visitors.

1. Esperanto has an existing community of speakers, it is used in daily life, it has native speakers…

Sorry, I don’t know any native speaker of Esperanto, that has Esperanto as mother tongue – Only this Wikipedia article and the Ethnologue “estimations” without references apart from the UEA website. In fact, the only people that are said to be “native Esperanto speakers” are those 4 or 5 famous people who assert they were educated in Esperanto as second language by their parents. Is it enough to assert “I was taught Volapük as mother tongue by my parents” or “I taught my children Esperanto as mother tongue” to believe it, and report “native speaker” numbers? Do, in any case, those dozens of (in this Esperantist sense) native speakers of Klingon or Quenya that have been reported in the press represent something more than a bad joke of their parents?

Furthermore, there is no single community of speakers that use Esperanto in daily life, I just know some yearly so-called World Congresses where Esperantists use some Esperanto words with each other, just like Trekkies use Klingon words in their Congresses, or LOTR fans use Quenya words. Figures about ‘Esperanto speakers’ – and speakers of Interlingua, Ido, Lingua Franca Nova, Lojban or any other conlang – are unproven (there is no independent, trustworthy research) and numbers are usually given by their supporters using rough and simple numbers and estimations, when not completely invented. Studies have been prepared, explained, financed and directed by national or international associations like the “Universala Esperanto-Asocio”, sometimes through some of its members from different universities, which doesn’t turn those informal studies into “University research”. The answer is not: “let’s learn creationism until evolution is proven”, but the other way round, because the burden of proof is on the least explained reason: If you want people to learn a one-man-made code to substitute their natural languages, then first bring the research and then talk about its proven advantages. Esperantists and other conlangers make the opposite, just like proposers of “altenative” medicines, “alternative” history or “alternative” science, and therefore any outputs are corrupted since its start by their false expectatives, facts being blurred, figures overestimated and findings biased in the best case.

2. But people use it in Skype, Firefox, Facebook,… and there are a lot of Google hits for “Esperanto”. And the Wikipedia in Esperanto has a lot of articles!

So what? The Internet is not the real world. If you look for “herbal medicine”, “creationism” or “penis enlargement”, you’ll find a thousand times more information and websites (“Google hits”) than when looking for serious knowledge, say “surgery”. Likewise, you can find more websites in Esperanto than in Modern Hebrew, but Hebrew has already a strong community of (at least) some millions of third-generation native speakers who use Hebrew in daily life, while Esperanto – which had the broadest potential community – has just some hundreds of fans who play with new technologies, having begun both language projects at the same time back in the 19th century.

Also, is the Wikipedia not a language-popularity contest? A competition between conlangers, like Volapükist vs. Esperantists, Ido-ists against Interlingua-ists, Latinists against Anglo-Saxonists, etc. to see which “community” is able to sleep less and do nothing else than “translate” articles to their most spoken “languages”? How many articles have been written in Esperanto or Volapük, or in Anglo-Saxon or Latin, and how many of them have been consulted thereafter, and by how many people? In fact, Volapük wins now in number of articles, so we should all speak Volapük? No, Esperanto is better than Volapük, of course, because of bla bla…
I guess everyone wins here: Wikipedia has more visitors, more people involved and ready to donate, while those language fans have something more to say when discussing the advantages: hey, we have X million articles in the almighty Wikipedia, while your language has less! Esperanto/Volapük/Ido/… is so cool, we have so many “speakers”! Then, congratulations to all of you Wikipedian conlangers; but, if I were you, I wouldn’t think the real world revolves around the Wikipedia, Google or any other (past or future) website popularity.

3. Esperanto is far easier than what you are suggesting. I am fluent in Esperanto, and I only studied 3 hours! And so did my Esperantist friends!

Do you mean something like saying “me spikas lo esperanto linguo” – with that horrible native accent that only your countrymen understand – and then being able to tell anyone “I speak Esperanto fluently after 3 hours of study”? And then speak about two or three sentences made up of a mix of European words more once a year with your Esperantist friends in an international “Congress”, and then switch to English or to your mother tongue to really explain what you wanted to say? Well then yes, to say “I speak Esperanto fluently” or “I learned Esperanto in 2 days” is really really easy – hey, I’ve just discovered I am a fluent speaker of Esperanto, too! Esperanto is so cool…
But, talking about easiness…Have you conlangers noticed it’s “easy” just for (some) Western Europeans, because those “languages” you are using are made of a mix of the most common and simplest vocabulary of some Western European languages, whereas other speakers think it is as difficult as any Western European language? Do you really really think it is easier than English for a Chinese speaker? I guess good old Mr. Zamenhof didn’t realize that English, French, Latin, Italian, German and Polish wouldn’t be the only international languages today as it was back then in the 19th century, when European countries made up almost the whole international community…
Furthermore, do you really really think that supposed ease of use, which is actually because of the lack of elaborated grammatical and syntactical structures, hasn’t got a compensation in culture, communication and even reasoning?

4. But I’ve been told that Esperanto is successful because it has a (mostly) European vocabulary that makes it easy for Europeans, an agglutinative structure that makes it especially fit for Africans and Asians, and some other features that make it better than every other language for everyone…
I won’t be extending into linguistic details, because those assertions are obviously completely arbitrary and untrustworthy. Not only Esperantism has failed to prove such claims, but also some people have dedicated extensive linguistic studies and thoughts to see if that was right – Esperantism has obtained independent criticism by insiders and outsiders alike, and still they claim the same falsenesses again and again. You have e.g. the thorough article “Learn not to speak Esperanto” which, from a conlanger’s point of view, discusses every supposed advantage of this Polish ophthalmologist’s conlang. Also, it is interesting that some researchers have noted the condition of Esperanto for most speakers as an anti-language, as they use the same grammar and words as the main speech community, but in a different way so that they can only be understood by “insiders”. That can indeed be the key to the perceived advantages of Esperanto by Esperantists of different generations and places, just like anti-social people like slang words to communicate with members of their community and to hide from outsiders, and it is especially interesting in light of the condition of Esperantism as an anti-social movement more than a promotion of a language, representing Esperanto with flags, slogans (“democracy”, “rights”, “freedom”,…), international consultative organizations and congresses…

5. You talk about real cultural neutrality for the European Union; but, since there are several non Indo-European languages inside the EU, Proto-Indo-European does not solve that issue either.

In fact, the European Union is made up of a great majority of Indo-European speakers (more than 97% falling short), and the rest – i.e. Hungarians, Finnish, Maltese, Basque speakers – have a great knowledge (and speaking tradition) of other IE languages of Europe, viz. Latin, French, English, Swedish, Spanish. So, we are proposing to adopt a natural language common to the GREAT majority of the European Union citizens (just like Latin is common to the vast majority of Romance-speaking countries), instead of the current official situation(s) of the EU, like English, or English+French, or English+French+German… To say that Indo-European is not neutral as the European Union’s language, because not all languages spoken in the EU are Indo-European, is a weak argument; to say exactly that, and then to propose English, or English+French, or even a two-day-of-work invention (a vocabulary mix of 4 Western European languages) by a Polish ophthalmologist, that’s a big fallacy.

6. So why are you proposing Indo-European? Why do you bother?

Because we want to. Because we like Europe’s Indo-European and the other Proto-Indo-European dialects, just like people who want to study and speak Latin, Greek, or Sanskrit do it. Have you noticed the difference in culture, tradition, history, vocabulary, etc. between what you are suggesting (artificial one-man-made inventions) and real world historical languages? Hint: that’s why many universities offer courses in or about Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Proto-Indo-European, etc. while Esperanto is still (after more than a century) another conlanging experiment for those who want to travel abroad once a year to meet other conlang fans.
We propose it because we believe this language could be one practical answer (maybe the only real one) for the communication problems that a unified European Union poses. Because we don’t believe that any “Toki Pona” language invented by one enlightened individual can solve any communication or cultural problem at all in the real world. Because historical, natural languages like Hebrew, or Cornish, or Manx, or Basque, are interesting and valuable for people; whereas “languages” like Esperanto, Interlingua, Ido, Lojban or Klingon aren’t. You cannot change how people think, but you can learn from their interests and customs and behave accordingly: if, knowing how people reacted to Esperanto and Hebrew revival proposals after a century, you decide to keep trying to change people (so that they accept inventions) instead of changing your ideas (so that you accept natural languages), maybe you lack the necessary adaptation, a common essential resource in natural selection, appliable to psychology too.

7. Why don’t you explain this when talking about Proto-Indo-European advantages in the Dnghu Association’s website?

Because if you make a website about science, and you include a reference like: “Why you shouldn’t believe in Islamic creationism?” you are in fact saying Islamic creationism is so important that you have to mention it when talking about science… It’s like creating a website about Internal Medicine, and trying to answer in your FAQ why Homeopathy is not the answer for your problems: it’s just not worth it, if you want to keep a serious appearance. We are not the anti-Esperanto league or something, but the Indo-European Language Association.
Apart from this, proto-languages are indeed difficult to promote as ‘real’ languages, because there is no inscription of them, so they remain ‘hypothetical’, however well they might be reconstructed, like Europe’s Indo-European, or Proto-Germanic – see Five lines of ancient script on a shard of pottery could be the longest proto-Canaanite text for a curious example of a proto-language becoming a natural dead one. For many people, Proto-Basque (for example) seems exactly as hypothetical as Proto-Indo-European, when it indeed isn’t. If we also mixed Esperanto within a serious explanation of our project as a real alternative, that would be another reason for readers to dismiss the project as “another conlanging joke”. No, thanks.

8. Esperanto has its advantages and disadvantages. You just don’t talk from an objective (or “neutral”) point of view: most linguists (of any opinion) are – like Esperantists – biased, so there is no single truth, but opinions.

Yes, indeed. Many Esperantists, as any supporter of pseudosciences, conclude that people might be for or against their theory, and that therefore both positions are equally valid and should be taken with a grain of salt. For this question, I think it’s interesting, for those who think in terms of “equal validity” of their minority views when confronted to what is generally accepted, to take a quick look at Wikipedia’s Neutral Poin of View – equal validity statement, because they’ve had a lot of problems with that issue. To sum up, it says that if you talk about biology, you cannot consequently demand that evolution and creationism be placed as equally valid theories, only because some people (are willing to) assume they are; if you talk about the holocaust, or medicine, you don’t place revisionism or alternative medicines as equally valid theories or sciences: there are academic and scientific criteria that help classify knowledge into scientific and pseudoscientific. Most (if not all) Esperantist claims are at best pseudoscientific, and when they claim real advantages of their conlang, those are just as well (often better) applied to other conlangs or even to any language.

9. Then why do the “Universala Esperanto-Asocio” enjoys consultave relations with both UNESCO and the United Nations? Why is Esperantism described as “democracy”, “education”, “rights”, “emancipation”,… Why do still Esperantists support Esperanto, when it hasn’t got any advantages at all, and they know it?
The only conclusion possible is that Esperantism (and some other fanatic conlangism) is actually a religion, because it’s based on faith alone: faith on believed “easiness”, on believed “neutrality”, on believed “number of speakers”, without any facts, numbers or studies to support it; on the belief that languages can be “better” and “worse” than others. And it’s obviously nonsense to discuss faith and beliefs, as useless as a discussion about Buddha, Muhammad or Jesus. But, trying to disguise those beliefs as facts helps nobody, not even Esperantism, as it can only attract those very people that see creationism and alternative medicines as real alternatives to raw scientifical knowledge. Esperanto is the god, Zamenhof the messiah and the UEA its church.

Indo-European Grammar, 1st Printed Version in English, translated into Deutsch, français, español, italiano, Nederlands, Polski, português, Russian, and other languages thanks to direct web machine translation

The Final Version of A Grammar of Modern Indo-European, 1st Printed Edition, is ready for the Printer, after the Indo-European Revival News.

For more information on this release and the changes made since last version, please go to the Indo-European language Association.

The association has some collaborative websites prepared for volunteers ready to add some translated sections of the book, and also for experts and people interested in IE languages, to add information about the Proto-Indo-European language and its revival as a modern language within the European Union, namely Indo-European (in English), Indo-Europeen (en Français), Indogermanisch (auf Deutsch), indoeuropeo (in italiano), etc.

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Indo-European language or Indo-European languages?

I’ve recently received an email from a new reader who wanted to share with us “his language”, namely a ‘modernized Indo-European’, which he had been working on for very very long before we began our public work at the Indo-European Revival Association, and which he deems “a more modern version of our Indo-European“.

After telling him he was not the first who show up with such a project (there are at least one or two more out there in the Net), I told him very clearly what our opinion about IE is:

A) There are different schools about how to reconstruct the Proto-Indo-European language: those who make a main Satem-Centum distinction, those who talk about a very very old Indo-Hittite, those who (like us) distinguish a Graeco-Aryan dialect (or IE IIIa) and a Northern one (or IE IIIb), those who defend the existence of only one ‘original’ a-vowel, later colored, those who defend only 5 original cases (as we did before changing for a 7+1), those who talk about 9 or more laryngeals, and so on.

B) There are indeed different times for the reconstruction: the theory of the 3 main Stages let one reconstruct at least 2 languages (if we don’t take on account the highly hypothetical IE I or Early PIE), namely IE II or Middle PIE – which includes Proto-Anatolian and Pre-IE III -, and IE III or Late PIE, which is the one usually reconstructed. Also one could go still later in time and try to divide the (seemingly) two main dialects, the Northern or European Dialect (also IE IIIb) and the Southern or Graeco-Aryan Dialect (or IE IIIa): the problem with such a further division is that 1) Balto-Slavic dialects seem to be either in the middle of that classification, or at least within IE IIIb but very influenced by IE IIIa (due possibly to different contacts with Scythians, Persians, Greeks, etc.), and that 2) The IE IIIa (and thus Late PIE as a whole) may be better reconstructed than IE IIIb, as the former was attested earlier (in the form of Vedic Sanskrit and Mycenaean).

C) Also, there are many different ways to use a modern language system using an old language. For example, if we had to use Latin as a modern language, we could select different vocabulary (older forms, mediaeval and newer loans), different expressions (older syntax, newer modisms), etc. and there could be lots of schools defending more purism, more tradition, a complete renewal, etc.

If we sum up the aforementioned possibilities, and try to ascertain the number of possible outputs, one could conclude that there is no single Indo-European, but a hundred different combinations:

Indo-Hittite with 3 laryngeals and without feminine, 5 noun-case declension, with Latin-only alphabet and Satem-Centum distinction in writing, OV syntax.

Northern Dialect without laryngeals (with an -a), without augment in Aorist, with 8 (or 7+1) nominal cases, with dialectal Conditional and Passive, OV and VO mixed syntax.

– and so on…

Each one could have a different name, say ‘Bokmål’, ‘Nynorsk’, ‘Samnorsk’, ‘Riksmål’ ‘Høgnorsk’, etc., as the different Norwegian ‘languages’ or, better, language systems. But I think everyone would agree that, while the language may differ a lot from one system to another, the language spoken would still be the same, i.e. a very diffuse “Indo-European”, or (following the example above), a very diffuse “Norwegian” language.

There are a hundred different examples about how such internal and external tensions are usually dealt with, as with the unified Basque (Euskara Batua) opposed to its dialectal diversity, or the different Cornish language systems, or the Hebrew revival (with Semitic purists against modern influences), etc., not to talk about the inner and external tensions of ‘normal’ languages like Spanish or French, which are often subjected to “unifying-dividing” efforts – as e.g. the Asturian “language/dialect”, sometimes included as Spanish by Spanish philologists, sometimes not, always trying to include modern dialects like Argentinian, Mexican, etc. along with the ‘traditional’ dialects like Asturian-Leonese or Aragonese; or Francoprovençal with French, or Alemannic within High German (Hochdeutsch), and so on.

In any case, I think, there is a very clear line which separates all those language systems designed (more or less artificially) for a natural language, from artificial languages like Volapük, Solresol or Esperanto, which are inventions not distinguishable from Klingon, Sindarin or any secret language that anyone could have created at home when still a child.

One example I use with sceptics on PIE reconstruction could be mentioned here.

Proto-Indo-European is like the corrupted skeleton of a very old dinosaur: you can discuss whether such skeleton was actually this or that way, pertained to this or that species of dinosaurs, came from this or that hypothetical ancestor, and derived in those other dinosaurs this or that way, etc. You cannot, however, discuss (in a serious conversation) whether they lived with Noah, whether they didn’t exist at all because it’s a divine proof of our faith, or whether, unlike modern animals, they didn’t exist at all because we have no ‘real proof’ about it.

I will not discuss the implications of trying to draw a complete dinosaur from its bones only, as long as you don’t try to discuss the very existence of those bones, or try to compare our reconstruction of that dinosaur with your drawing of a dragon.Maybe your dragon is widely accepted as something useful, or beautiful, or even as something better than our drawing of the possible dinosaur behind those damaged bones; but please, let be serious to some extent, and don’t try to mix the Lord of the Rings or Star Trek with a manual of paleontology. Tolkien’s masterwork might be great, but it’s not ‘better’ or ‘easier’ (or whatever adjective you may apply) than the manual of paleontology; they just move in different dimensions.

As a conclusion, one may expect different modern language systems for Proto-Indo-European – some will be ‘easier’, some ‘purer’, some others ‘more modern’, etc. -, but still the language will be the same. The question is not whether such systems are possible (they obviously are), but whether this or that system is just an improvement made on the linguistic framework that contains the natural language behind it, or instead include random changes that a visionary (like Mr. Zamenhoff) wants to make to the natural skeleton of a language (or languages), hiding it as an improvement in, say, “usability”, “learning time”, “similarity with modern IE”, etc.

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Indo-European Grammar, First Printed Edition, with maps, summary tables, etymologies, PIE phonology and syntax…

Yes, we eventually decided to print some copies of our Indo-European Grammar – with public subsidies, we will be able to release some dozens in this first printed edition.

Our objetive was to translate version 2.x (now near 2.2) into Spanish, German and French, to post news in Modern Indo-European and to begin with the Syntax volume, but now the order has changed.

We plan to publish an improved edition (revised by Indo-European scholars), which will probably be called already version 3.x. We plan to include more information about IE dialects and about Proto-Indo-European syntax, and to make printed copies of it – it will be called probably A Grammar of Modern Indo-European.

Then we will try to begin publishing news and podcasts and translating texts in Modern Indo-European – it’s already time to begin writing and speaking in Indo-European!

And, if possible, we will dedicate some time before summer to develop a detailed syntax volume – but, as the different Indo-European languages of Europe share a similar syntax (at least an informal one), we don’t deem the use of the purer Proto-Indo-European syntax essential to begin using the language in Europe.

[tags]Indo-European,Proto-Indo-European,Indo-European grammar,grammar,syntax,phonology,morphology,PIE grammar,Proto-Indo-European grammar,Proto-Indo-European morphology,Proto-Indo-European vocabulary,Indo-European etymology,Indo-European book,indoeuropeo,gramatica indoeuropea,etimologia,sintaxis,fonologia,morfologia,protoindoeuropeo,lengua indoeuropea,lingua indoeuropea,ebook,libro,reference,referencia,enciclopedia,europaio,Indo-Europees,Indo-Europese,Indogermanisch, Indoeuropäisch,Indogermanische Sprache,Sprache,Urindogermanisch,Urindogermanische Sprache,Indo-européen,Indo-euroéenne,langue,langue Indo-européenne,Indo-Europeu,indo-europeia,proto-indo-européen,proto-indo-européenne,indoeuropejski,praindoeuropejski,indoeuropeisk, indoeuropeiska,protoindoeuropeiska,indoevropejsk,indoevropejska,Europa,Europe,European Union,Union Europea,Union européenne,Unione europea,Europäisch,Europäische Union,Unia,Unie,Evropa,Evropske,Europeisk,Europeiska,Latin,Greek,griego,Griechisch,traduction,translation,traduccion,traduzione, Spanish,English,español,inglés,italiano,Italian,Nederlands,inglese,français,French,France,UK,España,Spain,Inglaterra,Reino Unido,United Kingdom,Holland,Germany,Deutschland,Deutsch,francés,italien, allemand,portugues,Portugal,Belgie,Belique,Swiss,Sweiz,Svizza,Italia,Polska,Polski,Czech,Russian,Esperanto,Ido,Interlingua, Lojban[/tags]

Esperanto and other inventions against Indo-European (III)

Yes, here we are again with the same subject!

Not having enough with our ebooks and webs about our project, some Esperantists have written to us emails and even left their thoughts in our forum, still repeating the same reasons we have been hearing for a year, and also complaining about us competing with their ‘languages’! By the way, the forum is there obviously for Indo-Europeanists to collaborate, not for others to promote their inventions, however great they might think they are.

The concept of Modern Indo-European (or Proto-Indo-European language revival) and the concept of the thousand invented languages that are created as international auxiliary languages (like Esperanto) are obviously different, and shouldn’t be confused. I will try to enumerate the most evident differences:

  1. Indo-European was a natural language, spoken in a prehistoric community, and has evolved in thousands of dialects, while conlangs are inventions – usually of one man, sometimes with collaborators.
  2. Indo-European revival is about Europe, especially the European Union, and its multilingual population uniting under one common country, whilst IALs are about ‘uniting the world in peace’, or some kind of go ahead of a ‘Star Wars-like period‘ of the good people of the world uniting against the ‘Black Empire’, I guess.
  3. Reconstructed languages’ revivals have succeeded (as Hebrew) or failed (as Coptic) – sometimes neither one nor the other (as Cornish) -, but artificial languages have never done more than attract hundreds of well-minded idealists.
  4. Because of those facts, one could imply that people just don’t like linguistic inventions – however arrogant some individuals may be about their advantages -, as they don’t usually like revolutions that change completely their societies, but, on the contrary, they like the own history and culture – see Basque, Catalan, Breton, Occitan, Welsh, … revivals -, and thus like evolutions which improve society without destroying the own.
  5. Indo-European languages have near 3.000 million native speakers, i.e. half the world’s population, and near the other half learn IE languages; Proto-Indo-European has hundreds of thousands of learners, in the form of its old dialects (as Latin, Greek or Sanskrit), as well as a few thousand experts dedicated to its study; Esperanto has a very optimistic estimated (cogh cogh – estimated by who? how? which level of knowledge?- cogh) 1 million speakers.
  6. Esperanto is supposedly easier to learn – yes, indeed, as it is very easy to speak. For example, I haven’t learnt Esperanto, but if I wanted to smoke in a meeting of Esperantists, I guess I could ask something like “estas tu lo fairo per mi?”, which would be like “is to you fire for me?“. If you speak (like me) Spanish and English, or maybe French and English, German and French, Polish and Latin, etc. you will understand that – and also something like “ist yu de foc fur mei?”, or maybe “haf du de ignis por mik?”, and a thousand more possible stupid combinations of different common words. However, doesn’t it sound too dumb to let one occulist fabricate a language for you, when you have natural alternatives?
  7. Esperanto is “culturally neutral”. Yyyes, well, if you are Chinese or Japanese (or Arab or Iranian or Indian or Indonesian or…), I don’t think you will be able to understand such sentences as easy as we Europeans are; maybe because of that, the main Esperanto associations are founded in Romance-, Germanic- or Slavic-speaking populations. Indo-European, on the contrary, is not based on an individual culture (IE had never a culture of its own), religion, country, territory or even alphabet, but on a shared linguistic ancestor.
  8. Some Esperantists say that spoken Indo-European is an invention, as PIE’s oldest syntax (that of Hittite inscriptions and Vedic Sanskrit/Ancient Greek compositions) will not be used for Modern Indo-European, but instead a more modern syntax will substitute it. So, are you Esperantists (and the like geeks) really complaining about Modern Indo-European being artificial, because it uses the Proto-Indo-European language with a modern Indo-European syntax?! I cannot believe it… Just in case you are serious, it is obvious that such ‘distorsions’ of old languages to fit modern needs or uses are in fact very common in language revivals; you only have to look around a little bit (viz. Hebrew, Basque, Breton, Modern Latin, etc.).
  9. Some have even said that Esperanto (or Ido, or Volapük) has a “history” of a hundred years trying to bla bla… Wow! A hundred years?! Then I will learn Esperanto! No, really, I guess some of you just don’t know anything about Indo-European when you contact us: Indo-European studies began more than two centuries ago, and Indo-European languages have been spoken for more than 5 thousand years, so what is the point exactly in your inventions having a “history” of some years more or less?
  10. Some also say that there are books and films in Esperanto, while IE has none. That’s true, but our project of IE revival exists since March 2006, and we will see how many films and books are written in MIE in a hundred years 😉

I hoped some months ago that the the posts about Esperanto I & II were enough, at least to make Esperantists refrain from trying to convince us (if not to attract their attention to collaborate with us), but I think now that when some people accept an idea, however stupid it may seem now, they just make everything to defend it…

Anyway, I hope you all good luck in your tasks, but please, please, stop making us lose our time with your emails and posts – No, we don’t like inventions, and sorry, but we won’t return to the old alternatives, viz. English, Latin, French, Esperanto or any other old combination.

[tags]Esperanto,Ido,Interlingua,Lojban,conlang,language,constructed language,artificial language,linguistics,international auxiliary language,IAL,Proto-Indo-European language,Indo-European studies,Indo-European language,Proto-Indo-European,Indo-European,Europe,European Union,Esperantist,Volapük,language revival[/tags]

The ‘Grin Report’ and its pretended support of Esperanto over Indo-European as European Union’s official language

We have received at Indo-European Language Revival Association an email suggesting us learning more about Esperanto, describing its advantages, and especially talking about the Grin Report, an expert study supposedly favoring Esperanto as the only language for the European Union. This mail comes probably from a reader of Spanish newspapers who read about recent news on Indo-European revival, who possibly didn’t read about our proposal, maybe because we use mainly English in our writings and he just can’t speak but Spanish and Esperanto…

I think that specially any study written about linguistic policy – in our outside the EU – before 2006 (i.e., before we made our proposal) is indeed not intended to support Esperanto over Indo-European, and that even present-day studies supporting the adoption of Esperanto are not – unless expressly doing so – against Indo-European, but just ignoring our project, thus invalidating almost any future use of it against us.

Here is an extract of the open letter sent to the European Parliament defending the adoption of one language for the EU – when it says Esperanto we will write Indo-European, and the Grin Report and the letter will still be saying the same…

We pay € 17 THOUSAND MILLION each year into the British economy!

Dear Member of Parliament,

October 2005 saw the publication of a particularly interesting report, accessible in French in PDF Format, by the Swiss Professor François Grin.

The most startling conclusion of the report is that, due to the current dominant position of the English language, the United Kingdom gains € 17-18 thousand million each year, which is more than three times the famous British rebate, or 1% of its GNP. In other words, each of the 394 million non-English-speaking citizens of the EU, including those from the poorest new Member States, are subsidising the British economy!

This amount comes from the sale of books and other goods relating to the English language, from the 700.000 people each year who go to Britain to learn English, as well as from the savings that stem from the neglect of foreign-language teaching in British schools. This does not account for all of the languagerelated economic transfers to the United Kingdom but for 75% of them, which the author sees as the fruit of the hegemony of English and not just of the demographic weight of the language itself.

François Grin who is a professor at the University of Geneva and a specialist in the economics of language, has released an extensive dossier in which he analyses the language policy of the European Union. The study was commissioned and published by the French Haut Conseil de l’évaluation de l’école (High Council for School Evaluation) – an independent public body which evaluates and analyses the state of teaching in France.

The report poses the question “What would be the optimum choice for working languages in the European Union?

A more equitable system would save the EU at least € 25 thousand million annually!

The Swiss economist proposes a comparison between three possible scenarios:
1. English as the sole language,
2. multilingualism,
3. Esperanto Indo-European as an internal working language the EU institutions.

The third option, Esperanto Indo-European, comes out as the least expensive and most equitable, but Grin believes it is not currently viable because of the strong prejudices against Esperanto Indo-European based on simple ignorance. He believes, however, that it is strategically possible for a new generation, on two conditions:

  • a sustained large-scale information campaign throughout the EU about language inequality and
    Esperanto Indo-European,
  • the cooperation of all Member States in the campaign.

This could lead to net annual savings for the EU of approximately € 25 thousand million! “That is directly and manifestly to the advantage of 85% of the population of the 25 states”, Professor Grin claims.

Now do the same with the Grin Report itself and substitute “Esperanto” for Indo-European as the best option, and you will have a natural, democratic, culturally neutral and thus better language alternative for Europe than Esperanto, supported by previous economic and linguistic policy studies which didn’t take our alternative on account because they couldn’t.

[tags]Indo-European,Indo-European language,Proto-Indo-European language,Indo-European language family,Indo-European studies,Indo-European languages,Indo-Hittite,Europaio,IAL,International Auxiliary Language,EU,Europe,European Union,European language,Esperanto,Ido,Interlingua,Germanic IAL,Slovio,Occidental,Latin,Latine,Latine sine flexione,Occidental,Lojban,natural language,linguistics,linguistic policy,language policy,single language,democracy,politics,economy,culture,neutrality,EU institutions,Nostratic,Indo-Uralic[/tags]

Esperanto vs. Europaio?

I’ve recently read in some forums about Indo-European revival being a “new IAL” with ‘no chances against Esperanto‘.

The objective of Europaio is – and was – never to substitute Esperanto or to undermine the Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, etc. communities. We are very respectful of the long tradition of IALs in building worldwide communities around international, ‘neutral’ languages, for our society to become more democratic, more jointly liable, or whatever those groups may seek.

However, things should always be clear to everyone when comparing Indo-European with such languages:

  • Esperanto is an artifcial language invented by one man, as there are hundreds of them. Europaio (as a modern Indo-European) is a unique, natural, reconstructed language.
  • Esperanto hasn’t been ever spoken but for some erudite meetings. Indo-European was spoken by a prehistoric community, and its dialects are now spoken by half the world’s population; also, many classical language students in European Universities have attended (Proto-)Indo-European courses as obligatory subjects to obtain their degrees.
  • Esperanto’s aim a century ago was to be spoken as the only IAL; some are still waiting. Europaio’s not-so-ambitious aim is to become the EU’s common language, to help further integration into a single country; we haven’t even begun to promote it, and our idea is quickly dismissed by some.
  • Esperanto’s clones – or, better, Volapük clonesare infinite, and the newer are supposedly better than the older ones. Indo-European (or better late PIE) was and is only one, although different approaches can be made to its writing and syntax system – as with any other natural language.
  • Esperanto was made by a conlang fan, as all other constructed languages. We don’t see Indo-European revival as a cultural experiment, or as a personal hobby – we rely, in fact, on more than two centuries of IE studies; we think Europaio will match the European linguistic needs for real cohesion, and will mean an overwhelming social, economic, educational and political integration movement if it succeeds. We are far from considering all this a game or a hobby.

The first motto we thought about to promote Europaio some months ago was “Europaio’s not another Esperanto!” (like “GNU’s not Unix!”), but I personally disliked it because it seemed to undermine the efforts of whole communities of well-minded conlang-supporters; it was eventually discarded because (surprisingly) many people hadn’t ever heard about Esperanto, so misunderstandings based on linking artificial languages with Europaio weren’t so likely as we firstly thought.

Now I cannot make a Google search for “Europaio” without finding it related to other five-or-ten-minute-grammar’s conlangs, and without reading some comments criticizing our lack of support for our ‘not-so-powerful conlang’, and I just cannot believe that such comments come mainly from conlangers and others who haven’t even read our project.

We are not politically involved, as we wanted to represent an apolitical (indeed Pro-European) linguistic movement, but this kind of initial reactions are making us seriously reflect on becoming politically active at a European level, whether as a provisional platform, as an association or even as a EU-only political party.

I hope those communities realize that what we are doing is trying to unite locally to act globally, and not vice-versa, and thus we are not confronted, but just acting in two very different levels. We have certainly proposed an IAL project (Sindhueuropaiom), just as some of them have proposed Esperanto as EU’s language, but both proposals are mainly theoretical and probably out of each other’s scope.

Our Europaio proposal is as real as the EU, and theirs as utopic as a worldwide (private) agreement over adopting a one-man’s language. No matter how big and strong their historic communities are, these facts will not change; they can accept it and maybe collaborate with us or others in IE revival – or just stay aside -, or they can foolishly try to undermine our efforts, thus unnecessarily confronting two very different worlds.

[By the way, we usually compare – and criticize – Esperanto and other conlangs, as we do with English, English-French, English-French-German, Multilingualism and Latin, because they all have been proposed for EU’s future language policy. Europaio is not really opposed to any of those languages, though, unless they compete for the role of EU’s main language]

Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua,… (2)

I was wondering what could happen if people disagreed with our approaches to Europaio. We have allowed anyone not only to disagree within our frameworks, but also to use our works and names to create their own projects – but for “Dnghu” and “Europaio”, if they completely disagree with our grammar rules. We thought this was the fairest legal position to hold, given that we had to defend our efforts as first-movers in IE revival issues, at the same time guaranteeing everybody the right to create a better project, as nobody should be able to retain rights over the Indo-European language in any possible way.

Leaving legal issues aside, what about a more Latin Europaia? a more Slavic Europaiska? a more Germanic Europaisk? or a more Greek Europaika? What about Europai, Newom? What about IALs like Enterdnghu or Sperantom? I hate giving ideas, believe me, but this way it cannot be said that we were not aware of the risks of releasing our works under free licences.

Unlike artificial languages, Proto-Indo-European was only one language, and especially the one we want to reconstruct and use as a modern language is the dialect spoken some 4.500 thousand years ago by the (mainly) European prehistoric community. For people wanting to be purer – thus older – in the verb reconstruction, or in the phonetics, or more neutral, or anything like that, there is always a place; we’ll still be trying to speak the same language. And for those enthusiasts looking for early PIE, or even Indo-Uralic, Eurasiatic, and so on, wanting to use laryngeals, to use a simpler syntax, an older noun declension system, etc. there is also a place, although those will mostly remain theoretical projects.

The problem with artificial languages is not the risk posed by disagreements with the majority of Esperantists, and proposals of (supposedly) improved languages derived from Zamenhof’s concept, such as Ido, Interlingua or Novial. The real problem comes when there is an overwhelming choice of very good conlangs [Wikipedia], each one better than others in some respects, and worse in others; then, learning one of those languages implies necessarily loosing your time if it is eventually not the one chosen by the majority. Learning Europaio, on the other hand, gives you not only the certainty of not being replaced by a completely different language with the same concept, as there is only one, but also, if it is not adopted officially by the EU, you will have learnt the linguistic features of the ancestor from which the mother tongues of half the world’s population are derived. In this respect, it would be like learning Latin before learning romance languages.

Perfection in Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua,…

When someone has learnt natural languages different from his or her mother tongue, invented languages appear always to be imperfect when compared to them, as contradictory as it may sound, given that perfection is what their creators try to achieve.

I’ve tried to learn Esperanto at least three times, and always left the grammar or learning method in the first lessons. Its aim of being the world’s only IAL, and its great community of supporters appealed to me. But, the aura of perfection – ‘no irregularities’, ‘perfect corresponding alphabet’, ‘culturally neutral’ ‘mixed vocabulary’,… – that many people try (wrongly) to assign to it as introduction in their learning materials just shows how imperfect it actually is, as only a language invented by one man or a small group can be.

I’d rather learn Japanese, Chinese and Korean as the world’s three IALs than the easiest Esperanto, if I had the choice; for me, it’s not only about having one instrument for communication; languages are not computers, they are the living rest of the intrahistory (Unamuno) of people. If I learn Zamenhof’s language, I am learning the words and structures that sounded good to his mind; I haven’t ever heard a good reason why he chose “verda” for “green”, “fari” for “make” or “fermi” for “close”.

I wish I could travel to the past and visit him, and show him the advances made in Indo-European linguistics since the 19th century, and offer him present-day IE studies, so he could publish a “Sperantom”, so that the great Esperanto community of today were a Sperantom community, now that the EU is approaching a new, more important political and social stage. Pro-Europeans shouldn’t be so divided in the linguistic issue.

But I can’t. What I can do today is to publish a summary of others’ studies and research in a free grammar; and I can create a Group to request funds for a European non-profit corporation, whose aim is to provide a single, common, official language for the EU; and I can wait to see if an IE community is born to support the revival of this old, natural language, hoping that people are not yet too tired of looking for the best choice among perfect, constructed languages, to try an imperfect, reconstructed one like European.