The World of Conlangs: Musical Languages and Constancy
While working on yesterday’s “The ABC of Saying Thanks!” post, I came across this language called Esperanto.
No, it’s not Española, it’s Esperanto. It’s a language that was meant to be a universal language, and it was developed by –
Wait, developed? Yes! These languages that are expressly invented or developed are conlangs, or “Constructed Languages”. You’ve seen them before. Remember Game of Thrones? Dothraki is a constructed language! Or Klingon for the Star Wars fans out there (I haven’t watched it, don’t judge me).
Esperanto is one such conlang, developed by L. L. Zamemhof, which was supposed to be a universal second language, uniting people all over the world with it’s simple structure and constant grammar rules. You see, unlike English with its higgledy-piggledy of exceptions-to-the-rule or Spanish where adjectives change form according to the gender of the noun, Esperanto is a constant language. There is only one way to write nouns, adjectives, verbs, adverbs, tenses, what-have-you.
And it uses a script most of us already know how to read! The catch is, though, every letter has its own sound which never changes. A ‘c’ cannot take on the sound of a ‘k’. Sure, there are symbols to indicate ‘ch’ and ‘sh’ sounds, but those symbols remain ever-constant as well.
All nouns end with an ‘-o’, while all adjectives end with an ‘-a’! And if you want to turn an adjective into an adverb, just remove ‘-a’ and add ‘-e’. How simple is that? Tenses are just as simple, with all verbs ending in ‘-i’ and if you want to change it to the present tense, remove ‘-i’ and add ‘-as’.
Do you remember all those opposites you had to learn up in primary school? Well, in Esperanto, those can just be formed by adding the prefix ‘mal’ to any adjective!
Zamenhof, a Polish-Jewish doctor, compiled this language by borrowing from other Slavic languages like English, German, and Spanish, so you may be able to infer the meaning of some words without even a dictionary! His aim was to create international harmony by helping all people understand each other.
“The place where I was born and spent my childhood gave direction to all my future struggles. In Białystok the inhabitants were divided into four distinct elements: Russians, Poles, Germans and Jews; each of these spoke their own language and looked on all the others as enemies. […] I was brought up as an idealist; I was taught that all people were brothers, while outside in the street at every step I felt that there were no people, only Russians, Poles, Germans, Jews and so on.” – L. L. Zamenhof
The language went through a decline during World War I, however it picked up speed again and was even nominated to be the official language of the League of Nations but was vetoed by the French representative as he thought it would cause a decline in the use of French.
Today, Esperanto is not the official language of any country, but it even has native speakers now. A convention is held every year for the people who speak this language. This year, it’s going to be held in Seoul in South Korea, and over 2,000 people are expected to participate!
I also learnt of another fascinating conlang called Solresol, which uses the musical notes “do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti ,do” as its sounds so it can be translated directly into music. Here’s a video demonstration!
Do you think a universal language is a good idea, or do you think it’s impractical? Did you ever develop a secret code or language with a friend? Tell me in the comments!