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The Problem of an International Language

Who doesn't love music? There may be a few weirdos out there who don't, but by and large it's a given that everyone listens to some type of music, at least now and then. A relatively small subset of these people are actually musically inclined enough to perform in front of an audience and even fewer to write original music. Still, musicians are not uncommon.

Now what about those rare people who invent new musical instruments? What do you even call them? I suppose they might be a type of music theorist. But if you tell someone you're a music theorist, their response will probably be, "Oh, really? What do you play?" While not an entirely irrelevant question, they seem to have missed the point, right? A music theorist doesn't necessarily play anything.

I've dabbled in songwriting and music theory, but it's not what I do. I'm a linguist. No, not the kind that studies foreign languages (though I do), the kind that studies linguistics, which could just as well be called "language science" or "language theory". I'm particularly interested in computational models of language acquisition. And like a designer of musical instruments, I've always been drawn to language construction. That's how I discovered linguistics, actually, just looking around online for resources to help me decided on a good set of speech sounds (phonemes), rules for combining them (phonotactics), a way to represent the sounds (graphotactics), word building rules (morphology), and sentence construction (syntax). All of this can collectively be referred to as "grammar", by the way.

Now, if I bring up the topic of constructed languages (aka "artificial languages" or "conlangs"), people tend to think of fictional languages (Quenya, Klingon, Na'vi, Dothraki, etc.) or proposed international auxiliary languages like Esperanto and Interlingua (really the only major contenders I'm aware of). While fictional languages are certainly interesting, it is the latter type (IALs) that I'd like to ask your opinions on today.

I don't really want to hear that you support this IAL or that one, or that you think the whole idea is untenable. There is certainly enough of that kind of commentary elsewhere. What I'd like to know is what features you see as important in an IAL, what language(s) you believe should serve as a base, and so on.

To keep this post from running too long, I'll just tackle one question myself for now: the base language. Only a handful of natural languages come to mind as possibilities: English, Mandarin Chinese, Arabic, French, and Spanish.

  1. English is already used quite a bit for international communication, so it might seem like an obvious choice (especially to English speakers), but it has some real problems. The main hurdle in my opinion is that the written language has a very loose relationship with the spoken language. This makes learning the language much more difficult than it should be. There are also a few difficult phonemic contrasts, but this could be forgiven if the spelling system were more consistent.
  2. Mandarin has far more speakers than English, but the pronunciation and writing systems present even more of a problem. Even using a sound-based writing system, you still have some pretty unusual consonant contrasts, and the tone system would be a big problem for speakers of non-tonal languages.
  3. Arabic has a writing system that is tied pretty consistently to pronunciation, but it's not Latin-based, and this presents some difficulty since the Web really is. Also, there are major differences among dialects, and the politics surrounding the language would probably be a big hurdle.
  4. French has served as a lingua franca for centuries and continues to do so in parts of Africa. However, the number of speakers is not nearly so impressive as the others on the list. And the relationship of spelling to pronunciation could be better.
  5. Spanish has far more speakers than Arabic, and depending on how you count, even more than English! Its pronunciation system is among the easiest for non-native speakers to learn, and its spelling corresponds nicely. Considering also that Portuguese is so closely related and is itself spoken by so many people, I think we have a front runner.

When I suggest Spanish/Portuguese should be used as the base for an IAL, that is not to say that English should be ignored. Spanish is full of cognates with English (both Latinate and imported), and those should carry over to an IAL wherever possible. As an added bonus, Spanish also shares a great deal of vocabulary with Arabic and French! The end result should be a language that is particularly easy for speakers of English and the Romance languages to pick up (a sizable chunk of the world). And since it will be a constructed language, it should also possess a simple, regular grammar (perhaps modeled on that of Mandarin) and very little ambiguity, so speakers of other languages shouldn't have much trouble with it either.

Sound good? What else would you like to see in an international auxiliary language? Remember, I'd rather not hear, "Esperanto is great! Let's use that!" or "Who needs an IAL anyway?" Just think of the "problem" I pose here as a math problem, or a word puzzle. Solve the problem first; then decide if the solution has practical applications. If it helps, think of this as a fictional IAL.

July 28, 2014



I think the best thing about an IAL that would hypothetically receive enough attention to be worthwhile, would be the cultural neutrality of it - a point that gets overlooked far too often. Yes, it is true that languages like Esperanto are European based, but let's agree to disregard that for a moment. A lot of people ask me, "What would be the point of learning an IAL, or foreign languages at all? Why doesn't everyone just learn English?" While I can see how this is a natural path of thought (particularly for English speakers who don't care to put effort into learning a new language), I find that such thinking lacks a true consideration of the issue at hand. Not only is it not "fair" from an international perspective that some countries should have to put so much time, effort, and money into learning English (particularly in regions where English is very different from the local language(s)), but also from the cultural side. Although native English people probably never really think of it this way, English "belongs" to them. When someone speaks improper English, says something in an awkward way, or talks about topics not usually discussed in the English-speaking world, native English speakers tend to mock, discourage, or otherwise try to "correct" such expressions, because it just is not part of the English language. Even when this isn't the case, and English speakers are being receptive and respectful of non-native speakers, there is still a notable power relationship. That is to say, the native English speaker is almost always in an advantaged position when English is being used. With an effective IAL, one could resolve most, if not all, of these issues. In a world with an effective IAL in place, native speakers of English, German, Chinese, Arabic, Quechua, Hungarian, Romanian, Xhosa, Indonesian, and Tamil would all be on equal footing because the language would not "belong" to anyone in particular. All parties would be speaking a foreign language, so there would be no power imbalance giving unfair advantages to certain parties. To say nothing of the more commonly sited advantage of being able to dedicate much less time to master this IAL than it would typically take to learn a natural language such as English.


As far as the features that an ideal IAL would have, first of all let's start out with grammar. The ideal IAL would have as simple of a grammar as possible. To think about how to achieve this, just start with any language and look at the linguistic features it has. If you can think of (or find) another language, which does not have this feature, then it's unnecessary and you can take it out.

For example, let's just start with French. =French has grammatical gender, but Finnish does not, so we can nix the gender. =French has definite and indefinite articles, but Korean does not, so nix the articles. =French has verb conjugations for person and number, but Danish does not, so away with conjugations. =French conjugates verbs for tense, but Chinese does not, so this is unnecessary. =French has a distinction between plural and singular, but Japanese does not (aside from personal pronouns), so this is unneeded ... and so on for each feature of the grammar

I believe that a clever feature of Esperanto, which would be important for an IAL, is the trait that each part of speech has a distinct ending. With this feature, one should be able to look at any word of any sentence, regardless if one understands the vocabulary or not, and easily be able to tell what part of speech it is (noun, verb, adjective, adverb, etc.). As for whether or not it should, as Esperanto does, have markers that make distinct an object from a subject - I guess the utility of such a feature is up to debate. English speakers would probably argue (as they already have) that it is useless and unnecessarily adds to the difficulty of the language, but Hungarian speakers, for example, might find it quite useful and not difficult to learn whatsoever.

In terms of the phonology of the language, I believe that a successful IAL will not have too many consonants, nor too many vowels. In general, I think a 5 vowel system, as many languages have, such as Japanese and Spanish, is a good option. I believe this because each vowel in a 5 vowel system would be far enough away from the others that, even with the wide degree of variation that would inevitably exist as a result of the different accents speakers of different languages would bring with them, both production and comprehension should not prove overly difficult for anyone regardless of their linguistic background. As for consonants, I think that there should only be one minimal pair for each place and type of articulation (i.e. only voicing), and that there should be few enough consonants to allow for that variety that would exist between accents. For example, if there is a /t/ type sound, then one should be able to articulate it anywhere from dental to palatal. I think that bilabial and labiodental fricative should be excluded, because these are relatively quiet fricatives.

As far as orthography goes, I think that MrCliffJones has a good point about using the Latin script. For better or worse, the Latin script is the script of computing, and this gives it a huge incentive for use over any other script. If the Latin script is to be used to represent the language, then I think that it should be entirely phonemic, preferably void of digraphs, apostrophes, and hyphens. It should more or less follow IPA (which, again, for better or worse, has a strong European bias), so that pronunciation could be easily taught and analyzed. I would be an advocate for having no capitalization of letters, or only having it at the beginning of sentences.

I will leave it at that for now.


Thank you! You've touched on several good points.

You start off outlining how to go about stripping unnecessary features from the grammar (which I believe is a good idea), but I just have to caution against going overboard. In my own projects, I've simplified past the point of utility, and what you wind up with might turn out overly wordy, vague, mechanical... just generally unnatural. So while I do agree with you, I think we have to keep our feet on the ground and stay rooted in a natural language or two as far as we can.

About the sort of object marking done in Esperanto, I'd argue that it's a good example of a grammatical feature that doesn't exist in all languages (case marking), and as such it should probably be avoided.

Five vowels! Yes, I agree. Not only is that the most typical vowel system of languages around the world (speaking statistically), but it also happens to be the vowel system our alphabet was designed for.

Reducing the phonemic inventory down to a set of sounds that can be easily pronounced and understood by everyone on the planet is a nice idea, but again there is a trade-off. The more restrictive your phonology, the longer your words get, and the less they resemble the words they are based on. This is something I've struggled with even in this post! Should "person(a)" become "person", "persone", "pesone"...? At a certain point, we have to say "good enough" and allow some sounds and clusters into the language that might be difficult for some learners. One point to remember that will help cushion this blow is that the written language will be the primary form and some ambiguity in speech, depending on accent, is not a show-stopper. For example, "person" could be pronounced something like "peh-luh-soh-nuh", and the speaker could still be well understood (much better than if the word were just read as English, actually).

As for capitalization, I'll just say it shouldn't matter that much. In my first attempts, I was pretty set on only names being capitalized. Even the first word of a sentence should be lowercase, I thought. While I still see this as logical, it just doesn't hit my eyes the same way it did when I was a teenager.


Has "stripping unnecessary features from the grammar" actually ever been done by anyone? I'm wondering if there is a list of agreed upon grammar features of all languages. Finding out the minimal number of features necessary sounds very interesting to me. Could you point me towards some research?


Excellent reasoning in the 2nd paragraph, with removing uncommon grammar features! Sadly, in the 3rd paragraph you argue the "other way" regarding esperanto. That good reasoning from the 2nd paragraph should be applied to esperanto aswell!


What about Indonesian?


Honestly, I haven't given the language the scrutiny it deserves. It does seem to have a pretty ideal grammar as far as I can tell. Simple sound system, non-tonal, no obligatory gender or number, Latin script... I really want to learn this language all of a sudden.

Is it true that Indonesian and Malaysian are both dialects of a single Malay language? Can speakers of one dialect be reasonably well understood by the other?


Been there. :) I was more interested in the poster's opinion. From what I've read, speakers of Indonesian are much more likely to consider it a distinct language than speakers of Malaysian.


From what I hear they are no significant differences between the two. I have not studied Indonesian as much as I would like so I can't give you better answer.


Oh, OK. I was hoping you might be a native speaker. I've read that they're less similar than British and American English but more similar than Spanish and Portuguese. That's a pretty big range, I know, but somewhere in there.


Yes they are very similar and spoken by a large number of people. They are also considered amongst the worlds easiest languages to learn. Its written in latin letters which are used very phonetically correctly and the language contains a lot of words originating from Europe, mostly Dutch and English. I think it be a great language to learn on Duolingo but is not available yet.


I consider a way of referring to people gender-neutrally really essential in an auxlang (or any language). It's one thing in a natural language -- I can find artificial pronoun sets for most languages with grammatical gender, even if they're not in common use -- but with a constructed one... well, that's why I haven't tried out Esperanto or Interligua, and why I don't plan to in the future.

A specific feature that I've found very pleasant while learning German is the relative lack of verbal aspects when compared to English. The proliferation of compound words also makes learning new vocab easier at times; you could probably make derivational affixes or compounds very regular indeed in an auxlang, if that's an angle you'd like to try.

Good luck with your language! It's a hobby of mine as well, but I am very much on the Sindarin/Klingon/High Fantasy side of things.


Thank you!!! You are the first person to respond to my questions, and for that you get some lingots.

I agree that gender neutrality is a must. There is nothing wrong with gender suffixes like "-o" and "-a", but they should be completely optional. For example:

  • person = person
  • persono = man, boy, male
  • persona = woman, girl, female

Making gender marking obligatory is limiting and inherently biased. It can even contribute to translation difficulty. For example, you know "actresses" means a group of females, but there is no way to know the gender of "actors" without adding a word like "male". A lopsided design such as this would be pretty lame in a constructed language (see Esperanto and Interlingua).

In the same way, we should be able to under-specify number, as is done in most Asian languages. It is not always important whether you are talking about one thing or more than one, so having to specify every time is tedious and imprecise. This again can yield translation problems, especially when going from a language that doesn't require plurality to be specified to one that does. It becomes impossible to maintain the ambiguity of the original, which may have been intended.

I'd go so far as to suggest that we apply this principle in general: The grammar should never force a distinction in meaning where ambiguity might be useful. Tell-tale flags of the usefulness of ambiguity are constructions like "he/she", "and/or", and the awkward "(s)" that we tack onto the end of words in English in an attempt to indicate that number is not important in this instance.


No exceptional conjugating or like in english removing conjugating for the most part,

It should be like

  • I do
  • you do
  • he, she, it do | instead of does (just for the example)

also no irregular verbs like have or do

I have, I haved. better to learn than had (just for example)

well you already talked about that it should be genderless.


I agree fully. These seem like no-brainers to me.

Instead of a regular suffix for past tense, how do you feel about an extra word, similar to the form "did have" in English? Such auxiliary verbs would of course be stackable, and they can be designed to be very simple to pronounce so as not to feel like a mouthful. This is typically the way tense, aspect, and mood are expressed in creole languages.


oh didn't thought of that. I mean you do the same in english with will, too (future).

You might as well think about removing unnecessary tenses. For example in german there is no present progressive "I am writing this text" and such stuff. Present progressive comes clear with words like "gerade" or "im Moment (at the moment)

I am no expert at all but if I remember correctly chinese does not have tenses really but the tense comes clear due to words like yesterday or so ...


In creole grammars, you usually wind up with markers for a past tense (though it may not be needed for the immediate past), a continuous aspect (for habitual or ongoing events), and a subjunctive mood (which generally extends to cover talk of the future). These can be combined freely to yield something like eight possibilities. And of course, more auxiliary verbs can exist too; these are just the basics.

This is a pretty complex topic, and I strongly recommend the book Bastard Tongues by Derek Bickerton for an introduction. It's more than just grammar talk; it's actually a really interesting story.


Important principle for an IAL:

The ability to express only what you intend. By which I mean that, the grammar does not force you to express something when not intend/need/know (e.g.: gender, number, emphasis, time ...). Instead, express by lexical means, i.e. more words, which is always optional.

More specific principles in the context of popular languages:

  • no inflections (because they tend to cause stem/suffix-change ie fusion and irregularity which slow learning and make literal adoption of loanwords problematic)

  • no sound/gender/number/... agreement (because they slow learning and are redundant since they cannot remove ambiguity of association in general anyway)

  • no gender/number (e.g. sheep, food, fish; e.g. "he-or-she", "he-or-she-or-it")

  • no tenses (express lexically instead)

  • strict meaningful word order (since words have to be in order anyway and will contribute to meaning anyway, but if not used for essential meaning then it will be abused to express mostly redundant emphasis/subtleties causing more learning effort and misunderstanding; if meaning of verb contains the argument order then cases/preps can be avoided e.g. "I give you flowers" hence concise)

  • phonetic (i.e. pronunciation of every letter is context independent)

  • no tones

  • vocabulary Globalized/Colonial/English/Latin/Greek (familiar, already in use hence all of us need to learn it anyway)

  • ability to loan words literally (implies, among others, no restriction on word-endings)

from conlangs I've read about, "Glosa" and "Lingua Franca Nova" come closest to the above.


This is a great list. Right to the point.

The first thing is you say about using extra words (or at least morphemes, if word-building is straightforward) to get more specific is absolutely essential. That's the fatal flaw of Esperanto, in my opinion. Gender is a mess (an easily solvable problem, but one that most Esperantists do not want to touch), and there is a long list of affixes that really should be free morphemes (meaning they could combine in the same way but also work as independent words).

  • 2309

Almost forgetting: do you know Lingua Franca Nova?


Sure, I remember checking it out years ago when I was into that sort of thing. Is there something unusual about it that you'd like to call attention to?


So how would homophones be differentiated in an ideal language? Stress? Tones? Morae?


Ideally, homophones would never be introduced. If two potential words sound alike, change or eliminate one. If one word evolves into two distinct meanings through common usage, adjust the form of one slightly and publish the update in the language's official documentation.

In a natural language, there is no real authority to do this sort of thing. Sure there are organizations that claim to make the rules, but to the extent that they actually do, the language ceases to be natural.


Is that the right solution though? Ambiguity has its uses.


Vagueness can be very useful, as I've expressed here. I'm talking about if one written form would correspond to two totally different meanings. That might be useful for puns and such, but I don't think it's a good idea in an IAL.


Hey man, I know this is way late, but what you're describing is exactly Lingwa De Planeta: http://www.lingwadeplaneta.info/en/index.shtml


By "flaws" in this context I just mean: "these are the difficulties for adult learners of the language that could be avoided in a conlang or by evolving the language".

flaws of English:

  • spelling-pronunciation mismatch

  • redundant/large vocabulary (subtelties when needed can be expressed with a few more common words rather than one rare word, do you like looking up word defs just because the author wanted to seem educated, could be solved if native educators would stop encouraging the use of rare/obscure words and they would be marked archaic/obsolete in dictionaries)

  • irregularities

  • too many tenses

  • inflections (but at least fewer than in the rest of Europe)

flaws of Mandarin:

  • characters

  • tones

  • its vocabulary only familiar to chinese speakers not worldwide/science/med/tech

flaws of other European languages: inflections, complex grammar, ...

flaws of other non-European languages: vocabulary, ...


The IAL is a problem but what to do then? If it is an issue of choosing, English won't win. I think is more easier to create an IAL with the help of supercomputers and expert linguists around the globe.


Does anyone here speak some form of Chinese? I would be interested to hear how you think the grammar compares to that of English or Spanish. What would Mandarin sound like if as many words as possible were replaced with their Spanish counterpart?


I speak Mandarin Chinese. The grammar of Chinese, as I'm sure you're aware, is very analytical. Aside from the many "Chinese-specific" constructions found in Chinese grammar, the general pattern most often closely matches how one would express the same idea in English. That is to say, it follows the SOV pattern, opts for use of modal/auxiliary verbs instead of inflection or agglutination (both of which are completely absent in Chinese), adjectives precede the words they modify, and adverbs have relative freedom in terms of word order (e.g. like you can say, in English, "He ran to the store quickly" or "He quickly ran to the store). My experience is that, with a few exceptions, native English speakers that are persistent with Chinese find that the grammar is quite easy for them, and they can quickly begin expressing themselves in Chinese as long as they have the necessary vocabulary.

What would Mandarin sound like if as many words as possible were replaced with their Spanish counterpart? Well, given the fact that Spanish isn't too different from English (due to English's French influence), and English grammar is not too far from Mandarin Chinese grammar, I would have to answer that: Mandarin with as many words as possible replaced with their Spanish counterpart would pretty much just be Spanish.


Haha, no, it wouldn't quite be "pretty much" Spanish. As you say, Chinese doesn't really have inflection. Imagine Spanish without it! Basically, I'm thinking Spanish is hard because of its grammar, and Mandarin is hard because of its vocabulary. Wouldn't it be nice to get the best of both?

Also, I think you meant to type "SVO", not "SOV".


Ah yes, that's an inconvenient typo to make. I guess the point that I was making is that if you used Spanish words "as much as possible", as you've suggested here, it wouldn't be some kind of crazy Spanish-Chinese hybrid -- it would just be simplified Spanish. As opposed to if you used Japanese grammar with Spanish, then it would be something different entirely.


Sounds good to me! I kind of like the idea of basing the grammar on Mandarin. That way, if we ever run into a spot where we're not sure what to do, we have a natural example to follow.


@kingthatcher: It's a similar idea, but based on the vocabulary of Spanish and Portuguese, not Latin per se. (Actually, when differences between Spanish and Portuguese are settled by compromise, using Italian as a tie-breaker, you get a little closer to Latin.) And this IAL would encourage the adoption of words already in international use (mostly of English origin) as they appear in Spanish/Portuguese.

Really what I'm proposing is closer to Interlingua, though only in its core vocabulary. The grammar would be cleaner, and non-Latinate words would be common. It's worth noting that Interlingua was a sort of reinvention of Latino Sine Flexione. It used a different methodology to come up with something pretty similar. In that sense, I'm reinventing Interlingua.


This is starting to sound like Latino sine flexione...


A conlang has the best chances if, (learnable) far easier to learn than natural languages, (riskfree): it is guaranteed that what you learn will be useful.

You can eliminate grammar aspects that are not shared by all the popular languages (for example gammatical gender), and just express such things explicitly (for example by adding the word for "female" if needed). You can do this easily for every uncommon grammar feature. Thereby making the language easier for all learners, not just a few to which it is similar. You cannot remove vocabulary like that however.

For vocabulary, arbitrarily mixing it from many sources, means that everyone has to learn a lot of words they do not need otherwise. Imposing restrictions on word-endings or composition means that word-adoption is problematic. But there is an already internationally adopted vocabulary of words: those coined in the last decades e.g. "internet", and the scientific, technical, medical vocabularies. Those are a safe bet, since they remain useful for you even if the conlang itself remains unpopular. For the rest of the vocabulary english sources (the way they are written, which is often similar to latin/spanish/portugese, not how they are pronunced) are the safest bet, since that all of us want to learn anyway.

to sum up: 1 minimal/creole grammar, 2 already established vocabulary, 3 common sounds and no tones


I totally agree. Very good points.


Spanish. Or a newer simpler version of Spanish. Same Spanish vocabulary with the grammar ease of English.


There should be IALs for all language families, which then have IALs with other families, and so on, until the global population is served.


Interesting idea. Trying to accomplish the "one language for the planet" goal all at once is likely to result in a jumbled mess of a language that everyone is equally dissatisfied with.


I been learning Esperanto, on Duolingo of course and can see the logic in having an as simple to learn and logical language that's based of other major similar languages rather than just all made up, in this case it uses European ones and uses latin based letters. But it has its flaws, so if it or something similar was to become a global interconnect language I would look at "Ido" a reformed version of Esperanto that "fixed" the perceived flaws of this constructed language. It removed the invented non-standard letters and replaced them with well known ones and so avoiding any typing issues or confusion for anyone with no previous knowledge of Esperanto. It also solved the gender issue as well as replacing many not so well thought out words and word construction methods. It also improved on what some people thought of as the ugliness of its writing. Perhaps even this Ido version could be improved even more by modern day experts. I would love to see Ido on Duolingo, then see which one that Duo students preferred.


Did you start designing an IAL btw?

There are lots of things I'd like to see linguistically in an IAL. I am designing an English-based IAL myself, and one idea I'm using is affixes to help learners understand a text that uses unfamiliar vocabulary. Such affixes (there might be dozens) could be used instead of having a single suffix for all nouns (like Esperanto). To illustrate, consider a passage containing the sentence like "Suddenly a klig flew over my head!". You don't know what a klig is, but if we add a categorical suffix like "burd" (my chosen suffix for a bird) or "or" (meaning "machine that does an action"), it may add enough information for the listener to guess what's going on.

But I say none of the design elements matter nearly as much as having people use it. I think Interlingua looks like a pretty darn good IAL that I'd probably prefer over Esperanto, but I haven't learned it. Why? I learned Esperanto already so I certainly support IALs in principle, but after studying two IALs I don't really feel like learning yet another one. Learning IALs is a cost - what should I pay that cost for? What do I get? To be taken seriously, an IAL needs a good answer to that question. I think there's little need to design another IAL unless it provides some reason to use it that existing IALs don't.

My idea for building a community speakers is twofold:

(1) design it as a teaching language first and as an IAL second, so it is a good stepping stone to help people learn one particular language: Spanish or English. (2) design it to be as unambiguous as possible, so that it is an excellent source language for automated translation: computers should be able to translate it extremely reliably to the language it is most closely related to, and almost as reliably to all other languages. The problem with current translation tools is that you have no idea if the output is accurate - you can't tell what the output says. Given an IAL designed with machine translation in mind, it should be possible to have high confidence that the translation makes sense. In my design, this is a secondary objective behind teaching and so I don't expect 100% reliability, but translating from my IAL to, say, Spanish, should work much better than translating from English to Spanish.


I'm pretty well in agreement with you here. My approach has been a little different though. I've been incorporating constructed languages into my fiction. My novel Adaleide in Ozghard (currently available to read for free on Wattpad) mostly uses four dialects of a language based on ancient Semitic roots, but in the second half it also uses Lulang, my IAL offering. The lexicon isn't fully fleshed out yet, but you can see bits of it in use at least if you read the story. There's also a short guide to the language included as an appendix in Book 2.


I take it you don't have to learn (hardly any) Lulang to understand the book? If you were a J. K. Rowling, you'd have a winning strategy since a community of speakers would no doubt form around your language, without you having to do anything to persuade them.

Likewise if we could convince a AAA game studio to incorporate the language into a popular game's storyline, it might work. (The story could be: aliens come to earth and agree to communicate with earthlings in an IAL, because it's easier for them than any natural earth language, and in the game you need to learn to communicate with them; or, a future world government imposes an IAL on the world and you need to learn some of it.) The game could be structured to teach you the language passively so that you don't need to learn it but you can play the game faster or better if you do learn it (e.g. show the IAL text first, then a translation - if you know the IAL then you won't need to wait for the translation.)


For someone looking to create their own IAL but be useful in the modern world and be useful in schools, then perhaps make it based on a mix of English and Spanish roots but with the simplicity and consistency of Esperanto. Use roots that are most closely related to both languages or recognisable so trying to make it as comprehendible as possible to speakers of those two languages without them even having learnt this new IAL at all yet. So it could prove useful as an easy to learn bridge language between English and Spanish speakers and an easier to learn alternative or introduction to these two languages to someone who doesn't yet speak either.


I don't disagree with this suggestion, and maybe CliffJonesJr should do something similar. I played with an approach like that a little while... some things I noticed:

  • Spanish tends to "win" if you're making a design like that because the natural choice for an easy language is to choose a 5-vowel language with spelling rules mostly the same as Spanish. For any random English word, either the pronunciation won't fit well or the spelling won't fit well. So it'll be natural to draw more from Spanish than English.

  • But, when it comes to verb conjugations English clearly wins, as Spanish is extremely complicated in that regard.

  • For translatability, subjects should be mandated and a word for "it" is needed (computer translations from Spanish to English tend to be terrible due to its missing subject pronouns and the fact that there is no word for "it".)

  • The language tends to end up long-winded (many-syllabic words) if English and Spanish are the only sources. Since the languages are closely related, often when you're looking for a short word for a common concept to be used as a basis for compound word formation, neither language offers one. I found myself wanting to grab stuff from Esperanto (e.g. ĉu, ye, -ej-) or elsewhere a few times.

(I'm resorting to using affixes in unusual ways to increase clarity or reduce word roots in my English-based language, like using -er for "person that does something" and -or for "machine that does something"; -or is found in many English words, of course, but its meaning is identical to -er. And I'm using "ment" as a generalization of "tion": manugjment = management, bildment = building, defendments = defenses...)

The strategic idea of my language - and I don't know if this is accurate - but my hypothesis is that people are incredulous toward the Paderborn method of language learning. "Why would I study Esperanto to help me learn English? Why would I study Interlingua to help me learn French?" (Edit: the consequence is that they learn neither and just study their desired language directly.) But if a language is built almost entirely from a single source language it might sound more plausible. "Ungglish is super similar to English, with English-like spelling, but super easy, so it'll help you learn English faster." I guess "You should learn this language that is a mixture of English and Spanish in order to help you learn English" could also be plausible if, say, 90% of the word roots were in both languages.... hmm. Edit: I don't think a language can truly be similar to Spanish and English at the same time, but perhaps one can make it sound that way on paper.


You could use the English alphabet which is the same as Spanish minus one accented letter n. You might then wish to check out elements of Ido rather Esperanto as it too uses the the English alphabet so avoiding any technological issues with keyboard types. Keep it simple and invent as little as possible. Reuse elements from existing languages where possible.

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Why do we need an IAL at all? Humanity went this far (almost) without them. Furthermore, languages are the product and the expression of a culture. Before choosing the base language, you should think about this: which culture will be your IAL based on? This is not a trifling issue. I have tried Esperanto at a basic level and - while I think is nice and good for its regularity, its vocabulary, blah, blah... - it lacks something. That something is a shared ground between speakers, i.e. a common culture. Languages are not different sets of labels to put on things, nor rules to make sentences work. They are different ways of perceiving and interacting with reality. I prefer a world of polyglots than one with a single language (but, luckily, I think it's impossible and the fail of Esperanto proves it).


An IAL is an international auxiliary language. That means it is not intended to be anyone's native tongue. It is not intended to replace any natural language. It is simply a tool to be used by people who speak different languages.

This is totally beside the point of this post. I pretty explicitly requested no comments either for or against IALs in general, or particular examples of IALs. I want to know your opinions about language features such as gender, number, agreement, tense, aspect, mood, case, phonology, morphology, etc.


For the last few milennia there always where IALs in use. Not having IALs means learning the native language of every foreigner you want to communicate with. Unless there are just half a dozen languages in the world, that is unreasonable.


As someone else here said, check out Lingwa de Planeta. It has vocabulary from a bunch of most popular languages. I think we can have a good IAL only when we import vocabulary from many big languages, as was done in this language. By the way, Lingwa de Planeta is pretty simple and I think it's the best solution so far. I disagree with MrCliffJones that pronouns, prepositions, common verbs and other basic words should be based on one language. First of all, it gives an unfair advantage to the speakers of that language. Why Spanish common verbs, not Chinese, Hindi or Arabic? Moreover, the words would still be adjusted to make their pronunciation simpler, etc. This way, it'd be hard to learn for both the speakers of base language and for speakers of all other languages. My proposal is this: we should make pronouns and prepositions artificially so that they are easy to pronounce. We can use natural languages for personal pronouns but we can't rely on only one language.

Anyway, we come to the point of language TRANSPARENCY. I think the ideal constructed language should be totally transparent, i.e. we should easily know which words came from which languages, how they were chosen. Ideally, vocabulary (not the basic and not the most rare words) should be chosen using mathematics. Let's say we have 10-12 most spoken languages and we want to create a word. Computers or people should compare words from those languages, see if there are similar sounds. Choosing phonemes for a root of a word would be based on the number of speakers of each base language. So if we have one word in 12 languages, we must look at the populations that uses them in order to choose the sounds.

If people learned that ideal (to be precise - the closest to the best that could be made) language, they could learn some portion of vocabulary of other big natural languages. They could even learn the IAL and one or two of the base languages at once. So this could be an incentive to learn IAL, Not only the constructed language would be used for communication, but for learning other languages also.

So don't forget to check out Lingwa de Planeta.

  1. Korean alphabet. One symbol, one sound. No silent characters. You ever see a Korean spelling bee?? - Everyone ties for 1st place. Updated for non-native Korean sounds.

  2. Esperanto rules.

  3. Why not an IAL that is multi-language definition so that the IAL is defined in English, Esperanto, Mandarin, xxx concurrently? Languages would just have to map their language to a predefined IAL place holder. IAL 101 might be "friendly informal greeting during the day" . Therefore 101.English = Hi, 101.Madarin = ?, 101.French = Salut (of course all written in common alphabet.

Written in IAL code something like "Good morning, it's sunny" would equal

IAL = 133 3 987 (Greeting of good morning = 103, Pause = 3, weather condition sunny = 987), translating into English would be "Good morning, it's sunny".

Where an IAL could gain immense traction is for use in computers. IAL is only of value if it provides value. Computers were be where an IAL would be valuable. Companies would program, code etc in IAL as the base language then translate out to English, Mandarin etc.


Cliff - I've already sent you this link on another thread, but I'm commenting here so I will get updates if anybody comments on this interesting thread.

Well... interesting... but as I say in my videos... it's a rabbit hole.

I got so many helpful and interesting comments on the first video that I made a part 2. More to come after that!

https://youtu.be/PoQryJDs_bs https://youtu.be/PoQryJDs_bs

Learn a language in just 5 minutes a day. For free.