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Its lexicon was more clipped and its syntax deliberately mangled so as not to resemble French. These endeavours took on a political dimension in the modern era.
Utopians of the late 19th and early 20th centuries — among them L.L. Zamenhof, the inventor of Esperanto — believed a universal language could usher in a new age of international peace and brotherhood.
Two world wars, and the rise of English to something like a global lingua franca, put paid to such hopes.
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The chimera of a universal language could also be enlisted for reactionary ends, as demonstrated by the career of the Georgian-born Soviet philologist Nikolai Marr.
He peddled a vulgar Marxist theory that language is a superstructure mirroring society’s economic base, and the unification o...
Some very fine imaginary languages are to be found in works of fiction. The people in Thomas More’s Utopia (1516) speak a blend of Greek and Persian called — imaginatively — Utopian; in Francis Godwin’s Man in the Moone (1638), a lunar-dwelling population communicate via a musical language in whi...
A universal language will always be an unattainable dream. For centuries, idealists and crackpots tried to invent a global tongue, but even Esperanto never took off. Marina Yaguello explains why.
The comedian Sacha Baron Cohen, in his stage pe...
------->the Newspeak in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949) is probably the best known fictional example of a ‘philosophical language’ — one specifically designed to demarcate the boundaries of acceptable thought.
Yaguello, a professor of linguistics at the University of Paris VII, ...
You don’t have to be mentally disturbed to invent a language, but it helps: glosso-maniacs, paranoiacs and megalomaniacs are well represented in this pantheon.
Yaguello’s archetypal innovator is a tragicomic obsessive reminiscent of Edward Casaubon in George Eliot’s Middlemarch:
Cranks and fantasists abound. The 12th-century abbess Hildegard of Bingen, inventor of the earliest known artificial language, lingua ignota, claimed it came to her in a divine vision.
One of several amusing tidbits in Imaginary Languages involves the 19th-century Swiss medium Hélène Smith...
Throughout history, however, a motley array of eccentrics has done just this, and received a fair bit of attention.
Originally published in 1984 but only now translated into English, Marina Yaguello’s fascinating survey of constructed languages revisits the history of two distinct but inter...
------>i t is in the nature of language to resist such limitations. Flexibility and mutability are essential; flux is a feature, not a bug.
‘A universal language,’ writes Yaguello, ‘is as impossible as perpetual motion.’ But when did futility ever get in the way of a good idea? The catalog...
She highlights the excessive schematism of Volapük, a would-be universal language devised by a German Catholic priest in 1879, which ‘contains moods not often found in world languages — for example, the operative and dubitative’.
It’s no coincidence that the most enduring constructed langu...
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