Sunday, 11 September 2016

Universal Languages Few Understand

Anyone who has read much of this blog will be aware my interest is in the development of words and languages. Whilst modern languages are most often named after the nation where they were originally spoken, there are those which have no national identity. I am thinking here of the artificial languages created in comparatively recent times, the most famous of which is Esperanto although there are a number of computer languages included. As these are such recent creations, I would hope the names would have been well thought out beforehand. At least the modern origins should mean there are no doubts as to the origins.

Esperanto was created in 1887 by Polish-born Lazarus Ludwig Zamenhof but not officially named until five years later. Oddly the name of the language comes from a term in Esperanto where Doktoro Esperanto means 'one who hopes'. This is the pen-name used by Zamenhof and on the title page.

Idiom Neutral was published in 1902 by the International Academy of the Universal Language, it is a revised form of Volapuk (see below), this considered imperfect. The reworking brought in many western terms and while technically a revision is in almost every aspect a new language - the name describes 'the neutral language'.

Interglossa was invented by biologist Lancelot Hogben in an attempt to provide a link between science terminology and etymology and the classical languages after having noticed the difficulty students had in learning scientific terms. This 'between languages' idea is also the origin of the name.

Interlingua is a computer language produced by the International Auxiliary Language Association, this founded by the American heiress Alice Vanderbilt Morris in the 1920s. As a name it speaks for itself.

Novial is derived from nov 'new' plus the initial letters IAL standing for International Auxiliary Language. It is designed to allow those who speak native languages to speak a single common tongue. With sources in Romance, Germanic, Occidental and Ido tongues, it first came to light in the late 1920s and virtually disappeared with the death of its inventor, Otto Jespersen, in 1943. However the internet has seen a minor revival of interest.

Occidental, later known as Interlingue, was another planned language to allow those of differing tongues to converse. Created by German Edgar de Wahl its name is taken from the French and Latin for 'western'.

Tutonish was created in 1901 by Elias Molee, with revisions in 1905 and 1915. It is the first Pan-Germanic language and intended as an Anglo-German unifying language and it is from the name virtually suggested itself. However it never really caught on, as evidenced by its reworking and also the various forms of its name, including Tutonish, Teutonish, Teutonik, Alteutonish, Altutonish, Altetonik, Nu Teutonish, Niu Teutonish, and Neuteutonish.

Volapuk was published in 1880, the work of German priest Johann Martin Schleyer. He claimed he had been told by God to create an international language, one he named to mean 'world speech'. Perhaps unkindly the word is used in other languages, Danish for example, to mean 'nonsense'.

Algol is not derived from the star in the constellation of Perseus, this from the Arabic al-ghul or 'the demon', but a contraction of 'algorithmic language'.

Basic is a computer language, an acronym standing for 'Beginner's All-purpose Symbolic Instruction Code'. It was invented by Hungarian-born US computer scientist John G. Kemeny in 1964.

Cobol is another computer language and acronym created in 1960 by the US Defense Department and describing 'Common Business-Oriented Language'.

Fortran is also a computer language, one dating from 1956 and an abbreviated form of 'formula translation'.

Modula is a programming language created by the Swiss Niklaus Wirth in the 1970s. It is derived from the Pascal (see below) language and named because it uses a module system unlike its predecessor.

Pascal is a computer language invented in 1971 and named for the 17th-century French scholar Blaise Pascal, who invented a calculating machine in 1642.

One thought - if the idea is to produce a single language spoken by us all (presumably as a second language), why are there so many?

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