Ken Caviness responds to Bruce R. Gilson's message:

brg > Esperantists like to judge their language by different criteria, depending on what will make their language look good. As a result we see a mixed bag of comparisons. <

Esperanto is the most well-known planned language, therefore it is the one most often belittled (a) by those who see no need or future for a constructed international auxiliary language, and (b) by proponents of some other "much better" conlang.  This has absolutely nothing to do  with the strengths and weaknesses of Esperanto itself.  Any conlang in this position would receive the same criticisms.

> When someone points out that dozens of constructed languages have been developed that are simpler, easier to learn to use, etc., Esperantists like to claim that theirs is "not just a language project" like Novial, Occidental, etc.; it is a "real language" with original literature, native speakers, daily broadcasts, etc. <

You cannot forsee all the problems with your planned language without getting out there and using it.  That Esperanto has been successfully used in all domains of life for a hundred years means that good design choices were made in its creation.  Notice that it has developed and changed since its creation, but not abruptly, not radically.

Any new language is "just a language project" until it has been proven in the real world.  Your claim that "dozens of constructed languages have been developed that are simpler, easier to learn to use, etc." is just that:  a claim.  The facts indicate a different conclusion:

Esperanto is not harder than Ido or Novial or ....  You have indicated points that are difficult for you, and if Novial had garnered a significant share of the market, others would indicate problems they have with _it_.  The Idists eliminated what they saw as problems in Esperanto, but thereby introduced other difficulties for others.  It's so easy to claim that one artificial language is easier than another.  I can now cite a list of "unacceptable difficulties" in Ido and Novial, for instance.  In my opinion, Esperanto is easier to learn and use than either of these languages.  But also in my opinion, the relative importance of these difficulties is quite small.  We could do fine with any of them.  But even though I am interested enough to learn some of the other "major" planned languages, I expect to get ZERO value from them during my lifetime, and I am convinced that this endless quibbling has done incredible damage to our hope for a widely-used auxiliary language.

> And therefore it cannot be tinkered with any more than Spanish, English, etc. <

No.  This is not a feature of Esperanto per se, it is a sine qua non for a successful conlang.  ANY group using a conlang must insist on a certain degree of stability.  Otherwise you'd have to spend your whole life learning and relearning the language!  Yes, that's an easy one to learn!  (This year, then do it again next year, and the year after....)  Ido-enthusiasts did not understood the importance of continuity (especially since no one will ever agree on which features of a conlang to change, and which to retain.

The "tinkerers" never notice that _lifetimes_ go by while they argue about the "perfect" auxiliary language.  However, many conlang enthusiasts have chosen to _use_an_auxlang_right_now_!  These people are limited to languages that already have speakers, literature, etc.  As long as I can keep meeting new people, and reading new books, I don't mind much how many speakers and books the language has, past a certain point.  Esperanto is already "universal" enough for me, in the sense that I could never read everything of interest written in it, nor meet all the interesting people of other cultures who are able to use it.  Fortunately, it also easy to learn.

From past messages it is clear that Bruce Gilson thinks if we had a "better" conlang, it would be a trivial exercise to get the speakers and the literature for it.  Significant numbers in ten years, I think I remember?  A pipe dream, and yes, I do mean "without connection to reality".

But, since Esperanto is very easy, and since it is is already being used, then of course I had to learn Esperanto, and then by definition I became an "Esperantist" and no longer a "conlanger" and all my statements are now suspect.  Right, Bruce?

> But when someone tries to compare Esperanto with national languages, and points out that, with estimates of numbers of speakers ranging from 50,000 to 2 million, the number of Esperantists is smaller (at the least) than the population of Turkmenistan, and with the smaller estimates smaller than a quarter of the population of Malta, so the number of speakers I could reach by learning Turkmen or Maltese would be greater, then Esperantists say, "No, you have to compare it with the number of speakers of IALs, not with the number of speakers of Maltese, and E-o outdistances the sum total of all other IAL speakers."

I would like _some_ conlang to become _the_ international "second" language, and yes, because of its headstart, Esperanto seems to be the logical candidate.  By the way, if you include in your "estimate range" the ridiculously low figure of 50,000, then by rights you should include the ridiculously high 40 million that some ayatollah proclaimed a few weeks ago.  Both farfetched, of course.  1 or 2 million is a reasonable estimate, even though you are trying to challenge it.

> You can't have it both ways. And either you judge it against natlangs, in which case I see no reason to learn E-o, since I can't reach anyone with it (outside of specific fora like this, devoted to artificial languages, I have run across exactly ONE Esperantist in 50+ years of my life, and he could be reached in both English and French as well!) <

It is ridiculous to judge Esperanto as you would an unplanned language.  But neither can it be justly compared to planned languages which have never been used enough to "get the bugs out".

> or you judge it against proposals for world interlanguages, in which case I would rather teach people Novial (or even Ido), which is so much easier, and reach a larger number of prospective learners (since I could give people a working knowledge of Novial in a third the time, of of Ido in half the time). <

This is an unsubstantiated claim, and in my opinion it is false.  Some people _might_ master Novial (or Ido or ...) in less time, but others would find them harder.  AND who is to guarantee that if I went to all the trouble to learn Ido or Novial, that I would get any use out of them?  Next year a new reformer would come along, and I'd have to do the work all over again.

Ne, dankon!


P.S.  Oh, do you mean that right after the latest creation/modification of your favorite conlang we'll freeze its state so that people can finally start to use it?  There will be no reformers who think that your project has unacceptable difficulties and must be made "better"?  If only I had been born next decade, and would have the opportunity to use an easy, widely-accepted planned language!  Wait, we already have one!  And I've been using it for 3 years.  And if it hadn't been sidetracked by the mention of half a dozen other possibilities, I would have learned it 25 years ago.  I refuse to wait another decade.

Nun mi ja uzas internacian duan lingvon. G^ia nomo estas Esperanto.  Kiam vi finos la senfinan kreadan de via "lingvoprojekto", mi esperas ke ankau` vi konos la plezuron vere #uzi# interkulturan lingvon, kaj ne nur c^iam paroli pri g^in.  Salutojn al c^iuj!

[Translation:  Now I *use* an international second language.  Its name is Esperanto.  When you will finish the endless creation of your language project, I hope that you too will know the pleasure of truly *using* an intercultural language, and not just always talking about it.  Greetings to all!]

Ken Caviness responds to another inflammatory message by Bruce R. Gilson:

brg > I don't think that any of us is particularly interested in "inciting" a renewed growth of Esperanto. <

I think that almost anything that caused the whole IAL movement to grow, whether specifically Esperanto or not, is HIGHLY desirable to all of us here.  And I hope that most of us do not bear any grudge against any particular language.

> I do think that Eurolang, Novial 97, and possibly Eurial (about which I know less, so I can't say) are friendly rivals for the same turf and may have some beneficial effects on each other. <

Watch out, though!  If one of them becomes popular, some people will start another series of never-ending flame wars.  Not any of the present company, of course!  ;-)

> (Phil Hunt is an active member of the Novial list. He has ideas on many things which are at variance with mine. Yet he clearly is working _with_ us on that list, not as a fifth-columnist. On the other hand, there are two people who joined recently who clearly show that their first allegiance is to Esperanto. They _have_ offered to help with the compilation of the Novial dictionary, but they also, as Phil does NOT, continue to make untrue anti-Novial statements on lists such as this one and on the a.l.a. newsgroup.) <

Part of this refers to me [Ken Caviness].  I am hoping to be very helpful to the Novial rejuvenation group, and I can't be called a 5th columnist, because I stated my objectives clearly up front.  But since the allegation has been made publicly (off Novial-l, that is), I must again explain.

I have seen references to Novial as being one of the handful of conlangs that were spoken by more than the author.  ALL of these conlangs interest me.  It is nearly impossible to get any information about Novial, although I was easily able to lay my hands on some about Ido, Basic English, Interlingua, and even Loglan/Lojban, and Glosa.  Last year I read post after post by Bruce Gilson proclaiming the merits of Novial, but very little solid "meat", information about the language.  This was an interesting strategy, which actually worked in my case!  I desperately wanted to learn more about it.  After all, I assume that Bruce must have very good reasons for his enthusiasm.  So I told the Novial-listanoj that I was there to (1) learn about the language, (2) look over their shoulders as they tweaked it, (3) speak out occasionally in favor of regularity/consistency over naturalistic irregularities in the name of immediate recognizability (a short-term advantage, important, but of secondary importance).

* I have not acted in any way dishonorably, neither in my comments/help   *
* on the Novial-l list, nor in the statement of my views on auxlang.      *
* My "first allegiance" is not to Esperanto, but to the promoting the     *
* idea of an international auxiliary language, preferably easy, therefore *
* constructed.  My personal evaluation of the pros & cons (yes, they all  *
* have 'em) leads me to support Esperanto.  I am HIGHLY incensed by the   *
* glib assumption that I am therefore either (at best) stupid or (more    *
* likely) dishonest.                                                      *

I have questions whether ANY newly developed conlang can be good enough to entice a sufficient portion of the adherants of existing conlangs away, or break into a new market.  I just don't think these "improvements" are going to make much difference.  Why should these be more succesful than the ones invented last decade, that no one has ever even heard about?  This is not a criticism of Novial, as originally proposed, as later modified by the author, or as updated now.  But it is a vote for Esperanto.

Other concerns I have relate to statements relegating this and that feature of Esperanto to the dustbin as "horrible", "outdated", etc.  I have tried to show how some of these supposed disadvantages of Esperanto may not be so bad after all, may in fact be useful.  In short, any given "improvement" may not _necessarily_ be one.  My comments have not been intended to convert or brainwash anyone, but to present a side of the picture that has apparently been neglected here.

Persecution?  Flames lap around BRG, JMM and KC:

Josi Mario Marques <Josmar /c`e/ DIGI.COM.BR> skribis:
>> Kiel vi vidas Bruce, vi trovias en sakstrato: <<

Bruce R. Gilson skribis:
> I spot my name here, so I assume you're talking about me. However, right from the begining [sic] I see a word "sakstrato" that I cannot figure. I refuse to try to puzzle the long Esperanto passage that follows out. <

Ken Cavines retorts:

Yep!  When I read an Interlingua passage, I puzzle through the whole thing, not stopping at the first word that throws me.  I'm sure you could get 90% or more of an Esperanto passage if you didn't shift into "no comprendo" mode.

For those who are interested in conlangs:

"sako" = sack, "strato" = street, "sakstrato" is a euphemistic term for a street that ends like a bag, no way out.  Probably influenced by the French (and now English) "cul-de-sac" [and the German "Sackgasse"].

[Note:  Imported idiomatic expressions from ethnic languages interfere with achieving maximum intercultural comprehensibility in Esperanto, and so are best avoided.  A perfectly good typically Esperanto word exists for "cul-de-sac", namely "senelirejo" ("sen" = without, "el" = out of, "ir-" = to go, "ej-" = place, "-o" = noun.  This gives: "iri" = to go, "eliri" = to go out, "elirejo" = a place to go out (noun) = an exit, "senelirejo" = a place with no exit.  It is worth mentioning that these words and particles are so basic and so frequently used that anyone who has learned the basics of the language will understand the compound word.]

But this points out one reason why initial recognizability of Esperanto may be reduced:  The combining of affixes and words, which I personally find to be an elegant solution to the vocabulary problem, means that you will see some longer words.  Might frighten you off!  Of course, it's a non-problem as soon as you have a minimal vocabulary.  In fact, it becomes a big plus.

BRG > Jose, you found Novial easy enough to read that all you asked for was the explanation of a few words. I do NOT find Esperanto easy to read. <

I would like to encourage more people in this forum to post in languages other than English.  Yes, Novial.  Yes, Interlingua.  Yes, Ido.  Yes, Esperanto.  Doesn't it seem odd to you that a discussion about conIALs should be primarily in English?  Very limiting to the poor folks who haven't put in their 30 years mastering it.

BRG > I, however, _can_ see my own name in what follows. I see it in connection with that of Hitler and Stalin, and I've seen a response to this letter by Ray Brown that makes it clear to me that I am being insulted here. <

Certainly Bruce is not torturing or killing any one here.  But apparently he has not stopped his persecution of anyone who after thoughtful consideration thinks that Esperanto is worth using.  During my time on the conlang list last year (mostly before the "great divorce") I was time and time again struck by the venom of his hatred of Esperanto.  You see, the existence of Esperanto has blighted the bright future of the IAL movement!  [Not his words, but his might have been stronger.]

I will now translate the offending passage:

JMM >>  Ha, tiu komentario certe ne agacos vin, c^ar vi ne kapablas legi c^i-tiun damnindan arkaikan lingvoprovon, kiu insistas supervivi al c^iuj persekutoj, c^u caristaj, c^u hitleraj, c^u stalinaj, c^u Bruceaj. <<

"Ah, this commentary certainly will not irritate you, since you can't read this (worthy-of-being-) damned archaic language attempt, which insists on surviving all persecutions, whether czarist, hitlerian, stalinine (?), or 'Brucian'"

You see, he just said that you persecute Esperanto.  That's gospel truth, too.  Read a few of your own posts from the past year.

No, I regret that anybody brought up the names of Hitler and Stalin.  From context it was clearly in jest, but yes, insulting.  I'm tired of being insulted here, too, Bruce.  Anyone else?

BRG > Obviously you like to talk behind my back and attack those people who cannot read what you write, while pretending to be interested in a dialogue.  How clearly this shows the nature of the Esperantists on ths list. <

Let's see if we can all be IAL-ists.  They're nice folks to chat with, they have interesting comments to make, can point out strengths and weaknesses of various IALs, what seems to work, what doesn't, what adds "value" to the language, what "costs" too much.  Don't excommunicate an Esperantist or an Interlinguist:  someone who uses a conIAL should be just as carefully listened to as someone who creates them.  Experience has got to be worth something, c^u ne?

Salutojn al c^iuj! / Greetings to all!


Ken Caviness appeals for non-competetive publicizing of conlangs, learns some hard truths, and the idea for these web-pages was born:

KC > I prefer making statements like:

"I've enjoyed experimenting with (insert conlang name) the last few years."

Nonthreatening.  Mention a couple of benefits of using it, a couple of interesting features, and no more! <

James Chandler replies:

JC > I respect your good intentions, Ken, but for me this is not quite enough.  I also think not for many Esperantists either.  For me, Ido is the most practical solution to the problem of communication at the moment, though not by any means perfect.  I feel a certain responsibilty to encourage others to use it, though perhaps not exclusively.  I could say, quite truthfully, to this list, that I enjoy using Ido, and I wish I had more people to write and speak to in Ido, especially electronically.  But it is also incumbent on me to point out the benefits of Ido over Esperanto, if only to justify the fact that I have opted for the one with by far the fewer number of speakers!, and that will inevitably lead to me criticizing Esperanto, though in a constructive manner.  It will also mean pouring a little cold water on the Esp propoganda every now and again, when it gets to much. <

KC again:

I suppose that you are right.  I also will feel the need to justify the fact that I have opted for Esperanto in spite of the fact that some people criticize some of its features.  So there we are.

Well, I still think it is better to speak positively of the language I prefer rather than negatively of others.

I am painfully aware of the recent acrimony on the auxlang list, and wish I could think of more ways to allow working together at least on some issues, even if we disagree on others.

One very real concern I have is for new subscribers to the list.  If someone disparages Esperanto (which I feel to be the best current hope of the IAL movement), and if I don't respond and if no-one else does either, then perhaps newcomers will say, "Oh, everyone here agrees with this criticism, it must be true."  I would hate for new subscribers to think there was only one side to some of these issues, I'd like them to have the chance to consider the various arguments for themselves.  Who knows, they might agree with me!  Or not.  But I can't allow "silence to signify consent" in
this case.

But the old-timers are bored to tears by the discussions they've heard (no doubt too often) before.  What to do?

Thinking it over, I've come to the conclusion that some kind of FAQ is needed.  It's a huge project, but it might relieve some of the worry that some of us feel that valid arguments and data might be swept under the rug.

Any volunteers?  I confess that I'm not interested in tackling the job, but I have an idea on how I'd start:  I've saved any message from the group which I think expressed an important facet relating to my judgment that E-o is our "best bet".  Therefore I have quite a collection of "pros & cons" relating to Esperanto.  It might not be too hard for me to whip some of this material into shape as a webpage, preferably with frequent index marks, so rather than getting uptight if someone makes a frequently-heard statement with which I disagree, I could quote it and add:

  Disagree.  <>

Or words to that effect.  Now, no-one who had already tired of the particular discussion would bother clicking on the link, unless we have more masochists here than I realized.  ;-)  But some newcomers to the debate might be interested in informing themselves more fully before accepting the offending statement.  Of course, others wouldn't bother, but so what?  Our arguing hasn't done much in the way of convincing anyone anyway.  Now if I do this, then perhaps some others would too!  And the list might soon become quite a congenial place to hang out.  Can you imagine?

A valuable byproduct of this would be the gradual assembly of more online materials about (and comparing) conlangs.  And to my mind, that is a goal more devoutly to be desired than any amount of discussion on the auxlang list.  Why should we bore everyone repeating ourselves?  If anything new is added to the discussion, this could be indicated:

New data/argument: <>

Kion vi pensas?  /  What do you think?

And there you have it folks!  The collection of documents you are reading contain targets to which one can link, thus jumping directly into the chosen point of the discussion.  Feel free to link to these documents, and let me know if you would like extra targets inserted anywhere for convenient topic location!

The files are not yet organized to the extent I dreamed of in the previous message, but perhaps I will reorganize the material more logically at some future time.  I suppose it would be more realistic for me to develop an index pointing to the appropriate sections of the files.  (The webpage <Eo_unue.html> started out to be such an index, but things got a bit complicated.)  Well, no time for more modifications today!

Salutojn kaj bondezirojn al c^iuj! / Greetings and best wishes to all!


 ^Gisdatigita je la 29 marto 1999 fare de Ken Caviness     --    Bonvolu avertu min pri eraroj!