Miscellaneous discussion on the auxlang list 

Caution:  Discussion occasionally approaches flame-war level.  Proceed at your own risk!


B.Philip.Jonsson and Ken Caviness discuss change/stability in a planglingvo (includes quotes from Bruce R. Gilson):

kc >> Esperanto changes ALL THE TIME, as words/affixes are coined and either catch on or don't, and others fall into disuse.  If any one person tries to make too many changes all at once, others will not understand.  This is the same as in ethnic languages, and acts as a brake on too-rapid change.  But Esperanto changes and develops.  Can we quit already with this ridiculous fixation on 1905? <<

bpj >Now, doesn't this contradict what you said above about the necessity of "netushebla" stability? <

kc: Original stability in Esperanto was achieved by speakers agreeing to abide by the "fundamento", but slow change is healthy and desirable (in my opinion).  Now additional stability is ensured by the existence of a large collection of literature.  Please understand, I'm not advocating stagnation in an IAL, just continuity enabling a user-base to be built up.

My, I'm giving away IAL secrets!  What if another better conlang is created and uses all the right methods and supplants Esperanto?  ;-)  Well, I'll tell you:  I'd rejoice.  I want a *global* IAL now.  This is my idealism showing -- I just don't think that the little "fixes" we come up with will make another candidate more palatable than Esperanto.

In fact, I'll give you another "Secret of Esperanto's Success":  immediately start a massive campaign to translate proverbs and sayings into your auxlang, and of course, great works of (ethnic) literature.

[Note:  Zamenhof did do this and many of the "right things" in creating Esperanto.]

bpj > NB that I'm advocating a democratic decision-by-general-vote system, not an elite Akademio of
self-appointed cardinals... <

kc: I wonder if you mean a decision by vote of a group of elite (internet) users?  Otherwise it would be very difficult to implement a democratic system of voting within an IAL community.  Even a vote taken at a UK (Universala Kongreso), where thousands of speakers are present might not meet with the approval of the world-wide Esperantistaro.

I suspect supporters of any conlang would encounter similar problems after reaching sufficient numbers.  Perhaps a 50-year review, as someone recently suggested?  (Sorry, I can't find the message to give proper credit.)  But I must say that in such a periodic review and vote, I would campaign for an accusative indicator, not because it's "fundamenta", but because of the benefits.  But if such a review mechanism existed and decisions *could* be made which would then become "standard", I too have a few suggestions for improvement!  But more likely than not, some people wouldn't like my sugestions, and we'd have another split in the IAL movement.  I think this explains why I prefer what works well (not perfectly, but neither would anything else) over an unstable situation where even fewer people would be interested in learning the language.

bpj > Again: in a democracy everybody is entitled to their opinions, <

kc: Yes!

bpj > and to put them before the scrutiny of the people, to get a mandate or to be rejected. <

kc: Yes!

bpj > Do you think that Auxland should be a democracy, a Eo one-party-state or a "each 'eir own IAL" anarchy? <

kc: I wonder which E-o magazines you've been reading to have gotten the idea that Esperantio is a one-party-state?  ;-)

bpj > You imply that peoples evaluation of certain features in an IAL may vary because of their natlang background. That's an interesting topic for discussion, that deserves a better fate than being silenced in the name of conformism! <

kc: I apologize if I have given anyone the idea that I'm trying to silence them or force them to conform.  Such was not my intention.  But I believe that I have one or two things of value to add to this discussion, and don't think others should try to silence me either.

I have read anti-X propaganda written by Y-ists (several different values of X & Y), and don't really care for any of it.  I'd much rather see us point out various features we DO like.

bpj > Again I would like to advocate a middle road: I think that compulsory morphological direct-object marking and binding up word order totally to the service of constituent marking are equally foolish in an IAL. <

kc: I hear and acknowledge your opinion.  In previous messages I have explained why I prefer direct-object marking to strict word order, and why I view optional marking as even more difficult.

bpj > (Fyi: I think that an IAL should not rely on intonation or italicization (sp?) for _anything_, and I also think that shift of emphasis is best expressed by a change of word order.) <

kc: I agree.

Bruce R. Gilson wrote: >>> As a result, I really feal we must treat Esperanto as, to a large extent, an irrelevancy to the IAL movement. <<<

kc retorted:  >> Ah!  Now all is clear!  Any facts that are presented to you that show a favorable cost-benefit ratio for the features in Esperanto which you dislike are "irrelevant".  Let's neglect any facts we don't like, rather than admit that there are pros and cons. <<

B.Philip.Jonsson pleads for sanity:  > Well, present your data, _both of you_, so that we may see whose claim is actually valid, <

kc: I have presented arguments and evidence in favor of the accusative, for instance, and am reluctant to bore anyone by repeating myself even more!  It is my perception that my opinions were treated as irrelevant, or laughed at as "archaic".  If anyone is interested in an actual discussion of the pros AND cons of object marking, I can hunt through past messages to get the ball rolling.  The whole thing may be a matter of personal preference, and I have never implied that anyone doesn't have a right to his own opinions and preferences!  But my data *and* my preferences have been ridiculed.

brg >>> Esperantists who want to learn a new IAL will, I'm sure, be welcomed. <<<
 
kc >> Thank you.  Let me know in which century the new IAL will be stabilized, so I can learn it. <<
 
bpj > Well, Latin became a dead language once it was stabilized, <

kc: Hold it!  By "stabilized" I mean that an IAL must stay sufficiently on an "even keel" so that literature can be produced.  I don't mean zero change, which I agree means death.

It is certainly possible that Esperanto may cease to be used at some time in the future, but it won't happen in my lifetime, or yours.  There are too many people who have "tried it and like it".  Despite the features which you find to be horrible flaws.  Please face reality: not everyone agrees with you.  And you haven't successfully brainwashed all auxlangers to your dogmatic point of view.

bpj > I thought you were one Esperantist who allowed others to disagree with YOU. <

kc: By all means, please disagree with me.  In the paragraph above I was reacting against Bruce's statements like "Esperanto is irrelevant", or in past messages: "All of us here agree that" ... (further Esperanto-bashing statements deleted)
 
kc >> 1. S^an^gemuloj / proponents of change - whether Esperantists or whatever, who are so busy determining what is GOOD that they *never* get around to using an IAL now.  ==> Idealists <<

bpj > They do exist in natlangs too: writers, poets, comedians and other language artists, that continually refresh the language, plus specialists that widen its expressiveness. Would you like to silence them all?

kc: Of course they exist.  No, I don't want to silence them!  But I do think that if there only planners and no users we don't have an IAL!  So I don't want to silence anyone, just encourage some people to become IAL-*users*. Also note that the people you are talking about aren't sitting in an ivory tower planning language changes, they're primarily users!


JFMdP & KC meet BRG's derogatory statments about Esperanto:

Subject: Re: AUXLANG: Value of learning Esperanto (was:BRG's manners)
Respondante al "J. F. Martin del Pozo" <delpozo /c`e/ REDESTB.ES>, Bruce R. Gilson skribis:

Ken Caviness responds to Bruce Gilson's message:

brg > If most Esperantists think the -n ending is a stupid vestige, and stop writing it, <

Then the -n ending would become a thing of the past.  What Esperantists decided in 1905, Esperantists could undecide tomorrow.  BUT we're talking about people who have seen that the language works, and for the most part, if there are things they'd like to see changed, it's not the -n ending.

You say the poor shackled Esperantists are longing to change the language but can't.  On the contrary, they could, but fundamental (!) changes unlikely to happen since everyone can see that Zamenhof's choices worked out pretty well in practice.

brg > they will be criticized for writing bad Esperanto and treated the same way I would if I used the word "ain't" in one of my English language posts. <

Hmm, if you ever learn Esperanto and decide to omit the -n fina^jo, set your email program to add a "Senakuzativa Averto", or a postscript that explains that you ain't dumb, jes stubborn!

brg > It has been made VERY clear to me by every Esperantist who has posted here that they want to keep Esperanto fundamentally unchanged. <

Again, it's because their fondest dream is to irritate you.  No, sorry, that's not it!  It's because they see that the language works well as is.

brg > Perhaps add words as needed, of course, but simplify the grammar? you won't touch it. <

Since we have not agreed that the *changes* you would make are actually *simplifications*, what's your point?

1. Add "-n" to indicate direct object.
2. Always use SVO order.

Neither is very complicated, grammatically speaking.  Of course, SVO languages generally complicate things further, inversion in questions and emphasis, etc.  And some planlingvoj go in for other exceptions and
"optionals" which to my mind make the grammar truly complicated....

brg > The difference is this. People who are not committed to Esperanto don't go around making statements like "everyone should learn Esperanto" or even "you should learn Esperanto." <

Bruce, perhaps I'm missing something here.  When you are satisfied with the modification of Novial, don't you intend to tell people "you should learn Novial"?  Though actually, I don't tell anyone that "they *should* learn Esperanto, I just show some neat examples of word-building, mention the large amount of literature available, the fun it is to have a multicultural discussion by email or in an Esperanto newsgroup.

Most important is the cost-benefit ratio:  it cost me very little study time to be able to use Esperanto, the benefits were much more than I expected.  It was worth my time learning.  Q.E.D.

Well, I hope that when you start pushing Novial (hey, when did you stop?) you will not make an annoyance of yourself like some pushy, irritating Esperantists do.  Though come to think of it, almost *all* the Esperantists I've met or corresponded with are nice, friendly, interesting people.

brg >And I note that although in the English of his signature file Ken writes:  "A language for cross-cultural communication"  On the Esperanto side he writes: "La lingvo internacia"

Can I assume that "la" means the same as "THE" would in English? To us he presents the sweet reasonability of "_A_ language for cross-cultural communication"; to those who read E-o it is "_The_ international language." <

Ah, you've found me out!  Of course, I could remind you that the *correct* name for "Esperanto" is "La lingvo internacia de Doktoro Esperanto".  So I hink my sig is justified.  But in actual fact, yes, I'm saying that E-o is currently the conlang most used for international / intercultural communication.  This may change or may not!  But when you say "the international language" today, there is no ambiguity.  But please interpret my sig as a statement reflecting *my* opinion, not an attempt to force my opinion on you.

brg >>>That's the whole point. People can't make reforms. So they either give up and use 1905 E-o, as bad as it is, or they leave the E-o movement. <<<

JFMdP >>But people can and do make reforms. What people cannot do is make reforms by decree. You can't say: from May 16th masculine words will take -i^c-. You can, of course, but nobody will pay attention (who are you to tell me how to speak my language, they'd say). You can make reform by your example. You start using -i^c- and if people feel it's good, it'll spread and. <<

brg > That is NOT the way a conlang, <

That is precisely the way it works in the only conlang that is extensively used.  When you get past the initial planning stage of your favorite conlang, you have to make some allowances for the folks who learn it.  Or you lose them.

brg > which is essentially nobody's first language means. One person uses -ich- and another says "what does this mean? it is not in my book?" and it's explained, and the second person says "nice, but I can't use this word; <

So, you weigh the pros & cons.

brg > it'll make me stick out as someone who doesn't know the language." <

What?  I thought you were talking sense, but this is pure fantasy again. If you *never* use the -n, but can write messages, it will be clear that you are doing it intentionally.  If you use "-i^c-", which otherwise does not appear in Esperanto, no-one could possibly assume you didn't know the language merely for that reason.  When I first saw it, I assumed *I* didn't know the language well enough yet.  But the "i^cistoj" often add a line (automatically) that explains their usage, which is kind of them, I think. And although "-i^c-" is not standard today, and is not seen much off the net, many people feel it is so logical that it will become standard.

brg > The only way a conlang can change is for SOMEONE or SOME GROUP to have some competency to say "this is a word, this is not." <

So according to you, Schleyer was right when he retained complete control over Volapük, and Zamenhof was wrong when he gave the language to its users.

I must most definitely disagree.  It is my opinion that Esperanto has prospered primarily because of a number of things that Zamenhof did right (perhaps even unwittingly).  And this is one of them.

JFMdP >> And by the way, I don't use 1905 E-o. If you could and did read E-o, you'd see that 1905 E-o is different from 1997 E-o. <<
 
brg > Not in any fundamental way. You can't violate the Fundamento. <

Same song, same verse.


BRG & KC discuss Gopsill's statements about Esperanto and Interlingua:

brg >>> F. P. Gopsill's book is relevant here. He TAUGHT Esperanto to students in England, and found that it was nowhere near as easy as its advocates claimed. (And he was a competent teacher, both in that he'd taught many natlangs in the same schools, and in that he had a certification from the British Esperanto Association of his ability in Esperanto.) <<<

kc >> We've been over this ground before, but it let me remind you that the evidence of errors in Gopsill's quotes and statements referring to Esperanto lend credence to the theory that he "exaggerated" his competency in the language.  So how could he teach it? <<

brg > Are you claiming that Gopsill is _lying_ when he says he received the Diploma of the British Esperanto Association? <

kc: I wouldn't think of making such an accusation.  I carefully said exactly what I meant.  I have no satisfactory theory to explain the facts.  By the way, Gopsill definitely deserves praise for his enthusiasm for the IAL idea.

brg >>> He switched to Interlingua, and found it far easier for his students. <<<
 
kc >> See above.  Also he cleverly chose students who were not only native English-speakers but had previously studied Latin or other Romance languages. <<
 
brg > I fail to see where you get that information. He said "were already learning other modern or classical languages." This probably means some were studying Latin, some MAY have been studying French or Spanish but very likely were studying German or Russian. Or are they not "modern" languages? <

kc: Perhaps we should not theorize in the absence of data here.  I confess that I thought it much more likely that the majority of his students had been studying Latin, French or Spanish.

kc >> ...  Of course they found Interlingua-Iala easy!  At least they would have had high first-sight recognition, right?  They got a good feeling of learning a new language, but did they get to the post-introductory level where Esperanto is (in my opinion) far easier than Interlingua?  Did Gopsill himself? <

brg > I presume Gopsill has. He has written textbooks in Interlingua. As for his students, Gopsill does not tell us how far they got. I am quite certain that he obviously did not bring them to fluency, but then when he was teaching them Esperanto, they couldn't make it UP TO the end of that introductory level. <

kc: Of course we have different ideas of what "the end of the introductory level" means?  For comparison, after 20 hours of Esperanto study, I could read magazine articles in Esperanto, looking up perhaps one word per column, *and* I could write in it, although I certainly had to look up words for that.  But I gradually internalized the philosophy of my (online) tutor:  if you don't know a word, create it from words you know!  And guess what:  everyone understands.  They probably chuckled as they pointed out a more frequently used way to say things, but hey, everyone is free to create the words in the same way!

It is this word-building power that is too often ignored by people who take one look at an Esperanto root word and turn up their noses.  I view the lack of this feature in Interlingua-Iala as a great drawback.  Of course, it has other advantages....

Just to clarify, my opinion (with no scientific testing done, alas:  would anyone like to fund a project?) is that the first-sight advantage of Interlingua-Iala only helps for reading, and only helps for the first two weeks or less of an intensive course.  Probably less.  As soon as you can start building many words in Esperanto, but you have to learn them all by rote in Iala, the difference will be clear.

brg > I do not claim Gopsill as impartial, or a rigidly scientific study. <

Good.

brg > But I know of no _other_ comparative learnability study that can be used to give evidence pointing the other way. <

Unfortunately there doesn't seem to be a lot of funding lying around for any IAL testing.  Sigh.  But I don't agree that a flawed study is better than none at all.  (Otherwise I'd be propounding the 5th force and cold fusion in my physics classes.)  It's clear that Gopsill had an ax to grind.

brg > Yes, we have. But I cannot imagine anyone having _more_ trouble learning a language without E-o's agreement rules, etc., than E-o itself. And this is so self-evident to me that _unless_ someone can make a study more scientific than Gopsill's, and show me differently, I will believe it as certainly as I believe that the sun will rise next Friday morning. I have no proof that it will, but all my experience has shown it.

Yes, I can see that you feel that E-o's agreement rules, etc., are so impossibly difficult that the whole language is ruined.  I don't understand why what seems regular and easy to me is a such torment to you, but if you say so, why then I accept that you feel that way.  I can only reiterate that I see a low cost - high benefit trade-off:  added flexibility (without recourse to "optionals", so it's not even complex!), making the language less tied-down to the Romance pattern, and so more fit (in my opinion) for use in the modern world.  You refuse to admit the existence of any such benefits, even when people explain in English so that you need not experience it for yourself first-hand in Esperanto.  No, you think that all Esperantists already have too much invested in the language, so one can't trust what they say.

It is self-evident to me that you made up your mind after a superficial study, and then suspect the motives of anyone having a different opinion, so you can discount anything they say, so you will accept no additional evidence, thus ensuring that you will never have to change your mind.

I'm sorry, that is too harsh.  In the course of our electronic acquaintance we have often disagreed, but I respect your wish for a common second language for the world.  *I* have freely admitted that if I were inventing a conlang, it would be different from Esperanto.  I admit "defects", I admit difficulties, although I certainly don't agree with you one their magnitude!  But you won't admit that someone else's opinion could have the minutest particle of merit.  I'm sorry, I just can't respect that attitude. Just once, it would be nice if you acknowledged that there might be "pros" as well as "cons".

brg > I will agree that ease of learning is mostly a matter for speculation. But as flawed as Gopsill's methodology may be as a scientific study, <

Yes.

brg > in the absence of anything better, all I can do is speculate based on my experience (not only my own language-learning experience, but, more importantly, that of my language classmates). <

Yes.  As do I.  We seem to have different experiences.  Impasse.

Except that there *have* been a number of studies done comparing Esperanto to ethnic languages, and it comes out looking so good that I speculate that even the hypothetical ideal IAL (don't hold your breath) wouldn't be much of an improvement.

Salutojn!
Ken

P.S.  But if the European Union adopts a conlang, I'm not merely going to look at the grammar and become well enough acquainted with the vocabulary to follow along, I'll *learn* the language.  Hey, it might be Glosa, or Eurolang, or a revived Novial!  Sed intertempe, mi uzos Esperanton.


BRG's claims Esperanto has few speakers, KC replies:

brg >>> I cannot see any reason to use a figure that exceeds the lowest I have seen. <<<

kc >> I recently saw a message where someone claimed there are about a dozen Esperantists.  And the author was not an Esperantist, Bruce, so you can believe him. <<

brg > Ken quotes _out of context_: This is the second time recently that Ken has taken a quote out of context from a post of mine. Please note that doing this can quite thoroughly change what I am saying.

kc: Sorry, Bruce, you are right.  I thought I was deleting extraneous material (lately my messages have been too long, so take note, I'm trying to be brief!), but you are right, I deleted too much, and in fact missed your meaning.

brg > "The lowest I have seen" referred to the lowest I had seen GIVEN BY AN ESPERANTIST. The truth probably ranges between the lowest figure given by an E-ist and the highest given by people like the person Ken cites, who probably are anti-IAL in general. <

Ok, I did miss your intent here.  But it was funny, don't you think?

In the last supposition in the preceding quoted paragraph you are quite right.  (I mean that the person I mentioned was against all IALs.)  I was razzing you for always going with the lowest figures, come what may.  I trust most people understood the implied smiley?

But now it is clear to all that your estimates of the number of Esperanto speakers are based on a flawed judgment system.  You take the lowest figure that any Esperantist anywhere is willing to admit in public, and assume they've exaggerated, and so believe an even lower figure.

I on the other hand, know from personal experience and much reading that Esperantists "come in all flavors".  There are wild-eyed propagandizers, and there are conservatives, raumistoj kaj finvenkistoj (meanings not critical here), there are *bound* to be great overestimates (does *anyone* believe the 15 million some enthusiast recently trotted out?) *AND* underestimates.  I could well understand a scientist giving a low figure, they are reluctant to overestimate and look foolish.

Now Large gives "several hundred thousand" as a lower bound of Esperantists' estimates.  But please give the original source of these low estimates, so that we may judge the reliance we should place on them.  If there are over 30,000 who belong to some national or international E-o organization (I don't have the quote from Large in front of me, nor figures from other sources to hand), your 50,000 is clearly too low by *at*least* one order of magnitude.  (Multiply by 10, for non-science types.  Bruce understands me, his background is chemistry.)

Besides the famous 2 million figure, quoted in Britannica and elsewhere (World Almanac, was it?), Mario Pei thought 8 million (I believe that in a previous message I gave the exact quote from one of his books), a recent study someone mentioned gave 1.6 million (I don't recall who/where, but can track it down).

The 1987 membership figure for UEA (Universa Esperanto-Asocio) was (if my sources are correct):  43,642.  Now the 100th anniversary *was* an exceptional year, and I know you'd like me to believe that 87% of all the people in the world with modest fluency in Esperanto joined UEA, but it seems rather unlikely, to say the least.  If your figure was 5-10%, we might be able to talk, but my overall impression of the data leads me to say in round figures, "over a million" rather than "under a million".

I don't know any better way to pin this down, just as others have made the comparison that we have no way to guess how many (otherwise normal people!) have learned how to play chess, since perhaps only a small percentage would actually belong to a chess club.

You finally got EGE to say that there might be 100,000 Esperantists, and now you've quoted that back to us repeatedly, generally prefacing it by "even EGE admits", again indicating we can't believe even the lowest Esperantist estimate.  But it is not clear to me why we should place more reliance on EGE's guess than on official studies.

Friends, I do not wish to continue haggling this way, it's ridiculous, it's futile.  But it bothers me enormously that Bruce keeps throwing out this 50,000 figure, with occasional mentions that for the purposes of argument he might be persuaded to go with 100,000.  Well, I for one, refuse to accept something just because someone says it often.  Try it and see:  50,000  50,000  50,000  50,000  50,000  50,000  50,000  50,000

No, it still didn't work.

Come to think of it, several of Bruce's criticisms strike me the same way. If we say it often enough, we'll come to believe that X really is an unsurmountable problem, despite lack of evidence or even evidence to the contrary.  Is it surprising that I long for the day when Bruce starts promoting a revived Novial, moving up a step in the hierachy of usefulness (IMO) to the IAL movement?  Maybe then we can have a discussion about real problems that IAL supporters must face, rather than eternal bickering over the perceived "flaws" of this or that auxlang, much more appropriate to ivory-tower of language planning than to the real world.

No further information has been added to the "numbers debate", and until new studies reveal new information, I will not scoff at Pei's 8 million, at Britannica's 2 million, at whoever's 1.6 million (sorry, I just did a search of my hard drive and can't find the reference), even at Large's "several hundred thousand" (though I want to see a reference to the original study first).  But apparently his 50,000 is not based on any better reasoning than BRG's, so I'm confident we can retire this figure.

Now, this message hasn't convinced BRG (who are we kidding?), and when he responds with no new data he won't convince me.  What to do?  What about this - use the phrases:

Esperanto has:

 "comparatively few speakers" - if pressed one can say "with respect to the Earth's population".  Or

 "comparatively many speakers" - meaning, w.r.t. other conlangs.

No one can argue with either of these, right?

Hoping to be able to concentrate on more useful topics,
Ken

Note: for further discussion of "How many Esperantists", try here

KC refutes BRG's limited definition of the IAL movement:

Bruce R Gilson proclaimed:

The overwhelming majority of Esperantists are not IN the IAL movement. They are just USING Esperanto; they aren't teaching it, helping to improve it (since it can't be improved anyway; 1905 settled that), even leafletting for it.

Only those people who are actively doing something to spread the idea of an IAL are "in the IAL movement." Whether it is Don Harlow proselytizing for E-o or Philip Jonsson developing Eurial, they may be going in directions I don't agree with, but they are trying to FURTHER the goal of an IAL. An Esperantist who simply writes letters to other Esperantists, using the language as I use English when I post here, or reads Esperanto publications, is not IN the movement.

When you weed out those passive consumers of Esperanto, I don't think their number exceeds the combined numbers of:
 
1) those developing new IALs,
2) those working on improving existing IALs to attract more people,
3) those propagandizing for various existing IALs.

KC responded:

I *completely* and *utterly* disagree.

The things you mention are certainly valid activities within the IAL movement, whether or not you and I agree with the points of view taken.

But *using* an IAL is *by*far* the best way to further the goals of the overall IAL movement.  Haven't you heard "Don't do as I do, do as I say" ? Well, life doesn't work that way, does it?  Telling my children something is fine, but showing them by my example is infinitely better.  I feel positively embarrassed for my hypocrisy if I spend more time reading/writing on the auxlang list than in Esperanto.  If you're serious about the IAL idea, you can't afford to wait until Novial (everyone insert their favorite) is perfect.  Get out there and use it now!

Supposing significant portion of the world's population (say one tenth) were using a certain (unspecified) IAL.  Very few of them would be doing your activities (1), (2) and (3).  And in fact, it wouldn't be necessary, since the benefits of the IAL would be evident in practice.  By your definition, there would still be almost no IAL movement (except perhaps for the modificationists).  By my definition, the IAL movement would be very strong, with 600 million (or however many) members.

This certainly highlights the differences in our views, doesn't it?  Are you sure that you don't change the definition of terms purposely to exclude Esperantists and Interlinguaists?


KC refutes BRG's limited definition of the IAL movement (2nd part):

kc >>This certainly highlights the differences in our views, doesn't it?  Are you sure that you don't change the definition of terms purposely to exclude Esperantists and Interlinguaists? <<
 
brg > No, I didn't change the definition. In fact, the definition I gave there was what I had in mind when I said that E-o was irrelevant to the IAL movement. Jens probably had your meaning in mind. Clearly we _do_ have a major difference of opinion. <

kc:
Yes, I mean that you have restricted the definition of "IAL-movement", "IAL-supporter", etc, all along!  And none of us tumbled to it.  Amazing.

Again, my definition is:  (The sum total of) people using an IAL in any way.

And using one is certainly much more beneficial than talking about one, although that too is necessary.  (Otherwise, what are we doing here on the auxlang list?)

Why "more beneficial"?  By the way, the phrase is far too tame to express my intent.  I mean "absolutely essential", "*the* most important aspect", "a sine qua non", etc.  I'll be happy to share thoughts/reasons for this if anyone wants, but perhaps I'll hold off lest I'm boring everyone.


BRG says "expunge Esperanto", KC replies, "use an IAL now: Esperanto":

Ken Caviness <caviness /c`e/ southern.edu>, in reply to Bruce R. Gilson:

> Ken is writing as an Esperantist, and his signature file shows that.

It's odd to hear someone call me an Esperantist.  I just enjoy languages, and have spent a lot of time learning various languages.  In college I got a major in German on the side, my first teaching position was at a French-speaking university in Rwanda, I just like languages!  And I insist upon being able to _use_ a language, not just guess at the meaning of what I read.  After feeling fairly comfortable in Esperanto, I started looking at
other conlangs as well.  I know what features of Esperanto allowed me to make rapid progress, and it always surprises me when people complain about those very things!

No, I'm not writing primarily "as an Esperantist".  I am writing as a person who read everything in Britannica about conlangs sometime between the ages of 9 and 13 (sorry I don't remember precisely and have never stuck to keeping a diary!).  Based on what I read I tried to get more information, but ended up deciding _not_ to try to learn any of the contenders.  Why?  Because I couldn't decide which was "best".  [So foolish!  If I had learned Esperanto then, I could have been corresponding with penpals from all around the world, my young life would have been immeasurably enriched.  You see, Esperanto is actually being used now.  I have no interest in a conIAL that I can use after my death.]

So I did nothing.   Until I saw mention of Esperanto when I was 26, and thought:  maybe I should take the free course.  But I put it off for another 8 years.  Then I went back to Britannica, and this time saw that there were over 30,000 books published in Esperanto.  I had had no idea that any conlang had achieved such success.  Of course I immediately started the free 10-lesson Esperanto course offered by the Esperanto League for North America.  And I was shocked pleasantly) at how easy Esperanto is!  I could only afford to spend an hour or two on weekends, but in ten weeks was writing letters, and reading magazines with very little need of a dictionary (circa 1 word per page).  I wish I had waited until a vacation and tried to do it as fast a possible.  Then I would have a story to tell.  As it is, I can only say that within a year I worked through a self-teaching book, took an advanced email course, read a number of books in Esperanto (about other topics), and volunteered to help with the online version of the (basic) Free Esperanto Course.  In the two years since I have just used Esperanto without having to make an effort.  (Alert & inquisitive readers may now pause to calculate my age.)

Why is Esperanto easy?  Because of (1) the straight-forward grammar that reduces complexities, (2) the construction of words from a reduced base vocabulary, (3) many root words look familiar many people.

Many creators of conlangs emphasize (3), but this is the least important of the three, since (a) no matter the source of your conlang's words, most people in the world will not know them, (b) the people who think they recognize words will often be hindered by "faux amis"/"false friends",  (c) vocabulary learning is a life-long process, even in one's native language, but simple patterns of grammar and word-construction can be mastered in a few days, so the moral is clear: whenever feasible replace vocab with simple constuction, and eliminate ALL spelling irregularities you can.

If I were creating a conlang, I would do some things differently.  If I were very good, I might obtain a product better than Zamenhof's in some ways, but it would _certainly_ be worse in others.  And I'm not merely being humble here.  I think the above statements apply to anyone.

brg >> Esperanto is dead. After 100 years it has perhaps 100,000 speakers. I hope that in 100 years, we will have, not 100,000 speakers but 100,000,000. <<

kc: Now and then we get nightmare messages claiming that Esperanto is spoken by 40 million people, actively supported by The Pope, The President Of The U.S., and Bill Gates.  Ridiculous.  Equally ridiculous are the messages that claim that Esperanto is (1) dead, (2) too artificial to be used in real life, (3) a pseudo-language without "soul", (4) too European! (proponents of Romance-based conlangs take note!), (5) not "European" enough (meaning Romance), or (6) much too difficult, and if we only "simplified" a few of some particular person's pet peeves, all the world would flock to the standard, and we could all march happily arm-in-arm into the millenium.

Get real!  The reason Esperanto doesn't have 100,000,000 speakers has nothing to do with the particular things about it that you don't like.  In fact, the things you don't like aren't the same things that I don't like, nor the same things that John Doe doesn't like.  Resurrecting Novial or creating a new conlang won't make a difference.  It won't be easier than Esperanto.  Assuming you could interest a large number of people in it (a
BIG assumption), they would immediately start squabbling about various features of the language which _they_ don't like, and either try to reform it again, or split off to form another splinter group.  What makes people
think their personal private reforms will take the world by storm?  What is needed is a little stability, not constant reform.

brg >> And the way to do that is to ruthlessly expunge ANY trace of the mentality that accepts Esperanto. We are really starting from scratch. Esperanto is of value to us only in that, in improving Volapuek, it showed a few good ideas. But Eo was >superseded by Ido, and Ido by original Novial, as an example of state-of-the-art interlinguistic creation. And only Novial has really reached that point, nearly enough to look really good. But even Jespersen did not do everything that was implied by his own principles. And we are making improvements. <<

kc: Brave New World.  Get real!  All you are doing is dividing our energies.

Learn from the mistakes of the past.  How many hundred conlangs have been invented this century?  Dozens of pan-romance, pan-slav, pan-germanic, pan-asian, any variety you want.  The authors were ALL convinced they had a better product.  But the world didn't see it that way.  Nor did 10 % of all Esperantists immediately jump ship to the latest "state-of-the-art" creation.

But please notice that I am not saying this on the Novial list.  I have explained to the list members that I am there to learn something about Novial, and recommend simplification/regularity over "natural" quirkiness.  I do want to learn about Novial, and considering how hard Bruce argues in favor of it, I'm astonished at how hard it is to get materials about the language.  But all that will change, "come the revolution".  Next year there will be 100 million speakers, and all international businesses will be using it.  ;-)

First approximation: it wasn't enough better than the competition to take root.  Possible subsidiary factor:  Jespersen made too many changes after publication, falling into the Ido trap.

Sorry for the tirade, folks!  It just gets my goat when people blame Esperanto for their own failures.  And all the squabbling about small initial difficulties (according to some), without seeing the strengths that make real _use_ possible in a reasonable time.  Not semi-recognition,
but the ability to really communicate verbally & par écrit, hopefully about other topics than language alone.

My advice:  while you hone your own choice of conIAL, take the basic E-o course, read some literature (it's cheap on the web), use the language to correspond with someone from another culture.  Don't wait, do it now!  Click here: <http://www.iswest.net/~marko/esperanto/course/>
 


RM & KC agree on gradual change:

At 08:41 PM 21.03.97 -0800, rmay wrote:

> I think that if the language is ever going to get anywhere, it will be if users tend towards just such changes and gradually change the language that way. <

Yes, you are right, that is exactly the way changes have been brought into Esperanto.  And Esperanto has changed, of course, contrary to what some have said.  Not quickly, but that would be BAD.  See my comments on the necessity of stability in previous posts.

Currently, if you don't like the "feminine-suffix asymmetry", you can join those who use a complementary masculine suffix.  Very neat, very symmetric, it even ties into the E-o nickname suffixes to form a pleasing whole:

Current usage for a person who plays piano professionally/habitually:

      male/unspecified: pianisto,  female: pianistino

"-i^c-" forms:

      unspecified: pianisto;  female: pianistino;  male: pianisti^co

[Cf. nickame formation:  take a few initial letters of the word and add -njo (female version) or -^cjo (male version).]

Of course "hard-core", die-hards, etc., don't use the new -i^c- suffix, saying that it "destroys recognizability".  Sounds like the debates elsewhere in IAL-dom, too, doesn't it?

I don't use it either.  But I've now read enough messages using it, that I could now get used to it fairly easily.  Yes, it would be a break with the past, but many people now believe that this will eventually become standard.

But there's always trouble in paradise, ^cu ne?  _Other_ people want to introduce a competing masculine suffix "-ab-".  Imagine their presumption!
[Irony intended here.]


JB & KC discuss success, failure, and change:

Ken Caviness responds to a message from Jay Bowks:

> First, Novial is not a failure, as the latest attempt to modernize it shows, it is still on life support, <

Perhaps we just better not call _any_ planned language a "failure".  No speaks it or tries to learn it for decades, then someone gets hold of a book and gets a circle of friends interested in it again.  Et voila! Resurrection!  Better to say that Novial has not yet achieved much support. But that may change!

> I think someone better let the poster of the message, this Eo poster child, know about the demise of Eo, <

Now, now!  If according to your standards Novial hasn't failed, then certainly Esperanto hasn't yet either!  Maybe no-one has recently pointed out here that Esperanto has evolved, new words and new forms have been added, and the "Fundamento" is only fixed as long as the people actually using the language like it!  Simplest matter in the world to change it, just get it voted at the yearly Universala Kongreso.  Of course, the difficulty is to get others to agree with _your_ particular improvements.  Other "^san^gemuloj" (change-tendency-people) likely have a completely different agenda.  _But_ if your changes are markedly superior, and if you use them in correspondence with others and can induce others to do so, if you publish articles actually using the modifications (appropriate explanations would probably be necessary), there is absolutely no theoretical reason why you can't mold the language in your own image.  Some people will not use the modifications, because they (1) prefer the previous form, or (2) prefer the continuity of the language as it stands.  But these people can be convinced of the excellency of your reforms, or you can seek disciples among the Gentiles.  Let's not keep bringing up the strawman of the "netu^sableco de la Fundamento" to down Esperanto.

> that someone pulled the plug out of the wall on Eo when they wrote up the Manifesto prohibiting the "thought" of ruining te "perfect" IAL... <

To which "Manifesto" are you referring?  In the Praga Manifesto a contingent of Esperantists expressed their fatigue with the constant battle to convince non-IAL-enthousiasts of the benefits of a planned language (you've been there, right?) and their intention to use and enjoy Esperanto for its own sake, right now.  I have to confess, I can see their point.

And let me mention that it is my opinion that any planned language, whose community allows often-repeated complete overhauls of the language, cannot make headway against the opponents of IALs.  I only learned Esperanto because of the scores of thousands of publications, books, magazines, etc. that already exist!  If you change the language tomorrow, and the next day, and the next, you'll lose much of your support.

> I don't believe Eo has failed in anything but its main goal.  To serve as a world auxiliary a language has to be widely used and recognized and accepted.  One hundred years have passed and still millions haven't got a clue as to what Eo is... <

The point is, more people know Esperanto and know about Esperanto than the other IALs, by several orders of magnitude.  By the definition of "fina venko", the whole IAL movement has failed, harrumph! _not_succeeded_ yet.  It is my belief that any conlang that achieved extensive official support could surpass Esperanto and become _the_ world-IAL.  Anything less will leave Esperanto to slowly gain, while contenders "flash in the pan", like Basic English.  In my view, Esperanto has already achieved a "critical mass" of litterature and supporters.  This is what convinced me to learn it.  After learning it I was interested in other conlangs, too.
 


BRG & KC on adjectival concord:

brg >>> I have never even seen an INVALID argument defending concord. The evidence has not been shown me. <<<

kc >> Ok, read it: "flexibility"  Now go ahead, call it an invalid argument. <<

brg > The reasons I have stated that the accusative defenses are invalid is that there are much better arguments against <

No.  Until this week you never admitted that there *were* any arguments in its favor.  If I have missed a message, I stand corrected.  But you have flooded the forum with your anti-accusative (etc., etc.) criticisms and refused to acknowledge any possible benefits.  Any apology is rather late in coming.

> (James Chandler is transcribing Jespersen's to the Web, and within a couple of days it will be there to compare with Waringhien's on the other side.) <

Bravo, James!  I've said it before, and I'll say it again:  James Chandler in a few short months has done more productive work faster for the IAL online presence than anyone else I know.  Well, there are 20 or more Esperantists who have created huge webpage collections (Don, Martin, Simon, Bertilo, Axel, take a bow!), hundreds more who have made significant contributions, and then those like myself whose pages are of minor interest. [But for those interested:  <http://www.southern.edu/~caviness/> ]

But James, you continue to amaze me.  Let me quick finish this message in this silly debate and join you in *real* work.

> Ken has used one word: "flexibility." Unless he really feels that one needs SO MUCH flexibility that adjectives can be separated from their nouns EVEN by intervening nouns, I fail to see how concord adds flexibility. <

Except in poetry, I favor placing the adjectives as close as possible to (before or after) the appropriate noun.  But some flexibility is certainly an advantage, especially when translating to/from a language that doesn't happen to be English.  Esperanto does not allow "complete" flexibility, of course, but it gives more latitude than most natlangs, and does this *not* at the expense of extra options and exceptions to rules.

So my watchwords are:  flexibility/poetry/translation/emphasis

> No, concord gives the flexibility to write some truly bizarre sentences, yet still does NOT give us the flexibility to use some word orders that are probably MORE likely to occur. <

Allowing flexible word order in ALL situations (in contrast to most situations, as in E-o) would perhaps exact a higher toll than I'm willing to pay.  I don't know.  Show me such a language, and how it's used, and I'll think about it then.

Is this sort of thing necessary in every sentence?  Of course not.  I am merely refuting your claim that there is NO benefit to adjective accord (check your previous posts).  Be reasonable:  I have stated (and fully expect) that there will be different opinions on the usefulness of such a feature in a conlang, i.e. How much benefit is there, compared to the cost?  IMO we are looking at a significant benefit vs. a small cost.  (How hard is it to match the endings of adjectives to the noun?  The sounds go together, you can tune your ear to it in 5 minutes:

      -a -o   /   -aj -oj   /   -an -on   /   -ajn -ojn

[Note:  the Esperanto "j" is pronunced as in German, not as in English! So "aj"/"oj"/"ajn"/"ojn" are more or less as in "play boy fine coin"  (No hidden meanings intended.)]

So can we quit bellyaching about this horrible difficulty?  Some of us have memories of hard work according adjectives to masculine or feminine nouns in French or Spanish (or neuter in German).  I'm sure that the situation is similar in the languages you've studied.  But in these languages there are multiple forms and complications to remember.  Once and for all, to any objective observer, the Esperanto adjectival accord is not complicated.

Such argumentation!  I'm even tired of listening to myself now.  My apologies to all listanoj who are interested in useful discussion:  Now that Bruce Gilson will no longer be saying that there is no benefit to Esperanto's design choices, but only that he views other features as more important (which is his right), I hope to be able to spend more of my time on threads like "Secrets of Success".  I am especially interested in people's experiences with telling others about conlangs.

Salutojn al ^ciuj!
Ken


BRG on "Judging Esperanto", KC replies:

Ken Caviness replying to a message by Bruce R. Gilson:

> 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!

Ken

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. ^Gia 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 ^ciam paroli pri ^gin.  Salutojn al ^ciuj!

[Now I'm actually using an international second language.  It's name is Esperanto.  When you finish the interminable creation of your "language project", I hope that you too will know the pleasure of truly using an intercultural language, and not just talking about it.  Greetings to all!]


JP & JB on auxlang flame wars:

Julian Pardoe replies to comments by Jay Bowks:

Well, if you've only been on AUXLANG a few months you will have missed the awful, interminable and childish row between BRG and EGE (Edmundo Grimley-Evans) that drove me (and, I'm sure, countless others) off the list.

Bruce has also been known to make the kind of stupid 'Esperanto is not a real language' kind of remark that drives me crazy, and whilst I might expect that kind of empty comment from an outsider I feel that an aux-langer ought to know better.  (See my post on the optimality of Ido.)

He accuses Esperantists of treating Eo as a religion.  Well, don't ask me to defend Rik Dalton or people who write rubbish about neurological pathways but equally don't accuse me or Jens or Ken or Don or countless other intelligent Esperantists of treating Eo as something holy.  If you're looking for blind, unreasoning zealotry you'd be better off considering Bruce's own antiEsperantism.

He states almost with pride that he knows next to nothing about Esperanto and seems to make it a point of honour that he won't and can't read postings in Esperanto.  You can understand why that produces a kind of "How dare he!" reaction and since when has ignorance been an asset in assessing something.  I like Eo because it has qualities that make it different from English; I treasure its flexibility.  How can someone who doesn't even know the language and certainly hasn't tried to use it presume to condemn it.

And his use of language is sometimes a little suspect.  Esperanto has failed he says.  And Novial?  Oh no, Novial hasn't failed, it just hasn't yet succeeded!  People are probably sick of hearing about the kongresoj, the books, the magazines, the CDs (ever heard Kajto sing?) ... but they happen, they exist and they are about the only chance any of us are going to get to really use an auxlang in practice.  If that's failure, well OK but it's a pretty diverse and enjoyable kind of failure and offers me rather more than Novial's 'success'.

Esperanto, according to Bruce, is a lost cause, unredeemable.  Novial isn't -- but of course it needs a few tiny reformlets first.  The trouble is that no one ever agrees on what reforms to implement.  In any case, EO is (for better or worse) a living language and no one has the power to reform it: the Akademio can try but it will be pissing in the wind.  (At least it has learnt this, unlike a certain other Academie.)

...and this leads us on to...

jb > But when you start quoting me and then make mention of splittists, hey, your barking up the wrong tree my dear pal... <

Maybe, but the history of the international language is littered with reforms and reforms of reforms and reforms or reforms or ... (Hence my reference to Idido, Ididido...)

> I appreciate the changes Ido brought to Eo, I appreciate the hard work of the folks putting up the info on Ido on the Web... <

So do I (that's why I appeal for a discussion on the principo di retroformado), but I'm still waiting to attend my first Internaciona Yunulara Kongreso.

jb > but I still feel that Ido could benefit from some improvements <

It's a slippery slope...

jb > Essentially, Ido is wildflower growing on the dead stump of Esperanto, let's water it a little... <

Essentially, Ido is some parasitic fungus, clinging to the strong oak of Esperanto: let's hack it off!

...but that's not really my attitude.  Let a hundred flowers bloom.  I will learn them all and speak them all.

And again, Esperanto dead?  Ido alive?  You must be using some definition of these terms that I haven't yet come across!

Back to BRG.  I know I'm not really being fair to him (hence the "Sorry Bruce"): he has become an icon in my mind of a certain kind of antiEsperantist who really annoys me.  (They post meaningless comments such as "Esperanto isn't a real language" and as you knock down their arguments one by one they keep on adding more and more criteria to their definition -- e.g.
    ....but a real language must have native speakers.
    Esperanto has native speakers.
    No, it doesn't.
    Yes, it does: have a look at the 'denask-l' list.
    Well, a real language must have native speakers and a national
    territory.
    Well, Yiddish never really had a national territory.  Is it not
        a real language?
    A real language must have native speakers and a national territory
        or ....
and so on and so on!)

If there's an AUXLANG archive somewhere, why not read a few of his postings.  You might fond some goodies in the archives of sci.lang too.

-- jP --


KC to JB on flames / IAL comparisons:

Ken Caviness to Jay Bowks:
Subject: Example of what not to write:

Jay, forgive me for using one of your statements as an object lesson.  You're doing great work for the IAL-webpresence, and I appreciate it.

> Essentially, Ido is wildflower growing on the dead stump of Esperanto, let's water it a little... <

Jay, I confess it:  comments like this just make me angry!  As if we didn't get enough grief already from people who don't share the same vision of a world-wide helplingvo, must we be subjected to this, too?

Amazing how (I'm assuming) intelligent people can have such different perceptions of the facts.  Just looking at books published, current magazines and periodicals, it is crystal-clear that Esperanto is FAR less "dead" than any other constructed language.  At the time of the Ido-schism 3% of all Esperantists switched to Ido.  Later many Idists switched again, and again, and again.  I was so excited to find out that an Ido group actually publishes a periodical, but please remember the hundreds in Esperanto!

Ok, I'm going to have to try harder not to reply to unthinking comments of this type.  What I would GREATLY appreciate, is if people would start summarizing the good points of their favorite languages.  Naturally some comparison with other languages is inevitable, but perhaps we can skip some of the rhetoric.

Now let me go on to comment on another part of the same message:

> Look Julian, I'm happy for you if you finally agreed with something Bruce said.  He's a cool guy and all and I appreciate his experience on Interlinguistics.  But when you start quoting me and then make mention of splittists, hey, your barking up the wrong tree my dear pal... I appreciate the changes Ido brought to Eo, I appreciate the hard work of the folks putting up the info on Ido on the Web... but I still feel that Ido could benefit from some improvements, if you wish to discuss these as I feel, well my personal email address is posted above and please feel free to inquire... <

Perhaps some here have forgotten their IAL history.  People have constantly hought of "some improvements" and this _has_ led to schisms.  No bad faith intended at all!  It's just a fact of life.  My improvements differ from yours and from John Doe's.  Doesn't make us intentional "spittists", but what's the end result?

Ken


BRG denigrates E-o's stability, KC explains what it would take to surpass E-o:

Ken Caviness replying to Bruce R. Gilson:

brg > Other conlangs get changed when their inventor wanted to (there seem to be at least 4 different versions of Novial that we are discussing on the group, and the only question seems to have been whether 1934 to 1938 saw a lot of incremental changes, ot two single revisions) or when their users did (continually happening in Ido). <

And how is this a good thing?  It shouldn't surprise anyone that Ido and Novial were not successful in building up a user base.

> In Esperanto, despite the fact that _everyone_ except for a certain group of die-hards, would like to see reforms to E-o, <

False.  By far the majority of people who learn enough Esperanto to be able to use it see the value of continuity, and also recognize that reforms would inevitably create more problems then they solve.

> nobody has the power to make the changes because of a decision that was made in 1905. <

What, this strawman again?  LISTEN!  (Yes, I'm shouting!  I don't think you've heard me yet.)  I've read messages by people who choose not to use the accusative ending, does that make you happy?  If enough people did that the language would change, comprendo?  Esperanto changes ALL THE TIME, as words/affixes are coined and either catch on or don't, and others fall into disuse.  If any one person tries to make too many changes all at once, others will not understand.  This is the same as in ethnic languages, and acts as a brake on too-rapid change.  But Esperanto changes and develops. Can we quit already with this ridiculous fixation on 1905?

> I would venture to propose that, except for a group of pursts, NOBODY would actually favor the current Esperanto over a version that accepted TWO Ido reforms (elimination of noun/adjective concord and the mandatory -n accusative ending), or even better, those two and one more (parallelism of sex reference). <

Oops, here we go again.  Bruce doesn't like these two things in Esperanto, therefore they must go!  As those who have actually *used* the language can explain (and have, repeatedly!), it is the opinion of the majority of Esperantists that these features greatly add to the flexibility and usefulness of the language.

Bruce's assertion that a reformed Esperanto that demands a fixed word-order would be welcomed is absolute applesauce, drivel of the first water.

> People would hardly have to "relearn a new language." And NEW learners would gain much more time. <

I don't understand dogmatic people.  I read statements by Esperantists who admit that they there *is* a cost to the -N ending: one has to practice it a bit, and at times one forgets it, or adds an -N where it doesn't belong.  But they also point out the benefits that far outweigh the cost.  Then you come along and say the cost is terribly high - students "would gain much more time" if we did away with it, and there is *no* benefit at all to keeping it!

> However, the rules are there. They can't change. Anyone that ADVOCATES change is laughed out of the movement. <

Well some ^san^g-em-uloj (people who tend toward change) tried implementing your particular set of changes long ago.  Most Esperantists *didn't* like the changes, so guess what?  The quick-change artists had to invent a new name for their dialect:  Ido!

> As a result, I really feal we must treat Esperanto as, to a large extent, an irrelevancy to the IAL movement. <

Ah!  Now all is clear!  Any facts that are presented to you that show a favorable cost-benefit ratio for the features in Esperanto which you dislike are "irrelevant".  Let's neglect any facts we don't like, rather than admit that there are pros and cons.

> Esperantists who want to learn a new IAL will, I'm sure, be welcomed. <

Thank you.  Let me know in which century the new IAL will be stabilized,
so I can learn it.

> Esperantists who want to continue to use E-o will be thought of, I'm sure, as the small relic of Volapuekists is now. <

It is certainly possible that Esperanto may cease to be used at some time in the future, but it won't happen in my lifetime, or yours.  There are too many people who have "tried it and like it".  Despite the features which you find to be horrible flaws.  Please face reality: not everyone agrees with you.  And you haven't successfully brainwashed all auxlangers to your dogmatic point of view.

> It may be useful to look at Esperanto for grammatical ideas. But just about everything in Esperanto that was any good has been preserved in later IAL candidates such as Ido. <

The Idists gave up a number of valuable features.  Who says they are valuable?  Well, to start with, the overwhelming majority of Esperantists who did not immediately leave E-o for Ido.  And the years since have more than justified their decision.  Today Esperanto is a vibrant, living language, repeatedly acknowledged by UNESCO as valuable, with a diverse and growing literature (and its own PEN chapter).

> Thus, my position is simply, let us continue. We have people, advocates of quite different ideas, from Philip to Leo to Phil to myself, all cooperating with one another on the IAL idea. What we all have in common is a desire to determine what is GOOD in an IAL, not simply what some oculist was able to devise 110 years ago. <

Bravo!  But let's fast-forward into the future just a bit:  when all the compromises have been made, when everyone present is more-or-less satisfied, when your brave new worldlanguage is ready, what then?  The first thousand people who learn it will present 1001 complete reform proposals!  You are quite mistaken in thinking that the IAL movement is divided into E-ists (who according to you apparently don't care about the IAL idea) and all the rest, who are cooperative and helpful and will lead us into the blessed millenium.  No, the breakdown is quite different:

1. ^San^gemuloj / proponents of change - whether Esperantists or whatever, who are so busy determining what is GOOD that they *never* get around to using an IAL now.  ==> Idealists

2. IAL-anoj / users of an IAL - whether Esperantists or whatever, who recognize that despite any "defects", we already have a good thing, and if we don't start using it, it will never be used.  ==> Realists

Note to anyone in auxlanglang who doesn't know me:  For me the IAL idea is much more important than the particular choice of planned language.  And I tire of the blind idealism which proclaims that as soon as we have the perfect IAL, the entire world will flock to our standard.  It's a perfect example of wishful thinking.  And loss of contact with reality.

Consider the following statements, which describe my viewpoint:

1. Any of the planned languages I've looked at could qualify as THE IAL:  they are all simple enough, regular enough, easy enough to learn.

2. Only Esperanto has IN ADDITION (a) a sufficiently large user base, and (b) an amazingly large and varied literature, original and translated.  This currently makes it the only real contender on the scene.

3. Any other planlingvo which might overtake Esperanto's great lead in the IAL race must have something more than additional "simplicity" or "naturalness" going for it.  [See point (1)]

What might qualify as this "something more"?

Interlingua:  I really like the claim that Interlingua is a jumping-off point for any Romance language.  If I-ists could convince the EU to back Interlingua, viewing it as the language of the average western European, that would be "something more".  Also the idea of Interlingua abstracts in medical journal(s) is fantastic!  I haven't seen any myself, but I've heard of them, and I think it's a great idea.  Unfortunately I've also heard that it hasn't been continued....

LsF:  The idea of using existing Latin vocabulary but eliminating all complications is a great drawing card.

Novial:  A real linguist invented it.

But without political *clout* or lots of advertising *money*, I don't expect the current situation to change.  What is the current situation?  Simply this:  The IAL-Idealists will keep inventing languages or modifying languages that other IAL-Idealists create.  Ad infinitum.  You don't think the wheel will stop when *your* particular wishlist is complete, do you?  The IAL-Realists will continue using the language(s) of their choice, gaining ground slowly but surely.  Since Esperanto is the most widely known and used IAL, the result is a foregone conclusion.

I trust this explains satisfactorily why I'm an Esperantist.  It's simply a result of being an IAL-Realist.

N.B. I encourage those of you who have not yet seriously done so to visit the "IAL-Realist" camp.  You can start using Esperanto or the planned language of your choice today!  The old-fashioned way is to find a penpal, even easier now with the Internet.  Or get on an email list, and start communicating.  The Interlingua email list is active and interesting reading, and email lists for Ido and Eurolang have now been created.  Of course, I also recommend the newsgroup soc.culture.esperanto, also available through email list.  Send a subscribe request to

                 <esperanto-l-request /c`e/ netcom.com>

But be warned, a roundtable discussion with people from Russia, Brazil, USA, Hungary, Canada, Australia, France, ..., can get pretty hot!  You'd be surprised at the different opinions people from different backgrounds can have!

Salutojn kaj bondezirojn!
Ken


JC no longer feels guilty about Ido's past, JP comments:

When James Chandler wrote expressing
From: Julian Pardoe LADS LDN X8164 <pardoej /c`e/ LONNDS.ML.COM>
Subject:      Re: The Delegation
To: Multiple recipients of list AUXLANG <AUXLANG /c`e/ BROWNVM.BROWN.EDU>

James Chandler skribis:
>
> Jens S. Larsen wrote:
>
> > > To quote [Jespersen] further would only strengthen the case.  My
> > > conscience is now clear.  I now feel I can confidently recommend the
> > > immediate conversion to Ido of all remaining Esperantists - you will be
> > > most wlecome in the movement.
> >
> > What about further conversion from Ido to Novial?  Can you recommend that
> too?  Or do you recommend that everybody design their own new language?
>
> No.  Novial is not a significant and decisive improvement on Ido in the
> way that Ido is over Esp.  The language produced by the Delegation (which
> included Jespersen) is pretty much optimal, and the Committee would not have
> recommended it to the world unless they were happy that it was.
> Novial achieves the same goals from a slightly different viewpoint.  I would
> happily recommend to any Idist that he (if he had the time) might try to
> command both idioms, but not that he abandon Ido for Novial - that is
> certainly not justified.

I hope there's a ":-)" missing here!  I'm pretty sure Jens's comments had an
implied one.

I'm not sure it's that using the concept "optimal" when talking about languages makes any sense at all.  Optimality implies a set of criteria against which languages can be compared (the objective function) and I don't suppose we'd ever agree on the weights to place on each criterion.  What's more the domain of language is so wide that a single set of criteria isn't going to mean much.  The qualities a language needs for the writing of poetry or the whispering of sweet nothings into some cute boy's ear are quite different from those needed to describe the theory behind a complex data-compression algorithm.

What's more, I would have thought that all aux-langers would have been wary of sweeping statements made with little basis.  Don't we all get fed up with comments along the lines of "Esperanto isn't a real language", ....?  (Not that Esperantists are immune: there was some crap in the Brita Esperantisto a couple of months back about Eo being the language most aligned to the neurological pathways of the brain.  What bullshit!!)

Of course, if you have got a comprehensive analysis that demonstrates in a non-subjective way the optimality of Ido we'll be very impressed.

I speak Esperanto best, but I've certainly got no objection to learning Ido and Renovial.  Only when I become tolerably fluent in the latter two will I really feel able to say anything about the languages relative merits.  Right now Esperanto has one thing and only one thing going for it.  If I actually want to go out and use an aux-lang in practice, if I want to read about minority language rights or party the night away or find someone to practice my dolchaj neniajhoj on I seem to have only one choice.  A 20-year old at an IJK has probably got more experience of aux-langs in practice than Bruce 'get that foul language away from me'
Gilson has, despite all his years of theorizing.

-- jP --


JC claims E-o's corelatives are a priori, MMC respondas (esperant-lingve):

From: ah514 /c`e/ FreeNet.Carleton.CA (Manuel M Campagna)
Subject: Re: Completed message: Corrections to   http://yi.com/home/ChandlerJames/preview.html

caviness /c`e/ southern.edu (Ken Caviness) lastatempe citis la TTT-pa^gon
<http://yi.com/home/ChandlerJames/IAL.html> :

jc > The arbitrary character of many aspects of Esperanto has also brought attention. The table of correlative words is entirely a priori  <

 ^Candlero tute kaj kun intelekta malhonesto malpravas.

Ekzemple la 'ki-'-parto de la demandaj-kriaj-relativaj korelativoj. Nu estas bone konata afero inter lingvikistoj, ke en hinderopaj lingvoj tiuj ofte havas kiel komencpartoj varia^jojn de a evolua^joj el "kw-" : latine/france/hispane "qu-", itale "ch-" (/k/), slave "k-" ("kto", "kogo", "kotoryj", "kogda", ^ce^he "kde") a "^c-" ("^cto, ^cjego) a "g-" (ruse "gdje", el slava "k /c`e/ dje"). ^Germane la "kw-" evoluis al "hw-" (misreprezentata de "what", "who", "which", "where", "when", kiujn iuj dare prononcas /hwat/, /hwen/ ktp) kaj al "w-" (germane "wer", "wo", "wann" ktp)

E^c pli kria ekzemplo estas la prefikso 'neni-". Ekzistas franca vorto "nenni" ("entute ne"). Estas malfacile trovi pli disvastigita gramatika^jo en la hinderopaj lingvoj (nu mi scias, ke la skandinavaj preferas "ikke" /iS /c`e/ / kaj la helena "o^hi" -- eble parencoj de la germanaj "kaum", "kein") ol "n-" !!! En la slavaj (njet, nje, ne), la ^germanaj (no, nay, nah, nee, nein, not, none, nicht, nought, naught, nary, neither...nor), en la latina kaj romanidaj (no, non, ne, ni...ni, nec...nec, ne-uter, non-n[e]-ullus, negare, n[e-v]olere), en la sanskrita ("na:").  E^c la nehinderopa hungara lingvo adoptis "nem" !

jc > The many -ojs and -ajs in the plural are to many heavy and unnatural. <

Evidentege ^Candlero neniam studis la antikvan helenan...

kc (referring to jc's complaint that Esperanto's femine suffix is sexist):
> Well, I was shocked when I learned that to say "my father and mother" in Spanish would be "mis padres" (literally, "my fathers").   But I don't automatically assume that all Hispanics are sexist. <

Nu ne nur hispane. La itala diras "i genitori" kaj ne "i padri" en tiu senso sed en multaj kazoj estas tiel. En la romano, kiun mi nun legas, "Il Barone rampante" de Italo Kalvina, estis ekzemple "i marchesi" en la senso 'la gemarkizoj".



 ^Gisdatigita je la 1 septembro 1997 fare de Ken Caviness     --    Bonvolu averti min pri eraroj!