Tuesday, January 31, 2012

the IALA organization

The International Auxiliary Language Association was founded in 1924 by Alice Vanderbilt Morris; like the earlier Delegation, it at first worked on studying language problems and the existing auxlangs and proposals for auxlangs, and attempted to negotiate some consensus between the supporters of various auxlangs. However, like the Delegation, it finally decided to create its own auxlang; Interlingua, published in 1951, was primarily the work of Alexander Gode, though he built on preliminary work by earlier IALA linguists including André Martinet. Interlingua, like Occidental, was designed to have words recognizable at sight by those who already know a Romance language or a language like English with much vocabulary borrowed from Romance languages; to attain this end Gode accepted a degree of grammatical and orthographic irregularity and complexity considerably greater than in Volapük, Esperanto or Ido, though still less than in most natural languages. Interlingua gained a significant speaker community, perhaps roughly the same size as that of Ido (considerably less than the size of Esperanto.)


There has been considerable criticism of international auxiliary languages, both in terms of individual proposals and in more general terms.

Criticisms directed against Esperanto and other early auxlangs in the late 19th century included the idea that different races have sufficiently different speech organs that an international language might work locally in Europe, but hardly worldwide, and the prediction that if adopted, such an auxlang would rapidly break up into local dialects.[18] Advances in linguistics have done away with the first of these, and the limited but significant use of Esperanto, Ido and Interlingua on an international scale, without breakup into dialects, has disproven the latter.[citation needed] Subsequently, much criticism has been focused either on the artificiality of these auxlangs,[5] or on the argumentativeness of auxlang proponents and their failure to agree on one auxlang, or even on objective criteria by which to judge auxlangs.[19] However, probably the most common criticism is that a constructed auxlang is unnecessary because natural languages such as English are already in wide use as auxlangs and work well enough for that purpose.

Although referred to as international languages, most of these languages have historically been constructed on the basis of Western European languages. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries it was common for Volapük and Esperanto, and to some extent Ido, to be criticized for not being Western European enough; Occidental and Interlingua were (among other things) responses to this kind of criticism. More recently all these major auxlangs have been criticized for being too European and not global enough.[21] One response to this criticism has been that doing otherwise in no way makes the language easier for anyone, while drawing away from the sources of much international vocabulary, technical and popular.[22] Another response, primarily from Esperanto speakers, is that the internationality of a language has more to do with the culture of its speakers than with its linguistic properties.[13] The term "Euroclone" was coined to refer to these languages in contrast to "worldlangs" with global vocabulary sources; the term is sometimes applied only to self-proclaimed "naturalistic" auxlangs such as Occidental and Interlingua, sometimes to all auxlangs with primarily European vocabulary sources, regardless of their grammar, including Esperanto and Lingua Franca Nova.[23]

The response to this argument was made by Alexander Gode[24] and reiterated by Mario Pei:[25] A vocabulary selected from a broad variety of languages does not make the language any easier for speakers of any one language. Gode's example compares a paragraph in Interlingua with a paragraph with words from Chinese, Japanese, Malay, and other non-European languages. The first is readily understood by anyone familiar with the Romance languages, and not difficult for most English speakers. (see wiki)


D - 1924 and 1951 are key years for the IALA. Here we are, a century later, and we are still without any IAL language that is both widely accepted or spoken. Well, I'm hoping we can still try again a century later. In fact, consider the following dates.
1) 2024 - reboot the IALA.
2) 2045 - the UN (the 'new League of Nations') turns 100
3) 2051 - based on 2), the IALA deploys a beta-tested IAL.

Like spelling reform, introducing a IAL is a big one-time adjustment for any generation. However, all the following generations benefit from that. Promoting acceptance of an IAL remains as difficult as ever. How will an IAL finally succeed, if ever?
1) superior promotion
2) superior technical form.
Build it and they will come? Nope. Build a better mouse trap and you get ignored. However, build a MUCH better mouse trap, and maybe not.
How to PROMOTE an IAL remains thorny. How does one gain a core group to support and promote an IAL? How does the fringe group avoid creating a non-expanding static niche for an IAL, instead of widely popularizing it?
My hope is that as the old order changes, yielding place to the new (English to Chinese global pre-eminence) that there will be softening of attitudes. That the status quo will become malleable. That there will be an important open (but slowly closing) window of opportunity to change how to think about an international language.
That the English world will gracefully pass the torch, and thereby save what influence they can by making an IAL decision before it is too late to do so. That China (and India, and BRIC) will prefer an intermediate step between English for much longer and eventually Chinese. I'm hoping both sides (and third parties- everybody else) will consider this a winning and even Solomonesque solution to the perpetual 'language problem'.

Aside - I think I'll try a new twist on punctuation. Since there are 3 tiers of punctuation in English, I thought I'd try 1-3 spaces between words to denote this. It will be an interesting experiment.

Since there are 3 tiers of punctuation in English__ I thought I'd try 1-3 spaces between words to denote this___It will be an interesting experiment

1 comment:

Dino Snider said...

I think in music this would be considered 3/4 time.