Auxiliary language

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An auxlang is an auxiliary language: a conlang created for the purpose of communication between speakers of different languages, generally within a large region if not the entire world. Auxlangs are generally phonetically and grammatically simple and regular, so as to be easy to learn. Additionally, and particularly in more recent times, many have sought to introduce a level of cultural and linguistic neutrality to auxiliary languages as to make them easier for those unfamiliar with European language to learn.

Among the most famous of auxlangs is Esperanto, created by Dr. Zamenhof. Many people have tried to create auxlangs, most of which have not fallen into everyday use. About 150 such languages are listed on Langmaker (about an eighth of the total number of languages on the site). Certain people (namely Curlyjimsam) are of the opinion that one day everyone will speak an auxlang, but unfortunately no one will speak the same one.

Arguably the first auxlangs include the classical languages such as Latin, Sanskrit, and classical Chinese used in ancient and Mediæval times. While all of these developed as natural languages, most also had considerable conscious refinement that distinguished them from the vernacular. Furthermore they filled precisely the same niche coveted by modern auxlangers of providing a common language over whole civilizations. The earliest true auxlangs did not show up until the 1800s, however, with creations like Solresol and Volapük. Such early examples sparked a trend and by the turn of the century auxlang proposals were popping up regularly with projects like Esperanto, Ido, and Interlingua coming to the fore.

Auxlangs in fiction

In contrast to most conlangs, creators of auxlangs usually intend to use them for real applications rather than in a fictional context. Occasionally, however, writers have introduced auxlangs in fiction for various reasons, often critical. In The Lord of the Rings, for instance, the villain Sauron created the Black Speech in an effort to facilitate communication between his underlings. Similarly in Orwell's 1984, the government of Oceania imposed the deliberately whittled down auxlang Newspeak as the official language to restrict freedom of thought.

Criticism

In spite of the obvious benefits that an auxlang theoretically presents, the concept remains hotly disputed both among conlangers and commentators on language in general. The conlanging community in particular shows deep divisions on the subject. Auxlangers and artlangers represent essentially distinct schools within the artform, with relatively little cross-over between them.

Many opponents regard auxiliary languages as fundamentally impractical. For all the effort spent on establishing a world or even regional auxiliary language, none has yet gained wide acceptance and many believe none ever will. Whether out of apathy, social inertia, or inherent disagreement, humanity just doesn't lend itself to such sweeping standardization as a world language. To the extent that any auxiliary language seems likely to emerge, it will probably come from one of the existing lingua francas of the world, perhaps English if the influence of the West holds up in the future.

Ironically, the goal of cultural neutrality has proven another stumbling block to the acceptance of an auxiliary language. Many students of language are motivated by the cultural and literary traditions associated with the language they study. The fact that auxlangs by definition lack such traditions make them offputting and apparently lifeless for many interesting in learning a language.

Other critics point to the parochialism and cultural bias seen in so many auxlang proposals, most of which draw overwhelmingly from European models. They argue that any language meant to encompass the whole world should appeal equally to people of all or most linguistic backgrounds. Esperanto in particular has faced this criticism, due perhaps to its greater visibility among auxlangs. Yet arguably it hardly represents the worst offender compared to the almost purely Romance-based Interlingua to say nothing of Basic English.

List of Auxlangs

  • Volapük - One of the first auxlangs to gain widespread recognition
  • Esperanto - Perhaps the most well-known and popular
  • Interlingua - Another widely favored one based mostly on Romance languages