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At 03:36 +0100 00/05/06, Charles George Haberl wrote:

> I'd very much like your help on a small matter.  Would anyone be
> willing to summarize the recent history of the IAL movement, in a
> nutshell?  I certainly wouldn't mind if you should choose to focus
> on your particular IAL or the tradition to which it belongs; in fact,
> I would even enjoy seeing this short blurb in the language you promote.
>      Please send your short summary to the list.  I will print the
> responses out and submit them at our forthcoming workshop (yes, it
> is actually going to happen, on Wednesday in fact).

FAS in your email address is Faculty of Arts and Sciences, and if you're
a professor or even a teaching fellow I'm very happy to see some interest
within the Harvard faculty on the subject of auxlangs. There was virtually
none when I was there last - at least none that I was aware of. Norman
Shapiro was an Esperantist, but I think he was just a teaching fellow.
I believe Julia Pere was affiliated with the university for a certain
period, but only on a visiting basis. I made a stab at getting Esperanto
accepted as a language whereby undergraduates could fulfill the language
requirement, in response to which then-dean Henry Rosovsky sent the
question to a history professor whose name I forget, who refused the
proposal, asserting that the idea of the language requirement was to
provide students with access to at least one foreign culture, and that
since Esperanto had no culture it thus didn't qualify. I replied that
Esperanto did indeed have a culture and that even if it didn't it still
certainly provided access to any number of foreign cultures, but I didn't
hear anything further from the FAS.

Don Harlow and other Esperantists will certainly disagree with me,
but my own impression of... well, before starting to dump on Esperanto
let me dump on the IAL movement generally, if an IAL movement may even
be said to exist. Recent history - what history? Interlingua, which I
suppose may be considered the least unsuccessful of the naturalistic
IALs, was published fifty years ago, used for a while in extremely few
and limited contexts, and then petered out to the handful of individual
supporters it currently possesses. I attended their international meeting
in Holland a couple of years ago, so I have some personal experience of
these people and their language and philosophy. Interlingua makes very
little sense to me, since if one is going to imitate natural languages,
retaining irregular spellings in order to be faithful to them etc.,
then I don't see why one shouldn't simply stick with natural languages
altogether.

Similarly, I suppose Ido is the least unsuccessful of the schematic rivals
to Esperanto. Some time ago I read the complete series of its main journal,
"Progreso", which steadily shrunk in size and frequency of appearance
until reaching its current point. Speaking for myself as an Esperantist,
I was offended, when I recently had another look at Ido, by what impressed
me as an excessive number of gratuitous changes that had been made in its
revision of Esperanto, many, perhaps even most of which seemed dubious
and occasionally even silly. Other Esperantists may not have been won
over to Ido owing to other reasons, but in any event it remains a fact
that Ido failed in its bid to take over from Esperanto and succeed where
it had failed. Its situation is essentially the same as Interlingua's:
a scattered handful of supporters.

Esperanto, on the other hand, has a somewhat significantly larger
scattered handful of supporters. There is more than one reason for
its relative success (in surviving in a more or less visible way, I
mean to say - not in really achieving any of its traditional goals),
but in part because you asked for a short summary I won't go into my
perception of these reasons. However appropriate fundamental Esperanto
may or may not be as an IAL candidate, and however correctly its movement
may or may not have acted, it remains a fact that the main Esperanto
organization had approximately 8000 individual members in 1913 and has
approximately 7000 individual members today. I believe this provides a
telling index of the history of the Esperanto movement, which - if one
may judge by such a statistic, and I believe one may - shows a proportional
dwindling of numbers in contrast to the drastic population increase of the
past century. I feel it indicates that something is very obviously wrong,
given what seems to me to be the almost self-evident excellence of the IAL
ideal, the popularity of which was demonstrated in several Gallup polls
cited by Mario Pei. Esperantists generally do not agree with me, however
(at least they won't admit to it in public), insisting that everything
is more or less hunky-dory and that not only is no change called for,
but any discussion of essential change must remain strictly prohibited
in Esperanto publications.

I find this to be an extremely dubious and even self-defeating attitude
on the part of the Esperanto fundamentalists. I can understand their
paranoia to a certain extent, since they can see no good coming out of
a free discussion, but rather only chaos and a possible weakening of
their position. But they still have to do something to place their
fundamentalism on a more rational basis than the quasi-religious one
on which it currently rests - at least if they seriously want to make
any measurable progress in relation to the external world. But they're
more concerned with tooting the same old horn than with actually going
anywhere. Two things that have helped with this over the last years have
been the new philosophy of "Raumism", according to which the traditional
IAL goals are naive and the true Esperantic values relate to a self-elected
diasporic elite, and various varieties of a peculiar mysticism by which,
all appearances to the contrary, Esperanto's time is nonetheless coming
and you'll see, one of these days...

I'm afraid I don't have a particularly sunny perspective to offer in
regard to all this, since among other things I can imagine that one
might have an indubitably more appropriate language than Esperanto
and nonetheless attain only a limited degree of increased success.
But I will repeat the same thing that interlinguist Don Gaspar said
a couple of years ago at a conference in Brussels: like him, I'd like
to see a satisfactory synthesis of the best of Esperanto and Interlingua,
without at least some of the negative aspects of either. Don mentioned
in particular a naturalistic -s ending for the plural rather than
Esperanto's -j, and at the risk of appearing trivial (at least to
Esperantists, though Zamenhof himself repeatedly lamented the -j)
I can go along with that quite readily. It then becomes difficult to
retain Esperanto's useful accusative case, however, and I've never
encountered anything that seemed to solve this problem adequately.
In any event, Esperanto's idiosyncratic and phenomenonally inconvenient
diacritics absolutely must be eliminated - though again, Don and other
Esperantists will surely disagree with me on that. "La komputiloj jam
solvis la supersignan problemon", and besides, "La lingvo ne gravas".
The particular language doesn't matter at all. As long as it isn't
English - and is fundamental Esperanto.

Roy McCoy

P.S. Mi iom senmedite sendas tion chi al la "Krom-Bja-listo", pro motivoj
kiujn ties anoj kredeble sukcesos kompreni. Denove kiel antaue, se iu ne
deziras ricevi ion de mi, nur diru kaj mi volonte vishos vian adreson de
la listo.