Dear fellow Auxlangers,
After reviewing the emails over the past week regarding Aiola, we’ve pulled together some of the questions which we felt to be the most common threads running through the discussions. Every comment was important, which is why we felt a reply with quantitative data would satisfy your curiosities. Although all of your observations are worth considering, please remember that they have been made solely based on the material presented on our website. The website was designed simply to attract new learners, which is why all of the grammatical information presented is quite basic. We felt it necessary to reserve Aiola’s more complex features (and perhaps those which more clearly distinguish Aiola from other languages) for our textbook and learning materials, which we hope to circulate by the end of the year. However, considering your reviews of the page, we’ve decided to add more material to the website. With that said, please read through the following selected questions and answers.
We encourage you to continue this discussion in the forum of our website (www.aiola.org). This way we can reply more quickly to your comments.
1. John Cowan wrote: Aiola is essentially Esperanto spelled in Loglan and with a few Loglan ideas in it.
Rex F. May wrote: … there’s little original here.
ARG: These comments are rather general in that John and Rex do not really specify quantitatively the aspects in which Aiola resembles Esperanto and Loglan. Is it phonology, morphology, syntax, or something else? As a result, our answer to this will be rather general too. Aiola resembles Eo in that words are built in the same way. However, one might also argue that this way of word formation is not inherently the Eo way; it is rather a common way in which words are formed in the Romance languages. Though the word formation process is similar in both languages, the tools used to construct words are different in many respects. The correlation coefficient (average of 1.0 for same sound, 0 for different sound) between Aiola prefixes and Esperanto prefixes is .58, while that between suffixes is .28. Aiola uses more affixes than Esperanto to disambiguate meanings. For instance, Esperanto has no equivalents for 26 of the Aiola suffixes. In Esperanto the word for the adjective ‘cloudy’ is simply ‘nuba’. Because ‘cloudy’ can be interpreted three different ways (1. clouded [sky] 2. full of clouds [sky] 3. cloudlike [water]), Aiola has three different suffixes to represent each of these meanings. Esperanto cannot distinguish these meanings by suffixes. Another example is the verb ‘to smoke’ (1. to extract smoke from [cigarette], 2. to provide smoke to [fish], 3. to emit smoke [burning building], 4. to smoke someone/something out [animals, etc.]). Aiola has four different suffixes to represent each of these meanings. Esperanto can form only one verb, namely ‘fumi’ from the noun ‘fumo’ (smoke) and cannot make these distinctions with suffixes.
Unlike Esperanto, Aiola has a systematic way to distinguish between multiple possible references of prepositional phrases such as the ones in the following sentence:
Mary Smith (MS) will talk about her daughter Ann (A) who was found in an interview with Barbara Walters (BW).
This sentence has four meanings due to the different possible references of the prepositional phrases: in an interview and with Barbara Walters:
a. The prepositional phrase in an interview with BW refers to the main verb will talk
Mary Smith will talk in an interview about her daughter.
The interview is with Barbara Walters.
The daughter was found.
b. The prepositional phrase in an interview refers to the verb was found of the subordinate clause who was found in an interview. The prepositional phrase with BW refers to the main verb will talk
Mary Smith will talk with Barbara Walters about her daughter.
The daughter was found in an interview.
c. The prepositional phrase in an interview with BW refers to the verb was found of the subordinate clause who was found in an interview with BW
Mary Smith will talk about her daughter.
The daughter was found in an interview.
The interview is with Barbara Walters.
d. The prepositional phrases in an interview and with BW independently refer to the verb was found of the subordinate clause who was found in an interview with BW
Mary Smith will talk about her daughter.
The daughter and Barbara Walters were found together in an interview.
In order to resolve such ambiguities Aiola has a system where an alternative form of a preposition is used when a prepositional phrase is modifying a noun as opposed to the main verb of the sentence.
Aiola also differs from Eo because it recognizes two different types of adjectives: relational and attributive. Take the following phrases for examples: ‘a French Russian teacher’, ‘human observer’, and ‘fish food’. Each of these can be interpreted in more than one way. For instance, a ‘human observer’ might be an observer who is human (the word ‘human’ serves as an attribute of the noun ‘observer’), or an observer of humans (‘human’ as in ‘related to humans’). The same duality of meaning occurs for the other mentioned adjectival phrases and many more. To the best of our knowledge, Eo does not make such a distinction between adjectives.
It is also inaccurate to say that Aiola is ‘spelled in Loglan’. Aiola has 28 sounds spelled with 24 letters of the Roman alphabet. The correlation coefficient of the Aiola spelling of the Aiola sounds with the Loglan spelling of them is .93 and with IPA spelling of them is .86. Although this correlation coefficient is high, it is not perfect. Also, Loglan’s sound system is not always phonetic. For instance, Loglan uses the two letters ‘i’ and ‘u’ for the pure vowels [i], [u] and for the semivowels [j] and [w]. Aiola, on the other hand, abides by the one-symbol-per-sound philosophy.
Basically the reason why the Aiola alphabet correlates so highly with the Loglan alphabet is as follows: the use of 21 of the conventional letters by the IPA is all right as is and has been adopted by both Aiola and Loglan. This is done for easy recognizeability. For the remaining 3 sounds, namely those represented by
(elongates 's'), (elongated 'z'), and [j] , if one wants to design an alphabet that resembles the IPA spelling, but uses conventional letters, one has to find substitutes for (elongated 's') and for (elongated 'z'). If one wants to use letters which have these sound values at least some of the time in at least one of the natural languages, the only natural choice is the use the letter ‘c’ for (elongated 's') (like ‘ocean’ in English) and the letter ‘j’ for (elongated 'z') (like ‘jardin’ in French). As a result, one is forced into using the letter ‘y’ for the semivowel [j]. Thus, it is obvious that, if two groups followed the same reasoning, they would reach the same conclusion about a phonetic alphabet. This is what both the developers of Aiola and Loglan did independently.
2. Jim G. wrote: Your FAQ claims that Aiola is unique because of its “an unprecedented combination of logical consistency, low ambiguity, and familiarity.” How on Earth did you verify that? How did you measure “consistency,” “ambiguity,” and “familiarity” across hundreds of languages world-wide? How did you even define these qualities in measurable terms?
ARG: This is a valid criticism, Jim. We haven’t measured hundreds of languages worldwide for these features. We have only looked at English, French, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish, German, Esperanto, Loglan, and Interlingua. We will rephrase our text accordingly.
3. David wrote: How can a language that is entirely drawn from European languages be culturally neutral?
ARG: While it is true that we have borrowed a large number of words from Romance languages (mainly for reasons of familiarity and recognizability) it is not true that we have deliberately borrowed aspects of culture. We have tried to make Aiola as culturally neutral as possible by avoiding idioms and phraseology from any of the contributing languages. Aiola does have a composite culture built up from the individual cultures of the ARG members who have contributed to the language. But this is not distinctly English, American, French, Spanish, etc.
The question you ask is strongly related to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis (whether structure of language subtly influences the cognitive/cultural development of the speakers of that language). While it is an intriguing theory, it has been proven to present difficulties to those who have wished to devise tests to investigate its truth or falsity.
4. Jim G: The distinctive features of Aiola are not distinctive. Every proposed AIAL and its brother boasts phonemic spelling along with simple & consistent conjugations and declensions.
ARG: By “distinctive features” we meant to say “those features which are characteristic of” Aiola. We do, however, understand that “distinctive” can be interpreted otherwise, and we gladly take your criticism – we will change it to “characteristic features of Aiola”.
5. And Rosta wrote: Presumably IALs are created mainly for fun, but I don't understand how come it is fun to create something very similar to innumerable existing members of the same category. Popular art (pulp fiction, popular music, B movies) is full of such re-creations, so clearly the creators do enjoy re-creation, but I don't understand why. …but I find myself not only perplexed but also distressed/grieved/sorrowed that so much labour should have been expended to so little avail.
Philippe Caquant wrote: Why reinvent the wheel, instead of using and improving what already exists? Except for fun, of course, which would be quite an understandable motivation.
James Chandler wrote: I'm afraid it seems that Aiola, like Unish, is another example of someone developing a new IAL without first finding out what has already been done in the field. As Popper pointed out, nobody starts from scratch in any scientific field - a physics researcher who started from scratch today would be unlikely to get as far as the Ancient Greeks. I'm not sure why so many people think they can start from scratch in the IAL field.
ARG: Of course, creating Aiola has been fun. If it hadn’t been, we wouldn’t have spent 9 years putting it together. Statistically speaking, Aiola should not be labeled a mere ‘re-creation’. Yes, it shares characteristics with other conlangs but it is no replica as you have noted in Q#1. There is no shame in building off of works of others. In fact, it is most practical to do so. Because we do not have decades to spend compiling a vocabulary as James C. Brown did, we have referenced existing natural languages. Science itself is built upon previous theoretical and experimental work. As
said “If I have seen further (than you and Descartes) it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants”. For those who wish to build a language from scratch we wish them good luck and a very happy and long life! Newton
6. David wrote: The second paragraph reads, "Esperanto is a language derived from the European languages and culture. As such, it does not qualify to be the universal language." I wish all would be IALists would read that and take it as their credo.
Trebor Jung wrote: the part about "familiarity" bugs me. I mean, how do you think Chinese or Arabic speakers will feel when confronted with this language? It boasts "familiarity", but only to the "all-important Westerners whose languages are superior to all others" You should've included at least some Chinese, Arabic, or Hindi!
ARG: In the interest of attracting a sizeable audience to Aiola, and optimizing its rate of learning we drew mainly from those languages we believed to be most widely used. While Hindi, Chinese, and Arabic may have a large number of speakers within their own community, these languages do not have high recognizability and use outside these communities, whereas the western European languages do.
7. Trebor Jung wrote: It looks just like all the other IALs, and some things have been stolen from them.
ARG: We take issue with the word ‘stolen’ here. How on earth would one create a language that is entirely different from existing languages? For a thing to be one of the many things of the same category it must share the same format and structure with them. A table, for instance, cannot be a table unless it has a surface and supports. A language, similarly, constructed or not, cannot be a language unless it has phonetic, morpho-syntactic, and semantic systems. Now, because Aiola has all of these, that does not mean they were ‘stolen’. These characteristics are requisite in building a language. As far as specific features from existing languages, we believe we have saved what was good and added what was needed. Trebor, we were not convinced by your comments concerning word choices. We urge you to challenge us with empirical evidence supporting your criticisms.
Trebor Jung wrote: And in those language programs, were their native speakers of non-European languages? Why not ask some speakers of say, Korean, to try Aiola out, and carefully examine their feedback, and revise Aiola accordingly?
ARG: Yes, in the ARG Summer Language Programs there were 2 (out of 7) students whose native language was non-European, namely Hindi and one of the Nigerian languages. Also, ARG over the years has had the participation of many other students from different linguistic backgrounds: Albanian, Indian, Dominican, Haitian, etc. During their time working on the project most of these individuals were also able to read, write, and speak Aiola efficiently. We would love to have more students from other linguistic backgrounds try Aiola out!
8. Paul Bartlett wrote: If Aiola is going to go anywhere as a real auxiliary language, materials need to be available in many languages for learners, not just in English.
ARG: This is precisely our objective in launching the webpage: to expand our community and also to attract an audience of people that speak other languages. We hope to have materials in languages other than English very soon.
9. Paul Bartlett wrote: If I recall correctly what I read on the site, in 2002 the ARG ran a pilot with two students and in 2003 with five. I made my remark about commending them for "trying out" the language before I read these
figures. Now I am less impressed.
ARG: Although we had a couple dozen students interested in the summer programs, due to the available financial support we had at the time, we were unable to hire more than the amount of students that we did.