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Andrew Nowicki wrote,    Mon, 20 Feb 2006 17:29:31 -0500

> 3. To make sure that you do not offend anyone,
>   you have to borrow the same number of words
>   from each natural language. This means that
>   the probability that an auxlang word is
>   familiar to a person learning the auxlang
>   is a small fraction of one percent.

The same number of words from each natural language? Since some natural languages have tens 
or hundreds of millions of speakers, and others have only tens or hundreds of thousands of 
speakers, that would hardly be fair. Wouldn’t a pro rata allocation of vocabulary be more 
equitable?

But that wouldn’t substantially alter your argument, which is that an "inoffensive" representation 
of natural languages in the IAL vocabulary would tend to mean a great deal of unfamiliarity for 
most users.

If we are going to forbid any other than a strictly idealistic approach to the IAL it’s a valid enough 
point IMO, and one which might seem to favour an a priori solution. For if a primacy of politically 
correct criteria means that the vast bulk of IAL vocabulary is going to be utterly incomprehensible 
to most users, why not go the whole hog and make them learn a priori tongue such as Ygyde? 

However, the Ygyde-type solution is not going to work IMHO - not as a universal IAL anyway. 
During the past few months a number of reasons have been offered here, and the absolute failure 
of the a priori approach to make any significant headway despite heroic efforts over the centuries 
does not inspire much confidence either.

The essence of the problem, I think, is that a resolutely logical, “left-hemisphere” approach does 
not cater for a humanity that is equally “illogical” (“irrational”) and “right-hemisphere dominant”. 
Another way of putting it, perhaps, is that a purely intellectual approach neglects the part (half?) 
of humanity that is emotional, corporeal and visceral - and subject to all manner of obscure 
impressions and connexions.

In this vein I have previously quoted here the following passage from “The Alphabetic Labyrinth” 
by Johanna Drucker, which paraphrases Plato’s “Cratylus”:

 (Socrates) pointed out that rho is a sign of motion, found in words such as "tremor, tremble, 
strike, crush, bruise, tremble and whirl" because it is linked to the physical activity of 
pronunciation. According to Socrates, the tongue was "most agitated and least at rest in the 
pronunciation of this letter" and therefore it was originally used to express motion. Aspirated 
phonemes requiring expenditure of breath, likewise find themselves in windy, tempestuous words 
such as "shivering, seething, shock and shaking". Lamda, with its liquid smoothness produced by 
the slipping of the tongue, is found in words like "slip, level, floor, flood, sleek" (when combined 
with another syllable it denotes easy but repetitive motion as in "handle, swivel, anvil, paddle"); 
gamma,  in which the tongue is detained, combines with lamda to express the notion of 
stickiness, as in "glue, glutinous, glucose".

Thus there is a potential sound to meaning correspondence in words which a logical a priori 
approach is liable to miss. The greatest neologists (e.g. Shakespeare and Bullokar in the 16th 
Century English language) have tended to create new words only from those words which have 
proved their viability in other languages (e.g. Latin and Greek). Similarly, it is a corollary of Zipf’s 
Law that the oldest and most popular words in existence today tend not only to be the shortest, 
but also those which contain an inherent phonetic / semantic correspondence.

Since different cultures - ergo different languages - have tended to specialise in diverse areas of 
human endeavour, any idealistic or politically-correct linguistic policy is likely to be realised 
anyway in the fullness of time. However, I think we will have to be more pragmatic if we wish to 
see an IAL properly established in the world in the short term. Realpolitik rules: the present-day 
state of the world is so far from justice and harmony that a globally-equitable IAL could hardly be 
established overnight.

What I have tried to do with LangX is to indicate the sort of long-term staged approach that might 
be required in order to move very gradually from a realistic and pragmatic compromise with 
current political circumstances to a more idealistic and equitable scenario. 

As readers of my website http://langx.org will be aware, I have drawn a congruent relationship 
between the progress of those historically-successful IALs we now call pidgins ~ creoles and the 
global IAL in prospect. Thus, even as the historic pidgins were usually based upon one or more of 
the great mercantilist languages - Portuguese, English, French etc. - the new “global pidgin” is 
likely to be based upon a conflation of the same languages, with English probably dominant.

The reason for this should be quite obvious: the prime movers of the IAL will not be impecunious 
idealists living in garrets, but rather multinational corporations wishing to extend the reach of 
their advertising slogans and brand names and politicians wishing to propagandise transnational 
ideology. And whether the interests involved are mainly private or public, capitalist or socialist, 
they will still have their roots in the dominant political forces of the present-day and recent past, 
which are of course Western rather than Eastern, English rather than Chinese.

That situation is changing, but not yet enough that an initial IAL established in the near future 
could have other than a “Western” phonetic and verbal basis - since those are the sounds and 
words that the people of the world are already hearing. 

Even the “far-Eastern” IALs - Unish, Noxilo etc. - seem to recognise this, with Chinese-type 
grammar providing a counter-balance.

Antony Alexander       http://langx.org