Constructed Languages and Their Possible Use in Everyday Life

languages

As the amount of natural languages spoken in the world declines, the number of languages that are constructed by sociologists, scientists, or even hobbyists, is increasing. Sadly, the application of these constructed languages in everyday life are limited to personal interest or grammatical study, despite their intended uses ranging from foreign business communication, cultural development and culture creation, or even globalized use as the world’s primary language.

Constructed languages are defined as languages that have been entirely developed by humans for communication, or put simply, languages that have not been created or altered naturally and culturally. The practical use of these languages are to replace former languages or methods of communication, giving linguists a blank slate to create a functional language without verbal inconsistencies or strange grammar rules that natural languages have developed over consistent use.

The first recorded constructed language in history is called Lingua Ignota, and was developed in the 12th century by Hildegard of Bingen, an abbess of Rupertsburg who used the language for her religious divinations. During the Renaissance Era, multiple constructed languages were proposed and developed in an attempt to create a flawless, philosophical language. One of these languages, named Solresol, was developed later in the early 19th century. Solresol was based on the solfège method of music intervals, the theory being that it would be simple to learn and unbiased towards any group of people.

There are several constructed languages that have developed a large base of speakers, their popularity stemming from different reasons. Esperanto, developed in 1887 by Ludovich Zamenhof, is one of the most popular due to its simplistic and regular nature. Lojban, the successor to Loglan which was originally developed in 1955, is based off of the top five languages spoken worldwide and follows an extremely logical structure, from word construction to sentence construction to pronunciation of the vowels and diphthongs. The most complex constructed languages are Ithkuil and its deviation Ilaksh I, which are impossible to learn in their entirety but were created to explore the depth of human communication.


An example of Lojban in its spoken form.

The advantages of learning a constructed language are the same as learning a natural foreign language: brain development, a better understanding of grammatical structure, and the ability to communicate with another culture. The disadvantages a great number of current natural languages are facing are also the same for constructed languages: people need to speak them to keep them alive. Where natural languages have the disadvantage of commonly being confusing, incomplete in relation to other languages, or in a segregated part of the world, constructed languages have the advantage of being easy to learn, easy to speak, and in some cases will have a controlled grammar environment so that the language is not allowed to develop as a natural language does.

Ironically, the most popular constructed languages are ones that are either never utilized or never thought of as constructed. Computer coding languages such as C++ and Python are constructed languages, used to interact with machines. American Sign Language is a constructed language conveyed via hand motions, and can be learned by people from different cultural backgrounds with equal levels of difficulty. Popular fictional languages such as Tolkien’s Elvish language and Star Trek’s Klingon language, although not regularly applied outside of their respected genres, are arguably the most public examples of constructed languages.

A simple Google search of constructed languages will generate hundreds of top ten lists, wikis and learning sites, and even language generators. There are hundreds of constructed languages that exist, most of them existing for the purpose of study, some existing for globalization. As dozens of natural languages go extinct every year, choosing a constructed language for every day global use would essentially make all native languages and dialects secondary, creating the simple and universal method of communication that the world needs.

By Jonah Stephens

Sources:
Academia.edu
Conlang Library
io9
Lojban.org
Omniglot

10 Responses to "Constructed Languages and Their Possible Use in Everyday Life"

  1. Terence Bracks   September 14, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    In my not so humble opinion, artlangs and auxlangs serve completely different purposes and thus shouldn’t be conflated: the former are usually created for artistic/aesthetic expression or as a means to add some local color to fantasy/sf novels; the latter are indeed intended to be learnt by a great number of people in order to facilitate cross-cultural communication, the prime example of this kind of idealism being Esperanto.

    As for teaching/studying artlangs, at least in my experience, it’s typically enthusiastic newcomers who want others to learn their (often still half-baked and eventually scrapped) designs. Also, a great number of artlangs seem to get scrapped before reaching a high level of complexity or sophistication, since it requires a long breath and (acquiring) a serious understanding of linguistics.

    Reply
  2. miekko   September 14, 2014 at 3:19 pm

    American Sign Language is not a constructed language – it has had some planning, but mostly it’s a natural development of how sign languages normally appear wherever there’s sufficient numbers of deaf people around.

    Reply
  3. Barnoin   September 8, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Mi estas Franculo kaj mi ofte uzas Esperanton. Mi pensas ke Esperanto estus pli konata ol nun se esperantistoj ne hezitus uzi gxin ekster lia movado. I am french and I very often use Esperanto even if I knw some other languagies like spanish and italian. I think esperanto would be more known than now if esperantists use it out of their own movment. Je suis Français et je communique souvent en Espéranto sur Internet avec des personnes n’importe où dans le monde et dont j’ignore la plupart du temps à la langue et la culture et ça ne pose aucun problème de compréhension.

    Reply
  4. Adam Stone   September 8, 2014 at 7:26 am

    Sign language is not a constructed language and does not belong on this list at all. It is a fully natural human language (with all the parts of language one would expect from naturally-evolving spoken languages such as English, Chinese, Swahili); it sprouted naturally from manual communication among deaf people and there are hundreds of them across the globe.

    I recommend this book: In the Land of Invented Languages by Akira Okrent (who, ironically, got her M.A. in Linguistics from Gallaudet University, a deaf college in Washington DC). Great discussions of constructed languages but you will, of course, not find sign language in there.

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  5. Brian Milburn   September 8, 2014 at 6:30 am

    The only similarity between computer programming language and American Sign Language is that they are relatively young languages. Sign languages are actually natural languages, which comes forth as a *direct result* of being deaf and visually-based, and not constructed languages.

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  6. Wyatte Hall, Ph.D.   September 8, 2014 at 5:49 am

    American Sign Language is a fully natural language developed with its own complex grammar, syntax, morphology, and rules. It is in no way a constructed language. There are hundreds of sign languages around the world unique to each country and their culture, people from different cultural backgrounds cannot easily pick these up just as you would not be expected to pick up natural African clicking languages unless you lived in Africa.

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  7. Betty Chatterjee   September 8, 2014 at 12:14 am

    I use Esperanto every day of my life: I read it, write it and speak it. The language does not feel at all constructed, it feels very natural. It has been a useful way of making friends with people who do not happen to speak English.

    Reply
  8. hilarychapman   September 7, 2014 at 1:58 pm

    I see Esperanto as a remarkable success story. It has survived wars and revolutions and economic crises and continues to attract people to learn and speak it. Esperanto works. I’ve used it in about seventeen countries over recent years. I recommend it to anyone, as a way of making friendly local contacts in other countries.

    Reply
  9. John M   September 7, 2014 at 1:04 pm

    Good article, but I have a couple nits to pick.

    ASL is not exactly a constructed language. Or at least, it stems from French Sign Language, which came from a natural language used by the Deaf community in Paris. And it has a pretty complex grammar system that’s not all that easy to learn–although it is quite fun to learn, I should say.

    I agree that constructed languages are useful and interesting to learn, and I have a great deal of respect for people who make convincing ones. But the idea that constructed languages like Lojban can be intrinsically more logical isn’t quite right, because logic is culturally constructed.

    Reply
  10. Douglas Cobb   September 6, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    Cool article on constructed languages!

    Reply

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