The Success of Artificial Languages

July 23rd, 2015
The Success of Artificial Languages | One Hour Translation

An artificial language is one that humans have constructed, based on the study of natural languages.

An artificial language is one that humans have constructed, based on the study of natural languages. These artificial languages have been created throughout history for many reasons, and often very interesting reasons; though many times they didn’t actually achieve their purpose.

Uniting the World

It’s true that in a lot of cases the sole purpose of these languages was to unite the world. A German priest by the name of Johann Martin Schleyer created the Volapük language back in 1879: this led to the development of hundreds of clubs and societies, many journals, and around 210,000 fluent speakers of the Volapük language in several countries. But, because of its unpolished phonetics and cumbersome grammar, the language fell into disuse after a Paris conference when the first discord and disagreements concerning the language came to light.

Esperanto

Then later on Esperanto emerged: this language was created by Ludwik Lejzer Zamenhof, a Polish ophthalmologist, who became aware of the problems caused by the use of multiple languages in the region inhabited by his patients. This particular language was very successful and was later adopted by the labor movement in Europe. Unfortunately, its followers were persecuted by Stalinism and Nazism because of its relationship with internationalist movements, but even so, in 1954 it was recommended by UNESCO that Esperanto be taught in Universities and Schools: as of 1981 masses in the Catholic Church have been held in this language.

Language for Scientific Purposes

Languages were also created for scientific purposes. An American sociologist by the name of James Cooke Brown tried in 1955 to test the hypothesis that language creates limited thinking, meaning that a better language would promote superior human thought. The language ‘Loglan” was thus created: this was a language with no grammatical ambiguities and comprised ten-thousand words. This then led to other languages being created for the very same purpose. In 1960 another language, known as ‘Lincos’, was created to assist in communications with aliens!

Language for Artistic Purposes

Another interesting language known as ‘Solresol’ was created for more artistic purposes than social ones. A French music teacher by the name of Jean François Sudre invented Solresol in 1817; this language was based on sound. With its words being made up of several syllables and using notes from the musical scale it could be sung, whistled or played with instruments. Within this group we could also include other languages created by linguists and writers to add importance to their works. J.R.R. Tolkien is such as case, with the many languages created for The Lord of the Rings; Anthony Burges and the language ‘Nadsat,’ as spoken in A Clockwork Orange; George Orwell’s ‘Newspeak’ language for 1984, and George Lucas and the ‘Huttese’ language for Star Wars.

Probably the most successful of these language types was the ‘Klingon’ language which was spoken in the Star Trek movies, series and books: it was invented by Marc Okrand, the American linguist. Klingon has several dictionaries, and even Hamlet was translated into it. For any translator hoping for a career in Klingon translations you may wish to keep another specialty up your sleeve, just in case!

Although we’ve seen many artificial languages over the years and some have been successful at specific times, or have had some fame with fans of certain fiction works, they haven’t really managed to last the test of time; probably because they were designed as a product more than a socialization instrument.