Not all languages are the result of years of evolution of the society that speaks them; some languages are simply been made up. This usually occurs because someone sees the need to create a language, whether for practical reasons or not and decides to create it. These languages are called conlangs (constructed language) or artificial languages. A conlang has to be a language invented to be used by people and previously planned; therefore, computer programming languages, or languages that evolve naturally are not considered as such.
There are different reasons or needs for inventing a language. In this post we´ll talk about certain artificial languages that were invented to make communication between human beings easier to one degree or another and therefore have a practical purpose. Let´s start:
This may be the best known of all. Esperanto was created in 1887 with the aim of improving international communication. The idea was to create a language that was easy to learn and would become the global language for communication between people from different countries, without competing with other existing languages. This would render linguistic competition between the large powers unnecessary and forego the effect of political and economic situations on which languages would ultimately be the most important. Nowadays, it can be considered a fully developed language, which evolves together with its speakers and under the “supervision” of the Esperanto Academy. In addition, language learning applications such as Duolingo, as well as Google and Facebook machine translators already offer this artificial language.
Lojban was created from Loglan (logical language) to improve the latter and make it more usable. The initial language (Loglan) was constructed in 1955 as a fully logical language that did not lead to any ambiguities and that was so expressive that it could explain anything without the possibility of misunderstandings, thereby remaining culturally neutral. In 1987 a group of Loglan enthusiasts formed the Logical Language Group and developed Lojban to provide the language with real usability and encourage its use. Nowadays, we don´t know the number of people who speak it, although it´s believed that most of the communication is limited to internet forums and meetings of the language’s promoters.
This language was constructed by the writer Suzzete Haden Elgin in the early 80’s with the intention of developing a language that was capable of expressing the view of women. According to the writer, current languages focus on how men express themselves and reflect the way they want to represent the world, so she decided to develop a language based on the perception of women and feminine interpretations. In terms of grammar, the Láadan is based on English and Latin, but it stands out in the vocabulary, since the main interest of the creator was to creating new words for situations that she understood to be specifically feminine, such as being pregnant and exhausted (lóda) or feeling alone within the family (búsholan).
The Volapük was invented in 1879 by a priest to create a clear, common and easy-to-learn language. The vocabulary of this conlang was based on English, German and Latin and aimed to do away with any sound that might be difficult to pronounce to facilitate learning. Nowadays, it´s believed that the language is almost dead and that the few people who speak it are followers of Esperanto who also have an interest in other artificial languages such as Volapük.
- Latino Sine Flexione
Latino Sine Flexione is a language created by the mathematician Giussepe Peano in the year 1903, also known as “Interlingua de Peano”. It is based on Latin and tries to simplify it. According to this mathematician, there was no need to create an international language from scratch since Latin was already used as such for the scientific names of the species, to give just one example. Therefore, the definitive auxiliary language could be Latin itself, grammatically simplified and made easy-to-learn. Nowadays, nobody is known to speak this language fluently, largely because the main idea of the author was to develop a language to be used in scientific fields, rather than for day-to-day use.
Although this is not a language as such, Nüshu was a writing system created in the Chinese county of Jianyong in response to the patriarchal system in which women lived, and deserves to be mentioned. The origin of this writing is unknown, since it was used secretly, passed down from mothers to daughters and everything written by a woman was burned when she died, until it was officially “discovered” in 1982. Besides the writing system, these women also created their own literature and folklore and established a network to help and support each other in a place and time when women were relegated to housework, with no possibility of socializing. This writing was created by and for women since the right to learn how to write was restricted exclusively to men. The language is currently an icon of feminism, studied by linguists worldwide and holds the Guinness Prize for “most specific gender language”.