Many people trying to work out an understanding of what languages are, where they come from and where they are going experiment with conlangs or constructed languages. They often try to learn one of the many available, especially on the internet, of which the most “successful” – a relative term here – is the famous construct of Dr L. L. Zamenhof, namely Esperanto, but there are at least a thousand others, each with a handful of speakers or less. Sometimes these experimental linguists try to write their own artificial language, which is a very instructing thing to do. I did write an English based conlang myself once called “fucatok” which, in the alphabet it had, was supposed to be pronounced in a way not far off the modern international English pronunciation of “futuretalk”, but then I realised that a lot of people were calling it “f*ckertalk” and so I called the project off.
The Tower of Babel
I’m in correspondence because of my YouTube activities with one modern-day Zamenhof-style naive idealist, who wants to create from all the languages of today a perfect language that will solve humanities problems. It will not work, as I explained to him, and to see why we need to look at the origin of the many forms of speech we have today, and the reason why things are the way they are.
The reason why an ideal language is not the answer is that most people are stupid, live at a low level, and need a simple pidgin like language that is hard to get wrong and easy to learn. People who need to think advanced thoughts are helped to achieve their synthetic capacities by the process of learning a number of languages.
Having one language will not help them do this.
There was once a language which had all the functions you could dream of, and it enabled humanity to progress from infancy to a society so advanced they nearly killed themselves off by about twenty or thirty generations, and also all grouped together in one place, under a common leader, Nimrod, a type of Antichrist.
One day, this linguistic Union of the Adamic language was terminated supernaturally when God gave every single person alive at that time their own language. When they woke up that morning they couldn’t even understand the other members of their own family, when they left their homes to get help, they discovered they couldn’t understand anyone and nobody could understand anyone. Everyone had a language, but it was the end of language as they knew it. Ever since then, humanity has been trying to get back to the state it knew in Babel. First families had to flee away to a secluded spot away from all others so that they could unite around one common language just for those who loved each other closely and needed to be together. It was usually the mother’s tongue, so we talk about mother tongues to this day. Later families joined into tribes and tribal languages emerged which were the language structures of the most influential families, with borrowings from other family languages
in the tribe.
Later tribal languages grew into supertribal languages, such as proto-indo-european, which in turn got so large that they split up into languages some of which further had success but split again. The successful languages at every stage always made the les successful ones go extinct. Humans are inventive, but not of words. Almost all words in any language are not invented – they are combinations, borrowings, onomatopeias, but not random. Not usually. That way almost any word could, if we only had the archive, be traced back to one or other person waking up on that fearful morning maybe around six or eight thousand years ago. Maybe that word would be the only remaining word from that particular person’s individual language, and many of their languages will have left today’s humanity no lexical fossils at all.
If you have a better explanation of the state of affairs with human languages, let’s hear it.
(first published in Daily Telegraph, January 2008)