There have been several attempts to create a universal language. An international auxiliarly
language would have the benefit of making possible an exchange of ideas without the delay of translation
. The desire for simple, easy to learn language for communication
with people who share no native tongue
was first felt about 300 years ago.
Most attempts to create a universal language involved the creation of a new, artificially constructed language, but some existing languages have also been proposed. The attempts can be divided into three groups: written artificial languages, non-artificial (sometimes 'revival') languages, and visual languages.
One suggested plan to get a world language adopted would be to have a popular language like English
absorb others, as English is already native to hundreds of millions of people. (Some might suggest Chinese
was thought of as a universal
language for years, hence the term "lingua franca
". These all have difficulties. For example, English has a fairly simple grammar, but horribly irregular pronunciation
and spelling. Alternatively, a language could be created ad hoc
, as suggested by people as early as Descartes
in 1629. No widespread efforts were made to actually implement
this idea until 1879, however, when Johann Martin Schleyer
. The Volapük community grew quickly, but, like many similar experiments to follow, collapsed under too-tight control from above.
The most successful of the artificial languages is Esperanto, created by Louis Zamenhof in 1887. Esperanto spread rapidly, but was given a serious setback during World War II. Some critics complain of too many sibilants, unnecessary syntactic rules, and an overreliance on circumflexed orthography.
Attempts have also been made to simplify existing languages. Of these, Basic English
has been most popular. Although this is not considered an artificial language, it still a designed
Quite different (though similar in appearance sometimes) to simplified English are the (English) Pidgins. Pidgins are protolanguages that come into existence in multilingual areas. They develop naturally when people with different linguistic backgrounds are in contact and need to communicate about basic, day-to-day things. Pidgins have no or extremely limited syntax, but when passed on as a primary language to a new generation of children, turn into creoles, which are true languages, having been shaped by the principles of Universal Grammar.
Created languages that rely solely on non-arbitrary
signs, symbols, pictures or icons. This requirement for a non-arbitrary
mapping between ideas and the pictures that represent them excludes all natural languages (such as Chinese and late ancient Egyptian
). Attempts to create a useful visual language have generally failed, as one essential feature of any language powerful enough to be infinitely productive
(that is, to be able to describe any
idea) is that it must have an arbitrary mapping between its semantics
and its physical (visual