Human Language Links
Last update: 2003-12-20
- Updated LFN to reflect that it has absorbed Europijin
- Added introductory note at the top of the page
- Cleaned up Esperanto links (some were broken)
- Added personal note about Slovio
- Moved several dead links to a Dead Links section
IntroductionLike many other people, I wish there were a language that could be used around the world to communicate with people in other countries and from other cultures. Not like English, which is both a difficult langauge, and also gives an unfair advantage to native English speakers.
A better goal is to adopt an IAL (International Auxiliary Langauge), which would not replace any native languages, but which could be learned as a second language by everyone. Such a language would need to be easy to learn, and easy to use.
This page contains the best IAL and other linguistic links I know of.
Table of Contents
My Favorite Human Languages:
- Lingua Franca Nova (LFN) was already one of the best Euroclone IAL's, but it has recently adopted more of the feel of a pidgin, which makes it even better. If you already know a Romance language, this should be really easy to learn.
- Tavo, formerly known as Tasu (and before that as Glo). This is my own project to create a language, and it's not yet complete enough to be usable. The focus is on simplicity, and especially on making it easy for people to read Tavo text with minimal learning and effort.
- Toki Pona is a cute, very simple language. Nicely done, but it was never intended to be an IAL, and therefore would not be suitable for that purpose. It only has about 120 root words.
Other Human Languages:
- Esperanto Most popular IAL by a wide margin. Workable, but not great. There have been many proposed reforms over the years, but Esperanto speakers tend to be extremely resistant to even the slightest improvements. Here is a small collection of critiques of Esperanto. Here is a page summarizing some defects and defenses of the langauge. Note, however, that in spite of all its problems, Esperanto is still far simpler and better than virtually any "natural" language, and is still far more popular than any other "invented" language. My own personal complaints about Esperanto are:
- Archaic use of masculinity as the default gender
- Unnecessary -n for direct objects
- Unnecessary -j and -n agreement for adjectives
- Some very difficult consonant clusters, such as "scii" (to know)
- Excessive number of words in its vocabulary
- Use of accented letters
- Ido The most popular reform of Esperanto. Nice, but they should have either changed less (so Esperanto speakers and Ido speakers could communicate easily), or changed more (to make it a top-notch Euroclone). I would probably learn either Esperanto or Lingua Franca Nova before Ido.
- Romanova Looks like another pretty good Euroclone, but is too complex for my tastes. Its best feature is that the web site is available in 13 languages!
- Slovio, a simplified variant of the Slavic language family. Russian speakers have told me that it would be easy for Russians and other Slavic speakers to learn and use. It doesn't seem very complete yet. Update: I recently had a chance to try Slovio in the real world, when I visited Hrvatska (Croatia). Unfortunately, I didn't know how to say something like "I am about to speak to you an a language that is not Russian, Hrvatski, nor English. It's close to Russian, so be creative when you listen to me, and you will probably be able to understand it." Without that context, nobody understood my Slovio.
- Lojban Very precise language with lots of momentum. It is a difficult language to learn, but easier than most people think. With a well-written tutorial, most people could learn the basics quite quickly. Lojban values precision over ease and conciseness, and I think that decision prevents it from being considered as an IAL.
- Tunu Interesting pidgin-like a priori language. Still rough, but the site has been updated to include much more information. Unfortunately, the langauge itself seems to be getting much more complex.
- Ceqli is an isolating language (which I like), and is non-Eurocentric, but the language is far from stable. Some of the words seem difficult to pronounce, and it is unclear whether the grammar and/or syntax will be both easy and effective. Besides the official site, there is also an attractive site, but the latter will remain out of date until the language becomes more stable. It was also known as Txengli for a couple months.
- Sona Nice attempt at an a priori language, created in 1935. It has about 375 root words, and is definitely worth a look if you enjoy languages. However, it needs some serious reforms to become workable. I actually learned enough Sona to exchange several emails with a Russian man who had also learned it, but we both prefered Glosa. At that time, I was probably the world's leading authority on Sona!
- Baza, also known as Inter-esperanto. I haven't really had a chance to look at it closely, but it seems interesting.
- Mondlango, a language that seems to be based largely on Esperanto. I haven't yet evaluated it.
- Earth Minimal Interesting a priori language. It is extremely compact (it is limited to about 250 root words), which I do not believe is not enough to allow effective communication. However, this served as a great inspiration for my own linguistic efforts.
- Desa Chat A truly a priori language, with some nice features. I don't like some of the phonology, such as "q" as "ch" and "w" as "sh". There are 20 one-syllable words, 300 two-syllable, and they have allocated 10,000 three-syllable words, using an approach that attempts to avoid any two words sounding similar to each other. Probably the biggest drawback is that not all the core language materials are freely available.
- Glosa A mostly complete, functional IAL. Somewhat European, but less than most because it has no inflections, and because it borrows from Greek as well as Latin. I used Glosa effectively for a couple years, but have since left the Glosa community.
- Frater2 A reform of Frater (1957) which seems similar to Interglossa. No vocabulary available, but Paul Bartlett has indicatd that it would be Latin-based. Interesting, but it would take a lot of work to develop it into an actual language.
- E Prime, an interesting variation of English. Everything is the same as English, except that E Prime omits all forms of the verb "to be" (is, am , was, were, be, been, etc.). As they point out, we tend to overuse and misuse these verbs. In order to write or speak without using them, one must be more clear about opinions and standards of measure. You really do have to think differently, and that can be a good thing. I wish the E Prime folks would write simpler text, and use more attractive web page styles.
Human Language Essays and Resources:
- Paul Bartlett's insights on why an IAL may or may not succeed.
- Nice overview of International Auxiliary Languages (IAL's).
- Don Harlow's book about Esperanto and other Languages.
- How to create a language, a comprehensive look at language issues. Targeted more at art-lang designers than IAL designers, but still very interesting and helpful.
- Core word list (~2500 words) "The Master List"
- A nice description of parts of speech as used in modern English.
- The rather obtuse EuroWordNet project, which attempts to boil down a list of cross-language concepts. As a starting point, try the link "164 Core Base Concepts".
- Excellent essays on how to design an IAL.
- Universal Language Dictionary, a list of 1600 concepts, nicely categorized, and translated into several languages. This seems to be an outstanding reference.
- British National Corpus list of actual English word frequencies
- Vital English Vocabulary, a list of about 2200 core concepts that are present in English and Japanese, pulled from five separate sources.
- A good description of Latin word cases, which helps one understand all the "little" words like on, at, by, etc.