LINGUIST List 2.778

Tue 12 Nov 1991

Disc: Artificial Languages

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  1. Logical Language Group, Esperanto and artificial languages
  2. FD00000, 2.770 Queries
  3. FD00000, 2.770 Queries

Message 1: Esperanto and artificial languages

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 91 01:23:42 -0500
From: Logical Language Group <lojbabgrebyn.com>
Subject: Esperanto and artificial languages
In response to Fritz Newmeyer's query, I cannot provide statistics that
are worth credence on Esperanto and artificial languages as a whole, but
there is no doubt that the number of speakers is increasing, possibly quite
rapidly.
(Note that I am NOT an Esperantist.)
The number of Esperanto speakers may range anywhere from 50000 to 10 million
depending on what source you use, and what level of fluency constitutes
'speaking' the language. This includes a very small number of native/bilingual
speakers raised by parents who had only Esperanto as a common language.
The greatest growth in Esperanto is in China, where there are state-sponsored
television courses in the language, and it can safely be said that millions
have been exposed to the language there and have learned it to some unknown
level. (I suspect that even more are learning English).
The US official organization ELNA has only about a thousand members, but many
US Esperantists are not members, and the organization is growing at a good
rate (I think 10-20% per year). There apparently was a political squabble
and the current organization is picking up the pieces from a disaccredited
former official organization - but I don;t know much more than that.
The Internet newsgroup soc.culture.esperanto has occasional statistics
posted on the number of people subscribed to the newsgroup, and I think it was
in the tens of thousands, but my memory is hazy.
Historically, Esperanto had a peak around World War I, then ebbed under
Stalinist and Nazi repression, and has started to come back as the Cold War
ebbed.
Among other artificial languages Ido and Interlingua have been probably
the #2 and #3 languages. Both are indeed fading, Ido having no active
publications to my knowledge. Interlingua peaked in the 50s and has ebbed
but not died completely. It is strongest in Europe, where there are efforts
to gain standing in the European common government (some committees apparently
use Interlingua as an alternate language for minutes and the like).
Sources on the subject include Andrew Lange, _The Artificial Language
Movement_, and a very recent book, _Interlinguistics_ (I don't have the
rest of the biblio handy, but I know it is in the U of Washington library
because the person who told me about it read it there.), which attempts
to establish a linguistics subfield relating to artificial langauges,
concentrating primarily on Esperanto.
The language project I am leading, The Lojban version of the Loglan language
described in the June 1960 Scientific American, is also growing rapidly,
especially considering that our effort is so new that we don't yet have a
book on the language completed. We count only about a dozen able to converse
in the language, but several hundred supporters who are studying the language
intermittently while waiting for more formal materials. The Loglan/Lojban
project, I should note, is NOT primarily aimed at starting an 'international
language', although many supporters have this as a goal. Our purpose is
linguistics research, including but not limited to the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis,
and there has been a fair amount of study of potential AI and machine
translation applications as well.
(I will be happy to supply information on Lojban to inquirers to signature
address - either email or paper mail)
lojbab
Bob LeChevalier, President, The Logical Language Group, Inc.
2904 Beau Lane Fairfax VA 22031-1303 (703) 385-0273
lojbabgrebyn.com
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Message 2: 2.770 Queries

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 91 15:20:13 MST
From: FD00000 <FD00%UTEPRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: 2.770 Queries
RE: Query about fate of Esperanto
I don't believe there are any recent empirical studies on the
current number of speakers of Esperanto. Such studies are very
difficult to do, given that there are speakers in almost every
country and that so many speakers are self-taught and thus never
show up on any class roster. The fact that there has been
substantial repression of Esperanto in many countries (especially
in eastern Europe) doesn't encourage people to stand up and be
counted either.
To judge by the indications that are available (e.g. book sales,
magazine subscriptions, membership in Esperanto organizations, etc.),
it appears that the number of speakers is growing. In the U.S. in
fact, it is very clear that the number of speakers has grown over
the last few years. Membership in the national Esperanto organization
has increased very dramatically, course enrolment is up, and sales
of books and records in Esperanto have increased also. There are other
countries where the number of speakers has clearly dropped, but on
the whole the language seems to be growing.
There are some other "artificial" languages which have speakers (e.g.
Ido, Volapuk, Occidental, Interlingua), but they are quite small and
don't seem to show any signs of growth, at least not that I'm aware
of.
Here are some references that might prove helpful:
Janton, Pierre "Esperanto: Langue et Litterature" (or some similar
 title). Presses Universitaires de France.
Schubert, Klaus. "Interlinguistics: Aspects of the science of planned
 languages" Mouton de Gruyter. 1989
Forster, Peter. "The Esperanto movement" Mouton. 1982.
Pool, Jonathan. "The World Language Problem" Rationality and
 Society 3, 78-105. 1991
 -Grant Goodall
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Message 3: 2.770 Queries

Date: Mon, 11 Nov 91 15:20:13 MST
From: FD00000 <FD00%UTEPRICEVM1.RICE.EDU>
Subject: 2.770 Queries
RE: Query about fate of Esperanto
I don't believe there are any recent empirical studies on the
current number of speakers of Esperanto. Such studies are very
difficult to do, given that there are speakers in almost every
country and that so many speakers are self-taught and thus never
show up on any class roster. The fact that there has been
substantial repression of Esperanto in many countries (especially
in eastern Europe) doesn't encourage people to stand up and be
counted either.
To judge by the indications that are available (e.g. book sales,
magazine subscriptions, membership in Esperanto organizations, etc.),
it appears that the number of speakers is growing. In the U.S. in
fact, it is very clear that the number of speakers has grown over
the last few years. Membership in the national Esperanto organization
has increased very dramatically, course enrolment is up, and sales
of books and records in Esperanto have increased also. There are other
countries where the number of speakers has clearly dropped, but on
the whole the language seems to be growing.
There are some other "artificial" languages which have speakers (e.g.
Ido, Volapuk, Occidental, Interlingua), but they are quite small and
don't seem to show any signs of growth, at least not that I'm aware
of.
Here are some references that might prove helpful:
Janton, Pierre "Esperanto: Langue et Litterature" (or some similar
 title). Presses Universitaires de France.
Schubert, Klaus. "Interlinguistics: Aspects of the science of planned
 languages" Mouton de Gruyter. 1989
Forster, Peter. "The Esperanto movement" Mouton. 1982.
Pool, Jonathan. "The World Language Problem" Rationality and
 Society 3, 78-105. 1991
 -Grant Goodall
Mail to author|Respond to list|Read more issues|LINGUIST home page|Top of issue