Economics is often used in literary studies, but rarely free market economics. Austrian economics, with its emphasis on subjective value (Menger), human action (Mises), spontaneous order and knowledge (Hayek), and entrepreneurship (Kirzner), seems a particularly fruitful source of ideas for literary studies.
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Klingon Versus Esperanto
Here is a fun article on the proliferation of two different artificial languages -- one to be spread in a top-down fashion, the other happening to spread in a bottom-up fashion. Guess which one caught on?
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Esperanto is the one that caught on, of course!ReplyDelete
And the way Esperanto has actually spread is definitely bottom-up.ReplyDelete
Why is it that Klingon gets more publicity than Esperanto, but more people speak Esperanto ?ReplyDelete
The study course http://www.lernu.net is now receiving 120,000 hits per month.
That can't be bad :)
Two of the most widespread and tenacious misconceptions about Esperanto are that it never caught on, and that it is centrally planned. With 124 years of continuous existence, presence in 120+ countries and now a couple of million of competent speakers, it is solidly established. Set free by its inventor just a few years after publication in 1887, and thereafter guided only by the whims of those who freely choose to speak it, it has evolved uncompelled into the complete, living and natural yet easy-to-learn language it is today.ReplyDelete
Regarding Klingon vs. Esperanto:ReplyDelete
Now, this doesn't tell us in what context Esperanto is discussed. In every discussion I have ever read of it, in all the books on linguistic I have read, not a one was positive. It is consistently given as an example of how you cannot create a "rational" language. Klingon, on the other hand, was created in such a way as to reflect natural language. Most importantly, no one intended it to catch on. The opposite is true of Esperanto.
A couple million people isn't anything to brag about for something intended to become the universal language. I will say this though: the only reason it has survived is due to spontaneous order forces. In its original intention, though, it's a complete failure. In other words, what success it has seen is a demonstration that central planning fails and spontaneous order succeeds.
Finally, I will say too that Esperanto is merely a hobby. (So, too, is Klingon.) So, again, it failed in what was planned for it, and succeeded despite those plans.
@Troy, part B:ReplyDelete
Most importantly, no one intended it to catch on. The opposite is true of Esperanto.
The spread of Klingon isn't really comparable to the spread of Esperanto.
Many people learn about Klingon in order to hook into the subculture of a popular phenomenon, but few actually learn it, beyond a few set phrases, in order to communicate. All the world's competent Klingon speakers - able to function professionally and carry on a meaningful conversation in a wide variety of situations, i.e. FSI 3 - are said to be able to go out comfortably to dinner together, a dozen or two at most.
Esperanto, on the other hand, was intended and designed from the start to be a communication tool. The number of competent FSI 3 speakers is on the order of a couple of million. Even if not universal, the fact that it has achieved that part of its goals makes it a success.
If we compare apples with apples, quite the opposite of your statement is true.
A couple million people isn't anything to brag about for something intended to become the universal language.
You don't expect Esperanto to get there overnight, do you? Perhaps you do. But then consider that both Arabic numerals (in the west) and the metric system were intended to be used universally, yet both took hundreds of years to catch on and become universal. Are we to judge them as failures because they had not gained the traction Esperanto has after 125 years, or as successes because they finally managed to establish themselves as (quasi-)universal standards, in spite of longstanding ignorance-fuelled opposition?
Esperanto is a work in progress. To the extent we can compare it to a software project - keeping in mind that software is planned from start to finish, Esperanto was planned only in its earliest stages, then set free - it has been speced, designed, coded, tested, betaed, released, put through a few revision cycles, gained a solid clientèle and established itself as a standard within its current circle of influence. Esperanto is used - by a solid, well-established community, as an international auxiliary language, in every imaginable circumstance (literally - yes, even for that) - since its publication, it has morphed from a drawing-board project into a real, complete, living natural language. That alone is a success. As long as Esperanto doesn't stop growing - and it is growing - it will eventually reach universality, the final success. Will that ever happen? Nobody knows - but consider Arabic numerals and the metric system before you pass judgment.
Interestingly, Esperanto's slow but steady growth is more consistent with grass-roots, bottom-up development than with planned, top-down development.
I will say this though: the only reason it has survived is due to spontaneous order forces. In its original intention, though, it's a complete failure. In other words, what success it has seen is a demonstration that central planning fails and spontaneous order succeeds.
Please see above about the "complete failure" of Esperanto. The remaining part of your statement betrays a misunderstanding of the evolution of Esperanto. As mentioned above, Esperanto started out planned, but was soon set completely free, and has evolved into the living, natural language of a solidly established and growing community.
Finally, I will say too that Esperanto is merely a hobby.
For some, yes. However, those who use Esperanto as a language of love, or family, or friendship, or business, or academics, or authorship, or art, or religion, or countless other endeavors in which Esperanto serves as the principle vehicle of feeling and thought, would beg to differ.
I'm hardly going to argue with an enthusiast. My point was more about spontaneous order than anything else. Klingon has taken off much more quickly than Esperanto did. One reason is precisely that it most resembles a natural language -- precisely because of all its "exceptions" which in fact make it much more human. There was no attempt at making it more logical, as no real langauge is logical in the formal sense. As you pointed out, Esperanto took off only when it was let go to evolve on its own. In its original intent it was a failure -- precisely because there was a real failure to understand what language was really all about (as all the linguists I have read have pointed out). There's a small number of people in the world who cannot stand that the world is not strictly logical. I think it is better to love it in all its messy glory.ReplyDelete
I think you missed the point of what I said. Perhaps part of the reason why is that I've been trying (unsuccessfully) to post the first part of my (lengthy) response.ReplyDelete
Zamenhof never sought perfection with Esperanto, only usefulness and ease of learning. What Esperanto has demonstrated most clearly is that a language can be easy to learn, and almost completely exception free, yet still be a living, natural language. Esperanto's taking off when set free is hardly an indication of failure - its release was one step in its development process, no more, no less. And even if it was a late realization on Zamenhof's part, so what? Zamenhof realizes that he needs to set Esperanto free, and it grows into a living language. Course corrections happen all the time. Again, Esperanto needs to be evaluated as it is, not as it stacks up to theoretical constructs that fail to account for the reality of Esperanto.
Another point I think you've missed is that Esperanto speakers are not out to correct the imperfections of language. They tend to be enthusiastic language learners and ardent defenders of ethnic languages, so their "messiness" is hardly a turn-off. What the Esperanto community offers is this: a language for use as an international auxiliary language, a common second language - NOT a "perfect" replacement for all the world's "flawed" languages - to serve as an accessible, low-cost communication bridge where there is no common ethnic language. It also happens to function very well as an ordinary, plain-vanilla language. If Esperanto stresses logic and simplicity (and those are relative terms - it's neither perfectly logical nor effortlessly simple, still relying on context and requiring a significant effort to master it), it's only because they make it much easier to learn relative to ethnic languages. The cost of acquisition is consequently much lower and within reach of anyone - important features of an international auxiliary language.
About Klingon taking off, again, you're comparing apples with oranges. What has taken off with Klingon is a fun role-playing subculture that happens to have a language at its orgin, a language that hardly anyone in the subculture actually masters, using it as little more than a prop. The investment required to get involved in this Klingon phenomenon is small. With Esperanto, on the other hand, what has taken off is a language, around which a subculture has happened to grow, involvement in which requires learning the language. In spite of its ease of learning, it's still a full language, and the investment required is far greater than that required to get involved in Klingondom - but still much less than that required to learn an ethnic language.
Perhaps. It's too early to see with Klingon. I am sure people said the same thing about Esperanto in its first few decades, too. I have no stake in this. I'm only interested in the social elements.ReplyDelete
There is a Klingon opera, though :-)
And an Institute:
which claims Klingon to be "the galaxy's fastest growing language". Which may be true if we are talking growth rate, but which is unlikely if we are talking pure numbers.
Again, my interested in this, such as it is, is in regards to it being a spontaneous social order or not, and its evolution in that context. Mostly, I made the link because language is a spontaneous order, and so is literature (and the link between those two is obvious), and this made a small point that could be applied to the spontaneous order spread of language. I am glad that it provoked a discussion of Esperanto as a spontaneous order.
Sorry you have had a hard time posting your other posts. I don't know what the problem is.
Haha. I once posted something about Esperanto on http://lostrepublic.us. Immediately, Esperato defenders found my blog. Not sure how they do it.ReplyDelete
Here's "@Troy, part A", the first part of my original (very lengthy) response, that I had to break up into two parts:ReplyDelete
In every discussion I have ever read of it, in all the books on linguistic I have read, not a one was positive.
What did those books have to say? How many of their authors cited - or better yet, conducted - serious studies of Esperanto, not the hands-off ivory-tower theoretical-analysis kind that surmises what Esperanto might be, but the hands-on, real-life, in-field kind that describes what it really is? The great thing about Esperanto is that you don't have to take your authors' word - or mine - for anything: instead of reading about Esperanto, you can read in it and decide for yourself. Lernu.net, with free courses of varying levels, is a good place to start. If you'll do that, you'll see an Esperanto totally at odds with what you and your books say about it. Thanks to the Internet, nothing could be easier today than to find real, live Esperanto used in real, live situations by real, live Esperanto speakers in large enough volumes to derive reliable statistics.
For a very different take on Esperanto, as much for its style as for its conclusions, try reading the recent work by Arika Okrent, Ph.D. in linguistics, entitled In the Land of Invented Languages. Arika, who actually learned Esperanto and participated in the Esperanto community, and also investigated Klingon, has yet more to say about Esperanto (and Klingon) in this online Q&A session sponsored by the NY Times. Still, the best way to see what Esperanto is really like is for you to dive into it.
It is consistently given as an example of how you cannot create a "rational" language.
There is an element of truth to what you say, a principle that Zamenhof, Esperanto's inventor, realized early on. It is for that reason that, instead of maintaining iron-fisted control of his language - a move that has spelled the doom of other constructed languages - he set it free, relinquishing all claims to it, making it the language of its speakers. From that point on, it ceased to be a planned language - and it came to life. It has evolved since, but not unrecognizably so, a testament to its initial sound design, and confirmation of the linguistically conservative forces of international use and non-isolation.
Your statement also conveys another fairly common misconception, that Zamenhof was aiming for a perfect, philosophical, "rational" language. His goal was less lofty, but infinitely more realizable: to create a language that was usable as an IAL, yet easy to learn. In that, he succeeded admirably. The result is a language that is simple and logical, and that not only has the look and feel of a natural language, but is a natural language. In spite of its apparent Eurocentrism, it's easy to learn even for Asians.
Klingon, on the other hand, was created in such a way as to reflect natural language.
Actually, no. Marc Okrand, the Ph.D. linguist commissioned by Paramount Pictures to create Klingon for its Star Trek film franchise, deliberately endowed it with features not present (or most rare) in natural languages, including its odd phoneme set, its unorthodox sentence word order and its polyinflected pronouns (inflected for both subject and object), to make it decidedly alien - at least for Terrans :-).
Sorry, seems like my comment has been eaten by an URI error: "The requested URL /2010/12/klingon-versus-esperanto.html... is too large to process."ReplyDelete
In case it is really lost: I am a native speaker of Esperanto. If you have any questions, here's your opportunity. ;)
(I am a bit tired of retyping the rest. Maybe later.)
If you speak both English and Esperanto, you would know that it is much easier to find eager friends who speak Esperanto (compared to English) in most countries of the world. This has motivated me to use Esperanto for 41 years.ReplyDelete