A simple FAQ about the “advantages” of Esperanto and other conlang religions: “easy”, “neutral” and “number of speakers”

This is, as requested by a reader of the Association’s website, a concise FAQ about Esperanto’s supposed advantages:

Note: Information and questions are being added to the FAQ thanks to the comments made by visitors.

1. Esperanto has an existing community of speakers, it is used in daily life, it has native speakers…

Sorry, I don’t know any native speaker of Esperanto, that has Esperanto as mother tongue – Only this Wikipedia article and the Ethnologue “estimations” without references apart from the UEA website. In fact, the only people that are said to be “native Esperanto speakers” are those 4 or 5 famous people who assert they were educated in Esperanto as second language by their parents. Is it enough to assert “I was taught Volapük as mother tongue by my parents” or “I taught my children Esperanto as mother tongue” to believe it, and report “native speaker” numbers? Do, in any case, those dozens of (in this Esperantist sense) native speakers of Klingon or Quenya that have been reported in the press represent something more than a bad joke of their parents?

Furthermore, there is no single community of speakers that use Esperanto in daily life, I just know some yearly so-called World Congresses where Esperantists use some Esperanto words with each other, just like Trekkies use Klingon words in their Congresses, or LOTR fans use Quenya words. Figures about ‘Esperanto speakers’ – and speakers of Interlingua, Ido, Lingua Franca Nova, Lojban or any other conlang – are unproven (there is no independent, trustworthy research) and numbers are usually given by their supporters using rough and simple numbers and estimations, when not completely invented. Studies have been prepared, explained, financed and directed by national or international associations like the “Universala Esperanto-Asocio”, sometimes through some of its members from different universities, which doesn’t turn those informal studies into “University research”. The answer is not: “let’s learn creationism until evolution is proven”, but the other way round, because the burden of proof is on the least explained reason: If you want people to learn a one-man-made code to substitute their natural languages, then first bring the research and then talk about its proven advantages. Esperantists and other conlangers make the opposite, just like proposers of “altenative” medicines, “alternative” history or “alternative” science, and therefore any outputs are corrupted since its start by their false expectatives, facts being blurred, figures overestimated and findings biased in the best case.

2. But people use it in Skype, Firefox, Facebook,… and there are a lot of Google hits for “Esperanto”. And the Wikipedia in Esperanto has a lot of articles!

So what? The Internet is not the real world. If you look for “herbal medicine”, “creationism” or “penis enlargement”, you’ll find a thousand times more information and websites (“Google hits”) than when looking for serious knowledge, say “surgery”. Likewise, you can find more websites in Esperanto than in Modern Hebrew, but Hebrew has already a strong community of (at least) some millions of third-generation native speakers who use Hebrew in daily life, while Esperanto – which had the broadest potential community – has just some hundreds of fans who play with new technologies, having begun both language projects at the same time back in the 19th century.

Also, is the Wikipedia not a language-popularity contest? A competition between conlangers, like Volapükist vs. Esperantists, Ido-ists against Interlingua-ists, Latinists against Anglo-Saxonists, etc. to see which “community” is able to sleep less and do nothing else than “translate” articles to their most spoken “languages”? How many articles have been written in Esperanto or Volapük, or in Anglo-Saxon or Latin, and how many of them have been consulted thereafter, and by how many people? In fact, Volapük wins now in number of articles, so we should all speak Volapük? No, Esperanto is better than Volapük, of course, because of bla bla…
I guess everyone wins here: Wikipedia has more visitors, more people involved and ready to donate, while those language fans have something more to say when discussing the advantages: hey, we have X million articles in the almighty Wikipedia, while your language has less! Esperanto/Volapük/Ido/… is so cool, we have so many “speakers”! Then, congratulations to all of you Wikipedian conlangers; but, if I were you, I wouldn’t think the real world revolves around the Wikipedia, Google or any other (past or future) website popularity.

3. Esperanto is far easier than what you are suggesting. I am fluent in Esperanto, and I only studied 3 hours! And so did my Esperantist friends!

Do you mean something like saying “me spikas lo esperanto linguo” – with that horrible native accent that only your countrymen understand – and then being able to tell anyone “I speak Esperanto fluently after 3 hours of study”? And then speak about two or three sentences made up of a mix of European words more once a year with your Esperantist friends in an international “Congress”, and then switch to English or to your mother tongue to really explain what you wanted to say? Well then yes, to say “I speak Esperanto fluently” or “I learned Esperanto in 2 days” is really really easy – hey, I’ve just discovered I am a fluent speaker of Esperanto, too! Esperanto is so cool…
But, talking about easiness…Have you conlangers noticed it’s “easy” just for (some) Western Europeans, because those “languages” you are using are made of a mix of the most common and simplest vocabulary of some Western European languages, whereas other speakers think it is as difficult as any Western European language? Do you really really think it is easier than English for a Chinese speaker? I guess good old Mr. Zamenhof didn’t realize that English, French, Latin, Italian, German and Polish wouldn’t be the only international languages today as it was back then in the 19th century, when European countries made up almost the whole international community…
Furthermore, do you really really think that supposed ease of use, which is actually because of the lack of elaborated grammatical and syntactical structures, hasn’t got a compensation in culture, communication and even reasoning?

4. But I’ve been told that Esperanto is successful because it has a (mostly) European vocabulary that makes it easy for Europeans, an agglutinative structure that makes it especially fit for Africans and Asians, and some other features that make it better than every other language for everyone…
I won’t be extending into linguistic details, because those assertions are obviously completely arbitrary and untrustworthy. Not only Esperantism has failed to prove such claims, but also some people have dedicated extensive linguistic studies and thoughts to see if that was right – Esperantism has obtained independent criticism by insiders and outsiders alike, and still they claim the same falsenesses again and again. You have e.g. the thorough article “Learn not to speak Esperanto” which, from a conlanger’s point of view, discusses every supposed advantage of this Polish ophthalmologist’s conlang. Also, it is interesting that some researchers have noted the condition of Esperanto for most speakers as an anti-language, as they use the same grammar and words as the main speech community, but in a different way so that they can only be understood by “insiders”. That can indeed be the key to the perceived advantages of Esperanto by Esperantists of different generations and places, just like anti-social people like slang words to communicate with members of their community and to hide from outsiders, and it is especially interesting in light of the condition of Esperantism as an anti-social movement more than a promotion of a language, representing Esperanto with flags, slogans (“democracy”, “rights”, “freedom”,…), international consultative organizations and congresses…

5. You talk about real cultural neutrality for the European Union; but, since there are several non Indo-European languages inside the EU, Proto-Indo-European does not solve that issue either.

In fact, the European Union is made up of a great majority of Indo-European speakers (more than 97% falling short), and the rest – i.e. Hungarians, Finnish, Maltese, Basque speakers – have a great knowledge (and speaking tradition) of other IE languages of Europe, viz. Latin, French, English, Swedish, Spanish. So, we are proposing to adopt a natural language common to the GREAT majority of the European Union citizens (just like Latin is common to the vast majority of Romance-speaking countries), instead of the current official situation(s) of the EU, like English, or English+French, or English+French+German… To say that Indo-European is not neutral as the European Union’s language, because not all languages spoken in the EU are Indo-European, is a weak argument; to say exactly that, and then to propose English, or English+French, or even a two-day-of-work invention (a vocabulary mix of 4 Western European languages) by a Polish ophthalmologist, that’s a big fallacy.

6. So why are you proposing Indo-European? Why do you bother?

Because we want to. Because we like Europe’s Indo-European and the other Proto-Indo-European dialects, just like people who want to study and speak Latin, Greek, or Sanskrit do it. Have you noticed the difference in culture, tradition, history, vocabulary, etc. between what you are suggesting (artificial one-man-made inventions) and real world historical languages? Hint: that’s why many universities offer courses in or about Latin, Greek, Sanskrit, Proto-Indo-European, etc. while Esperanto is still (after more than a century) another conlanging experiment for those who want to travel abroad once a year to meet other conlang fans.
We propose it because we believe this language could be one practical answer (maybe the only real one) for the communication problems that a unified European Union poses. Because we don’t believe that any “Toki Pona” language invented by one enlightened individual can solve any communication or cultural problem at all in the real world. Because historical, natural languages like Hebrew, or Cornish, or Manx, or Basque, are interesting and valuable for people; whereas “languages” like Esperanto, Interlingua, Ido, Lojban or Klingon aren’t. You cannot change how people think, but you can learn from their interests and customs and behave accordingly: if, knowing how people reacted to Esperanto and Hebrew revival proposals after a century, you decide to keep trying to change people (so that they accept inventions) instead of changing your ideas (so that you accept natural languages), maybe you lack the necessary adaptation, a common essential resource in natural selection, appliable to psychology too.

7. Why don’t you explain this when talking about Proto-Indo-European advantages in the Dnghu Association’s website?

Because if you make a website about science, and you include a reference like: “Why you shouldn’t believe in Islamic creationism?” you are in fact saying Islamic creationism is so important that you have to mention it when talking about science… It’s like creating a website about Internal Medicine, and trying to answer in your FAQ why Homeopathy is not the answer for your problems: it’s just not worth it, if you want to keep a serious appearance. We are not the anti-Esperanto league or something, but the Indo-European Language Association.
Apart from this, proto-languages are indeed difficult to promote as ‘real’ languages, because there is no inscription of them, so they remain ‘hypothetical’, however well they might be reconstructed, like Europe’s Indo-European, or Proto-Germanic – see Five lines of ancient script on a shard of pottery could be the longest proto-Canaanite text for a curious example of a proto-language becoming a natural dead one. For many people, Proto-Basque (for example) seems exactly as hypothetical as Proto-Indo-European, when it indeed isn’t. If we also mixed Esperanto within a serious explanation of our project as a real alternative, that would be another reason for readers to dismiss the project as “another conlanging joke”. No, thanks.

8. Esperanto has its advantages and disadvantages. You just don’t talk from an objective (or “neutral”) point of view: most linguists (of any opinion) are – like Esperantists – biased, so there is no single truth, but opinions.

Yes, indeed. Many Esperantists, as any supporter of pseudosciences, conclude that people might be for or against their theory, and that therefore both positions are equally valid and should be taken with a grain of salt. For this question, I think it’s interesting, for those who think in terms of “equal validity” of their minority views when confronted to what is generally accepted, to take a quick look at Wikipedia’s Neutral Poin of View – equal validity statement, because they’ve had a lot of problems with that issue. To sum up, it says that if you talk about biology, you cannot consequently demand that evolution and creationism be placed as equally valid theories, only because some people (are willing to) assume they are; if you talk about the holocaust, or medicine, you don’t place revisionism or alternative medicines as equally valid theories or sciences: there are academic and scientific criteria that help classify knowledge into scientific and pseudoscientific. Most (if not all) Esperantist claims are at best pseudoscientific, and when they claim real advantages of their conlang, those are just as well (often better) applied to other conlangs or even to any language.

9. Then why do the “Universala Esperanto-Asocio” enjoys consultave relations with both UNESCO and the United Nations? Why is Esperantism described as “democracy”, “education”, “rights”, “emancipation”,… Why do still Esperantists support Esperanto, when it hasn’t got any advantages at all, and they know it?
The only conclusion possible is that Esperantism (and some other fanatic conlangism) is actually a religion, because it’s based on faith alone: faith on believed “easiness”, on believed “neutrality”, on believed “number of speakers”, without any facts, numbers or studies to support it; on the belief that languages can be “better” and “worse” than others. And it’s obviously nonsense to discuss faith and beliefs, as useless as a discussion about Buddha, Muhammad or Jesus. But, trying to disguise those beliefs as facts helps nobody, not even Esperantism, as it can only attract those very people that see creationism and alternative medicines as real alternatives to raw scientifical knowledge. Esperanto is the god, Zamenhof the messiah and the UEA its church.

When a language should be considered artificial – A quick classification of spoken, dead, hypothetical and invented languages

Following Mithridates’ latest post and comment on artificial language compared to revived language, I consider it appropriate to share my point of view on this subject. For me, the schematic classification of languages into “natural” and “artificial” could be made more or less as follows, from ‘most natural’ (1) to ‘most artificial’ (20):

NOTE 1: There are 20 categories, as there could be just 4 (living, dead, reconstructed and invented) or 6, or 15, or a million categories corresponding to one language each, based on thorough statistical studies of vocabulary, grammar, ‘prestige’, etc. Thus, 20 is only the number that appeared after I classified the languages I know in some personal, general and more or less straightforward classes; the concept looked for by this classification is to locate where proto-languages (and especially Modern Indo-European or Europe’s PIE) are if compared to natural languages and “conlangs”. It is also possibly the minimum number to show the interesting difference between categories 9 and 10.

NOTE 2: one may or may not agree on languages given as examples of this or that particular category; however, the general concept behind individual categories is what matters. For the term ‘(international) prestige’ as it is used here, I took in part as reference Dutch sociologist Abram de Swaan’s Global Language System concept.

  1. Spoken languages – with a continuated history of written use and international prestige – own historical vocabulary and grammar enough to communicate everything: English, German, French, Spanish, etc.
  2. Spoken languages – with some (interrupted) history of written use and limited international prestige – enough historical vocabulary to build new necessary terms: Polish, Gaelic, Catalan, Occitan, etc.
  3. Spoken languages – with limited historical written use or international prestige – limited vocabulary, clear need of lexical and grammatical borrowings (from 1 or 2) to speak in all situations: Ukrainian, Basque, Sardinian, Saami, etc.
  4. Spoken languages with no written use at all – many expressions and vocabulary not available; taken if needed from prestigious languages (1 or 2, rarely 3): many native American and African languages, and generally all so-called dialects (like Scots, Asturian or Piedmontese) not written down before the last century.
  5. Dead languages – well attested, with enough history of use and [past] international prestige: Classical Latin, Koine Greek, Classical Sanskrit, etc.
  6. Dead languages – some well attested history of use: Archaic Greek, Vedic Sanskrit, Old English, Old French, Old Church Slavonic, etc.
  7. Dead languages – not well attested – need for some writing decyphering and/or interpretation: Hittite, Avestan, Old Norse, Gothic, Old Prussian, etc.
  8. Dead languages – some writings only – writing decyphering and/or interpretation necessary – partially reconstructed with the help of related languages: Mycenaean, Oscan, Gaulish, Cornish, etc.
  9. Hypothetical languages – no writings available – good archaeological knowledge – well reconstructed thanks to attested dialects and related languages: Proto-Germanic, Proto-Indo-Aryan, Proto-Slavic, Proto-Greek, Europe’s Proto-Indo-European, etc.
  10. Dead languages – some writings only – difficult writing decyphering and/or interpretation – available data not enough for a trustable reconstruction: Lusitanian, Thracian, Etruscan, Iberian, etc.
  11. Hypothetical languages – no writings available – some archaeological knowledge – reconstruction available generally deemed correct by linguists – persistent controversy over reconstructed details: Proto-Celtic, Proto-Italic, Proto-Indo-European (III), etc.
  12. Hypothetical languages – insufficient linguistic and archaeological [data for a trustable] reconstruction of actual language, speakers and/or time span: Proto-Indo-European (II or “Indo-Hittite”), Proto-Uralic, Proto-Turkic, Proto-Semitic, Proto-Dravidian, etc.
  13. Hypothetical languages – no academic consensus over its actual shape, but certainty of existence: Early PIE, Proto-Basque, Proto-Albanian, Proto-Armenian, etc.
  14. Corrected languages – strictly based on spoken or dead languages with ‘improvements’: Latino sine flexione, etc.
  15. Corrected languages – strictly based on hypothetical languages with ‘improvements’: Sambahsa-Mundialect (a modern PIE with an easier verbal and nominal inflection, borrowed [non-translated] IE vocabulary, etc.).
  16. Invented languages – loosely based on a homogeneous group of spoken or dead languages: Germanic IAL (mostly Germanic base), Slovio (based on Slavic languages), Interlingua or Lingua Franca Nova (Romance languages), etc.
  17. Invented languages – based on an arbitrary combination (usually deemed “the best” or “the easiest”) of spoken or dead language features: Volapük, Esperanto or Ido (taking mostly European languages); most modern IAL-oriented “conlangs” fit into this category.
  18. Invented languages – artistic or fictional ones, based on living or dead languages or group of languages, created following subjective impressions like ‘beauty’ or ‘aggressiveness’ of its sounds or grammatical features: Klingon, Quenya, etc.
  19. Invented languages – not based on any known native or hypothetical language, but still human-oriented: philosophical or mathematical languages, Lojban, etc.
  20. Invented languages – not human-oriented.

Some additional comments on the language classes:

A) There is no single “completely artificial” or “completely natural” language. Even “level 1” languages, which develop new terms and syntax mostly from their continuated use (and not from outside), have a need for “artificial” or “imported” terms and sentences: like Spanish “hardware”, “software”, “mouse”, “te llamo de vuelta” (a literal translation of Eng. I call you back), or invented terms like “telefonear”, “televisión”, “ordenador/computador”, etc. Even within terms of Latin origin, innovation is often artificially generalized as the standard: as in Spanish “murciélago”, which was in Old Spanish “murciego” (from Lat. mus-caecus, lit. “blind mouse”, “bat”), extended to “murciégalo”, then metathesized to “murciélago”; now, the Royal Spanish Academy Dictionary (which ‘rules over’ the Spanish ‘normative’ or formal language) states that the innovative murciélago is the formal or correct word; usually parents correct children who say “murciégalo”, and the common use of that word is today generally considered a sign of vulgar speech. That is an example of what language regulation artificially adds to seemingly natural languages, just like Classical Latin or Classical Greek norms did impose artificial (or innovative) terms over traditional (i.e. native or more natural) ones. In fact, language regulation in international languages like English, Spanish or Portuguese makes the formal language still more artificial to its speakers, and innovative trends looking for a more natural language emerge: hence the Brasilian push for its own writing rules (and minority calls for being recognized as a different Galician-Portuguese language, like Galician), or US English, Argentinian and Mexican Spanish dialectal proud, expressed in writing and pronunciation, adopting their own standards of formal speech different from the historical one. And even level 20 languages are ultimately based on human perception, so they are necessarily based on nature, and thus never fully artificial, however artificial they might look like…

B) About the Classification:

  1. Dead languages are considered “less natural” than ‘living’ ones because their testimony is not direct. We know of them (mostly) because of writings, so they cannot be “imitated” when spoken as naturally as when directly heard and learned (and pronunciation and style corrected) by native speakers.
  2. Categories 9 and 10 might be interchangeable, depending on who you ask. For me, it’s obvious that a well-reconstructed language is far ‘better’ in the actual shape and knowledge we have from them than dead languages with some inscriptions nobody is able to read and interpret correctly; in that sense, Proto-Germanic is “more natural” than Etruscan, for example…
  3. Also, “corrected” languages could be classified exactly after their “non-corrected” counterparts; thus, level 6 for Latino sine flexione – Classical Latin without declensions – or level 10-12 por Sambahsa-Mundialect – as a European or Common PIE with a simplified inflection system. I don’t think that could be considered the most rational (general) classification, though, as a “corrected language” should be deemed less natural than any other native language, and just before invented ones – because there are a thousand possible “corrections”, and it’s impossible to say which ones are “few enough” for a language be considered “still natural”: for me, an arbitrarily and individually “corrected” language is after a hypothetical one (reconstructed through linguistic studies), and just before a partially invented one, and a partially invented one before a fully invented one. Indeed, if there were a thousand particular classes instead of only 20 general ones, some corrected languages could and should be considered more natural than others.

C) It’s important to note that, as when we talk about Greek we have to distinguish between Proto-Greek, Mycenaean, Archaic Greek, Classical Greek, Koine Greek, etc., when we (at Dnghu) talk about Proto-Indo-European, we refer to the non-laryngeal, Northwestern or European Proto-Indo-European (ca. 2500-2000 BCE). The Indo-European language time span known to us is as follows:

  1. Indo-European I (also Early PIE, Pre-PIE, Paleo-European, etc.) unknown, mostly hypothesis; evolved into Proto-Indo-European II. [Hypothetical locations proposed for IE Urheimat].
  2. Indo-European II (ca. 4000? BC), reconstructed; evolved into Proto-Indo-European III and Hittite. [Map of Kurgan culture]
  3. Indo-European III (ca. 3000 BC), well reconstructed; evolved into Europe’s Proto-Indo-European, Proto-Indo-Iranian, Proto-Greek and Proto-Armenian (possibly Proto-Graeco-Armenian?). [Archaeological map of Yamna & Maykop Cultures]
  4. Europe’s Proto-Indo-European (ca. 2500-2000 BC); evolved into Proto-Germanic, Proto-Celtic, Proto-Italic, Proto-Baltic and Proto-Slavic, among others. [Archaeological map: expansion of Indo-European peoples]

So, when we talk about “reviving PIE for Europe”, we are talking about reviving European (or Northwestern) Proto-Indo-European, which is easier to reconstruct in its vocabulary and syntax details than the general, common Late PIE. Both are obviously well-reconstructed and quite similar (as Old Italian is quite similar to Latin), but there is often no need to determine the exact phonetic value of this or that general PIE word: we only need its European value, which is logically more straightforward. Thus, in PIE *pHter, it is European (and therefore Modern Indo-European) pater because that’s how laryngeal *H evolved in the Northern dialect, no matter how that laryngeal actually sounded like in the common Proto-Indo-European that was spoken in the steppe (or in Renfrew’s Anatolia) a thousand years earlier, to give an Indo-Iranian pitar

D) Ancient Hebrew probably enters into category 6 (for some maybe 5), and now Modern Hebrew or Israeli fits into category 2 for most people – because there is no continuated language history, and there is (or was) a clear need to borrow “foreign” vocabulary and expressions. That’s similar to what could happen with the European PIE we want to revive, which is in level 9 (or 10), but could be in level 1 if revived – because there is no need for “foreign” vocabulary or expressions to be adapted into PIE, as there are enough Indo-European words and expressions, not only because of the PIE reconstruction, but because of the continuated history of Europe’s Indo-European languages, that allow its modern terms to be ‘translated back’ into PIE… Of course, it could be considered always as a level 2 language, as there will be a need to adapt terms to PIE: like Greek oikonomia to IE woikonomia, etc. BUT, the same need did exist in every Indo-European language, so it’s difficult to classify it (if revived) as 2. Indeed, as Mithridates puts it, both Israeli and MIE could always be considered level 6 and level 9 languages respectively forever, even if they became spoken, but – exactly as it could happen with Esperanto or Ido – once a language is naturally spoken and naturally transmitted from older generations to newer ones – once there is a real generation of native speakers able to twist and shape it, and make it evolve – I think it becomes a more natural one and changes from category; even if we know that its original category was a different one.

NOTE: So, for example, in the history of Italic languages: Proto-Italic (category 12-13), then Old Latin, probably within category 7-8, which became Classical Latin (in category 1 in year 1 AD) nowadays in category 4, and then Romance languages (earlier category 2 or 3, while Classical Latin was still the lingua franca), most of them now within modern categories 1-3.

About the benefits or social need to choose languages from the upper level, more than the lower level ones, if they are available and it’s possible to use them (like European PIE over Esperanto), it is another question I have dealt (and will deal) with in other posts, and which is indeed a matter of personal opinion, like colours. But, to sum it up, it’s not that I or others might prefer it from a rational point of view; the real question is that people – because of their cultural and anthropological backgrounds, not fully known to us – are apparently prepared to accept language revivals – hopefully then proto-language revivals too, in light of Cornish language revival (from category 8 ) – for cultural, social or political purposes, while there has been no real success stories in invented languages, but for some limited groups of enthusiasts who try to continuously overestimate number of speakers, prestige, use, etc.

So, if the objective is to speak a common language in the European Union (and not “to unite the world” or “to speak the easiest language possible” or “to communicate with a lingua franca“, etc.), just like there was a clear objective of speaking a common, unifying language in Israel, maybe the correct answer is to select the most rational common language among those available for us Europeans. We can keep speaking English, or a combination of English-French-German, or any combination of any three EU official languages; but, for me, it’s a common European PIE we can speak as OUR language anywhere in Europe, not just a lingua franca or a combination of them, the best option to be a really united people of Europe.

Esperanto & other invented languages vs. Indo-European for Europe (and IV): Universal Law of Persistence of Error

A recent comment on the post about the so-called Grin Report – which explained the benefits of having one common language for Europe -, gives (unintentionally, I guess) still more reasons to support a natural language like Proto-Indo-European over Esperanto and similar inventions:

Le meilleur est l’ennemi du bien, ‘The best is the enemy of the good’; Ever since Ido tried to ‘improve’ on Esperanto, many other constructed languages have come along, but none has achieved anything near to what Esperanto has accomplished

I agree. No artificial (‘constructed’) language has achieved what Esperanto has, and no conlang is “better” than Esperanto, because “better” in conlangs is indeed enemy of “good”, as it happens partly in social networks, both ‘systems’ (to call the thousand Esperantos something) based on concepts of “popularity ranking” and supposed “number of followers/supporters”: the more popular your system is, the more attention you will be able to attract – no matter how stupid it might be from a logical point of view, it is all a question of ‘relevance’…

In Proto-Indo-European reconstruction, on the other hand, “better” is indeed better than “good”, as a better reconstruction brings the language we want to speak nearer to how it was actually spoken 4.500 years ago by Proto-Indo-Europeans.

The difference between them, to put it easy, is that some of you might say “we are going to call the sun ‘suno’ in Esperanto”, while others could say “we are going to call the sun ‘soleil’ in Ido”, and so on and on, for ever and ever. The sun had only one name (maybe two) in Proto-Indo-European, and most (old) dialects show its derived term; but they might also show derivations from different original variants, or the original form might be still obscure. That’s why we need to improve our knowledge in Indo-European dialects and Proto-Indo-European reconstruction, just in case we need to replace the (now) common PIE reconstructed *sāwel with a different root, say *sōwl, or a source near to Gmc. zero-grade *sulnos, etc., because of a different Vedic Sanskrit or Tocharian attested word… In any case, we are saying “sun” as Proto-Indo-Europeans did, but it might be more correct to use a variant deemed nearer to the original PIE language, instead of what we use today. Therefore, better is better than good; but just good is also all right in PIE reconstruction for a modern Indo-European language of Europe.

I guess one has to undergo some kind of difficult abstraction to understand this, as many Esperantists don’t seem to get the point: maybe they aren’t always opened to stop speaking (or, better, stop defending) their ‘language’, while at the same time trying others to begin learning it. I can understand the Esperantist reticence to dismiss their wrongly-directed past efforts and hopes, but the time and work already wasted learning or supporting Esperanto won’t be recovered. They still have, though, the opportunity to make good use of their time and wish of a common language for Europe in the future: they only have to take the right decision, not taking on account past mistakes.

there are more than 30,000 book titles in Esperanto! And Esperanto has been around for more than 120 years! Most of the other attempts at a constructed language have fallen by the wayside.

I agree too. Every single conlang apart from Esperanto has failed. And I should add Esperanto has obviously failed as an international language, as you cannot seriously call “international” a ‘language’ that is spoken by some dozens of people in an ‘International Esperanto Convention’ once a year… I am sure more people are able to speak ‘languages’ like Sindarin or Klingon in a regional Lord of the Rings or Star Trek convention anywhere in the world, than Esperantists actually do speak Esperanto in their yearly ‘International Conventions’.

Anyway, entering in your “great numbers” argument, if that code called Esperanto was created in some hours by an illuminated ophtalmologist a 120 years ago, I don’t see how it can compete with a natural language like Proto-Indo-European, derived from an older prehistoric language, spoken for centuries, older than the oldest civilizations of Europe, derived into a thousand dialects still spoken today, and which has been studied and its reconstruction improved by expert linguists for more than 200 years.

To compare ‘number of book titles’, please do a quick search with Google and Google Scholar to see how many scientific research papers and books have been written about Proto-Indo-European, and how many centres and universities have professors teaching Proto-Indo-European to thousands of students each year, and then we can compare the same numbers about your inventions – you can even compare it with the whole number of papers and books which deal with all conlangs, not only Esperanto, if you want…

Also, if Esperanto is (in your words) the most successful conlang in history, and if, after 120 years of being such a great success, there are only (supposedly) 30.000 book titles – you can see I accept your inflated numbers, I don’t care anymore about veracity in Esperantist inventions, it would be a total nonsense to drive the discussion to your imaginary world of ‘facts’ about your ‘language’ – and (supposedly) some thousands of speakers in the world – while Proto-Indo-European, whose revival as a spoken language hasn’t been proposed until two years ago, has already more publications and actual speakers, most of them expert linguistis and philologists.

So I don’t get your point on the advantages of learning Esperanto at all: maybe you Esperantists are still working on a ‘language’ that only you Esperantists want to learn to be able to speak with each other only, like some kind of a secret, super-dooper code only you understand – but, indeed, so easy that you cannot expect to speak without being understood by others… If so, maybe it’s time for some of you practical Europeans to get rid of this ‘art’ called conlanging, if your aim is really to speak a common European (or even international) language, and begin thinking about learning and speaking a common, natural language like Proto-Indo-European, that cannot be “substituted” by other ‘language’ inventions, however ‘better’ or ‘easier’ they might be considered by their fans…

A similar fate awaits Indo-European, which, in its attempt to be more “naturalistic,” has actually become more difficult to learn, with its four conjugations of the verb, for example.

First of all, we never said it is easy, as, in fact, Indo-European is far more difficult than Esperanto and other wrongly-called ‘languages’ formed by simple invented rules+vocabulary, you are right – my nephew says “pa” and “ma” when she wants something: English is more difficult than her ‘language’, so should I write my post in it, and create a group to promote it, only because she and other kids think a “ma & pa” language code is enough to be called ‘language’ and to communicate everything they want to others…?

Following your argument, I have to say Indo-European could probably be considered more difficult than other real, natural languages like English or French. However, you miss two very important points, showing you – like many Esperantists which repeat such perennial equivocal arguments until exhaustion – strive to see the project as “just another Esperanto”, thus perpetuating your mistakes and misconceptions about language and peoples, and possibly the mistakes and misconceptions of others who might read your ‘reasons’:

1) There is no such “attempt to be more naturalistic“: Proto-Indo-European was a natural, spoken language, and it evolved into different dialects, which are the ancestors of modern Indo-European languages. We want to revive an old language, not to create a conlang; to put it easy for you again, we want to speak a real language, not to decide how we will call the sun, or how we will say sentences like “excuse me, can you speak Esperanto?”, that is, if we will prefer “escuso mi, cano tu spik Esperanto?” or an ‘easier’ or ‘better’ (?!) “pardoni me, poti ju parlo Esperanto?“, discussing which one of the thousand possible combinations of sounds is “easier”, or “more beautiful”, or “better”, or (to sum up) which one sounds less stupid for the future learner…

2) The fact that one language is considered ‘more difficult’ than other is in no way an obstacle to speak a language: that’s an important point you Esperantists miss the whole time, ever since the creation of your artificial monster. People began to speak Hebrew again – a modern version of the old, death language called Hebrew – because they wanted, even though your Polish idol was already promoting the “easy Esperanto” as the international language of the future at that very time. People throughout the world have said a big NO to seriously speaking absurd inventions like Volapük or Esperanto in the past 120 years because that’s people’s will. And people will decide if and when they want to speak Indo-European, no matter how “easy” or “difficult” it might be for them or for you.

The difference between Esperantists and Indo-Europeanists, I guess, is that you can spend your time learning how the grandmother of most modern languages was (and mother of some Classical languages, like Sanskrit, Latin or Greek), trying to speak nearly as Proto-Indo-Europeans spoke, waiting to see if the Indo-European language revival has success in the European Union – and knowing that, if it doesn’t succeed, you will still be far better of for learning any modern Indo-European language -; or you can get stuck in your wrong ideas about your ‘party’ or ‘group’ being “right” in trying to speak the ‘best language in the world’ or ‘the easiest language‘, learning a mix of grammatical rules + words that one man or a group of people have imagined they can call ‘language’…

But don’t be afraid, these reasons won’t convince most of you Esperantists and ambitious IAL-conlangs searchers; most of you will keep insisting in speaking your successful creations, that’s normal and people will always have a reason to speak Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, Latino sine flexione, and any other ‘historical’ self-made one-minute crap they can find or create: This is a) partly due to Zamenhof‘s sad marketing success in convincing other people to call his creation a “language”, and b) partly due to the fact that people necessarily follow the Universal Law of Persistence of Error, and no matter how absurd their old positions might reveal themselves after some time, there will always be a reason to follow the mistaken idea, because of e.g. ‘history’, ‘tradition’, ‘proud’, ‘group pressure’, etc. or the uttermost direct and voluntary ignorance.

If this Universal Law happened and happens with the latest and best peer-reviewed scientifical papers, and I see it everyday in the newest editions of important books on Biochemistry or Physiology, what can we expect from those who share an extravagant idea – the splendid ‘conlanging aiming to achieve the “perfect IAL”‘ idea – which is for Linguistics, if compared to Medicine, like a bad version of homeopathy…?