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petertalevi on interlinguistics
  In the late '80s and '90s, Diego Marani, associated with the Eurobureaucracy in Brussels, began to publish texts in his newly invented Europanto -- a mixture of English, French, German, and any number of other languages.  Odd though it might look, it was reminiscent of the efforts of Pirro in the middle of the 19th century who thought that an admixture of French and English, the two languages of international communication at that time, might be an adequate interlanguage.  Pirro's scheme faded fast, but the fact that it is emulated even in the present day might indicate that he may have been on the right track.  There are those, moreover, who would argue that the Interlingua of IALA which embraced both English (its Latinate elements) and Romance (prototypical forms of French, Italian, and Spanish/Portuguese), continued in much the same tradition (although in a form much more sophisticated than Pirro's inchoate efforts).  Marani has, in recent years, withdrawn his Europanto from serious consideration as an interlanguage, but the question remains whether he might not have tapped into a rich vein that requires further investigation.  It is ironic, but true, that the first interlanguage (Pirro) was infinitely superior to all the schemes that followed it in the 19th century.

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  For many long years now that has been the acknowledged (if unofficial) slogan of the cult of Zamenhof.  After more than a century of struggling in vain to impose their idiosyncratic grammar upon the world, after years of attacking the Interlingua of the International Auxiliary Language Association, they may finally be on the verge of seeing that their nihilism has had disastrous consequences.  The world decided long ago, by an overwhelming majority, that Esperanto was not welcome here.  Now the cult of Zamenhof seeks to make any interlanguage of whatever sort equally unacceptable.
  What, we may ask, is the motivation behind this destructive tendency?  The Esperantists have in some countries managed to pass themselves off as serious and competent scholars.  There are, in nations that should know better, actually professorships of Esperantology in major universities and the small, inbred group of "intellectuals" who control these chairs and the publishing arms often associated with them receive large stipends from research groups in academia who mistakenly believe that they are funding a legitimate scientific effort. 

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  I roared with laughter the other day when I came across an old news item which mentioned that the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has recently proclaimed Esperanto a language on a par with English, French, or German.  Not that there is anything the least bit funny about such a pronouncement; it is, on the contrary, a pitiful and despicable action which one might expect of the primitive Estonians, the overly tolerant Dutch, the neo-fascists in Berlin, the too-eager-to-please Swedes, or the uncivilized and uneducated in Dafur.  Soon to be followed, no doubt, by the decision to teach Klingon in schools, this act of communal ignorance, sanctioned at the highest levels, unequivocally marks Hungary as a third-world (and third-rate) nation, which has proclaimed Death to English, Death to German, Death to Italian.  It has by this act alone debased the value of Hungary's academic degrees to an immeasurable extent.
   But should we really be surprised?  I think the answer is yes, and, more importantly, we should be alarmed.  If the stone-age Estonians, the tree-dwelling Rwandans, or the ignorant Lithuanians embrace Esperanto, Scientology, Christian Science, Jehovah's Witnessdom, or Klingonology, the world is not surprised.  When we see that Communist-controlled universities in Berlin or Budapest impose any of these ideologies, along with Marxism-Leninism, upon their faculties and students, we find it regrettable and unfortunate, a sad example of what happens to higher education when it is controlled by fascists of the left; but we know that that event was inevitable under communist totalitarianism.  We might have expected, however, after the liberation of those societies that the universities would have thrown off the shackles of ignorance.  Instead, we see no such thing.  The same old hacks who preached the party line (including Esperanto) under the Communists are now retained to continue spewing forth their venom.  Even more ominous is the spread, under the guise of academic freedom, of esperantism into educational circles in nations which years ago knew better.  The craven Dutch, destroyed by an influx of savages from Morocco and elsewhere, have surrended to esperantism.  It appears that Sweden, unable or unwilling to resist, will be the next country to give in.  Hungary is lost. 
    Although the United States is not completely free of this nonsense, it has taken some positive steps in recent years.  At the start of the 1990s the Modern Language Association was ridiculed because it had sponsored at its annual convention, which was held in Chicago in that year, a seminar on Esperanto.  No one showed up for the meeting except for the one scheduled speaker.  When the Chicago press advertised this fiasco, the MLA immediately cancelled all future Esperanto forums and severed its ties to the Reunion of Academic Professors of Esperanto [RAPE] which had sponsored the lecture.  Since that time, there are certain subjects (Klingonology, Esperantology, Scientology and others) which are in most circles, not deemed worthy of academic study.  Perhaps the rest of the world could learn from this example. 

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  In recent years it has been an ongoing complaint of those in charge of the tiny Union Mundial pro Interlingua that the treasury has all but been depleted.  There is apparently no money to fund conferences, publish texts or even to send out promotional mailings.  How did this sad state of affairs come about?  The most convincing explanation is that offered by Esterhill at the site (www.interlingua.org/html/review_of_umi50.htm) who argues that the secretary-general in charge of UMI for more than a decade viciously attacked both the president and the executive director of the Interlingua Institute, calling for their removal from their offices.  At first, Cleij's attacks on Esterhill were made behind Esterhill's back and without his knowledge; later, when he initiated his attacks on Fischbach, Cleij had the temerity to send him a copy of the manifesto calling for his dismissal.  These two individuals, of course, were the sources of some tens of thousands of dollars awarded to UMI for various projects over the course of twenty-five years (or so).  No one on the Interlingua team at New York will even discuss the question now (it is, apparently, still too painful), but it is common knowledge that the last president of the Interlingua Institute publicly called Cleij "that presumptuous little man" and that he referred to Cleij and his ally, Yeager, as 'the fucking bastards" since they were determined to eviscerate the Interlingua Institute. 
  It is now too late, of course, to undo the harm that has already been done, but it would seem that a sense of decency would require that Cleij apologize to both the president and the executive director for his unforgiveable actions of years past.  Since there is no chance whatsoever that any grants would be forthcoming, it is unlikely that such an a apology will ever be offered -- even if decency requires it

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  A trait often deliberately obscured, but clearly discernible nonetheless, is the almost inextricable joining of communism and esperantism.  Two examples came to my attention in recent days.  The first of these is a recent book by the doyen of Esperanto studies in Estonia, Aleksandr Dulichencko.  Published at the end of 2006, this inconsequential tome announces to the world that the author had, just the other day, a conversation with Comrade Lenin during which Comrade Lenin assured Comrade Dulichenko that the final victory of Esperanto will arrive as soon as the world has been subjected to Soviet-style communism.  It appears that Comrade Dulichenko has not yet noticed that some fifteen years ago the Soviet empire collapsed entirely.  He is, sad to say, not alone in his delusions, for it has long been an article of faith in the Esperanto creed that the "final solution" to the language problem will occur only when all other languages have been exterminated.
  The second item that caught my eye in recent days was a study by Frank Nuessel in which he catalogued the several postage stamps that the Bolsheviks issued over the course of a decade to honor Esperanto and Zamenhof.  It is hardly surprising that the Bolsheviks found the none-too-subtle anti-Western and anti-Christian prejudices of Esperanto very congenial to their own tastes.  I do find it surpising, however, that now, at the start of the 21st century, when world communism has been thoroughly discredited, the Esperantists should still try to link their hopeless cause to an ideology which has already been abandoned.  Nuessel has remarked elsewhere that Esperanto should not be viewed solely as a linguistic construct (like Klingon or Glosa) but, even more importantly, as a sect, a cult, a worldview, a religion (even if it is a secular religion) that seeks to control the minds and hearts of its unfortunate devotees.  Why then does this social program try to masquerade as a serious intellectual discipline?  Decency demands that the profiteers who run Esperanto, Inc. issue a very public disclaimer for the benefit of those whom they wish to entrap that the product being offered is utterly without value and a total waste of time.
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  For twelve years (or was it fourteen?) UMI suffered under the secretariate of this "hero of Esperanto" (as he liked to be known) until it was finally able to rid itself of him and appoint some other nonentity in his stead.  Now, at the end of May, some old fools who have not learned their lesson have inaugurated a campaign to send congratulations to Cleij on the occasion of his 80th birthday.  Not surprisingly, one senile old-timer in Sweden was among the first to compose a paean of fulsome praise; but others who might have thought better of the idea have also joined the chorus.  Even Mulaik, cruelly manipulated by Cleij little more than five years ago, has now apparently forgiven his tormentor.  This is not to suggest that forgiveness should be out of the question, but would it not be more seemly if Cleij had first renounced his disastrous esperantistic policies and apologized to those he wronged before he is granted absolution?  Yes, Cleij was unequivocally and sincerely devoted to his vision of a single, united, Esperanto-speaking Europe and he was determined that no one should interfere with his grand designs.  But did that goal (noble in the eyes of the misguided few, imbecilic in the opinion of just about everyone of intelligence) give any one man the right to destroy what little was left of the Union Mundial pro Interlingua? 
  Does it really matter at this point?  As we all know, Interlingua has come to an end -- because of the inept Yeager-Cleij unit that managed UMI for so long, an unpleasant and bitter end. It is quite surprising that there are still those who persist in their delusions -- those who continue to agitate for the extermination of English, Spanish, German, etc. while advocating the adoption of a Klingon, Esperanto, or Loglan.  It would have been better, as the directors of the Interlingua Institute sugggested, to let the whole idea die quietly and rest in peace.

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  There are now several contributions to the topic of interlinguistics in the Italian on-line encyclopedia, Polimetrica, the most recent from China, posted in broken English by an author who is easily the least competent and the worst educated of all the contributors.  It is sadly obvious that the "Communications University of China" (a glorified Berlitz perhaps?) needs to improve its English department so that it can finally learn to interact with the rest of the world.  It would at the same time be well advised to abolish the section that employs Liu Haitao on the grounds of gross incompetence.  On the other hand, it can derive some consolation from the fact that Liu is not all that much worse than some of the other contributors to that encyclopedia on that same subject..
  No serious comment on the subject of interlinguistics by any competent author can fail to cite the 25-year history of the International Auxiliary Language Association; the names of Alice Vanderbilt Morris, Edward Sapir, and Otto Jespersen must rank at the top of the list in this area of research.  How then does the cult of Zamenhof manage to compose a "history" of the subject without acknowledging its origins in what was a 20th century American enterprise? 
  Instead, we read (in a few of the Esperantist essays) of Jules Meysmans, an obscure Belgian stenographer (rightfully forgotten by the modern world) who later in life became a disciple of Edgar de Wahl's Occidental in the 1920s.  These essayists, eager to extol their prophet Zamenhof, fail to mention that Meysmans in his maturity categorically rejected Esperanto, Ido and all of their successor versions.  They try to leave the reader with the impression that Meysmans, who in fact railed against the "chimera of artifical derivation" in those language projects, was somehow sympathetic to the absurdities promulgated by Zamenhof.
  The cult of Zamenhof, nurtured in Communist Russia, has now apparently been exported to Communist China where it will wither on the vine, cultivated only by those dunces who are not able to master English, the preferred language -- in fact the only international language -- of the world today.

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  In the mid-90s the Esperassholes (as they are commonly called) published their unfortunate Prague Manifesto in which they foolishly branded English a "fundamentally anti-democratic" language.  Most people who bothered to read that junk simply dismissed them as fools.  A few people felt sorry for the party hacks (Dalton, Greene, Harlow, Payne and others) who would be called upon to defend this utter bullshit.  It was disconcerting, therefore, to see that the Yeager-Cleij unit which managed the Union Mundial pro Interlingua at that time wholeheartedly endorsed this indefensible and absurd proposition.  In addition, the Scandinavians lobbed salvos against the English language in their publications, parroting almost word for word the idiocies of the cult of Zamenhof which had some years earlier already labelled English "the enemy language".  The entire world, insofar as it considered this trivial manifesto at all, looked upon it as indicative of the intellectual void into which the Esperantists had fallen.  Outside of the Church of Zamenhof, only the leaders of UMI had been duped by this propaganda.
  The Interlingua team at New York was said to be justifiably furious.  With the publication of the UMI website the anti-English ideology of the Esperantists became the official position of the Interlinguists as well.  Matters deteriorated to the point where Cleij, the secretary general of UMI, who was, it seems, fluent in Volapuk, Esperanto, and Klingon, rejected as unreadable the letters of the president and executive director of the Interlingua Institute because they had been written in English.  At that point, the US directors of Interlingua had no choice but to dissociate themselves entirely from UMI. 
  Today Interlingua no longer has any international conferences; its publications are disappearing rapidly; its membership (never more than a thousand by most estimates) has dwindled; and it has no significant presence outside of the minor Scandinavian nations.  The Interlinguists failed to learn from the errors of the Esperantists who sought in vain to displace English in the modern world, and now Interlingua like Esperanto before it has all but vanished.  In the modern world, English is the second language of every nation on the face of the earth (except in those where it is the first).  Never before in the history of mankind has such a phenomenon been observed.  Even Latin, once the universal idiom of western and central Europe, was never divulgated so widely.  It is not clear why UMI set its sights on self-destruction, but, on a more optimistic note, it should be emphasized that the publication of Interlingua in the middle of the 20th century demonstrated unequivocally that the common (Latinate) linguistic heritage of Europe could be retrieved without the artificial mutilations of the 19th-century inventions of Schleyer and Zamenhof.  In that sense, it could be said that Interlingua  (unlike its predecessors) was, for a brief while, a success.
Sunday after Easter

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  I wonder whether Interlingua in particular and interlanguages in general might have been spared the awful fate they have now met if the hierarchies of the various interlanguages had been more in tume with the modern world.  It is no secret that the vast majority of those who control the various systems are superannuated, if not completely senile.  Some will argue that the subject has had its day, that it was an idea whose time has come and gone; others will stress the incompetence of the leaders who presided over the present dismal state of affairs, suggesting that a leadership more attuned to present-day realities could have avoided disasters such as the dissolution of the Interlingua Institute and the withdrawal of the Morris family from the field after three-quarters of a century of involvement.  Up to this point observers have tended to fault the practitioners for their manifold failings.  It is, for example, an open secret that the Union Mundial pro Interlingua, after approximately 1995, fell to pieces under extremely inept management.  The question must be asked, however, whether any team, however competent, could have salvaged a situation that was, to all appearances, utterly hopeless.
  I will assume in these postings that the readers of this blog are familiar with the names of the most important figures in the field.  It goes without saying that we can dismiss without comment any present-day adherents of the absurd creations of Pirro, Sudre, Schleyer, and a host of others.  As for the Esperantists, there is no need to identify them since they have already documented, often in excruciating detail, the author of every single laundry-list ever produced in that tongue.  We may as well dismiss the few adherents of Esperantido ("Son of Esperanto") as well as the few disciples of de Wahl who still exist since both of those groups are endangered species.  In the case of IALA and its Interlingua, the best guides are those by Julia S. Falk and Frank Esterhill (the latter on the original website of the Interlingua Institute, www.interlingua.org).
  Of course, we will have occasion to note that the Interlinguists today are a dwindling breed, so that it is hardly necessary to catalog the few who are left.  It is difficult, if not impossible, to assign meaningful numbers to any of these groups.  The assertion (often seen in print) that Schleyer's followers ever numbered in the millions is patently absurd.  Likewise, when we see an Esperanto estimate of 5 billion speakers within Holland, we may discount the number.  It was suggested some time ago that all Esperanto estimates should be divided by at least 100,000 in order to reach a truer value.  In this area the smaller the estimate, the more likely that is has some validity.  On the bright side of things, there are so few individuals interested in the subject today that it is relatively easy to keep track of them.
Easter Monday, 2007

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  A few words about me and this blog. For many years I have been interested in the subject of interlinguistics, but I was always more intrigued by the potential than the actual manifestation. Let me explain. It was evident at first glance that the multitude of constructed languages had worsened, not improved, the real problem of communication across borders and across language barriers. I was never able to take the subject seriously in spite of the fact that some well-respected linguists (Edward Sapir, for example) had argued early in the 20th century that such an ideal linguistic construct could and should be developed to resolve the problems inherent in international communication. In reality, however, I was exposed to the idiocies of the language creationists ("We seek a unique idiom for every person on earth!"), the absurd success of an invented tongue purportedly spoken on another planet (Klingon), and the endless, boring, repetitious credo of the brain-dead Esperantists ("Our prophet Zamenhof has decreed ex cathedra that this is the way it must be forever and ever. Amen.")
  Then, several years ago I began to study the Interlingua of the International Auxiliary Language Association. From the outset I was impressed by the professionalism that so obviously underlay the project. In stark contrast to the many fanciful idioms which sought to function as auxiliary languages, the Interlingua of IALA was a serious undertaking based in reality. Then I was disappointed to see, just as I was coming to embrace the subject, that the principal Interlingua organization had been dissolved at the turn of this century.
  Undeterred, I pursued the subject further. Since I live in Brooklyn, I enjoyed access to the amazing collection of archival documents housed in the New York Public Library. Additionally, as an independent scholar, I was fortunate to be able to interview several experts on the subject, including the last Executive Director of the Interlingua Institute. As a result, I have been able to write the history of that period in interlinguistics, and I am publishing this blog in order to share it with my readers.
April 6, 2007

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