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Thousand Suns — Designer Notes — The Battle of the Fake Languages

August 23, 2007

Bofo just reminded me of the existence of Interlingua, another constructed language that was, for a long time, much favored by proponents of such things, largely due to its more intuitive grammar and broader vocabulary base, which drew not merely from Romance languages but also from other Indo-European tongues, as well as other world languages. It’s a little bit more “international” than Esperanto and its invention is contemporaneous with the Golden Age of SF, which is intriguing.

So now I’m torn. Which way to go? I know Esperanto better, having studied it in my eccentric youth, so it’d be easier to use for this purpose. On the other hand, Interlingua has a neo-Latin quality to it that appeals to my Romanophilia. As I said, I’m torn.

Just for comparison, take a look at the difference:

The first interstellar expedition in Thousand Suns was aboard a ship currently called the Vojaĝanto in my draft. That’s Esperanto for “Voyager.” In Interlingua, it’d be the Viagiator. Likewise, the title “Sir” for a knight is Sinjoro in Esperanto, but just Sir in Interlingua. I have to admit, I prefer the look and sound of Interlingua, but Esperanto is more “traditional,” if you will and, as several people have pointed out, has a long and hallowed association with classic SF.

What to do, what to do?

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 23, 2007 6:59 pm

    Sorry, but I really don’t see your dilemma between Interlingua and Esperanto! Where one language has perhaps a score or so of active fluent speakers, the other has thousands, if not millions, of speakers (and even now some native-speakers) what is there to hesitate about?

    One is easier to understand passively, the other to use actively. One has a limited amount of literature available, the other has vast amounts in many areas. One can be listened to via daily radio broadcasts from several countries, the other (as far as I am aware) has zilch/nada/nichts/rien. One confines its wordstock exclusively to the Romance languages, the other bases its wordstock on ‘maximum internationality’. One of them just had its 92nd annual World Congress in Yokohama, and attracted 1900 participants from 57 different countries – and the other?

    It all seems to depend on whether your romanophilia extends to including such a fascinating Romance language as Romanian (which has words of Turkish, Greek, Slavic & Germanic origin amongst others). Could you tolerate that? I made my decision for Esperanto 57 years ago, and have never regretted my choice.

    And as to ‘fake’ languages – 95.5% of the wordstock of Esperanto is from existing ethnic languages, so it’s hardly fake (like Klingon).

  2. James Maliszewski permalink
    August 25, 2007 9:45 am

    To clarify: my only interest in Esperanto for use in the game is as an easy to use “stand-in” for a fictitious futuristic human amalgam language, much in the way that someone might use Latin to stand in for a fictitious dead language in an imaginary fantasy world.

    Of course, many SF writers from the Golden Age looked to Esperanto and used it in a more direct way than I intend to do, so that was an added bonus. When someone pointed out that Interlingua enjoyed a similar relationship to Golden Age SF, I was intrigued by it, since I have no personal experience with it.

    In any case, I will likely use Esperanto primarily due to my own familiarity with it, but, as I said, it’ll be a “stand-in,” a bit of poetic license in a RPG since I don’t have the time or inclination to construct a new language just for this rather limited purpose. I don’t intend the game to promote the use of any auxiliary language either. That’s not my purpose at all. So, while I appreciate your fervor for Esperanto, my decision ultimately isn’t a judgment on the merits of one constructed language over another so much as one based on “feel” and how easily I can use a language for a limited dramatic purpose.

    Thanks for taking the time to comment. We always appreciate feedback.

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