Language Design


On the weekend I enjoyed reading a nice rant against Esperanto. Most of his points are well taken—although I still rather be learning Esperanto than Dutch.

It would be fun to construct a language. I would begin by selecting the largest set of phonemes that many people can easily pronounce and many people can easily distinguish—so only one of r and l. Each phoneme should include a wide range of sounds to make them easy to pronounce. Also I would want it to be easy for a computer to pronounce and hear different phonemes.

Then I would map these phonemes to a clear and unambiguous strings of latin characters. A computer should be able to make transcriptions of phonemes, and read strings of phonemes.

Next I would construct a grammar system and words. I want a grammar that a computer can easily parse unambiguously. To construct words I would want to find phoneme pairs that sound nice when put together. I would aim for a Huffman style compression of words, like what was done for letters in Moorse code. I still think it would be nice to use phonemes or phoneme groups to mark parts of speech.

There are language features I want, or rather don’t want. First, get rid of gendered pronouns. Use gender modifiers if you want to talk about the gender of something. Second, get rid of indefinite articles. Third, get rid of plurals. Fourth, is it possible to get rid of prepositions? I hate prepositions. Maybe we can just have more verbs instead.

While I am at it I might as well try some Orwellian tactics and remove possessives.

Then there are little personal things that I would like to see in the language. Day names should return to their astronomical roots: moonday, marsday, mercuryday, jupiterday, venusday, saturnday, sunday. I wonder if it would be workable for numbers count a unitless quantity and then use transliterations of SI prefixes? So 100 would be one hectounit, and 123 would be point-one-two-three kilounit. Hues would be formed from the two primary pairs of opposite hues: red and green, and yellow and blue. Orange would be red-yellow.

There are two ways to have a new standard become adopted. One way is for it to be 10 times better than an existing standard. The other way is for it to fill a hole. This language’s key to adoption would be by filling the hole of a computer parsable language. I am not suggesting that a computer would understand the language, but rather it could parse a sentence, spoken or written, into its parts of speech.

Anyhow, I would really need the cooperation of many people, and I really need a geeky linguist. Where is a linguist when you need one?


Russell O’Connor: contact me