September 2016
Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30  
Notifications
Dictionaries

Dictionary
 
Thesaurus
 
goo Dictionary


Counter

Japanese as International Language

May 04, 2005

I think that Japanese would make a good International language
1) Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Vietnamese intelligentsia can read the Sino-Japanese "Kanji" characters and almost make sense of Japanese newspapers.
2) Chinese (in its various forms, sharing the same script) is used by more people than any other language.  The large number of varities of spoken Chinese, and the existances of tones do not make it very suitable as an international language but, Japanese is an easy language for one in five of the world's population that use Kanji (this according to Chinese Japanophones that I have spoken to inJapan) .
3) Japanese is particularly easy to pronounce requiring no tones nor guttural nor dental fricative consonants.
4) The Chinese part of the language is agglutinative and built of only about 2000 bricks. The learning curve is steep while you are still learning these kanji, and then shallow once you have learned them, as opposed to endlessly medium-steep in the case of English.
5) There are few irregular verbs or irregular forms of any sort.
6) There is less of a connection between correct Japanese and wealth, and arguably, colonialism. The colonialism period of Japan was shorter, less genocidal, more localised, and far less persistent than that of the speakers of the current international language of favour.
7) Japanese word order is flexible, relying on suffixes to indicate subject object and case.
8) There are fewer tenses than in English
9) There is no gender.
10) There are no relative pronouns so that adjectival clauses can modify nouns directly, without the need for a relative  
English word order "I want a tool for hitting in nails"
Japanese word order "I want nail hitting tool"
English Word order "This is the place which she bought."
Japanese word order "This is she bought place."

The ease with which one can make adjectival clause is very convenient for learners who often lack vocabulary and have to rely on adjectival clauses to say what they mean.

11) There is a standard form of the language (compare English in which there are competing international standards)
12) Japanese is backed by the world's second largest economy.
13) Japanese is the third most popular language on the Internet, after English and Chinese.
14) Japanese is related to a particularly tolerant religion (Shinto) and popular religious philosophy (Buddhism, particularly Zen)
15) While Japanese has taken a lot of loan words post war, it is in its form and structure less of a bastard than English which is popular among Europeans precisely because it is a mixture -- making it more difficult to learn from anyone outside of that clique.
16) There is and will continue to be a large monolingual nation to perpetuate Japanese. About 14% of the US population speak spanish and about half of these have limited Spanish proficiency.
17) There is plenty of Japanese literature, including the earliest novel and some of the first written mythology.
18) There is a lot of learner Japanese in the form of Manga and Anime.
19) The Kanji are made up of only 200 smaller parts. The Japanese take ages over learning them but if one goes about it in a rational way then it only takes a couple of years.
20) There are no definite and indefinite articles that with bizarre rules: Even among gnative English speakers there are differences. American would be inclined to say "Have you ever spent a night in the hospital" giving hospital a definite article, while the British give definite articles to bars.
21) Japanese spelling is entirely (with a few exceptions like "ha" and "desu") phonetic and regular while "ghoti" might be pronounced as fish (gghh as in cough, goh as in women, and gtih as in station)
22) Japanese travel, and spend a lot while travelling meaning that Japanese language ability is a valuable skill in the large Japanese and Japan related travel and tourism industry.
23) Japan is a safe place, and opportunities for learning Japanese in Japan are immense.
24) Partly due to the fact that English is such an irregular language, the Japanese have to spend trillions of yen learning it. These trillions could be put to a better use encouraging the spread of Japanese.
25) If the French can encourage the use of French as an international language, the Japanese with their much larger economy can too.
26) The Japanese are shy and linguistically challenged (it is not only foreign languages that cause them to get nervous, but even their own) so they find it more difficult learning foreign languages then we do.
27) The US is in debt up to eyeballs to the Japanese, and increasingly so due to the trade deficit, so there should be a shift in economic power in this direction sometime soon.
28) With the advent of computers, writing the Japanese script has become no more difficult than writing English, with the proviso that the writer must be able to read.
29) Japanese is more compact than English, taking up less space on the page.
30) Being a pictorial language, once mastered, Japanese is faster to read than English since one has less need of going via phonemes.
31) Japanese is more visually attractive than English, although perhaps the more limited phonic range means that Japanese is less attractive than English aurally.
32) Nonetheless, Japanese popular music is very popular, especially in Asia.
33) Most Japanese nouns to not require plurals. If there are two books then you just say there are "two book".
34) For demographic reason Japan will soon have to accept large numbers of migrant labourers who will have to learn Japanese.
35) There are no comparatives or superlatives; one just says that things are gmore redh, or gmost redh without having to modify the adjective.

Edited to remove some of the more obvious mistakes pointed out by kind readers on 24th March 2007

Posted by timtak at May 4, 2005 12:41 AM
Comments

As international languages, both English and Japanese suffer from the same inherent problem - they are both ethnic languages. Their native-speakers are thus given a totally unfair advantage in international contacts. Surely it is time for a truly democratic solution, using a NON-ethnic, planned language - a language which everyone (no exceptions) should learn as a common second language? One shows goodwill by being prepared to meet others halfway on neutral ground. Such a language already exists. It is called Esperanto and is already in use around the world, including in Japan and China - info in 62 languages at
http://www.esperanto.net and
http://www.esperanto.se/dok/praguemanifesto.html
Radio China International broadcasts in Esperanto every day:
http://esperanto.cri.com.cn/

Brian
Vancouver, BC
http://esperanto.memlink.ca

Posted by: Brian at August 18, 2005 07:14 AM

Thank you for your comment.

I agree with you Brian in that there are inherent problems with ethnic languages.

At the same time there are drawbacks.

1) No one country or group of countries will be motivated to spread that language. It remains to be seen whether goodwill prove a match for self interest.

2) I have only perused Esperanto but it seems to me to have been based on European languages. In that way, it shares the sort of ethnicity - a pan European ethnicity - that enabled Latin and then English to gain popularity. That advantage ends however at the Himalayas. To East Asians, Esperanto is a languages based upon a foriegn language family. It claims to be a neutral language, but it is not.

2.1) There is a definate article! The definate article is one of the most difficult gramattical concepts to teach in Japan where there is nothing of its ilk.

2.2) It uses prepositions as opposed to postpositions thus alienating 120 million Japanese (not to mention Turks, Fins, and Koreans)

2.3) Esperanto uses "foriegn (non esperanto) words from 'majority of languages'" which means from a majority of European languages. This is NOT neutral, although so many Westerners like to think it is.

2.4) Even in the non-foreign, Esperanto words clearly have a lot in common with European languages. Taking a couple of examples from the esperato introduction page

English: He treated me like a prince
Esperanto: Li traktis min kiel princon
Japanese: Kare wa watashi ga oujisama dearu ka no youni atsukatta.

English: The fire is burning
Esperanto: La fajro brulas
French: Le feu brûle
Japanese: Hi wa moete iru.

From these and other examples, it seems clear that "Esperanto is neutral" is either a joke, or very Euro-central.

With a minimal knowlege of French and Italian, it seems clear to me that Esperanto is another European mish-mash (like English). It is neutral in the sense that it is equally easy for French, German, Italian, and English speakers to learn. Being piggy in the middle does make Esperanto more attractive, just as it made English (a natural mish-mash of European languages) more attractive to the invaders of North America, which is probably a main reason why English remains popular to this day.

Admittedly Esperanto is more neutral than English, but it is not neutral enough to attract speakers of Japanese. For the reasons outlined above I think that Japanese offers a similar amount of neutrality to the more populace group: East Asians.

I look forward to the time when there is a truly neutral language that
1) Omits the definate article
2) Allows both post and pre positions
3) Uses both phonetic and graphic scripts (Solresol goes some way in that direction since it can be hand signed.)
4) Does not use plurals. Japanese does without them.
5) Does not use Latin or the European "majority" as the base of its lexicon. (Again Solresol is preferable in that respect)

Tim
Timothy Takemoto
Yamaguchi, Japan

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 18, 2005 08:25 AM

Upon reflection, I think that neutrality is quite unachievable, or even metaphysical (bosh). But at least, a created language should aim to be mixture of the economically powerful languages, and thus a successful common denominator. At its inception Esperanto probably was close to being a common denominator for Western nations. Today, Esperanto is not representing languages that make up a large part of the global GDP, particularly Japanese and Chinese.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 18, 2005 08:31 AM

Thank you for taking the time to comment. I realize that English is not your native language. You have a good command of it, but have proved the point that an ethnic language is not suitable as an inter-ethnic commmunication tool by making several errors. (You may contact me privately for details, if you wish).
I'll try to be brief in my reply;
Your point #1: Esperanto belongs to no one, or to all of us. It is an advantage, not a disadvantage, that it not supported by any one power bloc.
#2 There are over 6000 languages in the world. You seem to be saying that the vocabulary of a constructed language should somehow be divided up between them all to be fair. Is this so? The words in Esperanto were chosen largely on the basis of "maximum internationality" in 1887. Things have changed since then, and Esperanto has developed accordingly. If you understand German, there is a discussion on Asiatic words now used in Esperanto here:
http://esperantic.org/librejo/dbstudoj/27_KRAUSE.htm
How many words will it take to satisfy you?
And what about the grammar and word-building of Esperanto? They are definitely not Indo-European, although they may superficially appear so. And the fact remains, that a regular planned language (without exceptions) is easier for everybody (including Asiatics) than any ethnic language is, but admittedly may take less time for Europeans to learn. (I have met several excellent Japanese speakers of Esperanto; and also Japanese graduate students of English barely able to order a cup of coffee here).
Perhaps the solution to implementing a worldwide common second language is to proceed by stages. Firstly, on a regional basis. I can't believe agreement would ever be reached on this though. And meanwhile Esperanto continues to function around the world. If you don't wish to learn and use it, that is your loss, not mine. I have used it now for 55 years - it led me into a career in languages, and in fact changed my life.
Watakushi wa nihon-go-o benkyo shimashita - many, many years ago, but I've forgotten it all! Arigato gozaimashita. I'm sorry that you seem to have become willy-nilly a victim of our Anglo-American policy of linguistic neo-colonialism. Have you read Robert Phillipson's "Linguistic Imperialism" by the way?
http://www.oup.co.uk/isbn/0-19-437146-8

Awaiting your response!
Amike salutas via
Brian
Vancouver, BC
http://esperanto.memlink.ca
Esperanto in Japan: http://www.jei.or.jp/

Posted by: Brian at August 18, 2005 09:25 AM

Dear Brian,

Thank you again for your comment.

While I am sure you are right about the mistakes in my English, I am afraid you are mistaken about my ethnicity; I am a native speaker of British English.

I agreed with you that there are advantages to a non-ethnic language (a point that you make again). I pointed out, however, that there are also advantages to ethnic languages, in that the ethnicity to which that language belongs is likely to have self-serving reasons (at the very least in the short term) for promoting the use of that language. Do you deny this advantage of ethnic languages?

If you do, then I think you will be contradicting yourself, or at the very least contradicting a fair appraisal of the limited success of Esperanto hithertoo.

You indeed hint that it is an ethnic aspect of Esperanto which has been to its advantage when you mention a standard of gmaximum internationality,h and refer to a discussion of Asian words in use in Esperanto.

Fortunately this essay has an English abstract. The gmaximum internationalityh and the extent of the use of gAsiatich languages is summarized well:

"Nearly all Esperanto morphemes are derived from Indo-European languages, primarily Romance (75%), Germanic (20%) and Slavic (5%). Borrowing of lexemes from Asian or African languages has rarely occurred...[snip].. Large Asian Esperanto dictionaries already contain many such words, which are categorized and systematized in the present German-language article."

I have not counted the number of gAsiach words gcategorizedh but from the brevity of the article it is clear that the gmany such wordsh of Asian origin contained in some "large dictionaries" number far less than one hundred.

The existence of this lexical spec within Esperanto cannot be said to be demonstrative of its neutrality.

It is precisely from consideration of the issues raised by Phillipson that I feel it would be to the Japanese loss for them to embark on efforts to learn this Western language.

I am not against the objectives of a planned international language as you will see from my previous post. I merely suggest that the international community needs to try harder to achieve gmaximum internationality,h since a language which is "derived from Indo-European" cannot be said to be international.

As a criterion for which languages are used in the mix, I suggested economic power. I presume that this is the criterion used by those that deemed Esperanto to be 'maximally international'! Of course there are other considerations, and some of these I treat in my article above.

I agree that a regional approach might work well. English seems to be the language of choice among Europeans. I suggest that Japanese is a good choice for Asians.

While a planned language may have a utopian appeal, my guess is that it will be a mish-mash of natural languages (like English) that eventually prevail. So perhaps when English and Japanese are mixed to a greater extent at some distant point in the future.

Timothy Takemoto

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 18, 2005 11:14 AM

Tim:

Thanks again for the response.

I'm sorry for impugning your ethnicity - I did so on the basis of several spelling mistakes such as one would not normally expect from a university-level native-speaker ('indefinate' being one of them).

Our ideas of what constitutes 'neutrality' are obviously different. Esperanto is plainly politically, economically and ethnicly neutral, whereas ethnic languages are not and cannot be. Agreed the lexicon is primarily Indo-European, but then since 50% (?) of the world speaks an IE language, it seems to be the logical source. And ethnically-specific lexemes are constantly being added, as the need arises. What you seem to mean by neutrality is a quota of words from many different languages, but however would this be worked out? Would you include for example Armenian, Manx?
Again - I see being ethnic-bound as a distinct DISadvantage in a planned language, unlike yourself.

I think you may have also misunderstood 'maximum internationality'. It means that those roots which appeared in most of the large (IE, and sometimes also other!) languages were used in Esperanto. Since in 1887 most scientific knowledge was western-based, there was no discussion about this. Zamenhof produced only the bare bones - the language has developed greatly since then, as new latencies are discovered in it. As you know, language ecology can change very quickly, and things might be done differently (but not much) if Esperanto2 were to be initiated today. What sort of Japanese words did you have in mind to include, the 'salaryman'-type?

I pity any Japanese who has to learn English nowadays. Surely it is not rational to spend 10 years on any language, when an easier alternative is (theoretically) available, takes 1/10th that time, and could be implemented with some goodwill? (On my bookshelf I have a copy of the PROCEED Jap-Eng Dictionary - all 1631 pages of it! If faced with learning that, I'd probably prefer hara kiri). Think of the cost-benefit ratio for all now involved in learning English world-wide!

Can I also take it that you do NOT agree with Prof. TSUDA Yukio's views: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yukio_Tsuda
(Unfortunately the link to his Hegemony of English does not seem to be working).

Sorry - but I have to break off here, have been called away.
Brian
http://esperanto.memlink.ca

Posted by: Brian at August 18, 2005 01:35 PM

Dear Brian,

No worries, my ethnicity was not impunged. I presume you presumed that I am Japanese. I would not mind being Japanese....

To the 50% (?) percent of the world that does not speak an IE language, it may not seem to be a logical source.

As I have mentioned in my past two posts, I recommend that economics be taken into consideration when deciding which lexicon to use. I have NOT recommend using thousands of languages, or Armenian or Manx.

Based on the CIA world fact book, using 2004 figures, the GDP of the top 20 nations makes up about 98% world GDP. Of these

World $55
European language Users $37
English Users $15
Kanji Users $13
(Units 10 to the 9, old UK billions)

In order for there to be a successful interlanguage I think that it would profitably use at least one third to one half of the structure and lexicon be derived from the Kanji-users group.

You write: "I think you may have also misunderstood 'maximum internationality'. It means that those roots which appeared in most of the large languages were used in Esperanto."

I understand the facts of the constitution of the Esperanto language. I understand the etymological basis of the word "internationality." I did not understand your use,I would say misuse, of the world internationality. I suggest that your use of this word, and the use of the word "large" in the above context, is strikingly, nay, shockingly Euro-centric. How do does this use of ginternationality,h to mean geuropeanalityh roll off your tongue? What makes you say that most of the large languages were used? Large!

Setting the bounds of the corpus as delineated by something you call "science," again suggests a gravely worrying Euro-centrism that Japanese and Chinese readers will not miss. What of writings on Chinese medicine? What of Chinese and Japanese writings on the nature of the world? Are these science? Are these included in the Esperanto corpus? Is Japanese a gsmallh language spoken by gsalary menh perhaps? Oh!

Yes, I would include the Japanese spoken by the "salary man" were I to design an interlanguage.

Your implied comparison between (and valuation of) European 'science' and the speech of Japanese salary men, again causes me to recall the sort of valuations that has encouraged the spread of English.

The teachers of European languages in Asian believed that the people they were teaching needed to be "civilised."

As you point out, these same eunwashed,f uncivilised people have had enough. They would rather commit hari-kiri. They can barely order coffee in English. And then you offer them what? A 99% European language? Eurified English? Esperantenglish? Ah! My jaw drops. The Europeans are back!

I beg that those in favour of an international language go back to the drawing board.

I take the liberty of drawing your attention to my five points above:

I look forward to the time when there is a truly neutral interlanguage that
1) Omits the definite article (and indeed the indefinite article)
2) Allows both post and pre positions
3) Uses both phonetic and graphic scripts (Solresol goes some way in that direction since it can be hand signed.)
4) Does not use plurals. Japanese does without them.
5) Does not use Latin or the European "majority" as the base of its lexicon. (Again Solresol is preferable in that respect)

I am not in favour of linguistic pluralism. I think that an interlanguage is feasible. But I do not think that the Euro-dominated Esperanto comes anywhere close to being neutral. Are there any moves to create a neutral interlanguage?

In the meantime I hope that Japan promotes the use of Japanese in Asia.

Timothy

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 18, 2005 03:10 PM

I'd like to add a few comments if I could.

This question of the European-ness of Esperanto is one that I have put several times to various Chinese, Japanese and Korean -- "Do you accept that Esperanto is a perfectly neutral, international language?" -- and there are usually two answers, paraphrased below:
(1) "Perfect? No. The best there is? Definitely."
(2) "What else do you suggest? That we learn English? That you learn Korean/Japanese/Chinese? Yeah, let's try and be realistic, shall we?"

I would also add that understanding the Esperanto spoken by an Asian speaker has almost invariably proved to be much less taxing that understanding their English. (And I have some experience of both: two years teaching English in Thailand, another 18 months doing the same to many Asian students in the UK; and numerous conversations with Asian Esperanto speakers at a variety of events, most recently the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto in Vilnius, Lithuania last month).

I'd recommend Claude Piron's article "Esperanto, A Western Language?" He's a former translator at the UN (Chinese-French translation, amongst others), psychologist and has a very detailed knowledge of Esperanto.
http://www.geocities.com/c_piron/westernlanguage.html

Posted by: Tim Morley at August 19, 2005 12:47 AM

Dear Tim

Taking the Claude Piron essay first, I hesitate to point out that he appears to be an Esperantist. I am starting to get the feeling that those involved in Esperanto have a certain involvement in this language that seems to go beyond academic interest.

Perhaps the same could be said of my involvement in Japanese...I am not sure. Perhaps I am a Japanese-ist?

I read the article and found it particularly lacking in persuasive power with regard to the similarities that were espoused between Esperanto and Chinese. These similarities started and stopped (IMHO) with reference to regularities in Chinese, which might surprise the English or romance language reader (such as the way in which i and mine are linked, or one and first are linked in both Esperanto and Chinese).

So Esperanto does not have the defects of other European languages, but this alone does not seem sufficient to argue (even slight) neutrality, bearing in mind the far-reaching and systematic similarities that Esperanto has with the languages upon which it was based.

Turning to your first point regarding the opinions of East Asian Esperantists...

My article above is about the advantages of Japanese over English. As far as I am aware only a very small number of people learn Esperanto as compared with English, so I did not consider it to be a competitor. If my students learn English then they are more likely to be able to get a job, promotion, and be gain acceptance to graduate school. Esperanto is not an option in these regards, lacking as it does real world opportunities for use in the way that learning English, Chinese or Korean would provide. If I suggested learning Esperanto to my students faced as they are with the real world incentives for learning other languages they would probably say (your 2) "Get real!"

But I agree that as a planned language Esperanto should, and does of course provide a greater degree of neutrality than any ethnic language. It would be difficult to imagine how this would not be the case. Could a planned language be less neutral than an ethnic one? I think not.

All the same, the neutrality of Esperanto seems so radically skewed towards European languages (see the points I make above) that its increased neutrality do not outweigh the disadvantages inherent in a planned language
1) That there is a lack of concentrated body of people that speak it.
2) Absolute numbers of people that speak it are lower.
3) Consequent to (1) and (2), the economic incentives for speaking it are far lower.
4) (As mentioned above) There is no ethnic group which actively and financially supports its use.

In order to overcome these inherent shortcomings of a planned language, such a language need maximise the merits of a planned language to the full. And Esperanto does not seemed to have achieved this.

Is there any work going on to produce a more neutral interlanguage?

To those interested in a non-Esperantist discussion of the merits of Esperanto I recommend the wikipedia article:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Esperanto_as_an_international_language

And to those interested in a more partisan, anti-Esperantist viewpoint, the following article was illuminating:
http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ranto/

While I am more interested in the comparison between Japanese and English, the discussion of Esperanto in illuminating in that it points to the requirements of an international language.

Timothy

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 19, 2005 03:10 AM

Hi there Timothy, and thanks for your reply to my comments. To take your points in the order they appear:

-- Claude Piron is indeed an Esperantist (he learnt the language as a schoolboy) but you say that as if it's a handicap in giving an opinion on the language. If you mean that some Esperantists go over the top with wild exaggerations in their attempts to "promote" the language, then yeah, I'd have to agree. But surely in order to be suitably qualified to judge a language, actually being able to speak it must be regarded as, at the very least, a good start? If we disregard the views of all Esperantists when trying to evaluate Esperanto, all we have left are the views of people who've vaguely heard of it, people who know nothing about it, people who've read through a few chapters of "Teach Yourself Esperanto" and formed their point of view on the basis of that... I know who I'd rather listen to.

-- Are you a Japanese-ist? Only you can tell, my friend... ;o)

-- You're right that the similarities between Chinese and Esperanto pointed out rest mainly on "similar regularities" in the two languages, but these run much deeper than the two or three examples quoted. Again, to paraphrase a Chinese Esperantist I met a couple of years ago: "I feel *at home* in Esperanto. I can think like a Chinese person and express myself like a Chinese person, but in a way you can understand." I have heard Chinese Esperantists come out with compound words that, while immediately understandable to me, were nonetheless not forms of expression that I would have thought of myself. It turns out that often they are taking a Chinese word and translating it, particle for particle, into Esperanto, and coming up with something meaningful. For the same speaker to use English competently, he would have to learn not just a new grammar and vocabulary, but a whole new, foreign way of thinking.

I completely agree that the roots of the vocabulary in Esperanto are European. Thus, an Asian has a harder job in the initial stages of learning the langauge than would a European; there's no debate there. However, at more advanced levels, once the initial advantage of recognising the vocabulary is no longer on our side, I honestly don't think a European has any greater or lesser ease in making use of the language than would an Asian (or anyone else for that matter).

And even then, Esperanto presents a major advantage as an international language over English, Japanese or any other language I know of. Again, it comes broadly under the umbrella of "regularity", but in Esperanto that's a very broad umbrella! Part of the vocabulary is a group of prefixes and suffixes which can be (and are) liberally added as needed to other roots to make words. When the Japanese student of Esperanto learns, for example, the root "mort-", he has to commit to memory the spelling and the meaning. (The pronunciation comes automatically if you've memorised the spelling -- or vice versa -- and the stressed syllable is always the penultimate one.) On the basis of this one root, our student can make a dozen or more common words:
-- morta -- dead
-- morto -- death
-- morti -- to die
-- mortigi -- to kill
-- mortinto -- a dead person (usual word)
-- mortulo -- different word for a dead person
-- mortanto -- dying person
-- mortonto -- person who's going to die
-- mortinta -- died (adj.)
-- mortanta -- dying
-- mortonta -- going to die (adj.)
-- mortiginda -- deserves to be killed (adj.)
-- etc. etc.
And all of that with the set of particles that can be equally well applied to any other root. So, by adding one single root to his vocabulary, the student has added a wide range of possible expressions, which in English (and, I assume, in Japanese) would require learning one by one.

What I'm trying to say is: yes, the vocabulary might look very European; but a speaker armed with a much smaller stock of memorised roots/particles nonetheless possesses a vastly greater range of expression in Esperanto than s/he would with a similar number of words in English or, I'm fairly sure, in Japanese.

-- Again, I completely accept your point that English is the current world language, and that anyone wanting to do an MBA or get promoted at work should set about learning it. Quite simply it's what the majority of employers look for. However, I can't agree that Esperanto "lacks opportunities for real world use"; it depends on your definition of "real world", and it has been of enormous benefit in my life. Sure, nobody has ever made a million by speaking Esperanto, but there's more to "the real world" than work and making money. Any time I travel, I meet up with people with whom I can have an easy, flowing conversation, without either of us being put upon too greatly, and I usually end up with free accommodation too. :o) So far this year, I have met a Polish girl in Katowice, a French family in Dijon, and dozens of people from as many countries in Vilnius. On each occasion I have learnt a lot about what makes those people tick, and made some good friends along the way. That to me is an important part of my "real world" and one that is enormously enriched by my knowing Esperanto. The level of English that most people attain, even after years of study, doesn't allow anything like the same free-flow conversations, and my Polish and Lithuanian are pretty thin on the ground. As it happens I speak pretty competent French, which is of great benefit in France, but it was the Esperanto that got me the personal contact and the five nights' accommodation.

-- Of course, you're right that *any* constructed language is, almost by definition, more neutral as a candidate for international use than any national language. But you say that Esperanto doesn't "maximise the merits of a planned language to the full". Surely just the fact that it is still around, a century and a bit after its inception and nearly 90 years after the death of its creator, should count for something? That is has a literary tradition, not just European, including a Nobel Prize nomination a few years ago (see http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/scotland/461498.stm)? That it has well developed lexicographies in medicine, botany, IT, physics, linguistics, railways, etc.? That anyone with an internet connection can listen to the radio every day (http://osiek.org/aera/) and hopefully soon watch TV (http://internacia.tv) in Esperanto? There have been literally hundreds of attempts at creating an international language, numerous of which (e.g. Ido + derivatives; see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Category:Esperantido) were "improved" versions of Esperanto, at least one of which (Interlingua) was much better financed over a long period than Esperanto ever was; where are they now?

It would appear that creating a language involves much more than tinkering with vocabulary and grammar; the Esperanto of today extends way beyond what Zamenhof originally laid down in 1887 as the basis for the language, albeit by following the rules he gave; in 1887, Esperanto was a project, and an almost unrealistically optimistic one at that; today it has developed by continuous use into a language as suitable for any and all human endeavour as any other language in daily use. Any new, competing project would have to go through a similar evolution before being ready for the prime time.

-- The anti-Esperanto rant has been around for quite a while (see the author's feedback page http://www.xibalba.demon.co.uk/jbr/ranto/z.html) and while he has some valid criticisms, it's a whole lot of negativity without much at all that's good about Esperanto. And all that criticism still doesn't alter the fact that *it works*! The experience of hundreds of thousands of people says that it works, despite the "imperfections". And let's not forget that one person's niggle is another's must-have feature. Some people criticise it for being "too foreign looking" and having "made-up" elements in it; others say it's too European. Some criticise the way elements are re-used to make (some say) ugly compound words; others say the vocabulary is too bloated with unnecessary neologisms that are simply synonyms of perfectly acceptable compound words. You can't please all the people all the time!

-- On your final point, I'm afraid there's not much I can add that specifically concerns Japanese, as my knowledge of that language is very limited indeed, but I'm very happy to indulge in reasoned debate about Interlinguistics in general, and about Esperanto as part of that debate. (So many people seem to fall into either the "Esperanto is just made up crap and anyway nobody speaks it" camp, or the "Everybody should learn Esperanto tomorrow, and then we would have world peace; no really" camp, that it makes a refreshing change to read intelligent debate in the middle ground. :o)

[Just re-read my post and hadn't realised I'd written quite so much! If you've got this far, I look forward to your reply. Cheers!]

Posted by: Tim Morley at August 19, 2005 09:12 AM

Tim T.:
Sorry for the delay in replying, but I suddenly have to be away from the computer and out of town for one week. I'm sure that Tim M. , although I don't know him, is sufficiently informed and quite capable of taking over in the meantime.
Best wishes
Brian
http://esperanto.memlink.ca

Posted by: Brian at August 19, 2005 01:16 PM

Forgot to mention while I was talking about practical uses of Esperanto: if and when I finally make it to Japan, I'm pretty sure my level of Japanese will be minimal, to say the least. I'd love to speak Japanese, certainly, but it's not a pressing need and I have other things to occupy the vast amount of time it would take. I also don't expect much English, beyond pleasantries from hotel staff and everyday tourist requests.

However, in twenty-odd towns spread over all four main islands of Japan, there are Japanese Esperantists who offer accommodation to visiting foreigners, all for the price of speaking Esperanto when they get there. Here's the list of towns:

Bibai
Ena
Fukuoka
Hikari
Hikoni
Hukusima
Huzisawa
Kamakura
Kameoka
Kan-Onzi
Kyoto
Maebashi
Minoo
Nagoya
Numazu
Obihiro
Ohara
Sagamiko-Machi
Sapporo
Sayama
Sirotori
Taiwa
Tokyo
Tomakomai
Tottori
Toyota
Ube
Wakayama
Yokohama

Now, free accommodation is never to be sniffed at, particularly in a country where the cost of living is so high, but to me, that's secondary to the level of intellectual and cultural exchange that's possible, which I would never otherwise experience.

I'm looking forward to my trip! (whenever that might be...) Actually, what might finally give me the excuse I'm looking for to visit Japan is the Universala Kongreso de Esperanto 2007, which is due to take place in Yokohama. If you're around that city at the end of July 2007, Timothy, give me a shout and I'll buy you a beer! :o)

Posted by: Tim Morley at August 19, 2005 06:30 PM

Tim

I agree that one needs to have knowledge of Esperanto to be able to comment. But while I have some knowledge of Japanese, I like to think that I am not a Japanese-ists – that is to say I am not particularly ego-involved in Japanese (but I am not sure). I will come back to that at the end.

I find I am being pointed to papers which were a bit weak at what they purported to demonstrate, as if there were preaching to the choir.

I know what you mean about the way in which it is possible to understand new compounds using Chinese (or Sino-Japanese). This is one of the reasons why I think that Sino-Japanese is a good international language. I think I prefer Japanese, because it has the same structure without the tones. This ability to make up concepts from bricks is very handy, very similar to Chinese, and an essential part of an International language.

You believe that the advantage of the European disappear after the initial lexical advantage no longer comes into play, but I wonder about the other structural issues.
1) Those native to language that do not have definite and indefinite articles are going to have a long term difficulty producing them.
2) Those that do not have plurals likewise.
3) Same goes for the use of prepositions vs postpositions (although I am not sure about Chinese)

Additionally Esperanto seems to share something one might call gphonocentricityh (after Derrirda) with European languages. By that I mean...

While a lot of people bitch about them, I think that Kanji are really great. Perhaps they could be even better if they were planned. Kanji enable people to bring more parts of their brain to bear upon language acquisition and production. Having both a sound an image associated with each meaning block, still allows one to focus only on the sounds, but gives the learner the option to increase neural networking by learning both.

Theoretically perhaps the lexical blocks that make up Esperanto might be given characters. I presume that when Chinese come out with new Esperanto compounds, they are thinking in this way.

But perhaps the phonocentricity (the fact that Esperanto has only phonemes) can be observed in the list of gmortahrelated words above. If the significant building blocks on the language were just that, blocks, corresponding to characters, then perhaps we would not observe the sort of inflection that is see there, with gmortoh, gmortah, gmortih. The inflection of the meaning blocks reminds me of romance languages. In Japanese the blocks generally just follow one after the other.

I am sure that Esperanto is designed better to allow more meanings to be made from fewer roots. This is another major attraction of a planned language.

It is interesting that Esperantido chose to make a more European language. The wikipedia article showing the versions was very interesting.

At the end of the day, the questions seem to be are
How easy to Asians (particularly Chinese and Japanese find Esperanto)?
Are the advantages of Esperanto sufficient to outweigh the a-neutrality of its lineage?
If there are peer-reviewed articles on this topic I might find time to read them.

But all in all, my main interest is the spread of Japanese as an international language.

Upon reflection, I must confess that while I may not be a Japanese-ist, I am by preference a bit of an anti-Westernisation-ist. It is my *feeling* that European culture has contributed enough to the global mix, so I think that my enthusiasm would only be aroused by endeavours that contained less of a Western base. This is just my preference.

But at the same time, bearing in mind the extent to which the West has influenced world culture, perhaps it will be a Western born language, which will unify it. To an extent this already true with English. If Esperanto can offer advantages over English then great.

I would like to see a interlanguage based on perhaps English, Spanish, Chinese/Japanese. It kind of makes me want to make an interlanguage. I am sure I will not have time.

One question I would like to ask of Esperanto ischow do clauses modify nouns in Esperanto? For example the subordinate clause in English follows the relative pronoun after a noun
I need a language that people can learn easily
As mentioned above, in Japanese however, it is only necessary to put the adjectival subordinate clause before the noun, looking something like this
I need a people can learn easily language
This structure means that there is no need for relative pronouns.

And, how about Japanese as an international language anyone?

If you are in Yamaguchi in 2007, please stop by. We will give you free accommodation and pay for the beer. You will have to speak in English or Japanese though. Je puvais parler en Francais.

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at August 19, 2005 07:15 PM

Again, to take your points in turn:

-- please don't confuse the series "morti/morto/morta" with inflected roots as you find in European languages. The roots of Esperanto are strictly invariable, as I believe they are in Chinese and Japanese. What you see above is the invariable root "mort-" followed by three other invariable endings: "-i" giving a verb, "-o" giving a noun, and "-a" giving an adjective. This is critical: in European languages, you can certainly find examples of "families" of words based around one root, but very often the root changes slightly in the different words, in spelling and/or pronunciation, and thus each word still has to be learned individually despite its similarity to the rest of the family. (Compare the spellings of four/forty, practice/practise, pronounce/pronunciation, etc. ad infinitum; and the stress shift in photograph/photography/photographic). In this respect Esperanto is much more like Chinese/Japanese -- you take the blocks and stick 'em together. The blocks themselves never change. See also the examples below).

-- I sympathise to some extent with the feeling that the West, particularly the USA, has had and still has more than enough influence already over the world in general; but a significant vector for this continuing influence is the global use of English as a second language. See François Grin's comparison of several possible future language policies for the EU for a very interesting read on some less obvious side-effects of the ubiquitous use of English. http://www.russieonline.freesurf.fr/grin.htm I'll just quote conclusion number 3 here:

"Troisièmement, le « tout-à-l'anglais » que certains nous présentent comme la voie du modernisme raisonnable est en fait une solution extraordinairement inégalitaire, qui donne lieu à des transferts qui se chiffrent en milliards d'euros par année, et il n'y a aucune raison (technique, économique ou autre) de consentir une telle injustice qui, dans tout autre domaine de politique publique, serait considérée comme inadmissible."

[My translation:]
"Thirdly, the 'English-everywhere' that some present as the way of reasoned modernism is in fact an extraordinarily unjust solution, which gives rise to a flow of funds running to billions of euros annually [towards English-speaking nations], and there is no reason (technical, economic or other) to accept such an injustice which, in any other domain of public policy, would be considered inadmissible."

Read it yourself for the details of the claim.

-- to answer your questions (1) and (2), yes, there are elements in Esperanto such as plurals and the definite article (no indefinite article though) which are alien to most Asians, and these have to be learnt. It's a foreign language -- it can't be entirely like anybody's language. As it's foreign for everybody though, there's no national group who have an automatic advantage over everyone else, and thus the "threatened" feeling so common among non-native speakers of other languages is much less prevalent. And if Asians sometimes miss out the article where I might have put it in, so what? Zamenhof himself actually wrote at one point that if articles presented a major, on-going problem, feel free to just do without them. Their absence rarely creates problems in comprehension anyway.

-- See examples below for a partial answer to your question (3) about prepositions/postpositions.

-- "How easy do Asians find Esperanto?" and "Are the advantages of Esperanto sufficient to outweigh the a-neutrality of its lineage?" Well, there's no need for me to write my opinion on these two -- I think "See Above" sums that up! As for peer reviewed publications, I'll have to get back to you on that. That's not side-stepping the question, it's an honest answer: I don't know of any references immediately off the top of my head, but I know few people who might be able to help. I'll pass on any references they come up with in the next few days.

-- "How do clauses modify nouns in Esperanto?" -- the answer again demonstrates the very flexibility of Esperanto that makes it such a promising candidate for an international language. Let's make up a sentence: "Give me the bottle that's on the table." As a European, the 'natural' way for me to put this into Esperanto would be:
-- "Donu al mi la botelon, kiu estas sur la tablo".

[Word for word, as if it were necessary:
-- "Give to me the bottle, which is on the table."]

However, someone with different mother tongue instincts would be equally entitled to say:
-- "Donu al mi la surtabelan botelon."

[Word for word:
-- "Give to me the on-the-table bottle." where 'on-the-table' is an adjective that refers to bottle]

Both are used, both are perfectly acceptable, both equally easily understood by all, but the language is flexible enough to allow people to use structures and patterns that are familiar to them to a far greater extent than in other languages. Incidentally, you could also say:
-- "Donu al mi la botelon surtabelan."
i.e. put the adjective after the noun, if that's what your instinct/preference dictates.

To take your example: "I need a language that people can learn easily". We can apply the same principles, more or less. The adjectival "people-can-learn-easily" would be rather bloated, but "easily-learnable" would slot in nicely:
-- "Mi bezonas facile lerneblan lingvon."
Or, European-style:
-- "Mi bezonas lingvon, kiun oni povas facile lernas."
[lit. "I need a-language, which people can easily learn."]

Just to stray slightly off the subject, another oft-quoted example of this phenomenon of grammatical flexibility is the sentence "I went to the hotel by bus." Again, the Western Europeans among us can put it word for word into Esperanto:
-- "Mi iris al la hotelo per buso."

However, those that prefer to do without prepositions could say:
-- "Mi iris al la hotelo buse." (lit. "bus-ly")
or even:
-- "Mi iris hotelen buse."
[lit. "I went hotel-wards bus-ly"]

You could take the root "bus-" and use it as a verb instead of a noun:
-- "Mi busis al la hotelo."
[lit. "I bussed to the hotel"]
-- "Mi busis hotelen."
[lit. "I bussed hotel-wards"]

If you really want to play around (and who knows, this may correspond to the structure of somebody's mother tongue) you can spontaneously create the verb "to-go-to-a-hotel" by saying:
-- "Mi alhotelis buse."
[lit. "I to-hotel-ed bus-ly"]

And all of the above are correct, grammatical, easily understandable Esperanto.

That gives some more depth to my earlier answers about parallels between Esperanto and Asian languages, and I hope it answers your specific question about relative clauses.

And thanks for the offer of bed + beer. Much appreciated! :o) If my Japanese tour comes about in 2007, I might just keep you to that promise.

Just before I finish, if I might just play devil's advocate for a moment: I noticed when reading your last post that all of the features you mention as being important in an international language are already present in Esperanto, viz.:
-- new compounds allowed and immediately understandable
-- invariable building blocks to make these compounds (currently spelled phonemically, yes, but if there was demand for Esperanto Kanji, there's no reason I can think of that the language couldn't support them)
-- no tones
-- lots of expression possible from few roots
-- and, as you say, in fact *less* European that just about any other planned language that has ever acquired a significant number of speakers (Ido and Interlingua immediately spring to mind).

Your question about how easy Asians find Esperanto, when turned around, has already been answered: "How easily would Europeans/Africans/everyone else learn Japanese as an international language?" Without years and years of study followed by extended periods spent in Japan, I think the answer is "not very easily at all". Whatever your criteria -- hours of study required, level of expression attained, confidence in language use, discrimination between nationalities and between rich and poor -- I have trouble imagining how Japanese could improve on Esperanto, but I'm ready to learn if you can tell me.

In fact, referring to the list of advantages of Japanese in your original post, a good number of them also apply at least as well if not better to Esperanto:
4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 15, 17 (not as much and not as old, but still more than you could read in your lifetime), 21, 24, 26, 28, 35.
About half, then -- not bad really, for a list that was drawn up specifically with Japanese and Japan in mind, I'd say.

I look forward to your reply, to any or all of the above.

Cheers.

Posted by: Tim Morley at August 19, 2005 09:26 PM

[Just re-reading my last post, I'm seeing glaring errors right, left and centre! My tiredness is showing through... I'm slightly ashamed to have made two mistakes in the Esperanto examples I quoted. D'oh!

Errata:
-- Of course I meant to say "I know *a* few people who might be able to help", not just "few people".
-- "Mi bezonas lingvon, kiun oni povas facile lerni". I put "lernas" at the end, because I added "povas" later and forgot to change "lernas" to "lerni".
-- I got "tablo" right once for "table", but then put "tabelo" in the other two times. Blame it on the months I've spent proof-reading translations of OpenOffice.org, where a "table" (of figures, in columns and rows) *is* "tabelo", and "spreadsheet" is "kalkultabelo".

I dunno, I spent an hour and a half on the phone last night speaking Esperanto without any great strain at all, but try to write three sentences in a blog and it all goes to pot...

I still look forward to your reply anyway. Cheers Timothy.]

Posted by: Tim Morley at August 23, 2005 08:03 AM

Sean, I somewhat agree with your opinion, but the Korean language is much older than Japanese.

Posted by: ZeeG at November 20, 2006 11:45 PM

I think you have all missed the obvious choice for a global language. Klingon. It is a prefectly well constructed language and a large number of great works have already been translated into it (e.g most of the works of Shakespeare as well as the king james version of the bible)

it also fits Sean's (the post above) requirement for a newer language.

Besides, as a fairly moderate speaker of Japanese, (about 10 years now) I can attest to a certain lack of precision when dealing with technical topics in the language. Particularly when you enter the field of science (especially biology) where the vocabulary becomes heavily laced with katakana. That is not to mention the staggering number of homonyms. As for tone, no Japanese is not an officially tonal language but take a look into the the words "hashi" bride edge and chopsticks, and "kumo" spider or cloud, also "ame" rain or sweets. These words are heavily distinguished by intonation (and region).

So, Klingon is definately the way to go. Though I suppose I could probably support Tolkien's Elvish as well. (since he was a fairly accomplished linguist the language is quite well developed although I am not sure what literature has been translated into it....)

Oh, it was mentioned that Japanese doesn't have labials and fricatives. (why the question mark....) the ma, mi, mu, me, mo line is labial (bilabial if you want to pick at nits....also for a bi-labial plosive try pa) and I am pretty sure the words that we generally transliterate to F or H is a semifricative, but I'd actually have to look it up to see if it qualifies as a fricative.

Klingon it is.
-Whiplash

Posted by: Whiplash at November 20, 2006 11:47 PM

Not to be rude or anything: But you are an idiot sir! for even suggesting that Japanese colonial period was short or less genocidal than European in an area where is was largely Japanese militarism and expansionism that brought most of the grievances. I don't remember China being occupied by Americans, or English (hong kong & Macao were granted to British & Portuguese respectively by the Emperor) or French. Japan Did.

THe resentment between koreans and japanese is so great that North korea tests all of their missiles towards Japan.

And to say that 1/4 of the population speak Chinese and therefore would easily understand Japanese. - Well you are an idiot. It just means that some Chinese may find it easier to learn Japanese than English or another INTERNATIONAL LANGUAGE. When two, 3 or even 4 nations speak the same language it doesn't make it universal or international. French is international, English is, Arabic and Spanish are, Russian is even German ( they speak german in at least 6 countries)

Learn your History & geography before making anymore stupid claims like that.

Posted by: Some Korean Dude at November 20, 2006 11:57 PM

I just kind of stumbled upon this site, and feel like adding my two cents.

As a native English speaker of the elusive Australian kind, I'd like to say that realistically the chances of a 'global language' such as Esperanto are so ridiculously slim that it's probably not worth the time and effort to debate about - That being said, I think one currently used language is likely to superceed and become as 'global' as we're going to get.

I don't believe this has anything to do with the language itself, but relies on economic, social and political factors.

Let's think back, was there not a time when every tribe had it's own dialect, every one distinct and unique? Face it, we are (and always will be) just another species of animal inhabiting this rock. Colonies grow and expand, as others dwindle and decline. Just as these pre-modern languages fell out, I feel the same will happen in the future.

When it comes to my own thoughts on Languages, I'd have to say that Korean seems to be the most sensible and properly constructed.

Anyway, that's all the verbal diarrhea I've got for now, enjoy.

- Stephen, Tokyo.

Posted by: Stephen at November 21, 2006 12:04 AM

Japanese has its own difficulties:

The Edo dialect is indeed the standard, but there is at least one famously incomprehensible dialect (I forget which one; supposedly they cultivated different vocabulary and such for purposes of secrecy).

I'd much rather have to learn to deal with articles than with the endless set of Japanese classifiers. It's not just "one pencil," it's "one long skinny thing of pencils," and so on ad infinitum. While we're on numbers, how about those two sets of numbers from one to ten?

Japanese borrowed lots of vocabulary from Chinese as well as the ideographs, e.g. "san" for mountain from Chinese "shan" (sorry, I don't remember the inflection). Japanese just has two pitches, high and low, and fewer consonant sounds than Chinese, so essentially all those words were fed through a hash function with MANY collisions, leading to much spoken ambiguity. I've read that sometimes people end up tracing kanji in the air to disambiguate; I think it was in Jack Seward's _Japanese in Action_.

Japanese may not have colonial connections, but it certainly supports a non-egalitarian culture, with the multiple forms of verbs and nouns and perpetually figuring out who has higher status. "o-mizu wo kudasai" uses one of a bunch of verbs for "give"; the connotation is "Please, hand some water (which has the honorific attached, because it's your water and you're exalted) down from your lofty perch to lowly, groveling me."

Japanese text may be physically compact, but how about that data entry? Last time I looked, people ended up typing kana, and when the computer thinks it knows what is meant it puts up a list of possible kanji, from which you either choose or keep typing. (Admittedly, things may have improved since then.) Sounds like a major pain to me.

Yes, Chinese ideographs are well known, but it's a bit disingenuous to claim mutual intelligibility. I recall reading about a Japanese woman in China who wanted her hair done, saw an establishment with the kanji for "house" and "beauty" on it, and headed in. It turned out to be a brothel.

Posted by: James at November 21, 2006 12:16 AM

To the Korean person that posted above.

I am not justifying the Japanese. The Japanese killed and raped thousands of Asians.

I do however still believe that the Europeans, particularly the British, deserve your rile (anger) consider more than the Japanese.

The British did not invade China but over the space of one hundred years they sold opium to China, harvesting it in India and using it to pay for Chinese products. The importation of this addictive poison is thought to have caused the death of a great many millions of Chinese. Possibly about ten times as many as were killed by the Japanese. That is a lot of people, a lot more people.

One thing that seems to me to differ in the imperialism of the Japanese and British is the amount of rape. If you read Rabe's diaries in Nanking or look into the sex slaves ('comfort women') there is a history of Japanese brutality that make Yokota Megumi (whose story makes me cry) seem but a drop in the ocean.

The British however don't seem to have seen the inhabitants of the countries that they invade more as vermin than possible mates. Not to say that they, we, did not rape but they seem to have prefered extermination, opium, smallpox. Rape is bad. But think of continents of people and cultures wiped out...

Africa, Australisia, North America...where are they now? Where is the even the voice to cry, the hand to sound the bell?

Added to that, and I don't mean to say that the Japanese were in any way "nice," it was in the face of the pink (we are no 'white') menace that Japan became as nasty as it was.

Every country has its excuse. The British invaded xyz to beat the French, Dutch or Spanish. So, okay, so the Japanese were *as* bad. If you say that, then may be able to follow you.

But returning to the language issue...I think that English is a language that should curdle the tongues of many of those that might speak it.

My vote is for Korean.

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 21, 2006 01:41 AM

I was going to read this, but TIMBOT is freaking me out.

Posted by: Dan at November 21, 2006 04:42 AM

I am not even going to claim to understand half of what you have written about the rules of language.

But the part where you say that people should learn Japanese as it will only take a few (2 or 3) years to learn the character set is stupid, it would take you a two weeks to learn the 24 letters in English if you tried, the simple fact is Japanese is overly complicated at 6000 characters plus.

You can not honestly say that you expect every one to learn 6000 + rather than 24?

You may point out that Asian languages do not need to be specific I.E.

English I want a tool for hitting in nails
Japanese: I want nail hitting tool

But i am quite sure that there is specific character's just for each of those words in the Japanese version that is of no use in any situation but that very specific one, which just strikes me as an utter waste of time.

Asia based language from a western point of view are far to specialized.

Posted by: MR W B Jones at November 21, 2006 05:56 AM

Dear James Jones (not to be confused with the other Mr. Jones who posted above)

Good points thank you.

Quantifiers are a pain. But a lot of Japnaese don't bother with them and use "(ik)ko" and "(hito)tsu" generally. And yes, it is a pain that there are two sets of numbers from one to ten. (ichi, hito =1)

Kanji writing in the air are occasionally used to disambiguate. It is a problem but I can't say it happens often. If you reduce the number of sounds in a language it is enevitable.

The honorifics in Japanese would need to go if it were to be used as an international language.

I think that Japanese takes a bout the same number of keypresses as English to write.
It seems that Japanese takes about 50% more keypresses if one uses English keys.

In my piece of sample text taken from the GPL licence it took 314 plus two space bar presses used for scrolling in Japanese. 192 plus 40 space bar presses for spaces in English. Were I able to type using Katakana it would have taken only about 160 keypresses to write the Japanese. It is considerably more difficult to learn to type because there are 50 keys to learn. I find touch typing in English pretty easy though. Perahaps it is about time I learnt to touch type in hiragana.

There are a lot of cognates shared between Japanese and Chinese. Koreans and Chinese tell me that they can pretty much get the gist of Japanese newspapers without having learnt Japanese. This overlap is I believe greater than that between English and French, but perhaps not as great as that between French and Italian.There are plenty of false friends to confuse learners of French. I am not sure about Italians.

I agree with what you are saying. Still, I think that the advantages of Japanese outweigh the disadvantages that you identify.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 21, 2006 12:15 PM

Mr Jones
(one of two that have been so kind as to comment on my post above)

I am afraid I disagree.

I don't think it takes two weeks to learn the roman alphabet. It would take me a week at most. Twenty characters a week is a thousand a year or two thousand in two years. Alowing for forgetting one can (I did) have them pretty much off pat in three years.

Most Japanese is written with 1000 characters. 2000 is plenty - enough for good newspapers. You'd need a vocabulary of 10,000 English words to read a bad English newspaper. Allowing for forgetting it takes learners of English a lot longer than three years to master just the vocabulary.

Taking your example (slightly amended)
English I want a tool for hitting in nails.
Japanese I nail hitting tool want.
(watashi ha kugi wo utsu dougu ga hoshii)

With the exception of "nail" (kugi) the kanji in this sentence are used many places. Taking the last kanji for "hoshii" which means "want," this kanji is read as "yoku" in compounds and appears in:

yokubou@desire
Yokubari greed
donyoku insatiable
yokume partiality
iyoku volition
shokuyoku appetite
kinyoku stoicism
seiyoku lust

and several other compounds (including many long words ending in "-yoku" meaning things like l-st for power, lust for money etc).

As you will notice, there is very little similarity between the English words despite their being of related meaning. The Japanese words on the other hand all contain the kanji for "want." This means that even if one has not met the compounds, it is not difficult to guess at the meaning. Japanese is general. English is specialised.

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 21, 2006 01:55 PM

The problem is that the politicians and the big organizations don't know what is an "auxiliary language"

I believe that we should support the esperanto movement to create conscience on this matter.

It does not matter to me what language will be used in the future as IAL, but using a neutral international language would be more just to all. (and much better if it is logic an easy to learn)

Fajro
An spanish and esperanto speaker.
(Sorry for my machine translated engrish)

Posted by: Fajro at November 21, 2006 06:27 PM

I think let the international language be English and let the international pronunciation be Japanese pronunciation, and let the international alphabet be Hangul (Korean alpahbet).

Posted by: pianio11 at November 21, 2006 11:56 PM

I suggest Icelandic.

http://www.mentalcode.com/icelandic/prono.php?page=0

Posted by: Joseph Grabko at November 22, 2006 02:45 AM

While I love the Japanese language it is beautifully simple and their syllaberies are more intuitive than alphabets used by Western languages. However, to suggest that the history of Japan makes the language less colonial than English or Spanish is ridiculous. While the Spanish did inadvertently kill about 97 million due to exposure to European diseases. The combined 2 million actually intentionally murdered by all the European powers over a period of 500 years is nothing compared to the 6-11 million the Japanese killed from 1934 to 1945. And still their are incidents yearly of Japanese citizens going to China and mocking the rape of Nanking on the anniversary of that atrocity. To evaluate a language without taking the cultural aspect into effect is not any evaluation at all. While English is an awful language, and I am a native speaker, its spread thanks to the past British Empire and the current American Quasi-Empire makes it far more suitable. While Chinese is the single largest language the statistics are skewed, that disregard that many of the dialects are mutually unintelligible and Mandarin has only 700-850 million speakers. English has approximately between 500 million to 1.9 billion speakers with the evidence leaning to the higher end of the spectrum.

Posted by: Paul Logasa Bogen II at November 22, 2006 08:34 AM

Ok I had to add some more commentary...

1) Chinese friends of mine often are confused by Japanese since the medieval roots of Kanji have led to both writing systems to diverge and evolve significantly. It is like expecting a Cyrillic language user, like Russians to be able to sound-out Greek words. The writing systems are derived from each other in medieval times, but they are no longer the same.

2) This is a false argument, a common writing system does not mean speakers. Japanese is a significantly different spoken language than the Chinese family of languages.

3) I do think Japanese is easy to pronounce as a Indo-European speaker, although I bet there are still some issues. Especially with the "r" sound in Japanese, neurological studies on native Japanese speakers show that they precieve the "l" sound and "r" is virtually the same. Similar to how English speakers have trouble with tonals and guttorals.
4) If Japanese were to be adopted I'd advocate using the Kana and not the Kanji. In fact I suspect that the usage of Kana and Romanji has increased in recent years, although I don't have backing of that.

5) A lot of times languages don't have irregular forms actually, it is usually a case where the logic behind the forms has been obscured by a combination of time and uninformed language educators who'd rather pronounce words irregular and continue teaching a faulty formation rule than learning the real rules.

6) My previous post addressed this point.

7) Many languages have flexible word order and the trend in language evolution is that word order tightens. Classical Latin, and I believe Greek, don't have a defined word order, yet most modern languages have one albeit loosely enforced.

8) The tense system in Asiatic languages tends to be different not less or more complicated. Indo-European languages tend to be focused on when an event happened, while Asiatic languages tend to be focused on how an event happened. In fact the diminished ambiguity afforded by the Japanese tenses is balanced by the increased ambiguity by not having a well formed grammatical sense of time. Try telling something that event A started and ended in the past while event B started in the past and is still occurring. This is the difference between past perfect and past imperfect in Indo-European languages. But in Japanese this is not easily done.

9) There is a much gender words in Japanese than in English, possibly more since it has become unfashionable to use many gender indicating words like Actress, Stewardess, etc.

10) Instead we have particles like -wa -wo -jin -ga, etc.

11) A standard form cripples the development of a language. Latin died because of Medieval attempts to standardize and purify the language.

12) English is backed by the first, fourth, and eighth largest economies. And it spoken by a majority of people as a second language in four-six of the top ten also.

13) Again, English is the most popular by a huge amount, however this is sociographic and not usefulness, the US is still the dominant presence on the Internet.

14) English is supported by secularist nations. Plus Shinto is not entirely tolerant, there are still factors of nationalistic and racial chauvinism in the religion and the incorporation of Buddhist and Taoist philosophies altered them so far that Japanese Buddhism and Taoism (Zen) are so different that they are rarely treated as the same as their parent philosophies any more. Additionally while Chinese, Tibetan, and Indian Buddhism has gained converts in Western nations Shinto is still almost completely contained in Japan.

15) The ability for English to not only loan words from other languages but make them a part of the language is an asset. After you'd be hard-pressed to find an English speaker who'd italicize, the appropriate treatment of a loanword in English, Sushi, Tsunami, Zen, and dozens of other Japanese words that have been incorporated into English since World War II. Likewise is English, particularly American English, prejudiced against Europeans because it has adopted Hindi, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, and Native American terms?

16) This is a pure fallacy the studies of language adoption show that children of Spanish speakers are using English in public and in many cases in their homes. Grandchildren of Spanish speakers have just as high of a English monolinguism as other historical immigrant population in the US like Germans, Yiddish speaking Jews, Italians, Russians, Hungarians, Norwegians, Swedes, etc. In fact my wife, who is of Mexican decent, doesn't speak more than the typical Texan, a few words here and there mostly dealing with food, her father can say a few phrases but rarely if ever does, and her grandmother only speaks Spanish when she is gossiping with old ladies and doesn't want other people to here. But her great-grandmother didn't speak much English at all.

17) The Literature of Sanskrit is the most ancient, although limited, and there are vast English, French, Russian, Chinese, Hindi, etc literatures. The presence of an long tradition of literature is not unique not notable for an international language. In fact, in my lab we have one student who read Don Quixote in Chinese, several who read it in English, one who read it in the original Spanish, and two who read it in Modern Spanish.

18) There is a ton of learning materials for every language. And Manga and Anime are a selected audience outside of Japan.

19) The learning argument for Kanji I find interesting and I'd like to see a description of a rational way that is faster than the way native Japanese speakers teach other native speakers.

20) This is English's primary weakness but each language has one. Japanese is notoriously ambiguous without context clues. If I say "Wakarimas-ka" I could be asking if someone, we don't even know who, understands what I just said, if they understand Japanese, etc. While the literal translation "Understand?" is uttered frequently in conversation it is still known to be technically improper while "Wakarimas-ka" is entirely proper.

21) I do admit that English spelling has problems but what Shaw was advocating with the "ghoti" example is not why English is a bad language, but why written English is overdue for a Spelling reform. The French, Spanish, Chinese and Japanese have them about once a generation, but English has not has one since the 1800s.

22) Japanese travel, and spend a lot while travelling meaning that Japanese language ability is a valuable skill in the large Japanese and Japan related travel and tourism industry.

23) The only place I have ever felt unsafe when travelling has been in particularly poor areas (inner cities, some parts of Mexico) or in certain public transit systems (Rome). Safety is mostly a matter of common sense in most industrialized places. If a person approaches you in and asks if they can braid your hair, the appropriate answer is not yes. (This happened to some people I was traveling with in Italy).

24) Americans and Europeans spend Billions learning foreign languages too. So Americans should give up learning other languages and just advocate everyone use their own? That is just arrogance.

25) The French advocate French because of their nationalism, the answer to nationalistic behavior is not more nationalistic behavior that is how World Wars happen.

26) This argument is just absurd. Americans are sensitive about things too, like some of the not so pleasant historical events or outside criticism, should other nations strive to not make us feel awkward?

27) This is a naive understanding of Japanese-American economics. Our economies are symbiotic. We feed off each other. In fact in recent years, the Japanese downturns have lessened our debt.

28) It's actually not that easy. The system has to be far more complicated and use a dictionary lookup to convert from Romanji or Kana to Kanji and then the user has to verify the correct Kanji of several choices is used.

29) Yes it is, but if we are talking electronically, it doesn't matter. And on the internet a kanji character needs an encoding scheme that supports 20000 or so characters as opposed to 54 upper and lower case letters. 8-bits are enough for English text, while Japanese needs 16-bits. A Japanese word is typically 3 kanji long, an English world averages 5 characters. This is 40 bits for an average English world compared to 48 bits for an average Japanese word.

30) Master English readers read pictorially. In fact "a ntavie Eginslh radeer can raed tihs wiht mnimiumal dfciuftly" Studies have shown that as long as the right letters are written and the first and last letter are correct, a master English speaker can read a word with very little slow down.

31) While many people do find Japanese aesthetically pleasing (I do) that is a very subjective matter.

32) English music is popular globally.

33) So adding a single sound to indicate plural is more difficult then preceding the word with an entirely different one?

34) Same thing has happened in many places this hasn't effected Germany or Italy or France much.

35) Another point that is true but it doesn't stand is an argument alone.

Posted by: Paul Logasa Bogen II at November 22, 2006 09:40 AM

> The combined 2 million actually intentionally
> murdered by all the European powers over a
> period of 500 years..
Really?

According to some, the British were responsible for the deaths of several (100?) million in China alone as a result of one hundred years of enforced opium importation. When the Chinese tried to stop us from importing opium into their country, we invaded them and killed a lot more.

And then what happened in Africa, North America, Australisia? A mere two million?

BTW perhaps land mass is also important too? C.f. when people steal thing. The value of the theft is often considered important when judging the severity of the crime. To a lot of Asians, the pinks stole a couple of large landmasses and use the resultant wealth in self serving and sometimes agressive ways.

A mere 2 million? I recommend Ward Churchill's "A Little Matter of Genocide," which does seem to be rather biased in the opposite direction but serves I think to present another point of view. On page 117...

"the dean of American anthropolocy," Alfred L. Koreber, who in 1939 established as canonical "Truth" the proposition that the hemispheric total of American Indians in 1492 -- which actually may have been as high as 125 million -- was actulally onl 8.4 million. Instructively this technique is identical to that deployed by those who would rehabilitate the reputation of nazism...

He goes on to estimate about 15 million inhabitants above the Rio Grande on page 135.

I feel Mr. Ward Churchill goes a little too far at times. Everyone seems to seems to have a biased view of history, and he indentifies himself as being Cherokee.

Anyway, it seems to me, pink as I am, that English is the lanugae of blood, but you are right, the Japanese definately did some killing too.


> To evaluate a language without taking the
> cultural aspect into account is not
> any evaluation at all.

I agree and it partly for this reason that I recommend Japanese.

Korean is another good option, if the Korean economy improves (it is still very much smaller than that of Japan). The Koreans have never invaded anyone I think.

> American Quasi-Empire makes it far more suitable.

At Tanksgiving generosity of the 'Indians' is 'remembered.'And all around cluster bombs fall softly beneath.

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 22, 2006 11:43 AM

Dear Paul Logasa Bogen
Thank you for your considered comments.
Ok I had to add some more commentary...

1) The Chinese (but not Taiwanese, or univesity educated Koreans) simplified their alphabet in the 1950's I think. This is not medieval times, and compares rather perhaps to the divergance between English and French, et il me semble que francais
n'est pas difficile pour celui que parle anglais (in my bad frenchified English).

2) The Chinese language is united only by its script, and this is a script which it shares in large part (accepting some difference as you point out above) with Jpanese. Chinese people tell me that it is pretty easy to pick up Japanese. I believe them, in the same way that I hope you believe me when I tell you c'est pas difficile de parler en mal francais pour nous anglophones.


3) The Japanese LACK a difference between r and l so this means that if you pronounce the word for the season Spring as "haru" or "halu" then they will understand you. There are no plosives, fricatives, tonals or guttorals. Hardly any dipthongs.

4) If Japanese were to be adopted I'd advocate using the Kana and not the Kanji.
Did you read what I had to say? It is Kanji that makes Japanese easy.

Katakana has increased due to the importantion of English words, not because Japanese peopel find katakana easier.

5) A lot of times languages don't have irregular forms actually.
Fair enough, but English si not one of those Lanaguages. Japanese is.

7) Many languages have flexible word order and the trend in language evolution is that word order tightens.
This is not a trend in japanese, as far as I am aware.

8) I agree that complexity English tenses does allow the expression of more subtle expressions of time (such as the perfect/imperfect distinction). Complex language can do complex things. I don't miss the lack of complexity when speaking Japanese.

To express the perfect, (started in the past continutes now) Japanese often uses "started raining" which by implication has not stopped. Past counterfactuals, such as "Were it not for the pinks, millions of native Americans would not have died," are difficult to express in Japanese but by no means impossible.

9) It has become fashionable to say "fireperson" rather than "fireman" in japanese, and the same is happening in English. But I was refering to the absense of gender as in the three in German (der, die, das) or the two in French (le, la).

10) "Instead we have particles like -wa -wo -jin -ga, etc." The particles correspond to English prepositions. And it seems to me that they are more regular. We say
on Sunday (on a day)
at nine o'clock (at a point in time)
in summer (in a period of time)
But in Japanese "ni" comes after all three times.


11) "A standard form cripples the development of a language." If there were no community to continue it. But fortunately with Japanese there is a single (sorry to the Peruviand Brazillian Japanese speakers) standard of Japanese that is spoken.


12) "English is backed by the first, fourth, and eighth largest economies." Thank you for the statistic. Where does that take s us on combined GDP of these nations? Here we go....
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29

1 United States 12,455,825
2 Japan 4,567,441
3 Germany 2,791,737
4 People's Republic of China 2 2,234,133
5 United Kingdom 2,229,472
6 France 2,126,719
7 Italy 1,765,537
8 Canada 1,132,436
9 Spain 1,126,565
10 Brazil 795,666
(11 South Korea 787,567 )

English 15,817,733
Japanese 4,467,737

European languages 24,423,957
Kanji languages 6801574 (not including Korean)

So you are right, English is more popular by four dollars to one. Just wait a few years...^-^!

13) Again, English is the most popular by a huge amount, however this is sociographic and not usefulness, the US is still the dominant presence on the Internet.

14) English is supported by secularist nations.
Japan is pretty secularist. As secularist as the "In God We Trust" USA.
Same goes for "nationalistic and racial chauvinism"
It is true that Japanese does not have a proselytizing religion behind it. Shinto does not attempt to convert anyone, although there is one Shrine in Oregon and recently a centrally approved shrine in France. So while Arabic is getting a big push from Muslims, Japanese does not share the same propulsion. Perhaps English too is carried by Christianity to a considerable extent.
Two questions
14.1) Which do you prefer - a international language with a religious backing or one that does not?
14.2) I think Shinto is great and for everyone
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/shintoML/


15) Yes, English is prejudiced against non Europeans. Yes, Europeans find it very much easier to learn English than Japanese. The fact that Sushi, Zen and Tsunami have entered the English language does not make English and easier to learn, rather more difficult. The purity of a lexicon helps language learners since when there is a mis-mash of sources there is less ryme or reason to the vocabularly. Vocabulary is the killer. Learning 10 thousand words and their nuances takes time. But it takes a lot less time if the vocabularly is structed with blocks. When is a hotpotch of influences from various (predominanently European) languages learning the vocabuarly becomes more difficult. French, Italians, Spanish and Germans can all understand enough English by similarity to words in their own language to find mastery of English not too hard. Japanese can't get by with just "sushi" so they have to learn all those other linguistic groups too.


16) This is a pure fallacy the studies of language adoption show that children of Spanish speakers are using English in public and in many cases in their homes.

Hmm...Do you hear that Hispanic Americans? You are going to be assimilated into WASP-ville America? I agree that there has been anglicisation (is that the word) in the past, but when a critical mass is reached, I think that a change may come.


17) I think that having a literature really helps.

18) I find that there is not enough even when it comes to English, especially learner English (VOA, BBC, simple english wikipedia?). It seems to me that the existance of Manga (learner Japanese) should be very handy to would be Japanese speakers.

19) My recommendation for books on rational methods or learning Kanji are
De Roo,
http://www.kanjiclinic.com/reviewderoo.htm
Henshall
http://www.kanjiclinic.com/reviewhenshall.htm
Heisig
http://www.kanjiclinic.com/reviewheisig2.htm
De Roo's codes are here (this site needs to be viewed in EUC-JP encoding)
http://etext.virginia.edu/wwwjdic/deroo.html

20) The contextual cues can be added to Japanese (and a lot of Western Japanese speakers use the first person pronoun a lot) but as far as I know, few suggest the removal of English articles (however, a simplified international-english has been suggested and may be a better idea than the hell we put Asian through now).

21) Show me reformed English, and I will show you Japanese.

22) Quite so.

23) After living in Japan for the past 20 years, I now feel unsafe in London.

24) "That is just arrogance." Whose? I am suggesting that the Americans learn Japanese. At the moment a lot of Americans and British at least do not learn foreign languages, or when they do, they generally learn them in their own linguistic group.

25) Americans and British advocate English for nationalistic reasons too.

26) "hould other nations strive to not make us feel awkward?" I don't think that other nations will feel motivated but my article above was for Japanese people as well.

27) "This is a naive understanding of Japanese-American economics." Hmm...maybe. I am still betting on Japan.

It seems to me that the UK at least is maintaining its standard of living by selling itself to Japan. The British will have nothing left to sell.
http://www.woodlands.co.uk/drifting
http://etext.virginia.edu/wwwjdic/deroo.html

28) "It's actually not that easy. the user has to verify the correct Kanji of several choices is used."
Please see my earlier response to Mr. Jones. If I use roman alphabet it take longer to enter Japanese, if I were to use hiragana keys it would take less time.

29) There is no shortage of bits and bytes. Compared to other media (sound, vision) kanij are tiny. English is morse code, and we don't need this level of economy. In the age of broadband we can afford to have a visually signifcant language.

30) Japanese kanji can be mis-written with similar degrees of recognition. If English were taught as a a pidgin using simplifid spelin zen I mite agri wiv u. But then there are other problems in that there is no community of pidgin speakers.

31) Agreed.

32) "English music is popular globally."
Agreed. This stands in English's favour. That and Holyword movies. May anime rise and rise.


33) "So adding a single sound to indicate plural is more difficult then preceding the word with an entirely different one?"

Yes. Especially when the sound added is not regular. buses, phenomina, sheep.

34) Same thing has happened in many places this hasn't effected Germany or Italy or France much.
It seems to me that there are now a lot of Turks that speak German, even in Turkey. Deregulation of labour markets tends to result in a spread of economically powerful languages.

35) Another point that is true but it doesn't stand is an argument alone.
All things must be considered together.

I need to write the above in Japanese.
Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 22, 2006 01:53 PM

Cool introduction to Icelandic thank you.

It is clear that Icelandic is srongly related to English (or rather the other way around). If only English had stayed closer to its Icelandic roots.

It is interesting that "mynd" (presumably the etymology of English "mind") means picture in icelandic and ímynda means to imagine. Thus, mind meant, I guess the place where we imagine? Strange how it seems to have become more Cartesian and linguistic.

I wonder how nota (to use) ended up being to write things down. NB, nota bene there may be another explanation.

Hmm..also "herbergi" means "room," but this is clearly related to the French (heberger?) so it seems that sometimes Icelandic is more Latin, less German, than English? (room has to be German/old norse in origin, surely).

Takk

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 22, 2006 05:14 PM

Nota Bene is a Latin phrase that was adopted by English. It is litterally "note well". Looking at the remarkably thorough Wikipedia entry it appears that Icelandic is an example of a Germanic in isolation from Romantic languages. English and even German have had been influenced substantially by the Romance languages. Sometimes positively, sometimes negatively. A lot of the spelling and grammatical oddness is the disconnect between Anglo-Saxon and Norman French.

Posted by: Paul Logasa Bogen II at November 22, 2006 10:06 PM

Thanks for a thorough response to my response.

> 1) The Chinese simplified their alphabet in the > 1950's I think.

This was part of my point to English is the half of the problem is we haven't simplified our spelling since the 1800s. And here I was only speaking of the several Chinese doctoral students I work with and their reports. They can pick out what they think a character should mean much like I can pick out what I think french words should mean but it still isn't really reading the language.

3) Yes they do have a smaller amount of valid sounds all I was saying is it is likely that there are languages out there lacking sounds they have.

4) I guess that is just a subjective matters, the studies on writing learning place Syllabic systems as the easiest, followed by alphabets, and ideographic systems the hardest. Either way I'd love to see research about the writing trends in Japan which I can't seem to track any down at the moment.

7) Sorry that was my mistake, I meant to say the trend is for word order to loosen, not tighten.

8) My argument was not that English is more complex or more expressive, but that each language has its expressiveness and complexity in different places. One of my co-workers insists Chinese is more expressive because she can easily distinguish between her father's oldest sister from her mother's youngest sister. I think each language has strengths and weakness.

11) The same was true of late medieval Latin. People were still using it but because of standardization suddenly the late medieval Latin was no longer standard and instead of reverting to classical Latin like the academics wanted, people's language became more differentiated from Latin and the modern Romantic languages arose.

12) My point was economic prowess should not be a reason.

13) I'm not sure you can separate a language from its sociographics.

14) I'd prefer an international language without a religious backing, and sadly since language and religion are both culturally influenced I'm not sure a natural language can be.

15) My argument is that English's large vocabulary is a strength. Less often we have to repurpose existing words since we can invent and adopt words more fluidily. A Japanese speaker is aware mainly because of the katakana that a loanword is not a Japanese word.

16) I never said anything about assimilated into WASP-ville America, my point is that the claims about the majority of Americans being Spanish speakers is primarily a political device to stir anti-Hispanic racism to try and enable anti-immigration policies to be enacted. The research shows that the descendants of Spanish-speaking immigrants loose their ancestral language just as rapidly as other immigrant groups in the past. The people who make claims that the majority of the US will be speaking Spanish in 50 years assume that every child, grandchild, and greatgrand child of a Spanish speaker today and in the future will speak Spanish. The majority of Americans today are of German decent, and while we picked up a number of German words in English, there is hardly any German speakers left.

17) But every major language does.

18) On Amazon there are 2,000 books for learning English speakers to learn Japanese for non-English speakers to learn English there are 20,000 books.

19) Thank you :-D

21) Japan had reforms of the Kana in 1900 and 1949. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japanese_writing_system

25) Probably ;)

27) I just think the appropriate bet is both. The US and Japan are very interdependent, the real threat to us both is China.

28) Even with hiragana entry you still require the system to recognize hiragana words as kanji symbols and then the user must indicate if the selected symbol is correct.

30) Jamaica, Philippines, and some African nations have English pidgins.

32) And may it indeed.

33) Sheep is not plural it is singular. English doesn't have a word for "one sheep" we just started applying the word for a group of them to a singular. The trend in American English has been to ignore Latin plural forms, while "phenomenons" sounds odd to me alot of people say "alumnis" As for the -es words, spoken they are the same as the -s words.

Posted by: Paul Logasa Bogen II at November 22, 2006 11:05 PM

You mention several advantages that flow from the use of Chinese orthography, as well as similarities to Chinese. Doesn't this suggest that Chinese would make a better lingua franca?

Posted by: Anonymous at November 25, 2006 08:15 AM

Yes, Chinese would be appropriate in that it is historically the language which influenced others in East Asia. However,
1) There are many variations of Chinese and that even Chinese have difficulty speaking to each other
2) The Chinese language has tones which make it very difficult to pronounce for those who were not made familiar with tones from an early age.
3) Chinese lacks a phonetic script, that in Japanese facilitates learner Japanese through the use of rubi for instance.

But I agree, Chinese does have considerable merit as an International language at least in East Asia. The Chinese seem to have done very little invading recently at least too.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 25, 2006 11:57 AM

>very little invading recently at least too.

And you say you're a native speaker of English?

Posted by: Frank at November 28, 2006 05:43 AM

>[done] very little invading(,) recently at least(,) too.
Are you agreeing that English is clearly a difficult language, such that even native speakers make mistakes, or doubting the veracity of my claim?

Timothy

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 28, 2006 10:43 AM

If you have native-speaker proficiency in English, it would increase your credibility if you used it.

Posted by: Frank at November 28, 2006 06:19 PM

My choices of interlanguages would be based on how long it would actually take to learn it. English is impractical because it has a huge unrelated vocabulary (kill, murder, death, etc.), irregular spelling (Shouldn't cough and through and though rhyme), and complex grammar.


So far my choices are:
Glosa
http://www.glosa.org/en/g18s.htm

It's an isolating language, which means that tenses and number are indicated by a word in front of the word, rather than by prefixing or suffixing the word.

The vocabulary comes mostly from Latin and Greek, yes it's a Euroclone. However I think that advantage is mitigated by the extreme simplicity of the grammar.

Klingon
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Klingon_language

The big advatage here is that the language itself is neutral. Secondly like esperanto, you could probably find a few speakers of Klingon. The prefix/suffixes are simple enough to use to add to the vocabulary, it does resemble the "bricks" you speak of in Chinese -- new words are made by combining other words.

The trouble comes from the long unpronouceable words, and lack of normal vocabulary. This isn't an easy one to speak outloud.

I think both problems could probably be worked out, if the verbs were simplified (why prefixes and suffixes, just say "He said" not He He-said-past-against-his-will), and the words were made easier to pronounce (fewer consonents between vowels, for one).

Quenya and Sinderin would be god-aweful, for various reasons.

Quenya has as many inflections as Latin, so not only do you have to know Cirya means ship, you must conjugate it to "Ciryallor" is you want to say "of the ships". That's going to slow you down when composing a sentance or learning the language.

The final decision must be made on the basis of ease of learning. If the language is too hard, must people aren't going to bother. And also, this language isn't going to be the language of only educated intellectuals on the internet -- you'll have to teach it to 3rd World peasents, most of whom have never been to school.

Posted by: Kahless at November 29, 2006 03:56 AM

Nutral planned languages are good in the sense that they favour no one. But at the same time there is little incentive to learn a language that no one speaks.

For the reasons I have attempted to outline above, I don't think that any euroclone will do.

At the same time, and for the same reasons, a sinoclone may not do even if mitigated by the simplicity of the vocabulary. Both Europeans and Asians will not want to be at competative disadvantage in regard to the other.

When Asians wake up to the fact that they are spending billions and wasting a good part of their lives learning an impractical euroclone, and learn something that enables them to do business among themselves.

We will then be faced with the unfortunate situation where there will be more international languages and perhaps quite a world divine.

I predict a new cold war between China and the US, mainly because the US likes to have an enemy, as a scapegoat and as a means of self-handicapping
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Self-handicapping
en masse.

Is there no mid Asian language that combines European and Chinese influences? Vietnamese? There is not a lot of economic incentive for learning Vietnamese at the moment.

For the past 50 years Japan has been the closest Western ally in Asia and has perhaps the most westernised culture, and (though I am not sure that this makes it easier to learn) quite a few English loan words.

I teach my mother to speak Japanese by saying English gerunds which most Japanese know (e.g. swimming, shopping, walking) with Japanese verb suffixes (shimasu=gonna do now, shitekudasai=please do, shimashita=did) and it works fairly well. Instant Japanese.

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at November 29, 2006 12:05 PM

Wow, that was funny. It wasn't meant to be serious, right? Japanese should be an international language because you like Anime? I love the uncited statistics too, about Spanish speakers in America.

Posted by: Mark at December 2, 2006 03:00 AM

I would want to 'cite' anything on my blog defeats me but for those who do not wish to use google:
http://press.namct.com/index2.php?option=com_content&do_pdf=1&id=2490
http://www.delirious.org.uk/news/2002/news37.html
http://www.maynardije.org/news/features/050726_ethnic-press/
http://www.llr.state.sc.us/HispanicTaskForce/index.asp?file=nr/EducatorsRespondtoWorkers10.16.06.htm

Sadly, I don't like anime.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at December 3, 2006 05:13 PM

"1) Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Vietnamese intelligentsia can read the Sino-Japanese "Kanji" characters and almost make sense of Japanese newspapers. "

Chinese maybe, the Vietnamese and Koreans now use phonemic alphabets and are not likely to know much Hanzi/Kanji, and to the rest of the world, it would take many years to become literate in such a system. Not very practical argument.


"2) Chinese (in its various forms, sharing the same script) is spoken by more people than any other language, and Japanese, thus, with all those cognates, Japanese is an easy language for the 1/4 of the world's population that speaks Chinese. "

1/4? Someone here needs to check their math. China's 1,300,000,000 do not all speak Mandarin (though a large majority does), and that still doesn't add up to 1/4 of the almost 7 billion people on the planet.

Those cognates are barely recognizable in Japanese.


"3) Japanese is particularly easy to pronounce requiring no tones labial, guttural or fricative (?) consonants."

There's somewhat of a good argument here, but one tough feature would be phonemic vowel length.


"5) There are few irregular verbs or irregular forms of any sort. "

This is a very good point, but a con-IAL is likely to have NO irregular forms.


"6) There is less of a connection between correct Japanese and wealth, and arguably, colonialism. The colonialism period of Japan was short, less genocidal, more localised, and far less persistent. "

History aside, Japanese does contain honorific forms that would not be easy to master without a good understanding of Japanese culture.


"11) There is a standard form of the language (compare English in which there are competing standards)"

English really only has two major standards, American and British and the differences are not enough to make the dialects unintelligible.


"12) Japanese is backed by the world's second largest economy. "

According to all of the stats I've seen. It's 3rd. Germany is 2nd.


"16) There is and will continue to be a large monolingual nation to perpetuate Japanese - Soon there will be more Spanish speakers than English speakers in the USA. "

More Spanish than English in the US? Not anytime in the near future. Spanish is mostly spoken by immigrant populations where it's usually replaced by English by the 2nd or 3rd generation. It is true that Spanish is gaining popularity in the U.S. but that's only because immigration from Latin America is increasing.


'21) Japanese spelling is entirely (with a few exceptions like "ha" and "desu") phonetic and regular while "ghoti" might be pronounced as fish (gghh as in cough, goh as in women, and gtih as in station) "

Kana is easy and phonemic (not phonetic) but Kanji is NOT phonetic, phonemic or even close.


"23) Japan is a safe place, and opportunities for learning Japanese in Japan are immense. "

Japan is also a very expensive place so travel there would not be feasible for a lot of people.


"24) Partly due to the fact that English is such an irregular language, the Japanese have to spend trillions of yen learning it. These trillions could be put to a better use encouraging the spread of Japanese. "

Large amounts of money are "wasted" worldwide because of language issues. One of the biggest arguments for a simple con-IAL would be to reduce this "waste".


"26) The Japanese are shy and linguistically challenged (it is not only foreign languages that cause them to get nervous, but even their own) so they find it more difficult learning foreign languages then we do. "

So the whole world needs to stop learning Language-X, Language-Y, or whatever and switch to Japanese because these few people (compared with the whole world) are shy? I'll bet this quality is found in many people who learn another language, not just Japanese.


"27) The US is in debt up to eyeballs to the Japanese, and increasingly so due to the trade deficit, so there should be a shift in economic power in this direction sometime soon. "

If anything, China is the country to look out for when it comes to economic competition.


"29) Japanese is more compact than English, taking up less space on the page. "

Why then is English always the shortest when looking at multilingual instructions?


"30) Being a pictorial language, once mastered, Japanese is faster to read than English since one has less need of going via phonemes."

Once learned? That's what? About 10-12 years of intensive study.


"31) Japanese is more visually attractive than English, although perhaps the more limited phonic range means that Japanese is less attractive than English aurally. "

A very subjective opinion. Acutally I've always liked the sound of Japanese, but can't stand the appearance of Kanji/Hanzi.


"32) Nonetheless, Japanese popular music is very popular, especially in Asia. "

And English music is popular all over. Spanish music is also very popular worldwide.


"33) Most Japanese nouns to not require plurals. If there are two books then you just say there are 'two book'."

I agree that lack of plurals makes things easier, but that's only one minor feature. Many L2 English speakers do not use plurals. It's not "proper" English but it is still understood.


"35) There are no comparatives or superlatives; one just says that things are gmore redh, or gmost redh without having to modify the adjective."

So there are comparative and superlative stuctures! "more" and "most" do modify the adjective.


Nothing against Japanese as a language, but I think this article makes a very poor and biases argument for establishing it as an IAL. If I had to make an argument for making a natural language an IAL to compete with the de facto IAL known as English, I'd probably argue for Bahasa Indonesia.


------------------------------
deinx nxtxr / Dana Nutter

LI SASXSEK LATIS.
http://www.nutter.net/sasxsek

Posted by: Dana Nutter at December 8, 2006 03:52 AM

"1) Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Vietnamese intelligentsia can read the Sino-Japanese "Kanji" characters and almost make sense of Japanese newspapers. "

> Chinese maybe, the Vietnamese and Koreans now use phonemic alphabets
> and are not likely to know much Hanzi/Kanji,
This is not my understanding of the situation. Koreans at least are taught to read Kanji and most university level educated koreans can read about one thousand of them. I confess I am ignorant of the situation in Vietnam but the presence of the words in the Vietnamese language will make learning the kanji fairly easy for them.

> and to the rest of the world, it would take many years to become
> literate in such a system.

I learnt to read and write the Kanji in three years without breaking into a sweat. In fact I only realised that there was a quick way of learning them (De Roo, Heisig etc) part way through that time.

In any case, if it is difficult to learn the Kanji then it is even more difficult to learn English lexicon because the latter has very little in the way of structure and agglutinative-ness. I am not say that Kanji are particularly easy to learn, but that they are easier to learn than English vocabulary.

> Not very practical argument.
Not a very practical response :-)

2)
> 1/4? Someone here needs to check their math.
Sorry, using your figures, not 1 in 4, but 1 in 5.4 people are Chinese.

> China's 1,300,000,000 do not all speak Mandarin
> (though a large majority does),

The important point is that they use Kanji, or a Kanji based lexicon.

> Those cognates are barely recognizable in Japanese.
These cognates are usually highly recognisable in Japanese.
The first chinese web page I found was the peking tourist board
http://www.visitbeijing.com.cn/bjyx/
The first bit of Chinese I looked at was that below the woman's face on the right hand side. I am not even a native Japanese speaker but as a reader of Japanese, and never having studied Chinese for a second in my life, I was able to read:

"Main areas (contents) of work: Travel advice, (telling-breath-investigating-?), travel agency, reception, help, exhibitions of souvenirs, travel-convenient-people-work (guides??)"

3)
> There's somewhat of a good argument here, but one tough feature
> would be phonemic vowel length.
True, I am still no good at vowel length distinctions.
shuushoku = getting a job
shushoku = staple food


5)
> This is a very good point, but a con-IAL is likely to have NO irregular forms.
I have never heard of con-IAL and I think that un-natural languages are likely to provide the motivation for large numbers of people to learn them.

6)
> History aside, Japanese does contain honorific forms that would not
> be easy to master without a good understanding of Japanese culture.
I think that it is not necessary to learn them. Japanese are sensitive
enough to avoid honorific forms when speaking to non-Japanese, and
non-Japanese speaking to non-Japanese would not feel the motivation
to use them. Most Japanese don't even learn them until they enter the
world of work.


11)

> English really only has two major standards, American and British
> and the differences are not enough to make the dialects unintelligible.
Well...Mad Max has a US English Dub, and Trainspotting came with subtitles in the US, I believe.

"12) Japanese is backed by the world's second largest economy. "

> According to all of the stats I've seen. It's 3rd. Germany is 2nd.
Well done those Germans. But mark my words, the Japs will be back.
(BTW I intend to reclaim "Japs" as word with positive connotation, like that which it abbreviates)


16)

> More Spanish than English in the US? Not anytime in the near future.
Okay maybe not.
> Spanish is mostly spoken by immigrant populations where it's
> usually replaced by English by the 2nd or 3rd generation.
Less and less so apparently. I think that it will reach a critical mass soon, if it has not done so already.


21)
> Kana is easy and phonemic (not phonetic)
Thank you
> but Kanji is NOT phonetic, phonemic or even close.
They do have structure even internally, which is more than one can say of British words. Whatever Kanji is (bad) English is worse.

23)
> Japan is also a very expensive place so travel
> there would not be feasible for a lot of people.
This is not true anymore. Look up purchasing power parity and Japan..Using the big mac index, Japan is less expensive than Poland
http://www.oanda.com/products/bigmac/bigmac.shtml


24)

> Large amounts of money are "wasted" worldwide because of
> language issues. One of the biggest arguments for a simple
> con-IAL would be to reduce this "waste".
A great idea in theory.


26)
> So the whole world needs to stop learning Language-X, Language-Y, or
>whatever and switch to Japanese because these few people (compared with
> the whole world) are shy? I'll bet this quality is found in many people
> who learn another language, not just Japanese.
I think that the Japanese, who know just how difficult they find it to learn other languages, should be highly motivated to avoid learning a language and promote their own.


27)
> If anything, China is the country to look out for when it comes to
> economic competition.
I agree, but I see the formation of a Asian economic block.

29)
> Why then is English always the shortest when looking at
> multilingual instructions?
Japanese is generall shorter in my experience.


30)
> Once learned? That's what? About 10-12 years of intensive study.
Three years for me. And again, if Kanji are difficult, English is difficulter. See.

31)
> A very subjective opinion. Acutally I've always liked the sound of
> Japanese, but can't stand the appearance of Kanji/Hanzi.
If I were in the Japanese government, I would promote Japanese upon its sound and appearance.

32)
> And English music is popular all over. Spanish music is also very popular worldwide.
These are good reasons why English, Spanish and Japanese might be good international languages.


33)
> I agree that lack of plurals makes things easier, but that's only one
> minor feature. Many L2 English speakers do not use plurals. It's not
> "proper" English but it is still understood.
Fair enough. I hope that plurals can be omitted without the speaker being ridiculed.


"35)
> So there are comparative and superlative stuctures! "more" and "most"
> do modify the adjective.
I mean that all Japanese adjectives take the Japanese equivalent of more and most, and there are no ajectives which modify to become -er and est.


> Nothing against Japanese as a language, but I think this article makes a
> very poor and biases argument for establishing it as an IAL.
Sugestions for improvement gratefully recieved.

> If I had to
> make an argument for making a natural language an IAL to compete with the
> de facto IAL known as English, I'd probably argue for Bahasa Indonesia.
I am afraid I am ignorant of Bahasa.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at December 8, 2006 11:39 AM

I believed Dana's assertion that Germany's GDP was greater than that of Japan, but looking at the statistics myself I find that the Japanese economy is still second to the US until purchasing power is taken into consideration, and in any event, larger than that of Germany by a large margin.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28nominal%29
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29#fn_b

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at December 8, 2006 08:06 PM

"1) Chinese, Taiwanese, Koreans, Vietnamese intelligentsia can read the Sino-Japanese "Kanji" characters and almost make sense of Japanese newspapers. "

> > Chinese maybe, the Vietnamese and Koreans now use phonemic alphabets
> > and are not likely to know much Hanzi/Kanji,
> This is not my understanding of the situation. Koreans at least are taught to read Kanji and most university level educated koreans can read about one thousand of them. I > > confess I am ignorant of the situation in Vietnam but the presence of the words in the Vietnamese language will make learning the kanji fairly easy for them.

The "Chinese" loanwords generally aren't borrowed from Mandarin so pronunciation is not the same. Koreans now use the phonetic Hangul script. Some older Koreans may have exposure to Hanzi. In any case, 1000 is far from literate. FWIW: I never saw any Hanzi when I was visiting Vietnam a few years ago. There were quite a few people that had some knowledge of English. It also must be noted that China now uses "Simplified" forms and won't know many of the "Traditional" characters. I know that Taiwanese I used to work with couldn't read "Simplified" because Taiwan has never accepted those changes. Kanji are mostly based upon the Traditional characters.


> > and to the rest of the world, it would take many years to become
> > literate in such a system.

> I learnt to read and write the Kanji in three years without breaking into a sweat. In fact I only realised that there was a quick way of learning them (De Roo, Heisig etc) part way > > through that time.

How strong is your Kanji? Are you just as literate as a native? 3 years is still a long time to learn to read. I learned to read Russian in about a day or two because it's mostly phonemic, where most of the time was spent getting adjusted to the Cyrillic alphabet. I picked up on how to read German, French, Spanish, Italian, etc. by devoting only about an hour or two each.


> In any case, if it is difficult to learn the Kanji then it is even more difficult to learn English lexicon because the latter has very little in the way of structure and agglutinative-ness. I
> am not say that Kanji are particularly easy to learn, but that they are easier to learn than English vocabulary.

Kanji has to do with written script, not the language itself. English orthography may be inconsistent and far more trouble than other European languages but it still has a phonemic base that makes it much easier to learn because of it's correlation to the spoken language.

> > Not very practical argument.
> Not a very practical response :-)

> 2)
> > 1/4? Someone here needs to check their math.
> Sorry, using your figures, not 1 in 4, but 1 in 5.4 people are Chinese.

> > China's 1,300,000,000 do not all speak Mandarin
> > (though a large majority does),

> The important point is that they use Kanji, or a Kanji based lexicon.

Again they don't use "Kanji". They use the "Simplified" form adopted after the communist revolution. Kanji are based on the "Traditional" characters, many of which will not be recognized by people from China, though they would be known in Taiwan.

> > Those cognates are barely recognizable in Japanese.
> These cognates are usually highly recognisable in Japanese.
> The first chinese web page I found was the peking tourist board
> http://www.visitbeijing.com.cn/bjyx/
> The first bit of Chinese I looked at was that below the woman's face on the right hand side. I am not even a native Japanese speaker but as a reader of Japanese, and never
> having studied Chinese for a second in my life, I was able to read:

Reading is one thing. Speaking is another. Languages are primarily spoken. I can "read" many European languages because there are often enough recognizable words to get an idea of what is being said. But hearing a language is very different, and the grammatical constructions are very different. The grammatical constructions of Japanese are nothing like those of Chinese. Even the basic sentence structure is different SVO vs. SOV.

> "Main areas (contents) of work: Travel advice, (telling-breath-investigating-?), travel agency, reception, help, exhibitions of souvenirs, travel-convenient-people-work (guides??)"

Japanese is seldom used outside of Japan though.

> 3)
> > There's somewhat of a good argument here, but one tough feature
> > would be phonemic vowel length.
> True, I am still no good at vowel length distinctions.
> shuushoku = getting a job
> shushoku = staple food

Many languages do this, but many don't. Not as bad as learning tonal languages though.


> 5)
> > This is a very good point, but a con-IAL is likely to have NO irregular forms.
> I have never heard of con-IAL and I think that un-natural languages are likely to provide the motivation for large numbers of people to learn them.

con-IAL = constructed IAL (International Auxilliary Language). Languages like Esperanto, Ido, Interlingua, Interlingue, Lingua Franca Nova, Novial, Sasxsek, Ceqli, Vorlin, etc. Esperanto claims a user base of about 2 milliion.


> 6)
> > History aside, Japanese does contain honorific forms that would not
> > be easy to master without a good understanding of Japanese culture.
> I think that it is not necessary to learn them. Japanese are sensitive
> enough to avoid honorific forms when speaking to non-Japanese, and
> non-Japanese speaking to non-Japanese would not feel the motivation
> to use them. Most Japanese don't even learn them until they enter the
> vworld of work.

Tell that to the guy at my former company that was hired because of his Japanese language skills, then relieved of those duties because many clients were getting pissed off because he didn't know Honorific Japanese. There is obviously something in the culture that expects the honorifics.


> 11)

> > English really only has two major standards, American and British
> > and the differences are not enough to make the dialects unintelligible.
> Well...Mad Max has a US English Dub, and Trainspotting came with subtitles in the US, I believe.

I've been to Australia, and had no problems though it did take a while to tune into the dialect. Subtitles are not uncommon as an aid when dealing with some of the more removed dialects. One thing that does cause a problem now has to do with businesses establishing their call-centers in India. The English spoken there IS very hard to understand, and some companies are finally realizing they are actually losing more money (via lost business) than they are saving by moving to India.


> "12) Japanese is backed by the world's second largest economy. "

> According to all of the stats I've seen. It's 3rd. Germany is 2nd.
> Well done those Germans. But mark my words, the Japs will be back.

2nd, 3rd really doesn't matter much. Actually there was a time a few years back where Germany briefly surpassed the U.S. They're all G8 countries anyway.

> (BTW I intend to reclaim "Japs" as word with positive connotation, like that which it abbreviates)

Why not "Nips" then from the Japanese "Nipponjin" rather than borrowing a Western term.


> 16)

> > More Spanish than English in the US? Not anytime in the near future.
> Okay maybe not.
> > Spanish is mostly spoken by immigrant populations where it's
> > usually replaced by English by the 2nd or 3rd generation.
> Less and less so apparently. I think that it will reach a critical mass soon, if it has not done so already.

Politically, it already has reached critical mass in the form of pissed off English speakers having to fund bilingual education and such. But again, it's still very much a minority language. There are also a lot of Chinese moving to the U.S. now too so there are also a lot of growing Chinese communities, but they too will assimilate into the English-speaking mainstream within a generation.


> 21)
> > Kana is easy and phonemic (not phonetic)
> Thank you
> > but Kanji is NOT phonetic, phonemic or even close.
> They do have structure even internally, which is more than one can say of British words. Whatever Kanji is (bad) English is worse.

Huh?


> 23)
> > Japan is also a very expensive place so travel
> > there would not be feasible for a lot of people.
> This is not true anymore. Look up purchasing power parity and Japan..Using the big mac index, Japan is less expensive than Poland
> http://www.oanda.com/products/bigmac/bigmac.shtml

The Poles I've known say the high costs areonly in major cities like Warsaw. There are still places in the countryside that are very cheap.

I had a stopover in Tokyo a few years ago. Beers were about $9.00 each!. I saw a vendor selling apples for $80.00 (6 apples). The newspaper I was given at the hotel advertised 2-bedroom apartments for about $5000 per month. That's higher than anything I've seen anywhere else, and I have traveled a bit.


> 24)

> > Large amounts of money are "wasted" worldwide because of
> > language issues. One of the biggest arguments for a simple
> > con-IAL would be to reduce this "waste".

> A great idea in theory.

Yes, it's a very good idea but con-IAL's are still struggling to gain recognition.


> 26)
> > So the whole world needs to stop learning Language-X, Language-Y, or
> >whatever and switch to Japanese because these few people (compared with
> > the whole world) are shy? I'll bet this quality is found in many people
> > who learn another language, not just Japanese.
> I think that the Japanese, who know just how difficult they find it to learn other languages, should be highly motivated to avoid learning a language and promote their own.

The same could be said of English speakers, Spanish speakers, French speakers (oh, they already do that), and all others. The point of an IAL is to have ONE standard.


> 27)
> > If anything, China is the country to look out for when it comes to
> > economic competition.
> I agree, but I see the formation of a Asian economic block.

Maybe. I'd tend to think more along the lines of a Pacific Rim trading block happening. It's been discussed for many years now.


> 29)
> > Why then is English always the shortest when looking at
> > multilingual instructions?
> Japanese is generall shorter in my experience.

One thing I've always noticed when looking at instuctions, is the the English version always comes out the shortest. In any case, it doesn't make for a very good excuse to learn a language.


> 30)
> > Once learned? That's what? About 10-12 years of intensive study.
> Three years for me. And again, if Kanji are difficult, English is difficulter. See.

Again, I can learn to "read" any Latin-based orthography in about an hour! Other phonemic scripts (Cyrillic, Greek, Arabic, Hangul, Kana) can be learned almost as easily. If Japan dropped Kanji and used just Kana it would be extremely easy.


> 31)
> > A very subjective opinion. Acutally I've always liked the sound of
> > Japanese, but can't stand the appearance of Kanji/Hanzi.
> If I were in the Japanese government, I would promote Japanese upon its sound and appearance.

Again, this is subjective. *I* like how it sounds, others may not.

> 32)
> > And English music is popular all over. Spanish music is also very popular worldwide.
> These are good reasons why English, Spanish and Japanese might be good international languages.

English and Spanish are *already* international languages.


> 33)
> > I agree that lack of plurals makes things easier, but that's only one
> > minor feature. Many L2 English speakers do not use plurals. It's not
> > "proper" English but it is still understood.
> Fair enough. I hope that plurals can be omitted without the speaker being ridiculed.

No, it wouldn't be "proper" but there are native speakers that are ridiculed too. I've been living in the South for a few years now. Southern dialects tend to be looked down upon, and speakers can be viewed as "uneducated" or "slow" because of they way they sound.


> "35)
> > So there are comparative and superlative stuctures! "more" and "most"
> > do modify the adjective.
> I mean that all Japanese adjectives take the Japanese equivalent of more and most, and there are no ajectives which modify to become -er and est.

Yes, regularity is a nice thing. The dual system in English is confusing, even to some natives.


> > Nothing against Japanese as a language, but I think this article makes a
> > very poor and biases argument for establishing it as an IAL.
> Sugestions for improvement gratefully recieved.


> > If I had to
> > make an argument for making a natural language an IAL to compete with the
> > de facto IAL known as English, I'd probably argue for Bahasa Indonesia.
> I am afraid I am ignorant of Bahasa.

Indonesian only has about 22 million natives, but over 140 million L2 speakers so it's already operating as an auxilliary language across Indonesia. It is easy to pronounce and has some very regular formations.

http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ind

Posted by: Dana Nutter at December 31, 2006 03:58 AM

> The "Chinese" loanwords generally aren't borrowed from Mandarin so
> pronunciation is not the same.
Agreed. I am not sure how different it is.
I know it is completely different but

1) To what extent are there rules that enable that languages other than Japanese to guess
what the pronounciation in Japanese is? I hear from Koreans, and various varieties of Chinese
that it is possible to use rules to guess what the pronounciation will be.

I used to speak French pretty badly, et je pense que je pourais communiquer en francais
maintenant parce que je sais que le pronunciation de francais est different mais il y
a les regles. There are rules that make it possible to transfer ones knowledge from one
language to another and make oneself understood.

> Koreans now use the phonetic Hangul script. Some older Koreans may have exposure to
> Hanzi.
This is not what I hear. I hear that university educated Koreans (at least 10 years ago)
did learn Hanzi/Kanji.

> In any case, 1000 is far from literate.
I disagree.

> FWIW: I never saw any Hanzi when I was visiting Vietnam a few years ago.
I agree. But it remains a fact that their now romanised language shares the
same stems will make it easier for them to learn another kanji/hanzi based
language.
> It also must be noted that China now uses "Simplified" forms and won't
> know many of the "Traditional" characters.
True. But I hear that it is pretty easy (compared to learning English,
very much so) to work out the more complex form that exists in Japanese.

> I know that Taiwanese I used to work with couldn't read "Simplified"
> because Taiwan has never accepted those changes. Kanji are mostly
> based upon the Traditional characters.

The Taiwanese have the most traditional characters, the Japanese a little
simplified, the mainland Chinese very simplified. But as someone that reads
Japanese, I believe I can vouch for the fact that Taiwanese Kanji are pretty
easy to read, and thus for Chinese, Japanese Kanji should also be easy-ish
to read. It is more difficult to go in the opposite direction. In other words
it would be more difficult for Japanese and Taiwanese to read mainland Chinese
characters.


> > and to the rest of the world, it would take many years to become
> > literate in such a system.

> I learnt to read and write the Kanji in three years without breaking
> into a sweat. In fact I only realised that there was a quick way of
> learning them (De Roo, Heisig etc) part way > > through that time.

> How strong is your Kanji? Are you just as literate as a native?
That depends upon
1) Whether I have to write using a pen or computer
2) Whether I have to write or read
3) Whether you count my mistakes or judge my communicativeness.

I think that I am as literate as a high school graduate (i.e. I am not quite as literate
as university students).

> 3 years is still a long time to learn to read.
It is a lot less than required for Chinese/Japanese/Koreans/Taiwanese to learn to
read English.

> I learned to read Russian in about a day or two because it's mostly
> phonemic, where most of the time was spent getting adjusted to the
> Cyrillic alphabet. I picked up on how to read German, French,
> Spanish, Italian, etc. by devoting only about an hour or two each.
Two points.
1) I was talking about reading and understanding. It took me three hears to be able
to read the meaning.
2) If you are talking about understanding then I am sure that you are a
native speaker of a European language. And I don't believe you!

> Kanji has to do with written script, not the language itself. English
> orthography may be inconsistent and far more trouble than other European
> languages
Agreed.

> but it still has a phonemic base that makes it much easier to learn
> because of it's correlation to the spoken language.

I disagree. You phonocentrist you.

The fact that one can make the sounds of a script does not help one comprehend.
The fact that one can understand the meaing of a kanji/hanji is comprehension.
In Japanese Kanji generally have two readings. This makes things more difficult.
Japanese is by no means perfect its pronouncability but as we know, "GHOTI" could
be read as "fish" (lauGH, wOmen, staTIon) in English.

> Reading is one thing. Speaking is another. Languages are primarily spoken.

Who says languages are primarily spoken? I disagree.

>The grammatical constructions of Japanese are nothing like those of Chinese.
> Even the basic sentence structure is different SVO vs. SOV.
True. I agree. However, even though Chinese shares a SVO structure with
English most Chinese that I have met tell me that Japanese is a lot easier
to learn.


> Esperanto claims a user base of about 2 milliion.
Sorry, but as a European based language, I believe it is a dead duck.
Too many people with money are sick of another whitey language. It would
be okay if it were genuinely international.

> Tell that to the guy at my former company that was hired because of
> his Japanese language skills, then relieved of those duties because
> many clients were getting pissed off because he didn't know Honorific
> Japanese. There is obviously something in the culture that expects
> the honorifics.

There is something in Japanese culture that expects honorifics. English
has its share of polite forms too. There is something in British culture
that would not allow even allow a cockney (London dialect) speaker to
take part in board meetings. But I still think that as an *International*
language, this is not so important.

> I've been to Australia, and had no problems though it did take a while
> to tune into the dialect.
I don't know were you are from but I presume it is from an English speaking
country. Despite that fact, you took "a while" to speak with other anglophones.

> Why not "Nips" then from the Japanese "Nipponjin" rather than borrowing a Western term.
If speaking in Japanese I would use Nippon (or Nihon) but I am not sure why I would wish to
use an abbreviation of the Japanese in English.

> but they too will assimilate into the English-speaking mainstream within a generation.
Yes?


>> They do have structure even internally, which is more than one can say of British words. Whatever Kanji is (bad) English is worse.
> Huh?

There is little structure to the English lexicon. Even with a sound knowledge of
two dead languages (Latin and ancient Greek) it is very difficult to build an
understanding of English.

> I had a stopover in Tokyo a few years ago. Beers were about $9.00 each!.

Things have changed. There are lots of places where a 500cc beer in a bar
costs 500 yen or 4 dollars approx in Tokyo. Is that expensive? In New York?

> I saw a vendor selling apples for $80.00 (6 apples).

Apples are expensive in Japan. But not that price in my local supermarket.
Apples are a bit of a delicacy. Tofu is a dollar a pack.

> The newspaper I was given at the hotel advertised 2-bedroom apartments for
> about $5000 per month.

At 100 yen to the dollar, that is 500000 yen. That is wildly expensive. In
my town it would be about 70000 yen or 700 dollars. I am not sure what the
price would be in London but I hear that London is more expensive that Tokyo
now. Anyway, please refer to the wikipedia articles on purchasing power.
Japan is cheapr than most OECD countries.

> Yes, it's a very good idea but con-IAL's are still struggling to gain recognition.
I don't know anythhing about con-IAL
Fabricated languages are great if they are fair (is it?) but they lack
recognition inherently because there needs to be a ball rolling to provide
the motivation to learn one.

> The same could be said of English speakers, Spanish speakers, French speakers
I disagree. I believe that Japanese speakers are particularly bad at learning
other languages. They are particularly "shy" or "logo-phobic" so they have
more incentive to promote their own language than those of many others.

> Maybe. I'd tend to think more along the lines of a Pacific Rim trading
> block happening. It's been discussed for many years now.
Fair enough. I would like to know the relative similarities of Japanese and
Malaysian vs. English and Malaysian.

> One thing I've always noticed when looking at instuctions, is the
>@the English version always comes out the shortest. I

That is not my experience.

> Again, I can learn to "read" any Latin-based orthography in about
> an hour!
Again, either you mean "sound out" or it proves that your are a Latin-based
native speaker.

> English and Spanish are *already* international languages.
So is Japanese.

> I've been living in the South for a few years now. Southern dialects
> tend to be looked down upon, and speakers can be viewed as "uneducated"
> or "slow" because of they way they sound.

English is loaded with prejudice.

> Indonesian only has about 22 million natives, but over 140 million
> L2 speakers so it's already operating as an auxilliary language across
> Indonesia. It is easy to pronounce and has some very regular formations.
> http://www.ethnologue.com/show_language.asp?code=ind

Thank you.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at January 1, 2007 11:36 PM

Someone called Chris, who I think is a WASP (I may be wrong) has blogged my blog here
http://shinticre.blogspot.com/2006/11/japanese-as-international-language.html
Please feel free and welcome to post corrections to my blog. Perhaps you have. I have seen this blog somewhere before.

(3) Perhaps I should change it to gFewer difficult labial and fricative consonantsh? Or perhaps I should stop pretending to know anything about linguistic jargon and just say, gJapanese does not have the difficult throat-using "r" and glh distinction, or the lip and tongue-biting consonants "f," "v" and "th."

(26) Is the subject of my research and the one I have the most confidence in. It is just "logo-centrism" in reverse; Westerners are keen on linguistic self-representation, and Japanese people are not.

(6) I think that your response to six is noteworthy too, due to what it suggests about your awareness of Anglophone history :-) Or...Hmm...I am not a historian either but since being in Japan it occurs to me that while the Japanese killed and raped a lot, the English have done considerably worse for a lot longer. The opium trade/war and slave trade seem particularly gruesome but the list of really awful things is as long as the Anglo empire was wide.

I am English, not Japanese. The list was made in earnest. There are some mistakes :-)

Chris's blog is interesting.

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at January 2, 2007 05:44 PM


> Thank you very much for this detailed response.
> Would you mind if I posted it to my blog (I found out the
> reason why my last message was not accepted)?

You can post to the blog.


> I wish I were as knowledgable about languages as you.
> I agree with what you are saying in the main.
>
> To be honest I am unsure of the merits of Japanese
> as an international language. I think that my post
> was in a sense for the Japanese government to read (!)
> and I think that in a similar way that the French spend
> money on promoting French, and indeed so the Japanese
> government promotes Japanese, as an international
> language, and this promotion is viable or makes economic
> and to an extent lingusitic sense. Japanese is spoken
> by quite a few non-Japanese in Asia at least, and it
> could be spoken by more if more people backed it and
> more Japanese government money were spent on its
> promotion.

The only way Japanese will ever reach a status like that would be for the Japanese people to start colonizing the world and for them to take their economic power and use it to force the language upon others. It's this type of colonialism that spread languages like English, Spanish and French. Japanese actually did spread a bit during the days of Japanese imperialism in the early 20th century, and there are Japanese speaking population but they would now be very old.

> There is a book in Japanese by a linguist that says
> similar things. I will read it!

What is it called?


> I have failed to convince you of the merits of Kanji.
> I may have another go. It seems to me that they
> really are a great help! I know it does not seem that
> way. I would need to be a lot more convincing.

Kanji has no merits for a auxilliary language that is L2. It only adds another layer of learning difficulty that doesn't need to be there. It's considerably tougher to learn a logographic script than a phonemic one.


> I also think that a created language, such as yours, is
> also viable in theory and perhaps one day such a language
> will win through.

Maybe, but I realistically don't expect it, or any other constructed language to go anywhere. People need some motivation to learn such a language (financial, political, entertainment, etc.) The only other constructed languages that have gathered a following are languages like Klingon, or Quenya which appeal to those interested in Star Trek or Tolkien's works. There is also a language called Toki Pona with quite a following, though not an IAL, and also not very practical, it is a good example of simplicity. About the only constructed IAL's that have even small followings are Ido (an Esperanto reform) and Interlingua. You may also take a look at something like Lojban or Loglan which apply the principles of logic to language design.

In any case constructed languages are an interesting hobby. I did come up with a language called Nihongurishi a few months ago which is English mutated to fit Japanese phonology and phonotactics, then some smalll grammatical simplifications. There were a couple of samples posted on news:alt.language.artificial. The examples are in Romaji, but the intent was that the language be written in Kana. I also have a few other like Ingli (a simplified English), Panamerikan (based on American varieties of English, Spanish, Portuguese and French), Dzjoq (A pan Sinitic language, but I will probably expand to include influence from the Sinitic lexicons of Japanese, Korean and Vietnamese using Hanzi script). Most of these have yet to be published anywhere.

Posted by: Dana Nutter at January 8, 2007 12:49 AM

> I realistically don't expect it, or any other constructed language to go anywhere.
Sadly, nor do I.

Poor old Esperanto only has 100,000 speakers (as of 1996 apparently) and only 1500-3000 attend the annual conference, which will be held in Japan this year:
La 92-a Universala Kongreso de Esperanto
Jokohamo, Japanio, 4-11 de aŭgusto 2007
Will 3000 esperantists really come to Japan? In any event, they are still a drop in the linguistic ocean. Study of both English and Japanese are probably growing at a faster rate.

Tim

Posted by: Timothy Takemoto at March 24, 2007 06:29 PM

Actually most estimates put Esperanto at about 2 million speakers. Still a drop in the ocean of 7 billion people on the planet, but certainly more popular than any other conlang.

Those conferences are held all over the world. Don Harlow usually announces them on AUXLANG on a regular basis.

3000 Esperantists may not go to Japan, but there are probably more than that already there.


Posted by: Dana Nutter at June 21, 2007 03:16 PM
@@@