Such is the prerogative of conquerors.
It’s why the prime meridian on earth, from which all days and hours and minutes and seconds are measured, runs through a suburb of London called Greenwich.
It’s why earth’s fundamental measures of length and mass, the meter and kilogram, are notched on hermetically-sealed bars of platinum and iridium in Sevres, just outside Paris.
Once you control time and space, then, language is easy. The pen is mightier than the sword, but the tongue is servant of the blade. Those who win the wars determine how the rest of us go forth and conjugate.
So today, Rastafarians salute Haile Selassie in English. Haitians creolize in French. Bossa Nova babes whisper Portuguese into microphones. All because these were the languages with which the conquerors announced their conquest.
Which has always led dreamers of strangely obsessional bent and a lot of time on their hands to create new languages utterly from scratch. Natural languages, the languages of conquerors and conquered, grow illogical and imprecise over time. Meanings become ambiguous. People misunderstand each other. Constructed languages, on the other hand, aim to uncloud thought. To offer escape from Babel’s bedlam. To bring clarity, logic and precision to the psychic maps called language and, ultimately, universal harmony.
George Soros, the billionaire investor, actually grew up speaking a constructed language as his first language: Esperanto. Built of Slavic phonemes and a vocabulary derived from Romance languages, Esperanto was created as a tool for universal understanding.
Of course in Mein Kampf, Hitler warned that Esperanto was exactly the kind of language the international Jewish conspiracy could use once it achieved world domination. And the bizarrely eccentric philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein said Esperanto gave him “the feeling of disgust we get if we utter an invented word with invented derivative syllables. The word is cold, lacking in associations.”
And yet invented languages continued to blossom despite such eloquent discouragement.
In the ultimate example of a rock band writing its own songs, the leader of French progressive rock group Magma created his own language to sing the group’s songs. Driven by a penchant for celestial visions and an obsession with John Coltrane, the composer didn’t consider French expressive enough, and for thirty years has sung in Kobaïan.
More recently, an employee of the California State Department of Motor Vehicles spent three decades inventing a language in his spare time. He called it Ithkuil, which in Ithkuil means: “Hypothetical representation of a language.” He devised an entire grammar, syntax and lexicon of 160,000 words, hoping to allow human beings “to convey deeper levels of human cognition than are usually conveyed in human language.” He expected an audience of approximately zero for his language experiment, and was flabbergasted when his website caught fire in Russia.
A philosophical movement in Russia that considers our existing languages a barrier to a holistic perception of the universe adopted Ithkuil as a path that could make all that is unconscious, conscious. “Human beings have a linguistic essence,” a spokesman said, “But we are in a transitional stage to some other essence. We can defeat and conquer language.”
So now we have a language that conquers language. Here is your first lesson in Ithkuil:
Very concise. Very logical. Not yet available on Rosetta Stone.