When is a constructed language dead?

So I categorized some of the constructed languages I found in Wikipedia by “Alive”, “In Purgatory”, “Killed by Esperanto”, “Was Alive, Now Dead”, “Never was Alive” to see if I could see any patterns.

There is only room for one…per goal and audience. For IALs, it all had to do with their relationship with Esperanto.  If a language is trying to solve the same narrow problem for the same audience, the solution with the most adherents will win regardless of merits.  Lojban will beat all future logical languages,  Laadan will beat out all future “woman’s-point-of-view-centric” languages, etc.

The pro’s have an edge. The alive and in purgatory categories seem to be strongly influence by ease of use and if the originator was a professional linguist.

Governance. Out of the most successful ones, Esperanto, Klingon, Lojban have governing bodies.  Personally I think organized governance causes success, although there is some effect in the other direction as well.  Governing bodies for natural languages are either jokes, modestly important in some cases (like dialect standardization), or play pivotal roles (for example the institutions that helped the Hebrew revival–schools and the like).  In constructed languages, I think time will prove organization to be be extremely important for success beyond the two or three year point or life of the inventor.  In the case of Volapuk and Loglan, poorly considered governance lead to the death of the language or dialect (in the case of Loglan).

Desire to live is correlated with living. Out of the least successful, many of the inventors didn’t care if the language was ever spoken by anyone.  Not having a success as a goal, tends to lead to failure. Sigh.

The categorization

Alive. Someone speaks it, people are trying to learn it, there are communities of actively interested people.
Esperanto, Klingon, Láadan, Lojban, Na’vi, Toki Pona

In purgatory.  Creator is alive, but no community.
Teonaht, Ithkuil, Kelen  (Ithkuil and Kelen both are potentially unspeakable, so a community might not be possible!)

Killed by Esperanto. Relative to Esperanto these languages are dead. Relative to Teonaht, some of these are vital booming languages with a dozen or two speakers.
Glosa, Interlingua, Lingua Franca Nova, Occidental, Novial.

I hold out Ido because it is the only-Esperanto-wannabe that I know of with a governing body and conventions.

Was Alive, now Dead.   Used to have a community, but not anymore.
Volapük.  Forerunner of Esperanto, killed by bad governance.
Loglan.  Community moved to Lojban, killed by bad governance.
Enochian.  Really old language of a mystic or two.
Lingua Ignota.  Really old language of a mystic or two.

Never was alive.  Never was finished, was only a thought  experiment, single-use-throw-away language.
Blissymbol, Nadsat, Quenya, Sindarin, Solresol

Dunno…
Tsolyáni- RPG game (Not sure, this was published in 1975)

Comments are closed.