Monday, December 23, 2013

Hold Your Tongue

I was watching Incubus, a film William Shatner starred in just before he did Star Trek.  It's not much of a film, but at Shatner fans know, it's special--the performers speak Esperanto.  (Too bad the film wasn't shot at Universal.) I watched on TV, and the film was subtitled. Doesn't that defeat the purpose?

That must have been a pretty tough script to memorize.  I've heard Esperanto speakers--a small crowd, but I guess they exist--were disappointed with how to cast pronounced the dialogue.  Which got me thinking about the idea of the language to begin with.

It's obviously an impossible project to begin with.  You can't force everyone to suddenly speak a wholly new language (and if you can that's a world I don't want to live in).  I guess the idea was the world would pick it up voluntarily.  Perhaps the language is easier to learn than others (especially if you already know some Romance language), but the dislocation in getting everyone there is too great.  In specialized domains, I suppose, you can make people learn a certain jargon, but every word they say?

But what it you could? What would happen?  Well, pretty quickly, almost immediately, regional accents would appear unless you've got strong accent police keeping everyone in line.  How long would it take before one accent might become unintelligible to another.

Then, of course, localities would create new words to respond to new situations.  These words may not spread across the whole word, and, in fact, other places might make up other words, so soon the regional variations would drift apart. Then there'd be slang, which would at least create expressions that would seem odd and perhaps incomprehensible to others.  Then there might also be differences across classes and perhaps ethnicities within a community.

So it would actually be a fun experiment.  If you started with one language and seven billion people, how long would it take before you had another language. Isolation would help, but even in a connected world it could happen.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What is the old saw about English and Americans? "Two peoples separated by a common tongue"


3:20 AM, December 23, 2013  

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