Overview of the languages built, what language for Europe?

Fourth-year student at Sciences Po Lyon Founding member of Europa Lingua Franco-British European convinced.
Overview of the languages built, what language for Europe? Posted on 12 June, 2018Leave a Comment
Fourth-year student at Sciences Po Lyon Founding member of Europa Lingua Franco-British European convinced.

The aim of Europa Lingua is to promote the idea of a European language, and the latter would likely be an artificial language (or built language). However, their operation and history are not necessarily known to the general public, so it is necessary to make a light on it.

First of all, what is a built language?

A built language is an artificial language built by one or more people who arbitrarily dictate its rules of operation. They are distinguished from the natural languages that spontaneously emerge from human communities and evolve over the centuries.

There are several types of built languages, which can be grouped into two categories: the languages built a priori and the languages built a posteriori.

Languages built a priori (or schematic trends)
According to G. Móch, the languages a priori have the peculiarity of having been "forged from all parts by their inventors, without borrowing anything from the natural languages". This makes them particularly interesting from a linguistic point of view because they can be free of all the conventions established by the natural languages.

The Volapuk

One of the most famous built languages is the VOLAPUK, which was created in 1879 by Johann Martin Schleyer. The latter was a German Catholic priest and claimed that God had commanded him to create an auxiliary international language. His language would have had a relative success before the advent of Esperanto, but today it is only spoken by a few hundred people.

This failure can be explained by the fact that it is very far from the natural languages, which makes it impossible to understand without having learned it. For example, to wish someone a good day in Volapuk, you would have to tell them "Labolös deli Gudik".

Philosophical languages

Philosophical languages are a sub-category of languages built a priori, "they all rely on a logical classification of our ideas, on a complete analysis of our knowledge" (cite S. Malik). Among these philosophical languages, there is in particular the universal characteristic of Liebnitz, in which "every notion we have is itself composed of other notions." The notion of man, for example, is understood to consist of "animal" and "rational" concepts.

In spite of everything, the latter have little success in comparison with the later-built languages that are much more intuitive. This is due to their proximity to the natural languages on which they are based to structure their languages.

Languages built a posteriori (or naturalistic tendencies)
The languages built a posteriori are, contrary to the languages built a priori, are based on already existing languages. According to the distinction of Burney and rim, these languages have naturalistic tendencies, they are similar to natural languages.


The most famous of the languages built, Esperanto, is a naturalistic language. It was created in 1887 by Doctor Zamenhof, under the nickname "Doktoro Esperanto" (Doctor full of Hope). Its purpose was to create an international auxiliary language, i.e. it was not intended to replace the national languages. This language has had some success and is still spoken today by hundreds of thousands of people, plus it enjoys a strong community that gives it quite remarkable vitality.

His success is partly related to the ease of his learning, about 150 hours versus 1500 hours for English. This is especially because it is relatively close to the Indo-European languages. For example, to say that we love Europe, suffice it to say "Mi Eŭropon cluster". Nevertheless, some aspects of the language are counter-intuitive, especially with the use of accents. It is for this reason that Edgar de Wahl developed, in response to Esperanto, the Interlingual or Western.

Interlingual (Western)

His creator, Edgar De Wahl, was a professor of Estonian physics and Esperanto born in the late nineteenth century, who tried to convince Dr. Zamenhof to change Esperanto in depth. Faced with the rejection of the community, he decided to work on his own language. He wanted his language to be very close to natural languages while keeping the simplest possible structure. He succeeded in building the western (renamed Interlingual), but he was quickly isolated by the arrival of the Second World War and the advent of Stalin who was hostile to his language (and strangely rather favourable to an international language). The Tour de force realised by de Wahl was that his language was immediately understandable by any speaker of a European language (even if it promotes languages of Latin origin).

The example is quite startling:

« Li material civilisation, li scientie, e mem li arte unifica se plu e plu. Li cultivat europano senti se quasi in hem in omni landes queles have europan civilisation, it es, plu e plu, in li tot munde. Hodie presc omni states guerrea per li sam armes. Sin cessa li medies de intercommunication ameliora se, e in consecuentie de to li terra sembla diminuer se. Un Parisano es nu plu proxim a un angleso o a un germano quam il esset ante cent annus a un paisano frances. »

Translation: Material civilization, science and even art unite more and more. The cultivated European feels almost at home in all the countries that have a European civilization, that is, the whole world. Today almost all States make war by the same weapons. Constantly the means of intercommunication are perfected, as a result of which the earth seems to become smaller. A Parisian of today is closer to an Englishman or a German than it was a hundred years ago of a French peasant. »

This language is particularly regular, so the rules of conjugation and grammar are simple to learn. In addition words being close to the natural languages, the vocabulary is easily understandable which greatly facilitates learning.

Reconstructed languages or reformed natural languages

These languages were based on one or more natural languages or dialects, and made a synthesis of them or simplified them arbitrarily. It was a matter of bringing together several countries/peoples by language, in order to be able to develop as a civilization. So we will talk here about modern Arabic, Nynorsk and Hebrew, and finally a full article that you can find on our website is dedicated to Swahili.

Modern Standard Arabic

The example of modern Arabic is interesting, because it is the example of a natural language whose rules have been arbitrarily altered, which brings it closer to the approach of a built naturalistic language. Modern Arabic is a variant of classical Arabic, it was born from an "Arab Renaissance movement" called The Nahda (Renaissance) carried out by intellectuals from many Arab countries. They proceeded to Isti'rab (arabisation): Simplifying the syntax and introducing new words to describe modern objects or concepts (such as train or democracy) (Wikipedia).

Thus this language is used in official speeches but also as a language of communication between Arab countries that own their own languages/dialects. It represents an international auxiliary language, a goal which has been set by many built languages but which in fact have never been achieved. (Although Esperanto is spoken around the world, the fact that it is spoken only by a minority and is not used in institutions makes it difficult to qualify it as an international auxiliary language.)

The Nynorsk

Nynorsk is one of the two languages of Norway, born to the linguist Ivar Aasen, who after a trip throughout the country, publishes successively in grammar of the Norwegian popular language in 1848 and dictionary of the Norwegian Popular language in 1850. He thus synthesizes several dialects spoken in four regions of the country, that is to say that the words used in his language are mostly close to all dialects.

Again, this approach is very informative, especially on the process of synthesis which is particularly democratic.

The Hebrew

Hebrew was, before the XVIII century, a Biblical language spoken almost exclusively in religious circles. This language is reborn in the continuity of the Haskalah (a philosphique movement of the eighteenth century which participated in the development of the use of Hebrew, especially in the scientific environment) and the rise of Zionism at the end of the nineteenth century, but also under the impetus of Eliezer Ben Yehuda, who began the creation of a dictionary of Modern Hebrew in 1878. He spent the rest of his life developing his work, which was completed in 1959, or 37 years after his death.

The revival of the Hebrew and the rise of the Zionist movement are intimately linked. In fact, the Hebrew allowed Zionism to strengthen the community spirit of the movement: "(...) The reborn Hebrew was associated with the rise of Zionism. And, for the Jewish pioneers settled in the Middle East, it became, better than the Yiddish "jargon", which recalled too "exile", an ideal way to promote both their cultural identity and the Zionist dream.

The Hebrew example shows that a language can be a determining factor in the birth of a political project; It allows to give an identity and to develop a common culture that makes the cement of a civilization. Europe could be inspired by this dynamic with the implementation of a common language, in order to bring people together and give a second impetus to political and cultural Europe.

What language for Europe?


After having made a history of the built languages and an explanation of their functioning, here is the approach of our think tank, Europa Lingua, in relation to the choice of the European common language.

First of all, as a think tank, one of our main objectives is to produce, regroup, debate ideas related to built languages and Europe. Thus, we believe that the choice of the European lingua franca goes through the thorough study of the built languages, and to learn from their successes as well as their failures. This includes the writing of articles, the organisation of conferences and debates with all the actors invested in the European cause.

We are open to any proposals regarding this language, so languages such as interlingual or Esperanto would make good candidates.

Nevertheless, we have the ambition, again through debate and consultation, to establish criteria that this language should respect. We want the European language to be part of modernity, for example it must meet criteria such as inclusiveness. We also want it to be the most naturalistic possible, so we want it to be a synthesis of the European national languages, so that it can be accepted by all. All of these guidelines are intended to be clarified and to evolve with the progress of the project. Finally, we also want to give scientific legitimacy to our think tank by addressing experts in many areas, and to eventually form a scientific guidance council to take the lead in this task.

Our proposal: the EUROPEO

The EUROPEO is a language that we have begun to build, it is based on a translator-based computer program and performs a synthesis of European languages. Thus, each word is the result of a democratic choice made by an algorithm, so that it is the closest to that of the majority of European languages, (an approach similar to that carried out by Edgar de Wahl with the interlingual) which makes This most naturalistic language he is.

We believe that one of the best solutions for the European language to enter into our criteria is to produce a language that allows us to comply. We want the language of Europe to be inspired by the built languages of the past, but to be oriented towards the future in accordance with modern criteria.

Read MORE: http://www.europeo.li

Europeo: Reaction to the nineteenth languages, as was the Esperanto for the Volapuk or the interlingual for Esperanto.


Malik, Sarah. are artificial languages languages? Contrasting study of Esperanto and the universal characteristic ", Syntax and Semantics, vol. 14, No. 1, 2013, pp. 85-117.

Móch, Gaston. "8th Universal Congress of Peace held in Hamburg from 12 to 16 August 1897: report on the question of the international language", Paris, S.N. 1897.

Mireille Hadas-Lebel "Eliezer Ben Yehuda the inventor of modern Hebrew." Masorti France, 7 August 2006, https://www.massorti.com/Eliezer-ben-Yehuda-l-inventeur-de

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Fourth-year student at Sciences Po Lyon Founding member of Europa Lingua Franco-British European convinced.

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