P*rl in Latin, whither Python?

Lieven Marchand mal at bewoner.dma.be
Mon Nov 13 22:42:47 CET 2000

Martin Christensen <knightsofspamalot-factotum at mail1.stofanet.dk> writes:

> >>>>> "Lieven" == Lieven Marchand <mal at bewoner.dma.be> writes:
> >> Not many Americans speak more than one language, and those who
> >> speak more than two are truly rare. When I tell them that I am
> >> currently learning my seventh most of them don't believe me.
> Lieven> I think that's the biggest argument against Esperanto. Most
> Lieven> people motivated enough to learn Esperanto are amateur
> Lieven> linguists who speak a lot of languages, so I've never learned
> Lieven> Esperanto since the odds of meeting someone with whom I would
> Lieven> have no language in common but Esperanto is fairly small.
> Now, that's an argument that bites its own tail if I've ever heard
> one.
> 1) Esperanto is a nice idea, and it would be great if everybody spoke
>    it.
> 2) Not many people speak Esperanto, so it's not immediately useful.
> 3) Because it is not immediately useful, I will not learn it.

It's a fairly common problem in introducing anything new, be it a new
computer language, a new media format or anything else. Look at where
digital television is. Look at the relative success of stuff like
DCC/MiniDisc. God could only create the world in six days because he
had no installed base. Generally, the only way this gets solved and
something new gets introduced is by heavy subsidizing for a number of
years by a large corporate sponsor. A comparable situation would be
getting some countries to make Esperanto a standard course in high

> The consequence of this is, as any dork can see, that it would be
> great if we could all agree on Esperanto (or a language which will
> do its job better), but people won't learn it because it too few
> people speak it for it to 'fulfill its destiny'. Imagine us being in a
> deadlock where we were still using imperial measurements and Roman
> numerals because we were waiting for everybody else to adapt the
> smarter system! What separates the boys from the men, so to speak, is
> that the little guy keeps talking about how someone ought to do
> something about everything, whereas the non-whiner does something
> about it -- at least just does one thing that everybody else doesn't
> do because they're waiting for the pioneers.

America still hasn't converted to metric units and probably won't in
the foreseeable future. Pioneers are the guys that end up with the
arrows in their back. Besides, I don't whine about people having to do
something. I can live with the current situation very well.

> We see the same thing in the computer world. So many people think that
> Windows and MacOS are crappy operating systems, but until everybody
> else has converted they'll just stay with it.

Using Linux since kernel 0.11 ;-)

> Lieven> If you want to test: my current set of languages in which I'm
> Lieven> more or less conversant is Dutch, French, English, German,
> Lieven> Latin, Old English, Old Norse, Icelandic. I have a few notions
> Lieven> of Finnish.
> Not bad. Why don't you put the hundred or so hours aside it will take
> someone like you to learn Esperanto on a more than just useful level?
> Given your skill and experience I see no reason not to.

Oh, it's on my list of languages to study. But you haven't answered my
main argument. How many people speak Esperanto who don't also speak a
lot of other languages? If you and I hadn't English in common and
Esperanto didn't exist, I guess we could work something out between

Besides, I like languages for their complexity, their history, their
irregularities. I like the fact that you can trace the disappearance
of cases from English to your ancestors stay in the Danelaw. For that
reason, I don't find Esperanto aesthetic. If you want to go the way of
regularity and logical consistency, go all the way and learn
lojban. Otherwise, I'd rather spend time reviving an East Germanic
language like Gothic.

> Lieven> Actually, I've found I can usually puzzle out Esperanto from
> Lieven> first principles and the languages I know. Interlingua is a
> Lieven> bit easier though.
> Interlingua might be easier to grok when one has no comprehension of
> the basics of either language, but it has many irregularities, and its
> grammar is far from as simple and elegant as that of Esperanto or,
> say, Ido. Ido tries to improve Esperanto, but in my opinion it
> introduces as many bad things as it corrects errors in
> Esperanto. Altogether it's much more eurocentric than Esperanto is,
> but it does show that Esperanto isn't perfect.

Languages aren't meant to be perfect. They're meant to grow and evolve
while keeping traces of their history. That's why I also oppose most
idiotic spelling reforms that get proposed on phonetic arguments. They
distroy too much of the history of words.

Lieven Marchand <mal at bewoner.dma.be>
Lambda calculus - Call us a mad club

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