Denseman on the Rattis

Formerly known as the Widmann Blog


An English-Chinese lingua franca?

Chinese-English dictionary
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Artificial auxiliary languages are normally created to solve the linguistic problems of the day: Esperanto was created at a time when Latin was disappearing and French, English, German and other European languages were vying to become the main language of international communications.

This fight was won by English, which is probably why Esperanto speakers gave up and found a different purpose for our language.

However, if China becomes as dominant in 50 years’ time as many economists are predicting, there will be a communication problem again: English will be too hard for East Asians, and Chinese will be too hard for Europeans.

Although Esperanto would be an option, my guess is that an opportunity will arise for a language to be constructed primarily for the purpose of communications between Chinese people and Europeans.

My guess is the language would be created along the following lines:

  • It will be written using the Latin alphabet – it’s well-known in China.
  • The phonology will be based on the common subset of English and Chinese: A strict C1VC2 syllable structure, where C1 = m, n, p, t, k, b, d, g, ch, j, f, s, sh, h, l, r, y, w (perhaps without f and r) and C2 = n, ng and perhaps r.
  • Neither phonemic tones nor stress.
  • A vocabulary based on English where possible.

There are of course a lot of differences between English and Chinese, such as the position of relative clauses, and there could be many ways to sort these out, so there would be many ways to create such a language. I’m already looking forward to comparing them!

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