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What Is Lojban?

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  • Written By: Dan Harkins
  • Edited By: Kaci Lane Hindman
  • Last Modified Date: 02 December 2016
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The language of Lojban did not originate organically from a particular culture or geographical region. Instead, the development of this language started in the mid-1980s as an experiment of sorts by members of a linguistics organization called the Logical Language Group (LLG). In 1998, the group published a book called The Complete Lojban Language, which is a guide to understanding this hybrid blend of several worldwide languages.

Some striking features of Lobjan are its lack of capital letters, uniformly phonetic pronunciations, and the ease with which new learners can master it. The 1,300 root words form the basis for millions of combinations and meanings. The language is meant to be used beyond the scientific realm as well in order to facilitate understanding of the arts, history and emotions by all global citizens.

Bits and pieces of English, Hindi, Mandarin Chinese, Spanish, Russian and Persian languages form the roots of Lojban, with the "j" pronounced the way it is in the French "welcome" bonjour. It evolved from a previous attempt at language creation called Loglan, which was created in 1955 by American sociologist James Cooke Brown, who died in 2000. A 1970 novel by Brown, The Troika Incident, describes an Internet-like base of knowledge accessible to the world population in a common language — a prescient bit of science fiction. The language Loglan was a part of establishing such a system.

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Lojban, in its own language, means "logical language." The LLG organization had a goal, like Brown, of creating a language easily learned across the globe to facilitate scientific discovery and peaceful coexistence — a language based on what is known as predicate logic. It broke from the Loglan effort when Brown began to seek ownership through copyright, creating a more democratic language that has evolved from its inception organically, like many of the world's modes of communication.

The two languages share many traits, though. They both use predicate logic to notate complicated scientific ideas in straightforward terms, and they both attempt to be culturally ambiguous, employing various terms to incorporate as many populations as possible. Another common characteristic of both languages is their minimal use of syntactical exceptions, something organic languages are full of. Both languages were born of the sociological notion, expressed in the "Sapir-Whorf hypothesis" in which each language itself affects how its speakers think about themselves and the world around them.

Lojban and Loglan are not alone in this effort. The language of Esperanto was created at the end of the 19th century and still is used to gauge how quickly a person can learn any of the world's languages. Another popular fake language is Vulcan, which is learned by die-hard Star Trek fans worldwide, for no other reason than to form a community of believers.

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