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Explorations in the Library

Posted on Friday, October 15, 2010 in Books, Conlanging, Rant

After the mind-numbing tedium of sorting out the situation shared in my last post, I felt I needed something more uplifting. And so…

Over the last couple months, I’ve had the opportunity (as part of my day job) to visit the libraries at Kent State University (KSU) and The Ohio State University (OSU). Having some free time available before or after my official duties were completed, I decided to visit the PM8001 to PM9021 areas of the Library of Congress Classifications hanging out on the open shelves. For those less-versed in bibliographical arcana, those are the areas dedicated to artificial, universal, picture, and secret languages. I was curious what would be represented in my favorite subject on the open stacks of the two universities.

KSU had only a couple shelves dedicated to the PM8001 to PM9021’s; however, it was not all dedicated to what one would expect. What I expected was a lot of Esperanto, which I got; however, they also had several more esoteric volumes sitting there waiting for the eager conlanger to pick them up. These included a facscimile copy of Francis Lodowyck’s Common Writing from 1647 (PM8008 .L59 1969).

One surprise at KSU was a little volume entitled Enterprises of great pith and moment : a proposal for a universal second language by Elmer Joseph Hankes (PM8008 .H34). Published in 1982, the subtitle of the work named this “universal second language” Em Sigh Ay or the “language called please or Polite Language”. The book is “dedicated to the promotion of politeness and consideration in all of our relationships with each other.” I did not have the time to see how this high-minded goal was carried out in detail. For those interested, the title of the work comes from Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1:

Thus conscience does make cowards of us all,
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry
And lose the name of action.

Yesterday’s visit to OSU turned up many more volumes residing in the latter PM’s on the open shelf. This is to be expected, as OSU is one of the major universities in the country. Even so, they fit on about one-and-a-half shelving units total. They had the requisite volumes on Esperanto, David Salo’s Gateway to Sindarin, and some other fairly-well-known languages. Some surprises, to me at least, were aUI: the language of space; for the first time represented and adapted to the needs of this planet by John W. Weilgart with illustrations by Elisabeth Söderberg (PM8008 .W4). This was published in 1968 by Cosmic Communication Company. Another surprise was The complete dictionary of Guosa language: 106,962 head words from traditional Nigerian and West African languages : a 20th century evolution by Alex Ekhaguosa Igbineweka (PM8368.Z5 I359 2007). It appears that Igbineweka also has a website with video on his proposed Nigerian and West African lingua franca. Finally, there was also A Moroccan Arabic Secret Language : the x…xinCa family by Nasser Berjaoui (PM9001 .B47 2007). I’m not quite sure if the language described by Berjaoui is a conlang or not, but it certainly is in the right LCC area. In any case, it was very interesting to see languages from Africa represented on the shelf.

While these titles were new to me, I have subsequently seen some of them listed in both Arika Okrent’s list and Rick Harrison’s comprehensive bibliography. Just goes to show, no matter how much you think you know about invented languages, there’s always more to learn.

Fiat lingua!

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