The Slovio Myth

Jan van Steenbergen (1970) studied East European Studies and Slavistics at the University of Amsterdam, and nowadays works as a Dutch-Polish translator and interpreter. His first conlang projects of some substance came into being when he was in his twenties. Most of his work can be found on his website http://steen.free.fr/ and is somehow related to the Slavic languages: Vozgian (a fictional North Slavic language), Wenedyk (what if Polish had been a Romance language?), Poilschi (a Romanesque alternative orthography for Polish), a Polish Cyrillic alphabet, Slovianski (a naturalistic auxiliary language for Slavs) and Interslavic (a more sophisticated continuation of Slovianski). After he gained Internet access for the first time and discovered the world of conlanging, he has spent many years reading and writing about language creation. Initially, his interest was focused mainly on artistic languages, but once he got involved in the Slovianski project, he also got fascinated by the concept of a language that would be reasonably understandable to Slavs of any nationality, and his research for the Interslavic project has consumed most of his spare time ever since. Apart from working on the language itself, he also enjoys writing transliteration programs in JavaScript.

Abstract

The “universal simplified language Slovio” has been controversial since it was first published on the Internet in 2001. It claims to be immediately understood by 400 million people, and to be mutually understandable with all Slavic and Baltic languages. The impression is given that Slovio is a huge project, spoken by hundreds or even thousands of people and officially supported by major international organizations. At the very centre of a large network of websites in Slovio is the site Slovio.com, featuring a complete grammar, learning materials and an exceptionally large dictionary. But even though Slovio is being vigorously propagated as a serious rival for Esperanto, it also claims to be first and only Pan-Slavic language, and in spite of its declared global intentions, the motor behind Slovio appears to be radical Slavic nationalism more than anything else. In this paper, Jan tries to determine what Slovio is really about and on what scale it is really used, in other words, to separate myths from facts.

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