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Conlang Descriptions English Language Essays

The Universal Character

Cave Beck (1623 to ~1700) was born the son of a baker in London, educated in Cambridge and Oxford, and spent much of his adult life working as a schoolteacher in Ipswich, England. In 1657 he produced his Universal Character, one of the very first attempts to formulate and publicise a universal language. It was published simultaneously with a French version, but neither seems to have sold readily, and there is no record of Beck ever publishing anything else.

Andy Drummond is a writer based in Edinburgh, Scotland, and has published four novels. The study of foreign languages at university enticed him in later life to investigate past attempts at creating universal languages, one of which he explored more thoroughly in his novel A Handbook of Volapük (2006). His interest in Cave Beck stems from a paper on 17th Century universal languages, which he delivered at a 2011 conference to mark the 400th anniversary of Sir Thomas Urquhart.

Abstract

The Universal Language of Cave Beck is primarily an a priori language based around a lengthy (but restrictive) list of core vocabulary and a set of simple grammatical rules. The vocabulary comprises some four thousand “primitives”, root-words which were deemed to cover all essential usage, and from which all other possible words might be derived by the application of prefixes and suffixes. These (English) words are simply arranged in alphabetical order and assigned a number from 1 to 3996. In addition to this long list, Cave proposed the continued use of around 60 Latin prepositions (sub-, super-, pro-, etc.), and of around 180 simple invented monosyllables (e.g. sef, taf, tem, sorc) for “commonly used” words (such as because, good, art, water).

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English Language Essays

The Birth of a Planet (and Three Languages)

Roger F. Mills was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, in 1934, served in the US Army from 1956-59, and received his B.A. rather belatedly from New York University in 1964. He attended graduate school in linguistics at the University of Michigan, receiving his Ph.D. in 1975. His main professional interest has been the historical/comparative study of languages of the Indonesian area. He created his first serious conlang in 1976, then devoted much more time to conlanging from 1999 to the present. He is long retired from the fray and now lives in Saugatuck, Michigan, a tiny but amusing resort town on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Abstract

This article provides personal reminiscences of the author’s life as a conlanger, with side-trips into conculturing and world-building. Essentially, it details how he got from where he was to where he is today.

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