Creating an inclusive auxlang

Raye Chell Mahela

Read in EnglishLegu Esperante

An international auxiliary language (sometimes abbreviated as IAL or auxlang) or interlanguage is a language meant for communication between people from different nations who do not share a common first language. An auxiliary language is primarily a second language.

from Wikipedia

Not all conlangs are meant to be auxlangs, but some are – like Ido and Esperanto. However, can a language invented by one man or one small committee be inclusive?

Becca’s post, “How universal can a language be?“, mentions a few things:

For queer people, learning any language can be a very invalidating experience.

[…]

Learning a constructed language can be even more invalidating. Constructed languages have been made with a particular goal in mind, and queer people soon discover that this goal did not involve them.

[…]

When thinking about the possibility of a queer language, it is hard to imagine constructing such a thing without invalidating someone. Any constructed language is very likely to push, consciously or unconsciously, the particular biases of the author.

Which got me thinking about how could we achieve a language that includes as many people as possible. What are some of the challenges that would arise?

1. Be created by many

A single person cannot reasonably create a language that includes everybody and excludes no one. Again, from Becca’s article:

For example, if a transmedicalist were to construct a language designed to be inclusive to trans people, the author would probably make sex equivalent to gender, erase the concept of being cis or trans altogether and strictly assert the gender binary. A person who does not believe in gender, on the other hand, may choose to erase any concept of gender from their language altogether. Yet to many trans people, either of these would be less inclusive and less validating than a Romance language

I think that the only way to reasonably come to rules for the language that most people can agree to, and most people can feel represented by, is to have a group of people create the language. Not just Europeans, not just straight people, not just one gender or another. As many people as possible need to be able to give their input – whether or not they are linguists.

2. Be fluid

With certain conlangs, such as Esperanto, the community in general is very resistant to change, thinking that it might end up killing the language and defeat Esperanto’s goal of being spread to everybody as a second language.

But, in order for a language to be inclusive, it has to be open to changing – after all, even with a committee of people from various backgrounds working on a language together, somebody is bound to be left out. Therefore, the language would need to be open to change when people voice their concerns.

3. Be versioned

Of course conlangs go through various drafts, but I think that it is important to not just stop at v1.0. Each version needs to have people using it and refining it, with new features added for new versions.

That might sound like programming language development – even ol’ C++ has major differences between version 1998 and version 2011. 1998 is a solid language, and many people still use 1998 exclusively, but 2011 adds a lot of modern features that people have come to expect from modern languages.

Perhaps spoken languages should be similar.

If you look at Ithkuil, it is versioned as well — each “version” is marked by a year: 2004, 2007, 2011. I have not learned it myself, but if anyone out there has input on how the Ithkuil community deals with this, please let me know! :)

4. Be modular and extendible

It might seem daunting to build such a fluid language! What if some people want aspects of Láadan’s evidence markers, but want Ido’s reversibility when it comes to word building? You have to choose one focus!

No you don’t! Why not include everything?

The language shouldn’t be written into a corner so that it has to follow one paradigm, but should be built in such a way that it can be expanded upon with minimal pain for the core language itself.

Again, if you’re a programmer, think of libraries of code. Libraries for C++ are built with C++’s rules, but extend the functionality of the language – so, for example, your programs don’t have to just be console-based, white text on a black screen. (Though it’d be interesting to have namespaces in branches of the language, hmm…)


So how do we achieve this?

How could we possibly collaborate on an auxlang, bringing in many voices and allowing for evolution over time? How could we allow people to work on off-shoots of the language, and once refined, asked to be made part of the core language? How do we keep track of all of the changes made to the language over time?

Revision Control.

Ho, ve. That’s a little programmery, isn’t it? But a lot of conlangers I know are programmers.  That isn’t to say that the language should be built by a diverse group of programmers (everyone knows the field of CS has its diversity problems…), but revision control can be a really great tool for this sort of project, and non-programmers can learn to use it, too.

I would love to see a conlang develop on GitHub, or Bitbucket, or Sourceforge, or on its own server with its own website, and see tools develop to aid in teaching and using that language. It would take a lot of effort and a lot of time, but perhaps it’s an experiment that should happen at some point.

But Rachel, how do we get people to learn such an auxlang?

Honestly, if you want people to learn a language, there has to be stuff to do in that language. This can be chatting with others, but there is more to that. Perhaps if we are able to create films and animations and video games and news websites and everything else in such a language, we build value for the language.

It’s hard to learn a language specifically on ideals, and it’s very hard to learn a language that has virtually no resources out there but a few language lessons.

But creating content is something that is required for the language itself to grow and evolve. We would need to use it for our entertainment or daily lives, find out what is lacking, and build onto it.

I do not think that having an evolving language would hinder this too much. There is still entertainment from older versions of English that get adapted and are still shared today, and with revision control history (and, hopefully, branches for each new ‘version’), all of the historical data would be there to enable somebody to adapt their work to newer versions, or other works from older versions.

What do you think?

  • Do you know any conlangs built by a group, with the intent of being inclusive?
  • Do you know any conlangs that are being built on GitHub or with other open source methodologies?
  • Would you be interested in taking part in such a project, either by building out the core, testing the language by using it, or creating resources otherwise?
  • What downfalls do you foresee?

(One problem I foresee is that I’m writing this in English, and to get people from around the world contributing, we’d need resources in each language – at least to learn the core language, then communicate with that for language building.) :)

How universal can a language be?

For queer people, learning any language can be a very invalidating experience. Learning materials generally focus on the language that is standard, acceptable and “normal,” never on the language of non-binary or queer people. For example, a genderqueer French learner will have to do some extra research to find out about non-binary French pronouns such as iel, yel, ille, yol, and ol. It is likely that, until they are able to read the language, it will be difficult for them to even find information about such things. And using such pronouns prior to reaching complete fluency and eliminating their accent will make them vulnerable to even greater derision than non-binary native speakers.

Learning a constructed language can be even more invalidating. Constructed languages have been made with a particular goal in mind, and queer people soon discover that this goal did not involve them. As an example, Láadan is a language designed to express female thought, and a Láadan learner can expect to learn words for concepts such as “baby,” “pregnant” and “menstruate” from the very start. But perusing the dictionaries in the back of the First Dictionary and Grammar of Láadan, Second Edition, a student will find no words whatsoever for concepts like “transgender,” “transsexual” or “non-binary,” despite the fact that the first two concepts were well-known to feminists at the time of Láadan’s creation.

When thinking about the possibility of a queer language, it is hard to imagine constructing such a thing without invalidating someone. Any constructed language is very likely to push, consciously or unconsciously, the particular biases of the author. For example, if a transmedicalist were to construct a language designed to be inclusive to trans people, the author would probably make sex equivalent to gender, erase the concept of being cis or trans altogether and strictly assert the gender binary. A person who does not believe in gender, on the other hand, may choose to erase any concept of gender from their language altogether. Yet to many trans people, either of these would be less inclusive and less validating than a Romance language, whose queer native speakers have already found their own ways around the problem of binary gender.

As social agreements, languages suffer from the same fundamental problems that any social arrangement suffers, and constructed languages inherit these problems while introducing their own. We may have several answers to the ultimate question of the Universal Language, but it is also possible that we have never actually known what the question is.

Parolu Esperanton Kiel Vi Deziras Paroli

Raye Chell Mahela

Mi vidis tiun ĉi fadenon hodiaŭ, kaj mi vidis iun, kiun mi ofte spertas rete.

Malbonkoruloj.

Ofte, Esperantistoj deziras priparoli Esperanton, kaj malofte, Esperantistoj parolas pri iuj ajn aferoj.  Pro tio, Esperantistoj senĉese disputas pri la parolado de la lingvo, kaj insultas unu la alian, ĉar persono A ne parolas same kiel persono B.

Fek al tio. Ĉu la “-iĉ” sufikso plaĉas al vi? Uzu ĝin. Ĉu vi ne volas voĉparoli “duŝi” aŭ “ŝati”? Ne uzu ilin.

Kaj, se, vi estas komforta pri uzado de la vorto “duŝi”, uzu ĝin, sed kial insulti aliulojn?

Tiu ĉi ankaŭ estas problemo kiam oni bezonas uzi pronomojn, kiu ne estas “ŝi”, “li”, aŭ “ĝi”.  La plej komunuzaj alternativaj promonoj, kiujn mi vidas, estas “ri”, “gi”, kaj “ŝli”.

Se oni ĝenas vin, pro tio ke vi uzas alternativan pronomon, fajfu al tiu. Uzu la pronomon, kiun vi preferas. Ni nur povas ŝanĝi la kulturon per kiel ni uzas la lingvon.

Se oni volas uzi alternativan pronomon kaj tio malplaĉas al vi – diru nenion. Tio ne estas via afero, ne gravas al vi. Ne ne ne, ne “defendu” Esperanton – ĝi ne bezonas vian defendon. Ĝi vivas kaj vivos, tamen se vi forpelas aliulojn, kiu ne konsentas kun vi, eble VI mortigos la lingvon vi mem!

Estu bonkora.

Mi ne Lesbanas

Mi estas ino kaj mia seksa orientiĝo estas ŝati aliajn inojn.

Sed mi pensas ke mi nomigi sin lesbana estas malfacila. Mi ne povas rilati aliajn lesbaninojn kaj mi ne povas iri al lesbanejoj.

Iam lesbangrupo kiun mi partoprenas kreas videobabilo, sed mi neniam ĉeestas. Mi pensas ke ili ne volas min — Mi havas miajn geamikojn sed mi ŝatus ĉeesti.

Mi ne scias se mi sentos plibone post iom da tempo, sed mi nur vivas.

Asexuality in Esperanto

Raye Chell Mahela

ace-eo-star

Trying to describe one’s sexuality and romantic orientation can be rather a mouth-full in Esperanto. It’s not quite as mono-syllabic as saying “straight”, “gay”, “bi”, and so on.

I, in particular, have a difficult time remembering terms I’ve seen suggested to describe asexual people in Esperanto, so I’m going to keep this blog post so I can have a single source to keep notes. ;P


Asexual Terminology

These definitions are from asexuality.org

Asexual

Someone who does not experience sexual attraction.

Suggested terms I’ve seen: neamoremo, neseksumemo, neseksuala, neamoremulo, neniuseksema

Heterosexual is translated as “malsamseksema” or “aliseksema”, homosexual is translated as “samseksema”, so for the sake of consistency, asexual could be “neniuseksema“.

Demisexual

Someone who can only experience sexual attraction after an emotional bond has been formed. This bond does not have to be romantic in nature.

“Demi” here means “partially”. This is different from the definitions above, as those specify what one would be sexually attracted to, while this describes the degree. We could use “parta” for partial, though I’m not sure whether a different suffix besides “seksema” should be used.

The problem with Demisexual and Gray-asexual is that they don’t specify “targets”, for whom one is sexually attracted to, which is a problem because in Esperanto, the descriptions for sexualities (samseksema) specify targets. It’s not the same in English, but it’s difficult to come up with a fit in Esperanto without making a really long word.

Gray-asexual (gray-a) or gray-sexual

Someone who identifies with the area between asexuality and sexuality, for example because they experience sexual attraction very rarely, only under specific circumstances, or of an intensity so low that it’s ignorable.

I believe that “Gray” here refers to a “gray area” – ill-defined, ambiguous, indefinite, indeterminate.

Attraction

In this context, it refers to a mental or emotional force that draws people together. Asexuals do not experience sexual attraction, but some feel other types of attraction.

Esperanto: Allogo

Aesthetic attraction

Attraction to someones appearance, without it being romantic or sexual.

Esperanto: Estetika allogo

Romantic attraction

Desire of being romantically involved with another person.

Esperanto: Romantika allogo

Sensual attraction

Desire to have physical non-sexual contact with someone else, like affectionate touching.

Esperanto: Sensema allogo

Sexual attraction

Desire to have sexual contact with someone else, to share our sexuality with them.

Esperanto: Seksa allogo


 Romantic orientations

These definitions are from asexuality.org

In Esperanto, “seksama” could be used to mean “-gender-fondness”. Though, it does sound pretty close to “seksema” when spoken aloud.

Aromantic

An aromantic is a person who experiences little or no romantic attraction to others. Where romantic people have an emotional need to be with another person in a romantic relationship, aromantics are often satisfied with friendships and other non-romantic relationships.

Neniu-seksama

Biromantic

A person who is romantically attracted to two sexes or genders. Biromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not sexually attracted to their romantic partners. The sexual counterpart to biromantic is bisexual.

I’ve seen “ge-seksema” and “antaŭ-seksema” used for bisexual. I don’t like these, because ge- and antaŭ both mean “both”, whereas “bi-” denotes two.  Specifically, my definition of “bi-” is that you’re attracted to “same” and “other” genders, not just “both genders” (because I do not approve of gender binary speech).

Heteroromantic

A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the opposite sex or gender. Heteroromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons, including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not necessarily sexually attracted to their romantic partners. Most heterosexual people are also heteroromantic.

Malsam-seksama

Homoromantic

A person who is romantically attracted to a member of the same sex or gender. Homoromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons, including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not necessarily sexually attracted to their romantic partners. The sexual counterpart to homoromantic is homosexual. Most homosexuals are also homoromantic.

Sam-seksama

Panromantic

A person who is romantically attracted to others but is not limited by the other’s sex or gender. Similar to biromantic. Panromantics will tend to feel that their partner’s gender does little to define their relationship. Often someone identifying as biromantic will also choose to identify as panromantic. Panromantic asexuals seek romantic relationships for a variety of reasons including companionship, affection, and intimacy, but they are not sexually attracted to their romantic partners. The sexual counterpart to panromantic is pansexual.

The “pan-” in pansexual means “all, every, whole, all-inclusive“.

Ĉiu-seksama – Romantically attracted to each gender? (Suggested by frenezulino)


 Additional thoughts…

Geeze, why does describing ourselves have to be so long-winded?! Also, I think that it is a problem that -seks-ema (tendency towards a gender) and -seks-ama (loving of a gender) sound so similar, it makes it hard to differentiate between “samseksema” and “samseksama”. I guess technically, “-seks-ema” doesn’t even describe sexuality, but it’s used commonly for sexuality.

The term “Asexuality” means to not experience sexual attraction towards any gender.  Oni, kiu ne sentas seksan allogon [al iu ajn sekso].

Another problem is that the term “sekso” is used to mean both gender/sex, and in certain contexts also refer to something dealing with the act of sex. The 1880s were quite a while ago, and these sort of details were probably invisible to the activists of the time. Still, just as words like komputilo have been added to Esperanto, perhaps there should be a better set of terms to talk about sexual and romantic orientations.

Geja is also a term in Esperanto, after the English word “gay”. So, perhaps instead of “neniuseksema”, something similar can be done for “ace” — Ejsa? Grej-ejsa? Demi-ejsa? @_@;;; Ho, ve…

  • Let me know if you have any questions, comments, or suggestions!
  • Also send me any Ace resources you may know of, especially if it’s also related to Esperanto. :)

  Sources

The Problem with Video Game Character Creators

Raye Chell Mahela

For video games where you build your own character, why does it only give you the option of “male” or “female” to choose from?

The first character creator that stood out to me, honestly, was in My Sims, an adequate Wii game spin-off of The Sims. You create your character in it, but you don’t assign any gender – you have access to all options in the editor.  Of course, all the characters are chibi so there isn’t really a “body type” difference in the characters you see around town, so why bother having that constraint?

But what if more games did that? Even if you did have different body-types, why not have all the options available, and not have to assign a gender? The lead character is usually addressed by their name anyway, and the Singular They could be used when your character isn’t directly being addressed.

I’ve had some people just recently argue with me about how “Singular They” is an abomination to the English language and that they refuse to use it, however. (Really? English? English itself is an abomination…) So I have a different suggestion for your character creators to get around this.

Don’t assign gender to your character in a character-creator. Assign pronouns.

The programming is not going to be much different from switching between he/she in the dialogue. You could store variables to be swapped out based on the pronouns. (He Him His – She Her Hers – They Them Theirs – and so on).

But that doesn’t go far enough – since these values are going to be stored in variables anyway, why not allow the user to type in their own pronouns?  Just have them enter in the three-or-so variations of the pronoun that shows up in the given language.

pronounbox

Many games allow the user to type in their own name – so give it a try, let people enter their own pronouns. Let people choose any option in the character editor.

Update, February 19th

I recently watched a GiantBomb Quick Look for Sunless Sea, and during the character creation process, I saw that they ask the question, “What term of address do you prefer ashore?” with options like “Madam”, “Sir”, “Citizen”, and more, which is a nice, story-integrated way to deal with this.

address

You can check out Sunless Sea’s official webpage here.

Do you know any other games that do this?

Update, November 10th

Read Only Memories also lets you choose pronouns! :)

read only memories