The Ilomi Language

Version 2

Last update: 2006-03-06

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Q: Why another IAL (international auxiliary language)?

A: I like to imagine that someday the United Nations, or some other august body that everyone takes seriously (!?) will be in a position to seriously entertain proposals for the adoption and promotion of an IAL. When that time comes, I would like there to be a variety of good languages to choose from. All of the IALs that I know of, good though they be, have some features that I consider drawbacks. If the UN also considers them drawbacks, then it would be good to have Ilomi available as yet another alternative; or to serve as the basis for further development of a combined IAL. But whatever the UN settled on in this scenario, as long as it had the broad support of language groups around the world, I'd be happy.

Q: But everybody already speaks English! What's wrong with English as the world's language?

A: Where do I begin? English has much to commend it, including being widely spoken and an important language of science, business, and literature. But here are some major reasons why I don't believe it is suitable as an IAL:

The truth is, English is a rather difficult language to learn, especially for non-Europeans.

Q: What does Ilomi have that other IALs, like Esperanto — or English! — don't?

A: Ilomi benefits from hindsight. The designer notes reflect this; that is, an attempt to avoid bad ideas and adopt good ones. So Ilomi has some things that Esperanto and English don't have, but to a greater extent Ilomi lacks things that Esperanto and English do have, such as complex grammar and difficult sounds.

Q: But do you honestly think that, with English already so widespread, there is any support for an international language other than English?

A: English speakers have a lot of company and don't have a lot of incentive to learn other languages, no matter how easy they (the languages) may be. This will continue for many more decades. I reckon that by 2040, when Mandarin is the language of commerce and technology, the English speakers of the world will heartily (and tardily) endorse the idea of a simple international language. Of course, the Mandarin speakers of the world won't see much need for one and will dismiss it as a fringe idea from some pouting alphabetophiles.

So, no, there isn't all that much support right now. There ought to be, because the best time to entrench an IAL is when the world is between empires, and that time is coming. But if we miss it, it will be a long time before there's another opportunity.

Q: What are Ilomi's influences?

A: There is a sizable handful. But they are only influences. For example, the marking of major clauses is something we see in Japanese, so Japanese could be considered an influence; but even if Japanese didn't exist, I would still have used the concept in Ilomi, because it's a good idea in the overall framework of the language.

English is an influence on the vocabulary, but then, so are the Romance languages, Malayo-Polynesian languages, and many others. The heavy use of compounding is something we see in Mandarin and other Sino-Tibetan languages, as well as in English. The syllable structure is influenced by Indonesian and Japanese. The limited phoneme set is influenced by a now-dormant constructed language initially called Kalim. The self-segregating morphology is influenced by Loglan and its step-child Lojban.

Latejami (formerly Ladekwa, formerly Latenkwa, formerly Nasendi, formerly Katanda) is also a major influence, though I haven't taken any specific features from it. It is astonishingly well thought-out and documented. However, it is not intended primarily as an IAL, but as a carefully controlled machine interlingua. Its vocabulary is not open to ad hoc growth...nor can it be if it is to serve its primary purpose. It is also a grammatically large language, because it must be able to accommodate the huge grammatical variety of human languages.

Ceqli merits special mention. It is a fine constructed language and I have contributed in some small ways to its development (and I continue to do so). Ceqli takes the idea of segregating morphology and applies it to a more naturalistic language than Loglan or Lojban. Ceqli stops short of the mandatory word and phrase segregation that I have implemented in Ilomi, and its phonology is more complex. However, its morphological rules are simpler than Ilomi's, and it is more concise (requiring fewer syllables to say something, on average).

I became aware of SASXSEK more recently, and although it isn't, strictly speaking, an influence, it is also a fount of good ideas. It is not morphologically self-segregating and doesn't hold to as rigourous a logic as Ilomi, but is more straightforward (some might say "less overblown") for everyday speech.

I see Latejami, Ceqli, SASXSEK, and Ilomi as IAL models that complement one another. A reviewing agency could find, among them or others that I haven't mentioned, a fine candidate for an officially sanctioned and supported IAL. For that matter, Esperanto might be an acceptable candidate as well...but we're still waiting for a thumbs-up from the UN, especially from those of its member states whose national languages are very dissimilar to western European languages and whose citizens would find Esperanto challenging.

Q: What about the vocabulary? It doesn't seem all that recognizable.

A: Ilomi borrows its words from a great many languages, but the morphological rules of Ilomi tend to render words less recognizable. And a lot of the words are a priori anyway. But I don't think it much matters; a word that is more recognizable to one person will be less recognizable to another.

Q: Is Ilomi a so-called "logical language"?

A: Almost. It has mechanisms to allow a speaker to be pretty precise, and some of them are more mandatory than others. But its logicality is mainly a way to establish a solid framework for further development. Building a language without a logical base is like telling a lie: it just takes too much work to maintain it. Still, a lot of Ilomi's development should come from its hoped-for speakers. If they start to move it away from some of its logical structure, then so be it; hopefully any logical bits that get abandoned would be ones that weren't very necessary.

Q: What does "Ilomi" mean, anyway?

A: It's not supposed to mean anything, just be a nice-sounding name.

Larry Sulky, March 2006

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