🦋 Before Esperanto...
I happened today on Borges' essay on "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins" (thanks for the link, Dave!) -- Douglas Crockford has put a parallel translation of it online on his web site, it's not clear whose translation he's using. Great fun to read, and it includes a list of the types of animals which I'm pretty sure is included as a fragment in Book of Imaginary Beings:
These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies remind us of those which doctor Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled The Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge*. In its remote pages it is written that the animals are divided into:
- belonging to the Emperor
- stray dogs
- included in this classification
- trembling like crazy
- drawn with a very fine camelhair brush
- et cetera
- just broke the vase
- from a distance look like flies
Wilkins made an early attempt to create a universal language -- some of his work An Essay towards a Real Character and a Philosophical Language is online in facsimile here; Borges also references some other early attempts, Johann Martin Schleyer's Volapük, Giuseppe Peano's Interlingua, and Bonifacio Sotos Ochando's Lengua universal. (Pedro Mata's Curso de lengua universal, referenced by Borges, is online in its entirety at Google Books.)
*Wikipædia notes that the truth of this attribution is open to question. Laszlo Cseresnyesi of Shikoku Gakuin University wrote a post on LINGUIST-l in 1996 discussing the Celestial Emporium. "The responses I have received leave no doubt
that I'd better give up on the search for the
Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Creatures
(and stop pestering my colleagues at the Chinese
Department). However, I believe that one cannot
prove the non-existence of a book conclusively,
and I have had no chance to follow all the
conceivable leads in a major library."
Great research Jeremy
I've just done a Google search on Esperanto, and came up with 50,000,000 hits! There's a lot of interest about this unique phenomenon out there.
Your readers may wish to have a look at the following video http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-8837438938991452670
A glimpse of the Esperanto language can be seen at http://www.lernu.net :)