EARTH LANGUAGE.

Yoshiko McFarland says on her biography page:

Yoshiko was born in Osaka, Japan on Dec. 7th, 1941 as the 4th child and 2nd daughter of Masatake Mitsuhashi. Her father died as an army doctor before seeing her. Her first impressed memory was the view of burning Osaka at night with the sound of B29 fleets, sirens and bombs, and the ruins of the big town after the fire.
Her birthday was the day before Pearl Harbor Day in the Japanese calendar. But she had not had much chance to think about that deeply, because teachers for her generation avoided talking about the war. Later, when she had her eyes in the US, she realized her birthday was Pearl Harbor Day in the US, and how Americans feel about that day every year.
This shocked her, and it became the big reason to start to create the Earth Language. She agrees with the idea that Japan should never have big weapons nor fight a war for the sake of world peace. But she wondered what Japanese should do instead.
“We need to prepare rational tools instead of emotional weapons for keeping peace. We need to prepare a common background to feel that everybody on the earth is part of a single family” She couldn’t wait to put this idea into a concrete shape.

That concrete shape was Earth Language, a symbolic language with no spoken form. Her about page lists the usual reasons for creating a language for all mankind, and of course this will have no more success than any of the others (sorry, Esperantists), but it’s an interesting attempt and carried out with considerable detail. Anyway, better that people should spend their time constructing languages than blowing things up. You go, Yoshiko!

Comments

  1. Have you heard of Blissymbolics? It’s a similar graphical language with similar goals. I can’t find an authoritative site to link to, though.

  2. I think the nostrum that a common world language would lead to world peace, love and understanding is well past it by now.
    After all, sharing a common language has never prevented civil wars.

  3. The brief overview actually mentions both spoken and signed versions of the language; it looks like Yoshiko has addressed face to face communication in EL.

  4. Olam Gadol says:

    If you explore the site a bit more, you will discover that there are several ways of communicating using Earth Language. Communication in E.L. can also be by number, compound-characters, ASCII, signed with hand shapes, signed with hand movements, and signed with eye movements. There may be yet other ways that I haven’t yet discovered.
    Yet it is undoubtedly true that Yoshiko seems to prefer the written iconic method. The spoken and signed versions are intended to evoke icons in the mind of the hearer.
    This is probably partly due to her background as a graphics artist. But that’s half the reason. The other half as stated by her is that Chinese in its written form can be understood by speakers of a variety of languages, like Mandarin, Hakka, Cantonese, etc., which differ from each other as to sounds, but are united in recognizing the characters as meaning the same in all of these languages. And not only in mainland China, but in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, and other regions in which Chinese is written and spoken, including the USA.
    As a matter of fact, the Japanese recognize a subset of Chinese characters in their own language, and in Japanese too they apparently mean the same as in Chinese.
    Thus, though English is probably the most widely spoken and used language in the world, Chinese in its written form can probably lay claim to a greater number of users.
    The meanings are primarily linked to the shapes, though they also use phonemic characters to give a “hint” of what the sound is like.
    Because of this, Yoshiko once had the experience of looking at Chinese calligraphy written in an ancient script, and, without being familiar with Chinese (let alone ancient Chinese) as a language — Yoshiko is Japanese — she was able to perfectly understand the calligraphy.
    As she gazed in wonder at the calligraphy speaking to her across a great chasm of time, it suddenly dawned on her that pictographs can be a means of communication across nations, as well as across centuries, because written forms change more slowly than sounds do, and even more slowly if the shapes are directly linked to meanings and not to sounds which carry the meanings.
    This, she says, in the biographical page, was her inspiration for the development of E.L. and is the basis of her hope that, over time, her conlang because of its extreme simplicity and rationality will have a larger number of users than Chinese (which uses a combination of pictographic/ideographic and phonemic characters).
    To make it possible to communicate sounds taken from all manner of other languages (including click languages), she has also devised a phonetic system that is arguably more versatile than the International Phonetic Alphabet. This is useful for communicating proper names, or foreign words, which will be correctly pronounced, as they are in their original tongues, because the phonetic values are correctly represented.
    When E.L. characters are being used for their phonetic values, this is indicated by enclosing those characters within what she calls “phonetic brackets”.

  5. Ponaonawasi says:

    Songdog, I’m impressed by your wide and deep understanding the EL system.
    Recent months the EL system web site (www.earthlanguage.org/english/syshome.htm)has been renewed, and you can freely download the EL Font from the Homepage; also the Font Overlay typing tool and the easy text of EL as well, if you have MS 2000/xp Word.
    The typing tool is fun to play, creating unexpectedly interesting shapes and meanings without intention. Also you can feel a sort of the network system of nature while playing with it, knowing that we have words for only a little part of nature. Because EL can display concepts that even we’ve never thought of.
    Not only for communications, EL is useful for personal thinking and new creations.

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