Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Curse of Datuval

Not coming soon, I hope, to a theater near any of us. As this is the Auxlang Lab, I'll be exploring design issues and offering advice to designers and learners. (I've already done a bit of this.) This post is about a common and usually fatal temptation designers face.

I'll probably go into the issues involved in Volap√ľk's demise later, but part of the problem was Schleyer's insistence on "owning" the language. He was the "Datuval"--the Creator, and he began to confuse himself, I think, with the other Creator mentioned in Genesis. You'd think a priest would know better.

Anyway, one of the warning signs of Datuval Disease is doing your level best to restrict access to your project. Serious designers post info in hypertext, plain text, or other easily-accessible format. The control freaks lock it in secured PDFs so that no one can defile their creation.

This is a bad idea on several levels. For one thing, you shouldn't make it hard for potential learners to access your material, and they may find it useful to tweak your presentation. You may find it useful, too. Never turn down free assistance, especially when there's a good chance it will be competent--and modern early adopters often are competent in some relevant area.

Here's how you can set up your auxlang on a Datuval-free basis: start a group on Yahoo! and store your basic files (grammar, vocabulary, and sample texts) there in some user-friendly format--probably hypertext, Word, RTF, or plain text. I'll explain in a later post where to go from there.

Anyway, today's Amazing Free Clue: once you've released your auxlang, it's no longer yours; it belongs to the users. It's free to evolve independently of your wishes. It may even diverge so sharply that, in effect, your project dies or becomes dormant and something else rises from the ashes. Them's the breaks, as the saying goes. Horrible as that thought may seem, you have to release your auxlang if it is to truly be an auxlang. Otherwise you should call it an artlang and keep it to yourself. It will be a relief to all of us.


  1. If you just release your auxlang, those who adopt it will tend to tinker with it, each in their own way.

    Perhaps what it needs is a "Benevolent Dictator For Life" (a reference to Guido van Rossum and the Python programming language), someone who will listen to suggestions but keep some degree of control, if only by common consent.

    Zamenhof was a bit like that with Esperanto, the most successful auxlang so far by a huge margin.

  2. I'm not opposed to stabilization techniques; the Fundamento is one of the reasons for Esperanto's success. But Zamenhof did effectively turn matters over to the Akademio. He never asserted dictatorial control. I'm talking about designers who attempt to limit use and users.