A New Language for Slavs from Croatia to Ukraine

6 06 2017

It’s an ancient human dream: the creation of a universal language that every person can speak and understand, regardless of their native tongue or country of origin. Universal languages, such as Esperanto, have attempted to fulfill that dream, and on a smaller scale, individual languages have united multiple dialects within their language into an “official” language that serves the common good.

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For several centuries attempts have been made to create a common language for Slavic speakers. In 1864, the author of one such “Pan-Slavic language project”* questioned why other European tongues – Greek, French, Italian, German, English – contain multiple dialects and yet manage to share a unified literary language, while Slavic dialects are incomprehensible to one another, with no shared mode of communication.

Now another inter-Slavic language has been developed and was presented June 1 of this year. Total Croatia News reports that Czech linguist Vojtech Merunka and Croatian anthropologist Emil Hersak have collaborated in order to help simplify communication between Slavic speakers of different origins, and to improve the quality of machine translation.

Because English is currently the only intermediary language in Google’s online translation system, for instance, puzzling word offerings can arise when translating from one Slavic language to another. Here’s an example: with English as the connecting Google tool, the Croatian word “medvjed” (the noun, “bear”) ends up as “endure” in Polish and “carry” in Russian, because these are both English verbs that are synonyms with the English verb “to bear.”

Linguist Merunka says that the new Slavic grammar he and Hersak have designed is based entirely on the structure of Slavic languages and is simple enough that a speaker of one Slavic language could master it in a month, while a speaker of two Slavic languages would understand it right away. The vocabulary is also derived from Slavic roots, without artificial elements.

While historical efforts to unify Slavs through a Pan-Slavic language have sometimes been driven by cultural and political convictions that the Slavic people are all part of a single Slavic nation and their language should reflect that, Vojtech Merunka’s aspirations are not politically driven. It’s a practical matter of facilitating and streamlining connection among people whose languages have so much in common anyway, especially as globalization relentlessly forges ahead.

Skrivanek specializes in Slavic language translation and localization, and you may rest assured that we are up-to-date on the presence of any and all new languages in the region.

*Matija Majar-Ziljski (1809-1892), Wikipedia

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