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Is there any serious work being done on linguistic change in constructed languages (e.g. Esperanto, Interlingua, Lojban)?

I would imagine it might be difficult given the small population of native speakers, but I'm always interested in attempts to "perfect" language in any way.

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Ben Bergen (now at UCSD) has done some research on changes in Esperanto among children who learn it as a first language.

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Except for Esperanto, there aren't any conlangs with native speakers (except a single Volopuk speaker, a single Klingon speaker) So there isn't much to study language change in the same sense that we can study language change of say Latin as it slowly turns into French.

The next problem is that in the remaining languages, there aren't that many people and they are generally very conscious of the fact that they are using a language with explicitly invented rules, so you can't easily separate explicit creative acts of the users from the natural processes of language change. In this case one would expect fashion and the effectiveness of promoters of a given design to sway the crowd.

The last thing that would complicate an examination of language change is that outside of Esperanto, the users of a constructed language are learning it as a second language and sometimes using it as a contact language (communication between people without a shared language, like a pidgin or creole), so you'd expect to also observe people moving along a learning curve and resorting to the sort of things people do when they are in a contact language situation. For example, pidgin speakers will sometimes try all possibilities of vocabulary and word order until the surmise they have communicated something.

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  • I thought Eskayan used to have native speakers? – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 12 '12 at 1:08
  • Re: Eskayan--wikipedia says it has no native speakers at the moment. Looks like a natlang whose history has been lost, possibly a contact language or a Damin like language. In any case, the question is on how langauges change and Ekayan doesn't seem to have a documented history to say what it was and what it became. – MatthewMartin Oct 12 '12 at 13:44
  • A colleague of mine is writing a PhD on Eskayan, I'll check with him. It is a constructed language, still in use, but declining. – Gaston Ümlaut Oct 13 '12 at 0:05

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